Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Summer Mosaic Afghan

Last summer, I began a mystery Crochet-A-Long (CAL) introduced by Julie Yeager.  I had seen her work many times, and really thought it all quite lovely, so the thought of actually working one of her patterns without a financial outlay excited me.  I could try her pattern cost free to see if I was up to the task.

So, last summer, she introduced the Summer Mosaic Afghan.   Now, this was a mystery CAL, so we didn't have all the pictures of the afghan to see and assess.  In fact, the primary reason I started the afghan was due to the speak peak picture she provided on her website.  The soft fuzzy yarn looked so inviting.  And I'd never used anything like that before, so I just had to try!

Since I wanted to buy my yarn locally, I did some research for similar yarns and concluded that Lion Brand Jiffy yarn would be close.  It's a Bulky yarn, grade 5, and very soft.  I read lots of complaints on Amazon regarding the yarn, but decided to make my own judgements after completing the project.

So, armed with a 25% off entire purchase coupon, I went to Joann's Fabrics.  Lucky for me, the Jiffy yarn was on sale that day AND the coupon applied!  So exciting.  I wasn't able to get enough of the background color, so I later ordered that off Amazon at the same sale price as Joann's, just without the extra 25% off.

I started the project in July 2015 and completed it in April 2016.  Since my life is a bit topsy turvy right now, and has been for a while, I would often just put the project down.  I also almost gave up at one point, due to the fact I didn't really like the colors.  But, I persisted, and my efforts did pay off with a completed afghan.

I made tons of mistakes.  Primary amongst them is the central squares. They were too large, but I sewed them in anyway.  As a result, the afghan puckers.  Additionally, the border was -- I'm guessing -- done too tightly, and it curls. 

But!  The blanket is lovably soft and warm.  The yarn was very nice, and I really don't have any complaints regarding it's quality.  It was a frustrating yarn to frog when I made mistakes, but that's not on the yarn -- that's on me for not paying attention to instructions.

I'm really happy with the outcome, though I must confess that it's not my style or color.  Currently, it's draped over a chair in the dining room -- a bit of an orphan without a home.  I'm not sure what I'll do with it ultimately.

I'm grateful that the LORD gave me a talent like this!  It's so very useful when life is so uncertain.  Crochet has definitely turned into my stress reliever.  I can crochet, relax under a blanket (often the very one I'm making), and lift up prayers to bolster my tired spirit and worn mind.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

War Eagle Afghan

Crochet is a strange creature for me.  I start a bajillion and one things, and finish very few.  I'm not sure what my problem is, except that I like trying new things, and the internet is like a toy shop of crochet patterns!  

This past week was my mother-in-law's birthday.  Some time back, she'd pinned a picture of an afghan and I thought, "hrm, I think I can make that."  So, I took yarn I actually had in my stash and set out on my journey.  But, I got partway into the journey and it became pretty tiring.  Maybe it's color fatigue.  Maybe it was pattern fatigue.  Whatever it was, I set it down.

But, it became something that was perfect for the days of sitting in the cancer center while my husband received his chemotherapy.  There was very little counting, and a quick eyeball would tell me where I was in the pattern.  Also, the volunteers began to want to see it every time I came in, just to see how far I'd gotten.  In short, it was perfect for noisy, distracting environments and curious observers.

At some point, I despaired of finishing it by my mother-in-law's birthday.  It seemed quite the impossible task.  I mean, even when I finished, it still needed a border which is something I've never done.  In truth, I've never made an afghan to give to someone else.  Ever.  So, I was in uncharted territory, and I began to question whether she would even want such an item.

But, my husband seemed happy for the task I'd set out to accomplish.  Thus, I marched forward, row after row and then one day, two days before her birthday, I handed to my husband and I said, "I finished."

This is my version of the Corner to Corner Afghan pattern by Red Heart Yarns.  The link will take you to The Crochet Corner as they have a video tutorial done for Red Heart Yarns' pattern.  I simply printed the pattern and took off.  It's very straightforward, and it really comes together quickly.  

 The afghan I made is approximately 48" square.  I failed to measure it when it was complete, but that was my aim.  I (erroneously) believed I didn't have enough orange yarn to go further and that I'd not find it, but I later discovered the the color I used is still in production.  So, it might have been larger had I not believed that, but then I probably would not have finished in time.  It worked out for good in the end.  :)

The yarns used are Caron One Pound in White and Midnight Blue, and Red Heart Super Saver in Carrot.  I used one full skein of white plus part of another, and nearly all of one skein of blue.  I used a full skein of carrot plus a little of another.  My hook size was H.

