Expanding the afghan

The WIP activity is pretty slow going this week, although I did finally manage to weave in the ends on my oak colored Alec XL sweater. It’s drying right now (I washed it this morning!). As my sweater dries and slowly transforms into an FO why don’t we have a look at my Tunisian crochet afghan? It’s getting bigger because I had plenty of time to work on it over the weekend.

On the left you can see how big it’s getting. Basically, I’ve finished the entire pattern, which is for a baby blanket. I don’t have any babies to wrap up in this, so I’m continuing to crochet more all around it until it’s big enough for an adult. I’ve decided to alternate different colors round and round until it’s big enough.

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New page dedicated to how-to’s

My WIPs are mostly the same on the knitting and crochet front. The blue lace scarf is longer and so is the Tunisian crochet afghan. My oak-colored Alec XL has half a sleeve done and I’ve advanced on my two pairs of socks, both of which are now on the-leg-of-the-second-sock stage.

This blog, though, is turning into a WIP. If you navigate to the home page for The Yarn Blabber you will see a new button labeled “HOW-TO’S” in which all of the tutorials or instructions for techniques and methods I ever posted can be easily navigated. I spent a great deal of time sifting through all of my blog posts to find all the ones I ever wrote that are “instructive,” in other words, that don’t really offer a pattern but rather a way of doing particular things. As I sifted through my posts I thought about ideas for new categories. In the future I think I’ll do some combing to make a page dedicated to food, another to patterns, and another perhaps to tips and advice. I only see one tutorial, or how-to, overlapping with a patterns category and that would be the tutorial on designing your own cowl, which came with a pattern included in the tutorial to show how all the math and stitch pattern decisions work together. Not a huge mystery, really, but I thought it would be helpful to grasp the concepts.

As I went about reading my four-year history I did notice that I have indeed offered plenty of free patterns to try out. I think a list of those will be my top priority for the near future (next time I have an hour to focus on it).

An octopus for a preemie

octopus

It’s Friday so it’s time to show off finished objects. The knitting club I participate in has decided to get on the octopus amigurumi craze that began in Denmark. Apparently, premature babies are happier when they have a stuffed octopus with them in the incubator. They grab the tentacles instead of grabbing whatever tubes are connected to their little fragile bodies. There is no hard scientific evidence to demonstrate that these cute stuffed toys make any real difference for the tiny babies, but health care workers rave about the benefits and are asking for them. Some hospitals, in fact, have been accumulating a supply of them for future preemies. If doctors and nurses can casually observe a real difference in the babies’ lives then why not do it? Chicken soup may not cure a common cold, but we like it when we’re feeling under the weather. Besides, the explanation about why the octopuses help preemies survive in their incubators is a lot more logical than any explanation about how chicken soup can shorten a common cold. So, check out my octopus amigurumi! It’s pretty happy but somewhat sleepy.

If you would like to crochet an octopus for a preemie, I say go for it! You can actually find a group in your country on Facebook. They’re popping up all over Facebook, actually. There is an official pattern to follow for this cause as well as a list of materials you can use. I followed all of my instructions and warnings in Spanish because I’m crocheting octopuses for my local hospital here in Valladolid, so you can also do the same for your country’s language and location. For more information, just follow this link: https://www.spruttegruppen.dk/danish-octo-project-english/

It took me about four hours to make my octopus, which I think is very little time spent in comparison to the difference it will make in a prematurely born baby’s life, don’t you?

Chicken chili (soup)

This week I have no new WIP photos to share. I am still knitting a blue lace scarf, neon self-striping socks, red cabled socks, and a sweater. Remember my “one pattern repeat a day” commitment to my blue lace scarf? It’s working! Last week I missed a couple of days so I got myself caught up on Thursday. Last Friday I proceeded to knit another two repeats and on Saturday I knitted four pattern repeats. And, to add to the happiness, today I squeezed in my one pattern repeat. This commitment has helped me a lot because I am making fewer mistakes and can knit more repeats in one sitting. I’ll have this scarf done sooner than later, which makes me very satisfied. It’s a cold month so maybe I’ll even get a chance to wear it this year before the warmer days of Spring come around. If not, I can look forward to using it.

