Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Easy Homemade Mustard


Mustard Seeds Fermenting in Jar

Having searched the Internet and tried some recipes that gave me bitter mustard--ick--I embarked upon a mustardy quest.  By wading through countless forum posts, I figured out the probable cause of mustard bitterness, and that's water.  It's the water in the recipes that reacts with the mustard and creates the problem.

After much experimentation, here's my go-to, gold-standard recipe, which I make pretty much once a week.  We'll never go back to store-bought at my house.  We are now mustard-addicts.


EASY HOMEMADE MUSTARD

makes about 1/2 cup

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds (do not rinse)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses*
     *maple syrup or raw sugar are fine, also

Combine ingredients in a 1/2-pint jar.

Cover and let sit at room temperature for a day or two.

Process in a food grinder, chopper, or processor until grainy and most of the seeds have been ground.

Keep in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Notes
  • Do not rinse seeds or add water.  Even the jar should be perfectly dry. Water causes bitterness.  If you have bitter mustard, you can let it sit in for a few months, and it will settle down.
  • Depending upon your chopper or processor, it might take a long time to get the mustard ground well enough.  My horrible little Black & Decker chopper takes about 5 minutes.  I hope you have a better machine!
Ground Mustard in Jar

Monday, April 22, 2019

A New Name for the Turban Patterns


knitted turban
Fortune-Teller Turban

The G*psy Turban has a new name.  Thanks to a fellow pattern designer, I have been made aware that the Roma people currently consider "G*psy" to be a pejorative term.*  So I have changed the name to reflect the actual inspiration for the design: Fortune-Teller Turban.

Paintings of fortune-tellers from the Middle Ages gave me the images that served as models for the two patterns, which I published in 2009.  So voila--new name!

Now, the knitted G*psy Turban is called the Fortune-Teller Turban.

And the G*psy Turban in Crochet is now called the Fortune-Teller Turban in Crochet.

Done.  I feel better--do you?


crocheted turban
Fortune-Teller Turban in Crochet

* "...rejected by Roma organisations, who ask for the autonym ”Roma” to be used."

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Knitting & Crocheting Down the Line


Knitting and Crocheting on Amtrak

Ever wondered what it's like to knit or crochet on a train?  I had a 46-hour-each-way Amtrak trip coming up, and I was wondering about that mightily.  What do you do with yourself for such a long time, other than try to sleep when it's nighttime?

The first thing I did was post questions in a couple of knit and crochet groups on FaceBook.  Many people chimed in with tips and encouragement.  According to them, knit and crochet are great for train trips.  Now that I have completed my trip, I couldn't agree more!

Here's what I learned from my adventure:

 - Knit and crochet are perfect for train travel, because you can look up whenever you want to see what's going on out of the window.

- Take small, easy projects.  My ideal project was long legwarmers made with sock yarn--took lots of time and the yarn was compact.

- Save the complicated parts for station stops or leave that stuff at home.  Plain knitting, purling, and crocheting are great on a moving train.  Lace, tinking, and other tricky maneuvers are pretty hard when you're in motion.  So is writing.

- Bring more than one type of project.  I like to have both knit and crochet going so I can switch off. This allows me to change the motions and muscles being used.  If you only knit or crochet, you could have big-needle-or-hook projects and small-needle-or-hook projects to alternate between.

- A small plastic bag with notions is very helpful.  Tape measure, small crochet hook for fixing mistakes, stitch markers, yarn needle, and scissors are what I brought.  Get some of those little fold-up scissors that have a ring on the end so you can string 'em around your neck while you're working.

- If you need glasses for your work, it helps to have half-lens readers so you can look over the top or progressive lenses so you can look down as well as out at the scenery.

- Try to get a seat that faces in the direction you are traveling--you'll be facing the locomotive-end of the train.  The scenery going by will be easier for your brain to manage while you're concentrating on your work.

- Don't forget nighttime.  If you want to look out of the window, you can turn off the light and your eyes will adjust somewhat so you can see what's outside.  Stars, moon, and towns are especially nice.  Then when you get tired of that, it's back to your work with the light on.

