Sunday, January 20, 2019

Warm Woolly Mittens

Of all the countless things I have knit 
over decades now as a passionate fiber artist,
 mittens and fingerless mitts
 continue to reign supreme
 as my heart of heart favorite yarn-y makes.
For one thing, I love to wear them.
As the Summer begins to fade into Autumn every year,
the very first thing to get cold is my hands and they remain
that way until an early Spring thaw occurs.
If they have cables worked into them,
like this big chunky horseshoe cable in the pair of
 Cranberry Red mittens I'm wearing in the top photo,
or in the Cream pair I have on in the picture below,
then I am usually more inspired to knit them and down right 
excited about adding them to my own Fall/Winter wardrobe.
Both pairs are currently for sale on my shop 
and you can see the details or purchase either pair
 by clicking the individual link
I've provided for each color.
When Winter's at her coldest,
 snowing and blowing and lashing out at us,
these are the mittens to snuggle into!
They're thick and warm for playing in the snow or taking a brisk walk. 
You'll be able to stay out a little longer to build a snowman
 or catch snowflakes on your tongue
 when you're wrapped up in this cozy lamb's wool blend.
From a knitter's standpoint, these are big needle knitting at its best!
Although this pair of mitts is fingerless and has no thumb worked into them,
they continue to be a favorite item for me to knit
 and a popular one with my customers.
This is the classic braided looking cable
 that typically comes to mind when we think of cable knits.
 It's worked over eight stitches using a Heavy Worsted Weight Yarn.
The yarn I usually use for these mitts is Knit Picks City Tweed.
You can see some examples of them made in that beautiful fiber here.
This time I chose Wool of the Andes Superwash Bulky
in this gorgeous color Fjord Heather and White.
Although it's categorized as a "bulky" weight yarn,
it really does not seem much heavier to me than the City Tweed.
This pair is a custom order for someone very special in California
 who has a birthday coming soon and loves this color.
 She doesn't live in the frozen tundra like some of us do
 so a bit of wool covering her hands and wrists
 with her fingers and thumbs still free to move about
 is going to be exactly the thing!
The final pair of mittens I'll show you today
 are knit on much finer weight yarn with US size 2/2.75mm DPNs
 and have much more intricate cable work involved.
They are an absolute favorite of mine!
So much so that this is the second time I have made them.
 I made the first pair for myself in January 2018 in grey,
which you can read about in this post.
As it turns out, you'll see I was also working on a pair
 of the chunky cabled fingerless mitts
last January for a custom order.
 It seems that my new year has started off the same.
I wonder if I'm stuck on repeat in some alternate knitting universe.
I guess we will have to wait twelve months to find out...
As I said in a recent post, I love tiny needle knitting.
Sometimes the end result is worn over your palm instead of held within it.
Either way, there's a place deep in my soul that calls me back to it time and again.
When a pattern requires the use of a cable needle,
I am definitely drawn to it with a force that's nearly magnetic.
 If said pattern just happens to be a pair of mittens...
well now...
my heart skips a beat.

"Once upon a time,
there was a little girl who wore a pair of
 warm, woolly red mittens,
in her soul lived the spirit of giving."

The Red Mittens
Jaime Sommers

Friday, January 18, 2019

Fresh Friday...Knitted Pears & Quinoa Two Ways

Friday again already?!
Sometimes I don't know where the weeks go.
It seems it was just yesterday we were all dashing around
making ready for Christmas and here we are into mid-January.
We got that snow my heart was hoping for,
in a very big way!
I think we got a good 10 inches in the Peoria area.
Now we are expecting another big snow storm to bless us with
quite a bit more snow.
Well, ask and you shall receive.
{Sorry for those of you who don't do the happy dance over snow.}
I love the crunch of it underneath my feet,
the bright whiteness it gives the entire world around me,
the way it sparkles with the radiance 
of a million diamonds when the sun sets it afire,
and that incomparable scent it permeates the air with.
There's really nothing else quite like snow.
It always inspires me to knit...more.
Speaking of knitting,
these darling Knitted Pears were a Christmas gift,
therefore they were not made by me.
My cousin Kathy knitted them.
I love receiving gifts from another knitter's needles.
And aren't these too cute in their wire basket with a little
rag bow and natural cotton bolls tucked in behind them?
They're just perfect on my vintage red and white enamel table.
If you would like to knit some pears for yourself
or someone you love, you can find the pattern here.

Another thing cold, Winter weather makes all of us want is warm food.
This week I have two recipes to share featuring one of my 
absolute favorite health foods: Quinoa
Let's start with breakfast...
Quinoa "Oatmeal"

3/4 Cup Soy Milk
1/2 Cup Organic Tri-color Quinoa
3/4 to 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon Raw Unfiltered Honey
1 Tablespoon Organic Natural Peanut Butter

Bring Soy Milk and Quinoa to a boil.
Reduce heat to low.
Add Spices and Vanilla.
Simmer, stirring occasionally till thick, approximately 15 minutes.
Add Peanut Butter and Honey at last.
Enjoy immediately!
Serves 2

Actual oatmeal has always been a favorite food of mine.
Being a lifelong fan of healthy, hot breakfast cereals,
 this has become a new go to recipe.
It's deliciously filling and makes the whole house 
smell like homemade love for hours 
after it's been cooked up and eaten.
 Perfect for a cold day!
You can easily substitute the Soy Milk with 
Coconut, Almond or regular Milk.
Sprinkle Spices to taste.
Drizzle Honey to taste or substitute with Agave Nectar or Raw Sugar.
Use as much Peanut Butter as you like or replace it with Almond Butter.

