Saturday, April 5, 2014

Crochet By Numbers-My First Rogue Project

Fascinated with this crocheting technique.  It's really quite simple.  What makes it difficult is creating your own graph.  This is where the creativity comes in from the start.  At your computer.  Not only do you need to scan in what you want to do, but I feel there is some finesse to the photo.  Correcting margins, defining the background don't even get me started on combining of 2 photos.  I've seen it.

I signed up to learn the technique from Todd at Crochet by Numbers.  Busy dude I think as I found it difficult to get emails back in a timely fashion.  Ok should say in a Lynne "I'm learning a new craft" fashion.  Last summer I decided to spend 3 months doing it.  In that thought bubble above my head here's how I envisioned Todd's life (Family guy, full time job, kids, wife and takes commissions for CBN art pieces really a 2nd job.)  Here's me (why can't you put your life on hold for some old lady across the country who wants to learn CBN pronto.)  He does get back to you don't get me wrong, but I had a crochet hook and it needed work after I did the beginning work projects.

So, I cruised through the CBN posts and groups on Ravelry.  This lead me to another person doing phenomenal CBN work too.   She makes her own patterns.  I love that she's very protective of Todd and his Crochet by Numbers technique.  This I think encourages his business and encourages one to get creative and do their own work.

I saw few practice projects on Lee Mac's website and one was a British Flag.  She being Australian I can totally understand this fine project.  Me, being lazy and from the United States decided that if I was going to put all this crochet work into a project I wanted it to be something that would be personal for me.  Ever since 9/11 I've had a fascination with having United States flag represented some where in my life.  I decided to give making my own chart of my flag a try.  I could go all traditional the straight lines of the flag would lend themselves well to crocheting.  I thought if I'm truly going to get some practice with this technique I needed to mix it up.  I found a graphic of a waving flag that I liked.

Thinking it wouldn't be much more than 3 colors red, white and blue it should be pretty easy.  After fiddling with the program I got it down to 11 colors!  Oh yeah forgot about shading.  Forgot if I want this piece to look good it will need shading.

As I sat working on this project I realized I'm having a major yarn problem.  My yarn choices are not the same color name as the project sheet.  I made up a chart of the names.  Still having trouble.  Yarn skeins rolling all over I decide to put them in a box.  Now it's hard to read their names.  I put down the crochet hook and got out a sheet of blank paper, scissors, a sharpie, tape and a hole punch.  Voila!  I now have the yarn organized in a manner that me and my short term memory problems can handle.
Another vblog of Lee's that put the idea of bordering the piece as you go.  I've seen where a crocheted border is put on the piece after and I didn't like it.  Not to say it's not perfectly fine, but for my projects I liked the pieces that were bordered as you go.  I chose this gold color, because ultimately I want to turn this into a pillow for my living room.  I think the color went well with the flag and well with my living room color scheme.
When the piece is flip flopping around in my lap it doesn't look like much.  I took a photo to share with Lee and when I saw the piece I got giddy.  It really does look like a waving flag.  A simplistic waving flag, but that's what I'm going for.  I wanted a fairly easy nice looking piece to practice on.  Practice pattern making, crocheting and I think really most importantly picking out colors that go well together.
I've seen a few CBN pieces where there is one color that doesn't belong.  It pops out at you and distracts one from the beauty of the art.  Lee has even spoken about this very yarn color problem in a piece of hers.

When I chose my colors the red and white were easy.  Then I needed a blue that would fit into the family of the red and the white.  My next problem with color choices was the grays.  I needed 4 colors of gray for the shading.  I had to tear myself away from the idea that the label needs to say gray in order to get the colors I wanted.  2 of my grays are called silver heather and linen.  I squinted my eyes to just get the hue of the color in my brain and see them blending together.  I needed a shading pink.  Again don't read the label it says orange, but the color is perfect for light coral.

I just love how the piece turned out.  I got a lot of practice in pulling the knots through as I went.  Lee again had a video on where to pull the knots through.  Most helpful.  I'll be turning this into a pillow for my couch.

If you'd like to look into doing this craft check out Todd Paschall's Crochet By Numbers website.  You can also get a lot of great tips from Lee Mac's blog.

