Friday, January 29, 2010

To Knit or Not: My journey from crochet to knitting

I learned to crochet last Fall, and have been very happy with my experience.  I like the process of learning something new, so the early mistakes have made me a better crocheter, and I've made some lovely things, this being the latest finished product which I can't seem to take off:

It's the Maven Moebius Cowl pattern for one yarn, I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, and it worked up in no time!

So, back to the knitting.  The local yarn shop I frequent, Magpie's Cottage, has an avid group of knitters and not nearly as many crocheters, so I decided to see what the fuss was about and signed up for a Knitting 101 class.  Our first class was Tuesday.  This is the book we are using to learn:

It's published by the National Needle Arts Association, and they also published the How to Crochet book that I learned from.  

I am left-handed crocheter, but was pleased to see that I could knit "normally," which makes it much easier to learn.  I started catching on, and I thought, wow, this isn't so bad after all.  Then the lesson ended, and when I got home, this is what I ended up with:

The end product will be a scarf.  Next, the problems came.  I dropped stitches, and didn't know how to fix them, so I ripped it all out and started over.  The good news in this lesson is that I can now cast on much better after ripping out everything 3 or 4 times.  So, shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday, I was at the shop to get help fixing my mess!  Everything fixed, and was going swimmingly yesterday, then again last night, whoops!

So, needless to say, my project is a shambles, and I will once more be at Magpie's shortly after opening today to get some help.   Thank goodness for good local yarn shops!  Kim Oslund has been extremely patient with me throughout my short yarn obsession.

The jury is still out on this knitting thing.  So far, my "con" list is longer than my "pro" list, and as I continue on this yarn adventure, I may write more about that, so stay tuned!

Have a great weekend!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Healthy Soup to Warm You Up from the Chill

Unfortunately our above freezing weather has come to an end.  It almost felt like Spring for a few days!  When the temperature drops, soup always fits the bill.  I ran across a recipe in Monday's USA Today, which I adapted and made for dinner last night.  It was easy, tasty, and best of all less than 200 calories for 1 1/4 cups, and 9 grams of fiber.  I added some cornbread and a little citrus for dessert, and it was a filling and hearty meal.  I hope you like it!

Black Bean Soup:
1 small onion
1 T Chili Powder
1 t. ground cumin
2 15 oz cans of black beans, drained & rinsed
3 c water (or I used 2 c chicken stock & 1 cup water)
1/2 cup prepared salsa (I used Tostitos Medium Chunky)
1/4 t. salt
1 T. Lime Juice (I omitted, as my lime was shriveled!)
Sour Cream & Cilantro for garnish if desired

Saute' onion in 1T. canola oil for 2-3 minutes, then add chili powder & cumin
Add beans, water or stock, salsa & salt.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in lime juice.
Puree' 1/2 the mixture in blender or use hand immersion blender
Garnish if desired & serve
Makes 4 servings 1 1/4 cups each

The taste was great and can be adjusted to suit different heat tolerances, via your chili powder & salsa choices.  It was a little thinner than I thought it might be, so next time I may only rinse & drain 1 can of beans and use the other as is!

Today will be my first knitting class at Magpie's Cottage.  Now that I've adjusted to my crochet hooks, let's see how it goes with two needles!

Wish me luck!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Tribute to New Orleans & The Saints

I had the pleasure of working in New Orleans for several years, and living there part-time for three.  New Orleans is not for everyone, with it's eclectic characters, humidity, and yes, sin, however I came to love it not for these reasons, but for it's community, it's spirit, and most of all it's food!

The Saints will be going to the Superbowl in the middle of the Mardi Gras season, and I can guess that the Carnival parades on that day will be sparsely attended, or you will find TVs on all the floats and large screens along the parade route.  And, they will be playing the Colts, whose quarterback, Peyton Manning, is a New Orleans son.  A very exciting and long-deserved occurrence for New Orleans and the Saints.

