Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Corner to Corner Baby Blanket Equals Victory!

Here is the corner to corner baby blanket I just completed for a cousin. (And stop looking at the unwoven ends. I'll take care of it! Tomorrow!)

As soon as I finished, I strolled into the television room and struck an arrogant pose. The hubby said, "What are you so happy about?" followed by "You're shirt's on backwards. I can see the tag."

He was right. I slunk away. 
I'm great at starting creative projects. Not so good at finishing them. So I deserve praise. And a margarita.

I can tell by the arched eyebrow you have an unasked question you're dying to voice. "What kind of pattern allowed you to finish a baby blanket??" An Easy pattern. Really, really, easy. It's called a Corner to Corner, and you can do it while you're watching television or chatting because you don't have to count. Swear on my ball of yarn. For my blanket, I used an H hook and Bernat Satin yarn.

First thing you do is chain six.

Skip two and double crochet in the last three chain stitches. You will wind up with this little nubby-looking thing that I'll call--the Nub. Now turn.

Work the pattern again. Chain six. Double crochet in the last three chain stitches. You are now the proud owner of two Nubs!
You will notice that each Nub has a loop at the top - the curved part. Slip stitch the two Nubs together.
Turn. Chain three.
Add three more double crochets into the loop you just slip stitched through. You now have the pattern started. Turn.

At the end of every row, you will turn. You will add another Nub by chaining six and double crocheting in the last three chains. The pattern across is "slip stitch through the loop of the next Nub, chain three, and add three double crochets into the loop".

Work the pattern into the size you want. When you are ready to decrease, instead of adding a new Nub to the pattern, you will slip stitch across the top of the last nub in the row (3 slip stitches total) and then work usual the pattern across.

Easy peasy!

If anyone finds my instructions difficult, just leave me a note or email me with Corner to Corner in the subject line and I'll be happy to help if I can.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fifty Favorite Food Blogs Donate to Red Cross!

There's a new cookbook in town, and the proceeds to to the Red Cross to aid the victims of natural disasters.

I saw this on Buns in My Oven and immediately snagged by copy. Though I got the ebook, you can also get the hard copy--both for only $10!

Not only have I discovered new recipes, I've discovered new blogs that cover everything from food to crafts to money saving tips. Cool.

Here's the link. It's a great investment!

In case I mess up the link, here it is again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making Plum Jam

I just wiped off the bathroom counters with a dirty nightgown. Does this make me a bad person?

It's not my fault. The Direct TV guy showed up early, which is good except that I hadn't cleaned the bathroom. Or showered. Are you beginning to understand the whole antitheses of Martha thing?

As promised, I did make jam. Or maybe it's marmalade. It's kind of chunky.

First, I bought 4 oz Ball jars at the grocery store along with a packet of Ball pectin and a box of sealing wax. I already had tons of plums at home, and I thought plum jam might be nice.

I'm not a stupid woman. I called Grandma before I made another move. She had just the recipe for me. It was a freezer jam recipe, so I wouldn't need to boil jars or make seals. (She had mercy on me because she knows me. Thanks, Grandma.)  Right after I hung up, I realized that I hadn't bought any Sure Jell. She definitely said to add Sure Jell.

Then I noticed that the pectin package promised recipes. Nestled inside the box, I found a complex chart that covered three ways to make jam, including a freezer method that didn't ask for Sure Jell. They gave examples of quantities used for various fruits, but plums weren't on the list. I took a wild guess. Peaches and plums are pretty similar, right? 

The recipe called for three cups of fruit. Grandma said to use six cups for one package of pectin, so I settled on four and a half cups. Grandma said to cut up the plums and smoosh them with the potato masher. I soon realized that I didn't have enough ripe plums. Some of them weren't smooshy, and the recipe warned me not to use the food processor to grind up the fruit or I would destroy the fruit's natural pectin. I guess with pectin, it's the more, the merrier. So I added some peaches to make up the difference.

When it came time to add the sugar, I figured fruit is so sweet, why bother?  Grandma recommended cutting her recipe's six cups to three. The pectin recipe agreed with her, but I boldly (or foolishly) limited the sugar to one cup.

Now, the pectin recipe said to mix the pectin with apple juice over a burner. Then pour the hot liquid over the fruit and stir for one minute. I had some pretty chunky plums and peaches. I thought it might be a good idea to heat up the fruit separately and let it soften up a bit. Then I could give it a few more wacks with the potato masher. So I did.

Then I added the hot apple juice/pectin mixture to the fruit and stirred.

I spooned the results into my jars and refrigerated them for twenty-four hours. Then I moved all but two jars into the freezer. The results?

The jars are pretty. So is the jam. All plummy-looking, except for the large chunks of peaches. I should have cut the fruit into smaller pieces.

There was a slightly bitter aftertaste. I think I might have gotten too close to the pits when I cut up the plum. After a night in the ice box, the chunks of fruit had softened up enough that my toast and marmalade breakfast wasn't crunchy.

Overall? A success.

Define success? I could give a jar away to someone I know really well and not feel horrible about it. Or someone I'll never see again.

You want to know the hardest part? Taking the picture. Anyone who reads food blogs such as Buns in My Oven  might think that taking good-looking food photos is easy. It's not.

I posed my jar on the white tile counter that I re-grouted last year, but the grout looked dingy. Then I set the jar on a dish towel. There was a grey smudge on the cloth that could only mean my dog Buster had wiped his mouth on it. He does that sometimes. Gross.

After I looked at this last shot, I thought the towel needed ironing. Martha's probably are. I decided it looked homey.

I know you're wondering what happened to that unused sealing wax. Maybe I'll try to make my own candles.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome to Bad Martha

No. This isn't a commentary on Martha Stewart's life of crime. It's a blog for those of us who are the antitheses of Martha, and not for want of trying.

As a little girl, I relished those homey moments with my mom and grandma--the smell of freshly baked bread, apples with fairy kisses eaten right off the backyard tree, and homemade gingerbread cookies on the Christmas tree.

My mom delved into ceramics for a while, and every holiday was marked with the appearance of familiar faces. The perky Easter Bunny, the rustic nativity scene, and two spotted frogs that hung around all year. We saw the same tablecloth on special occasions, with a runner that my mom whipped up herself.

My holiday decorations consist of a short rosemary tree purchased at Trader Joe's and a store-bought wreath.

I got sidetracked by a career, but when I left that job to be a full-time housewife/writer, I longed to transform my house into a home. It's not just that wives are usually the one to take on that assignment, should they choose to accept it. Creating a home is a woman's gift. And it's never too late to start, right?

I want a garden, or at least a few plants that survive more than a week. A miniature fruit tree or pots of herbs would be nice. I want homemade decorations that I pull out every year. I want to conquer a sourdough "mother". I want to use all those beads and balls of yard I bought on impulse. I want to turn those cut out patterns into usable clothing. I want ketchup and BBQ sauce that doesn't come from a bottle.

In short...I want it all.

I'm not obsessed with perfection, which is good. I saw a dog treat recipe on a food blog recently, and all the cookies were shaped like doggie biscuits. The ones I microwave for my own dog look like blobs. But the dog doesn't care. And I know I'll get better with time.

Are there other women out there who have this same longing? Who maybe didn't pay attention in Home Ec class because they were busy driving the teacher nuts by singing "Twelve Days of Christmas" over...and over...and over. (The woman was a saint.) Are there ladies who would like to share their expertise with the less fortunate members of their sex?

I like that thought. Women used to hang together and teach the younger gals the tricks of the trade. I didn't take advantage of those moments, but I hope to make up for lost time. 

I'm off to try to make homemade jam. I'll tell you all about it.