Done: Autumn biscornu

I have just finished my autumn biscornu and now it is resting in its place, on my coffee table.

This one is a lot larger than the previous one I made, which is perfect because I have plenty of stuff to put on it or stick into it. The pattern is by Barbara Ana and can be found here. Here’s a warning, though: if you hate backstitching, this is not for you. As you can see in my second photo there is plenty of backstitched lettering and other little details that drive some cross stitchers crazy, such as the little black outlines to distinguish the squirrels’ teeth.

And now I’m going to cast on the Baa-ble Hat, because my knitting club is doing this as a KAL and I think it will be fun to do some color knitting for a change of pace. Also, I’m finally going to use the pompom maker for the first time. I bought it a year ago. It’s about time I got around to using it, right?


Boston Baked Beans



Knitting and crochet have slowed down quite a lot so Tuesday this week will also be “off topic.” I’m not in a slump or anything. I’ve been working a lot of hours. I’ll have nothing for WIP Wednesday. I might have something done for FO Friday if I get settled in with some cross stitch.

I usually share a recipe when I can’t discuss my crafting progress, so I decided, why not share my Boston Baked Beans recipe? I think this could be useful to some people, but especially my fellow bloggers who are uncertain about what exactly “American food” is. My English learners never fail to answer “hamburger” if I ask them to tell me an example of an American dish. After I say, “that’s not exactly a dish, it’s a sandwich,” well, nothing else crosses the learners’ minds. I’ve even been asked if we only eat hamburgers and hot dogs every day. I guess that person never saw an American TV show or a Hollywood film!

In Spain, people’s ignorance about America is completely understandable. My homeland seems to be only interested in selling Coke products as well as McDonald’s and Burger King to the entire world, helping the population to become generally unhealthier every day.

So, if you are unfamiliar with the USA and have no idea what American food is, you are just like an American, who also has no idea what constitutes American food! We Americans certainly seem to know, or act like we know, what it is, but the truth is it’s a hodgepodge of dishes from all around the world that often get hybridized or transformed, mixing together things native to the American continent with other ingredients from elsewhere. Take, for example, General Tso’s Chicken. We Americans more often consider this dish to be Chinese, but it was invented in the USA and as far as I know, you won’t find it in China anywhere. It’s American, but then again, it isn’t. It’s a mixture.

And, with all that said, why not pick a dish from New England, the region I am from in the northeastern United States? Nothing exemplifies the hybrid nature of American food more than these Boston Baked Beans. Some people say they are from Boston because of two ingredients: molasses and salt pork. Molasses, however, came to Boston from the Caribbean via trade ships, so maybe there were people cooking them this way in the islands and it traveled to America from there. The cooking method – baking – was learned from Native Americans. BBC Good Food actually published a version that is not at all even near to being what I consider to be Boston Baked Beans, but that’s OK. Make the dish any way you want.

Like most folk recipes, this dish does not require a lot of skill and the amounts can be altered to adapt it to your individual preferences. It adapts well to any old cooking method: Slow cooker, pressure cooker, oven. You don’t even have to bake them.

The Recipe


1 package, usually 1 lb. or 15 oz, of navy beans (Br. Eng. “haricot beans,” Southern US English “pea beans”), soaked overnight or use the fast-soaking method (weight of beans given before soaking)

1 Tblsp. Worcestershire sauce (or more, if you want!)

1/4 cup molasses (or more, for sweeter beans)

1 Tblsp. prepared mustard (or dried mustard, if you wish)

1 onion, chopped

8 oz salt pork or a few slices of smoked bacon

Enough water to cover the beans in your cooking pot of choice


Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Dump all the ingredients into the pot. When you add water, just have the water go about 1 inch above the surface of the beans. You can check by placing a wooden spoon upright into the water, dipping it in until it touches the surface of the beans.

If you wish to bake them: Place them in a preheated 350 F oven and bake them, covered, for about 3 hours. It will be necessary to check on them to stir them and add more water if they dry out.

If you wish to slow cook them, set the slow cooker to high and cook for 8 hours. Again, you will need to check on them periodically to see if they need more water.

If you’re using a pressure cooker, cook the beans on high pressure for 50 minutes. Wait for the pressure to slowly go down instead of using a fast method of reducing pressure.

When your beans are done, add salt to taste. I do not recommend cooking them with any added salt. They may never get tender. The salt pork may be enough flavor enhancement, anyway.

Troubleshooting your beans:

  1. Are your beans too watery? This most often happens with the pressure cooker method. Easy solution: put them in a pot on the stove, bring them to a gentle boil, and then simmer them until the excess water evaporates and they are at the desired consistency. In fact, this is why I use a stove top pressure cooker to make mine. If they have too much water, I just cook them uncovered until the liquid is reduced.
  2. Are your beans still not done? You’ll have to cook them some more! Sometimes dried beans take longer than usual because of a variety of factors, including the age of the beans.

How to serve your Boston Baked Beans

This can be a side dish or the main course. That’s how we eat them in Maine!

Popular meats to serve with them: sausages or hot dogs, a steak, a hamburger.

Breakfast (or “breakfast for dinner”): With hot buttered toast, fried eggs and potatoes, a blueberry muffin.

As a main course: By all means, try making some Boston Brown Bread and eat it with your beans. That’s what we do in Maine, as well. When they’re served this way, some people prefer to eat them with a spoon instead of a fork.

Popular garnishes: I, like a lot of people, add ketchup to my beans along with some pickle relish.