The Proverbial Bucket List

I don't have a bucket list.  I've thought about making one and never really know what to put on it.  I do recognize when I do something that is on my imaginary bucket list.  Then I'll say, "That was on my bucket list, check."  Last Thursday I did something that's been on my "bucket list" for probably 25 years.  First I was too scared to do it.  Then I was too out of shape to do it.  Finally, I made up my mind that I was definitely in shape to do it I just needed to grow a pair and do it.  What was it... ski an intermediate slope.  My daughter and I were just too good to keep skiing the bunny hill.  When the lift operator says, "You again, that was fast."  You know you are where you don't belong.
My daughter and I decided to take the intermediate free group lessons.  Found out the lesson groups were numbered 1-5.  I thought we had to be a 3.  The instructor quizzed us about our skills and said, "You are a number 2." What?!  Oh OK I'll take your word for it.  Found out quickly we were definitely number 2 material.  We learned so much in 2 hours.

First of all the intermediate lift is a lot faster than the beginner lift.  It was almost terrifying the speed at which it went up the hill.  It did, I found out as I got off, slows down for you to get off and then off it goes.  As I skied down and around to our meeting place I psyched myself out.  I saw how steep the hill was and started working out "plan B" in my head instead of paying attention to my skis.  Next thing I knew my tips were crossed and I'm going down.  It was a very soft lazy fall and with the assistance of a kind stranger I was up and back with my group.  My head was back in the game.
When I rented my skis that day there was blue tape on each of them with the word "Courbage" on them.  It was scratch up and first I thought they said "Garage."  As I got my instructions on how to make a proper turn and traverse the hill I looked down at my skis and to me they suddenly said "Courage!"  That lifted my spirits immensely.  It reminded me I did have the tools to ski this hill.  All I needed was practice.  I talked my way all the way down the hill.  "Shins against boots, prepare for turn, COURAGE, lean forward, look forward, COURAGE, hands out front, remember to breath, COURAGE!  It was exhausting and exhilarating.  The instructor said we were using way more muscles and effort, because we are new.  He said with practice and confidence it will get easier.

It was the end of our lessons and we had been skiing for about 3 1/2 hours.  Our plan was to only ski half a day so my daughter could get to her evening class.  I asked my daughter if she wanted to make one more run even though I was exhausted, but she had fallen once on her way down too and had twisted her knee slightly.  She said she'd rather have lunch now.  I secretly thought "THANK GOODNESS!"

Even though I was ready to get off the hill that day.  I'm very excited to start on the intermediate slope and practice my new found courage.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Decluttering and Cleaning

As with taking care of myself taking care of my house has gone to the dogs as well over the years.  My body is in a much better place now to work on the house.  I keep a clean house, but I have piles of stuff that I never know where to put.  Do I need this stuff?  Spoken as a true hoarder... YES!  Seems like the minute I get rid of something that I don't seem to need I need it the next week.  I refer to it as Chaney luck.  We have a streak of buying broken stuff.  Losing things so much we refer to the need for certain items like scissors as saturation.  I need to have 10 pairs of scissors, so I can find one pair.  I need 6 pairs of reading glasses, so I can find one pair.  If I can't find say my nippers that means I haven't reached saturation and I need to buy more.  It's so sad I think some times.  So, are the piles of things.

I've gotten rid of tons of clothes in the past 1 1/2 years.  My closet is beginning to have room to put more things into it.  Although my pairs of shoes are growing now I can wear real shoes due to the weight loss.  My pantry is more cluttered due to eating healthier and just having more food around.  I solved that problem with buying 4 tubs and labeling them, so I can put more stuff into tighter spaces.

I've read the decluttering websites and basically there is no easy fix.  Just like my weight problem.  I need to stop the whining, grow up and just do the work.

Today, DH got the hall closet back together now that the bathroom is fixed.  I can now fill it back up, but will definitely do a lot of purging.  I've had the kids go through the games and decided what they don't want any more.  Half of them will go to Goodwill.  Yay!  More room for towels.  Things that actually should be in a hall closet.  Tomorrow I'll go through my table clothes.  That will be hard as every time I look at them I need every blasted one of them and yet I don't use them hardly ever.

I caught up on the dishes today.  A big bugger boo with me.  I hate unloading the dishwasher and therefore there is never any room for the dirty dishes.  I remind myself at times like this how good I have it.  I HAVE a dish washer.  I'm able bodied and can unload it.  Again, stop your damn whining and just do it.

Turned the self clean on the oven today.  Decided to get the mini vac out and really give it a good cleaning.  I noticed around the outside edges of the inside of the oven was covered with dust? Spiderwebs?  Dust and spiderwebs?  I don't know how anything would have created that fuzzy gray line.  It vacuumed away.  Vacuumed the crumbs where they fell in the joint of the door.  Really scrub again the dirty finger prints the repairman made earlier this summer.  I really don't know how to get them off.  Still gray color on my white handles.

