Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tea Kettle Doily

While I was wiping down the counters in my kitchen yesterday, I got an idea!  I thought my tea kettle would look really cute with a doily underneath that had little petals or points sticking out.  So, I crocheted one!  It turned out just like I had imagined.  I love it!

I used some leftover Handicrafter Cotton in the Paprika colorway and a size "H" crochet hook.  I made it with a free pattern I found on Ravelry called, "Star Flower Coaster".  However, I made a couple of changes to the pattern.  On row four - instead of chaining four in between groupings, I only chained three.  It seems to lay a little nicer.  And, I needed mine to be a big bigger and I love picots.  So, instead of the row six that's in the pattern, I crocheted the row as follows:  *4 dc, ch 3, slip stitch in third chain from hook, 4 dc, ch 1, sc in sc between previous points, ch 1.  Repeat from * all the way around and slip stitch in the top of the first dc.  My finished doily is nine inches across.

That was fun!  I love quick little projects like this!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sewing Success!

I've been wanting a brand new chalk bag for climbing.  But, being the budget minded, crafty person I am, I decided there was no sense in spending money on one when I can make one for free!  So, that's just what I did.

I went through my fabric stash and found some leftovers that I loved.  I also went through my collection of webbing, belts, buckles and other doodads that I've saved from old worn out purses, bags, backpacks, etc. and found the other supplies I needed.  

I finally got started on it this morning after working on some ideas in my head for a couple of weeks.  I went with some of my original ideas but figured stuff out along the way.  Here's the result...

I love how it turned out and I'm so excited to use it!
The finished size is 5" across and 7 1/2" tall.

For anyone who doesn't rock climb and may be wondering....chalk is used to keep hands from being sweaty and slippery.  Chalk is carried in the bag and the bag is clipped to the harness so it's easily accessible whenever it's needed.

Instead of spending $25 or more on a chalk bag I now have one for free. And, it's one else in the world will have one exactly like it.  I'm so excited!  Yay for sewing success, recycling, and using stuff in the stash!  :-D

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


It's done!  It's finally done!  After two and a half years (almost three)'s done and off the needles!  All the ends are tucked in.  Photos have been taken.  The Ravelry project page is completed.  And, it's ready to enjoy....before this winter is over!  Woot!  I did it!  Finally!

It's already being used and enjoyed!

Penelope waited patiently through a lot of photos.  She decided that she just couldn't wait any longer when I moved to the family room to take more.  It was time to get warm and cozy!

"Are you done yet, mom?"

This project started with a bunch of yarn I bought to make a crochet throw.  The yarn color is "Redwood Heather" and it goes perfectly with fabrics I bought for window treatments, pillows, etc. for our family room.  HERE's the original post to see all the materials together.  I quickly got started on the crochet throw and didn't like how the pattern looked.  I ripped it out and decided to make a knitted throw instead.  A little crazy because I knew it would take a LOT longer but this pattern was too pretty to resist.  

It's a free pattern I found on Ravelry called, "Surrounded Afghan and Lap Robe".  The main directions are for a small version but it explains how to make it larger.  My version turned out to be about 44" x 66" with 35 pattern repeats across and about 47 pattern repeats for the length.

I decided a couple of months ago that this project had been going on long enough.  It was time to finish it and I didn't allow myself to start on or work on any other projects until it was complete!  I wanted to get it done and to do so before winter was over so we could enjoy it and not have to wait until next winter.  I did it!  I finished it last night!  I even tested it out with a little snooze on the sofa.  It passed the test!  It's warm and cozy!

This is the first project I've ever done with an I-cord edging.  It's actually quite simple and the results are fantastic.  It creates such a nice edge around the entire throw.

I love the stitch pattern!

Nice and big!

Ok, Penelope...the picture taking is done.  Enjoy our new, cozy, throw!

