Birthday Mittens

Yay! I gave one of the gifts I had made so I can share it now! I had been wanting to make mittens for a while when I found this pretty little pattern.

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I really like the basketweave on the cuff.

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Happy Birthday MGC!

On an unrelated note I had made these two little hats for a teeny tiny newborn. The patterns were written for a premie but I thought the finished product was a little big. I figure the baby can grow into them if nothing else.

SONY DSCI added a crochet flower to the green hat. However, my favorite is the one with the hearts.

SONY DSCEverything else has to wait for Christmas so in the meantime. . . .

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Mystery Solved

I have never done a knit or crochet-a-long before. But when one of my favorite designers announced a MYSTERY crochet-a-long I couldn’t resist! Also, I have been so caught up in my new knitting skills I was kind of excited to take on a crochet project. This mystery was called Archer and the link to his Ravelry page can be found here.

So for those who don’t know, in a mystery crochet-a-long (CAL) new clues are released each week and the final clue helps you complete the finished project. In this case we crocheted different strangely shaped pieces for an animal without any idea what they would be when we sewed them together. I wasn’t super organized about getting the pieces done each week, but I made sure to have them all finished by the time the final clue came out.

SONY DSCToday I sewed all the pieces together and met my new puppy friend Archer!

SONY DSCI changed his eyes a little from the pattern because the black eyes didn’t show up against the purple. I made circles of seven half-double-crochets out of white and then added the black safety eyes. I used a smaller sized safety eye because the black part was really just serving as the pupil now instead of the eye itself. Wow, that was a lot of thought I put into those eyes!

SONY DSCI love his little tail, too!

SONY DSCJust for fun I got a picture of him checking out the Christmas tree.

Cutty wasn’t too sure about him and all I could capture was this very blurry picture of Cutty pushing him off the couch.

SONY DSCI know I haven’t been posting a lot but so many of my projects are Christmas presents and I just really can’t show pictures of them until later. It’s funny to look back on the posts last year because I was making dozens and dozens of cookies but this year I am not sure I am going to make any! I have moved on to my new favorite hobby of knitting. Now I have to go listen to my last video lecture of the semester. I can’t believe I am finished with my first sememster of grad school. Apparently I still remember how to be a student! Wish me luck on my final!

Cats Need Scarves Too

I am finally going to show you the scarf from our Europe trip! I actually finished it a while ago but was sans camera for a while. It’s a little too warm for it now, but I will love wearing it in the fall and remembering where it has been!

At first Cutty didn’t know what to think about it.

But I kept snapping pictures and he really got into it.

I finally had to put the camera down and untangle him from the knot he had turned the scarf into.

I think he was trying to tell me that cats need scarves, too.

(Pattern is Richmond Infinity Lace Scarf found here on Etsy)

Baby J’s Bubbly Blanket

I think the day after I found out my bestie was going to become a mom I went to the store and bought yarn for this project. We were a long way from finding out if it was a girl or boy, so I needed something versatile. I had been thinking about the pattern for this Blackberry Salad blanket for a while and this seemed like the perfect time to cast on for it.

The pattern is super easy, but still interesting because of the texture and colors. I had so much fun making it!

I used Vanna’s Choice Baby yarn from Lion’s Brand. I have been getting more and more into natural fibers from my LYS, but on this occasion I wanted something that would be durable and easily washable. So, by the way AO,  if you are reading this I forgot to tell you that you can totally throw this sucker in the wash the first time Baby J spits up on it (and every time after that, too). There is no point in making something too fragile for an infant.

I know it isn’t a super smooth wrap you up kind of blanket, but I thought the texture would be fun for Baby J as she grew up and started exploring things.

Oh, I love how bright and fun the colors are! I spent a really long time rearranging the skeins before I got started trying to decide on an order for the colors.

I also like the back of the blanket, the stripes are so neat and orderly.

I thought about doing a border on it, maybe in pink once we found out she was a girl. But in the end this blanket seemed to be just fine the way it was.

Cutty couldn’t resist getting in on the photo shoot.  He can’t wait to meet Baby J either.

I took these photos at the same time as the ones for my next post. Just wait until you see how involved Cutty was with that item. He just has to be the center of attention!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Cutty must have stepped on something, because two days ago we noticed swelling on his right paw. I took him to the vet yesterday and they told me it was an infection. He had to be sedated so they could clean it out and properly dress it. He hates the bandange, but he was nice enough to pose for a photo.