Instead of giving you my usual WIP Wednesday I am offering you a recipe Monday. It’s for a chicken soup (or maybe chili?). It has Mexican flavors and I invented it a few weeks ago. I’ve made it about four times now so I think I’m addicted to it and I’m ready to share the recipe. I’ve been eating it for supper quite a lot. My favorite soup, in fact, is chili, but I try to keep my ground beef consumption down to once a week (or never) if I can for health reasons, which means I shouldn’t be eating a bowl of classic chili con carne every other day. I decided to make a healthier version with chicken. I’m not a big fan of chicken, typically I only really like the breast part of this animal, and only when it’s seasoned well, so it was a challenge for me to invent something I would like. Evidently, I was successful, because I have turned myself into an addict to this soup. Below, please find the recipe. After the recipe I’ll talk a little more about different things you can do to it to make it more soup and less chili or more chili and less soup. Also, I’ll provide some ways to hack it to turn it into something else. In the ingredients list I’ve given amounts of seasonings in a range of numbers to accommodate people who like more or less heat. I like my food spicy, so you know which end of the numbers I prefer. Anyway, it’s soup (or chili) for crying out loud. No need to be super OCD about the amounts unless you have dietary restrictions or some other need or desire to be super careful with measurements. I am not a nutritionist so I have no guidance to offer on that end. For me and my health, this soup works great for me.

Photo Mar 09, 7 27 30 PM

Chicken chili (soup)

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, uncooked (raw!), cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 large can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1 jar (the kind for dipping tortilla chips) Mexican salsa (use what you have or like, but nothing exotic like “with mangoes” or “with black beans,” etc.)

1 small can of sliced jalapeños, drained, or 3 fresh jalapeños, sliced, optional

1-2 cups chicken broth, homemade, from bouillon cubes, powder, a carton, or a can, not important how it’s made

1 cup frozen corn or a small can of corn, drained

1 can (14 ounces) red kidney beans, drained, optional

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 Spanish onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 Tablespoons hot paprika (or more if you like lots of heat)

2-3 teaspoons ground cumin

2-3 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 bay leaf

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  1. Blend together: paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes), garlic powder, and onion powder. Season chicken breast cubes with the blend.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the seasoned chicken in the oil for about five minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
  3. Add to the dutch oven: red bell pepper, minced garlic, diced onion, corn, jalapeños (if desired), and bay leaf. Sauté ten minutes more, or until pepper is soft and onion is translucent. If you want to help the vegetables cook faster, add a pinch of salt if you wish.
  4. Add to the dutch oven: crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, Mexican salsa, and beans (if desired).
  5. Simmer over very low heat for two or three hours (the longer you can slowly simmer it the better). Season to taste, remove bay leaf, and serve.

Serving suggestions

Good for reheating. I serve this dish to myself, freshly made and reheated. It gets me through quite a few meals and for some reason, since I made a batch over the weekend, I feel all cozy knowing my soup is waiting for me in the fridge to reheat whenever I want. When you reheat it, don’t microwave it unless you’re totally in a hurry or at work having lunch in the break room. It ruins the chicken breast meat slightly — but it’s OK, just not as good as reheated slowly. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I had it for supper and this week so far I’ve eaten it for lunch once (today, Monday). Remember: I live in Spain and lunch is our big meal and supper is lightish unless we’re super hungry. Last month I also ate this soup-chili frequently.

Garnishes and sides. As far as I remember I have had this dish: topped with grated cheddar cheese, plain (nothing on top), garnished with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream on top, with and without toppings with a cheese quesadilla on the side, with and without toppings with saltines on the side, and without toppings with a roasted red pepper  hummus sandwich on the side (today for lunch). On Wednesday I’ll have it for lunch again and I think I’ll eat a ham and cheese on whole wheat on the side. I have to say I have enjoyed this soup each and every way I have served it to myself. So much so that each time I eat it, I have two bowls of it, I just can’t resist.

Results with and without options.  I’ve eaten it with beans and without beans as well as with jalapeños and without jalapeños. I thought all the versions were delicious. In Spain in my city it’s impossible to buy fresh jalapeños so I’ve always had to use the canned type. I haven’t used any other type of broth but from bouillon cubes but I’ve left the source of the broth up to you because I don’t think it’s critical to use one type or another. A low-sodium chicken broth might require you to consider the “season to taste” instruction a bit more seriously, though.

If you do not enjoy this soup, I am very sorry. But, as they say, everybody’s taste is different.

