Sometimes Its the Simple Things

I consider myself a pretty experience knitter. I have tackled most techniques and, while some are not my favorite, I would say that I can execute all of them fairly successfully. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love to grab a completely simple mindless project from time to time. For example, dishcloths.

Each spring in Portland, a lot of the local yarn shops (we’ve got a lot of yarn shops in Portland) get together and throw a “Yarn Crawl”–it’s like a pub crawl, but instead of stopping at a bunch of pubs for a drink, you stop at 13 yarn shops to ooogle yarn. There are delightful trunk shows and demonstrations and lots of knitterly camaraderie. I’ve yet to get through a crawl on budget (my personal budget) but I always end up with some fabulous stash additions.

During the 2015 crawl, Yarnia had these delightful Dishcloth Kits made from 100% cotton yarn strands. The kit had enough yarn for 3 small dishcloths or one small dishcloth and one larger hand cloth. I was very drawn to this pink-black combo and snapped it up. The pattern for the dishcloths is a very simple knit purl pattern that I memorized quickly after only one or two repeats.

Yarnia is quite unique for a yarn store. They sell yarn by weight. They have many very fine strands of yarn/thread. You can choose up to six in various fibers and colors and then Yarnia uses a special machine to cone all of the strands together so that you can knit with them as one single “yarn” strand. There’s a video of the process here. It’s fun! I may be slightly biased since its the first yarn store I ever worked in, but it gives you a lot of creativity in creating a special yarn for a project. This particular kit had 5 strands of cotton in different thicknesses–equaling a worsted weight when held together. There is two black strands and three different shades of pink.

I made the three small cloths a gave one dishcloth and some homemade sugar scrub to each of my admin staff for Christmas. (Yes, Christmas 2015. I’m a wee bit behind on posts.) I really love sugar scrub for taking dry skin off my hands, legs, and face. After buying quite a few scrubs for $15-20 a pop I realized that I could easily make my own. The recipe I use is very simple:

  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil (can substitute coconut oil or almond oil if preferred)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Honey

Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. That’s all! Use it like you would any other exfoliator. You’ll be baby smooth and smell like vanilla to boot. I have always used olive oil and never tried the suggested substitutes (only because of cost) so I can’t speak to how they might change the formula, but I’m sure it’s still amazing. I’ve been told it can keep for up to three months, but I’ve never had a batch last that long. Its the perfect last-minute gift.

 

Two good things

Good thing #1: I wore Arroway today.  To prove it, I offer up this exceedingly unflattering self portrait.

