A Lovely Homemade Life

A Lovely Homemade Life: October 2014

Friday, October 31

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from the Robot and Owlette!

Wednesday, October 29

Yarn Along--Completion

 Finally...a finished object!  (The weather here is not cooperating, but I might have better pics to share next week)  I worked diligently this weekend on finishing my Breakfast at the Beach Shawl (Litchfield by Laura Aylor).  It got progressively easier the closer I got to being done, which was much appreciated.  I love the way it came out and the finished size--it took 16 blocking mats to lay it out!  But it's big and cuddly without being overly warm.  I'm excited about it being done.

Now it's time to get down to work on the Christmas gifts.  And the Baby Wrens...and Bluejays...you get the idea ;)

Still reading The Postmortal.  It's very interesting, but I can't say I care for the narrator.  We wouldn't be friends in real life.  But the story is compelling so that keeps me pushing on to the end.

Linking up with Ginny this week.

Monday, October 27

Sweet and Spicy Chicken with Fried Rice

I LOVE making "fried" rice with veggies.  It's seriously one of my favorite meals.  My best friend Bibi made it for us once with crispy fried tofu and it was all over after that.  I've made it many times with her crispy fried tofu, and lots of times with just the rice and veggies and no protein, and sometimes I like to make it with crispy fried chicken instead.

This time, I decided to use one of my jars of Hot Pepper Jelly as the base of the sauce.  So, so yummy.  I'll share my process below in case you want to try it out!  (btw...I'm not sure I know the 'proper' preparation of actual fried rice.  This is how I like to eat it, but by all means, make the real stuff if you know how)

I start by boiling the water for the rice.  Twice as much water as rice, so I usually boil 3 cups of water and add some chicken bouillon for flavor and a pat of butter.  Once it's boiling I add the white rice, cover, and let it simmer for 45 minutes.

Then I start on the veggies.  I dice up an onion and a few cloves of garlic and start that sauteing in a deep pot with some olive oil.  I add diced carrots, chopped green and red bell pepper and fresh broccoli florets.  I try not to chop anything too finely, as it starts to disintegrate as it cooks and I like recognizable pieces.  After the ingredients have been added, I put the lid on for a while to help everything soften up.

The trick to the crispy fried chicken (or tofu) is cornstarch.  We season up a big plate of cornstarch with salt and spices, dredge the pieces in it and fry til crispy (this is not a particularly healthy meal ;)

I usually leave that part to Michael.  Meanwhile, I warmed up the sauce--one 1/2 pint jar of Hot Pepper Jelly, 1/2 c of Apricot Jam and some soy sauce.  Once the chicken was cooked, I put the pieces in a bowl and poured the sauce over.

The last step is to add frozen peas directly into the rice pot just before serving, along with a scrambled egg or two and some soy sauce.  This is my favorite part!

We like to layer everything in a bowl with an extra drizzle of soy sauce and voila!  Super yummy dinner!  This isn't a particularly precise recipe (obviously)--but it's a jumping off point to make your own version just how you like it.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 24

Pumpkin Patch--Then & Now

Michael got to take Luca on his class field trip to the Pumpkin Patch a couple of weeks ago.  They had a really fun time together (and Michael got a lot of great pics too!)  Luca's Aunt Angela and I took him to this same farm last year so I thought it only fair that Michael should take him this year.  (See that pic at the top?  That's last year on the right and this year on the left--my how he's grown!) 

There were hay rack rides, animal feeding, a maze, and some impromptu "log cabin" building (out of the wood pile which I'm pretty sure wasn't one of the attractions).

Love this kid!  Looking forward to going again next year!

Wednesday, October 22

Yarn Along--Holiday Secrets

Holiday knitting is rather problematic, isn't it?  I've been working here and there on special things for special people but I don't feel like I can share any of it yet!

So in other news, I finished Fluency and it ended up being quite good.  Most of the sci-fi books I read don't have actual aliens in them, but the topic of aliens was handled quite well in this book, I think.

And I picked the new book this time (although Michael is reading it now too)!  One that I've had on my wish list for quite some time--The Postmortal by Drew Magary.  A cure for aging has been discovered and the narrator details how this new development affects nations, economies and cultures as everyone tries to grapple with what this means for them.  I'm only about 12% in so far, but I'm excited to see where the storyline goes :)

Have a great week!  Linking up with Ginny today.

