Monthly Archives: March 2006

10 little blocks sitting on a wall


Signing up for Block Swap was a risk and a lark. I didn’t know what I would do or where it would end up and I considered it a great adventure. My ten blocks are done. Each one taught me something different, each one is special, not perfect but special to me. Letting go and being willing to experiment and not follow rules was wonderful. At the beginning I thought the solid fabrics required for the swap weren’t all that attractive, especially the curry. I think it turned out to be my favorite. It makes things pop in a wonderful way! So without futher ado, the blocks!

Off they go, in the mail tomorrow! What fun, I cannot wait to see what I get sent back to me from other quilters! Which one do you like, I would love to hear! Don’t like any of them, that is okay too. Let me know- I want to hear your thoughts…

Do you like Pina Coladas? Long Walks in the Rain? Dancing After Midnight?


If so, then you might be my dear, darling Secret Pal, Susan. Yes, you Susan, who loves dark chocolate, animals, kids and likes to call herself “The World’s Worst Knitter”, which is a complete load of Hooey! It has been SO much fun to spoil you for the past few months and this is friendship is a joy. I have been holding back a bit on the blog because I haven’t wanted you to find out who I am or identify my particular writing style. Susan, you rock and I have loved every minute of our new friendship!

And a BIG Thanks you to Tammy, my SP7 hostess with the mostess! She sent me a lovely package with Socks That Rock, in Falcon’s Eye. And some Knit Picks Color Your Own for socks! There was Kool Aid and a fabulous Beanie Baby Lamb, notecards, soap and just general fibery love and goodness. Thank you Tammy, it has been a joy to become your friend. I will post a picture tomorrow as the small hollering boys are really acting up.

Craig and I took a mini-vacation Sunday to Tuesday. What a blast, we got to be tourists in our own town. Have you ever done that? Check into a local hotel (no not the places that rent by the hour, get your mind out of the gutter!), and see the sights in your own town? We moved here almost two years ago from Seattle and have never really spent any time in our Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C. Actually, D.C. is about 14 miles from our house but plenty of people who live here (Great Falls, VA) consider D.C. town and commute there everyday. So off we went to the Willard Hotel, which is awesome and about a block and a half to the White House. The Willard has more history than you can possibly shake a stick at. Everybody from Charles Dickens to Mark Twain to just about any other famous figure you can imagine, read here for more. They even had secret meetings to try and stop the Civil War there. Fascinating and a great way to learn more about the history of our nation on a personal level.

There was so much beauty to see, there was pattern and texture everywhere. When we walked into the lobby all I could say was”Honey! Look at the floors!” Beautiful mosaic everywhere.

The view from our room was incredible!

The Washington Monument is so startling and enormous. It may sound trite but seeing it in person is awe inspiring. They actually stopped construction of it for 25 years during the Civil War and when they resumed they used rock from the same vein that was used early, but as 25 years had passed it was a different color, you can see the line pretty clearly in this picture:

The World War Two Memorial is the newest memorial on the National Mall and it is beautiful. Here is the field of stars:

Could that be more lovely and moving? This is the middle section of the railing around the WWII Memorial. Look at this amazing bronze work commerating the naval aspect of the war:

Whew! More pictures tomorrow because we have late breaking news! Steve, our friendly UPS guy just left and look what he brought to Casa Lookie What I Made! Woooo Hoooo!!!!

This is a beautiful book, which I eagerly tore through and look forward to reading much more slowly and savoring every bit this evening. Off to chase boys (but not like high school).

What is the flap, you heel?


I knew it was coming, the tag team. Two weeks ago Duncan was so sick and I knew there would be a brief interlude and then whammie! Angus is down for the count. The hubbalicious too. So, two sick guys, the littlest one at school and me doing the step and fetch. Reminds me of a sign I have in my kitchen:

After picking up Duncan from school, we were supposed to go grocery shopping. Well the good grocery store happens (cough) to be just near one of the yarn shops. So I asked Duncan if he wanted to go to run some errands with me and we agreed that we would go to the yarn shop and to the grocery store. You have no idea how cute it is to see an almost 3 year old little boy so excited about yarn. He named all the people he knew who needed yarn, including himself. He said as a statement, not a question: “You need more yarn Mom-mom!” He has proceeded to tell every person he has seen over the next twenty four hours “My Mom-mom is going to knit me socks. Green socks.” All this in his little almost three year old voice with the lisp. Makes my heart flutter.

