Thursday, February 28, 2008

Everybody's doing the Cocoamotion....

It's time for another LKOTP Product Award. (ok, I totally made that up but it's my blog and I can do that. What? You wonder what it stands for? Hello?! Little Knitter on the Prairie Award. Highly Coveted. Well, they will be seeing as I just made them up. Anyway...)

Today's recipient of the LKOTP Product Award for improving my life in an indulgent and completely unnecessary manner is the Back to Basics Cocoa-Latte Hot Drink Maker.

This bad boy makes the single finest cup of cocoa I have ever had. Ever. Anywhere. And I make it myself at home (bonus! on the cheap!). I usually subscribe to the Alton Brown philosophy of kitchen products in that a single purpose gadget or appliance takes up valuable kitchen space and is wasteful, multi-purpose is the way to go. If this thing didn't make the best cocoa I'd ever had I'd agree, but it has earned it's place in the kitchen and isn't going anywhere. We received it as a gift (ok, technically it was a gift for the kids from their Great-Aunt & Uncle) two Christmases ago. I was skeptical at first since I knew this was one more thing I'd have to find a place to store. But, it was Christmas morning so we opened it up and decided to make some cocoa. We were blown away by the yummy cocoa and immediately taken with the little machine.

It looks like a modified blender that both blends and heats the ingredients to the perfect temperature. You can immediately drink it when it is finished in the machine and not incinerate your mouth. One of my big pet peeves about ordering hot drinks in restaurants is that you are then forced to wait at least 5-10 minutes before you can safely drink them.

The recipe I use came in the instruction booklet for the Cocoa maker. It's relatively inexpensive and extremely easy.

Hot Cocoa
2 C. milk
1/4 C. sugar
5 t. cocoa
1 t. vanilla

Add the above to the blender, put the lid on, plug in, turn on. It quits mixing automatically when it's done. It even has a feature that automatically turns it on to mix and heat the remaining liquid in the blender so that your re-fill will still be the perfect temperature. This cocoa is so good I made a thermos full of it for my parents when we had the big blizzard in December. The girls had gone to their house before the snow started to make Christmas cookies and by lunch we were in the middle of a blizzard. Mom and Dad drove them back home and I gave her the thermos so they'd have something warm to sip on for the drive home (or sustain them should they have been buried alive in snow). She later asked me if we had put alcohol in it because it was so good. No kidding, it's really that good. And no I didn't put any alcohol in but I think it would be perfect with the new Bailey's Mint. Oh the possibilities....

Is it good for you? Technically no although my chocolate endorphins would argue with you (shut up, there totally are chocolate endorphins). It may not be good for you but as an occasional treat on a chilly day it can't be beat. My wicked math skills estimate the above recipe yields 2 C. of cocoa for about .70 cents.

As always no financial contributions were made to this blog author for product consideration (Unfortunately. That would rock, what a cool gig...) I just like to share when I find something I love.

And now with the temperatures approaching near spring like levels I raise my mug of cocoa and tell the rotten winter of 2007-2008 good-bye and good riddance. The cocoa machine will be safely nestled in the back of the cabinet until next fall.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Finally managed to fill up all of my sad empty boxes on Ravelry with actual knitting pictures! Yay me! So I thought I ought to put them on the old blog as well...

First up are pictures of the Sweet Mary Jane Cardigan before blocking. I literally don't have anywhere in my house where it can be safely blocked without a child (or husband) stepping on it. So, I'll take it over to my mom's and we can fit and block it there. Then we can go shopping for ribbon and buttons.

Here are the Mary Jane Slippers. The knitting is finished on both of them and I need to do the crochet edging and strap next. I bought two skeins of this yarn so I think I'll make a second pair for my sister out of the other skein. It didn't quite take one skein for the pair. I'm going to do the edging and strap in black. Love this yarn!!! Yay Noro!

Here is my little man in his Camo Hat (Joseph pattern I purchased to make in fun colors but haven't gotten to it yet). We bought him a new coat last Fall that is a camo print. I thought making him a hat out of camo colored yarn would be cute to go with it. Except I didn't have his coat with me when I bought the yarn so they don't even remotely match. His coat is in shades of brown and this yarn is in shades of green. Yuck. But it was an easy hat to make. And I don't care if he ruins it. The yarn was uber-cheap, Red Heart crap. I am becoming such a yarn snob. ::sigh::

Sweetheart Glovelets. These were fun to make although they could probably stand a proper blocking so they'd look a little nicer. I couldn't wait for that though and wore them out the other night. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and the color is darker than it photographed here. The pattern was extremely well written and I even managed it while doped up on cough syrup.