Monday, October 20

Mason Jar Meal or Gift

As we're getting to the Fall and Winter season, I always find myself wanting to have something on hand to give for quick gifts or to drop off to sick friends to lend a hand.  Meals in Jars are a great go-to item, but I'm pretty sure everyone on my 'list' has already received my favorite offering--an Organic Minestrone Soup recipe in a jar from Prep Ahead and Dine In.  (I have gotten so many compliments on this recipe and everyone has really loved it--so it's a great one to add to your repertoire--thank you Jaime!)

I thought I'd branch out a bit and take advantage of the fantastic bulk foods section of my local Winco Grocery Store to come up with my own recipe to share with you and with my friends and family.

This recipe make about 6-8 servings and only requires a few additional ingredients.  In a pint sized mason jar, carefully layer the following ingredients:

1/4 c yellow split peas
1/4 c green split peas (if you can't find yellow, 1/2 c of green will do just fine)
1/4 c vegetable soup mix (contains dehydrated carrots, onions, and lots of herbs and spices)
1/4 c chicken bouillon or vegetable bouillon powder

You will still have about half the jar space remaining.  You will now line the remaining space with a small sandwich bag (the kind without the zipper will give you more space for tortellinis!) and fill the rest up with dried tortellini.  Secure the lid and voila!  Ready to give (or save for a night when you don't feel like prepping dinner)

Be sure to include cooking instructions:

You will need:  1-2 carrots, 1 small onion, 1-2 cloves of garlic, 1 package sausages (optional)

To prepare, dice the fresh carrots, onion and garlic.  Saute with a small amount of olive oil until softened and aromatic.  Remove tortellini from jar and add remaining contents to the pot with 6-8 cups of water and the vegetables.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the peas are beginning to soften.  Meanwhile, slice one package of sausage (I love this with Chicken and Apple Sausage) and crisp the slices in a pan.  Fifteen minutes before dinner, add the tortellini and continue to simmer until the peas and tortellini and fully cooked.  Add the sausage slices and enjoy!

As a side note, this would also be tasty with a can of diced or crushed tomatoes.  I haven't tried it that way yet, but I think it would be fantastic!  And all of the add-in ingredients are optional--it would taste great without any additions.  I just like the heartiness of the extra vegetables and protein.


Friday, October 17

Pajamas...All Day Long

So as I'm adding pics for this post, I realize that they are *all* of my children in pajamas.  I swear we do dress them and occasionally even leave the house...but how could you know that from this selection? ;)

Aren't they just the sweetest?  They're learning to play so nicely together.  Luca adores Isla and she thinks he's pretty special too.  It's pretty clear they both have strong personalities (read: stubborn!) but they're a good team.  And I can only imagine how much trouble they'll get themselves into in the years to come.

Luca picked out a book for her at the school's book fair, and has a fun time "reading" it to her over and over. (He's a lot like I was at his age--he memorizes all of his favorite books and then does a pretty good impression of actually reading).  She loves it.

Special thanks to Gita for the Magic Science for Wizards Only set--that was a whole day's worth of activities and he had a really fun time with it.

And Isla's sweater in the last picture is Leksak. I. Love. This. Sweater.  It was a really fun and quick knit, the design is fantastic, and it will be one she can wear for months.  The Elsabeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn (in Mallard) from my favorite ladies at The Fiber Universe doesn't hurt anything either--so beautiful. 

Wednesday, October 15

Yarn Along--I've Slept Since Then

Yesterday I started on the first Baby Wren for my Etsy shop.  My original goal in writing my own knitting patterns was to be able to offer original designs in my shop.  Something about that just feels right.

But since completing the pattern, I haven't had any time to actually knit any up!  I just released Sister Wren, which took up some of my available knitting time and I'm working on Baby Bluejay which has proved to be a bit trickier to write out and thus much more time consuming.

Once I finally got to a place where I could put those two designs down, I figured it would be the perfect time to work on a few Baby Wrens.  As I sat down to cast on, I realized I couldn't remember any of the details.  How many to cast on?  How many pattern rows to work?  Suffice it to say, it is a very strange feeling to work off of your own pattern.  I'm so excited to get these up in the shop though, I'll just have to learn to deal with the surreal feeling of it all :)

Michael's sci-fi reading material strikes again this week.  I finished up The Martian by Andy Weir and was casting about for a new book.  Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells was Michael's most recent read and at 10:30pm I didn't feel like seeking out my own book (I generally choose tweeny vampire novels...shhh...don't tell).  It's quite good so far, about a very gifted linguist chosen as a member for a highly classified space mission for her abilities to learn languages prodigiously quickly (that's foreshadowing there ;)  I'm 8 chapters in and enjoying it so far.  I did minor in Linguistics in college though, so the interest in languages is already there for me.

