Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fuzzy Toddler Leg Warmers

I haven't knitted much of anything this school year, I think I've made it clear on this blog before that most evenings consist of me sitting on the couch staring blankly at the TV until I fall asleep (at 9 pm).  So in lieu of finishing projects that I have lying around, I started a new one.  I think that's something a Gemini would do.  I've been fiddling around all week with one leg warmer--trying to figure out how many stitches to cast on, what size needle to use--so yesterday morning when it occured to me that Callah had nothing to wear for St. Patrick's Day, I lept into action.  I can tell you that one leg warmer knits up in the amount of time it takes to drive from Milwaukee to Madison including pauses for nausea.

The "pattern" such as it is:

worsted weight yarn (half of a skein)
Size 8 needles

CO 38 stitches
Knit in rib stitch (K1, P1) for 5 rows
Knit in stocking stitch until total piece measures 7 inches
Knit in rib stitch for 3 rows
Bind off.

Sew seam and weave ends.

*If you use double pointed needles, it's even quicker, you can skip the seam step.  I tried to do this but couldn't get the gauge right with any of the sizes I had.

Viola! You are done.  Fits one tiny 18 month old.

When she put them on the girl had to dance!

Can also be worn as arm warmers if you are kooky like my kid.  The possibilities are endless!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Homemade Nutri-Grain Bars

Yesterday I went to Trader Joe's and spent a small fortune to stock my freezer and pantry.  Among other things I stocked up on jam. I had to open the boysenberry this morning. I made baking poweder biscuits soley as a vehicle to spread the sumptuous preserves. Then I realized I had about six open jars of jelly lined up in my fridge.

I've been wanting to make a homemade nutri-grain bar for a few weeks now and I searched around for some recipes.  They would be the perfect way to use up some jelly. Most recipes I found were very high in sugar and fat (many called for at least a cup of butter).

I cobbled together this recipe from some others that I found.  It's main purpose was to use up a few things in my pantry, so feel free to substitute when necessary.  I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Homemade Nutri-grain Bars

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar 
1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (here I used baby oatmeal cereal-a great way to use this up)
1 1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 t. vanilla (optional, only if you are using plain yogurt)

Several Tablespoons jam or preserves

Cream together the butter and sugars, add the flours and oats.  Add the yogurt and vanilla last.  One of the recipes I found online used a 1/2 can of canellini beans ground into a paste.  I didn't have canellini beans on hand nor the inclination to get out my food processor, so I thought yogurt might do as a binding agent.

It worked although the dough was very sticky.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  The foil is critical.  Divide the dough in half and press half into the pan, I had to use my hands, it was super goopy.

Next, spread the dough with jam.  I used a couple of different jars to finish up what I had in the fridge.

Cover the jam with the remaining half of the dough.  Again, it's a bit fiddly and you will get your fingers sticky.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  I checked mine after 25 minutes and found the top layer to be very soft.  I ended up baking the bars for a total of 35 minutes.

Let cool about 10 minutes and slice up. I cut mine into small squares to fit these little plastic containers I get at work.

My go-to snack for the week!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Working Mom Accomplishments & Time Savers

Last night something wonderful happened--I finished my book!  I wish I meant a book I was writing, as that would truly be a sense of accomplishment.  Sadly, it was just a silly murder mystery that I have been reading for so long I've renewed it at least twice.  My husband teases me that I read 3 pages and pass out, and it's not far from the truth.

My job is tiring.  At the end of the day I feel weary.  I've long ago used up my patience and when I crawl into bed at, let's pretend it's at least 9 pm, I am ready to succumb to the day.

So, yes finding out after all these weeks who killed Joy Something-or-Other (I've already forgotten most of the plot) did feel really, really good for about three seconds until I conked out.

In honor of those precious three seconds at the end of every day I've made a list of all the ways I try to save time each week.

Make ahead lunches.  This week: wraps!

Make a menu at the beginning of the week.  Probably everyone does this, but it's not something I did until I met my husband, it's genius.

My job allows me the flexibility to work late one night a week.  I usually leave work at 3 pm, but one night a week I will stay later and plan and organize for the following week.  I never, ever leave work Friday until everything is all ready for the following week.  Then I don't give my job a thought over the weekend.