So this was not to be a major outing to shop for yarn. Really I just wanted to check their stock on sock yarn. It is pretty hit and miss, I can’t tell if the owner/buyer has iffy taste in sock colorways or she just gets what she is sent. Duncan was told in very specific terms that he was to look with his eyes and not his hands. I sat him down in front of the sock yarn and told him not to move. He just sat there so sweetly and desperately wanted to hold some yarn. I let him hold it, I knew I was going to buy it anyway, so it was my loss, not the shop owners, if he wrecked it. For the record: I do not make a habit of bringing my children into a yarn shop. In my over five years of being a mom, this is the second time one of my children has been in a yarn store. And further for the record, the owner of the store was very gracious, showed Dunc behind the counter and talked to him while I shopped- without my asking. Yes, she enjoyed it as did he, and it was a great business move. She even invited him back. We bought some beautiful different sock yarns, which I’ll show you in a minute. Here is the startling realization I have come to: I have yet to turn my first heel of my first sock and I have a nice little sock stash starting. Now, it is not like Tammy or Emily (she is having a contest, go enter!) but it is a sweet and surely mighty little sock stash with some big aspirations.

Before I lay the sock stash on you, here is my very first ever heel flap (and attached sock leg)

This is the mystery yarn from my very sweet SP, you can see the skein in Saturday’s post. My SP also sent Socks Soar on 2 Circulars, and from it I am making the Simple Sock, in the woman’s size. Cat Bordhi recommends using circulars that are 24 inches, and boy is she right. I decided to get this cast on and found some 16 inches circs and it was a nightmare. I dug further in the stash and found some 40 inchers, too long but serviceable. They are working out wonderfully. They are both 3mm but one is labeled size 3 (Inox) and one is labeled size 2 (Addi). The join on the Inox is surely not as nice as the join on the Addis. The benefit of using 2 different brand but same size needles is that the cables are different colors. Very helpful as a new 2 circ sock knitter.
Okay, some of this you have seen before, the Koigu and the one ball of green Fortissima Socka but here is most but not all of the sock stash:

And last but not least, this was waiting when Dunc and I got home from the yarn store- never did make it to the grocery store…


This Sticker is so going to be seen in the pre-school parking lot.

Actual Knittng Content


I maybe the last person on the planet to knit this but it is a Clapotis. For some reason I had to start this about eight times. My markers kept getting in the wrong place or the boys kept interrupting. It made me even more determined, I tell you. Paper, pencil and stitch markers can really be a girl’s best friend. This yarn is a wool/alpaca mix from Three Waters Farm purchased at MSW last year. My oh my, this color is devine. How I wish I could show it to you in person. The name is “Melon” and it truly is luminous and it seems liquidy somehow. The yellow orange has wee bits of pink and it is truly beautiful.

If you enlarge the above picture, you can see the bits of pink. Funny, when I look at it my brain says yellow but my sense says pink. I love a good color conundrum.

And now drumroll please!

Thank you Secret Pal for my fantastic package! Here we have one 100g ball of Regia in a great denim and white color way, which will make beautiful socks for the boys. Also 100g of some great, vibrant variegated sock yarn. There was no label, did you dye it yourself SP? It looks delicious. And Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles by Cat Bordhi. A knitting book I don’t own, Yippee! And last but not least a book to read to my boys. The Old Man of Lochnagar written by Prince Charles. It looks so very charming, it will be a perfect read for our Sunday morning.

This package certainly does inspire me to knit socks. I can’t wait. Thank you SP for taking the time to figure out what I would really like, you were right!

