Oriel Lace Blouse

It was lacy. It had pearl buttons. I had favorited several different versions in Ravelry. It was the perfect project for spring and fall. And I already owned the pattern. The yarn (Cascade Venezia Sport) was a bit of a shot in the dark since I had never seen it in person but it looked pretty online. And the pattern is written by one of my favorite designers– Shirley Paden. Once I had ordered a sweater’s worth of yarn, I was committed. 


I modified the pattern to work the body and sleeves in the round. The body up to the armholes, and the sleeves up to the shoulder shaping. Since this sweater is worked in an all over lace pattern, shaping is a bit of a challenge. I left off the selvedge stitches and worked the increases and decreases into the lace pattern as I could. It’s always a bit tricky though. 

Working the pattern in the round sped up the knitting and decreased by 2/3 the amount of sewing up. This was a pretty fast knit and I enjoyed it throughout the knitting and finishing. 

The edging and buttonholes in the neck placket is crochet. It’s been so long since I picked up a crochet hook that I had to watch YouTube videos to remember how to single crochet, but once I found a good video it all came back to me. The sweater is pretty and feminine. I especially like the bell shaped sleeves. 


Details

Pattern: Oriel Lace Blouse, Interweave Knits, Summer 2007

Yarn: Cascade Venezia (I used just under 4 skeins)

Needles: sizes 3, 5, 6 and 7

Mods: working the sweater as much in the round as possible. 

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Comfort in a Bowl

Sometimes the best meals are filling, familiar and fast. I feel that way about spaghetti and meatballs. It takes only a few ingredients (especially if you buy the sauce) and about 30 minutes from start to finish. 
Ingredients

  • 2 c marinara sauce 
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 c onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c scallions, minced
  • 1/4 c parsley or cilantro or a mix of both, sliced fine
  • 1 1/4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 oz. pasta

Place all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix thoroughly. Then take a ping pong ball sized chunk of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Repeat until you have no more ground beef left. Turn a large pan with a rim on to medium. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until they are browned on all sides. Then add the sauce and cook briefly, stirring to make sure all the meatballs are coated with sauce. When the sauce is warm and the meatballs are cooked through take them off the heat.

While the meatballs cook, heat the pasta water to a boil and cook the pasta to the desired doneness. 

Homemade Marinara, if you have the time:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • I 1 tbl dried oregano or 1/4 c chopped, fresh oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 c. of chopped fresh tomatoes

Brown the onions in a pan on medium heat, add the carrots and Cooke for 2-3 minutes. Then add celery and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add garlic and oregano and cook briefly. Then add the tomatoes and salt and pepper. Actually, I usually salt things a little bit with each addition but if you haven’t yet, add the salt now. Stir, then turn down the sauce so that it maintains a simmer. Summer for 30 minutes or so. If the sauce get dry, add a little stock or water. At the end you can either serve it as is or, if you have a kid like mine who doesn’t like chunks in his sauce, you can use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until smooth. 

Serve the meatballs over pasta. 

Black Bean Chili with Roasted Vegetables

Fall is slipping away into winter here just south of the 49th parallel. On cold days I think of warm, satisfying soup. Emphasis on the WARM. And nothing says warm to me like a hearty stew if roasted vegetables, browned onions and homemade black beans. This recipe calls for the kind of beans that are firm but moist and impregnated with cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. 
First, the Black Beans: 
1 lb dried black beans

1 c onion, chopped

I 4 oz can jalapeños or 1 chipotle chile

6 cloves garlic

1 tbl cumin

1 tbl (or 3) smoked paprika

Salt

Enough stock or broth to cover
Put all of the ingredients into a crock pot and cover with the stock. Use the chipotle chile if you enjoy a good chemical burn. If not, the jalapeños are the way to go. Turn on high for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 6-8 hours. All day while you are at work should be fine, just make sure there is enough stock that it won’t all burn off while you are gone. 
By the time the beans are done your house should smell like a big bowl of smoked beany deliciousness. And that is perfect. 
Chili

1 Pasilla chile, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 cups grape tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt 

Pepper

1 cup onion, chopped

1 head garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon coriander

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

Next turn your oven to 425 Fahrenheit. While the oven heats up chop the pasilla and the red bell pepper. Place these and the grape tomatoes in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Mix. Then place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are a little black and bursting onto the tray. 