Work through lunch.  I started doing this out of necessity as all my friends that share my lunch hour were out on maternity leave, and I was sitting in the creepy teacher's lounge with only the giant rat trap for company.  So off to my classroom I went, where I can eat and work on an IEP at the same time.  Trying very carefully to not leave any crumbs, of course.  No giant rat traps for me please!

10 minute speed clean.  I read this in a magazine once and it is brilliant.  When I get home from work I spend 10 minutes tidying up.  Sometimes I just have time to wash dishes, but other times I'll wipe the bathroom counters off and swiffer.  My house is usually not filthy as a result.

Since I have the luxury of not working for three months at a time, I know that mom's who stay at home fill up their days just as much as those of us who slog off to work every day.  So I'd love to hear more time saving tips from mom's everywhere!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Rocking the Crock Pot Ratatouille

Every Thursday a truck of gently expired food drops off boxes to the back of my school.  The food is distributed to parents and community members who need it. On a good day stale bread and rotten bananas make their way into my kitchen and become cassoulet or banana bread.  Last week's treasure was an eggplant with only a few moldy spots on it.  It had been weighing on my mind for a few days when I googled eggplant + crock pot in hopes of combining my two loves--the crock pot and not throwing away food.
The Internet reared up and smacked me on the forehead. Duh! Ratatouille.  Ratatouille is a perfect recipe for me since you can pretty much do whatever you want.  My version is just a guideline, feel free to add or omit anything you want. I think you should most definitely have eggplant and tomatoes but anything else goes.  
Here's my recipe.

1 eggplant, chopped into large chunks
4 stalks of celery
2 yellow potatoes, chopped*
1 onion, diced
2 peppers (I used a red and a green)
2 small zucchini

1 cup chicken broth
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 Tablespoon oregano

1/4 cup of white wine
salt & pepper

*potatoes are not traditional, but I was trying to please my husband and daughter and I had some on hand

I peeled the eggplant and then sprinkled salt all over it and set it in a colander for 15 minutes.  This helps take some of the bitterness out.  Often I rinse it after this step, but I just left the salt on this time and didn't salt later. 

Throw all the ingredients except the white wine in and turn the crock pot on to high.  Let cook for 4-5 hours on high or 6-7 on low.  

I stirred the wine in at the end and let it cook off for another 20 minutes, salt and pepper to taste at this step.

I served the ratatouille over rice with a little Parmesan cheese over the top and crispy flat bread heated up in the oven with olive oil.

I told my husband all about ratatouille at breakfast on Saturday morning.  You know; how we were going to eat it that night, what is in it, and what a nice French staple it is. He nodded and said, "sounds good." This I would swear to.

So I didn't feel too bad for him when he looked skeptically at the crock pot on Saturday and asked where the meat was.  However, the good news is, he liked it! Or at least he said he did, which is just as good to me.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ghosts of Projects Incomplete

When it comes to knitting and crafting my eyes are bigger than my hands (and my ability level). I have the best intentions of making sweaters for Callah and booties for my friend's baby, a hat for my husband and maybe a scarf for myself, yet amazingly since Callah's birth pretty much nothing has materialized.

I started these booties for a friend's baby born 2 months after Callah.  I ended up sending them some unwrapped clothes I picked up at Target and dropped in a box on my way home.  In my defense we were in the thick of colic season back then.  Perhaps for their next little one?

I was so pleased with this funky color combination and fuzzy yarn I picked up at the end of last summer, it was 80 degrees out and I was sure I would be able to knock out this simple sweater before the first autumn chill.  From the second school started I haven't even touched this project (unless you count getting it out to take this photo and promptly putting it back in the closet).  The good news is, it's a little big and Callah is a little small, so there is hope for next winter.

Here's a link to the pattern for the "Hug Me Pullover" from Stitch Nation--you can see what it should look like here:

I thought I would have photo after photo of unfinished work, but when I combed through my yarn stash, I realized that I haven't even started much this year.  I'm not going to pretend that I'll be able to pick up my knitting needles before spring break, so don't hold your breath on seeing these adorable styles on a little one near you any time soon.
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