October 19, 2011

busy knitting

Some of you may remember my first knit project:  The Gobi Cowl.  I really enjoyed learning with it, but I definitely would not recommend it for a beginner knitter.  I spent a lot of time fumbling my way through the pattern and frogging it over and over (which is what knitters say when they “rip it” out or start over).  I have to laugh when I look at how many new techniques I was trying to learn at once with this pattern.  It was my first time reading a knitting pattern; my first lace project; my first time using a cable needle; my first time using new knitting techniques: yo, ssk, k2tog, k3tog; and my first time sewing buttons.

So if you are thinking about giving this pattern a try, here are a few things that I found helpful when working through it:

  • Since this is a lace pattern it uses many yarn overs which put holes in the fabric and open it up to make it look more like lace.  As easy as a yarn over is to make, it also complicates the work on your needles and if you make a mistake, it is very difficult to tink (or “knit” backwards) to fix your mistake.  One thing that helped me was to put a life-line or scrap piece of yarn in every few rows, so if you make a mistake, you could drop down to the life-line instead of having to frog the entire piece.  It saved my life a bunch of times.
  • Also do the gauge swatch!  I didn’t and am learning that it is important to get the proper final measurements, plus it is good practice for a new pattern.
  • And finally, wash and block it.  This is a really important step, especially for lace projects.


After the cowl, I attempted mittens.  This was my first time knitting in the round and using dpns (double pointed needles).  I found it a little difficult and I sort of felt like Edward Scissorhands because all the needles were poking me and it took me some time to get used to how to grip the needles properly.  I managed to knit one mitten and didn’t realize until I tried another knit project in the round, that I knit the entire mitten inside out.  Whoops!  I just thought that was how it was supposed to be.

I have yet to knit the other mitten, but here are some tips if you are going to attempt knitting with dpns for the first time:

  • Face the open end toward you so that the middle needle is farthest away from you.
  • Make sure that the first stitch casted on is on the left side and the last stitch casted on is on the right side.
  • Make sure your work is not twisted and the bump side is facing the inside of your work.
  • Insert the needle knit wise into the non-bump side of the stitch and knit to join.


My most recent project was a basket-weave baby blanket.  It has a simple seed stitch border and alternating knit/purl blocks to create a checkerboard look.  I would definitely recommend this pattern to a beginner.  I still made mistakes, but it was much easier to correct them with this pattern.  (I even left a few mistakes in there to give it character ;))  I would do a couple things differently if I were to knit this again.  I would have liked it to be about 5 inches wider.  I would also make the seed stitch border wider too.  Other than that, I like how it came out!

If you are interested in learning how to knit, check out how I learned.  I would also encourage you to make an account on Ravelry – which is like a “Facebook” for knitters and crocheters.  And don’t forget to send me a friend invite; my Ravelry username is “Memoryln”.  I would love to see what you are working on!

I hope some of my tips help you!  Happy knitting!

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August 2, 2011

on the move

So that brings us to the July 4th weekend which is one of my most favorite holidays now because that is when I married my husband.  We are going on 3 years now!  This year we decided to stay local and go to Washington, DC to see fireworks.  It was a spectacular show – one of the best I have ever seen! We had incredible seats right between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  I didn’t think we were that close, but during the show we had pieces of charred cardboard that were about the size of my fist falling all around us and, by the end, we were covered in ash.

After a fun weekend celebrating with my husband, I started to get ready for our newest adventure.  I had about 2 weeks to pack up our entire apartment.  You never realize how much stuff… ah-hem “junk”… you have until you have to physically pack it and move it.  Our move to MD was a piece of cake for us because a moving company came in and did everything for us.  It was great, but we also came with a lot of unneeded things.  This time I had more time to separate out things we haven’t used in years.  So the past couple of weeks I have been packing, packing, and more packing and wouldn’t you know it, we picked the hottest day of the year to move.  We were so blessed to have amazing friends come out and help us move in the midst of the ridiculous heat.  We were overwhelmed with joy and gratefulness as we could not have done it without them.

So with our apartment in storage, we were off to Boston, MA!  We are going to be hotel living for the next 6 months.  We have been here about a week now and so far it’s been good.  We are staying in a suite, so we have a small kitchen and living room.  They serve breakfast every morning and dinner Monday through Thursday.  We don’t have a pool, but we have a fitness center and an outdoor basketball hoop.  The area is really nice, filled with shopping and dining, and paths for walking or biking.  We will miss our friends, but we are super excited to explore a new city and be closer to family!