While the vegetables roast in the oven, heat up a Dutch oven on your stove top over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When that is hot add the onion. Sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and cook until the onion is brown. Next, add the garlic, cumin, coriander and paprika and give it a good stir. Let that cook about 30 seconds before adding the can of diced tomatoes. Once that is in the pot stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any bits of spice and other goodness that has stuck to the bottom. Next add the stock, beans with their liquid and the roasted vegetables. Allow to simmer with the lid off for 20-30 minutes. 


The result will be a chunky stew with plenty of flavor.

Pain. Or Why Runners Who Just Want to Run Should Work on Their Six Pack Anyway

Running hurts. It hurts because you are falling, over and over and over again, striking the ground with one foot and then the other. And then the other. And the other. If there are any weak spots in your body running will find them. 

Since I’ve started running I have had bursitis in both hips, plantars fasciitis in both feet, runners knee in my left knee, a torn labrum in my left hip, an s.i. Joint injury and now a neuroma in my left foot. And various scrapes, bruises and chafe marks. So, running hurts. But there are things that have helped me along the way to stay healthy. 

1. Working on my core muscles. I didn’t really start to work on my core muscles regularly until last year. In October of 2015 something clicked and I started doing a regular core workout in the mornings. And it’s made a huge difference. I haven’t had bursitis since I started. I haven’t had any issues with my knees either. And my back is mostly good too– although sitting for too long does cause me problems. 

2. Rest. I’m terrible about this but I know if I rested more regularly my feet would hurt less. 

3. Slowing down. I’m terrible about this too. But sometimes I do it. I slow down. I accept that pain is my body’s way of telling me to take it easy. I try to remember that I don’t always have to push so hard, in my running and in life. That it’s ok to relax. I spent a lot of time last summer telling myself that it’s ok to slow down. It’s ok to just do what you can. It was really hard for me though.

But back to that short workout I do most mornings. It’s evolved quite a bit since I started. It started on Cannon Beach when I was on vacation with Owen. I couldn’t run like I wanted to, so I decided to work out using intervals. I decided on a mix of push ups, squats and short runs. As I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve added to the number of push ups, swapped out the squats for clam shell exercises and added in planks. The workout takes me about 10-12 minutes and I do it 4-5 times a week. And I have seen a huge difference in my core strength and overall stability and balance. 

My morning workout right now:

  1. 30 push ups
  2. 30 second boat pose
  3. 10 push ups, with 5 pound weights
  4. 20 press ​ ps, 10 each arm, with 5 pound weights
  5. 10 arm raises with 5 pound weights
  6. 20 clam shell leg raises, each leg
  7. 20 push ups
  8. A dynamic plank: 45 seconds in high plank (last 10 seconds with a leg raise), 45 seconds in a left side plank (last 10 with a leg raise), 45 seconds in high plank (last 10 seconds raising the opposite leg), 45 in a right side plank (last 10 seconds with a leg raise.)

This workout is constantly evolving but I would really encourage you to consider finding a short workout you can do too. It’s a good way to start the morning. 

Tilt

As soon as September comes around I start to think of knitting. Wool. Needles. Sitting quietly in my chair by the window, fingers in constant motion. It’s like a fever that comes on me. I yearn to knit. Does that sound strange? Perhaps melodramatic? If so, it is the truth. I yearn to knit. I start daydreaming about projects. Fantasizing about sweaters, mittens, hats and shawls. 
This year it was the Glasgow Sweater. It’s been staring at me from the cover of the Winter issue of Interweave Knits ever since it arrived. It’s cabled and slightly slouchy with a crew neck. Simple in construction but interesting enough to hold my attention during the hours I will spend making it. 

But it wasn’t on my list. The list in my head of projects that are upcoming. Some of the projects on the list are meant to satisfy my never ending quest to cover those I love in hand knit goods. Mittens for my boyfriend. Socks for my son. Some are things I have planned out and purchased the yarn for, but haven’t started yet. 

Even though it wasn’t on my list, I decided that I had to make it anyway. And that is how 7 skeins of lovely olive green malabrigo ended up in my knitting basket. This yarn is so beautiful. It feels like silk running through my fingers. It’s so soft it catches the dry skin on my fingertips. And it changes depending on the light. It’s not a solid color, but instead several shades of green, between dark blackish green and a much lighter olive green. 