He’s been a real trooper, although with his injury he thinks he must be held AT ALL TIMES!!!!! But this just made for some wonderful cuddle time with him, as both hubby and myself have been battling a nasty virus this week. I am starting to feel better, but hubby went to bed at 7:30 tonight. In any case, Cutty wanted to stop by to tell you all to take time to smell the flowers and remember those you love this Valentine.

Of course this picture was after we had cleaned up the mess he made when he knocked the whole vase of flowers over and spilled water everywhere. . . oh well! Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Smashing Strawberry Muffins

Disclaimer: These are not super sweet muffins. I have been eating healthier muffins for the last two years so I forget that sometimes. I just wanted to warn you. However, if you are looking for something high in fiber, low in calories and super easy for breakfast this could be the right thing. (They still have a sweetness to them and if you wanted to add more sugar you could. Or better yet, add some Splenda or Truvia for some calorie-free sweetness)

I have been making whole wheat muffins for years using recipes from Eating Well. I love them because I make a batch and then freeze them. Each morning it takes only 30-45 seconds in the microwave and I have a hot breakfast! They are each only about 200 calories and full of fiber so I stay pretty full.

This morning I didn’t really have the ingredients for any of my recipes. So I experimented with what I had. The two main ingredients I wanted to work with were frozen strawberries (no sugar added) and unprocessed wheat bran.

I didn’t want to wait for the strawberries to thaw, and since I planned on mashing some with a fork, I thought it would be OK to defrost them in the microwave. Again, it was an experiment so I just thought I would go with it. In the meantime I mixed the other ingredients from what I remembered of other recipes. The proportions always seem to be slightly different with each recipe, so I figure the most important thing was to get the ingredients right and worry about the amounts I used later. If you want to play around with proportions it will not hurt my feelings in the slightest. I mixed the wet ingredients in one bowl; two eggs, 3/4 cups sugar and 1/4 c canola oil. In a larger bowl I mixed 1 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp baking soda, plus 1/2 cup of the wheat bran. Here is where I use a little trick.

Powdered buttermilk. You can find it in the baking aisle. I really only use buttermilk for muffins so it doesn’t make sense to buy it fresh. Plus, once opened and refrigerated it has a very long shelf life. All you have to do when you are ready to use it is add water. I have learned from experience that the best time to add the powder is at this point into the process. Add the powder itself to the dry ingredients and the amount of water required to the wet ingredients (the back of the container will tell you what to add to get the correct volume). I found that if I tried to mix the powder and water up on its own and then add it to the other ingredients, the buttermilk just looks like lumpy water. Much better to add the separate parts to their respective bowls.

Now, what to do with the strawberries. I used a strainer to separate the strawberry pieces from the liquid, and there was a lot of liquid. I hated to waste all of that fluid and I thought it might add a little extra flavor to the muffins. I took 1/4 cup of the left over strawberry liquid and then 1/4 of the strawberry pieces (which were already very mushy) and smashed them up with a fork (This is where I came up with the name smashing strawberry muffins. I think up silly things like this in my head when I am alone. Sorry.)

When there didn’t seem to be any big pieces of strawberry left I added it to my bowl of wet ingredients and wisked them all together. I then poured the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon I gently combined everything. It is important when making muffins not to over mix the batter. When all of the ingredients were combined I added the rest of the strawberry pieces. I had tried to squeeze a little extra fluid from the remaining strawberries since the batter is pretty moist. Gently mix those pieces in. Then scoop into a muffin tin sprayed with cooking spray ( I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup). Once each tin was full I used what was left over to even them out. The cups were quite full.

I baked them for 12 minutes first, then added 5 minutes and then 3 minutes. So after 20 minutes the tops of the muffins bounced back when touched and I took them out to let them cool.  After a few minutes I took a muffin out to try. Sorry, I ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

You can tell they have a lot of whole wheat in them, but they have a nice gentle strawberry flavor and every once in a while you get a bite with a piece of strawberry in it.  Plus, they are pretty large so I think it will make me feel like I am eating more. I calculated that they have about 190 calories a piece, so right on track with the other muffins.  To freeze them you have to individually wrap each muffin, either in plastic wrap or ziploc sandwich bags. In the morning take them out of the plastic and wrap in a paper towel. About 45 seconds in the microwave will do the trick.