Monkey Socks! I think I already have pictures somewhere on this blog of my Monkeys but I figured I'd throw these up here as well while I was putting up all the others.

Monday, February 25, 2008

PS--forgot to mention...

Did anyone see the Martha Stewart knitting show today? I specifically sat and watched the entire show today since it was supposed to be entirely devoted to knitting. Everyone in the audience was knitting but that was about the closest they ever got to actually knitting anything on the show. I was disappointed that they didn't at least do a "Knitting 101" segment or something. It wouldn't have been to hard to show a simple cast on and how to do a knit stitch. I can't imagine how frustrated I would have been if I had wanted to learn how to knit and watched the whole show and was never shown what an actual knit stitch was.

They made stuffed animals out of gloves/mittens (that was presumable hand knit at one point or more likely store bought) so that wasn't actual knitting. In another segment they made marzipan decorated to look like knitting which was very cute and on theme but wasn't actually knitting either (not that they can really be faulted, I can't expect them to knit the food, duh). The other knitting segment was wrapping left over yarn around a plastic bangle to make a bracelet. In the very final last minute of the show they showed Martha and one of her producers knitting and giving a tip for making sure booties/socks/cuffs are the same size by knitting them both on the same needle at the same time so they would be the exact same size. But even at that there wasn't any further instructions on exactly how to do it.

I enjoyed the knitting theme and hope they do it again at some point. It just would have been nice to see more actual knitting content.


wordy, wordy, wordy

Still no pictures. We had a busy weekend of early spring cleaning. This is my slow time of year work wise so I'm finally getting a chance to catch back up on the much neglected house work and organizing. We spent most of the weekend sorting, moving things, re-organizing, cleaning and hanging pictures on the walls. In December we moved our oldest girl into a room of her very own. But in order to do that we had to clean out all the stuff that was in there since the room was basically storage space. So all of that junk has been sitting in the hallway waiting for me to have the time to find permanent homes for it all. It took some work but we waded through about half of the stuff. I then went through the middle daughter's room and cleaned/organized it as well. It is soo nice to finally have things back in order. I can't stand clutter and we've been wading through it for about a year now. I'm finally, FINALLY, caught up with my business work and I'm soooo happy. I know I'm stressed when I'm in the middle of it all but I don't realize how stressed I am until I finally get a breather. I told my husband that for the first time in two years I feel like I'm standing on the ground instead of holding onto the out of control spinning carousel of life. I always feel like I'm just holding on by my fingertips with my body flying around parallel to the ground. There's still work to be done on the house to get it whipped back into shape and what I consider an acceptable state but we're steadily on the way. Thank Heavens!!

In knitting news I've been busy every evening working on knitting since I don't have to be strapped to my computer every waking moment. I've knit several dish cloths which have been fun to do. I love how quick and easy they are. And as an added bonus they really are pretty awesome in the kitchen. I made my first three from cotton dishcloth yarn I picked up at Twist. The next several ones I did I grabbed at Wal-Mart. The colors were pretty from Twist but on my last trip to Wal-Mart they had even more variety than they usually do and had some pretty good colors too. I've made several patterns so far. I enjoy knitting the Chinese Waves dish cloth since there is no purling but I don't think I like it as well for actual use in the kitchen. When it comes to using it in the kitchen though my favorite right now is the Lion Brand free dishcloth pattern. I had to try the obligatory Grandma's Dish Cloth Pattern which was super easy and works very well in the kitchen as well. I grabbed a ball of red cotton to make a Valentine's day dishcloth but I wasn't very happy with the results. It was easy to do but didn't look all that great. Here's the pattern for it. My review--eh.