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Better pics will come I promise.  At least the cat is looking cute over my shoulder.  She always sits like that… so regal.  I’ll just say that it’s super warm and I loved having it up around my neck all day.  It kept me nice and toasty all day.  Definitely going to be in my scarf/shawl rotation.
Good thing #2: I made split pea soup last night and now I have a whole fridge of split pea soup carefully ladled out into bowl sized portions! (If you don’t like split pea soup 1: my excitement about this will not make sense to you; 2: you’re crazy; 3: no need for you to read the rest of this post.)  Split pea soup is my favorite.
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To say that my “recipe” is easy is to make it sound harder than it is.  If you can chop celery, you can make this.  (You do need a crock pot though.)  Here goes.
Ingredients:
  • 1 bag split peas (the reasonable size bag, not the industrial size)
  • 1 pound carrots–I buy the ones that come already shredded because they mash really well and I don’t have to do any chopping.  If you want to do more chopping buy whatever is cheapest
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 1 giant can chicken broth–I use the 99% fat free reduced sodium kind.  I mean giant, buy the biggest can at the store
  • 1 pound pork (I use pork instead of ham, I have never liked ham, I think it has a greasy texture that gives me the willies, if you like ham and can’t imagine split pea soup made with mere pork substitute as you like) I’ve used pretty much any cut of pork from pork loin to thick-cut boneless chops to shoulder.  Hint: sometimes the supermarket will put a sticker on it that says “great for crock pot”–pick that.
Directions:
  1. Put split peas on bottom of crock pot.  They must go on bottom.  This is a cardinal rule.  Do not violate it.
  2. Put pork in crock pot on top of peas.
  3. Put carrots in crock pot on top of pork (if you didn’t buy shredded carrots, chop them up first.)
  4. Chop celery then put it in crock pot on top of carrots.
  5. Empty chicken broth into crock pot.  All of it.  Trust me.  You need it.
  6. Add extra water to crock pot.  I have the big circular sized crock pot.  After all the ingredients are in, I fill it to the top with water.  If you have the giant oval crock pot I have no suggestions for how to properly measure the water you add.  Guess.  You may think the giant can of chicken broth gives you enough liquid since it covers all the ingredients.  It does not.  If you don’t add the extra water you will have split pea sludge, not split pea soup.
  7. Set crock pot for low and try to be patient for 16 hours.  It will start to smell good after hour 9.  This can be torturous if you are hungry.  Best to let it cook while you will be out/asleep.
  8. If pork hasn’t fallen apart on its own, use a fork to shred it.  If vegetables have not disintegrated into green soupyness mash them with a potato masher, they should disintegrate into soup at the slightest pressure.
This will make 9 seriously good sized bowls.  If you use relatively lean pork you are looking at 150 calories per bowl.  That’s right 150!  Delicious and healthy.  It will be a good week.

MMmmmmm

This is the evening I have planned:

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The food is homemade crockpot stew and a glass of a yummy Moscato (I like girly wine, I know, not as classy as a Pino Grigio but sweet and yummy and mellow.)

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My recipe for crockpot stew:

Ingredients

  • potatoes–as many as looks good, I usually get about 4 big ones
  • celery–one bunch
  • carrots–I buy a bag of baby carrots then add until it looks right and save the rest to munch on
  • pre-chopped stew meat–about a pound.  (I stock the grocery store for it to go on sale then freeze it so I can use it as I like.)
  • flour–about two handfuls
  • broth–48 oz (I use broth for all the liquid, if you’re worried about sodium you can do half broth, half water) chicken or beef, whatever is on sale

Directions

  • chop potatoes, throw them in crockpot
  • sprinkle handful of flour over potatoes
  • toss stew meat in
  • sprinkle with handful of flour
  • chop carrots and celery, throw them in the crock pot
  • add broth
  • set crockpot to low and leave it alone for a day (I usually do overnight to the next day’s dinner time)
  • eat stew
  • hide leftover stew from 6’10” brother who loves stew and will eat it all if given half a chance

It’s actually even better if you have the patience to take the stew out of the crockpot and throw it in the fridge for another overnight so it can thicken and the flavors can get all combined.  I can never wait.

As for the knitting, its a plain 64-stitch sock from the top down with a heel flap.  This is my favorite method of making socks.  I know all the benefits of toe-up socks and the short-row heel, but top-down are so darned charming.  I love everything about them.  I don’t much like ribbing, so it’s good to get it out of the way when the project is fresh.  I have enough stamina to make the leg as long as I want it.  With toe-up socks, I find I make shorter legs because I want the project to be over (and I skimp on the ribbing.)  Heel flaps are fun.  You get to go back and forth for a while rather than round and round.  Plus, if you do a slip stitch heel it’s more durable than the short-row heel because it’s double thick.  Heel flaps fit high arches better than short-row heels.  I have high arches.  Kitchner really isn’t that bad.  There, I said it.

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The yarn is Boylston, one of the Yarnia house blends I picked up when I was working there.  It’s 50% Bamboo, 27% Merino, 23% Alpaca.  It’s comprised of one strand navy bamboo, one strand navy merino, one strand bright blue merino, and one strand gray heathered alpaca.  It’s definitely on the thick side for a fingering weight, my socks will be very thick–good for hiking or as “outside” socks to go over smaller socks in the winter.