- Knitting and crocheting helps with my restless legs syndrome (RLS), so it is absolutely essential for me when faced with having to sit in a seat for so long. Walking outside during station stops is not practical, and taking walks on the train is not a thing.  The aisles are narrow, and they're needed for staff and others who have places to go.  Going up and down the stairs to the bathroom is very good exercise, though.

- Pack lightly for entertaining yourself.  I had no interest in the books or DVD player I brought--heavy, bulky, and useless. Better to bring more yarn.

Now that I've recovered from the trip, I'm going to write up a few pages of train-travel suggestions for myself and put them in the suitcase so I'll remember what to do and what not to bother with on my next expedition.

Happy trains to you!




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Life Goes On Like Gangbusters: An Orange Tree Story

Baby tree blooming next to storm-downed orange tree.
Life is surreal.  That's my theme for the month.  Between Hurricane Harvey and Halloween, life is indeed surreal.

A couple of weeks after the storm blasted over our house, we came home and took a look at the damage.  Our huge orange tree took flight, right out of the ground, roots and all.  Amazingly, we found that several baby orange trees were growing all around the spot where the "mother" tree had been.

Mother-tree out of the ground and cut off by a neighbor.
Within another week, the baby trees were blooming and starting to set little fruits.  The Texas A&M University tree expert who visited our town said that this happens off-season when trees are defoliated or otherwise threatened.  They think it's spring, and they bloom their hearts out.

Baby mandarin orange trees next to the hole.
It remains to be seen if these little guys will produce actual edible fruit after blooming in the fall instead of spring, but we do have pretty warm winters here in Rockport.  They must have sprouted from fallen oranges in previous years, and we didn't notice them.  So we shall see!

Another surreal thing is that my cardboard pots of orange seedlings from the last harvest in March, survived the hurricane and they are thriving.  They rode out the storm in the garage and are just as perky as ever.

Seedlings from last harvest.
In fact, the whole horticultural scene in our town is pretty darned perky.  Mother Nature is definitely bouncing back like gangbusters.

RIP, old friend.  Your legacy lives on.

For more about growing mandarin oranges, see my post:
In Love With Mandarin Oranges

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Advice From Hurricane-Town

Hurricane Tips and Wisdom

Hurricane Harvey hit our town, Rockport, Texas.  The eye of the storm went right over our house.  Having been through this ordeal (and it's not over yet), I thought I'd share some of my own realizations on the subject, based upon my husband's and my experience and that of our friends and neighbors.

EVACUATE if you can.  I can't emphasize this strongly enough.  It's important for your own peace of mind--before, during, and after the storm--and for your safety and survival.  This goes especially for pets and livestock.  Take them with you.

Evacuate early.
Evacuate far away.
Evacuate for lower-category storms also.
Take all of your animals.
Take all of your vehicles.

PREPARE your home for the worst.  The storm might veer off at the last minute, but it could also be worse than expected.  Before you leave, batten down the hatches both indoors and out.

Board-up, shutter-up.
Shut off power, unplug everything.
Empty the fridge and prop it open.
Secure movable outdoor items.
Protect valued indoor items.
Fill jars and bottles with clean water.
Leave rugs down to soak up water.
Place sandbags on both sides of doors.
Open fence gates to allow water flow.

PACK for the coming days. When you leave, you'll need some clothing, important papers, special food and meds, and emergency supplies.  Don't try to take too much--just what you need and what you value most.

Take your necessities.
Take food, water, flashlight, batteries, pet supplies.
Take ID, proof of residence (utility bill or deed).
Take a few comfortable outfits.
Take one set of work clothes and shoes.
Take movable valuables.

KEEP YOUR COOL--this is important.  People react differently to stress.  Figure out how to de-stress yourself, and do it as much as possible while evacuating, waiting through the storm, and after the storm.

Listen to music.
Watch favorite shows and movies.
Play with your pets and kids.
Have yummy snacks.
Talk, talk, talk with close family and friends.
Don't feel like you have to socialize.
Accept help when it's offered.
Offer help when it's needed.

GO BACK ASAP when the storm is over and the roads are open.  Check on your home as soon as you can.  You don't have to stay--make it a day trip the first time.  If you can get in after a day or two, you'll be able to prevent a lot of water and mold damage by cleaning up, tarping the roof, etc.