Hacks

  1. Consistency: You could leave out the chicken broth to have a chunkier stew (or more chili-like chili) and just add some chicken bouillon powder to the pot as a seasoning.
  2. Italianize: You could also completely alter the soup by removing its tex-mex flavor and replacing it with an Italian flavor: replace the cumin with dried basil, the red kidney beans with white beans, use zucchini instead of corn, and leave out the Mexican salsa and jalapeños. As an Italian soup, you could serve it topped with an Italian cheese, mozzarella or Parmesan-reggiano. I haven’t tried this out yet, but I plan to do this in the future. First I have to get this tex-mex addiction out of my system.
  3. Slow cooker: I don’t have a slow cooker but in the USA I had one and used it often, so I know you could adapt this recipe for the crock pot if you wanted. If you have a slow cooker, consult the manual that came with it to figure out how to adapt the recipe.
  4. Other chicken parts: If you don’t like the texture of chicken breast meat when it’s been simmered for hours (it can get stringy) by all means use other parts of the chicken, such as thigh meat. I don’t care for chicken thighs, but maybe you love them. If you do, you should definitely try it out.

 

 

 

 

 

What to do?

It seems that last month I completed four years of blogging and I did not even notice. Way back when I started writing this blog on Blogspot. A couple of years ago I moved here to WordPress and I am so glad that I did! This format fits my needs so much better because it encourages more socializing among bloggers. I am also delighted to see that there are so many other bloggers on here like me who just want to have a place to talk about their favorite craft and share in the joy of yarn and crafting. In December I started thinking about what I wanted to do on the blog in the future but I don’t think I thought quite hard enough! Now that I see four years have passed, I think I need to get a little more serious about how I want this blog to look.

My problem is that, looking at my blog in chronological order, there is an ocean of updates about projects I worked on with some little tiny sprouts of tutorials and how-tos. The main purpose of my blog is most certainly not didactic, but it has some didactic elements. I am pretty sure that this month I am going to sift through my blog and evaluate the didactic or “useful” posts and try presenting them on the blog in an easy to access way. It’s true that anyone can search the blog posts by keyword or category, but often the handy posts are buried in with the “ooo look what I made!” posts.

Anyway, fellow knitters, crocheters, and crafters, this is perhaps a “useful” post for you if you have been blogging for two years or less. If you keep at it for a year or two more you will one day be lounging on your sofa as I am, with the TV on having looked at soup recipes for ideas on making a different kind of soup and then you will put down your knitting when you suddenly realize that your blog isn’t user friendly anymore because it’s totally 100% chronological despite the fact that yes, your posts have categories and your blog is searchable. You will perhaps ponder the situation as I am right now and consider the best ways to confront it.

Fortunately, this blogging site has lots of ways to deal with this issue and I have spent about 10 minutes exploring them and considering them. For instance, you can use pages. One option I’m considering is to add a page of organized links to all posts with patterns or how-tos. There is also the widget option, in which I might feature only a few of the “useful” posts in terms of how popular they are or how useful I might think they are. I could also make use of both. The problem with widgets is that they can be too long and require too much scrolling. Pages, although practical, require navigating by pressing a button. The button needs to be labeled really well so it catches a reader’s eye.

And then we have the “why bother?” option. Simply put, not many people visit the blog site because my blog is more “social” than “commercial.” Well, that’s an understatement. My blog is 0% commercial and 100% social. My audience is primarily other bloggers who see my stuff in the reader.

Weighing the “why bother?” against the feeling that I must organize this blog a bit better, I think organization is way more important. This is because: I’m a neat freak! Also, if I organize my blog and really look carefully at my utilitarian material, I might feel inspired to make those posts even better. Some of the older ones need better photos, for example, or be revised to be even more helpful. I’m pretty sure my sock tutorial is in need of better photos as well as an expansion on methods. I don’t even use dpns anymore and my blog has a tutorial on how to knit socks on dpns. Talk about not practicing what you preach, right?

Anyway, that’s what I’m going to be up to in March. I’m going to sift through my blog and decide on how to present my older but potentially useful posts and maybe even update some of those posts with improved photos and expanded text. Maybe by April or May I’ll have something decent for my blog home page to exhibit.

Also, to all of you out there reading this: Thank you for sharing in the joy of blogging about crafting. I really enjoy reading your blogs too! I learn a lot from you and share in your pleasure of creating. 🙂

The WIP Report

Aside from the blue scarf I posted about over the weekend, I’ve been making progress on my socks and I have another Alec XL started.