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Monday, October 13

The Great Quilt Rescue


Isn't this a gorgeous quilt?  I just love the colors and the design (coincidentally, if anyone knows the name of the block I'd love it if you'd tell me!  I haven't found the time yet to go searching for it).

I found this gem on a Facebook Garage Sale site in our area.  The seller was only asking $10, and from the small picture I felt reasonably sure it had been hand quilted, although I couldn't tell how it had been pieced.  So I said I'd take it!

When I picked it up from the very nice lady, she said they had used it as a blanket in their camper and it had been washed and dried countless times.  Once I got it home, I examined it and it had indeed been quilted by hand (and machine pieced).  After researching (on Pinterest) the best way to clean a quilt (hand washing and line drying) I decided to put it in the washing machine.  She said that's how they had always washed it, so I thought it would probably be fine.

It came out somewhat fluffier than how it went in, but I suppose that was to be expected.  After using it a few chilly nights, it seems to have settled down a bit.  There are just two small tears (less than 2" each) that need repairing, but it's in really lovely shape and has a really neat sawtooth edging detail.

I'd say for $10 it is a really lovely addition to my small, but growing, quilt collection.  I love the idea of "rescuing" someone's handiwork and appreciating it for the unique piece it is.  I hope I have the opportunity to add more quilts to my collection in this way.

EDITED TO ADD:  Hooray!  I stumbled upon the quilt block on Pinterest today, quite unexpectedly.  I believe this block is called "Carpenter's Wheel" or "Carpenter's Star" --Mystery solved!

Friday, October 10

Lavender Farm

Last weekend we visited a Lavender Farm about an hour away.  It was our stand-in for the traditional orchard visit in the fall.  Lavender actually blooms in the summer, apparently, but the rosemary was going strong and smelled heavenly!

It was a lovely day, although not crisp and cool like fall days should be, but we had a nice time looking at the vendors there for the festival.  There were even a pair of alpacas from a farm nearby, but silly me, I forgot to take any pictures!  Suffice it say they were young and wooly and super soft.  We had a nice time chatting with the owners and a good time was had by all.

I'm definitely looking forward to the crisp fall air...maybe we'll get some next month?  I hope your environs are behaving appropriately...and you're getting to wear glorious hand knits without fear of overheating.  ;)  See you Monday for a DIY--have a beautiful weekend!

Wednesday, October 8

Yarn Along--Promo Code for Sister Wren


Good morning!  I'm feeling a little bit more caught up since last week.  I have the 2T test knit done for Baby Bluejay and am working on the 12-18 month one now.  It should be ready for test knitters soon!  I've also been hand quilting some really adorable doll quilts (like for American Girl sized dolls).  There's something really relaxing about doing the quilting by hand and seeing all the little wrinkles start to form.  Still working on The Martian.  It's been hard to put it down!  It's getting really good, and the style has me chuckling often as I'm reading.

Also, I'm so excited to be releasing my newest pattern--Sister Wren today!  My fantastic test knitters have done a great job of helping me with the pattern now and it's all ready!  Thank you test knitters!

Now until Sunday 10/12 at midnight CDT, you can pick up Sister Wren from my Ravelry Store for 50% off!  (Just $2!)  Just enter coupon code LOVELYOCTOBER at checkout to pick up your copy! 

Sister Wren is a lovely short sleeved cardigan for girls worked from the bottom up and requiring minimal finishing. It has a sweet patterned edge and a two button closure that gives it a flyaway silhouette.  You can use any worsted weight yarn you choose (The sample shown was knit in Cascade Pacific Multi). Estimated yardages are 350 yards for the 4 year old size up to 730 yards for the 12 year old size (These are generous estimates--all test knitters came in lower than the given yardage if that helps you choose and buy your yarn.  Specific yardage estimates for each size are listed on the pattern page for more info)

I hope you'll pick up a copy :)  This sweater is a very easy knit and a great layering piece for fall!  Isla really enjoyed wearing her Baby Wren to the lavender farm this weekend.  :)

More about that Friday.  I hope you'll check out my pattern and the lovely work of my test knitters and have a great week!  Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along. 

