Sunday, February 28, 2016

Blanket Completion

Over the weekend I "finished" the baby's blanket, and by finish I mean I couldn't stand making anymore squares to make this project anymore larger. I think I was shooting for 25 and gave up at nine. Blanket pieces are just not my thing, I suppose, when every block is the same. I learned this lesson about 5 years ago and now I am reminded again. From now on it's full motif blankets for me! 

On the positive side, it's comfortable and has a texture the baby likes to smooth his hand over. Oh, and it's acrylic so super spit up friendly, ground friendly, subway friendly and therefore THIS mom friendly!

My LOVE for Angela Lansbury runs deep...

Mining for Treasure

In wanting to get my pants done, I am stuck with the need for an elastic but don't have the energy to trek to Michaels. I even looked at Amazon, but decided just ordering elastic seemed wasteful, even though Prime affords you ordering something small with no penalty. When I need to purchase something else, like maybe the new Jhumpa Lahiri book, I 'll make the purchase but until then ripping apart an old pair of sleeping shorts will do nicely. 

So with the baby asleep and Murder, She Wrote keeping me company, I work steadily. Hopefully with his dad home I can sew everything tomorrow!

I love the 80s...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Beating the Blues

It's been a blue last few weeks and I can't even blame the weather. I think once the adrenaline rush of new motherhood evens out I imagine for some, they look around and wonder, "now what?"  Actually I am pretty certain this is not only a mom thing, but as someone who is always in her head, this is not a good thing. It's a season of change and I have been anticipating my next moves with excitement but uncertainty, and it's the uncertainty that's stressing me out when I should be embracing what amazingness could be coming if I would just release anxiety and let peace in.

My action steps for letting go of the blues:

1. Do something for me. Every Friday I go to Japanese class and that's my thing.  Baby comes too, and unfortunately shifts my focus when his needs need to be met, but I rally on.

2. Consider a part time job outside. I like being a SAHM in theory but I also want to contribute to our household, I miss the freedom to just splurge, and ultimately I am eager to start on a new career path even in a small way.

3. Get outside more. I try to make it out at least three times a week to various places, but maybe I definitely need to be outside more.

4. Get creative. I love to crochet and have started knitting, but I still feel stuck. Maybe exploring other creative outlets that I have dabbled in, and then producing a FINISHED thing, will do wonders for my pysche.

5. Seek out adventures. Choose to do/read/watch/try something new, challenging, interesting.

6. Don't forget to do the small things that make me happy!

This upcoming week I plan to cut and sew a simple pair of pants for myself. The pattern comes from a Japanese pattern book and I observed my neighbor sporting this style last summer. I hope to travel to Japan in the early summer with some handmade pieces and I feel like these pants will be perfect for the airport/plane. I hope to show them completed later this week along with my kid's blanket. 

Someone who makes me happy? Anne Miller. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Phooey for Pullovers

I should know better, I really should: my kid is a member of the Big Head Club along with his mom (me) and his dad. I also have the added bonus of big hair which makes pulling my head through fitted holes (sounds so dirty- what a potty mouth) require that I wear a bandana if I want to keep my hairstyle in tact.

But, back to my kid.

In my last post I mentioned trying to meet the self-imposed deadline of today, V day, to finish a little red sweater for my boy. Well, let me tell you. First, yes it's done. And second, it looks a little crazy. After joining the sleeves to the body, I began to decrease to pull in the fabric for the neck. And as I was going along there was a point at which I was reminded that recently himself couldn't wear yet another top because his head was too big to get through the neck opening comfortably. 

(Unlike adults, babies are not fond of squeezing into clothes for the sake of fashion. Their (loud) protests make perfect sense actually.)

So here I am knitting along and trying to figure out if my now 5 month old is going to be able to get this 12 month sized sweater on (because the smallest size was for 6 months and he's wearing that size clothing this second and the numbers for the 12 month size weren't reassuringly that much more). And the schematics were of no help. And other people's projects on Ravelry were of no help. And I was over this sweater already since I had this stupid "deadline" and I still needed to figure out how to kitchener and do a sewn bind off, and my kid was going to wake up soon, and I was waiting on an Amazon Prime delivery. 

So I made a decision as to where to stop. Did that.  Regrouped. Figured out how to do the special bind off. Wove in the ends. Kitchenered the underarms. Met the Amazon guy (and my kid didn't even wake up when the buzzer rang- oh the cruelty). And as a result have an over exaggerated boat neck sweater- not the most perfect garment, but the best for the moment. 