Last night I turned the heel on my neon self-striping sock and over the weekend I completed the first of the pair of red cabled socks and casted on the second one right away. On Saturday morning I casted on the Alec XL sweater. The yarn of choice for the sweater is Rowan Pure Wool Worsted in the Oak color way. The socks, as you might recall, are Gründl Hot Socks (the self-striping ones) and the red socks are Opal 4-ply in a very cheerful red color way.

I have not been keeping to my “one pattern repeat a day” obligation, having skipped every day this week in favor of socks and my sweater. The reason is that I feel a bit too tired at the end of a working day to concentrate on the lace chart. I will persevere, though. Tomorrow is a pretty easy day of work so I think I’ll make up for my lost pattern repeats.

So far no crochet activity, but I keep thinking about doing some crochet, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be cracking out the Tunisian crocheted afghan soon enough.

One pattern repeat a day

This week, from roughly Wednesday to Saturday, I followed a mantra for my lace scarf: “I will knit at least one pattern repeat a day.” Today I skipped, so I think the mantra shall forever be revised to be this: “I will knit at least one pattern repeat a day, BUT NEVER ON SUNDAYS.”

This mantra of mine is — as I have learned the hard way — like selling your soul to the devil. By Friday I found myself knitting one pattern repeat and then I said, “I will knit the first row of the next pattern repeat and then that will get me ahead on the next day’s pattern repeat. Indeed, the chart’s pattern repeat is rows 23 to 38. On Saturday I felt a bit better about knitting my one pattern repeat because I was ahead of the game and only had to knit rows 24 to 38.

The scarf in question is Inna Voltchkova’s “A Man’s Scarf in Blue to Knit” which is the most beautiful scarf intended for men that I have ever seen in my life. If I were a religious man I’d shout “Hallelujah!” because honestly I have grown tired of knitting lace just to give it away to women who can pull it off wearing it. My readers may question Ms. Voltchkova’s decision to market her pattern as “lace for dudes” but guess what? That’s their problem. I am totally on board with wearing this puppy and I will eventually wear it. I just have to finish the darn thing first.

I took the scarf to knitting club yesterday and tried to knit some of it, but I just couldn’t focus to get it right. As a matter of fact, as soon as I started working on row 25 of the pattern repeat a friend at the table said, “what are you knitting?” and I said “something that takes some concentration, I’ll show you once I get through this row.” I showed her my WIP and she almost spit out her coffee. Really, that’s how gorgeous it is. Really, that’s how challenging it looks to knit. She said, after swallowing her coffee, “why on Earth did you bring such a difficult thing to knitting club?” I answered with the truth: “Everybody says all I bring to knitting club are garter stitch things or stockinette in the round, or socks, so I decided to knit a row of this, put it away, and then proceed with a self-striping sock.” That’s exactly what I did. I knitted row 25, put away the lace scarf, and took out my neon self-striping sock project to “kkkkkkkkkk” away on.

Mind you, this scarf, in reality, isn’t really all that hard to knit, but you have to pay attention to the chart. Remember, the repeat is rows 23 to 38, which is a repeat of 15 rows. To add some fun there are two cables and the middle is a zig-zag. The relief comes with the fact that the middle, although zig-zag, is garter stitch, so every even-numbered row is k all the way through the middle, with a chain selvedge edge and k1p1 on the cables. To refresh your memory, here’s a photo of the project (imagine it 70 rows longer):

blue-lace-scarf

My reason for selling my soul to the “one pattern repeat a day” devil? I have found that I start making mistakes after one pattern repeat. If I try to knit more than that, I get to my second pass through rows 23 to 28 just fine, and then I mess up and have to tink because maybe I didn’t yarn over, or maybe on my way back on an even-numbered row I let a yarn over fall off the needle without noticing (usually the latter more than the former). So, one repeat a day, but never on Sundays.

I absolutely am 100% certain of one thing: I’m going to finish this scarf. It’s lace for men to wear! Finally! I want to wear this so bad. It is also part of my evilly selfish scheme to have a million handmade ways to accessorize my Levi’s blue denim jacket. Just imagine, it’s beautiful lace, it’s complex, and it’s “for a man to wear.” I mean really, this scarf was designed for me and only me. BY THE DEVIL.