"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat? (free crochet pattern)

I've been thrilled that Halloween fell on a Monday this year. That gave me one extra day to get this pattern to you. I needed it. As it is, I believe this one's going to need a revision. It has not been tested unless you count my prototype. I'd normally go for a beanie style, but this one decided not to work up that way. I kinda' like the bucket shape, so I plan to rework it as a beanie and post that later in the season (which means maybe January). So tell me... How are you all spending your Halloween?

Big Girl Hat #1

Supplies needed:

about 4 oz. (180-190 yds.) worsted weight yarn
size I-9 (5.5 mm) crochet hook for main body
size G-6 (4.0 mm) crochet hook for band
yarn needle or smaller size hook for weaving in ends

All instructions use American terminology and standard abbreviations.

Special Stitches:

front post double crochet (fpdc)--yo, insert hook behind post of stitch (from front to back to front), yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through 2 loops, (2 loops on hook), yo, pull through remaining 2 loops

back post double crochet (bpdc)--yo, insert hook around post of stitch (from back to front to back), yo, pull up loop, yo, pull through 2 loops, (2 loops on hook), yo, pull through remaining 2 loops

Construction note:

The term join, as used in this pattern means join with slip stitch in first stitch of round.
You will notice that I don't not instruct you to join at the end of every round. I found it easier to work the body of the pattern in continuous rounds. This prevents having a visible seam up the back of your hat. If you choose to join at each round, begin the next round with a ch1, even when that round begins with a dc, until you're instructed to ch3 when working the band.

Round 1:  using magic ring method, 12 sc in ring, pull ring tight to close gap (12 sc)

Round 2:  2sc in each st around (24 sc)

Round 3:  sc in each st around (24 sc)

Round 4:  [2sc in next st, sc in next st] around (36 sc)

Round 5:  sc in each sc around (36 sc)

Round 6:  [2sc in next st, sc in next 2 sts] around (48 sc)

Round 7:  sc in each sc around (48 sc)

Round 8:  [2sc in next st, sc in next 3 sts] around (60 sc)

Round 9:  sc in each sc around (60 sc)

Round 10:  [2sc in next st, sc in next 4 sts] around (72 sc)

Round 11:  sc in each sc around (72 sc)

Round 12:  [2sc in next st, sc in next 5 sts] around (84 sc)

Round 13:  sc in each sc around (84 sc)

Round 14:  in back loop only, sc in each sc around (84 sc)

Round 15:  repeat Round 14

Round 16:  in back loop only [sc in next st, dc in next st] (84 sts)

Round 17:  in back loop only [dc in next st, sc in next st] (84 sts)

Round 18:  repeat Round 16

Round 19:  repeat Round 17

Round 20:  repeat Round 16

Round 21:  in back loop only sc in each st around (84 sts)

Round 22-23:  repeat Round 21

Round 24:  sc in each sc around (84 sts)

Rounds 25-29:  repeat Round 24, join at end of Round 29 (84 sts)

switch to smaller hook

Round 30:  ch3, dc in each st around, join (84 sts)

Round 31:  ch2, [fpdc in next st, bpdc in next st], join (84 sts)

Rounds 32-33:  rep Round 31

finish off, weave in ends

I still hope to find time enough to post the matching mittens in time for Christmas gift-giving, but the way my schedule looks right now, that is pretty unlikely. I hope you all enjoy the scarf and hat as much as I enjoyed making them. As always, if you run into any mistakes in the pattern, please email me or leave a comment and I will fix them. And please, don't share the pattern. I prefer you share the link. For further information on that, see the bottom of the page where I've posted "Da Roolz."

Happy Halloween!

[Added 10/27/12]: If you would like to receive a pdf of this, or any of my other hat patterns at no charge, go here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Curvy Knits

The Barton Cardigan is not included as part of the course, but it is shown as an example

A few weeks ago I told you about a great online course available from Craftsy called Curvy Crochet by Marly Bird. This week I'd like to tell you about it's close cousin, Curvy Knits.

