Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crochet Guild of America

Yay! I finally joined the Crochet Guild of America. I have no idea why it took me so long; I've been crocheting for years. The price is very reasonable, and I get 6 issues of Crochet! magazine every year.
I also decided to enroll in the CGOA Masters Program. The program involves following a workbook to create 48 judge-worthy swatches. All the swatches are assembled into a portfolio and mailed back to the Masters Committee. The portfolio is judged, and - hopefully - I graduate from the program.
While I was on the CGOA website, I browsed through the pages for the Knit and Crochet Show. Oh, how I wish I could go to the Fall show in Greensboro, NC!! Well, it's not in the cards this year, but maybe next year I can go to one of the shows (as long as I have a travel buddy to split the hotel cost with me!).
In other news, I started another top (no, I haven't finished the other one). I'm doing the Zipline Shell from the Summer 2011 issue of Interweave Crochet. I bought the Cascade Ultra Pima from Park Avenue Yarns, as well a wonderful new Laurel Hill crochet hook. I really did want to buy a Brittany hook, since they are made in the USA, but they are too long and thin, with no thumb rest. I crochet tightly, more so with slippery cottons like the Ultra Pima, so I knew I'd break them pretty easily. The Laurel Hill hook really is a dream to work with, though. I'm glad I bought it!
I'll get pics up when I can; Big Boy played around with the camera and ran my batteries down, lol.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Blanket and a Tank Top

That's what I'm working on. At least, that's the two WIPs I'm claiming at the moment. We don't need to talk about all those others... And - bonus! - I found my camera, so I have pics.
The tank top is the Sampler Stitch Tank from the Summer 2010 issue of Love of Knitting. This is the bottom band of the back. I briefly considered changing the pattern to work in the round, but I figured the cotton could use some seams to keep things looking pretty.
 This is the first stitch pattern, some tiny cables on a reverse stockinette background.
 The second stitch pattern is stockinette with stripes made from k1,p1 rows.
 I picked up a Leisure Arts pamphlet from a garage sale called 60 Easy-To-Knit Pattern Stitches to Create Sampler Afghans. One of my favorite yarns is Spud & Chloe Sweater. It's a wonderful cotton/superwash wool blend, and my LYS, Park Avenue Yarns, has a great selection. This is my favorite color, Popsicle.
 This first square is a pattern called Eyelet Butterflies. The square hasn't been blocked yet, so excuse the wrinkled appearance.
I'm also working on some squares for KASCare. My LYS is working to get two blankets worth (70 squares) by the end of summer. And then there's my banana silk shrug. Hopefull I'll get those finished up and get some pics soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Menu Planning Part 2, and Recipe Reviews

I've been in a cooking rut lately, I think. When Mr. Breadwinner asked what I was making for dinner a few nights ago, I replied, "Either roast or chicken, whichever I pull out of the freezer." This was following a solid month of not following my menu plans, because nothing on my plan sounded remotely appetizing to me, or fun to cook. His reply was, "Why bother cooking something like roast, when nobody wants to eat it?" After picking my bruised ego up off the floor, and making a few snide comments (after all, I'm not going to cater to the PB&J and chicken nugget sector of the household), I realized he's at least half right. Ssh, don't tell him.
I love roast, and I love the french dip sandwiches and hash that come after the roast even more. And I really like making enchiladas from leftover roast. Unfortunately, I'm the only one. Mr. Breadwinner doesn't care for the sandwiches and hash, though he'll usually suffer through them, and he only likes enchiladas with ground beef. The kids won't eat any of it. It is, therefore, entirely selfish and wasteful for me to bother with a roast.
Time to step outside of my cooking comfort zone and shake up my menus. I flipped through my Woman's Day mag, and came to the June month of menus. They looked pretty tasty, so I made up my two week plan, rearranging the meals to fit our schedule, and disregarding some that don't fit our tastes at all. I think if I can cobble together thirty or so warm weather meals that we enjoy, I will have a good base to pull from most of the year. I'll do the same for the cooler months. Giving our meal plan some seasonality will hopefully keep mealtime interesting and rut-free!
Now, for some reviews. I wish I had photos, but I couldn't find my camera! I'm still working on that whole "everything in it's place" concept...

Grilled Pork Chops and Sweet Potato Wedges

These were tasty. I prepped the chops and potatoes earlier in the afternoon, and stuck it all in the fridge. This made it super-easy for Mr. Breadwinner to grill it all while the kiddos and I were at yoga class, and before he went to work. The chops were a little on the dry side, but Mr. Breadwinner did say that he cooked them a little longer per side than the recipe stated. We ate these with a green salad.
Mr. Breadwinner: Chops were okay, potatoes were okay.
Big Boy: Chops were good (dipped in ranch dressing), wouldn't try the potatoes, because of some irrational dislike of potatoes (which does not include fries and tater tots).
Little Boy: Wouldn't try the chops, because of some irrational dislike of most meat, and didn't like the potatoes, I suspect because of the charring from the grill.
Me: The chops were good, though I still prefer fried! The potatoes were delish, and I ended up eating most of them.