I used just over six skeins of Bernat Super Solids in "Redwood Heather" to make this.  The total yardage was just over 2,670 yards.  I knitted it with size 8 circulars and size 7 double points.  There's a total of over 110,000 stitches (I calculated it a few repeats back but forgot to mark down how many stitches I had on the needles to calculate the total now that it's complete...ooops!).  I had planned to make it 70" long but my hands were hurting from working with this big project, all the stitches on the needles, and the acrylic yarn.  So, I decided to just finish it off a few inches short.  Those extra four inches would have meant 40 more rows or around 10,000 more stitches!  It's plenty long enough to curl up in.  And, I'm SO ready to start something new, different, and MUCH smaller!

Friday, February 13, 2015


I'm so happy!  After almost three years (I just looked up when I started was April of 2012!), I'm finally finishing up this seemingly never ending throw!

I started the i-cord bind off last night at knit group.  I love how the i-cord edge looks.  And, it's so cool how nicely it turned the corner!

I should have it done this weekend.  It's a bit hard on the hands because the final pattern rows are horizontal and the i-cord is vertical.  It takes pressure to keep the needles turned the right way to knit.  So, I have to give my hands a break every so often.  And, the ending i-cord is equal to four rows of knitting.

I'm so excited!  This epic project will deserve a nice long photo shoot when it's done.  Stay tuned for a post of the finished throw!  Wooohooo!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dairy Free and Delicious - Banana Ice Cream

My diet has undergone some changes over the past few years.  One of the big changes is that I no longer eat dairy.  It stuffs me up and makes me feel bad.  And, now that I've been off of it for so long, I'm lactose intolerant.

In the beginning it was hard because I loved cheese a LOT!  And, ice cream! was really hard to give it up!  But, I feel a lot better without it.

I no longer crave dairy foods like I used to and the few times I've cheated a little it just wasn't as good as I remember.  I guess my taste has changed.  It also makes it easier when I find great alternatives like this...dairy free banana ice cream.

My daughter discovered it on Pinterest.  We gave it a try recently and were surprised by how easy it was to make and how rich, creamy, delicious, and satisfying it is.  And, it's totally healthy!

To make it, thinly slice bananas (about one banana per serving) and spread the slices in a freezer safe container.  We used a metal cake pan.  Place the pan in the freezer and leave it until the bananas are almost frozen but not hard.  The time will depend on how many bananas you freeze, how thick the layer is, and how thin or thick they're sliced.  Just check on them from time to time.  They freeze up pretty quickly.  Next, put the banana slices in a food processor with a dollop of your favorite nut butter (we used peanut butter) and blend it all together until it's smooth and creamy.  If the bananas are a little too frozen, just give them a few minutes to thaw a bit.  If they're not frozen enough, go ahead and put the mixture back in the freezer a bit and try again when it's a little more frozen.   We served ours with some dark chocolate chips stirred in.  It was delicious!


Friday, February 6, 2015

FO Friday - Cross Stitch Table Runner

I have an FO this week!  However, this one was completed by my mom.

I went through my craft studio several months ago and got rid of a bunch of stuff I didn't need, want, or things I felt I'd never get to.  I had a printed cross stitch table runner kit that someone had given to me for a wedding gift 25 years ago.  I always thought it would be fun to do but never got around to doing it.  When my mom saw that I was getting rid of it, she snapped it up.

I had no idea she'd been working on it until my birthday when she surprised me with the finished runner.

The kit even came with lace that my mom sewed on with a tiny vintage sewing machine she recently found.

It's a little wrinkled from being gift wrapped.
I probably should have ironed it for the photos.

This was such a sweet surprise!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Oops! I did it again!

Oops!  I spent more money!  But, I couldn't help myself!  I know...I shouldn't have walked into that Sport Chalet store.  Especially since I've already been to their big clearance sale a few times already.  But, obviously, I hadn't looked through everything because I missed this the first few times...

It's a lightweight sleeping bag for backpacking for over 50% off!  It's rated down to 20'f and it only weighs two pounds, seven ounces.  That's almost a pound lighter than the lightest one I could find on their regular rack of bags!  That will make a big difference!  We looked up customer reviews and everyone raved about it.  It's made for women so it fits better and isn't as long.  I also like that it's colorful and cute and that it's super comfy.