And now for later in the day...
Sweet Potato Quinoa Soup 

2 Medium Sweet Potatoes, diced
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/4 Cup Onion, diced
1/2 to 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper {to taste}
2 Teaspoons Thyme
1 Tablespoon Organic Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper {to taste}
* I prefer freshly ground Black Pepper and Pink Himalayan Salt

First, saute' these ingredients in the tablespoon of olive oil 
for approximately 3-5 minutes,
just to blend the flavors nicely.
Then add:
4 Cups Organic Vegetable Broth
1 Can Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano
1 Cup Organic Tri-Color Quinoa
1 Can Garbanzo Beans/Chick Peas

Let cook/simmer till sweet potatoes are tender.
Enjoy while nice and hot!
Serves 4-6

This is an original recipe of my daughter Chelsea's.
It can be altered easily to spice it anyway you prefer 
and feed as many as needed.
Just don't leave out the healthy Quinoa!
If you've never tried Quinoa before 
you can read the top 11 proven health benefits 
of this wonderful tiny plant food
that is high in protein and actually contains
all 9 of the essential amino acids right here.
It's tasty, filling and oh so good for you!

If you live someplace where it's sunny and warm,
maybe even on the other side of the globe where it's actually Summertime,
I'll share a tiny piece of the Winter Wonderland from my front yard with you.
I took this picture in today's midmorning hours.
If we get hit with what we are expecting there's no telling 
what we will wake up to tomorrow morning.
I must admit, it makes me feel like a child on Christmas Eve...

"When there's snow on the ground,
I like to pretend I'm walking on clouds."
Takayuki Ikkaku

Friday, January 11, 2019

Fresh Friday...Winter Comforts

For today's Fresh Friday finds I have something lovely for all of you knitter's
 and a recipe for one of my absolute favorite wintertime comfort foods.
I am excited because here in Central Illinois
 we have the possibility of snow, and lots of it, in our weekend forecast. 
Last winter we seemed to be constantly blanketed in white.
So I had high hopes once I began to see my breath again.
We were off to a good start by setting a record for the first snow
 being the earliest for many, many years,
getting my hopes built sky high. 
 However, since then,I've been doing a lot of watching the sky 
and hearing my grandchildren dreaming of snowmen.
...if only...
Instead… as I wait...
I carry on inside the house doing all the things that one does during this time
when cold winds blow us into the warmth of the snug, coziness of home.
A part of each day for me is always taken up with knitting.
Although that is true year round, it is different during the winter.
During these weeks of near hibernation, 
I love to work on more intricate patterns,
 especially involving lots of cabling.
They often require the use of several stitch markers.
It's best when the stitch markers are slightly different so I know
 exactly what part of the pattern they are marking.
Back in the Fall I found a fantastic Online Shop
 that I have purchased from a few times now.
 I love the gorgeous handmade snag free stitch markers 
and the small tins the sets come in. 
They also have beautiful yarns and patterns.
You can find them at
I love how smoothly the markers glide along
 and the beauty they add to my work in progress.
That fun piece with all the number beads and the 
intricate Swarovski crystal on the end
is a row counter that you attach to your needles
and move along as your're knitting!
There's a video on how to use the row counter right here
The smaller sized markers are perfect for tiny needle knitting with their
reverse tear drop shape. I really love the one with the smaller crystal 
while knitting the thumb stitches, as I find anything too large
 cumbersome, causing it to be in the way in such a small area.
Summing it up, I've made three purchases with this company
 and have been extremely satisfied each time.
 Their product is top quality and they are very personable.
They have excellent customer service and even shipped a birthday gift
with a special note directly to a dear friend for me.
 Let me know if you give them a try!

As for the Recipe...
I'm going to give it to you TWO WAYS.
First the actual way and then the GLUTEN FREE way.
The photo shows them when I baked them last weekend in the GF version.
Cornmeal Drop Buscuits

1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Bob's Red Mill Coarse Grind Cornmeal
2 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons of Sugar
1 Stick, Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
1 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Skim Milk OR Vanilla Soymilk {my preference}

In medium bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt & sugar. 
Cut in butter till it looks like coarse crumbs.
Add milk; stir until just combined.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper, if desired.
Spray with cooking spray.
Spoon 10 mounds, 1/2 cup each, onto greased sheet 1 inch apart.
Bake 20 minutes.
Cool on wire racks.
Serve warm.