Tilapia & Vegetable Packets

I used a different fish (can't remember what it was). It was very similar to tilapia, though; I don't think I could tell them apart in a taste test. I forgot to buy asparagus, even though it was very clearly on my list, so I used frozen broccoli florets instead, and didn't thaw ahead of time. I also used regular couscous (cooked in chicken stock) instead of whole wheat, because I already had some in the pantry. I dressed it up with some finely diced onion and mushrooms, as well as some baby spinach, all of which I sauteed before stirring into the couscous. Amazingly, my picky kiddos loved the fish!
Mr. Breadwinner: Ate the fish and veggies, but not a single bite of the couscous. He doesn't like couscous. He didn't care for the fish, saying it had no taste.
Big Boy: Ate all his fish and broccoli, but not the spinach or the couscous. He liked it, saying it was very lemony and yummy.
Little Boy: Ate all his fish and couscous, but not the broccoli or spinach. Considering the fact that he rarely even tastes the meat, I consider this a huge win.
Me: Loved it all! The fish was full of flavor from the lemons, shallots, and capers. Definitely going into the recipe rotation, despite Mr. Breadwinner's opinion.

Spaghetti with Roasted Zucchini

This was really easy to make, and a very light meat-free dish. Definitely a good summer meal. I made a tomato and feta salad to go along with this. Next time I think I'll add more zucchini, though.
Mr. Breadwinner: No opinion. Consumed in silence. He was probably wishing for some meat. Didn't try the salad.
Big Boy: Loved the pasta, didn't care for the zucchini. Hated the salad.
Little Boy: Ate a few bites, then threw it on the floor. That's not necessarily a bad review, as he doesn't usually eat more than a few bites at dinner time anyway.
Me: Delish! The breadcrumb topping on the roasted zucchini really made the dish. Will probably make again.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Interweave Crochet Summer 2011

I've been on a knitting kick lately. I've been unable to jumpstart my crochet mojo. Until Monday, when I got
in the mail. This is everything summer crochet should be. Light, airy, fun, and, most of all, wearable. I'm always thrilled when I see a crocheted summer top that doesn't require wearing an undershirt of some sort; I'm too hot-natured for that sort of thing.
The issue focuses on thread work, and has some wonderful articles about doilies and Ukrainian thread work by Dora Ohrenstein. Best of all, I don't think a single garment in the magazine was made with yarn heavier than sport or dk weight. This is an important consideration, especially when thinking about crocheted summer garments. A lighter yarn allows a solid fabric that won't give you heat stroke in a Texas summer.
Of course, as much as I like a lot of the projects, realistically I won't get to make them all. There are three, though, that I hope I have the time to make before I get sidetracked by some other shiny new thing. That may mean I have to stop pattern searching on Ravelry...

The first one, and the one I'm definitely making, is the Zipline Shell, designed by Linda Permann.
I'm sure Cotton Classic Lite from Tahki Yarns is wonderful, but I'll be making this in Cascade's Ultra Pima. Everyone who was at Sit 'n Stitch at Park Avenue Yarns yesterday got to take part in helping me decide what color to choose. My first step was to pick out colors that I like for summer, that also work with my skin tone. That left me three or four choices. At first I threw out the two darker colors. You see, this top has vertical rows of eyelets running the length of the top. With a light color, those eyelets don't stand out as much, and the top could comfortably be worn without a tank or cami underneath. I'm a very light-complected woman, so those eyelets will really stand out in a darker color. I'll have to wear something underneath. That decision left me with two colors: a pale green and a pale pink. I walked around the yarn shop with these two hanks on my shoulders, gathering opinions from everyone. Green was the consensus.
I went back to the shelf to get more, but the bright blue that I had previously dismissed kept calling to me. After deciding that I could live with wearing an under layer if necessary, another trot around the yarn shop was necessary. Blue it is!
I'll be picking up the yarn in the next week or so.

Next up is the Grove Park Tank by Robyn Chachula:
At first I was not attracted to this design. I really like the lines of it, but not that contrast yoke. However, if I were to make the yoke in, say, the darkest purple of the variegated body, then it becomes something I would definitely wear. I might modify it slightly to be a more natural v-neck, rather than the tall slit yoke. I'm not sure how flattering the neckline as-is will be to "the girls." I have no idea what yarn I will use. The designer used Manos del Uruguay Serena. I'll first try to find something from my LYS, of course.

