Friday, February 25, 2011

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

 Today makes exactly one year since my very first blog post! So to the two readers that aren't married or related to me, thanks for coming along for the ride! I love hearing back from you, and I'm glad to know that someone actually wants to read what I have to write. But enough of the sentimental junk, it's time to party! :)


Oh, what's that? I forgot to announce the giveaway winner? Well then, let's all give susansmoaks a hearty congratulations! She's won the set of three adorable handmade chrysanthemum dishcloths. Susansmoaks, please email me your mailing address so that I may get these to you posthaste!

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to stop by my little corner of the blogosphere! I really appreciate all the encouraging comments. Feel free to stop in and say hi any time! I'd love to chat with you. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ravel-wha?

Yes. I have finally joined ravelry. It's a good thing. I'd been holding off because I didn't want to create yet another account for yet another site. But once I got in there and checked things out? I'm glad I did. I found some good tips on a pattern I've been having difficulty with, and now I can go back and fix it. I also like all the tools for chronicling your work.

So if you're on Ravelry, look me up! Let's be friends. :)

In other news, my in-laws are visiting today. I'll get to see my adorable baby niece again! I don't think I've seen her since Thanksgiving. Sheesh!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Giveaways Galore!

Hey folks!

There seem to be giveaways everywhere right now.

Holly Days Closet is giving away an adorable indoor snowball fight set. All you have to do is go leave a comment on the giveaway post by March 4. And seriously, if I don't win, I'm gonna need the pattern. It's just that cute!

You should also check out some of the toys she has made. They look like they'd be great for toy drives and such!

And while you're at it, don't forget to check out my giveaway! If you haven't already commented on my giveaway post, then 1.) you are crazy, and 2.) get your butt over there and do it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I can quit any time I want.

I'm not addicted. I can quit any time I want. I don't hoard yarn in the closet. Or behind the couch. Or under the bed. Not I.

Well, okay, maybe a little. But I can quit ANY TIME I WANT.

I'm sure the rest of you crocheters and knitters out there have similar issues with yarn storage, right? As evidence of my lack of a yarn addiction, I submit this snippet of a conversation between the Dearest Husband and me:

Dearest Husband: You should think about designing your own patterns.
Nancy: I have. It just takes more time than I have right now.Plus it would mean I'd have to get new yarn to do up the pattern in, and I have enough yarn for now.
Dearest Husband: Did I hear that right? You? Enough yarn?
Nancy: Oh, shut up.

One of these days, DH, one of these days.


Oh, and don't forget to check out Sunday's post for a chance to win a set of three handmade dishcloths!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Can you dig it? [Closed]

Why, yes, that title is a fairly obscure movie reference. In any case, I sure hope you can dig this:


 
 

 
Because if you can, you might just be able to win them! Unbenownst to many, my blogiversary happens to be this week! Friday, February 25th will make exactly one year since my very first blog post. In celebration, I am doing two things. One, I'm giving away this set of three adorable flower-shaped dishcloths. Two, I'm eating cake. Or baklava. Or chocolate. But I'm definitely consuming delicious sweet treats. :)

In order to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post before midnight, EST February 24. On February 25, I will randomly choose a winner using the list randomizer from random.org. Feel free to comment as much as you like, but remember that only one comment will count as an entry. Good luck!

Update: The contest closed on Friday, February 25th. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning...

Oh, what a beautiful day.
I've got a beautiful feeeeeelin',
Everythin's goin' my way.

Yes, that's from "Oklahoma". Yes, it IS a glorious day here in Kentucky, and yes, I do have a beautiful feeling that everything's going my way.

This morning I sat out on my porch and crocheted for two solid hours in the sunlight. It was wonderful. And the fact that it's February in Kentucky and I was doing that? Downright miraculous.

I made a fair amount of progress on my scallop scarf in those two hours, two. It's now about 30 inches long. Halfway there!

Now it's time to go do some laundry and clean house a bit until Dearest Husband gets off work. Oh, I had forgotten to tell you! He was recently promoted! That's right, no more night shifts for us. He'll never have a weekend off unless he requests it, but I think I can live with that since we're both working days now. It's nice to actually see him once in a while! :)

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool Yarn

A couple of weeks ago I was in Michael's (which I really do not visit very often), and I happened across a yarn I hadn't seen before- Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool. It seemed like a fairly decent buy for the quantity, so I filed it away in the back of my mind for future projects. This past weekend, I went back to Michael's to pick up some Sugar 'n Cream yarn, and decided to give the Fishermen's Wool a spin.