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July 14, 2011

freezing in san francisco

After a fun weekend in MA, I was off to Rehoboth Beach, DE for my first ever girl-only roommate reunion.  There was pizza, gelato, beach fun, seafood, smoothies, shopping, and much needed girl time.  If that was not enough traveling, the following weekend, my husband and I were on a plane to San Francisco, CA.  I told you we were busy!  Here is a quick summary of our trip to CA:

  • San Francisco is cold and windy.  YES, COLD AND WINDY!  And super foggy.  I was not expecting that at all.
  • San Francisco has very steep hills.  Stretching is a must before going for a walk.

    

  • In-N-Out Burger is just as good as I remembered it.
  • The Pacific Coast is absolutely gorgeous and so colorful.  Words and pictures could never relay its majestic beauty, but I tried with these:

    

  • Sunsets are gorgeous and a must see.  Shells are hard to come by on the beach, but I found 2 perfect sand dollars!
  • If you are going to CA and like gelato, stop at a Gelateria Naia.  They are only located in CA now, but it is pretty amazing so hopefully it will work its way to the east coast.  Cinnamon is my favorite flavor so far.
  • As an added bonus, we were able to meet up with family who served as excellent tour guides.  We got to go to beautiful overlooks and local restaurants.  We also got a private tour of the Letterman Digital Arts Center and free wine tasting in Napa (Thanks N!).  While in Napa we also indulged in sweet pastry treats and fresh baked bread from the Bouchon Bakery.  We finished our visit by seeing some sea lions and with fresh and delicious peach pie, baked by my cousin (Thanks J!).

We still have so much to see out there, so I am sure we will be back one day.  As for now, I am happily enjoying the 90’s this week in MD.

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July 6, 2011

extra-terrestrial car cat

After a few days of shoving my face full of scones, we were back in MD packing up for a trip to MA.  Since we knew we had other trips in the coming weeks, we decided to drop our sweet Laney off with her grammy and grampy in NJ.  It is always an adventure with her in the car for 4 hours.  Just the sound of her crate being taken out of the closet puts her in a state of panic, so we don’t use it for long trips.  With or without the crate, she is a nervous wreck and always makes the most unusual sounds.  You know the noise ET makes when he is scared and running away from the people?  Yeah, her cries are way worse than that!  After about 5 minutes of un-cat-like sounds, she begins her semi-normal cat meows and panting.  I can usually get her to relax by brushing her, giving her treats, or by throwing a blanket over her while she is sitting on my lap.  Despite all my efforts to calm her down, she always wants to see what is going on, even if she doesn’t like what she sees.  Her favorite spot to sit isn’t the nice comfy back seat we’ve prepared for her; it is balancing on the center console, on which she barely fits.  Despite her initial nervousness, occasional panting, and meow spurts, she has done a great job and has become quite the car cat.

While in MA we got to meet the newest member of our family, Bowie!  We can’t wait to see how much bigger he is when we see him next.

Here are some pictures of the 7 week old Bullmastiff, Bowie:

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July 5, 2011

buttery yummy goodness

So I left off in mid-April.  All of a sudden every weekend was booked up, starting with going to NJ for Easter and then traveling for 30th birthday celebrations.  Of course there was baking involved – beautiful and delicious vanilla-bean pastry-filled fruit-topped cupcakes, black and white brownie cupcakes, and it wouldn’t be a party without chocolate eclair cake.

That brings us to Memorial Day in Spring Lake, NJ.  Going to the beach is one of my most favorite things to do.  Isn’t it weird how time seems to stop when you are sitting on the sand watching the waves crash into the coast?  I become mesmerized by the beauty and sounds and don’t have a care in the world.  Those that know me well know that I am not a morning person at all, but I always get up to see the sun rise when I go to beach.  This particular weekend it was very foggy, but we were still able to get out and enjoy the eerie mist.

One other thing I love to do at the beach is EAT!  Depending on what beach I go to I always look forward to visiting some of my most favorite spots.  The Jersey Shore has so many must eat places including Kohr Bros Frozen Custard, Johnson’s Popcorn, and Mack & Manco’s pizza.  If you are ever in the Spring Lake area and in the mood for a delicious baked treat, you have to stop at The Scone Pony Bake Shoppe.  Trying a scone (or 2) is a must!  As you can see in the picture below, this is not your typical scone.  It is served fresh and warm, soft on the inside, just the right crisp on the outside… the most perfect buttery yummy goodness you will ever eat.  It’s hard to choose from all of their interesting flavor combinations, so it only makes sense to order a couple different kinds, share, and repeat.  Be warned they are a bit pricey and totally addictive.  I would literally eat them all day if I could afford it.