A good start to reclaiming my house.  The holidays are coming.  Would love to let people in the back of my house instead of throwing all the piles from the front of the house into the back for the parties.  Was listening to a decluttering podcast and the woman talked about locking the doors on rooms she didn't want people to look it.  I SO get that and yet find that so sad to have to resort to that.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cleaning Eating Tosca Reno says, "Pack a cooler."

I was reminded today during my Mama Bootcamp class the importance of packing a cooler.  That can be anything from a small lunch box to an actual cooler.  What she means by pack a cooler is to bring your food with you.  Don't wing it when you're running errands or even going to work.  I find my fast food choices aren't healthy, convenient or even something I want to eat.  I've packed sandwiches, salads, smoothies or just a simple piece of fruit, cut up veggies or my Tosca Reno's Power balls.  In my lunch box or cooler they don't get hot in the car.  Keep in mind that if you have something that might get dangerous if it's not refrigerated properly do some temperature checks and some experimenting before you leave it in the car all day.

A few years ago I bought myself my own lunch box.  I'd occasionally use one of my kid's lunchbox when need be.  Usually though they'd be dirty from them using them and not taking care of them.  My kids were plenty old enough to clean their own lunch boxes.  So, I thought I'm going to buy my own.  Only I needed to get one that my kids wouldn't see as the only clean lunch box in the house to use.  I bought a big honking pink lunch box.  Not my favorite color, but DEFINITELY not either of my kid's either.  Neither of them would be caught dead carrying my lunch box and that was my plan all along.

I was at the store today and right now is the perfect time to buy oneself a lunch box.  Barring they don't have family member who'll want to use their lunch box.  So, many fun choices to make Clean Eating a necessity rather than a chore.

Sorry for the crappy picture, but you get the idea.  Many fun choices from which to pick.  Star Wars, Spiderman, Hello Kitty, Mario Brothers and even Pink Disney Princesses if you need to keep your hubby and kids from borrowing your lunch box.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Clean Eating at it's best - Greek Spinach & Feta Turkey Muffins

I had some ground turkey I needed to use, so went to Pinterest to see what might be interesting.  Found this recipe on Gracious Pantry.  Sounded really good.  I did not have any Greek Herb Blend, but when I looked up a recipe for Greek Seasoning I had all the ingredients to make my own.  I didn't have dried parsley as I abhor it.  Left it out.  Also cinnamon and nutmeg in savory dishes kind of overwhelms my taste buds.  So, cut the amounts in half.  That was just right for me.  A hint of flavor that really added to the delight of these mini meatloaves.  Other than being the shape of a muffin that's all they have in common with a muffin.  I stuffed my muffin pan like the recipe said and got 12 not the 15 they listed.  Really worked out for the best as I had one less muffin pan to clean.  I didn't use muffin wrapper just a spray of vegetable oil.  My turkey muffins were so moist and came right out of the pan.  Mine were done in half the time.  They weren't browned like the website, but that didn't matter.  I was afraid if I cooked them longer they'd dry out.  As they were they were perfect.  A recipe that's already in my file for future use.

Greek Spinach & Feta Turkey Muffins

1 1/2 lbs. extra lean ground turkey
3 egg whites
2 T Greek herb blend (see below)
1 T garlic powder
6 oz. feta
2 cups frozen spinach

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, blending thoroughly by hand.

Fill your baking cups level to the top of the baking cup.

Bake at 350 F for approx. 20 - 25 minutes. Check these with a meat thermometer to be sure they are done. They should reach a minimum of 165 F. on the thermometer.

Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator. These freeze well and thaw quickly. Makes 12 muffins.

Makes 2 T of Greek Herb Blend: 1 tsp dried oregano,1 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp onion powder, 3/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Monday, July 22, 2013

Get Me On That Team!

I have some cousins, who have recommended that hubby and I go out to Bolinas for the 4th of July for many years.  They said it was a lot of fun to watch the parade and the tug of war between Bolinas and Stinson beach.  They haul a rope across the opening to the Bolinas Lagoon between the 2 beaches.  Then the two teams fight it out until the first 3 people on the losing team end up in the water.  Finally, this year DH and I decided we go "watch."  What DH didn't know was with my new found strength and health that if there was any way I could get on Bolinas' women's team I was going to do it.