Image from lionbrand.com



First, the positives. This yarn comes in a huge roll. It's 8oz/227g/465 yds of wool yarn. It was about $10 at Michael's, but list price is $10.99. And I'm sure you could find it on sale from time to time. The sheer amount per package is nice, because it means fewer joins in your projects. It's also available in 6 different colors. Annnd, that's about all I have to say on the positive side of things.

Overall, I am not incredibly impressed. Those six colors are all cream, brown, or mixtures thereof. The yarn is finicky to work with- it keeps untwisting on me while I crochet, and then my hook catches the untwisted strands as I work the stitches. It's also a bit scratchy; I suspect it's mostly noils (short fibers which are left behind after combing the wool). I have not finished a project with it yet, so it may soften up a bit after it's been washed, but I can't imagine that I would make a huge amount of difference. Plus, I found a few black fibers in the yarn. Admittedly, this isn't incredibly uncommon for wool, but I really don't want visible black specks in my cream-colored project. It's just unsightly.

After doing a bit of math, I figured out that I can get more, higher quality wool yarn for about the same price. KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted weight (in solid colors) is about $10 for 250g/550yds (that's five 50g balls of yarn). while Fishermen's Wool is about $10 ($10.99, list price) for 227g/465yd. I have a bunch of WotA which I'm planning on using in an afghan, and I have worked up a few granny squares in it. In my opinion, it is softer, of higher quality, and works up better. It also comes in a ton of different colors and is less expensive per yard than Fishermen's Wool.

Fishermen's Wool is not the worst yarn, but I know there are better values out there. In short, I'm pretty certain I won't be purchasing this yarn again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chrysanthemum Dishcloth

After I got home from a strenuous day of yarn shopping this past Saturday, I needed to sit down and relax a bit. Since I know of nothing more relaxing than crochet, I worked on this adorable Chrysanthemum Dishcloth (pattern from www.sugarncream.com):

 
 
  

You should be able to get about three centers or three edges out of one ball of yarn. One caveat- the Sugar n' Cream ombre colors have less yardage per ball, so you won't quite get three out of one of them. (Thanks for the tip, Larissa!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scallop Scarf

Remember that yarn I picked up from Michael's on Saturday? The wool. Yup, that's the one.

 Well, here's what I've done with it so far:

 
 

This is working up a lot faster than I had thought it would. It's going to look amazing with my knee-length black wool coat!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Patterns of the Day, 02-14-2011

First, I have to say happy Valentine's Day to all!

In celebration of today's romantic celebrations, I've collected a few sugary-sweet patterns for your pleasure.

First, take a look at this adorable crocheted sweetheart garland:


Wouldn't that just be lovely in shades of pink and white? I certainly think so.


If you're looking for a bigger project for your loved ones, you could always go with a cozy afghan like this one:

I don't really like the combination of pink, purple, and red here. I think it would be beautiful in a monochromatic color scheme though!


And for all the stuffed-animal sticklers out there, I found these cute-as-a-button valentine amigurumi from Lion Brand Yarn's website:



Who wouldn't love to have this lovin' bunny or honey bear?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Yarn and Project Plans!

I just came home from a trip to Michael's, where I picked up some yarn.

First, I needed to get some Sugar n' Cream yarn, for a few dishcloths. Here are the colors I decided on:


I should have these finished and ready to show off next weekend. :)

I also go a couple of skeins of Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool yarn in Natural:






I think I'm going to use this for a scarf like the one in my last post.

Happy crocheting!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pattern of the Day, 02-11-01

I love a lacy scarf. True, they won't keep you quite as warm as a nice thick one, but they're so much softer and prettier! I came across this pattern on Lion Brand's website.

Photo from www.lionbrand.com

I have to say, I really don't like the yarn used in the photo, but I can imagine it would be lovely in a peacock blue! Like this one, in Andean Treasure from KnitPicks:

Photo from www.knitpicks.com

Of course, this pattern would also look incredibly elegant in any sort of cream-colored yarn, and I bet it would drape beautifully (considering the finished item is five feet long and 11" wide). This is definitely going on my to-make list.

Do you have any favorite scarf patterns?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Banana Cream Cupcakes

I got a request from someone at work for banana something cupcakes. So, I began scouring the internet for a recipe that would turn out a light, flavorful banana cupcake. After facing too many reviews that said this recipe tasted like muffins, or that one was too dense, I decided to take a basic yellow cake recipe and make it my own. Man, am I ever glad I did. These cupcakes came out light, fluffy, moist, and flavorful. I couldn't bear to top these delicious little cakes with a heavy buttercream or cream cheese frosting. After a little searching, I decided on swiss buttercream. It's light, not too sweet, and tastes just a bit like whipped cream. In short, it's perfect for this cake.

