A Week of Riding the Struggle Bus

Man!  This last week really kicked me right where it hurts.  I’ve had so many struggles….both personal and professional the whole week long.  I’ve been mentally uncomfortable and have wanted to retreat into myself but also wanted to get away from my own thoughts. The only remedies I’ve found?  Yarn and cooking.  (*I* KNOW! Shocking, right?!)  

I am still working on the shawl that will never end.  I thought I had just a few hours on it at some point last week.  Not so.  I didn’t take into account that I am increasing many stitches on each RS row, so my end date/time just keeps slipping further into the future as it simultaneously grows nearer.  The dichotomy of a knitters reality.  Seriously?   I am just spent. 

The pattern calls for 4 and half more pattern repeats before finishing off.  I am less than halfway on the fourth repeat and I just can’t take it anymore.  WHY am I so annoyed by this project?  I really don’t have any idea.  But I have never wanted a project to end as desperately as I do this one.  The thing is, I don’t want to knit it, so therefore it is not getting done….but I NEED for it to get done.  So, there.  You can clearly see my dilemma.  I will either absolutely LOVE it when it’s all over or despise it completely.  Care to take bets?

But ALAS! I have BOTH food & yarn pics!  And who doesn’t love those?  (besides like, over half the internet with their millions of memes making fun of food posts and the other half portraying knitters as grannies in rocking chairs waiting for death to come ….)  So my interests are laughable to a lot people. Pretty sure that’s not going to stop me from knitting my heart out and continuing to cook ‘til my kitchen goes up in smoke.  Take THAT internet bullies!

This week I embarked on a vegan burger that used rice and garbanzo beans rather than kidney or black beans which I often come across in vegan recipes.  It made for a lighter burger than I’ve tried making before, which felt better on my stomach.  To cook them up I tried two methods – pan fried and broiled. First I had the pan fried in oil version and felt pretty queasy after eating it actually.  Later when I tried the broiled version I did not feel the unsettled stomach and heaviness come on.  I suspected this was going to happen (since my digestion is very, very touchy), but I do tempt fate in the kitchen from time to time.  😊

I also made my own vegan mayonnaise with oil, vinegar, soy milk, mustard, garlic and salt.  I found a basic recipe online and worked in the mustard and garlic to suit our tastes.   It looked and tasted just like mayonnaise, but somehow better?  I also melted Chao cheez on the burgers.  Chao is a processed vegan & gf cheez that is INCREDIBLE. It melts like real cheese and has great flavor.  It is also 100% junk food, so we don’t eat it very often, but Man!  When we do, we REALLY enjoy the creamy meltiness of it.  

Vegan cheez burger topped with craft beer sauerkraut. Mmmmm.

In other news – my husband and I are gearing up for a big change in our lives.  The details haven’t been ironed out yet, but we are steadily moving in the direction of big changes for us both.  All good vibes here!  I cannot really talk about it yet, but the moment I get the OK, IT’S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!

Since starting to write this blog post last night until now, I have finished the shawl that never ends.  And this is what it looks like now……. 

Hated it.

Knitting All the THINGS! (and Cooking…& Dogging…..)

I’ve been knitting for about 12 years now.  I’m self-taught and growing slowly but steadily in the direction of my dreams, which is to become someone who makes everything she owns- tops, skirts, suits, all the accessories & home furnishings…. and obviously, sweaters for my dogs.  Truth is, I don’t want to do much else but knit (and write about knitting).  And here of late I’ve had this tingle inside me.  It’s this new-found courage and confidence to do what I never thought I could do before and that is to DESIGN PATTERNS.  *gasp*

Only recently have I begun to look at patterns and REALLY get it.  I’ve always just read them, and taken menial pride in my ability to follow directions.  I’m only coming to realize that that’s not all there is to it.  Reading a pattern and truly understanding the foundation that is being laid IS the mark of a really good knitter, and it’s the key to creating designs of one’s own.  This simple concept, probably obvious to EVERY other knitter in the universe from day one of picking up their needles, took me 12 and half years to get….but I get it now!  And I’m ready to *DO* something with it!  If I don’t let my nerves render me paralyzed.  I do that sometimes…

I am thinking about designing a shawl pattern (of course!)  I have in my mind the basic shape, how the edges will look and finishing, but have yet to settle on a pattern that really speaks to me.  I am thinking lace or eyelets of some sort….oh the options!!!  Having laser focus would be great at this point in my life…. It’s just so exciting that I can feel this buzzing in my brain and it’s ALL because it’s trying to formulate a yarn baby!  Who wouldn’t be excited about that?!