The border is from the book Around the Corner Crochet Borders.  The link will take you to Amazon to look at the book.  I used border #6 in orange, blue, and white.  I can tell this book  will be dogeared before too long.  I love the variety of options!  The only problem I had with the border was corners, which I didn't fully understand.  So, I had to wing it a bit.  

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my very first gift afghan post.  I gave it to someone I love a lot, who is a treasure to me, and who raised a wonderful young man to whom I've been married for 25 years.  I pray for her afghan to bring her joy.  And I hope it's useful for those Auburn games which are coming up quite soon indeed!  

May God bless you today with His loving presence.  <3

Saturday, June 27, 2015


It's been a long time since I posted anything, so I thought I'd kick off a (hopefully) new era of posting by presenting a crochet-a-long (CAL) that I've joined.  It's even a *mystery* CAL, so we don't know what it'll look like until we are nearly done.  The awesome part is it's conducted by an amazing crochet artist known as Lilla Björn!  Her works are so beautiful.

Note: All of the links in this post go to various posts on the website of Lilla Björn.  None of this is my work, and I provide the links so that you can jump right to the topic I'm praising.  :) 

Anyway, this newest CAL is called Circles of the Sun and this post holds pictures of my version of Block 1.  As usual, I've opted for soft colors instead of brights, which seems to be the standard thing for me.  My husband is encouraging me to try a quilt pattern with some brights, so we'll see where that goes. :)

This pattern was relatively easy to understand.  It is a little harder than Beginner, I think, but not too much.  You really need a deeper understanding of some of the stitches, especially when she anchors them in a previous crochet round.  However, Lilla Björn has some exceptionally well-done tutorials on her website that help a great deal.  I may actually master the Magic Circle and the Needle Join before this is all over, and that excites me!!

But, the end effect is gorgeous! The blue in the close up is *over* the purple, giving it the appearance of complicated color swapping.  Then you have the lovely pink "petals" that are rising from the block because the gray was worked behind it, on the same row. In the full block picture, the blue round toward the outside of the block is actually Surface Crochet, which I've never done before.  It was much easier than I thought, and it give the block a pleasing effect.

For about 7 rounds, the block is round.  She squares the block in rows 8 and 9, with an eye toward making a pillow from the blocks.  All total, there will be 9 blocks made, all different.  Of course, you could go wild and make a throw, or a blanket, or anything with this gorgeous block.  When it was still round, I thought it would be quite the lovely flower.  

For this project, I opted to purchase yarn.  I partly did it because I wanted to make sure all of my yarn is the same weight, and partly because I wanted a bunch of near-pastels and this was the easiest way to get that desired effect.  The yarn I bought was Caron Simply Soft in the colors Soft Green, Soft Pink, Orchid, Grey Heather, Bone, and Soft Blue.  For reference, each skein except the Grey Heather is 6 ounces (170.1 grams) with 315 yards of yarn (288 meters). The Grey Heather is 5 ounces (141.7 grams) with 250 yards of yarn (228 meters).  I'm using a size H/5.00mm hook.  

The finished block is just under 6 inches by a hair.  I will probably block it to 6 inches.  That means that my pillow, in a 3 x 3 pattern layout, will be 18+ inches in size.  I'm quite okay with that. :)  I'm not sure what I'll do with the pillow yet.  I may gift it to a loved one, or plop it on my bed.  Decisions, decisions! 

So, if you dabble in crochet, this might be a nice project to tackle.  You get the block pattern once a week, so that gives you 7 days to complete a single block.  Lilla Björn is available to answer questions, and eventually there will be a video explaining how to make the block.  I don't think you'll be disappointed!!

I pray that the LORD grants you a wonderfully blessed day!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Homemade Chicken Bouillon Powder

Some time ago, I set out to find substitutes for many of the mixes or ingredients I use in cooking, simply because so many labels are long lists of difficult-to-pronounce ingredients whose effect on the body is unclear.

One of those cooking ingredients I made pretty liberal use of was Wyler's Chicken Bouillon Granules.  I mean, I used this stuff *A LOT*.  And I used it in the homemade mixes I was making.  The biggest complaint I had about it for a long time was how salty it made stuff taste.  Then, one day, I looked at the ingredient list.  