I couldn’t wait to wind a skein and start swatching, even though I had other unfinished projects. 


I got gauge on my first set of swatches. I was suspicious of this, but cast in right away anyway.


Once I was through the ribbing, the pattern section was easy to set up and easy to put down and pick back up again. It’s really the perfect project for me and for this time of year. The lead up to Christmas means that I am making lots of things for other people. Some of them will be knit, and some will be in other forms, but there is always a lot. I need to be able to put down one project and work on another without losing my place in the pattern. In my overpacked life, full to bursting with things-I-must-do, this project provides the perfect distraction– enjoyable but not too demanding. 


That’s about 12″ of knitting. 

How to Construct a Mitten

I love making mittens. They are fast and can often be made from leftover yarn in my stash. They are also endlessly variable– they can be cabled, have stranded colorwork or intarsia, be thrummed or plain. They make great gifts here in the frozen Spokane winter. 

I rarely use a pattern for mittens anymore. What follows is my method for making mittens. First, you have to measure. You need measurements for:

  1. Wrist circumference
  2. Palm circumference 
  3. Thumb circumference 
  4. Length from wrist to tip of longest finger
  5. Length from wrist to the bottom of the thumb
  6. Length from crook of the thumb to the top of the longest finger

Once I have my measurements I figure out how many stitches to cast on: wrist circumference x number of stitches to the inch (as determined by swatching.) so, if the wrist circumference is 7″ and the number of stitches to the inch is 8 then I would cast on 56 (because 7 x 8 = 56.) inthen work 1 x 1 ribbing for about 2″. 

Then I switch to stockinette, and, at the same time, in the next round, I increase. I increase as many stitches as needed to make the mittens as wide as the palm circumference, plus about 1/2″ or so. This is not precise, but you don’t want your mittens to be too tight. Then I usually like to throw in a little motif between the wrist and the start of the thumb gore. Sometimes I use patterns that I have (Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis is an excellent source of graphs and motifs) or Sometimes I chart my own. You can find downloadable, printable, knitters graph paper by googling. 

Once the mitten is long enough– once the length between the wrist and the bottom of the thumb is long enough, I start the thumb gore. And this is where you have to pause and put some thought into thumb placement. Where do you want any motif you have worked to sit on the hand? Is there a beginning, end or center? Just think about it and then make sure you place the thumb so that the mitten will have the center or the pretty part of the pattern facing up. 


This is how I work a thumb gore: once I have determined where to place the thumb, I place a marker, then I work a m1 increase, place marker. On the next round, I work the stitch in between the markers without increasing. On the round after that I: slip the first marker, m1, knit the already existing stitch, m1, slip marker. I continue in this fashion, increasing 2 stitches every other round, until I have the right number of stitches for the thumb circumference, plus 2 or 3 more, so the thumb isn’t too tight.

Once the thumb gore is finished I move the thumb stitches to a holder. 


Then I work the remaining hand stitches until it is time to decrease. There are several ways to decrease, of course. My preferred method depends on the kind of mitten I am knitting. For color work mittens, I almost always decrease at the sides. To do so, work to 3 stitches before the first side of the mitten (where this spot is will be determined by where you placed the thumb), ssk, knit 1, k2tog, then I work to 3 stitches before the second side (usually the end of round, but it depends on where you put your thumb), ssk, knit 1, k2tog. I work the decreases either every other round or every round, depending on how long the mitten needs to be. When I have 4 stitches left I cut the yarn and pull through the remaining stitches. 
This decreasing method will allow you to keep working any color work pattern for most of the mitten. If you decrease in a circular pattern (like for a hat) the pattern gets wonky. 


The last thing I do is pick up the stitches for the thumb and finish it off. For the thumb I usually work a circular decrease since it’s such a small number of stitches. 

Eating Alone

I used to hate eating alone. I used to hate being alone. 

After Owen was born I was never alone. When I wasn’t at work I always had him with me. I would get up in the morning and get us both ready and take him where he needed to go. When I left work, I would go straight to my mother in law’s house and feed him before we left to go home. 