Ides of March indeed


There is a church I drive by on the way to my local yarn shop. It is called the Church of the Holy Comforter. Every single time I see the sign I think it should be Church of the Holy Afghan. Wool on the brain. If none is on the needles, at least it is on the brain.

More block swap blocks. The yellow block is my favorite so far. It seems so alive to me.The blue one may not get submitted, it needs a bit of tweaking. The two large rectangles are not askew enough. I will fiddle with it and see what I get. It was suggested that we look at the Denyse Schmidt books for inspiration for block swap. Sunday morning I was chomping at the bit for the bookstore to open. Waiting to buy every Denyse Schmidt book they had. Odd, I made another cup of coffee, puttered around the house and somehow wasn’t excited to go buy the books. I am so pleased I never made it to the bookstore. I just began cutting, sewing, pressing, trimming and making it up as I went along. When I signed up for Block Swap I hauled out my Encyclopedia of Classic Quilt Patterns (which is a great resource) and marked 10 different blocks to make which would expand my skills. The idea was to make 10 blocks that I had never made before, using new (to me) techniques. Again, I am very happy I got caught up in doing something new. Confidence and satisfaction are the result. Funny, I was writing this post in my head and then surfed over to Yarnstorm and read Jane’s beautiful post. Her words were what I was thinking, except much more eloquent. Now If I could just get over my nervousness about paper piecing …

On a sad note: In the past two weeks, two really good men that we know have dropped dead. Sudden, immediate and so very permanent. Both were loving, funny family men and young, ages 39 and 42. Both left wives and children. So, today our hearts are heavier and life looks very different. Take a moment and do what you need to do. Now.

BlockSwapping Away


As you can see, LWIM has a new look. Isn’t it swank? A huge thank you to the Hubbalicious for all the hard work to move LWIM over and for all the fiddling around he had to do.

Today I made three blocks for Jessica’s BlockSwap:

After a very long night, Duncan’s temperature was normal yesterday morning.When I said he was on the mend, it was more of the power of positive thinking than fact. Then he spiked a 104.5 Now he has been fever free for almost 24 hours! We know that your kind comments and emails made all the difference.

Hot Hot Hot


This is just a quickie post. Duncan has had a fever since Tuesday, yes I took him to the doctor yesterday. 103.5 Yikes. We began antibiotics-one of his glands was enormous and angry red. This afternoon he spiked 105. Perhaps the only good thing about your child having that high a fever, is you get to talk to the actual doctor right away. Cold bath, which he destested and now alternating fever reducers every 3 hours. He can move his neck in all permutations, thank goodness. He will be fine. Here is a picture of him making pancakes over the weekend.



The key to this chili is proportion. If you are the kind of cook who needs to measure everything out, this will drive you around the bend. This is all done by eye and what you like. The way I make it, there is a lot of meat. So, if you like a very substantial chili this is the one for you. Each time I make it, I put in much more meat than I think is a good idea and it turns out perfect. Plus, your butcher will love you. Another note about the pork roast. Buy the best you can. This dish will not save or mask sub-par meat. This time around, I bought beautiful organic boneless pork roast. 10.5 pounds of it. 4 roasts. The butcher was very happy to have the crazy lady in his shop. If you do make as much as I did (it is easily scaled up or down), you will have enough for a party as well as enough for your freezer. This chili does freeze well, just write the date in the container for safety! Also, check the spices when you have reheated it, it may need a bit of perking up, which is easy enough to do.

Roast Pork and Black Bean Chili

10.5 lbs. high quality boneless pork roast (organic if you can)

6 cups black beans rinsed, inspected and soaked over night in water.

6 large cloves garlic, 2 for cooking with the beans and 4 minced or grated for saute

4 large red onions, chopped

2 large white onions, chopped

2 28oz cans of pickled cactus (nopalitos), drained and chopped. Often cilantro and peppers accompany the nopalitos in the container, I just toss them out.

16 oz of diced green chilis (canned)

Red chili peppers of your choice, to your desired heat level. Chopped or crushed. I used 2 dried Thai Dragon chilis and 3 Cayenne chilis. This is a lot but not for this amount of chili.

