Monday, August 20, 2012

Yummy Chicken Chili Soup

It's been hot out here in Southern California lately.  High 90's and low 100's.  Not what we are used to in the Orange County area.  I much prefer low 80's/ high 70's.  When it gets hot the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven.  But for some reason everything I want to make involves using the oven.  We've been grilling a ton and I've been utilizing our crock pots.  Yesterday I wanted to throw something in the crock pot and thought about chili.  Here is what I came up with. Yummy Chicken Chili Soup.  I took a couple of recipes that I've used in the past and combined elements from both and added a couple of my own.  It turned out quite yummy.

2 chicken breasts
Can Italian stewed tomatoes (puree in blender)
Can of corn (drained)
Can of Chili pinto beans (rinsed)
Can of black beans (rinsed)
½ onion or 1 small onion chopped
2 tsps on chopped garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
3 cups chicken broth

Add cilantro, sour cream and cheese to taste

This is an easy crockpot recipe.  Put the onion and garlic in the bottom of your crockpot.  Add the pureed tomato, corn, pinto beans, and black beans.  (I know that by rinsing the chili flavored pinto beans you will lose some of the chili flavor-this is not a problem because we are seasoning the soup separately and because the beans have absorbed a lot of the flavor.)  Stir.  Add the S & P (go easy on salt).  Add the cumin and oregano.  Stir.  Add the chicken broth.  I used chicken bullion and water.    Stir again and add the chicken breasts to the top.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.   An hour before you are going to eat take the chicken breasts out of the pot and shred it or cut into chunks and replace back into the pot. 

Serve with cilantro, cheese and sour cream.  This is really yummy.  Enjoy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I-Cord Tutorial

I've used I-Cords for the ties for finishing baby bibs, for the stem in flowers, for bracelets and a lot of other projects.  This is a easy and fast technique.

You’ll need:

Two double pointed needles 
Tapestry needle

The size needle you choose will dictate how big your I-Cord will be.  For a smaller cord-like the type used on a baby bib or for a bookmark I use a size 2.

Start by casting on 3 stitches.  

 You want the working yarn to be on the left (opposite of where you would have it to begin knitting).  Slide the stitches over to the right side of the needle. 

Begin knitting all the stitches by bringing the yarn around the back and over to the first stitch on the right.  Slide the stitches back to the right side of the needle and tug on the bottom of the cord to bring the stitches together snugly.  Begin again. Knit all the stitches. Continue working the stitches-bringing the yarn from the left to the right in the back to work the stitches until you’ve reached the length of I-cord you want.

 When you’ve reached the length of I-cord you want, bind off.   Cut the yarn leaving a tail.  Attach the tapestry needle to the end and thread the needle into the center of the cord.  Go down about an inch and bring the needle back out.  Tug on the yarn to tighten and bunch up the i-cord.  Then cut the yarn close to the outside of the i-cord.  And tug the i-cord back.  

 The yarn end disappears inside the i-cord.  Do the same thing on the other end. 

I attached an I-Cord to this crocheted flower.   It's for a bookmark for a library yarn bombing project. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Getty Mansion

The Paul J Getty Museum is a beautiful place in Southern California.  You have to pay for parking, admission is free and how often is something worth while really free?  It’s an amazing example of modern architectural genius (I learned that from the architectural tour).  If you live in Southern California you’ve probably visited the Getty.  If you haven’t it’s time to take a day and see what you’ve been missing.  Planning a visit?  If you aren't coming with young children add the Getty to your list of places to visit.  (Young children on vacation aren't going to enjoy the museum unless they are already museum fans.)  Stick to Disneyland, Aquarium of the Pacific, Lego Land and the other attractions available for young children.

In addition to the Getty off the 405 freeways, there is the Getty Mansion off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.  This mansion was built in the 1960’s and patterned after ancient Roman architecture.  It houses the roman and ancient antiquities collections. 

You turn off of the PCH onto a long driveway that winds itself up the hillside.  There are garden lined walkways with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  It is a beautiful location.  Every direction you turn you are presented with something beautiful.

 Every statute has an unexpected detail that astounds me.  To see the creativity and the artistic talent of people that resulted in these marvels is a privilege.  These works of art have survived centuries and we have been given the opportunity to see them in person.  I particularly like the wings on the feet of this statute.

The walkways have tile inlays brought over from ancient Rome.  I love the flower in the center of this tile square.  There is a peaceful quality to spending time outside looking at the gardens.  This hallway is outside and runs along the main outdoor garden area.  There are statutes every few feet nestled in greenery.  