Oh boy.  I can't take a picture of the label since I don't have a jar of this stuff anymore, but this is the ingredient list as taken from the Wal-Mart website:

Salt, Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, Water, Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten Protein, Monosodium Glutamate, Chicken Fat, Onion Powder, Cooked Chicken Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Turmeric, Natural Chicken Flavor, Disodium Inosinate And Disodium Guanylate, Gelatin, Garlic Powder, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural Flavors, Celery Seed, Modified Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Soy Gluten Protein, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And Cottonseed Oils, Soybean Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Tbhq (Preservative), Artificial Flavor, Alpha Tocopherol (Antioxidant), BHA (Preservative), Propyl Gallate, Citric Acid, Butter Oil. Contains Soybeans, Milk. Processed On Equipment That Also Processes Wheat, Soybeans, Milk, Egg.

It's a list almost as long as my arm.  Plus, each teaspoon of the stuff has 740 mg of sodium.  No wonder it makes stuff taste so salty to us.

This item became a candidate for my ingredient substitution adventure and I quickly found a homemade recipe.  Now, like all good adventures, you really never know what's around the corner -- or, in this case, how something actually tastes. :)  But, this recipe is spot on!  I tried it out in our favorite Crockpot Black Bean Soup and not one soul in this family had any idea I'd changed anything.  The only comment I got was that it "needed salt".  

Mission accomplished!!

So, the recipe I use for my homemade chicken bouillon comes from a website called Mummy Deals.  You can print the recipe from her location.  I'm just going to show you my steps and pictures, but I pretty much followed the recipe word-for-word.

First up is the cast of characters.  You need nutritional yeast flakes, sea salt, minced dried onion, parsley flakes, sage, celery salt, garlic powder, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and basil.  I had a difficult time finding the yeast flakes, and eventually located them at Earth Fare, an organic foods grocery store.  They were a tad pricey.

The recipe calls for 1 full cup of the flakes.  This was just under 1/2 the container.  I no longer have the receipt where I purchased the flakes, but I think I can safely say that I didn't necessarily save money on this recipe.  However, one glance at Amazon reveals that you can probably purchase the flakes in a larger package for a decent price.  That's what I'll do for future batches.

Apparently, you can also sprinkle the yeast flakes on popcorn to give it a good flavor.  I have a tad left in my container, so next time I make popcorn, I may give that a shot.  If that's the case, it'll at least have multiple uses.  :)

I poured all my spices in a bowl, just to make them pretty for a picture. No other purpose than that!

The ninja chopper I bought at Target is actually what I used to grind the ingredients.  Unfortunately, the ninja is not capable of getting these ingredients to a really fine powder.  The little onion bits were still quite visible in the mix, along with the parsley.  I have a coffee grinder somewhere I may try in the future, but I've had no trouble using this powder in this state.  

I simply store the powder in a small mason jar, and use 1 tsp per cup of water just like I do the old Wyler's stuff.  Now, I have not used this as pure broth.  I have used it in recipes, and other homemade mixes with great success.  It's not nearly as salty, so some adjustments need to be made for recipes that rely on some sodium.  For soups and what not, I just let each family member season as desired.  I don't like my food very salty anymore, so this fits my tastes pretty well.

Now, it wouldn't be fair to claim this is better without providing some information on Nutritional Yeast Flakes.  I don't have a picture of my container, but I thought I'd link you the information on Wikipedia and the nutritional database at Self Magazine.  

The short if it is -- nutritional yeast flakes are really quite good for you.  I bought a container of the fortified yeast flakes, so it had added B12 -- 130% of daily needs.

I can't really explain why this chicken bouillon powder successfully tastes like the chicken bouillon I've used for years, since no chicken is utilized.  But, it does.  And it's now become a staple of my pantry, ousting my old Wyler's jars.  I kinda wish I'd saved just one for storing this powder. 

I hope you enjoy this like we have!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Crockpot Lasagna Soup

I found this wonderful little recipe this morning whilst perusing my Facebook feed.  It looked so simple to make, and I had all the ingredients, so I just had to try.  Good day for it too, since I'm sick. :(

All I can say is ... YUMMO!  We devoured the entire crockpot full of tomato-y goodness in short order.  Since I feel like I can give it a ringing endorsement, I thought I'd share it here!

The original recipe can be found on the Family Fresh Meals website.   I failed to take pictures, so this is tragically all text!  I'm not going to re-invent the wheel here, so I'll just share the changes I made to fit it into our family's typical food pantry items.  She didn't indicate crockpot size in the recipe, but I used a 6 1/2 quart crockpot, and it was a touch over half-full at the end.  Probably not the most efficient size for this recipe.