So, this year, I hope you all cheer for the Saints and cook up some good food for the Superbowl.  Cooking Up A Storm is a unique cookbook that was compiled by the New Orleans Times-Picayune after Hurricane Katrina.  Many people not only lost their homes and possessions, they lost their beloved recipes, so the newspaper started a recipe connection column to regather these lost treasures.  These are recipes that home cooks make, so if you're looking for chef food, try John Besh's latest cookbook, which I hear is very good.

Here's a quick drink recipe for Brandy Milk Punch that is very popular during Carnival in New Orleans.  You can even freeze it in milk jugs and take it to the parade with you for a slushy treat!

Brandy Milk Punch:
12 oz brandy or bourbon
4 C Half-and-half
1/4 C confectioner's sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 C heavy cream, whipped (optional for serving)

In large pitcher, stir together the liquor, half-and-half, confectioner's sugar and vanilla until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Refrigerate (or freeze) for 3 hours or overnight.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Who Dat!  Geaux Saints!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Friday, January 22, 2010

Check Out Flashback Friday:

Sew Much Ado, has a great feature on her blog called "Flashback Friday".  She is a talented seamstress, and features some great things on her blog, and this feature has been a funny one.  She asked for her readers to submit their own "fashion flashbacks" that were handmade, so I submitted one to her.

Click here to my hubby and me featured in a fashion flashback from 1988!

Boy did I love that dress!  I hope you had a little chuckle and that you have a great weekend!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coffee Sack Crafts: My new bulletin board

I have been transitioning my old work desk from my past corporate life, into my crafting area and one thing was missing -- an "inspiration" board to pin up ideas, photos, bits of fabric, or other things that inspire me.

I ran across this post from Lil Blue Boo last year on a dress she made that was inspired by a coffee sack, and it got me thinking.  What happens to all those coffee sacks after the roasters are done with them?  I contacted someone I know at Torke Coffee in Sheboygan, WI.  He was more than happy to save a few sacks for me, and I was one step closer to my new bulletin board.

These sacks are very large, and the burlap is a little hard to work with - lots of fibers fly around when you cut it.  I don't recommend wearing black, or knits.  I learned the hard way, trust me.  I also washed the sack before using on a quick cycle, then hung it dry.  Be sure to get all the beans out first - again, I learned the hard way!

I cut the burlap to fit the bulletin board, then used a staple gun to secure it.  Finally, I cut ribbon for the trim and glued it on with fabric glue for the finishing touch.  Easy, and I have something attractive above my workspace.

I also added a little bling in the corner - a reminder of my time living in New Orleans to keep inspiring me.

There is another tutorial here by Maya Made.  She also sells a pattern on Etsy for these cute coffee sack buckets, so I might have to buy one to use up some of the extra sacks I have.  The dog needs a new toy basket!

Happy Crafting!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Project Planning: The Gum Boot Makeover (or how to trick out your Wellies)

I still haven't slept much in a couple of days due to this darn cold, but have managed to be pretty productive nonetheless.  Today I purchased some fabric on sale at JoAnn that I will use to make a couple of projects.  I live in Wisconsin where the winter can be brutal and it seems to last forever, so one must have a collection of boots for all occasions because you'll most likely be wearing them until the first of June!  

I have a cute pair of what my family calls "gum boots" but others seem to call "Wellies" or "Wellingtons" that I purchased at Target last year.  They are great for rain, but not so good in the cold, so I found a cute tutorial here that I will use to make some linings for my boots so I can wear them in the slush as we start to thaw this spring.  

My boots get a workout in the summer while I'm working in my herb garden or volunteering with the Sheboygan County Master Gardeners, so it will be nice to have some options!

Here is the fabric I picked up today.  The solid colors will be the linings and the prints will be the cuffs.  The colors are much more beautiful in person, but I have yet to get the lighting right, so you will have to use your imagination.

P.S.  We had a doctor's appointment today and all is great with the baby.  She weighs 2lbs 6 oz now, so is on track for a normal delivery around April 16.  And, the doctor said I could take some Sudafed & Tylenol PM, so maybe I'll get some sleep tonight!

Hopefully I'll dream about my herb garden.  Do you have a favorite herb?