Pictured from left to right: Lemmon Poppy Scone and Vanilla Bean Scone

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July 2, 2011

not too shabby

Ok.  Anyone else tired of seeing pineapple upside down cake?!?  Haha… I know, I know… Don’t think I haven’t been doing anything lately.  I’ve been very busy with stuff – baking, knitting, birthdays, traveling, packing and yes I want to share all these wonderful things with you.  I have a lot to update you all on so I am going to break it up into 5 or 6 posts; Stay tuned for that!

So let’s start at the very beginning.  I think it’s a very good place to start.  (Sorry.  I couldn’t help myself there.)  For real, I’ll start in April, right after we finished eating pineapple upside down cake.  Well actually right after that, things were really slow around here for a couple weeks.  So my husband and I decided to join a church coed softball league for fun, get some exercise, and meet some new people.  I was a little hesitant to try it out because I hadn’t played softball since I was about 12 years old, but I thought, “How hard could it be?”  It wasn’t until our first practice that I realized how out of shape and practice I really was.  After the first practice my legs were burning SO bad after just “sprinting” around the bases.  (I have the word sprinting in quotes because my husband doesn’t think I was going that fast and he also said I look funny when I run around the bases… But I was sprinting, people, believe you me!)  Ok where was I?… Oh right… Legs burning… yeah pretty much everything was burning.  Anyway, as if it couldn’t get any worse, I get up to bat and couldn’t hit one. single. ball.  Seriously!  Not one!  I felt pretty defeated and embarrassed mainly because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of my husband.  Well, believe it or not, this story actually has a happy ending.  I was picked to be on the “more serious” softball team and started playing in right field, occasionally switching to second base.  I’ve made some great catches and get this… I am hitting the ball now!  I even hit my first ever inside-the-park home run a couple weeks ago…  Not too shabby!  (BTW, we all know that wouldn’t have been a home run if I hadn’t been “sprinting” around the bases, right?  Haha!)  In all seriousness, playing softball turned out to be a great decision.  We met a lot of new people and had a lot of fun!  My husband is also really proud of me and that is a pretty cool feeling.

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April 2, 2011

a sweet for my sweet

My husband has been asking me to bake a pineapple upside down cake for some time now.  I have been putting it off because it didn’t sound very appetizing to me and I had no idea how to make one.  So as a little birthday surprise for him, I decided to give it a try.

I used this recipe:  Pineapple Upside Down Cake from Joy of Baking.

I did do some things differently:

  • I used a square 8×8 glass dish.
  • I lined the dish with 2 pieces of parchment paper and sprayed the paper with vegetable cooking spray.  (I was nervous about the sugar and pineapple sticking to the dish.)
  • I used a 20 oz can of sliced pineapple (in pineapple juice) and I saved the juice from the can.  I forgot to dry off the pieces with a paper towel, but I will definitely do that next time.
  • I substituted half the amount of milk with pineapple juice.  Since I had enough juice left over, I might not use milk next time and just use pineapple juice instead.

I think it was a success!  It actually tasted a lot better than I expected too!  (I am really not a big fan of cooked fruit desserts.)  The pineapple was just right – not too pineappley – and the cake wasn’t too sweet either.  It almost reminded me of a shortcake, but not as dense.  It tasted great warm with a generous serving of fresh whipped cream on the side.  So I think this recipe is a keeper and I will definitely be making it again!

Happy Birthday my sweet!

March 29, 2011

the big 3-0

This week I turn 30 years old.  Thirty years old!  The big 3-0!  Wow, no matter how I put it, it just sounds crazy.  I have actually been preparing myself for a year now, rounding up and telling people that I was thirty years old if they asked, just so this moment wouldn’t sting so bad.  I’m still feeling the zing though.

This is definitely the most reflective birthday of them all for me so far.  I guess I don’t want the number to define who I am or where I am supposed to be in my life and for some reason the number 30 is taunting me.  I just assumed that by 30, I would be established in a career and settled in a home with a growing family.  As a child, 30 years old sounded so mature and far off.  Now at 30 years, I still feel like a kid and my ideal of the number 30 doesn’t quite fit to where I am in my life right now.

A friend drew this picture below for me in 1995 when I was in 8th grade.

The question was:  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?  This was my vision.

16 years later, I have to chuckle at this image.  Not quite on track for 7+ kids… not even really ready for one yet…. and at 14 years old, I thought I knew everything.  HA!

Turning 30 has not been super easy, but it has brought me a new profound understanding and appreciation of life.  I am noticing that I am soaking in so many more memories or snap-shots of my life now.  I also take more time to reflect about my past experiences.  I cherish all the people I have met and the moments we have spent together.  But best of all, I still have so much “unknown life” to look forward to.  Happy Birthday to me!