 
 
 


Banana Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
4 whole eggs
1 c. mashed banana (~ 2 bananas)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup sifted cake flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 shot (1.5 oz.) dark rum
1 3/4 c. milk


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F
Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices into a bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar.
Gradually mix in eggs; add one at a time and mix each until fully incorporated.
Gradually mix in banana and vanilla extract.
Slowly add flour mixture and liquids(milk and rum), alternating between the two until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups, fill each cup about 3/4 full, and bake for approximately 16 minutes.
Yields about 3 dozen cupcakes.



Swiss Buttercream
This stuff is amazingly delicious, but it'll be difficult to make without a stand mixer. Just so you know beforehand.

5 lg. egg whites
1 1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. softened butter, cut into pieces

Heat egg whites and sugar on a double boiler over medium-low to medium heat.
Stir the egg whites and sugar in the double boiler until they reach 140-150° F, maintain the egg whites at this temperature for 3-4 minutes, then remove.
Whip the egg whites into stiff glossy peaks (~ 10 minutes)
Add the butter piece by piece until fully incorporated
The frosting may curdle- don't freak out! Just keep mixing and it will come back together.
After the frosting is whipped smooth, switch from a wire whip to a flat beater, and beat the frosting for about 5 minutes on the lowest speed setting. Add vanilla and mix just until blended.
Top cupcakes with a dollop of frosting and a banana chip.

Note: I personally prefer lightly frosted cupcakes (especially when they're this moist and flavorful!). If you'd prefer a more generous amount of frosting for your cakes, I'd suggest you double the frosting recipe.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pattern of the Day, 02-07-2011

In order to help us all keep those New Year's Resolutions, I offer this:


Photo from www.bernat.com

That's right, you could have your very own fridge chain and padlock, courtesy of Bernat. Okay, so it's soft and squishy. It'll still help some of us NOT be soft and squishy, right?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Best Biscuits You'll Ever Eat

Having been raised in the south, I love biscuits. Biscuits with butter, biscuits with sausage or bacon, and the ultimate breakfast food, biscuits and gravy. One of my favorite childhood memories is helping my mom make biscuits. Recently, I found a recipe that I liked, tweaked it a bit (okay, a lot) and they are delicious. Sorry mom, these are even better than yours!

The photos are courtesy of my good friend Keith. He has some really nice shots of Lexington landmarks in his blog, The Horrible Photographer.

 
 


The recipe:

Ingredients
2 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c softened butter
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 c. + 1 T milk

Reserve the extra tablespoon of milk in a separate container. Preheat oven to 425° F. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Cut butter and shortening into flour mixture using a fork or pastry cutter until it forms a crumbly mixture. Add one cup of milk, mixing just until all ingredients are combined. On a floured surface, gently pat or roll out dough, double over and roll to desired thickness (~ 1- 1.5 inch is my preference). Cut biscuits with a floured biscuit cutter or drinking glass. Place in a baking pan with sides barely touching. Brush reserved milk over the tops of biscuits. Bake at 425° F for 20-25 minutes. Yield: 7-8 biscuits, depending on dough thickness and size of biscuit cutter.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pattern(s) of the Day, 02-02-2011

 What is with all these yarn companies making you get an account and such to see their free patterns? I think it's a pain in the neck, but I suppose that's just me.

At any rate, I recently picked up some Sugar 'N Cream yarn at Michael's. They were on sale for $1 a ball, so I picked up several that I liked. Unfortunately, they were almost cleared out of solids, but I did pick up some ombres and twists that I liked. It seems to me that their twists yarn is a bit finer than the others, but they work up just as well. Tangential discussions aside, I made three dishcloths within four days of getting the yarn. One even has a cute little picot edge! I would like to make some pretty dishcloths though, instead of just plain squares or rectangles. Enter Lily's slew of free patterns. In particular, the following one:



Image from www.sugarncream.com
Chrysanthemum dishcloths! These would be pretty much adorable in any kitchen, and they look like they'd be nice and scrubby too. I'm planning on making some of these in bright solids with a white border. I'd like to do that soon, so keep an eye out!

I also came across this dish soap apron:
 This little guy looks so cheerful! I think these would be great as part of a housewarming gift- especially for someone without a dishwasher. The best part is that you could use it as a dishcloth or scrubber in a pinch, if you make it out of a sturdy cotton yarn as is intended.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pattern of the Day

Just because I can, I'm going to start posting a pattern of the day. For my very first pattern du jour, I thought I'd share these adorable baby hats:

From www.bernat.com


 These Warrior Baby Helmets from Bernat are just the cutest! The pattern is available from Bernat's website for free- the only catch is that you have to register for an account with them to access it. Personally, I think it's worth it for this magnitude of cuteness.