Gluten Free Version

Simply substitute the All Purpose flour for Almond Flour. 
*But use 2 1/2 Cups Almond Flour {or as much needed}.
It takes more Almond Flour than All Purpose.
You can also make this recipe Vegan
by using Earth Balance Vegan Butter
in place of the butter.

However you choose to make these biscuits,
they are easy to mix up and delicious!
My entire family loves them in both versions.
They're delicious with big pots of homemade vegetable soup
or warmed up and drizzled with honey.
The perfect comfort food for a cold winter day!

Wherever you are,
no matter the weather,
may you always have 
the comforts of home
to warm your heart...
I'll be here...
 waiting for snow...
"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home."
Edith Sitwell

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Winter Bliss

Now that another holiday season has been celebrated
 and the gift of a new year has been given,
holding its promise of secret surprises and wonders that lie before us,
 we still have the winter to settle into and savor. 
For many of us this is the time of year we find restful, 
reflective and sometimes quite productive inside our homes. 
Among the many other things I try to do, such as organize cabinets,
 tidy drawers and make note of projects that need doing in this beloved old house,
 I enjoy the hours spent inside this place I call home,
 with family bustling in and out, friends coming and going,
 and always another work in progress on my needles.
For Christmas I made a lot of chunky knitted items,
 which I really enjoyed.
As knitters, we all know they knit up quickly,
 bringing that instant sense of gratification we have to have sometimes, 
especially when time is of the essence.
However, my true love is for smaller stitches.
 Typically, I prefer patterns that require needles
 in the range of US size 1 to 5,
 with 7 or 8 being "Big" for me. 
Therefore, everything about these tiny Magical Fairy Mushrooms
 was completely enchanting.
 I loved watching as they came to life on my size 1{2.25 mm} needles,
 along with a very small cable needle.
Although I know how to knit cables without using a cable needle,
 having acquired a nice collection of them over the years,
 I actually enjoy using one.
However, for those of you who would like to try this technique
 but don't know how to,
 the best video I've found on YouTube for
 cabling without a cable needle is provided by Marly Bird.
I recommend you practice it on larger knitting needles until you get the hang of it.
The little pink tool in the picture with a hook on one end and a point 
on the other end is one of my favorite tools!
I use it to pick up dropped stitches or for picking up stitches 
when making socks or the thumbs of a mitten.
 This is the smallest of three different sizes.
You can find them at Hobby Lobby made by Susan Bates.
As for the whimsical mushrooms, 
if you are a knitter who wants to make some, 
use the link I've provided for the free pattern.
I would like to say how much I truly appreciate it when
a designer gives permission for the finished product of 
their pattern to be sold. It's an added bonus when the pattern is free.
If you would like to purchase some ready made you can find them
 for sale in sets of three on my shop...

I really do love tiny knits. I enjoy the process from start to finish. 
Here are my top three reasons:

1) They are slow and mindful, forcing me to take more time,
which causes me to feel more restful and peaceful. 
Therefore they have a more meditative or reflective quality about them.

2) The stitches are tiny and compact,
 making them aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Stockinette stitches line up nice and tight.
Garter stitch rows pop in perfect ridges.
Cables are firm and stand out boldly.

3) There's a dreamy aspect of long ago childhood days
that washes over me when I hold
 anything miniature in the palm of my hand.
Sundrenched, cartwheeling, bicycle riding days
 followed by fire fly chasing evenings.
 Or winter afternoons spent 
lying on a snow covered lawn 
making angels with my best friend.

January seems to be a good time for my tiny needle knitting.
I usually find myself taking personal stock once again,
as so many of us do, at the beginning of each new year.
I believe anything that causes us to slow down 
while we're snugged up inside so that we can have
moments of introspection is a really good thing.
While the earth is having her time of rest, 
we can enter into our time of reflective thinking.
A time of contemplating our life; our experiences; 
our relationships with God, people and all of humanity
and how we can draw on all of these things
 to improve ourselves in the year ahead.

Another one of my Winter Bliss pleasures is
 the reading of and listening to many books.
My current read is this wonderful book 
that my daughter Hilary gave me for Christmas.
I start every new year, as odd as it may sound,
 reading a Christmas book.
It's been a long-standing tradition for Hilary
 to gift me a new Christmas book every year.
She goes on a hunt with great relish and I wait
 in even greater anticipation to open it.
If you are on Goodreads and would like to connect
 with me you can find me here.
I would love to see what you're reading.

As always, a blissful part of my daily life
 is to keep critters outside and inside fed and happy.
I love feeding my squirrels and am rewarded by some who eat from my hand.
And I'm thick in the throws of the antics of full blown "puppyhood" …
While I was in the kitchen, believing Percy to be napping in the living room, 
he was actually having a toilet paper party in said room.
 Just having turned six months old on December 26th,
 we have now entered into the toddler phase of life, it appears.
Whatever it is that brings happiness to the moments of your life
in these long winter months that are a fresh new beginning,
I pray you find them to be restful, restorative,
 peaceful and productive on an inward level,
and most of all deeply blissful.

"Life isn't about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself."
George Bernard Shaw