Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

I picked up my four exhibits from the State Fair today, and clearly I’m happy as a clam with the results. However, this year has been bittersweet. Compared to years past, I saw much lower participation in all of the categories, not to mention that the fair itself had a whole lot of open space due missing vendors/rides etc. I know it’s a sign of the current times, but I miss seeing the variety of talents from the exhibitors. Anyway, here’s a recap of the projects:

My Let’s Boogie sweater won first place in the miscellaneous knitted garment category.

My Swing Left socks won first place in knitted socks.

The Baa-ble Hat won first place in knitted beanies.


And my Fantastitch Shawl won both first place in shawls and Grand Champion!

If you’ve never looked into competitive exhibitions at your local fair, it’s definitely worth checking out. From canning and quilting to photography and woodworking, there are so many ways to participate. It’s a great way to learn more about your community, and get some inspiration, especially if you are a maker.

Now, I guess it’s time to start brainstorming for next year.

Current Knits and Future Plans

So, we survived the first nine weeks of school, but getting back into the routine was not without it’s challenges. I did not miss getting up earlier and spending nearly two hours of my day in the carpool line one bit. However, everyone is back to their respective routines and that’s given me some welcome knitting time. So, here’s a round-up of what’s on the needles, in the queue, and what I’m stalking.

First, I fell in love with the Slipstravaganza blanket from Stephen West, and immediately ordered the kit from his shop. I love that it’s knit in the round and the play on textures, and it’s going to be an awesome FO if I actually conquer this beast of a project. I’ve made it to the bubbles section, and I’m hoping to finish it by year’s end.

I still have a Vanilla is the New Black second sock languishing on the needles. Every time I’m determined to finish it, a new pattern or project lures me away. It WILL become mandated car knitting, so I can stop procrastinating.

As for future knitting, I am going to have to declare the coming months a stash-only, queue-clearing affair. As I was cleaning my closet out last night, I have no less than 8 projects with the yarn kitted up and ready to go, including The Shift cowl:

Sunset Highway sweater:

Sweig sweater:

Feel the Bern sweater:

the From Grandma with Love blanket:

and several more.

Some yarn has got to get used, because even after donating a ton during the closet cleanout, I still have sooo….much….yarn. Can’t buy more till I use up some is going to be the mantra.

As for stalking/inspiration, I recently added the Hinterland sweater:

The Spooky Hat:

and the Tegna top to my favorites on Ravelry:

As for holiday knitting, I don’t foresee gifting any knits this year. I already made hats for the neighbors, baby gifts for another neighbor, and a baby blanket for my cousin this year, so my knitting mojo has swung back into selfish territory. Now, if I can just stay out of the yarn shop…

 

Finished Knit Alert!

Just in time for the season, I finished this sweater:

Pattern: Let’s Boogie by Katie Franceschi

Yarn: Berroco Vintage DK in the Pumpkin, Banana, Cast Iron, and Mochi colorways.

Needles: US 4 and US 5

Notes and Mods: This is a cute pattern, but I ended up really disliking the neckline. Despite aggressive blocking, it tends to roll downward. If I were to make it again, I’d probably modify the cast-on and neckline. Otherwise, I really love the sweater.

As for mods, I converted this to short sleeves, considering that it’s still hot as Satan’s back porch here in Louisiana. To do so, I completed the under-bust chart for the sleeves, then knit 10 rows in white, and 5 rows 2×2 rib. I also left of the pink detailing on the ghosts’ cheeks, because I thought it would look weird with this color palette. Overall, thumbs up on this project.

Finished Knit–Baby Chalice Blanket

Pattern: Baby Chalice Blanket (available free on Ravelry)

Yarn: Loops & Threads Impeccable in the Forest colorway

Needles: US 10

Notes/Mods: This is an easy lace pattern, but you do need to realize that on two of the pattern rows, the stitch markers will change positions. I steam-blocked this to set the lace since the yarn is 100% acrylic. Probably my favorite baby blanket to date, and it the recipient loved it (they even passed it around at the shower). Overall, very happy with this project.

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My cousin is about to have her first baby, which of course, means baby knitting! I rarely knit for others anymore, but babies are always the exception. I got the shower invitation and went to work, finishing just under the wire. I also managed to burn through my binge-watching queue while I was at it, so I need to find a new show for my knitting time.

I really prefer Berroco Comfort yarn when knitting baby stuff, but my LYS was closed and I HAD to get started with that tight timeline. While Impeccable yarn would not have been my first choice, it blocked well, and it felt much better knitted up to me than the Snuggly Wuggly yarn (also a Loops & Threads yarn) I used on a previous baby blanket.