In between the dishcloth knitting I finished my first Sweet Mary Jane slipper (minus the crochet edging, I'll do that last on both of them). Today I finally managed to get the second one started. I don't know what my problem is with these but I'm having the worst time casting on for them. I've done a provisional cast on in the past without any problems but these have been a huge pain to cast on. I spent a couple of hours this weekend trying to cast on for it and finally gave up and made a couple of dishcloths instead. Thankfully I managed it this morning and am through the toe portion and ready to bind off and begin working back and forth for the mid-foot portion of it. That being said I'm still going to have to do some creative weaving in of the beginning since no matter what I did I had a small hole there. Didn't have that problem with the first one although I bet it has to do with my increases. I knit into the front and back to increase on the first one and my stitch count was off so I winged it and it turned out ok. I actually followed the instructions on the second one and did a M1 and had nothing but grief. Go figure.

Should finish it up tonight and then I can start on the crochet edging. I do virtually no crochet at all so I'll have to have my mom help me with that. My grandmother was an expert with crochet and made the most beautiful doilies and afghans. I miss her so much. She passed away from lung cancer while I was pregnant with my oldest. She would get such a kick out of my knitting and would have loved to teach me anything I needed to know. She taught me to crochet as a child but all I ever really mastered where endless single chains and granny squares. Every time I try to read a crochet pattern it looks like trying to read German which is frustrating. Of course that's how knitting patterns used to look to me at one time and I managed to stick with it and decipher them.

I think after I finish up the slippers I'll work on a scarf. I bought the yarn and pattern several years ago on a trip I made out to Seattle to visit my sister. We took the ferry to the San Juan Islands for the day and drove all over the island exploring. At one point we came across an alpaca farm, Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm. We stopped in and they had beautiful, soft hand-dyed alpaca yarn. I picked up a skein (or 2?) to make a scarf. They had a pattern with tiny glass beads that matched so I purchased it as a little kit. I haven't looked at it in a while so I need to refresh my memory as to what it looks like and see if I need to get a tiny crochet hook to put the beads on the stitches. I do remember the yarn was super soft and beautifully colored. They even had skeins that had pictures of which alpaca it came from and their name. Very cute. I loved the San Juan Islands. I am a Kansas girl through and through, wouldn't want to live anywhere else--except for the San Juan Islands. I absolutely loved it and could absolutely live there. Which is saying quite a bit since I'm such a flatlander. I want to take the family on a vacation up there sometime. It's a bit of a pain/expense to get to but so worth it. Just stunning. Every type of terrain you can imagine--flat valleys, ocean coasts, woods, hills, ocean. Beautiful.

I don't keep a big "stash" of yarn at all but I'm glad I had a few projects purchased and set aside to go for now. It's great having a slow time of year business wise to get caught up on things but it definitely puts a damper on the old finances! I think after I finish my scarf I'll have to actually go purchase yarn for the next projects. I found a darling cabled purse on Ravelry that I've added to my to do list and I'd like to make some preemie and chemo caps for charity as well.

Hopefully tomorrow I can take some pictures. My Ravelry page is so plain jane, no pics at all. I've definitely got to take care of that! Can't stand seeing those empty boxes...

Geesh, I am perhaps the wordiest most sporadically posting blogger ever....

Back to work!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Comfortably Numb

So I have now been sick for almost five weeks. Five weeks of coughing, sleeping and being in a general foul mood. I think my family is almost ready to sell me. I've given up trying to figure out what I'm sick with. So far I've been diagnosed with: sinus infection, bronchitis and flu. Who knows which it is, maybe all three. Maybe something new and mysterious! I have been on multiple prescriptions and frankly they don't really seem to do much. I'm a little better but still sick. The one medicine that definitely does something is the prescription cough syrup. I went through the first prescription bottle in a few days. It did help and didn't taste bad and was pretty relaxing, I believe codeine was the big drug in that one. After a trip to the emergency room though I was prescribed a bigger, badder cough syrup that as far as I can tell seems to be some kind of methadone deritivite. It is crazy stuff. I actually feel numb after I take it. It does stop the coughing but it also seems to short circuit part of my brain. It's very difficult to try to do normal things after I take it as part of my brain is tooling along like normal but the other part is stumbling around in the dark completely confused about simple things. It's extremely odd. It isn't like being tipsy at all. When you're tipsy all of your senses seem to take a gradual decline into fuzziness but with this cough syrup there's like there's a disconnect somewhere in the brain. It has really done a number on my knitting. I can't seem to make the pattern instructions work out in my head. I've done surprisingly well all things considered. I'm working on my Sweet Mary Jane slippers and I swear the instructions seem to be partly in German. I went ahead and worked on them tonight even though I figured I was probably screwing them up. I stopped after a while and it looks fairly normal so I must have been muddling through a little better than I thought. Of course the first night I started on them while doped up on the cough syrup and I couldn't figure out the dumb provisional cast on to save my life. Thankfully the next morning I got it on the first try--cough syrup free.

