"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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

So I Needed a Hand Towel for the Bathroom...

Seriously! That's how this design came to be. I needed one more pattern to round out the "Table and Tub" group from my Blog Collection and I toyed with several ideas: table runners, napkin rings, oven mitts . . . But nothing clicked for me. Then, one day, I found myself using a store-bought kitchen towel as a placemat. I was eating lunch at my desk and didn't want to get food on my laptop, so I draped the towel over it. After the lightbulb turned on over my head, I set to work and threw together a few notes and a quick sketch.

It's taken me about two years to get around to actually working and writing the pattern, but here it is. I finally knuckled down to make this because I realized we only had two hand towels for our bathroom. Of course, I love a pattern with some versatility, so I've included instructions for adding that cute little hanging loop you see on the corner. That's where the hand towel thing figures in. This little guy is just the right size to use for a placemat or as a hand towel. Besides, I like the way it looks in the bathroom hanging from that little loop.

Have fun with this one!

The Blog Collection
Placemat Pattern
by Laurie Laliberte Designs

A simple pattern to protect or accent your table top. Make a full set for yourself or to give as a hostess gift.

Finished Measurements:

approximately 12" x 16"

Supplies Needed:

size I-9 (5.5mm) crochet hook

about 2 oz. worsted weight yarn in Color A
about 1 oz. worsted weight yarn in Color B
smaller hook or yarn needle for weaving in ends

Samples were stitched using 100% cotton Sugar 'n Cream and/or Peaches & Creme worsted weight yarn.

All instructions use American Terminology.

Special Instructions:

BLO -- back loop only
FLO -- front loop only


Notes:  Each row is 39 sts across.

If you are working in two colors, change colors at the beginning of the Rows with the *.

ch 40

Row 1:  sc in 2nd ch from hook, [ch1, sk next ch, sc in next ch] across, turn

Row 2:  ch1 (does not count as 1st st here or in following rows), sc in 1st sc, sc in next ch1 sp, [ch1, sk next sc, sc in next ch1 sp]

Row 3:  ch1, sc in 1st sc, [ch1, sk next sc, sc in next ch1 sp] across, ending w/sc in last sc, turn

Rows 4-10:  repeat Rows 2-3 ending w/a Row 2

*Row 11:  ch1, sc in each sc and ch1 sp across, turn

Row 12:  ch1, sc in BLO of each st across, turn

Row 13:  ch1, sc in FLO of each st across, turn

Row 14:  ch1, sc in BLO of 1st st [dc in BLO of next st, sc in BLO of next st] across, turn

Row 15:  ch1, sc in FLO of 1st st [sc in FLO of next st, dc in FLO of next st] across ending w/sc in each of last 2 sts, turn

Row 16:  rep Row 14

Row 17:  rep Row 15

Row 18:  rep Row 14

Row 19:  ch1, sc in FLO of each st across, turn

Row 20:  ch1, sc in BLO of each st across, turn

Row 21:  rep Row 19

*Row 22:  ch1, sc in 1st st, [ch1, sk next st, sc in next st] across, turn

Row 23:  ch1, sc in 1st sc, [sc in next ch1 sp, ch1, sk next sc] across ending w/sc in each of last 2 sts, turn

Row 24:  ch1, sc in 1st sc, [ch1, sk next sc, sc in next ch1 sp] across ending w/sc in last sc, turn

Rows 25-57:  rep Rows 23-24 ending w/a Row 23

Finishing Round:

sc evenly around working 3sc in each corner
Optional Hanging Loop:

ch 10, sl st in 1st sc of Finishing Round, sl st in each ch back to beg, sl st to close loop at base

finish off, weave in ends
Designer's Note:

Any pattern I design is my intellectual property. Please do not duplicate any of my patterns for any reason especially to sell. Instead, please link to my blog or to the pattern page in one of my shops when referencing one of my patterns.

You are more than welcome to offer finished items made from my patterns for sale. In fact, I encourage it. However, I'd really appreciate it if you gave me credit for the design. Please reference my blog or the pattern page.

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Caffeine and Sugar

I'm not the huge coffee drinker I once was. Before the cause of my chronic fatigue was finally diagnosed, it was no unusual feat for me to consume well over a pot of strong, straight, black coffee every day. Yep, no sugar, no cream, no flavor, just brew and serve. I was so sick, so far gone, that I could barely stay awake for more than a few hours at a time without mass quantities of caffeine.

Anyhow, these days I'm medicated; the fatigue is about as under control as it can be; and I only drink coffee when I honestly want a cup, not need one. While I still generally take my coffee black, no sugar, I'll pretty much drink it any way you hand it to me. Every so often, I get a yen for a gigantic iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. That's when I hit the drive thru and order an extra large, extra, extra. (For those of you not in the know, that's extra cream, extra sugar.) Unfortunately, OKC only has 3 Dunks, and none of them is convenient to my home. To put it in perspective, there were at least six Dunkin' Donuts within walking distance to where I last lived in the Greater Boston area.

I decided to share this recipe with you today because I've received so much positive feedback regarding the chai latte recipe on my main page. It brings a smile to my face every time one of my readers mentions it here or elsewhere on social media. The surprise is that it happens more often than I ever expected it would.

Today, I offer you the coffee concoction I'm most likely to make when I'm in the mood for something more adventurous than black, no sugar. So fire up the coffee maker and follow me . . .

French Vanilla Iced Latte
the cheap and easy way

1 12-cup pot of freshly brewed coffee (about 1 quart)
1 quart unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of your choice)
2 T vanilla extract (not that artificial junk)
1/2 c light agave nectar (or 1 c sugar or measures-like-sugar substitute)

Brew coffee just a bit stronger than you normally would
Add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely
Add milk and vanilla extract, stir to combine
Refrigerate until icy cold
Serve over ice or well chilled

Here's a tip:

Keep an ice cube tray in the freezer filled with coffee. By using coffee ice cubes, you won't dilute your drink.