After you've wandered around the Mansion and the gardens, spend some time in the gift shop.  This is also where you'll find a small cafe.  Right outside the gift shop is a fountain/pond with flowers floating among the lily pads.  This is the perfect backdrop for a photo.  We recently visited the Mansion with some friends.  The Mansion opens at 10 am (my kind of place-as I am not a morning person).  We arrived about an hour early and sat on the beach chatting and knitting while we waited for the Mansion to open.  Go visit if you haven't had the chance.  You won't regret it.  (Make sure to get tickets in advance-reservations go quickly).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Socks and the Kitchener Stitch Demystified

 In an earlier post I talked about trying my hand at a pair of socks.  I’ve finally finished the second sock.  (Yes, I am a procrastinator.)   When I made the first sock I inadvertently changed the pattern during the toe decreases.  The first sock does not look nearly as nice as the second sock.  You can see below how one sock has a definite point (see the picture showing both socks).  Both socks have a pointy toe when not worn.  That will teach me to pay attention to my pattern and that as much as I hate having to rip out-sometimes it is the best plan.  I am going to leave the first sock alone.  No going back to fix my rather obvious mistake.  It will serve as a good reminder of what I've learned.  

The Kitchener stitch, sometimes called grafting, is how this pattern and many others close the toe of a sock.  I’ve also used the Kitchener stitch when seaming together a shoulder for a sweater.   This stitch scares a lot of people.  They think it’s confusing and complicated.  It’s really not that bad.  There are a lot of great educational videos and blogs out there to explain how to complete a Kitchener stitch.  Try one or a few of them to help you get over your “mental block”.  Nothing is stopping you from accomplishing anything in this world except yourself.

The basic instructions are not difficult to understand.  You need an equal number of live stitches on two needles-held together.  Have the live yarn on the back right side with a tapestry needle attached.  You have to prepare the first set of stitches by taking the tapestry needle and going through the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl then going through the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit.  (Make sure the yarn does not add an extra loop on the front needle.)

Now you are ready to begin.  Using the tapestry needle go through the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit and slip that stitch off the needle.  Then take the tapestry needle through the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl.  Next go through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl and slip the stitch off.  Then go through the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit.  Continue following this pattern until all of the stitches have been worked.  (Needle one-as if to knit, slip off, next stitch as if to purl.  Needle two- as if to purl, slip stitch off, next stitch as if to knit).  Weave in the end and you are done.

If you are unable to understand the process by reading an explanation and following written instructions try using a video tutorial.  I like The Knit Witch’s on YouTube.   If you’ve tried written instructions and videos and still find yourself unable to use the Kitchener I suggest taking a look at a blog called Techknitting.  This blog has wonderful instructions for just about anything knitting related.  Techknitting has come up with an alternative method of the Kitchener stitch using knitting needles rather than a tapestry needle. 

Try something that you’ve been challenged with before and let go of any fears or mental blocks.  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Inspiration-Where do you find yours?

I love looking through knitting books, blogs, and websites and of course ravelry.  I find a lot of inspiration when looking at what other people have created.  Sometimes I am content to follow a pattern precisely as it was intended and written.  Sometimes I make changes inadvertently-I don’t call these mistakes.  I call them personal design implements. And sometimes I make changes because I can and envision something different.

I began a knit along with my friend Laura during July.  We choose the Honey cowl by Madeline Tosh.  This is a great pattern for a beginning knitter and an easy quick knit for everyone.  The first one I choose to follow the pattern almost exactly.  I neglected to knit the border row at the beginning so I also skipped it at the end.  It turned out quite nicely.

I’ve started another cowl based loosely on the Honey Cowl pattern.  This time I decided to do a chain pattern.  I follow the Honey Cowl pattern for one round of the pattern with three stockinette rows in between.  The result is a chain pattern.  See it in progress:

I’m looking forward to seeing how this project turns out.  In the meantime I’m still working on the second anklet sock.   What is it about the second one that makes me go so slow?  It’s the same with the second sleeve.  The second one always takes twice as long as the first one. 

I’m looking for my next project.  A sweater that is southern California weather friendly.  A friend recently gave me a copy of the book Costal Knits by Alana Dakos and Hannah Fettig.  It’s a wonderful collaborative book of patterns written by two knitters on the west and east coast of the US.  I’ve really enjoyed reading about the different perspectives these two designers have brought into their patterns. 

And because one of the authors is a California girl I think I will choose a sweater from their collection.  I really like the Wildflower Cardigan.   I recommend you take a look through Costal Knits and see if you find inspiration.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Elf Catch Up & Socks

I've talked before about the test knitting group on Ravelry and how it can benefit both knitters and designers.  I really like the concept.  Before you decide to join and test knit a project you need to make sure that you will have plenty of time to get that project completed.  It's another job.  You give your word to finish on time and the designer is counting on you.  I overloaded myself last December.  I thought that I had a good plan and would have plenty of time to finish my Christmas knitting and still finish a couple of test projects.  (I also used those test projects for presents- two birds one stone).  I did not count on having stress related injuries.  Turns out if you knit every spare minute in a day for weeks on end, your arms and fingers get really tired and my hand said enough already I quit.