In food news:  I’m still going strong. I made an amazing pot of vegan soup last week called “Kitchen Sink Veggie Soup” (out of the Karma Chow Cookbook…..yet again….I know!).  Named because you throw everything BUT the kitchen sink in it. I seasoned mine with cumin, cayenne pepper, dill, marjoram and S&P.  You can use what you like, but that combination was perfect for me, and was close to what the recipe suggested.  I made about a 6 quart pot, but I had more veggies than liquid, so I’ve been adjusting the seasonings and adding water to it as we go to make it last longer.  My choice of veggies: onions, garlic, shallots, celery, canned diced tomatoes, carrots, leeks, red potatoes, zucchini, brussel sprouts and mushrooms. De-Lish! 

Cooking for two is just so easy to do.  Especially for me, when my husband will eat ANYTHING I make.  He is not a 100% plant-based eater all the time, but he is when he’s is eating anything out of our kitchen.  He will tell you himself, he is continually blown away by the flavors and deliciousness that he gets to eat nowadays.  I have become much more creative and adventurous in the kitchen since becoming vegan, and I just have so much more fun now!  I ALWAYS make enough for several meals though, because you know, I do work, and I don’t have the time I’d like to be all foody-makey during the work week.  But look out on the weekends, cuz IT’S ON!

In yarn news:  I threw my Snowbird Cardigan down for a minute to bang out a quick crescent shawl.  Shawls are things that make me very, very happy.  I was totally inspired to start making them while binge watching Anne With an E and Little House on the Prairie.  I thought “These ladies are brilliant!  They are walking around with BLANKIES over their shoulders and No. One. even seems to care.”  So,  I thought I’d give it a go in the year 2020, where, to be honest, I have never once seen anyone wearing a shawl.  Anywhere.  Ever.  Soooooo, I have been wearing them everywhere I go for the past month or so – even to work!  I noticed a glance once, and someone actually commented that she liked my shawl.  It’s like I’m invisible or something. (My lifelong invisibility cloak could be an entire blog post all unto itself!) 

Back to this shawl, the yarn brand is Premier in Puzzle, bulky #5.  I picked it up on impulse at Walmart.  It was 328 yards for just under $6.  It is just not the nicest, but it’s acrylic, so you know, ya get what ya get.  The only reason I picked it up was because I thought the colors were really sweet together.  It’s kind of fluffy, but it’s not as soft as I’d like.  I really hope that a wash with vinegar will do the trick.  Fingers crossed!

Creamy, dreamy colors!

Dog news:  Everyone is going cabin crazy because all it does is rain these days and the trails on our property are flooded…they’ve been flooded for over a month now, close to 6 weeks.  We packed the dogs up and took them down to Northampton County to visit Savage Neck Dunes so they could hike trails that weren’t soggy, play on the beach, and just be outside for a while.  They had a blast!  Lola rolled in seaweed on the beach for an hour straight, while Bear dipped his toes into the Chesapeake Bay. Darwin monitored all of their activity from the sidelines, barking all the while.  Always an adventure with these three knuckleheads. I love them so much!