She calls for a pound of ground beef, uncooked.  Instead, I used a pound of ground chicken, and I browned it in a skilled with 2 tsp dried minced onion plus 1 tsp dried minced garlic.  I don't like to toss uncooked ground meat in a crockpot.  Just a quirk.  Just me.  YMMV  

My husband declared that I'd used too much onion just using the old sniff test, so I will reduce that next time.  I "made his eyes water", lol!  Oddly enough, I didn't notice the onion, but hey -- he's the guy I please so the onion will get the ax on the next go. :D

Since we don't buy V8, I replaced the cup called for in the recipe with 1/2 cup water plus 1/2 cup tomato sauce following extensive research on the internet (lol, extensive -- I nabbed the first substitute recipe I ran across. :P).  I'm not sure what the V8 would have added for flavor and sodium, but we really didn't miss it.

For beef broth, I brought three cups of water to a boil in the skillet where I'd cooked the chicken so I could get the yummy bits off the bottom of the skillet.  I added beef bouillon granules to the boiling water and stirred until dissolved.  I then poured that into the crockpot with everything else.  At the end, the recipe "seemed" a touch too salty, so I may cut this back to 2 tsp of granules next time or find a homemade beef bouillon granules recipe. 

It cooked from 11:30 am to 6:30 pm and smelled wonderful.  It really did smell like lasagna.  The pasta was perfectly done at the 30 minute mark as well.  It's not soupy-soup.  It's more like hearty-soup.  We had rolls and green beans on the side.  Perfection!  Would be great too when it's cold outside, maybe even better then!

It is definitely a keeper!  I've already added it to my Mastercook program.  So, using the changes I made, here are the nutrition numbers from Mastercook.  I'm not sure how Mastercook handles some of the ingredients, and my copy of the software is older than the dinosaurs, so these would be guidelines.   In other words, take 'em with a grain of salt!  But not too much salt... it's not good for you.  :P

Servings: 6
Calories: 332
Total fat: 8g (Saturated fat: 2g)
Sodium: 480mg
Protein: 29g

Monday, June 9, 2014

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Update 6/10/14: I put a wrong amount on the recipe!  It's been updated.  :)  Sorry for that!

I thought I'd start sharing a few of the made-from-scratch recipes I use for cooking and cleaning around the house.  Today, I'm sharing my oldest recipe -- Homemade Taco Seasoning!  

Years ago, we'd have tacos every week.  We loved them!  Back then, I used the Ortega sauce mix, which you could buy in a small packet.  Then one day I noticed that it wasn't on the shelf anymore.  It soon turned out I couldn't find it anywhere.  We tried the other mixes, but no one like them.  

So, off to the internet!  I found this great Taco Seasoning recipe on the AllRecipes website.  What did I have to lose?  We gave it a try.  And, initially, we didn't really like it.  At that point, I simply gave up and we didn't have tacos for quite a long time.  One day, I ran across the little jar of mix I'd made, thought "huh, why not", and tried again.

We've been using it ever since.  I'm not sure if time made us forgetful of the original deliciousness of Ortega, or if I did something different.  At any rate, I've been using this same recipe since that time.

Now, I made a few changes to the original recipe from AllRecipes.  I increased the amount of cayenne pepper because my family wanted some "kick" in the flavor.  I also quadrupled the recipe so that it made enough to nearly fill a quart-sized canning jar.  That way, I don't have to mix it so often.  And finally, I actually add more seasoning per pound of meat than what the original recipe recommends.  These were tweaks that make the recipe taste good to us. 

So, first off, gather all your spices.  I buy mine in the monstrous containers from our local Sam's Club. I'm sure they can be found in other places as well.  Since I started making so many things from scratch, these large spice boxes have come in quite handy.

Now, for pretty sake, I poured the spices in little piles on a piece of wax paper just to take a picture.  From top left, going clockwise, I have chili powder, onion powder, cornstarch, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cumin in the middle.  Cumin is great for Mexican-style dishes too, so we use quite a lot.  I have a fantastic black bean soup recipe I'll have to share one day.  :D

Anyways, toss all that lovely goodness into a bowl and mix it up.  I use a little whisk, but a spoon is good too.  For some odd reason my paprika had lumps, so I pinched them up after whisking.  I use paprika a lot on chicken and fish, so probably just too much moisture on my part. 

After it's good and mixed, I add it to my mason jar.  Now, if you have a large enough jar, you could probably just pour it in, hand it to a child, and say "shake it", and you'd be good to go.  I am not confident there's enough room in the mason jar to mix it well, so I mess up a bowl first. :)  

Once the jar is full, place it on the shelf and admire its pretty color, hehe.  We really do enjoy this mix.  I hope you enjoy it too!