Whelp, now, it’s back to the UFO pile, because I need to stop starting projects until crap gets finished. I current have 4 projects on the needles, which is just too much. But, I confess, I have a severe case of “start-itis” going, so we shall see.

 

Finished Knits Round Up

Pattern: SubmergeHat

Yarn: Lion Brand Thick & Quick in the Denim and Black colorways

Needles: US 13

Notions: fake fur pouf (elastic attachment), button for the pouf

Notes: Bean’s friends wanted hats like the one I made her, so I whipped up two more.

Pattern: Baby & Child Gnome Hat

Yarn: Lion Brand Thich & Quick in the Kale colorway

Needles: US 13

Notes: Since I made hats for Bean’s friends (who are sisters), I couldn’t leave the brother out. This is perfect for a toddler.

Pattern: LotusFlowerBeanie

Yarn: Hat 1–Loops & Threads Cozy Wool in the Pewter and Earth Tones Colorways. Hat 2–Lion Brand Thick & Quick in the  Slate and Dusk Colorways.

Needles: US 11 and US 13

Notions: Buttons and faux fur poufs.

Notes: Cute hat pattern but executing the lotus stitch made my hands ache. If you have a larger head, this may fit a little smaller than expected.

Pattern: The Eternal Hearts Beanie

Yarn: WeAreKnitters Petite Wool in the Ivory and Spotted Pink Colorways

Needles: US 8 and US 9

Notions: Button and faux fur pouf

Notes: This came out way smaller than expected. I didn’t swatch, so it could be a gauge issue. However, the pattern is easy and well-written. I ended up giving it to a neighbor who has two small children.

Finished Knits Round-Up

The dreary grey days continue here in Louisiana, and I want to spend all of my time knitting allllll of the things. The endless Bernie mitten memes certainly do not helping matters, and my to-be-knit pile grows by the week. I miss hanging out at my local yarn store, knitting and chatting with our colorful group of north Louisiana knitters, but I’m still cranking out projects regardless.

Pattern: Snappy Hat

Yarn: Loops & Threads Charisma in the Denim colorway

Needles: US 10.5

Notions: a detachable (snap) fake fur pouf from my LYS

Notes: I whipped this up for G-Man’s girlfriend, because she is definitely knit-worthy. I’ve made several Snappy Hats, as they are good for quick gifts. I used the craft store yarn because I’m pretty sure a college student doesn’t have time to hand-wash and dry knitted garments in their dorm room.


Pattern: Bella’s Mittens

Yarn: Loops & Threads Charisma in the Denim colorway

Needles: US 8

Notes: Another gift and G-Man’s girlfriend. The tight gauge of this knit and the yarn made for some achy-hands knitting. Otherwise, also a quicker project for gifting.

Pattern: Azel Pullover

Yarn: Lion Brand Thick & Quick in the Denim colorway

Needles: US 13

Notes: I made the 14/15 size, and for reference, Bean is almost 9, so she has room to grow into it. She suddenly fell in love again with the now too-small red Azel pullover I made when she was 4, so I whipped this one up last week. She loves it, wears it constantly, so I’d call it a success.

 

 

Pattern: SubmergeHat

Yarn: Lion Brand Thick & Quick in the Denim colorway

Needles: US 13

Notions: fake fur pouf (elastic attachment), button for the pouf

Notes: I had leftover yarn from the Azel Pullover, so I knit up this hat in a couple of hours while binge-watching Bridgerton on Netflix. It only took half a skein, so I will probably make another for her friend.

Pattern: Staggered Rib Scarf

Yarn: Berroco Vintage Chunky in colorway 6177

Needles: US 10

Notes: I made the Hubs a quick scarf, despite the fact that he’s not really a “scarf guy” per se. However, I promise, if it gets as cold again as it did a couple of weeks ago, I promise you he will come around. Easy pattern, and 2 skeins provided plenty of length.

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So, those are a few of the projects I’ve finished over the past few weeks. I have at least five new projects I want to cast on, but I also need to address some languishing WIPs are outstanding, as well as a few I already have “kitted up” into project bags. Somewhere in there, I need to make some forward progress on the new needlepoint stocking for Bean.

 

Things I Loved in 2020

**Remember, my blog is not sponsored or monetized in any way. No link in my posts is an affiliate link, and these ideas are all my own. None of these companies know who I am, and all of this is crap I buy with my own dang money. I’m just not that cool, y’all**

The husband has recovered (mostly) from the ‘Rona, and through careful quarantining, the kids and I did not contract the virus. He has pretty sick there for a while, and is dealing with a lingering cough and fatigue, but we got lucky. Thanks for the well wishes.