Bring proof of residence (deed, utility bill, etc.).
Bring food, water, and ice.
Bring cleaning supplies.
Bring equipment: chainsaw, dolly, tarps, etc.
Bring gasoline in cans.
Bring a generator (not for your whole house).
Bring insect repellant--whatever formula you like.
Bring flashlights and battery-powered fans.
Bring batteries.
Bring spare tire and flat repair products.
Bring work gloves.
Wear sturdy clothes and boots/shoes.

WAIT FOR POWER.  If you must live in your home before power and other utilities are restored, be prepared for hardship.  You'll need to live pretty much like you're camping.  It will be hot, you won't be able to bathe or flush, mosquitoes will be everywhere, and what you need will be hard to come by.  If you have any health issues, wait until the power is back on.  Even then, things can go wrong--our AC broke from a power surge, and I suffered heat exhaustion 3 times in 6 days.

Stay hydrated.
Cool off frequently.
Take lots of work breaks.
Eat whenever you can.
Turn around, don't drown.
Avoid standing water--in car or on foot.
Report water / gas leaks and downed lines.
Keep your distance from loose power lines.
Don't breathe mold--stay away, throw away.
Get medical attention when you need it.
Keep pets indoors or fenced--they will bolt.


Post-Hurricane Rose Bloom and New Oak Leaves
TAKE IT EASY on yourself.  You have made it through a bona fide disaster.  Your mind will work differently.  You'll be tired, anxious, sad, forgetful, and moody.   This is normal, and it will wear off.  Try not to look at the destruction, and focus on making things better.  Be positive.

YOU WILL CHANGE.  These experiences change us.  After the storm, you might have very different priorities for your life.  That's okay.  It's part of our development as humans.  The key is to be all right with it and move forward.

The trees will grow their leaves back.  Nature will do her best to repopulate your little bit of the Earth.  You will be stronger and better as you get on with your life.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Crochet Tutorial: Tunisian Ladder Stitch


How to Crochet the Tunisian Ladder Stitch

The Tunisian ladder stitch is an openwork stitch that I developed when searching for Tunisian crochet stitches that were more flexible and useful than the traditional ones. With this new stitch, you’ll get a sturdy mesh fabric if you use the yarn manufacturer’s recommended hook size. With a very large hook you can produce a lighter, more open mesh.

This is what I like to call a “stacked” Tunisian stitch. New rows are made above the old ones, and not in front of or behind them like most traditional Tunisian stitches. This “stacking” helps prevent the severe rolling that often occurs with Tunisian crochet.

Tunisian Ladder Stitch: How to Do It
U.S. crochet terminology


Base Chain
Chain desired number of stitches.

Base Row 1 – Tunisian Purl for first row only
Starting in 2nd loop from hook, [wrap yarn over front of hook counterclockwise, insert hook into next chain, pull yarn to the front – straightening out the yarn-over you just made, wrap yarn clockwise around back of hook, draw yarn through chain and onto hook], repeat to end. The number of loops on hook is equal to the number of chains made for the base chain.

Base Row 2
Ch 1, [draw yarn through both the new loop and next loop on hook], repeat to end, ch 1.  Only 1 loop is left on hook.

Main Row 1 - Tunisian Ladder Stitches
Skip over both the first vertical bar at the end and the next vertical bar, [wrap yarn over front of hook counterclockwise, insert hook through the work front-to-back between previous vertical bar and the next one, pull yarn to the front – straightening out the yarn-over you just made, wrap yarn clockwise around back of hook, draw yarn through to front of work and onto hook, slide the new stitch to top of row close to hook], repeat to end, work 1 more st in the end space.  The number of loops on hook is equal to the number of chains made for the base chain.

Main Row 2 (same as Base Row 2)
Ch 1, [draw yarn through both the new loop and next loop on hook], repeat to end, ch 1.  Only 1 loop left on hook.  Gently tug on the finished row stitches to lock the Tunisian ladder sts in place.

Repeat Main Rows 1 & 2 to desired length.

