Monday, March 28, 2011

Peanuts to Butter Lickety Split

Today I made my own peanut butter and there's no turning back. 

When I visit my aunt, I crave everything with a dallop of peanut butter because she makes all her own peanut butter.  On my last visit, I asked her how hard it was to make.  The answer, not hard at all.  So she gave me her "recipe" in a few sentences and I stored it away in my brain.

Last week I visited my local warehouse store to stock up on stuff for the kids lunches etc...  I remembered her recipe and dropped a 56oz tub of Planter's salted peanuts into my cart.  Today, I had a craving for apples with "Jeannie's homemade peanut butter," so I got out the food processor (just your basic inexpensive run-of-the-mill type), dumped in enough peanuts to cover the blade and gave them a whirl.

First, they got chopped up, then they turned powdery, next, they started to stick together.  Soon a big ball was formed... I kept going.  The ball smoothed out and got softer and after a few more minutes, I had peanut butter.  Yup!  In like 5 minutes.  Crazy, tasty - YUM.  I eat as little sugar as I can so I don't like my peanut butter to have any added sugar.  The natural stuff in the grocery is quite pricey.  But this, this is the stuff of gooey peanutbuttery goodness.

Now, for my next peanut butter attempt, I'd like to duplicate the peanut butter and banana stuffed french toast that my son ordered when we were out for breakfast yesterday - but hmmm.... can I enjoy that without syrup?

Here are the photos of the peanut butter.  It was just enough to fit in a little plastic container.  I'd rather store it in glass -so I'll have to save a glass jar just for my peanut butter ventures.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I'm Knitting - well at least I'm LEARNING to Knit...

I learned to knit about 20 years ago.  I made ONE vest.  It had buttons, cables, the works.  It even looked and fit pretty well.  I learned at a class at the (no longer in existence) Yarn Shop in College Park, Maryland where I held my first job as a teenager.  Then, I went out on my own and promptly forgot everything I knew about knitting.  In those years I've looked longingly at knitting projects but felt too inept to get going again.

Then, this spring, I decided to take a knitting class at our local adult school.  It's great!  The very first class the teacher, Fayne - who has been knitting for 60 years - cast on some stitches for me so I could get right to the knit stitch.  I chose an easy project for my first knitting venture.

In the past 2 weeks I have learned to cast on two ways, to knit, to purl and to bind off.  I've also learned stockinette stitch, rib stitch, garter stitch, seed stitch and moss stitch.  I chose a Lion Brand afghan pattern.

I'm using Inspiration yarn that I got at Michael's.  It's a worsted weight acrylic yarn.  I didn't want to feel guilty about not knitting well with really good and expensive yarn so I went with something inexpensive and basic.  I've chosen to use three colors in my afghan as the pattern calls for.  The pattern also calls for doing squares in 3 different patterns.  One patter per color.  I've decided to use 6 different patterns, 2 patterns per color of yarn.  I've divided the square chart to reflect that.

I have decided to use my turquoise color yarn to do garter stitch for 10 blocks and another stitch for 7 blocks - I haven't chosen that yet.  I'm using the bright sienna color for seed stitch and another undetermined stitch and the grey yarn will be done in both moss stitch and rib stitch.  So far, I've made mistakes in every square.  Ah well, I've decided to use the less than perfect blocks so that this afghan will show my knitting progress as I hopefully improve.  Here is the stitch plan.

I am open to suggestions for the other two stitch patterns.  The pattern needs to make a 9 inch block, the cast on needs to be between 32 and 37 stitches and I'd like a pattern that looks the same on both sides.

Here are some of my very less than perfect blocks and stitches.  I'll post improvements and additional blocks and patterns as I go.

Got any good knitting tips for beginners?  I'm taking all expert advice!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Meeting a Fabric Artist

While visiting Louisville, I met a woman who quilts.  I told her I was a quilter.  Then she showed me her website.  WOW!  She is an artist who works in fabric as far as I'm concerned.  I was amazed.  Visit her website and enjoy the art quilts of Marti Plager.