Darwin looking disapprovingly over his shoulder at Bear. He’s the Fun Moderator of the pack.
Again, Darwin sitting on the sidelines giving the other two heck.
MY PACK *swoon*

It is a little cool today but not cold, so I decided to be brave and open up to the screen door for some fresh air.  We have a pond immediately next to our house, that is literally only a few feet from our driveway.  It is home to mallards and Canada geese these days…..and surrounded by tree frogs.  Those little green babies have been hollering their song of love for a couple weeks now.  It’s a sound that gives me the feels deep down inside. They are flooding the inside of my house with their song – Love! As I write this, the geese are honking like nuts and one just flew over my door!  I thought he was gonna come on in!  The honking was so loud in here!  Nature is so fun! And apparently, I can get a load of it sitting at my dining room table – talk about blessings!

Faux Fair Isle: A Patterny Blessing (annnnnd of course food)

One day, about a year ago, I found myself breathing heavy and slobbering all over myself as I loomed like an ogre in the yarn aisle of Hobby Lobby. I have always been a sucker for inexpensive yarns.  Especially for inexpensive yarns that LOOK like they cost me an arm and a leg. Yarns with rich colors and lofty fibers with promise to sail through my fingers and dance delightfully across my needles.  Finding yarns that fit that bill is not always an easy thing to do.  But occasionally, like this one day in Hob Lob, I scored!

I discovered a yarn that knitted up to look like fair isle…without actually having to do the real work of learning how to do it.  I know fair isle is no big mystery, it is just color work.  It’s not impossible.  I’m a seasoned knitter.  I’ve been doing this for many years.  I can knit with more than one color at a time while following a pattern.  So why haven’t I taken up fair isle knitting?  The short answer?  I’m lazy.  There really isn’t a long answer…I just don’t feel like doing it.  I am more in the camp of Appreciaters of Fair Isle rather than Doers of Fair Isle.  And I’m pretty ok with that. 

But I got to thinking about how maybe I might be judged by other knitters for taking this route, and I took that as my queue to harshly judge myself along with ALL my yarning decisions.  I determined that although it mimicked fair isle, it really isn’t anything like it.  At all.  It’s a crap shoot as to whether the patterns will line up to make it all work out.  Where in fair isle, it is precision and perfection….and lovely.  Knitting with self-patterning yarn isn’t a new concept to me, I’ve worked with it easily a hundred times when making socks.  I never felt like I was cheating while doing it either.  I just knitted them up, pounded my chest and declared “I! Make Sock!” But then again,  I wasn’t making this gigantic blanket like cape thing that I would wear around in public for the whole world to see…..I wasn’t going to stick my poncho in my shoes and hide them.  Everyone was going to SEE it.  Including people who actually KNOW how to fair isle knit.  How could I open myself up to such ridicule?

So what did I do with all that self-doubt and fear of ridicule? I’ll tell you what I did with it….I stuffed it all deep down inside, where I keep all the other stuff I never actually confront or deal with and I pushed through. And MAN, am I so glad I did. Seven thousand stitches later, and by early this last fall I finished the project that had started the winter before.  I made this.  This beautiful, one of a kind poncho that has mismatched lines and uneven seeming….but it is mine.  It is MY thing that I made for ME.  And I love it! 

A few weeks ago I went back to Hob Lob to see if I could find more of this yarn and there was none to be found…I later discovered that the yarn had been discontinued (a four letter word to all yarn crafters!) It’s probably just as well….since I would likely hold onto the yarn for years before I got around to making another poncho……along with ALL the other yarn stuffed in my closet, waiting for their projects-to-be.

In other news….I’ve been a maker of food lately.  For months I’ve been cooking from Melissa Costello’s The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook.  I’ve made many of her soups and other dishes over the last few months, and I gotta say everything has been Out of This WORLD delicious.  (I receive no royalties from raving about this *all vegan* cookbook or the food that springs out of it – I just LOVE IT!)

Wednesday night I made the Baja-Style Fajitas, which were Slap-Yo-Mama good!  I think I felt a tear form in the corner of my left eye with the first bite!  Tonight I tried the Baked Ziti with Spinach.  I really didn’t want to make anything at all, because I feel like I’m coming down with something (tonsils are hurting and I feel exhausted).   But I also wanted to use up the remainder of the Cashew Ricotta Cheez from the fajitas. You know – Waste Not Want Not.   I don’t know how this woman makes food taste so groovy but she is spot on every time.  I swear she’s like the Ina Garten of the vegan world.  I’m totally fan girling. No joke.