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March 10, 2011

stitchin’ bitch

Someone asked me the other day how I learned how to knit, crochet, and sew.  I replied by saying that I kind of just taught myself.  The truth is that I blanked out trying to remember who really to give the credit to.  As a teacher, I know there is nothing more rewarding than for someone to recognize and appreciate you for inspiring them and ultimately being the one to teach them how to do something.  So here is the full answer to that question.  Who knows, maybe my teacher will find this post one day, read it, and smile.

I first taught myself how to knit with the book Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller.  This book is excellent and I highly recommend it if you are interested in learning.  She explains everything in great detail and makes knitting cool and enjoyable with her witty and humorous writing style.  So a huge shout out and a big thank you to Debbie Stoller:  You are an awesome teacher and I really enjoyed your book.  I know how to knit because of you!

I recently started watching a TV show on PBS called Knitting Daily.  This program is fun to watch and shows you how much you can do with knitting and crocheting.  I have never really watched anyone knit before I taught myself, so this was very helpful and also a little intimidating.  I would say this program is geared toward intermediate/experienced knitters, but as a beginner I can still understand most of what they are doing and I am learning so much every time I watch it.  Their website is very informative too and you can download free ebook tutorials and free patterns for all levels.  It also has an open forum where you can post questions.  I have used it and there are many people who are very willing to answer your questions and give you great tips to become a better knitter.

After I learned the basics of knitting, I taught myself to crochet with the book 200 Crochet Blocks by Jan Eaton.  I picked the book up because I liked the look of the cover and I loved the colorful and unique designs of the square patterns.  It turns out that in the back of the book there is a section that teaches you the techniques of crocheting.  I used this book to teach me the basics of crocheting in addition to watching YouTube videos posted by a woman named Teresa.  She has her own YouTube channel called the Art of Crochet.  Teresa helped me improve my stitch knowledge with her step-by-step videos.  Thank you Jan and Teresa for teaching me to crochet!  Jan your patterns are absolutely beautiful and truly inspiring.  Teresa I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to make and post videos online and making them available free of charge.  Thank you for sharing your gift and your talent with me.

My most recent endeavor to learn how to sew started when I received my sewing machine as a surprise on my second wedding anniversary.  I had been watching a lot of Martha Stewart and loving some of the sewing projects she was doing.  Also, a couple friends from high school were posting pictures online of projects that they completed, inspiring me to give sewing a try.  Angie Kennedy Juda taught me how to do my first sewing project – a savannah bag.  I also found her on YouTube.  She has her own channel called My Chic ‘N Scratch.  She is first and foremost a Stampin’ Up demonstrator, but I really like her sewing/quilting tutorials.  I made a ton of mistakes and really learned how to use the machine and seam ripper during this project.  Angie does a great job of breaking down each step and I hope to try out some of her other tutorials soon.  Thanks Angie for your great tutorials and guiding me through my first sewing project!

So that is the story of how I became a stitchin’ bitch.  I would highly recommend checking out YouTube and purchasing these books if you are interested in learning.  Just be patient and don’t be scared to make mistakes, and most of all, have fun with it!

March 7, 2011

chicken delights

This is my most favorite, simple, and tasty go-to chicken dinner. I call them chicken delights. They are so easy to make and so delicious. You can fill them with anything your heart desires. These are filled with spinach and feta cheese, but my personal favorite so far is broccoli and cheddar or gruyere cheese.

Recipe for Chicken Delights:

What you need*:

  • 4 thinly sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 cup your choice cheese
  • 1 cup your choice vegetable
  • 1 egg beaten and one tablespoon water to make an egg wash
  • 2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs (I do half seasoned panko/half seasoned regular)
  • salt and pepper
  • spray oil
  • toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Pound chicken to even out the thickness.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with cheese and top with the vegetable*.  Roll chicken and secure with toothpicks.  Put toothpicks on both ends so the filling does not ooze out while cooking.  Dip chicken rolls into the egg wash and cover with breadcrumbs.  Spray a baking sheet with oil and put the chicken rolls on it.  Lightly spray the top of the chicken with oil.  Bake about 25 minutes.

*The ingredient measurements are just estimated amounts.  When I make it, I just eyeball the amount needed, but I tried to give a rough estimate of how much I use.  I hope it helps!

*When I made this with broccoli, I used raw broccoli pieces, but I cut the florets very small.  If you like bigger chunks, you might want to precook the broccoli.  When I made this with spinach, I used thawed chopped spinach.  If I try making this with spinach and feta again I might try this filling to add more flavor.

YUM!  I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

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