So, as I have been shopping for the holidays and planning for the new year, I thought I pass along some of the things that I really enjoyed this year (other than the endless warmth of the 2020 dumpster fire).

I really love Knife Aid. It’s like the Netflix of knife sharpening. You pick how many you want sharpened and they send you the materials to pack up your knives and mail them in. Then, they send them back to you perfectly sharpened. It’s only about a week in turnaround time and very convenient. I have used them twice, including last month.

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I love OXO containers. My pantry is out of control, and these are helping me tame the chaos. I still want more.

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A bluetooth meat thermometer was game changer. Yes, I use it when smoking meat, but I also use it for so much more. For example. I used this on Thanksgiving for the turkey, which meant I could watch the temp in real time, and also not lose heat from constantly opening and closing the oven to check on the bird. I also use it for cooking roasts, prime rib, chicken and more. You can go about your day without worrying that you are going to overcook an expensive piece of meat or undercook the poultry.

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I am totally OBSESSED with this one. So, it’s basically a murder-mystery subscription box you get each month, but think of it like a limited tv series with episodes. One “season” lasts a few months, or you can purchase past “seasons”/mysteries in their entirety. You get all kinds of clues and documents to investigate, but they also have cool online components to enrich the experience. We are currently working our way though the Blair Witch season and the Cadence Theater season. If you are stuck in quarantine, pouring over clues in order to catch a killer is a great way to pass the time.

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I am in love with Hue-It Hand Dyed Fibers. This local-to-me Louisiana artist specializes in small-batch dying, and has an incredible portfolio of colorways. Most of her stuff sells out fast but she takes preorders if you missed out on a colorway. I recently snatched up a couple of skeins that are just waiting for the right pattern to come along.

The New Pie by Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin

My neighbors gifted me this book after we had a mini-Thanksgiving this summer (they are in our “pod/quarantine bubble”). This book is LEGIT cool. These recipes are not for those looking for basic pies. These guys compete around the country and their ideas are complete bananas. Favorites so far are the Strawberry Margarita Pie and the Caramel Popcorn Pie.

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This cookbook was written by the founder of the Mosquito Supper Club restaurant in New Orleans. It’s beautifully shot and showcases Louisiana food traditions that are slowing being lost. If you have any interest an authentic Louisiana cuisine, this needs to be in your library.

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So, my go-to recipe software, Living Cookbook quietly went out of business and has basically ghosted it’s customers. So, I spent part of the year test-driving Cook’n, MasterCook, and Paprika, which came out the clear winner. I think it was the easiest to learn/use out of the three, and with a more intuitive interface. I was able to import my Living Cookbook files, though I will say that some things did get lost in translation. I had to go back and check each recipe to correct some things that got garbled in the transfer, but the same thing happened with the other two as well. Otherwise, I’m happy using it, and very grateful for the cloud sharing ability.

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This herb stripper was featured on Food Network’s The Kitchen, and host Sunny Anderson loved it so much she immediately said she was taking it home with her. I LOVE this. It strips those pesky thyme and rosemary leaves off of their stems in two seconds flat.

Other Favorites

Knitting Podcasts

Knitmore Girls, Down Cellar Studio, Yarniacs, Two Ewes

Food Podcasts

The Sporkful (hands down one of the best), The Splendid Table, Gravy, Milk Street, Good Food.

Food Websites/Blogs

Damn Delicious, Half-Baked Harvest, Foodie with Family

Shows I’ve Binge-watched

Lucifer, Virgin River, The Chef Show, Castle Rock, The Umbrella Academy, Westworld, Anne with an E, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Netflix), His Dark Materials, The Outsider, Perry Mason.

So those are a few things that I really loved this year, and made this insanity a little bit better. We’ve been through a lot of changes, but we also had a lot of fun.

Here’s to 2021 not being a trainwreck.

Finished Knits Round-Up

I’ve been knitting up a storm lately, so here’s what’s off the needles.

Pattern: Fantastitch by Stephen West (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: WalkCollection Bliss in the Stone, Volcanic Sand, Artic Wolf, Limestone, Dutch Sky, and Birch Tree Colorways

Needles: US 4

Notes: No mods on this one. It is one of my favorite projects, even if it took me FOREVER. But that’s because this thing is huge! It’s about 9 feet from point to point, hence my need for G-Man to model it for me. As always with Stephen’s patterns, it was clear and easy to understand, and though I did not need them, he usually has tutorial videos on certain techniques. Overall, thumbs up on this project.