Happy Caffeinating!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

An Interesting Mashup

Greetings friends and readers! I'm really excited about this week's guest post. Kris Hanson approached me a short while back and asked me to edit his first novel. After reading the first couple of chapters, I knew I couldn't pass it up. Yes, like most firsts, it was a bit rough, but workable, yet the story hooked me right from the beginning.

Immediately, Kris drew me into his world. He was quick to develop characters and set a stage for a grand fantasy adventure. Once we got further into the project, I discovered there was so much more to it. Rather than steal his thunder, I'll let Kris himself tell you more. More about himself, about his process, and about his books.

First thing I want to do is say hello to everyone who is a fan or friend of Laurie's. I am glad I met her, and glad that I had the opportunity to collaborate with her. If anything, I learned so much from her editing that it made me feel like I was back in grade school again. With The Attuning being my first book, I quickly learned form her that I still have to learn about writing. Honestly, my book would not read as well as it does now without her guidance. 

Okay, Laurie-praising aside, I wanted to introduce myself since this is my first book and my first guest appearance on her blog. I am Kristofer M. Hanson (Kris, preferably), and I am a 38-year-old proud father of a teen (never said it was fun, just proud) and have been a happily married husband for 18 years. Up until 2014, I proudly served my nation in the United States Air Force for 18.5 years, being honorably and medically retired as a Wounded Warrior and disabled veteran. I currently reside in Georgia, and my wife and I have swapped roles. She is pursuing her career while I maintain life as a house-husband. Having this new job and being retired this early in my life has given me the opportunity to pursue my passion for writing.

Since I was a kid, I have always wanted to write something fantasy-related. I would spend hours writing and crafting my own Dungeons and Dragons adventures for my friends and me to play. I was never brave enough to try and publish them in any of the various magazines that hosts these, but I would absolutely read and devour anything fantasy-related as I grew up. I joined the Air Force in 1996 and was kept pretty busy as I pursued my career there and fought in numerous conflicts like Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. This whole time I had tried to write, and I kept putting ideas on paper and slowly created the world showcased in The Attuning. The story had been building for so long that when I retired and I sat down to type, it only took me two months to write the book, start to finish. 

The Attuning is the culmination of a world over a decade in the making. I wanted to do something unique, different than what I was used to reading in the typical fantasy genre. While R. A. Salvatore and Robert Jordan are my strongest influences, I wanted to create a world where fantasy and science fiction collide. The Attuning itself is heavy on fantasy, and light on science fiction, but this will change as I continue this first trilogy. I asked myself: What would happen if a fantasy-like culture collided head to head with a space-faring culture? I answered this question with The Attuning, and I plan on finishing the answer through the next two books.

Right now, I have finished the plot for the second book in The Athran Saga, and I am about to plot the third before I start writing the second. Finishing the first book was so fulfilling that I plan on keeping at it. So, my advice for the aspiring writer? Just write. No matter what, grab the keyboard or put pen to paper. Even if you feel it is crap, and you only slogged through a page, you are one page closer to being done. Basically, once you start writing, do not stop until you are done. If you choose to do it, do it every day. Disabilities and health issues aside, I could not ever think of doing another job other than writing. I have a story to tell, and I hope readers enjoy that story.

The Attuning released on August 1st, and I hope people will check it out. If you do, I am running a contest for people who read it. The details are on my Facebook page: Kristofer M. Hanson. In summary, the first three people to read my book and review it (thorough review, whether positive or negative) will receive a free autographed copy from me. With that, I want to say thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope I am able to spark your imagination with the world of Athran. Write on. 

Note: If you don't use Facebook, you can also contact me through GoodReads at Kristofer M. Hanson or through Twitter @TheKMHanson. 

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Keep Promising This One, So Here it Is!

Since I moved to Oklahoma City, almost three years ago, I've lived with so many roommates I can't even remember them all. Anyhow, once or twice, I've been lucky enough to encounter one who can teach me something new in the kitchen. John was one such person. He'd worked in kitchens, as had his wife, Tascha, and they made a hamburger mix to die for.

You see, before I met this duo, I never really put any thought into experimenting with ground beef patties. My burgers were plain, just meat with maybe a sprinkle of salt and pepper during cooking. I dare say, I have become much more adventurous. Unfortunately, the mix of seasonings John used in his burgers was identical to the one he used for chicken and pork. Eventually, the whole house became very tired of his cooking. No matter how good it tasted, we'd gotten to the point that we preferred a plain bologna sandwich over John's everything-tastes-identical cooking.

The recipe I'm sharing with you today came to be out of necessity. My current roommate and I were both craving John's jalapeno burgers, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. (I don't think we'll ever crave that particular blend again.) So I hit the freezer. All we had was one pound of 90/10 ground beef, not enough for leftovers, and far too dry for decent burgers. My solution? Raid the freezer again and punt.

We both enjoyed our dinner so much that I immediately wrote down the recipe so I wouldn't forget it. But then, isn't that the way many of our favorite recipes come to be?

Robin's Jalapeno Burgers

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef

1 lb. pork and bacon breakfast sausage (the kind that comes in a roll, not in links)
1 1/2 med jalapenos, chopped (or substitute about 2t of sriracha)
1/2 med yellow onion, chopped
1 T granulated garlic
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (do not overmix or your burgers will fall apart during cooking)
Form into 8 balls* about 1/4 lb. each, and let rest in refrigerator for about 30 minutes
Place in very hot pan
After about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, flatten into patties* and continue to cook until they've reached desired doneness
Dress as desired

*If you're grilling, form them into patties, not balls and do not flatten during cooking

Happy Cooking!