I had no idea how this whole thing was organized.  Do they only allow Bolinas residents?  Did they just take volunteers from the crowd?  Was there already a team in place that's been training for this friendly grudge match?  My family has owned property in Bolinas for over 50 years, so we think of ourselves as residences.  Since the town is blocked off to traffic on the 4th of July DH and I decided if the tug of war started at 9am, we'd start walking to town at 8am.  We arrived at the beach at 8:30am.
Immediately, I saw a group of woman circling up.  One gal had a clipboard with a full sign up list.  She was calling roll.  As she was calling I'd hear a "HEAR", but now and then there would be no answer.  The head gal would say, "They knew what time to be here.  If they are not here they are late.  If they are late they've lost their spot on the team."  She was a little lenient as gals ran down the beach yelling, "I'm here!!"  I knew though this could possibly be my IN.  I stood just outside the circle smiling in my 4th of July tye dye listening to all instructions just in case I could wheedle my way in.  Finally, the head gal announced they were 4 short.  I announce my willingness to join the team.  They wrote my name down as a possible.  I'm one step closer.
Now the head gal announces the team needs to warm up.  I'm in the circle now.  I'm warming up as if I'm going to be pulling... just in case.  Wrist bands are being passed out to all on the official list.  Again they are 4 short and the 4 wrist bands are up for grabs.  Not looking at the list of possible people she begins passing out the extra wristbands.  Rule abiding bites me in the butt a good deal of the time.  Since they aren't going to call my name I jog over and grab the last wristband.  As we are in the circle we are asked to call out a number to get a head count.  Even though this is a fun activity there are rules and protocol to be followed for a fair win.  It gets to me and I yell out, "Eleven!"  It keeps going to 31.  Oh no we are one too many.  There can only be 30.  One of us has to give up their wristband to the one gal who was on the sign up sheet and some how didn't get one.  No one is jumping at the chance and the head gal says, "Hey if they were late that's the way it's going to be."  But a gal in a very short mini lace dress says, "It's OK she can have my wristband."  I don't think she'd have ripped her beautiful dress, but it would have definitely wiggled up around her waist during the tug of war.  That's my guess.

Now we are at 30.  DH is walking around watching and still doesn't know I'm serious about being on this team; until he sees me pull my workout gloves out of my pocket as we warm up.  I'm strapping them on and suddenly it comes to him that this has been my plan from the start.  OH yeah it was.  It's the 4th of July, I'm in Bolinas and there is a tug of war going on.  Where else would I be?  I'm not letting the Bolinas women's team not have a full roster.

As we are warming up the rules are told to remind the past members and to let the new members know.  NO sitting down.  NO letting go of the rope.  NO more than 30 pullers.  All will disqualify us as a team.  Then we get a pep talk.  She says, "It's all legs lady."  I think to myself, "I've got this!"  My legs are very strong and my arms well they are getting there.  "Ladies, we win because when there is a stalemate we don't give up.  We dig in!  They get tired and we pull them in.  Don't stop pulling until we say to stop pulling," says the head gal.

Now we run over to the rope.  Oddly they all line up on the left side of the rope. I started on the right side, but was the only one there.  I switch over.  I don't know why, but I don't want to be the screw up that loses the Bolinas tug of war.  I figured I could pull well from either side.  We are told to line up tallest in the front on back to the shortest.  This is because of the slope of the beach.  Today we don't have a lot of beach as it's nearly high tide, but we get spaced out on the rope nicely.

It begins.  We pull and pull and it's coming our way quickly.  I figure it must be tightening of the rope across the water.  Now it's pretty difficult we are digging in and pulling.  Our coaches are great telling us to pull.  Encouraging us to hold tight.  Moving people from the back forward as they lose beach.  At one point I'm thinking damn this is WAY more strenuous than I thought it would be.  I should have hydrated better!  It's OK I'm strong and I'm not tiring yet.  I can feel Stinson trying to pull us forward, but we dig in and pull harder.  The crowd is so encouraging chanting, "PULL, PULL!!"  Yelling, "DIG IN, DIG IN!!"
Sweat has now squirted out every pore of my body even though it's probably about 65 degrees out.  How long have we been pulling and digging in... 20, 30 minutes?  Finally, the rope starts coming our way slowly, gradually, now slightly faster.  My finger tips are burning.  My workout gloves are fingerless. They are being sand papered away, but I'm going to pull until they are bloody if I have too.  I am not the going to be the weakest link on this team!  Note to self full length gloves next time.  No sooner do I tell myself that and we hear the roar of the crowd that we've won!  The Bolinas women's tug of war team has won, again!!  We are all hugging, high five-ing, and knuckle bumping with each other and crowd.  What a great feeling, but quickly our attention turns to the men's team lining up on the rope.  I think it's going to be a lot of fun watching and knowing what these tuggers are feeling.
Stinson Beach pulling with all their might.
I have no idea where my husband is at this point.  Shooting photos I'm sure, but right now I'm just a person from Bolinas rooting for my town.  Wanting to know what's going on across the water I post myself close to the water's edge.  I yell whatever the coaches are yelling.  I don't want to give the tuggers any mixed messages.  Where sweat just beaded up on me it is rolling, dripping and pouring off these men.  Their turn is clearly longer than the women's.  Just how much I don't know. They are exhausted.  Some want to sit and dig in, but are reminded you can not sit.  They are changing directions trying to find that last bit of energy and pulling strength.  I see what they mean by having rules of no more than 30 tuggers as I have to resist with all my might not to jump on that rope and help.  I'm sure the whole crowd felt that way.  Finally, again after a long stalemate the rope starts pulling in Bolinas' direction.  Another win!  The men fall into a heap of sweaty exhaustion for a split second.  Then get up to rejoice.