Now, if you look at the design of the neck opening of this onesie, it's perfect and that's how I am going to sort of "fold and tuck" the opening of the sweater around his neck so that there's no struggle and maybe he can actually get some wear out of this. 

Of course now I am on the hunt for cute fasteners...

I'll be starting his and my Rhinebeck (New York Sheep and Wool Festival) CARDIGAN sweaters this spring... Until then, I hope to finish up a blanket I meant to finish in August and a pair of socks. Laughably I thought I could knit a pair a month, but did you know that there are lots and lots of tiny stitches that go into making socks... 

Slow and steady. 

May EVERY day be Valentine's...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Slow and Steady

I recently observed two knitting podcasters engage in a sockathon for the month of January.  And at the end of it they tied at 35 pairs of socks knitted. Each. They weren't doing this for any sort of charity or anything like that, just knitting this quickly against each other just because.

Another knitter, the Yarn Harlot, is known for the speed of her knitting and actually teaches classes on the particular technique she uses (apparently developed when women actually needed to knit quickly to live). Watching videos of her zip along are enough to cause agita, and watching her crank out last minute gifts and sweaters can only leave you in wonderment, or at least in her dust, because in the time you've spent being impressed, she has finished. 

And then there's me. A newish knitter since I have known how to knit since childhood, but never really took to it, who instead became a crocheter. And a crocheter I remain, but I am now exploring knitting again as a new mother looking to release my creativity in as many mediums as possible because motherhood is draining on the pysche and sometimes you need a lot of avenues for self expression when you spend countless hours alone with your baby. That, and it's nice to look forward to a project that isn't you growing said child. 

So late last fall, full of enthusiasm, I looked around and purchased a few sweater patterns for me to make my kid, and had the sudden ambition to make my little boy a Christmas sweater! It occurred to me, quite emphatically, that I wanted to start the tradition of an annual sweater, so the week before Christmas seemed the right time to make this decision and execute it. Totally delusional, of course, because my little guy doesn't care about my craft life and as I had only retaught myself how to knit, the sweater is still in progress as we head into Valentine's Day. "Lucky" for him that's our wedding anniversary so the sweater still has a attachment to some holiday (ok, whateva), but in all legit honesty it also stands for the small moments I take during his naps and sometimes before I go sleep, slowly working on his little red sweater. Yes, I admittedly have wasted some time looking at how other knitters knit quickly, but I always return to my steady pace.  Because, at the end of the day, when my little guy looks back at pictures of himself in this sweater, all he'll think about, all that matters really, is that he was/is loved and his mama made him something nice. 

I think I'll make this deadline...

A little something from Gigi today...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stew, Anyone?

This has been an odd season; I have both sweated while carrying the baby in the Bjorn, and gotten stuck in the snow while pushing said baby in the stroller (thank goodness for the kindness of strangers and a policeman).


One thing I miss pre-child (aside from my alcohol tolerance and the need for moderation)? Eating. Like a meal that I can enjoy leisurely versus just shoveling food in my face in a race to beat his waking from a nap and howling, or in race against him growing bored with his chew toy (sorry, teething ring) and howling. Am I bitter? Absolutely. So my will to even contemplate cooking, let alone be creative when not using the crockpot that is, is laughable.  However, every once in awhile I get an idea I can pull off in minutes. 

The first time I made this, my challenge was to use up some sliced sourdough bread that was chilling (read: slowly going stale) and I don't do bread pudding. And, bread crumbs aren't very useful in this household. And, why don't packages of bread come in half sizes so that you have a bloody chance of finishing it off before its demise. 

But I digress. 

A few years ago I was introduced to a tomato basil soup that used chunks of bread to thicken, and a drizzle of olive oil to finish. I recall really liking the simplicity of this hearty soup so that recipe started as a base for this idea that yielded hearty results, tasty leftovers, and only required chopping four ingredients. By the time punk baby started needing attention, I was stirring everything together and hey, I can mom and stir at the same time. 

The Bread is Going Stale Stew (a soup I wished someone had made for me, but we can't have everything in life).  Exact measurements are not necessary here: 2 packages of Pomi, or canned San Marazano tomatoes, a few garlic cloves, vegetables (on hand I had carrots, onions, some kale, and a bell pepper), sliced bread (I've done sourdough and whole wheat), and meatballs (optional).

I didn't add meatballs the first time I made this, but sometimes you want to play around with a dish.  Next time I'll sub in white beans, to keep this vegetarian and cheap, plus the beans will soak up the flavor.