What I love most about this particular recipe is that there are no strange, unpronounceable ingredients in the mix.  These strange ingredients from another planet is a large part of why I've been working hard to eliminate the boxed mixes (albeit quite slowly!).  So, it's a small thing, but it feels good to know that every ingredient is something I can both spell and pronounce. :) 

Side Note: Now, as a first time taste test, it might be most prudent to simply try the linked original recipe as it makes far less than my modified recipe.  That way, you don't make a monstrous investment in spices just to be disappointed. 

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
Printable Recipe 

8 tablespoons chili powder 
7 tablespoons paprika
6 tablespoons cumin 
3 tablespoons onion powder 
3 tablespoons garlic powder 
2 tablespoons cornstarch 
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, then transfer to a glass jar.  This amount of mix will fit inside a quart-sized canning jar.  Shake or stir before each use. 

To Use:
Brown meat in a large skillet.  Add 8 teaspoons (or 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) of mix for each pound of meat cooked.  Then add approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup water per pound of meat.  Bring to a boil, cover, then allow meat to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  In last 5 or so minutes, remove lid to encourage liquid to cook away; you may need to raise the temperature in order to quicken this process.

Serve with favorite taco additions.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Now, don't get the wrong idea.  I'm new to this blogging adventure, so I'm going the safe route -- I'm blogging about the stuff I do that other folks think up! :)  Maybe in a month, I'll have something uniquely "me" to post, haha.  

So, I had heard of Crochet-A-Longs (CAL) before, but just never tried them.  Not sure if I was afraid or lazy, but I let them go by on my Facebook feed without a thought.

Then, one caught my eye.  At the end, I'd have *24* 12" blocks if I stayed true to the program!  Now that's a nice, big blanket!  I like the idea of something that's more than eye-candy.  I like things that serve purpose too.  To make matters even better, I already had some yarn I could use for my mom (see the Mandala).  The website promised that the blocks wouldn't take long, so I decided to make two of these afghans.

The CAL I bravely chose is conducted by the Moogly website.  They are on block #9 now, so I am starting my sharing a bit late.  But, like tea, waiting a little just makes it that much better!  

P.S.  Sweet tea is wonderful stuff!

So, the Moogly CAL began with a rather neat first block call Anticipation.  If you visit the Ravelry website using the link in the block name, you will see lots of examples of this block in tons of lovely color combinations.  It's also a free download, another great bonus!

The sample block is very pretty.  So, I set out to make the block for my  mom using the sunflower colors I chose long ago.  I very carefully planned out colors so that it'd not be the strangest block ever seen, and started the block.  I got lost on the surface crochet (which is white in the above picture), but the author graciously provided a picture tutorial which got me past my brain freeze.

After I made one block in my sunflower colors, I made a second block in a different color pathway.  This one, I decided to not plan in advance and just kinda did what "felt good".  It still turned out okay!  I think I made it 2 or 3 weeks later, when I finally decided I really could do two of these afghans.  Originally, this block was trying enough that I thought maybe that would be too much.  But I gained some confidence and mushed on with two different color pathways.  

So, I introduce the Anticipation block as Sunflower Parade (left below) and Go Team! (right below)

Hrm, still not sure why my block are so far apart, haha.  I really like how different they are.  You can tell they are the same block, but one looks almost like a negative of the other.  It's awesome.

I do have to admit that I'm not a big fan of the surface crochet.  It made the squares tricky to block to the full 12 inches, but now that I'm looking back I'm okay with them.  

Just for reference, the Sunflower Parade color pathway is made using Caron One Pound yarn in Soft Sage, Sunflower, Expresso, and another green whose sleeve I've lost.  ._.  The Go Team color pathway uses Caron One Pound in Midnight Blue and White.  The orange is actually Carrot by Red Heart Super Saver.

I bravely bought two more color pathways, but I've since decided to do something else with them.  One is a clearance buy from Joann's Fabrics that I didn't realize was cotton instead of acrylic!  I want to do something really special with that yarn, but no idea what yet.  The other color pathway is busy in a work-in-progress that may be with me until I die!  LOL  Maybe I can finish it just to have something to post. :D

Anyway, I think this CAL is turning out to be really fun.  It may not be ideal for a brand new crocheter as some of the blocks do have some challenging stitches, but who knows?!  You may rock it anyway.

I hope this inspires you!  God bless you and enjoy! :)

Many blessings,

Proverbs 31:13  New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.