I got a backpack last spring at REI when we spent our dividend.  That means it was FREE!  REI is a store that you can join.  As a member, you get discounts and at the end of the year you get a percentage back on everything you buy.  Plus, we have an REI credit card and we use it on as much as we can....bills, groceries, gas, etc.....things that are in our budget....and pay it off every month.  At the end of the year a percentage of everything we spent on it is included in our REI dividend.  That means we have hundreds of dollars every year to spend on things at REI or ask for a check.  How cool is that?!

We love that store!  It's filled with LOTS of awesome stuff for the outdoor adventure enthusiast.  Everything from gear and equipment to cool clothing and shoes!  We love dividend time because it means we get to go into the store and walk out with big bags of "toys" without paying a dime.  Like my cool backpack.  It's made for women and even came with an flower!  :-)

I'm getting close to having everything I need to go backpacking.  We have just a few more things to get.  We should be able to start backpacking this spring!  I'm so excited!  Well, except for the bears and stuff!  Eeek!  lol

I love all the clearance and sale luck I've been having lately but I really need to stop walking into stores for a while!  lol

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bargain Bonanza

I'm so excited about all the bargains I've found lately!  I'm a budget shopper that's very tight with my money.  That makes shopping a bigger job than it already is.  But, it also makes it like a treasure hunt.  When I find a bargain on something I need or want it's like a win!  I've had a lot of wins lately.  So much so that I just have to tell about my finds!

My most recent one was today at Michael's.  I went into the store to look for a picture frame but also wandered through all the sale and clearance areas I could find.  It's a good thing I did!  I found four skeins of a kind of yarn I like and in a color I love.  They're all the same dye lot.  And, they were marked down from $4.99 to $1.99.  I have no idea why these four were marked down because they still have this same exact yarn and color in the yarn area at full price.  I'm not going to say anything!  I'm just happy to find it.  I wanted this yarn, in this color, for a project I've been thinking of.   Woot!  Score!

You may have already read about my new red shoes on a recent blog post.  I got Keen brand shoes that are normally close to $100 for just $24.99  I've also scored on clothes lately...something I have a hard time finding no matter what the price.  I found a super cute long dress at Kohl's for just $13 that originally was $80!  I've found some great tops at TJ Maxx that the MSRP was about $50 but I only paid $9.99 and $16.99.  I got a great pair of exercise pants/tights that were $78 for just $16.99 there too.  Then, last week at Sport Chalet there was a sale that reduced clearance items an additional 70%!  My daughter and I searched through everything and we both scored!  I found a Prana dress that I'd looked at about a month ago but wasn't about to pay $65 for (marked down from $80).  Last week I got it for $17!  I'm so excited!  I've been searching for a dress like it to wear with my tall black boots and tights.  Now, we just need some colder weather!  Although, I'm not complaining about the high 70's and low 80's we're experiencing this week.  It is quite nice!  Ok...back to the deals...  My daughter got a great pair of red skinny jeans at Sport Chalet that were normally $60 for just $9!  Then, I took hubby back and he got a Pearl Izumi wind breaker that he'd actually been looking at for months online and elsewhere.  It's a jacket and vest in one and will work great for bike riding, hiking, etc.  It was originally $120 but he got it for $32!  Oh....and, we went to the Five Ten outlet to find climbing shoes and not only did my husband find a great deal on those....$100 shoes marked down to $30....but he also found a great pair of casual shoes marked down from about $70 to $32!

I can't believe all the deals we've found in the past month or so!  Happy dance!

Oh...and one more.  This is little but fun!  On one of my recent trips through TJ Maxx I found this cute little sign for just $4.99.  I love it!  I later found the same sign at another store for $10.

Oh...I just remembered a couple more deals.  I got some coupons last month for my birthday.  One was $10 to use at Kohl's.  I couldn't find anything except some cute kitchen towels.  So, I left the store and planned to go back another day to look.  Well, when I did, the towels I'd found were on a sale of buy one set and get another for $1.  So, I got four great little towels for just $5 (after the coupon).  I got a $15 coupon for Loft.  I had a hard time finding anything I really wanted but in the end found two cute knitted skirts on the clearance rack (one for me and one for my daughter) and a set of hair accessories for my daughter and only spent about $1.  Woot!