My method, after chopping everything, was to brown the meatballs in a little olive oil first and then remove them from the pan.  It's okay if they break apart because this is rustic, comfort food.  Add a little more oil and stir in the garlic, onions and carrots followed by the bread.  Keep an eye on this because the bread will start to stick and then burn.  When everything is starting to smell aromatic, add your tomatoes and like 1 1/2cups of water.  I also added the kale at this point and some fresh herbage.  Oh, and add the meatballs.  Turn down the heat and let your stew simmer for about 20 minutes.  Don't forget to stir periodically, check the taste, and season as needed.

If everything goes according to plan, when this is done the bread pieces will thicken up the tomato base nicely and any pieces that are left will melt in your mouth.  So delicious!  Finally, to finish it all off I added a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of red chili flakes for a final warming touch.

I will say that because of the addition of bread, no added carbs are necessary, but if you are super hungry you can treat this soup like a sauce and serve it over pasta with a little fresh parm.  Enjoy!

Weird weather requires some Björk...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Down Memory Lane in a Crockpot

In thinking about the recipe I wanted to share today, I began to reflect, and what followed on this gloomy day were thoughts and memories...

But first, cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot is genius and why don't do I do this more often. No, there's not going to be any crispy brown skin to nibble on, but a more moist and succulent bird you will not find. I don't do anything particularly special- just load the bottom of the dish with an assortment of veggies (and I can't be bothered to worry about what may overcook to the point of not photo friendly), salt and pepper, maybe some fresh herbs if I have any, and then the seasoned bird goes on top. Bam!
Oh, and I do add some liquid- water actually, but some white wine would be nice too if I ever have some around- only just enough to cover the veggies because the cooking bird is going to produce some lovely juice and you don't want to dilute that.
After 8 hours on low the meat is falling off the bone, so do that- remove the bones, chunk up the chicken, season as desired and stuff your face. Budget and time friendly, plus good eating.

I declare the crockpot the best purchase of 2014. I was newly married, and in trying to emulate another couple I knew, attempting to make dinner after work . Typical, except that I would get home around 1030 pm most days and couldn't quite work up the enthusiasm of cooking for my spouse after the newness wore off. It actually became a source of resentment for me that I would have to get home from work and there would be no warm meal waiting for me, but when the man got in, there would be something (he comes in after midnight). Enter the crockpot. I bought the largest size that seemed reasonable, complete with timer and automatic warming after cooking. It even beeps!

The crockpot seems to be part of those throwback memories that seem on trend these days except that I can't say it brings back anything specific for me. We had one, and I can see it in my minds eye on our counter in my childhood home in Alabama and then again in the rental house in Massachusetts my mom had while I was in college. I tried cooking something in it in those later years, a bean soup that came out bland methinks, but I have no memories of meals coming out of the pot from my mom's hands.

I recently marathoned Blue Bloods and the show makes me chuckle because Donnie Wahlberg is this Boston guy acting in a NYC police show and we all know how these two locales clash, but even more importantly I can't help but covet the plot device of the Sunday family dinner. I see that, and I want it. I want a family food tradition, as food memories for me are wrapped up in my life journey

a sleepy, sunny time spent in my grandmother's house as a child where there would be boxes of sugary cereal on top of the fridge, popcorn made in a yellow domed air popper with a grate to let butter ( but probably Country Crock) melt over the hot popcorn, and the blandest cornbread ever made, in a black skillet. Oh, and in the cupboard there was a large mason jar filled with vinegar and hot peppers to season the greens.

The memory of the shrimp boils with lemon juice and butter and corn on the cob at my great aunt's house in South Carolina. 

And then the move up north- an intense, bleak, cold, and ultimately tragic time. There was the homemade birthday cake when I was seven, and I actually got to invite a friend over, which was special. Special because there wasn't a lot to celebrate it seemed and I so rarely got anything. Fried onions and thinly sliced potatoes with lots of salt and pepper was a dish I loved my mom to make.  My own attempts at cooking were based on recipes I'd find. Boiled Minute rice with baby shrimp and Blue Bonnet springs to mind as something we ate. Rice a Roni dishes...

And then came the period of fried spam and tuna fish in pita sandwiches. And the family pack of those tiny chicken drumsticks. This period lasted a long time and eventually I realized we were poor.

I hadn't thought of these times for a long while, but here we are at the courtesy of a crockpot...