Batik Fabric Shopping KY style

I have quilt shops I love in my area.  One is only 10 minutes away and the other is in the city.  They are quaint and small and friendly.  But in KY, quilt shops are HUGE.  I couldn't believe the selection!  I visited 2 shops while I was there.  One was in a non-descript small little mall and I might have walked right past it - but I'm glad I stepped in.  The other was a further drive and was having a fat quarter sale on thousands of fat quarters at $1.50 each!!!  Too bad I wasn't in town for that one.  I did manage to purchase some fabric for my applique sampler quilt and I had great fun doing it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Potholders from PA to KY

When I realized I would be in Kentucky for my aunt's 66th birthday, I knew I had to make something awesome and fun.  I was inspired by the color palette in the crochet blog, Attic24.

So, I stitched up some double sided pot holders.  So that they were usable, I wanted them doubly thick.  This also gave me a chance to make 2 designs.  One is square and the other is round but they coordinate in color and pattern on both sides.  One side is granny.

Both sides are rainbow colored.

They are stitched together in a simple crocheted edging.

Since I had made my mom a few double sided potholders as a late Christmas gift, I knew her sister had to have some too!  Maybe if my mom reads my blog and calls for some technical assistance, she can post some photos of the pot holders I made for her (I forgot to photo them before I packaged them up and mailed them to her).

Fortunately, all of my checked luggage made it safely to KY and I was able to give my aunt the crocheted pot holders (also useful as table trivets) on her exact birthday.  I think she liked them.

Kentucky Crafting

During my week in Kentucky, I spent most of my free time (and there wasn't much free time since my wonderful hosts had me scheduled to the hilt!) sewing block 1 and starting block 2 for my applique sampler quilt.

Here is how that worked:

And here is a look at Block 1 all done.  I feel I did pretty well.  Even with bi-focal contacts, the small stitches required for applique are a big challenge for my eyes so I spent a lot of time taking on and off my contacts and putting on a headlamp for extra light and magnifier glasses for extra sight!

It wasn't too hard to stay focused on sewing as I was surrounded by wonderful family handicrafts all over the house!  Here is some of my inspiration in the Kentucky home where I stayed:

This Crazy Quilt - a project on my long craft to do list!

These needlepoint pillows made by my grandmother with a color scheme true to the time they were stitched.

And this wonderful, heavy, huge, wool stripey crocheted blanket that I ACTUALLY MADE many years ago when I was in college.  I think I made 4 crocheted blankets that year while working 2 jobs and taking a full load of credits.  I don't know how I found the time.  I also didn't remember that the blanket was so big and heavy.  I just stitched random combinations of patterns, probably to keep my mind off all of the English and Journalism papers I was supposed to be writing that semester.  Anyway, I loved using it while I was visiting.

Second Hand Sublime

I don't know WHAT the connection is between crafty people and a passion for second hand stores, but I certainly have both of those attributes.  In my area, Wednesday is half price day at my favorite second hand stores.  I have a love for vintage hand crafted items, 100% wool sweaters for felting, cool hand made pottery pieces and other odds and ends.  Here are some of my recent finds:

Sweet needlepoint butterfly pillow

I noticed in some of the blogs that I follow, that OTHER crafters have this same second hand weakness.  If I'd been at their thrift stores, I'm sure I would have found their great bargains really hard to pass up.  Check out this groovy crocheted afghan that Betz White came up with and take a look at these awesome vintage melmac dishes.

Block 1 and 2 Cutting, Traveling, Completing

Over a week ago, I completed ALL of the cutting for Blocks 1 and 2 of my Applique Sampler Quilt.  I was ready to leave for a trip to Louisville, KY and I need to work on the blocks while I was there.  In our Week 2 class, we learned how to applique inside points and curves.  I practiced using a pink tulip head on a white background and I did okay.

We also learned how to use a HERA MARKER and some sandpaper to make bias strips to use for the long stems.  We learned how to stitch bias strips as well but my sewing machine lives in a closet, unfortunately so I opted for the hand made bias strips.  I also learned WHY bias strips are called bias strips and how when fabric is cut on an angle not on the grain, it's stretchy.  I know that's very basic but I never had much sewing instruction in my younger days.

I packaged Block 1 and 2 supplies in little baggies, labeled them and tucked them into my carry on bag - no way was I going to trust all this cutting to the checked baggage!

And off I went to the airport for my plane ride!
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