I normally hate shopping because I have such a hard time finding what I'm looking for and the prices I want to pay.  I would love it if I could find deals like this more often.  But, then again, my bank account might not be so happy.  ;-)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Memories at the Station

I was driving through San Bernardino, California a couple of weeks ago and saw the old train station.  I have history and memories there and couldn't resist stopping by for a visit.  I was so happy to see that it's being preserved and is even more beautiful than I remembered.  My memories there aren't just from a few travels in my past.  You see, my dad worked for Santa Fe Railroad when I was a small child.  That not only provided us free or discounted (I'm not sure which) travel when he worked for them but we also lived on a train for while.  How cool is that?!

When I was about three years old, Santa Fe sent my dad to do some work in Needles, California.  It's in the middle of the desert, on the border of California of Arizona.  They provided a place for us to stay...a train car that had been outfitted like a little home and it was on the tracks.  As crazy as it sounds, I actually have memories of it.  I was recently talking with my dad about it and found out that he was stationed out there for about six months and it was during the hot part of year.  So, my mom sometimes drove back with me to their little home in Colton, California where it was cooler.

I remember lots of train trips with my parents and brother to go see my grandparents in Missouri.  Sometimes it was just my mom, brother, and I.  I have some pictures in my mind from the train.  My favorite memories from those trips are of a hat box my mom packed some fun little activities in to keep me busy.  Later, when I was a bit older, I remember having a little suitcase that she'd packed things in.  I wasn't allowed to open it until the trip.  I was so excited though that my mom gave in and let me open it at the train station as we waited for the train.  What she packed kept me busy for hours and hours....paper, little scissors, stickers, a coloring book and crayons, silly putty, and I think there was even a little doll.  There may have been more things in there but that's all I remember.  It's one of my best childhood memories.  What a great idea it was too!  I ended up doing something similar with my daughter on some long trips.  I bought some fun little activities and craft supplies and pulled them out as needed.  Some were even wrapped like little gifts.  She loved it and so did I.

I was flooded with emotion as we walked up to the train station a couple of weeks ago.  So many memories and thinking about being young and my parents being young and what different times those were.

In my memory, these benches inside ran the other direction.  But, I think they're movable.  So, it's quite possible they've been moved.  Back then, this was a bustling place, filled with people waiting to travel or waiting for loved ones to arrive.  There was even a restaurant at the station.

We went into the restroom and this big, bright, beautiful room was just inside the doors.  The window even had old, bubbly glass in it.  The actual restroom was small and through another door.  I wonder if this room used to have benches in it?

Inside the main part of the train station, and tucked over in a corner, is an old shoe shine stand.

As we stepped outside, I could no longer hold back that flood of emotion and the tears began to flow.  In fact, I'm having trouble holding it back now.  I think it's a combination of sadness about my parents being old now instead of young and of the memories here being some of the good ones from my childhood.  It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me but the emotions are strong.

This is the back of the station that faces the railroad tracks.

I stood out there for a while and waited for a train to come along.  I remember the rumble of them going by when I was small.  It was thrilling and scary all at the same time.

This station is now used for commuting into Los Angeles and other Southern California areas.  Travelers don't even need to go into the station anymore.  Tickets are bought from a little electronic box out by the tracks.  If someone wants to travel far distances, I think they have to go into Union Station in L.A. to catch a different train.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Souper Sunday - Sopa de Tortilla

This Souper Sunday recipe is a family favorite!  I got the original recipe from an old Martha Stewart show over 15 years ago.  Her guest was Rick Bayless.  He's an expert on Mexican cuisine, has several famous restaurants, and even has his own shows on PBS.  I love his take on Mexican food!  This soup is a great example.

We've made this recipe so many times over the years that we don't even need it to remember what goes the soup.  And, the base of this soup is so good that it works great as a starter for other soups.  It's incredibly flavorful!