Here is an easier to read copy of the recipe:

  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1 c buttermilk (or 4tbsp buttermilk powder + 1 c water)
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c wheat bran
  • 15 oz frozen strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Defrost strawberries in microwave. Prepare muffin tins with cooking spray. In a bowl whisk sugar, eggs, canola oil and buttermilk (or water). In a separate bowl whisk whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda, and wheat bran. Strain strawberries and reserve 1/4 c of fluid. Mash 1/4 cup of strawberries with a fork and mix with reserved fluid. Add mixture to wet ingredients. Add all of wet ingredients to dry and combine gently with a spoon. When combined, add remaining strawberry pieces (pat strawberries first with paper towel to remove excess fluid) and stir to combine. Scoop into muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or until tops of muffins spring back when gently touched. Let cool a few minutes before removing from tins.

I think there is still room to play with this recipe. I might use 1 egg instead of two, or add more whole wheat flour. I might use brown sugar instead of granulated. If you try anything different please let me know what works!

And finally, here is a gratuitous picture of Cutty. He sat in the kitchen the whole time I was baking and meowed at me, as if to say please stop playing with the camera and food and come play with me!

Confession of a Dog Person (aka I got a new camera and made a discovery)

I got a new camera for Christmas! Actually I got money to go toward the new camera. For a month I had read reviews and asked opinions, gone to the store to hold them and then debated for hours about what camera to buy. (I could write a whole post on that process) Finally I decided on a Sony Alpha NEX-3. Totally different from what I thought I would get, but once I had made up my mind I could not wait to get my hands on it. If only I had know that the day after the camera arrived on my doorstep Amazon would drop the price by 70 dollars. . . Still, I had put so much thought into this purchase I was happy with it even for the amount I paid.

Anyways, for the past few days I have been playing with my camera. Besides the beautiful flowers on my kitchen table. . .

my favorite subject has been-you guessed it – Cutty!  With my old point and shoot I could rarely capture a photo of him that wasn’t a completely blurry mess. Unless of course he was asleep.

That picture was taken with my old camera and you can see the glare from the flash, gross. I mean I have had this new camera for all of three days and I am a total lighting expert now (and chocolate chip cookies have no calories and I am going to win the lottery). More importantly Pioneer Woman has taught me all about apertures and ISO and shutter speeds.  Armed with a hazy idea of what all those words mean, I have played around with the manual settings on my camera and realized I can now do this:

Even when he would try to move away or dash under the bed, I could usually produce a useable picture! He does seem to feel the need to move as soon as a camera is pointed in his direction. Most often he walks right up to the camera and sniffs it. He has no grasp of the concept of posing for a picture.

Here comes the confession.I LOVE THIS CAT. As I was looking through the pictures I discovered I could no longer keep this a secret. You don’t understand, I grew up with dogs! I was going to get a Yorkie when I grew up. I used to tell people I hated cats. Now, I actually like almost every cat I meet (there will always be a few exceptions).

Look at that face! What’s not to love? I just want to pinch his little cheeks. He would probably let me because he is oddly tolerant of some of the weird things I do to him. He is actually oddly like a dog in many ways. He meets us at the door when we come home, he plays fetch and sits on command. He loves nothing better than to sit in our laps.  But I don’t think it is just his dog qualities that make me a newly converted cat person. I know this because every once in a while he does something that is just so. . .well, cat. And I still love him.

As soon as the box hit the floor he had climbed into it. I would still get a dog if I could (Hubby has allergies), but in the meantime the cat and I will be cuddling on the couch if you need us. I’ll just call myself an equal opportunity pet owner.

Kitten Pile

Our two foster kittens go back to the shelter tomorrow. They will have their surgeries and then be ready to be adopted into their forever homes! Whoever gets these two little guys will be super lucky. These two have more than enough personality and curiosity to be really entertaining, but they both also love to cuddle and purr on your lap.

Tonight I walked into the bedroom to find them in a kitten pile. Of course now that it is time to go, they all seem to be getting along perfectly. They never seemed to have too much trouble, but now they are all BFF’s.

I think Cutty will be happy to have his Mommy and Daddy all to himself again, but I think there will be a large part of him that misses his little buddies.