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Monday, January 18, 2010

Insomniac Crochet:

I am not at my best today - still in my jammies and it's almost noon.  You see, I woke up at 1:45 and couldn't go back to sleep.  This has been a problem recently, and not sure if it's due to the pregnancy, or just too much going through my head.  Oh, and I have a cough and a little bit of a stuffy nose to boot, and can't take the usual Nyquil because of the Bambino.  

The middle of the night is when I get some of my most productive crochet done, so there is a positive in this lack of sleep.  I am trying to expand my skills as a left-handed crocheter, so thought I would try a new pattern that uses Foundation Single Crochet, since it's a technique I haven't tried before.


The pattern is from Alice at Futuregirl and is call the Starling Handbag.  I keep wanting to call it the "Starlight Handbag" - seems prettier than a Starling.  I decided to make the large bag, but if it turns out, I might try to make an XXL bag to use for a project bag.  This will be not only my first crochet handbag, but also the first time I will make a lining for something, and Alice has a tutorial for that, too!  I can't remember how I stumbled upon her blog, but I am glad I did.  Now if you're left-handed like me, some of the directions will be different, but I'm getting pretty adept at flipping things.  There are also some left-handed crochet videos on YouTube, so just enter this in the search and you'll probably find what you need.

So far, so good!  The yarn is a nice Mission Falls 1824 Cotton that I purchased at Magpie's Cottage.  They have great colors!

So, tell me, what do you do when you can't sleep?

Friday, January 15, 2010

What I've been up to this week!

I haven't posted on the blog this week until now, so I will do a wrap-up of what I've been working on.

The Anniversary Scarf:  Jim's anniversary present - almost done

The yarn is Jarbo Garn Duo, purchased at Urban Arts & Crafts when I was back in Kansas City over Christmas.  It's acrylic, but very soft, and should wash well.  It's a very simple pattern that I got from the Ravelry website called "Simple Textured Crochet Scarf".    It's hard to find something that is "manly" sometimes, and I thought this pattern fit the bill.

I also made a scarf for myself, inspired by this tutorial on the Make It and Love It blog.  Here is how mine turned out - not perfect, but I've worn it twice already.  Next time I will make it a little shorter, I think, but will try this tutorial from Sew Much Ado with the rest of my material.  If it turns out, I might make some for my nieces.  P.S.  You can also barely see my anniversary gift - the Tiffany heart necklace.  I love it, as it's so lightweight I barely know I'm wearing it and I love the way it looks.

Finally, I got some new yarn on impulse yesterday as I was cruising through JoAnn previewing what was going on sale later this weekend.  I loved the color, so bought a couple of skeins and will make a Moebius Cowl (similar to this one) for myself.  I'm not sure the photo does the color justice.  As you can tell, I like to work on many things at once, or I get bored!

I'm still working on the baby blanket, I hemmed two pairs of my husband's jeans this week, and will probably try to clean out some of my magazine clutter over the weekend.  Hubby has to work this weekend, so I will have plenty of time to craft, daydream, watch the birds and play with the dog.

I hope you have had a good week!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy First Anniversary!

Today is my first wedding anniversary.  The year has flown by, and one year ago today we were getting married beside the ocean in Playa Mujeres, Mexico.    This is one of my favorite pictures from the day because I think it symbolizes that sometimes looking to your past will lead you to your future.

You see, I have known my husband since 1986.  We were fast friends, then dated, had lots of fun, then broke up and went our separate ways.  He was always my favorite boyfriend, and believe me, I've had my share.  We both got married, both got divorced, then as fate would have it, ended up together again. We took it slow and realized that all the things we liked about each other the first time were still true, and that with our age and experiences we had become better people.  We are still becoming better people with the help of each other, and I cannot imagine my life without him.  

Now we are entering into a new realm of parenthood and all the joys, tears and fears it may bring us.  I am more optimistic about my life and my future than I have ever been, and am comforted to know that we will be together in our adventures, whatever they will be.  