This recipe seemed very involved and a lot of work the first time we made it.  But, after that, it seemed to be a lot easier.  It's very forgiving and very flexible.  Feel free to change things up to your liking.  Add more or less ingredients and garnishes.  For example, chunks of chicken are really good as well as finely diced and raw radishes (they add a surprising and delicious crunch and can see some in my photo above).  In fact, I'm pretty sure I saw the radishes being used on the show but it's not in the actual recipe.  Otherwise, I can't imagine that I would have thought to use them.  I'd never heard of putting them in soup.  But, they sure are good!  So, I added it to the list of ingredients.  Here's the recipe!  Enjoy!


1 large tomato
2 tablespoons corn oil (canola or vegetable oil work fine too)
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon course salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
6 cups chicken stock
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves picked and stems reserved
1 small bunch oregano
4 yellow and blue corn tortillas (any color will do)
1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying
1 to 2 dried Pasilla chilies, stemmed, de-veined, and left whole
1 avocado, cut into cubes
4 ounces freshly grated queso fresco (a delicious and unique cheese but we no longer use it to avoid dairy)
4 limes, washed and quartered
1 bunch radishes shredded or finely sliced

1. Heat oven to broil.  Line a small oven-proof skillet with aluminum foil.  Place the tomato in the prepared pan and broil, turning once or twice, until soft and just starting to char, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, peel, and place the tomato in the jar of a blender.  Hint:  If you'd like to add fresh, roasted, green chilies to the soup, this a good time to roast them.  See step 6.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of corn oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and the garlic.  Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Add onions to jar of the blender.  Puree the tomato-onion mixture until smooth.

3. Return soup pot to medium heat.  Add remaining tablespoon of corn oil and stir in tomato-onion puree, using a rubber spatula to clean out the blender jar.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.  It should be the consistency of a dark, thick ketchup.

4. Whisk in chicken stock.  Make a bouquet garni of the cilantro stems and oregano (I just tie a bunch of cilantro and oregano together with butcher twine. I don't worry about just using just the stems of the cilantro.).  Add the bouquet garni to the soup, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer.  Partially cover and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 30 minutes.  Season soup to taste with additional salt and pepper.  Hint:  This base works great to create a veggie or chicken soup...just add what you like.  An easy and delicious soup at this point is to just add some cooked spaghetti or pasta.  Be sure to add a squeeze of lemon to each bowl!  It's delicious!)

5.  Meanwhile, prepare the garnishes.  Crumble the queso fresco cheese.  Cut and slice or grate radishes.  Cut the tortillas into 1/4 inch strips, heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed skillet, over medium high heat, until the oil is shimmering and hot.  Carefully add the tortilla strips, standing back as the oil might splatter. Fry until the strips are crisp and brown, 20 to 30 seconds. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Season the hot strips with salt and pepper.  Hint:  We always make a more tortilla chip strips than the recipe calls for because they're super yummy!

6.  In the same hot oil, quickly flash-fry the pasilla chilies, 3 to 4 seconds.  Remove from the oil and place on a paper towels to drain.  Let cool slightly.  Chop the chilies into bits and use as garnish.   The flavor is interesting and unique.  Hint:  Fresh green chilies, like Anaheims, are a delicious alternative.  Roast them in the oven when roasting the tomato.  Roast until they are charred (turning as needed), put them into a covered container or plastic bag for a few minutes....the steam will make it easier to peel off the skin.  Peel, remove stem, seeds, and white ribs, slice and chop into small strips or pieces. 

7.  It's time to serve it up!  We like to set all the garnishes out for everyone to add them as they like to their own bowls.  Then, ladle the hot soup on top, squeeze a wedge or two of lime into the bowl (we even toss the wedge(s) into the bowl for extra flavor), top with tortilla chip strips and enjoy!

A super delicious soup with super possibilities!  Give it a try!  Let me know what you think!  And, I'd love to hear about ways you change it up or use it for other kinds of soups.  Buen Provecho!