Tunisian Ladder Stitch: Photo Tutorial
U.S. crochet terminology


Base Chain
Tunisian Ladder Stitch Foundation Chain

Make as many chains as you want stitches to be in each row.

Base Row 1 – Tunisian Purl for first row only

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Base Row 1 Start

Make the first stitch in second chain from hook, [wrap the working yarn over the front of the hook counterclockwise,

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 1 Purl Stitch Continued

insert the hook into the next chain, pull the working yarn to the front – straightening out the yarn-over you just made,

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 1 Continued Purl Stitch

wrap the yarn clockwise around the back of the hook, draw the yarn through the chain and onto the hook],

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Base Row 1 Cast-Ons

repeat to end. The number of loops on the hook will equal the number of chains you made for the base chain.

Base Row 2
Tunisian Ladder Stitch Base Row 2 Start Casting Off

Chain 1, [draw a loop of the working yarn through both the new loop and the next loop on the hook],

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Base Row 2 End

repeat to end, chain 1.  There should be only 1 loop left on the hook.  Looking at your work, you'll see a series of vertical bars going down the row.  It may help to give the row a stretch end-to-end, to straighten up the bars.

Tip: when you're ready to put down your work and do something else, place a removable stitch marker in the loop on the hook at this point. If you do it before the ch1 at the end, the marker may pull through the last 2 loops and undo some of your work.


Main Row 1 - Tunisian Ladder Stitches

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 1 Start of Purl Stitch

Skip over both the first vertical bar at the end and the next vertical bar, [wrap the yarn over the front of the hook counterclockwise,

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 1 Continued Purl Stitch

insert the hook through the work front-to-back between the previous vertical bar and the next one, pull the yarn to the front – straightening out the yarn-over you just made,

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 1 Continued Purl Stitch

wrap the yarn clockwise around the back of the hook, draw the yarn through to the front of the work and onto hook,

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 1 End of First Stitch

slide the stitch to the top of the row close to the hook],

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 1 Finished

repeat to end, work 1 more st in the end space.

Main Row 2   (same as Base Row 2)

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 2 First Cast-Off

Chain 1, [draw a loop of the working yarn through both the new loop and the next loop on the hook],

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Main Row 2 Ladders

repeat to end, chain 1.  There should be only 1 loop left on the hook.

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Lock Stitches in Place

Gently tug on the finished row stitches to lock the Tunisian ladder stitches in place.

Repeat Main Rows 1 - 2 to desired length.


Upper Edge

Tunisian Ladder Stitch Final Row: Top Edge

For a neat, uniform edge on your final row, make a single-crochet stitch between vertical bars: skip over the first 2 vertical bars, sc to end, and make 1 more sc in the final space.  With each sc, pull through both loops on hook, leaving only the newly made loop on the hook--no extra loops this time.

Some Tips for Tunisian Crochet

Here are a few things to try if you encounter curling, slanting, or stiffness:
  • Use a larger-than-usual hook, 3-5 sizes larger than recommended on the yarn label.
  • Try thinner yarn.
  • Use relaxed, less springy yarn, like cotton instead of wool.
  • Do not work tightly.
  • Be sure to skip over the first vertical bar(s) in each casting-on row (main row 1).
  • Crochet a border around your work.

You can find additional information on Tunisian crochet here:

Get Started with Tunisian Crochet
    includes a photo tutorial on the basic Tunisian stitch
Tunisian Purl Stitch
    a photo tutorial on how to crochet the Tunisian Purl stitch
How to Stop Crying Over Tunisian Crochet
    troubleshooting Tunisian crochet

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Corrected Whimsical Witch-Hat and Elfitude Patterns


Whimsical Witch-Hat Erratum

Well this is embarrassing.

I have replaced the Whimsical Witch-Hat and Elfitude patterns with corrected versions.  The crochet hook I used for developing the patterns was a brand-new one with the wrong size indicated on the molded label and on the printed package.  To make these hats, please use US size L, or 8 mm.  If you have a Boye hook that says 'N', it might be incorrect like mine, and it will work fine.  The best bet is to measure your hook with a caliper to get the millimeters.  And always make a gauge swatch. 

Thank you for your patience!