Happy Anniversary to my husband, who will always be my "favorite!" 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Home-Made Takeout: Lighter General Tso's Chicken

Towards the end of the year I wasn't cooking as much as I'd like.  Not sure if it was due to the pregnancy fatigue, or just laziness on my part, but I enjoy cooking, so have vowed to try to cook at least three times per week when my husband isn't traveling.

I have developed a taste for Asian food - sushi, Thai, Chinese - and one of my favorites is Chang's Spicy Chicken from P.F. Changs.  The big problem is that P.F. Chang's is over an hour from us, so it's definitely a special occasion thing.

I was happy to find this recipe (click on recipe) from Martha Stewart last year, and have made it several times.  It's easy, tasty and lighter than a lot of take-out.  I serve with long-grain brown rice cooked in my trusty Sanyo Rice Cooker ( Sanyo ECJ-HC55S 5-1/2-Cup Micro-Computerized Rice Cooker and Slow Cooker, White), and it turns out perfectly every time.  I usually make a little extra sauce, and yesterday added shredded carrots for a little more color.  You can cut back on the crushed red pepper flakes if you don't like it too spicy.

Also, the rice is served in my new piece of Fiestaware.  I love the color and the pattern on the side of the bowl.  Very pretty!

Good luck!  I hope you try it the next time you're craving take-out!

Stay Warm,

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Perfect Year -- Planning for 2010

I spent many years as a Vice President of Sales for an investment company.  I enjoyed my job, but always struggled with the business planning process as I was starting a new year.  This probably stemmed from being a "right-brained" person in a "left-brained" profession.  At the beginning of 2005 I decided to employ a "business coach" with whom I would meet once a month or so and plan my work.  I was traveling every week and feeling very scattered.  Prior to this time, I always turned in my annual business plan on time, but typically didn't look at it again.  It just wasn't a useful document for me.  My coach, Ray, had me start doing something called "The Perfect Year," and all of a sudden, things started happening in my business.  I made more money than I could have every dreamed of making, I surpassed sales goals and gained new clients.  I became a believer in having a coach.

As time went on, my business was going swimmingly, but my personal life not so much.   I was divorced in 2004 and since that time had focused almost solely on my career.  Things had to change.  The next meeting with Ray, I discussed this frustration, and we decided to start focusing on not only my business, but also my life.  My perfect year became less about business and more about me and the way I wanted my life to look.  Yes, I still had my money goals, but now I also had other things to focus on.  It allowed me to daydream about possibilities, then put them on paper.  I didn't really share them with anyone but Ray, but somehow even sharing with just one person made them more achievable.

The Perfect Year is easy to do.  Just make a list with 25 things that you would like to achieve in the coming year.  It can be professional or personal, but just make the list.  Be specific.  Not just "exercise more," but "exercise 3xs/week".  Some of my past entries over the year have included vacations I wanted to take, amount of money I wanted to make, things I wanted to do.  For example, when I moved into my new loft I wanted to entertain at least once every other month.  As my personal life got more frustrating, I wanted to find someone to share my life with.

Things have turned about pretty great, and are only getting better.  As I reviewed my Perfect Year for 2009 last week, I was amazed at how many things I accomplished, especially considering I hadn't looked at the list since November of 2008!

  • Got married
  • Got pregnant
  • Completed the Master Gardener class through the extension service
  • Played in two golf leagues
  • Threw a huge party for family & friends over the 4th of July
And the list goes on....

For 2010, here are a few of my items
  • Safe delivery of my child
  • Lose the baby weight, plus 5 lbs
  • More outdoor exercise with dog & baby
  • Learn to knit
  • Learn more about blogging
  • Cook at least 3xs per week
  • Less TV and more music or radio
  • Keep sewing and learning new things
And there are many more.  So far, my New Year is off to a great start.  I spent the morning sewing and this is one of the little projects I made--a wine gift bag for a nice bottle of Jordan--we're going to a party tonight!  I must give credit where credit is due--this project was inspired by this post by a fellow blogger:

Give it a shot, and you just might have your Perfect Year!

All the Best to you and yours!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County
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