Then my marriage ended. And suddenly I was living in an apartment and sharing custody of Owen. For the first time since he had been born I had whole evenings and days to myself to do what I wanted. And I really had no idea what to do with myself. I was like a wagon that had lost one of its wheels. 

One of the things that was most uncomfortable for me was eating alone. If I was in my apartment, sitting at the table alone at first felt strange and lonely.  If I went to a restaurant I learned that sitting at the bar felt less like eating alone, even when I was. 

Over time my perspective has changed. I have come to really appreciate the nights when the only person I need to please is myself. And I have also found that I like my own company. Last night, Owen was with his grandparents for dinner, so I made a kimchi bowl with rice and tofu and sat down at the table and ate and it didn’t feel lonely or awkward. It felt joyful. 

Running in October

October is probably my favorite month to run. The temperatures are cool and it is usually dry. This year has been exceptionally wet– but the trade off has been that it’s been in the forties most mornings. October is a month that carries weight in my mind. Potential. It’s my birthday month and I always try to do something big, running wise.


 In 2014 I ran 14 miles on my birthday. That was the farthest I had ever run at that point. That was also the day I decided to run my first marathon. That marathon (in April, 2015) didn’t go as I had planned. My training wasn’t what it needed to be and I went into the marathon injured, but I learned a lot from being forced to walk most of the last 6 miles of that marathon. 


Last year I ran my second marathon in the month of October, and reached the goals I had set for myself: to run the whole marathon, run up doomsday hill (locates just past mile 22 of the Spokane Marathon) and finish in under 5 hours. I finished that marathon running, and knocked 43 minutes off my previous time to finish at 4:17:52. 


This year I thought about those big goals and even considered trying a long, long run. Or a high mileage week. Finally though, I decided to do none of things and give myself the space and the time to revel in the joy of running. I wanted to spend some time not pushing myself so hard every day to meet set mileage goals, and instead, run for the enjoyment of it. 

One of the things I struggled with all summer, as I battled anemia and pain, was simply putting one foot in front of the other. It was like staring down a solid rock face many days. I don’t regret continuing to run but I am glad that I am now well and the mental effort it takes to complete my runs is so much less.

And the result of not pushing so hard? Running for the enjoyment of it? 133.8 miles in October.

Apple Hand Pies or How to Take an Idea and Run With It

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend about her recent baking adventures and she mentioned that she had tried out a new recipe for caramel apple hand pies. The idea of this grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. I love baked goods that are easily portable because I can send them in Owen’s lunch. I also have very fond memories of the Hostess brand pies, with their syrupy filling and sugar glazed crusts. After procuring a couple of pounds of honey crisp apples from Walter’s Fruit Ranch on Saturday I was ready to try it out. 

First, I looked at recipes. The recipes that I looked at used double crust pie dough for the housing and different blends of spices, zests and thickening agents for the filling. I decided to pull together the things I liked about each and also use up some things I had on hand.

For the filling I diced 3 large apples, which proved to be too much. I dressed the apple chunks with: the juice and zest of one large lemon, salt, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. Then I added about 1/3 c. of buttermilk glaze that was leftover from the carrot cake I made last week. I stirred all of this together and then let it sit in the fridge for about an hour before baking. 


For the crust I followed the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, with a few tweaks. The recipe calls for 12 tablespoons of butter and 8 tablespoons of shortening. I only had 4 tablespoons of shortening on hand, so I substituted an equal amount of butter to make up the difference (which is why each of these little pies is approximately 5000 calories.) 

AND I added 3 tablespoons of sour cream to the ice water that gets stirred into the crust ingredients. Why? Well, this was also an idea I got from my friend Bridget. She told me that she had tried this method and her crust turned out flaky and delicious. The sour cream apparently causes some sort of chemical reaction that makes for a flakier crust. I had to try it. And it worked! This is probably the best crust I’ve ever made

I finished by heating my oven to 425 but immediately reducing the heat to 375 when I put the pies in the oven. This helped them to brown a little on top. After 40 minutes the pies were flaky and buttery on the outside with a moist, not too sweet, filling.

The Dark

The nights are longer and longer here just south of the 49th parallel. I rise in the dark and wait for the weak winter light to filter through my windows. Soon I will come home in the dark as well. During these long nights and short days I am most grateful for running. Feeling the sun shine on my face and penetrate my psyche is nourishing to my mind and body.