Thursday, October 31, 2013

Harvest Shawlette and Other Easy Autumn Crafts ~

It's always important to learn new techniques and knit things that challenge you but sometimes it's also nice to just knit something familiar, easy and stress free.  And that's the inspiration for this Harvest Shawlette that I'm wearing which is my pattern for a single skein simple shawlette.  I can hardly claim much originality as it's more a compilation of my favorite shawl techniques learned from years of knitting shawls along with a bit of my own originality thrown in.  Nonetheless I have written the pattern out and provided a free pattern pdf download for those interested.

The pendulum does swing.  Recently I've knit a number of long skinny scarfs that are all the rage along with color block, stripes and modular shaped shawls, but I was feeling more in a traditional mood given that this is a time of year when one thinks of home and hearth.  So this shawl is a triangle shape as they have been knit through the ages.

And before I forget!!!  I really really love the yarn I used for this project and I have to thank Andi a fun blogger, prolific knitter, and great source for inspiration who writes the blog mysistersknitter because it was she who turned me on to Spinning Fates an indy yarn seller.  The yarn I used is called solar flare and has fun flecks of metallic threads that twinkle in the light adding a festive feel and although this colorway has a distinctly Halloween feel I think it can be worn through Thanksgiving.  That is if you don't mind being slightly off on your seasons, which I don't, and given my proclivity to wear Gothic style shawls can hardly be surprising.

Particulars: Harvest Shawlette free pattern download; 1 Skein Aurora (440 yrds) by Spinning Fates (colorway Solar Flare); US 5 circular needles.  This is an extremely simple pattern and is well suited to strongly variegated yarn but might also look nice with a solid color and contrasting border.  It is a true "shawlette" so please consider the finished size 46" x 16" (post blocking - merino wool will not hold a block well - and if you use a yarn that does hold a block it will result in a slightly larger version) when deciding whether 1 skein will be large enough or if you need to use two skeins and make a larger version.

Simple Autumn Craft

I always enjoy crafting at this time of year and it's an added bonus to create something that you can actually use.  This year I decided to do away with those annoying half used coffee bean packages.  My crafty solution was a mere $2.50 investment in a photographer's print (2.5" x 3.5") and an empty glass jar.  I simply glued the print on and sealed the surface using modge podge and was delighted with the result  And I was feeling very crafty and frugal until my Flickr buddy Michelle (who takes wonderful scenic photographs) pointed out that I could have used one of my own prints for a mere .41 cents.  Oh well!  I still would have chosen this cute Halloween witch that I purchased on Etsy from ElaineCoxArt!

Fun with Photography ~

Everyone has a camera these days and if you are looking for ideas to practice your photography look no further than your own back yard.  It takes patience but it's very relaxing to sit and watch for birds and with a little luck they will come and sit still long enough for you to take their picture.  This is a warbler which is a very common bird where I live in the Santa Monica Mountains.  There are some UCLA Professors who periodically come to my neighborhood to record the Warbler's song with the hope of learning their language. I told them that if the birds are saying anything unflattering about me to keep it to themselves.  

Until next time, be well and love well and remember this holiday season that it is the simple things such as sharing meals with family and friends that make this time of year so special.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wild Wild West Gauntlets and Cowboy Baked Beans

It's hard to believe it's that time again.  Fall weather and the change in seasons are being felt even here in Southern California where some think there were no changes to the seasons.  But there are changes and the longer I've lived here the more apparent they are.  It's not just that the stores are selling corduroy pants and foil wrapped chocolates shaped like leaves.  It's the tinge of coolness in the mornings, the emergence of rust colored flora, and the golden cast to the light in the evenings.  I treasure these small changes.  Until it gets down right cold in another month or so at which point I start wondering why exactly it was that I wanted cooler weather.  

Over the years I'e found that gauntlets are one of my most used fall/winter accessory and every year I knit several pairs.  The gauntlets I am wearing today I call my Wild Wild West Gauntlets because they are inspired by my love the outdoors and the America west.  And since I was particularly pleased with this design I have written up the pattern which I've made into a free download (link below).  I hope you will enjoy making them and wearing them as much as I have.

Particulars: pattern by Claudia Bugh available as a free pdf download  Wild Wild West Gauntlets; 2 skeins Organik worsted yarn by The Fiber Company (approximately 200 yrds); US 8 circular needles and DPN.

Cowboy Baked Beans Recipe ~

Cowboys practically lived off cooked beans while on the trail.  I know this to be a fact based on my extensive reading of western romance novels.  Ahem.  Intrigued by the notion I have often attempted to make bean soup or baked beans but I've been disappointed with the recipes I've tried.  So I tossed aside my recipes and came up with this way to cook them and I was very happy with the result.  I liked the soft texture and rich flavor and hope you enjoy them cooked this way too. Incidentally, while we try and eat healthfully all the time this is probably one of the healthier recipes I've shared on the blog.


1 1/2 Cups dried Anasazi Beans (found in organic section of grocery story or health food stores)
32 Ounces Chicken Stock
1 diced fresh tomato
1 diced sweet yellow onion
2 Tbs Olive Oil
Kosher sea salt to taste


1.  Wash and sort Anasazi beans.  Not only is this variety of bean very flavorful, it requires no advance pre-soaking.  Place beans into a large stock pot and cover with water and boil for approximately 1 hour or follow package instructions for cooking beans.

2.  Drain beans from water and remove any excess water with a tea towel.  Set cooked beans aside while you perform step 3.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute onion in olive oil until slightly caramelized.  In a separate deep pot (oven safe with a lid and preferably cast-iron) combine cooked beans along with the diced tomato and the chicken stock (I use slightly less than a full 32 ounce container of chicken stock).  You want the chicken stock to cover the beans and tomato mixture by approximately 1 inch.  This should be enough moisture to keep the beans moist and still allow the beans to develop a thick sauce as they bake in the oven.  Lastly stir in the sauteed onion and cover pot.

4.  Bake for approximately 2.5 hours and salt to taste.  The beans should be soft at this point and the chicken stock cooked down until level with the beans.

And here's my little buckaroo.  He enjoys these beans too and ate a pot while standing on his hind legs as they were cooling on the counter just the other evening.  I hope his time spent in his crate reflecting on his actions will prevent this from reoccurring.

Until next time, be well and love well and may these days of fall be filled with color, texture and anticipation of the holidays to come.