Pattern: Round and Round Cowl by Crazy Sock Lady Designs (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Lorna’s Laces String Quintet in the Blueberry Cobbler colorway set

Needles: US 4

Notes: I’ve had this yarn languishing in my stash for years. It came from the now-defunct YarnBox, and I could never figure out what to do with it. When I saw this pattern, I knew it would be perfect for this yarn. The pattern is very easy and well-written. I think my only complaint is the nylon content and high twist of the yarn did not produce as smooth of a fabric as I prefer. Bean loves it so I am forseeing her “borrowing” it quite a bit.

Pattern: Baa-ble Hat by Donna Smith

Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in the Highland Fleece, Earth Ivy, Spring Ice, and Midnight Sea colorways

Needles: US 6 and US 7

Notes: This has been a popular pattern for years and I finally decided to work it up. It’s my first attempt at stranded colorwork, and a good starting project to learn the techniques. (If you are hesitant about colorwork, it’s easier than you think. I avoided it for years, and now feel silly). This yarn is an excellent choice for colorwork because the fibers really encourage the stitches to “stick” together. Easy pattern as well.

Pattern: Swing Left Socks by Just Run Knit Designs

Yarn: Little Skein the the Big Wool’s House Sock in the Swing Left colorway

Needles: US 1

Notes: I bought the Sock the Vote kit from Little Skein in the Big Wool (Anne) back in 2016. I saved it for this year and worked on them when we travelled a couple of times. Forgive the pic. It’s not easy to take a picture of a sock on your own foot. I wasn’t a big fan of the German short row heel technique, but that’s because I don’t think I was grasping it with the way it was worded. If you already have a sock heel construction you prefer, it would be easy to sub it in. I enjoyed finally knitting myself some socks, much to my husband’s complaint. He loves handknit socks, but his giant Neanderthal feet make me feel like I am in a sock knitter’s hell.

So there’s the update on the knitting front. I am taking a break from some current projects/plans in order to knock out a few knits for Christmas gifts. My son’s girlfriend is definitely knit-worthy, so I’m hoping to knock out some mittens and a hat for her. I may or may not whip up some gifts for neighbors, but I do know I need a break from fingering-weight projects. I could go for some more instant-gratification projects. Time for some cozy movies and cozy projects.

This Too Shall Pass…

 

I was scrolling through my photos this weekend, hoping to clean up my phone storage, and came across this pic of G-Man. He presented a lecture at a local conference, just a week before everything went to hell in Louisiana. It was a bittersweet moment, finding this photo, because things have changed so much such a short time. Louisiana has been hit especially hard by this crisis, and we continue to adapt to a way of life that seems so incredibly foreign and surreal.

I can’t really compain about the quarantine. As a knitter, crafter, reader, and cook, I’m never, ever bored. I have enough yarn,  needlepoint projects, craft vinyl, fabric, and embroidery projects to last for years, and my to-be-read pile of books will barely have a dent in it by the time this crisis is over. Yes, I do get tired of cooking, and miss date nights with the Hubs, but I I’ve been challenged to be more thoughtful and intentional about meal planning during this time of scarcity.

While social media has it’s drawbacks, being able to stay connected with my friends and family is what makes this situation less of a challenge. We share silly memes and jokes full of pandemic humor, because a good laugh reduces stress. But even as we stay connected, I still feel the sting of how this quarantine impacts things that are trivial in comparison to the situation at hand, but still carry with them sadness just the same. We celebrated Bean’s birthday, and while she remained as positive as ever, I know she was disappointed about missing her planned trip to the amusement park. Bear turns 16 this week, and all he wanted was to eat at his favorite restaurant, which is clearly a no-go. So many of our favorite places have closed and it remains to be seen if they will be able to reopen when this crisis ends. So, a milestone birthday will feel just like any other day, even if we do our best to celebrate at home. We couldn’t even get his gift shipped due to overseas manufacturing shutdowns.

Most of all, watching G-Man’s senior year end like this has been especially difficult. Both senior prom and his graduation ceremony look doubtful, and the the huge party we planned and our first international vacation will not happen.  He also missed signing day at his future college, because they had cancel all on-campus events.

Despite these small disappointments, the Heathens have been amazingly understanding. They 100% get the magnitude of what is happening, and know we all have to do our part to flatten the curve. When I start to let the stress of these strange times get to me, or when I want to tear my hair out while attempting to homeschool, I also take a breath and focus on gratitude. These are miniscule drops in a bucket in comparison to the proverbial hurricane so many others face right now, as well as the real sacrifices being made by those most impacted by this pandemic.