I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to knitting. However, I'm confident enough in my ability that I'm willing to try just about any stitch pattern. I picked out a sweater pattern and bought the yarn for it months ago, but I've been a bit gunshy about starting the project.  Thanks to watching Curvy Knits, I'm feeling much more confident about trying the pattern. NOW I have to find the time.

The best thing about this class is the energy. Marly and the music in the intro are both upbeat, but not obnoxiously so. And the outtakes shown at the end of each class add to the fun. Marly has a genuine honesty as an instructor. She's not afraid to discuss figure problems/issues that we, as full-figured women have.  And she does it in plain English. She doesn't sugar-coat anything in the interest of modesty; she tells it like it is.  She speaks to the camera/student as she might speak to a trusted friend. It's easy to trust her and to enjoy her company as you watch her videos.

How about the technical? Marly keeps the math as simple as possible, but if you miss anything, you can back it up and watch it again. You can also take notes, bookmark wherever you want, and ask questions. I talked about this when I reviewed Curvy Crochet but it's well worth mentioning again:  the Duck Tape dress form is BRILLIANT and worth the price of admission.  It most certainly beats paying a fortune for a professional form and you're making an exact copy of YOU! The course materials are clear and as simple as they can be and can be printed over and over again.

This series is so chock full of great information I couldn't possibly touch on all of it, but I can definitely recommend it in good conscience.

Here's the best part:  By following this link, you can get Curvy Knits at a discount! It normally sells for $49.99, but you can enroll for $29.99 and never have to pay to see it again. Yes, just like buying a DVD, you own it forever.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What Exactly Makes This Chinese? (recipe)

Living in the Boston area after growing up in New Hampshire, I seldom find myself in situations that would be considered culture shock, but the first time I talked about having made this for dinner, there it was. I grew up eating "Chinese pie." My Polish/Russian mother learned how to make it from her Canadian French sister-in-law.

When I referred to this dish as "Chinese pie," I got nothing but blank stares and, "What the hell is 'Chinese pie?'" Then I was informed that this was called "shepherd's pie." Huh. Go figure.

By the way, it's not really shepherd's pie. Shepherd's pie is generally made with leftover ingredients. Click any of the links to take you to Wikipedia where you may find out more.

Anyhow, this is a favorite of mine as the weather turns cold, but I'd eat it all year because I love it.

1 small onion, diced
2 lbs. ground beef
3 cans cream style corn (see ingredients notes below)
enough mashed potatoes to serve 12

Saute onion and ground beef, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, until cooked through. Drain thoroughly.
Layer ingredients (beef, then corn, then potatoes) evenly in a 9 x 13" baking dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes until peaks of potatoes are lightly browned.

A few notes about ingredients:

Don't use the super lean beef, like 97%. This dish needs at least a little fat. I usually prefer about 85%, but have used 90%. (It's better with the 85%.)
Mom always used cream style corn, which is more traditional, but I often go for a mix of cream style and whole kernel. For the pictured example, I used one can of cream style and two cans of whole kernel, but I wished I'd used the opposite.
If you prefer frozen corn, you want to use about 3-4 cups.
Don't cringe. Mom always used instant mashed potatoes. So do I. This dish is terrific made with my garlic mashed potatoes which are made from scratch (yes, that recipe will eventually be posted here on my blog), but it's just not the same.
You may notice that in the photo below you can't see any onion. That's because the kids won't eat it. Instead I substituted about 1/2 tsp of onion powder. They didn't notice and I didn't miss having the real thing.

What to do with the leftovers:

Reheat them in the microwave. This is one of those dishes that's even better the next day. In fact, you could assemble the whole deal, refrigerate it overnight, then heat it in the oven the next day. It will take longer to heat from the fridge, probably about 45minutes.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Giovanni Gonzalez and the Kindle All-Stars

Giovanni Gonzalez, age 5
On August 15, 2011 I saw a tweet from Bernard Schaffer inviting anyone and everyone to submit a short story to his Kindle All-Stars Project. I sent him an email within an hour asking for more information. The next day, I emailed a short story submission to him. I figured, why not? Anyhow, you know the rest. I've told this story before. Today, I want to tell you the part you don't know: the reason I'm working so hard to make the Kindle All-Stars Project a success.