Third on my I-really-want-that list is the Pinecone Top by Anastasia Cruz:
This one may come before the Grove Park Tank. It's made of Aunt Lydia's Size 10 Bamboo Crochet Thread. I enjoy thread crochet, but I've never used the bamboo thread, so I'm definitely looking forward to this. Color will either be pale green or pink. I'd prefer the blue, but since the Zipline Shell will be blue, I'll go for a different color. Of course, another option would be the brown, which could be nice. Hmmm, I'll have to think on that...

There are several other patterns I really like in the magazine, and I definitely recommend picking up this issue if you don't have a subscription.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Menu Planning, Part 1

I'm a big fan of menu planning. I've used the menu planning method of grocery shopping for most of my adult life, and can't even begin to comprehend how people go about shopping without a menu plan! Generally,  I make a two-week menu of dinners the night before I go grocery shopping, then make a shopping list from that menu plan. I can take note of nights when Mr. Breadwinner is off work (so he can grill), nights that we won't be home, or yoga nights, when I need a meal that can be thrown together before yoga and will still taste good when we get home two hours later. I usually include two or three leftover nights, as well.
Of course, small trips to the store happen in between those big shopping trips, for things like milk, eggs, bread, and some produce. I do try to plan my meals so that the produce that goes bad the quickest is used in the first week, and the things that keep longer are used in the second week.
My menu planning methods vary according to mood and the balance in my checking account! One of my favorites is to use the monthly menus from Woman's Day magazine. It may not be the cheapest, but the recipes are usually pretty good, and fairly seasonal. The meals are all enough for four servings, which is perfect or us. The boys split an adult serving, Mr. Breadwinner and I each eat a serving, and one serving is left that is either my lunch the next day, or Mr. Breadwinner's packed lunch for work.
Next in line is the "whatever I feel like cooking" method. Probably cheaper than following the Woman's Day menus, but kinda boring. This menu plan usually involves the normal standby dishes: meatloaf, spaghetti, baked chicken, tacos...not foods I want to eat all the time (well, maybe the tacos; we eat lots of tacos).
Then there is the "shop the sales" method of menu planning. Grab the grocery store ads, see what proteins are on sale, and plan the meals around those. I do this a lot, but the sale prices of meat don't seem very cheap anymore. I used to only buy meat when it was $2/lb. or less. Now, I have to look for $3/lb. or less. Side veggies are the (usually seasonal) veggies on sale. The downside: there is only so much chicken I can consume before I start clucking.
Finally, at the dirt cheap end of the spectrum is my least favorite: the "shop the freezer" method. No matter how carefully I plan, something ends up not getting used the previous shopping trip, or something was on sale for a price I couldn't pass up, and it ends up sitting in the freezer taking up space. Which is fine, because when times get tough, I can usually put together a week or two of meals without having to buy a lot of meat from the store. Let's face it, meat is probably the most expensive part of the grocery bill. These menus usually include lots of pasta, lots of bread, and more than usual numbers of ground meat dishes, lol.
If you don't usually plan your meals before grocery shopping, why not give it a try? You might find that you save yourself some time and money!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

List Addiction

Hi, my name is Amanda, and I'm an addict. I have a list addiction. I have them everywhere; inside notebooks and notepads, jotted down on the back of junk mail envelopes, in files on the computer. Scraps of paper tucked furtively in between books on my nightstand and end tables both entice me with the promise of an organized existence and mock me with their tales of undone tasks. It's a real problem.
I'm not a "born organized" person. It's a skill that I haven't quite grasped. But I try. Really hard. Lists give me the illusion of organization. They make me feel like I've accomplished something just by writing it down. Guess what? Writing "do laundry" down on the back of an envelope does not actually get the laundry done! Who knew?!
So, once again, I've let everything at the house slide into chaos and ruin, and I must attempt to dig us back out. It's a solitary mission; until I have things under control, the family is no help. Once I've gotten everything back to normal, I can give the boys chores, but I really can't expect a kindergartener and a toddler to take on the excavation of the bedrooms and playroom, lol! Mr. Breadwinner doesn't get any chores, other than mowing the yard and other outdoor tasks. He's got his job; the house is my job.
Over the coming weeks (months) I'll be trying to get back to some sort of daily schedule, for everyone's sanity. It's always nice to know what's coming next, especially for the kiddos. Big Boy's behavior has gotten markedly worse since we've let our routines slide. Since we will soon begin homeschooling in earnest, I need to get him calm and comfortable.
Now, off to make a few know, to keep me on track...

P.S. One of my favorite websites for feeding my list addiction is Donna Young's site. It's chock-full of resources for home and homeschool organization.