Changing directions, progress surprisingly continued on the pool project:

The construction company decided they had to proceed, because once they dug the hole and placed the rebar, they deemed the project too much of a danger to leave in that state. Hopefully, they can continue soon, but at  least we aren’t facing severe threats of erosion or unintended impalement anymore.

If you have been following my Instagram, I have been posting frequent dinner pics as I try to make the most of our pantry and freezer. Last week, I made a brisket from See You on Sunday by Sam Sifton, and turned the leftovers into nachos, tacos, and shredded BBQ beef with hash brown casserole.

Then, I made a mini-Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and dressing and sides, and used the leftovers to make Turkey a la King with stuffing waffles, and finally turkey noodle soup. My friend created a Facebook group specifically devoted to quarantine cooking ideas, and between that and posting on Instagram, we are all trying to share inspiration as we think outside of the box.

Finally, I finished two more baby knits:

Pattern: Seamless Baby Booties

Yarn: Berrocco Comfort in the Adirondack colorway

Needles: US 4

Notes and Mods: If I were to do these with this yard again, I probably go down to a 3.

Pattern: Baby Sophisticate

Yarn: Berrocco Comfort in the Adirondack colorway

Needles: US 8

Notes and Mods: Cute little pattern, but I had to pick up a couple of extra stitches and decrease in the sleeve underarm to make the join less noticeable.

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So, as much as life is bananas right now, let’s take a breath, do something good, and stay the heck home. This is exactly why we have drive-thru liquor stores, after all.

Quarantine Update and a Giveaway!

What a difference a week makes. So much changed so quickly, and like the rest of you, we are doing our best to adapt. No, I’m not making cute, color-coded homeschooling schedules, or using this “opportunity” to clean out my closet Martha Stewart style. If you are a Pinterest supermom, more power to you. We are just taking each day that is in front of us and making the best of it.

Other than a solo trip to the grocery store, the Heathens and I have not left the house since March 13tth. Though the older kids thought I was being a bit harsh by not letting them go see their friends, the changes over the past week have demonstrated to them why I took social distancing very seriously. First, I want to protect their health, but I also explained to them that I am in the high-risk category. I almost died of a respiratory illness that progressed to severe pneumonia as a child, and even after I got out of the hospital, I still had to have in-home care and rehabilitation. I would never wish that experience on anyone, so beyond our own bubble, we need to stay home to help our community and nation turn the tide on this terrible pandemic. My husband is still working, but continues to practice aggressive social distancing as well.The first week of at-home school was an adjustmenet. The teachers in our area literally had one hour to pull together the materials for the students and come up with a fast plan. Between daily online class and the remaining work, Bean and I are spending about 4 hours a day on school, not including independent reading. The boys are in high school, and are able to manage themselves. However, my friends with multiple elementary-age kids in different grades are struggling to juggle it, most especially those still having to work. Regardless, I admire Bean’s teacher for her dedication and the effort she is putting in to make this  situation work for the students. I swear, if we ever we had the opportunity to push through legislation for teacher pay raises, it would pass with flying colors the week the kids go back to school. Luckily, this week is our spring break, so we all have a chance to regroup.

As far as the emotional climate, our kids are pragmatic. They watch the news and understand the gravity of the situation. We are honest with them, and they get that our community as a whole is worried. This situation is a marathon not a sprint. However, we combat anxiety with practicality. We are ok, we are taking commonsense measures to protect ourselves and others, and we’ll get through this. I think the hardest part for my Louisiana community is the isolation. We can handle tornados, hurricanes, and being robbed of the Super Bowl #stillbitter, but we handle those things by banding together. The Cajun Navy loads up the boats, we gather, we feed one another, we volunteer, or we just spend time with our neighbors. It’s one thing to go through something stressful, but going through it in isolation makes it just a we bit tougher. But you know what? The drive-thru daquiri shops are still open! Gotta find the silver lining somewhere, right?

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been posting pics of our meals and other cooking adventures. Over the next week or so, I’m going to be posting some easy recipes, or ideas for making the most of what’s in the pantry.  We all could use some inspiration while adapting to this temporary normal.

On the knitting front. I have enough stash to last, not to mention needlepoint and 100 other crafting projects to keep me occupied when I’m not being the worst homeschool teacher in the world. I just cast on Fantastitch by Stephen West, as well as a baby blanket for my grandnephew. The one thing I can say about our time in quarantine is that I won’t be complaining of boredom any time soon.

 

*photo credit Stephen West *

So, in an effort to spread a little joy, I giving away a free downloadable copy of the Fantastitch pattern via Ravelry code. If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern, leave a comment about what you are doing to stay occupied during quarantine. I’ll draw for the winner this Friday! In the meantime, stay sane, my friends!