Late in the evening of August 16, I already knew that Bernard wanted my story in the book. He returned it with suggestions for edits and told me to get to work. The following day, he sent out a group email to all parties involved in the project so far. Bernard had decided that putting out an anthology for .99 and trying to divide whatever proceeds between a group of authors would be a logistical nightmare, so he thought the best thing would be to donate the profits to charity. The charity he chose was the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. How could I say no? First of all, none of us was going to make any real money from the project anyway, but my own personal feelings about this particular charity would not have let me object.

Virtually everyone has heard of Caylee Anthony and JonBenet Ramsey. Many of us grew up watching John Walsh on America's Most Wanted and know the story of his son Adam. But the child abduction case that haunts me is a local one. An excellent article regarding this case can be found here, so I'll just give you a quick rundown.

Giovanni Gonzalez as he might look today
Daisy Colon dropped off her son, Giovanni Gonzalez at his father's house in Lynn, MA at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, August 15, 2008 for a weekend visit. When she returned to pick up her son on Sunday evening, Giovanni's father, Ernesto, claimed she had never dropped him off. To this day, the only person who knows for certain where Giovanni is, or even whether he's still alive, is his father. And he's not talking.

So why was this case not on the national news? Because that adorable little toddler, Caylee Anthony disappeared two months prior and the country was too wrapped up in trying to locate her to bother looking for a five year old from a poor neighborhood in a Boston suburb.

It wasn't until I began pulling together information for this post that I realized the exact date. Giovanni Gonzalez was last seen by his mother exactly three years before I saw that tweet that got me involved in this project. Everything happens for a reason, right?

So here I am, nearly two months after seeing that tweet, fully entrenched in a project that has grown bigger than its creator initially intended, hoping for two things:

1.  that eventually Giovanni Gonzalez will be found alive and returned safely to his mother.
2.  that the Kindle All-Stars Project develops into the amazing force for good that I know it can be.

For more information on the Kindle All-Stars Project, its first book, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front, and each of the authors involved, visit our website:  www.KindleAllStars.com. While you're there, please consider making a donation to defray the cost of publication.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Curvy Crochet

Marly Bird herself showing off the Amimono Kimono,
one of the patterns shown in the Curvy Crochet course

Marly Bird and I follow each other on twitter. We don't know each other well, but we chat back and forth every so often. So imagine my surprise when she asked me to review her new Craftsy course. I have to say I was very impressed. It's a well-planned, well-executed tutorial that takes you through the basics (and not so basics) of adapting crocheted sweater patterns to fit YOUR figure.

The worksheets included are extensive but not overwhelming. The course itself is the next best thing to sitting in your local yarn shop with Marly as your teacher. And what better teacher could you possibly have? Marly is friendly, upbeat, and easy to understand. She presents each class in plain English and takes time to give the advanced beginner instruction they need without boring the most advanced of crocheters. She even uses two of her own patterns as examples and shows you how to adapt them so they flatter YOUR figure, not some model.

The BEST part of this course is that Marly shows you what I consider to be one the greatest ideas for anyone working with ANY type of fabric: the Duct Tape Dress Form. (cue the angelic music) It's absolutely brilliant. Her $50 idea will save me huge money and countless hours of frogging and restitching.

Even if you're not a curvy girl, this course is great. Although Marly's aim is to help the BBW adapt any pattern to fit, these principles could easily be applied to smaller sizes.

I loved Curvy Crochet and I think my fellow crochet divas will too.

So you want to purchase the Curvy Crochet online course? At a discount? CLICK THIS LINK and get Curvy Crochet for $29.99 instead of the regular $49.99!

Stay tuned, ladies, because Marly also asked me to review Curvy Knits. (Squeeeeeee!)