I've even managed to finish up some knitting while sick--the Sweet Mary Jane cardigan (what is it with me and patterns named Sweet Mary Jane?) and the Sweetheart Glovelets (maybe it's just the word sweet? I must have a compulsion to knit all patterns with the word sweet in it). I'm planning on getting some pictures taken for ravelry here in the next few day so hopefully I'll get some posted here too. It's a little embarrassing to look at my project page in Ravelry and see all the blank boxes instead of cute little pictures...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Winter bugs and NetiPots

Every year after Christmas we seem to start the full-blown flu season and this year has been no exception. Almost everyone in the family has been sick. It seems to rotate on a person by person basis. I almost think it would be better to have everyone sick at once because at least it would cut down the overall suffering time. The worst of it seems to have struck with in the last week. I missed a week of work and the kids have each been taking turns missing school.

In other odd news I've found something that does seem to be helping my sinuses and overall illness. My mother told me about using a Neti Pot to help my sinuses. I've struggled with sinus and ear issues for my entire life. As a child I was taken from doctor to doctor, had tubes in my ear, adnoids removed, saw an ENT and went through numerous tests. I was taken off all dairy, given allergy testing and endured other yucky nose/sinus tests. Nothing really seemed to work. I live most of my life with a stuffy nose and always have tissues nearby. Breathing at night is nearly impossible unless through my mouth and I've snored since I was a child. My mom saw a segment on Oprah about the Neti Pot and how it helps folks with sinus issues. They had a woman demonstrate how it works and she seemed to have many of the same sinus problems I have and it was helping her quite a bit so my Mom told me about it.

The Neti Pot cleanses and flushes out the sinus with salt water. The pot itself looks like a small watering can which you fill with water, non-iodized salt and baking soda. The Neti Pot I purchased included some small packets with pre-mixed salt and baking soda which I just add to the pot with luke-warm water. You place the spout of the pot in your nostril, tip your other nostril down and gravity will draw the water into your nostril where it will circulate through your sinus cavity and drain out of your opposite nostril. After it is finished draining you remove the Neti Pot and gently exhale through your nose to expel the remaining water (I usually blow my nose a few times gently with a kleenex too). Then repeat on the other side. I'm currently doing this in the morning and at night. What a difference it makes! The first night I did it I woke up the next morning breathing through my nose with my mouth closed! That NEVER happens. It also makes a big difference throughout the day too. My nose isn't nearly as stuffy as before and breathing is easier. I'll be anxious to see how it will be when I'm completely over this horrible cold that I have now. Many people who use the Neti Pot report that they no longer suffer from colds or sinus infections when they use it. The water solution is suppose to flush out the viruses/bacteria and pollutants that get trapped in the sinus cavity. They have been used for centuries in other parts of the world and seem to be a very striaghtforward, natural way to maintain and improve the sinuses. I wish I would have started doing this a long, long time ago! I can't imagine how many forrests I've cleared in kleenex consumption over my life time. Yuck.

In knitting news (yes! actual knitting content!), I've been making huge progress on the Sweet Mary Jane cardigan. I'm actually almost done with it. I've knit the entire body, both sleeves, attached the sleeves, knit the yoke and am 1/3 of the way through the collar. I should finish the collar today and bind off. Then all I have to do is whip stitch the underarms closed, weave in the ends and block it. Well, I'll need to buy/sew on the buttons and buy/weave in the ribbon but I'm going to do that with Mom so she can pick them out since this is for her. I'm so excited to be almost done with this, it's been a learning experience and the most complicated pattern I've done yet so it's been really neat. Thankfully it's gone perfectly and the only mistakes have been dumb ones on my part that I've been able to undo and fix. I will post some pictures after I get it blocked!!

After that I think I'm going to knit some dish cloths. I think some quick, easy knits will be just the thing to do after this big project. I saw that Twist has some new cotton that I'd like to pick up and use for that. I might have to run by and pick that up today or tomorrow so I'll have something to knit for this weekend.

Better run, the school just called and now I've got another kid coming home from school sick.