Monday, October 6

DIY Canning Shelves

Since I've been doing more canning this year I've been having a problem.  Where to store all of the jars?  Houses in Texas don't have basements (our soil with a high clay content is to blame for that) and we only have so many horizontal surfaces.  The garage is usually about a thousand degrees, so that's out.  And our house, while having a lots of square footage, is really short on closet space. (who really needs a coat closet, right?)

I have read that you're not supposed to stack jars on top of each other because it can compromise the seal.  And it has been recommended to store them without the rings, so it'll be easier to tell if they have become unsealed over time and should be discarded.

So with all of those things in mind, I came up with a project.  I guess I should say I came up with an idea and Michael was in charge of the project.  We have a two level counter that separates our kitchen from the eat-in/breakfast nook area (why?  I don't know.  I can't imagine using bar stools there.  It's just a bit awkward).  So my idea was to (have Michael) build shelves to fit that space.  I described what I had in mind and he sketched it up.  In a drafting program, no less!

Here he is, working in the sweltering garage.  Thank you honey!

After a sweaty day in the garage, my shelves are done!  We gave them 2 coats of paint (mystery color from the mis-tints bin) and when I say 'we' I mean Michael again (he said I could paint them if I wanted, but they'd probably look better if he did.  Which he is right about...hehe)

And voilĂ !  Mostly filled up already :)  Don't you just love these chalkboard stickers for my dry goods?  I redid the whole pantry with them this weekend too!

And as an added bonus--the Peach-Nectarine-Mango Salsa epic fail turned out to be edible after all.  With just a healthy drizzle of honey it was fantastic on our Tilapia Tacos last night.  Maybe things are looking up after all.

Friday, October 3


We've been playing upstairs more these days as the weather is cooling off.  The Lego Room (formerly the Dining Room and someday the Man Cave) is on the main floor, so it's easy to spend most of our day on the main floor so Luca can play in there.  But since my Craft Room is upstairs and there's more for Isla to do without having to be moved away from things every 5 minutes, I've been insisting we get upstairs more.  See how happy she is?  Luca requested no photographs this week, but I did sneak one of the epic battle he imagined between his army guys and all manner of animals. 

Have a great weekend!  We're headed to a Lavender Farm about an hour away from here on Saturday (in lieu of our customary Fall Apple Orchard Excursion)  Oh Tanner's Orchard...how we miss you!

Wednesday, October 1

Yarn Along--WIPitis

Today's yarn along is brought to you by multitasking.  Multitasking--it's how to do a lot of projects not very well.

But really, I have way too many projects going right now.  What is wrong with me?  Maybe next week I'll take time to enumerate them all, or scarier yet...photograph them all and share.  (Spoiler alert--it will be a gigantic pile of fabric and yarn on the guest bed...I may or may not be buried under it)

So today I'm sharing with you another peek of the design I'm working on--I've decided to call it Baby Bluejay.  This iteration of it is coming along much better and I'm getting most of the kinks worked out.  It's a bit tricky, so I plan to knit one of each size before I send it out to testers to avoid headaches all around.  If you're interested in test knitting a newborn-2T hooded cardigan vest-y thing (for boys or girls) join my Ravelry Group and let me know you're interested in the Baby Bluejay thread!

The other knit I've been working on this week is my first Litchfield Shawl by Laura Aylor (not that I have gorgeous MadTosh for another one or anything...that would be crazy!).  This one is in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine in Ocean Mix and Oatmeal with madtosh tosh merino light in Earl Gray for the accent stripes.  I think a fitting name is Breakfast at the Beach.  It's going along well, and I'm very impressed with the design.  It's knit from the bottom up, so the cast on edge is really long, but I'm getting to the easier middly part now.

And finally, Michael suggested the book The Martian by Andy Weir which I am enjoying a great deal.  It was a pretty good sign when he couldn't stop chuckling intermittently while reading it last week.  It's the account of an astronaut left behind on Mars after his mission was aborted and in the ensuing chaos of bugging out he was injured and believed to be dead.  That was a run-on sentence, but the book is quite entertaining.  If you enjoy sci-fi, or humor, you'll love it!

Be sure to check back next Wednesday for a promotion code for Sister Wren!  It releases next week!

Linking up with Ginny today.