I find out later each bout was timed.  The women's team won theirs in 4 minutes.  The men's team won in 9 minutes.  The head gal said she thought the men's bout was the longest lasting tug to date.  4 minutes!!!  Really?  It was one of the longest 4 minutes of my life.  I can't even imagine having it go on to 9 minutes.
After their win we are told to come get our t-shirts.  I had no idea.  I'm proud to wear my "Winner" shirt all afternoon.  It's covering up my red, white and blue tye dye, but I don't care.  I feel so proud of my accomplishment.  I got on the team and I helped pull it to victory.  Through out the day I get compliments on the win from strangers in the 4th of July party crowd.  I see fellow tuggers in their shirts and we high five or knuckle bump when we see each other.
I had a great day.  It felt great to earn a shirt that says, "Winner!"  Clearly a check on my bucket list.  I hope some day my daughter can make it out here and give it a go.  She'll have a blast.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Molasses Cookie Baskets (with a minor tweek)

In May I was asked to bring a dessert to a get together.  It was already getting hot, so I wanted to bring something that would be good, refreshing and would use seasonal fruit.  I like to treating my family to something wonderful even if it takes some time and effort to make.  BUT I like things to be easy if they can be.

I found this recipe for Molasses Cookie Baskets served with Lemon Sorbet and Blueberries with a Ginger sauce.  Not only did it sound good, but I knew it would just look impressive.  Brown little baskets filled with yellow sorbet and bright blue berries.
The instructions for making the baskets in the oven sounded a bit precarious according to the comments.  Getting them off the heated cookie sheet in one piece sounded pretty challenging.  Draping them over a cup to shape them while still hot and hoping they didn't break.  Not only would they not look impressive broken, but I wouldn't be good company if I spent an afternoon wrestling with them.  I thought why not try the recipe on my waffle cone maker.  It's pretty simple to use.  I've had great success with it. I wouldn't have to heat up the big oven on a hot day either.

The batter made as the recipe says did not work in the waffle cone maker.  It was more sugary and candy like.  Where as a cone is crispy and more cookie like.  That made me think I need to fix the batter so it more closely resembles waffle cone batter.  I got out one of my waffle cone recipes and began adding flour and egg to firm up the batter when it's baking in the waffle cone maker, yet keeping the delicious molasses, ginger and lemon flavorings.

They turned out great and were very easy to create cups.  I served mine with only blueberries as that's what's in season in May.

Molasses Cookie Baskets
(with Lemon Sorbet and Gingered Fruit )
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light unsulfured molasses
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour, sifted
1 large egg
1 large egg white

1 pint strawberries, hulled, quartered
1 1/2-pints blueberries
2 peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced
2-4 pints purchased lemon sorbet

Syrup: Stir first 3 ingred. in small saucepan over med. heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 3 mins. Refrigerate ginger syrup. (Syrup can be prepared 1 week ahead.)

Cookies: Bring first 5 ingred. to simmer in small saucepan over med. heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla, then flour. Cool cookie mixture 10 minutes. Then whisk in eggs.

Preheat Waffle Cone Maker. Spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Wipe off excess. Drop mixture by level tablespoonfuls on to preheated Waffle Cone maker. (1 T for small bowls. 2 T for large bowls with ruffled edge.)
Working quickly, lift cookie from Waffle Cone maker. Drape cookie over inverted 3/4-cup custard cup. Gently shape cookie with another 3/4–cup custard cup on top; this will automatically crimp sides to form fluted cup when doing the 2T amount. Repeat baking and molding process with remaining batter. When one cookie is baking remove cookie from custard cup to cool on storing plate. 

There is another custard cup under the cookie creating the cookie shape.
To serve: Place 1 cookie on each plate. Fill each with 3 small scoops of sorbet and spoon fruit and ginger syrup over.

Bon App├ętit | August 1992
Yield: 32 small baskets or 16 large baskets
And yes everyone was deliciously impressed.