Karma Chow Baja-Style Fajitas for THE WIN!

I have tons of foodie finds, and about eleventy million more projects that I made the last few months that I can’t wait to share. Christmas projects and surprise gifts coming soon. I promise!

Surprise Tunisian crocheted pot holders for a loved one 🙂

Hello out there?

Day one of my new blog. What to say? If you’ve read my “About Me” section, then you already know me in a nutshell. Some would say I’m a bit more complex than my summary would indicate….okay, okaaaay, “complicated” might be the word I have heard from time to time to describe me. And I would have to disagree. I feel that I’m pretty plain, and dullish. Even normalish. (maybe?) But, I will leave that up for you all to decide. (Is anyone there?)

So, this last week I had chosen to try a new vegan dish every night of the week. Each of the dishes I selected seemed pretty easy on the outset….given my tendency to only just read the ingredients list and never ever read through the entire recipe to see what I’m getting myself into. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed to death each night. (understatement)

The dish that stood out the most to me, both for how delicious it was and for how truly unprepared I was to make such a dish from scratch after putting in my 9-5 at work all day, was the Cha Cha Enchiladarole from The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook by Melissa Costello – a wonderful plant-based, vegan cookbook that I have had for years, but have yet to try out all the recipes. I started cooking when I got home from work at 5:30, and dinner was served at 9 pm. Well, 9:07. It took me nearly 4 hours to prepare this meal. To be honest, and fair, I am a bit of a whirlwind in the kitchen. A little scattered, a little disorganized, a little distracted. I believe that had I had my act together, it still would have taken me 2 hours to prepare this dish. Too long for a week night dinner in my opinion. In addition to the Enchiladarole, I also made the Chile Ranchero Sauce and Chipotle Cashew Cheeze Sauce – all from scratch. I chopped my little heart out until I could chop no more! To be honest though, it was an ugly dish on my plate and I refused to take a photo of what looked like a disaster food spill to share with the world. So I will share the picture from the book and leave it up to myself to describe this dish in a way that will make you want to rush out and get this book so you can try it yourself. (You should buy it even if you don’t think my description sounds great. It’s a fantastic cookbook! And no, I am not affiliated in any way whatsoever and make no money off of this recommendation. I’m just a big fan).

The magic of this dish comes in part from the diced sweet potatoes, of which I diced into perfectly consistent ¼ inch cubes. They were tender enough to just melt in your mouth and the sweetness works so well with the savory and warm spices used in this dish. Unfortunately, I had to make a substitution for the tempeh. Neither local store had tempeh in stock, so I decided to use baby bella mushrooms and that turned out to be the right decision, Yum! The Chile Ranchero Sauce combined with the Chipotle Cashew Cheeze Sauce provided a delightful creamy layer with heat from the Anaheim chili, garlic and other spices. It was like heaven in the mouth. Without it, the dish would be good, but who would just want that??! I PROMISE you; I will be making this dish many times over the coming years of my life. It was AMAAY-ZING!

In addition to what has been brewing in my kitchen, I pulled out some old WIP’s and have been knitting in the evenings before I collapse into bed from full belly exhaustion. Pictured is a simple, but elegant evening shawl using a very inexpensive yarn that I bought a billion years ago, Red Heart’s Boutique Unforgettable in Tidal. To get the ladder effect, I’m using bamboo size 19 and size 8’s. Every third row I switch to the size 19. I didn’t follow a pattern, I just cast on and went for it. I’m really pleased with the color progression; it has been fun to watch it unfold. I cannot explain why I ever put this away and didn’t finish it…it’s such a joy to knit. Simple and nearly thoughtless – a watch-tv-without-looking-at-your-knitting kind of project, MY FAVORITE!

I’m looking forward to planning some new dishes and finishing a few other WIP’s in the coming weeks. I see hot soups, dreamy yarns and extended beagle snuggles in my very near future…