There are some really terrific exercises that you can do to ease the tension in your fingers, hands and wrists.  Those combined with a day or two off enabled me to complete my projects.  One of those projects was a test knit, called the Elfish Sweater.  I don't believe that the pattern has been published yet, or if it has it's name has changed.  But here is the link to my project:  It's an Elfish Sweater because the sweater had bright colored stripes and a pointed hood.  I choose to skip the hood in my sweater (just not my thing) and used different colors for my stripes.  It's a great pattern.  It's finished with a zipper.
Here is the close to completed Sweater.  I haven't done the collar or zipper band or sewn in the ends-but you can get the idea.

It's such a rush to finish a project.  I love binding off that last stitch and seeing all my hard work completed.  I give myself a few minutes and then I start to feel the loss of not having a new project on the needles and begin my search for the next thing.  It doesn't matter that I usually have 3-4 things on the needles at any given time.  Or that I have a pile of yarn, needles and patterns ready to get started.  Sometimes I look through those piles and choose one to start-other times I get on Ravelry or start digging through my books to find the next thing "I have to start NOW:.

This week I've finished a couple of projects-including my first pair of anklet socks.  I've done a few pairs of socks in the last year, although I've always felted them.  So this is really the first pair of regular socks.  I've got one done and the other is currently on the heel flap.  That's what really sucks about socks-you finish one and then you've got to start the next one.  I feel that way about sleeves too.  I finish one and still have to do another one.  It's that mid-way point of a project, that plateau,  it can be disheartening.

I choose the "An Anklet a Day" pattern from Jessica Marks  I choose this pattern because it looked straight forward and because I had a skein of yarn with 191 yards which meant that most sock patterns were out for this yarn.  It's a nice variegated Shi Bui yarn.  I'm not a big fan of the toe finishing.  It's a bit too pointed.  If I make these again, I'll still do the Kitchener toe-but I'll do a full 20 stitches for a regular flat front for the toe section.  See my first sock below:
I'm working the socks on a set of size 2 double pointed needles.  It's a fast pattern.  You can finish a sock in a day.  I'm finishing the second sock today while watching the Olympics.  Right now-the Women's Marathon is on and those girls are almost done.  A couple of miles to go.  It's the toughest part of a marathon.  Those last couple of miles.  It hurts.  You are so close to finishing and just want to be done.  The elation doesn't hit until you've crossed that line and collapsed on the other side while drinking a lot of water.

I love watching the Olympics and seeing what the Human Spirit can do.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Knitting Again and Olympic Knitting

It's been quite some time since I've written.  We've been busy with a move, work and life in general.  Mike and I have moved back to sunny Southern California.  Moving can be a huge thing for a lot of people.  Causing a lot of stress.  I don't find it stressful until it's over.  I like to dig in and just get it done.  I prefer to do the packing myself, without help from Mike or others.  I know how to pack and I want to know where things are and in what box they are placed.  Then when we arrive I know where my things are.  I can get the kitchen unpacked first.  Then the bedroom and bathrooms.  I don't have to spend hours opening boxes searching for things because I have a solid system that has worked for numerous moves.  

In preparing for our move, I put my knitting to the side; except for my Bindi T-shirt project.  I was determined to get this project going.  I cast on for the back of the shirt first and was able to get most of it completed before we arrived in Cali.  After unpacking, I picked it up again and worked on it fairly slowly.  Its a basic stockinette stitch project-so even a beginning knitter can tackle this one.  I put it aside several times in the last couple of months as I finished a few other projects.  (Expect to see a few entries in the next few days so I can catch you up on all the knitting.)  The t-shirt is done except for finishing work.  It's blocked and drying as I type this.

One of the great benefits of living in Southern California is having the opportunity to see family and friends from other states more often.  Disneyland is so close to us, we get to see the numerous nieces and nephews when they go see the Mouse.   My brother and Sister in law are expecting their fourth child later this month.  I wanted to give the new baby something knitted since she will be the first born since I've begun knitting.  I'm sure the last thing a new parent needs is a hand knit object that has to be hand washed.  So I decided to go with a washable cotton and whip up a bunch of colorful bibs.  I chose to use the I-Love-Stockinette-bib by Laura Treadway (pattern found on Ravelry).  

These bibs knit up so fast.  I was able to finish 4 bibs in just 2 days.  And I didn't spend 48 hours knitting.  Just evening knitting while watching a Leverage marathon on tv.  I really enjoy that show.  Good story line.  Robin hood themes-bad guys turn good to help people who need help that Police can't or haven't helped.  Stockinette is great for watching tv or movies-Your fingers just fly without having to look and see what you're doing.  This pattern is so easy that after one you've got it memorized and can whip the others out so effortlessly.  It was also my first attempt at I-cords.  Thank you You-Tube for hosting videos to remind or teach new stitches or techniques.

Check out how cute these bibs turned out:
Here are a couple more:

I love this pattern.  It's going to be my new go-to gift for all expectant parents.  They are light weight.  Easy and fast.  And washable.  Who wouldn't love that?  If I had more time before the parents to be for the fourth time arrived I would have added a pattern or name to the front.  I strongly recommend this pattern for any baby presents you'd like to give.