Cumin (Most)

Chili powder (More)

Salt & pepper (Some)

Cinnamon (Less)

Cardamom (Even less)

Nice to have:

Rasp or fine grater for garlic. You could use a garlic press too.

Heavy duty cookie sheet, if using disposable roasting pan.

Meat thermometer

A few notes about the construction of this chili. It is very forgiving as you can add and subtract at your heart’s desire. It tastes best when started several days before you want to serve it. Saturday night? I would start soaking (or just boiling forever) the beans on Wednesday. My time line usually looks like this:


Rinse and inspect beans. Put the beans in 16 quart (or larger) pot with at least 6 inches of water and two large smashed cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and cook until the beans are tender. While the beans are cooking away I usually add about 2 tablespoons of Better than Bouillon , the beef base. Yes, we are cooking pork and I use beef. You may need to add more liquid as the beans cook. This liquid will become the “gravy” for your chili. Go for it!

In a large straight sided saute pan (or something similar), on medium heat, first lay down a fairly generous amount of olive oil. Once this heats up add first your garlic and crushed or chopped chili peppers and diced green chilis. I use a rasp or fine grater for the garlic to get the consistency I want, I want it to dissolve and still taste like garlic. After a minute or two I add the red and white onions. Sweat these and then when they are sufficiently soft and translucent add the chopped cactus. Lower heat and let everybody get to know each other for a while.

Then mix your spices. You want about 2 and a half cups total for all the spices combined. The rating system I used above should give you an idea about the ratios I used. Heaviest on the cumin and then less for each one listed. It is better to err on the side of caution and add less. You can always add, but never subtract.

Take about 2 cups of the spice mixture and set aside. Add the last half cup to the sauteing/sweating onion nopaltos mixture.

Close the operation down for the night. Seal it all up and you can start again tomorrow.


Take your boneless pork roast(s), your pot of beans and your onion, cactus, and garlic mixture (which you have put into a bowl & covered the night before, no need to put such a large pan in the fridge) out of the refrigerator.

Let the pork rest come to room temperature and put your spices in a big, shallow baking pan. A 9×13 Pyrex would be ideal. Put on your gloves before handling raw meat! Pick up roasts one at a time and roll them in the spice mix, on all sides and on both ends. Rub them into the roast and repeat the rolling and the rubbing. You are after a very fragrant and highly spiced pork roast.

Turn beans on low, add onion, cactus and spice mixture and begin to bring it up to heat.

Preheat oven to 425. Take a sturdy roasting pan, or a disposable on with a heavy duty cookie sheet underneath it, and place spiced roasts in the pan, giving as wide a berth as possible to each roast. Cook until internal roast temperature is 140 degrees. The pork will not be fully cooked, so don’t eat it at this point, please. Let the pork rest about 10-15 minutes. Slice roast in half and then each half into quarters. Then slice each piece into generous bite size pieces. Put all the chopped pork roast into the bean mixture, stir to distribute. Cook on medium low for about an hour. This will fully cook the pork.

Make sure you properly clean up after handling the undercooked pork. You are done for today.


Take the really heavy pot of chili out of the fridge, and gently warm on a medium low heat. Once it has warmed up, taste it. How is it? Today is the day to add more stuff if you want. Does it need more beans? If so, cook them separately and add them ASAP. You want them to blend in and not taste like an afterthought. Do you want more onion? Chop and sweat some more, and get them in ASAP. The 3rd day of the chili (today) is the most important day. This is truly the day all the flavors marry. So adjust spices, add more onion, chili peppers, what ever you want, or not- it is your chili.

After all your adjustments are done, you are done for the day.


Take the chili out of the refrigerator. Heat it up on medium, stirring occasionally. Once it is to temperature, you may notice some extra liquid on the top. I usually ladle most of it off. The consistency you want is stew, not soup.

You are done! Enjoy! And you may win your chili cook-off like I did last year. Or you may lose by one vote, like I did this year.