On that note, if anyone out there is going to be giving a kitten or puppy (or dog or cat) as a Christmas present. . . . GO TO YOUR LOCAL SHELTER! They have so many animals who are dying to be part of your forever family 🙂

O Christmas Tree

Last week I put up a beautiful tree.  The tree has had a rough week. It started with the little guys noticing the things close to the ground. They pulled a little bit of the strand of lights off and batted it around. We put the lights back on the tree and tried to distract them with other shiny objects.

Then they noticed all the red and gold ornaments we had so kindly placed on the tree for their enjoyment (at least that is how I hear it in my head, “oh look mom and dad put some toys on here for us”)

Next they discovered if they batted the ornament off the tree it made a really fun toy to play with on the ground.

For some reason hubby and I thought that when an ornament was hit off the tree we should replace it up a little higher. Then the kittens realized they could climb the tree. This kitten was above my head when I took the picture.

I have an after picture (didn’t think to take a before). You can see all of the ornaments above waist level, although we have since discovered it makes not one bit of difference.

 It’s hard to see, but the gold bead garland my sister so carefully placed in concentric circles around the tree is now a jumbled mess. The whole tree is kind of a mess. But then I turn the tree lights on and the room lights off and the glow is still wonderfully festive.

Finally, when the kittens are done climbing in the tree and have worn themselves out they settle into a kitten pile of purring in one of our laps and it really doesn’t matter that the tree isn’t perfect any more.

 

To Boldly Go. . .

We have been fostering kittens from the Lexington Humane Society since last May. That is actually how we got Cutty. He was the 13th cat we had at our house this summer, he was also the sickest. We had to treat him for everything from worms to pink eye and ear mites. He had more antibiotics in the first few weeks than I think I have had in the last 10 years. Now he is a happy and healthy 4 month old. We probably should have quit while we were ahead.

There is just such a feeling of satisfaction from helping a poor defenseless creature (and fostering animals relieves the financial burden on humane societies). They have also shown that animals that are fostered get adopted more quickly because they have been properly socialized. So. . .we just had a hard time giving that up. Part of our reason for jumping back in so soon was because we didn’t want Cutty to be too big and old and set in his ways. We want him to be used to little balls of fur showing up every once in a while at his house.

Ok, I know you really just want the pictures. Here they come.

Meet Data and Riker. My adorable sister has been dying for us to name some of our fosters after Star Trek characters. These were the names Brandon and I could agree on (we tossed around names from the original series, but eventually landed on The Next Generation). They fit perfectly, too. These are some of the boldest kittens we have ever had! They have no fear and will go just about any where. Usually it takes a day or two for the new arrivals to get adjusted. Not these two. They are little explorers.

This is Riker. He is the bigger of the two and more short-haired. He is a big fan of climbing and I keep finding him in places where Cutty has never even thought to venture. Some of the places I just have to stare at because I really cannot figure out how he got up there. Even though he is the bigger of the two, he is still about 1/3 the size of Cutty. Having these two here has really made us realize what a big guy Cutty has become.

Data was harder to get a picture of. Although you cannot tell in this picture, his lips are kind of white colored which matches perfect with all the white makeup they put on Brent Spinner from Star Trek (ask me how I know the actor’s name, ask me if I have ever seen him in person, ask me if my sister dragged me to a Star Trek convention) Today Cutty has seemed more interested in tackling Data. Yesterday it was Riker. Cutty is fickle when it comes to which kitten to attack.

This is what the floors of our apartment have looked like since the kittens’ arrival. Just in case you couldn’t tell, there is a toilet paper roll, 5 balls of aluminum foil, a wind up mouse, a wad of paper, a stuffed toy (with stuffing coming out) and Cutty’s favorite teaser. Cutty would be happy pouncing on the kittens all day. Unfortunately he sometimes forgets his own strength and so we cannot leave them all together unsupervised. He thinks we are the greatest parents for bringing him two living toys to play with. Until the two little guys settle in my lap to sleep. Then he gets jealous and tries to eat them. This is the face he gives me.

His royal highness has needed lots of TLC lately. I’m kind of glad he is requiring extra loving. I was kind of worried he would get so mad at us for bringing in some intruders that he would ignore us. But, instead he just wants us to keep telling him that he is still our favorite.