Baked Bean Trivia

The wonderful city of Boston has the nickname “Beantown” because it was believed that this dish comes from there and because people who live in Boston and Maine, as well as other parts of New England, eat this dish regularly. Some of us make them from scratch as my recipe teaches you to do. Others of us eat them from cans. Some of us do both. When I lived in the US, like a good Mainer, I always had some cans of baked beans in my cupboard, just in case I needed them.

Sadly, baked beans come from absolutely nowhere and everywhere, so the Boston thing is partially a myth. It is true that the Boston style is present in this recipe: salt pork and molasses make these the “Beantown” variety, but it seems that cooking them in a sauce similar to this one has been done in many different places. As a matter of fact, in eastern Canada and Northern Maine, some people prefer to use maple syrup instead of the Boston-style molasses ingredient.

As far as the baking goes, that method was no doubt invented by the Penobscot Native Americans in Maine. In Maine we have a cooking method especially for baked beans called “bean hole” cooking, where the pot is buried in the ground with hot coals. Not a lot of people cook their beans this way anymore, but sometimes you can still see it happen, especially at cookouts.

Black and white and color photo challenge, 2

Yet again I missed off topic Monday by just minutes! Technically, here in Spain, it’s Tuesday, but it’s really still Monday back in the USA.

Today I’ve got a photo of the Kancamagus highway which I took from my sister’s convertible way back in 2010. The highway in question is famous to hiking enthusiasts, like my sister and me, who love spending the summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire climbing mountain after mountain any time it’s possible.  It’s really amazing to drive through the White Mountains National Park in a convertible.

Unforeseen three-day weekend!

On Friday my only class for that day was canceled so I got a surprise three-day weekend. I turned it into a cross stitching marathon.

First, I got all my DMC and Anchor floss wound up on bobbins. It’s so much better now to have it all wound up and ready for use. I sure have bought a lot of threads in the past few months!

When I got my thread organized I started getting some new projects set up. I collected all my colors I needed for yet another Joan Elliott design, which is called “Dragon of the Mountain.” It is one of three Chinese dragons in her book Magical Cross Stitch. The other two, which I plan on making in the future, are “Dragon of the Sea” and “Dragon of the Clouds.” I am especially excited to start this one soon, – although I still haven’t actually begun stitching – because it calls for Kreinik metallic threads. When I want to get going on it, though, it’ll be all prepped to just take it out of its tote bag and start making little X’s on the fabric I cut for it.

I also got stitching on my “Autumn Biscornu” and I am having so much fun with it I can’t stop working on it. Here’s my progress so far:

Photo Nov 26, 18 47 58

It doesn’t look like much right now because the backstitching is what makes this design truly special and makes the leaves look like leaves. Also, I love using multi-colored thread. It makes the project so much easier to stitch up.

And so it’s back to work on Monday!

First biscornu for FO Friday

I finished my first biscornu! This one is going to be a gift. I really like this design.


It’s so much fun to make a biscornu that I didn’t even notice that I was sewing by hand. Weird, right? Well, biscornu is French for awkward, so, there’s that. Now I hate sewing by hand, unless it’s a biscornu!

In case you want to make this, the pattern is free, offered by the Cross Stitch Guild. I did not follow the directions for sewing because I didn’t like how the seams looked in the photographs on that web site. Instead, I backstitched a square and sewed into the backstitches. This tutorial shows you how to do that.

The other side of my biscornu has different colored beads and a different color for the backstitching. I also changed the cross stitch border. I got this idea from the photos where the pattern is featured. These little details make it more interesting to look at.


I think it would also be easy to change the colors of the pinwheels.

In the future I’m going to make more biscornus following this pattern. I know lots of crafty people who would appreciate getting one of these.

The story of the nonexistent floss

As I mentioned last week, I am a new biscornu fiend. I even bought a pattern, Barbara Ana’s “Autumn Biscornu”. When I read it, I discovered that I didn’t have any of the embroidery floss colors it calls for. I also noticed something I had never seen before: it requires DMC and Anchor floss. The Anchor colors are actually variegated. Another biscornu pattern I have also calls for some DMC multi-colors.

Last Friday I went to the city center in search of my thread. I couldn’t go to my usual shop because they only have DMC and I needed Anchor. So, I just went to the next best store. The shop assistant searched for the Anchor thread and she didn’t have the numbers. She didn’t have the DMC multis I needed, either. No problem. I tried another shop.

And this is where the story gets really ugly. The shopkeeper, a very rude woman, told me, “These Anchor colors don’t exist. You copied the numbers wrong.” So, I got out my cell phone and searched for them on the Internet. I showed her the pictures of the colors I wanted. She insanely raised her voice and said, “That’s just things on the internet. It isn’t real.” I asked her if she thought I was an idiot and left the shop in a huff. I won’t ever go in that store again.

At home, I did some research. Luckily, there is a person who runs an Etsy shop`out of California and who also blogs. I found her article comparing the Anchor and DMC multi-colored threads. Using photos, she demonstrates that they are mostly very different from each other, although there are some possibilities for substitution. This is why Barbara Ana mixed DMCs with Anchors! Also, I was very pleased to see that the floss I needed actually exists! My local retailers don’t happen to carry the colors in question because they are less commonly used and are newer.

So, as usual, jolly old England came to my rescue. I found a specialized shop and ordered my colors. They arrived today! And no, I’m not imagining things. These colors really exist! I’m no idiot, either, and I can copy numbers from a pattern onto a piece of paper quite well, thank you very much.


Of course, I ordered a spare skein of three of them, just in case!

I’ve felt tempted to bring these to the nasty shop lady to show her that these colors exist, but I don’t think she’s worth it.

So, if anyone wants to take up cross stitching, be aware that local shops sometimes don’t carry everything you might need. Also, Anchor and DMC multis aren’t usually similar enough to substitute.