a little of this, a little of that

  winter train

Where does the time go? I woke up filled with all this energy as to what I was going to accomplish yesterday. That’s how most of my days typically start, with a bunch of motivation to tackle all these creative pursuits and unfinished projects. But then real life takes over and the day-to-day things – the chores, the homeschooling, the calls and the errands, the unexpected visitors who drop by, the extra freelance work that I picked up – they all take up bits of time here and there, until I realize that more crafty things that I wanted to accomplish still lay untouched. By the time the day was almost over, I sat down to look over my “to-do” list and was shocked (for some reason) to see how little had been done! Of course, I’m sure the same thing could be said for any busy mother with young children. When people ask what I wish my superpower could be, I always tell them I wish I could stop time for everyone else but me for about 2 weeks. In that time, I would catch up on all the stacks of paper, emails, crafts, cleaning, errands, reading, and everything else that ends up getting put aside for yet another day.

I probably should have made the rest of the day productive, but instead I decided to let everything slide, if just for one day. I sat down with my kids and joined them in their game of Minecraft for a little while, something that I usually never do. My eldest son was so happy – he started chatting with me through the chat box, and I found that he was so much more expressive through writing than with talking. Go figure that I’d learn something new about my son from a game of Minecraft! It reminded me that there are opportunities all over to connect with my children. When I finally had to disconnect, he was so disappointed that I promised I’d join in again after I had gotten some work done, and he gave me a hug and agreed that he would love that. So I have a date later that evening with my little one, and we have another time scheduled for later today!

winter snow

We had a water pipe break that had to be dug up in my yard this weekend. Through the four or five feet of snow, a bulldozer plowed right through and dug a good eight feet or so in the back of the yard. Part of me was aghast that the grass was ripped right off and tossed on top of the snow piles, but the other part of me was secretly thrilled that the bulldozer was turning over all the soil that would have needed to be dug come spring. It feels like we’re miles away from spring right now. It’s even been too cold to snow! But we had a couple of sunny days over the weekend, and with the sun streaming in through the windows and the heat blasting, I did my best to pretend that it was a warm summer day spent indoors. It worked for a little while!

mellieblossom crochet bag

With all these distractions, I’ve fallen behind on all my crochet things. I joined another swap on Ravelry, and have a couple of projects in the works for upcoming birthdays. There was (another) request from my youngest to crochet him up his newest imaginary creature. And with the Grateful Dead 50th Anniversary shows up ahead, I thought I would stitch up a few bags to celebrate. Making them has taken me back to 20 years ago, when I sat in my old room in the attic at my mom’s house. I didn’t crochet much back then but I used to macramé hemp necklaces and make woven bracelets and love beads to sell at the shows. A lot has changed since then, but not my love of crafty things.

As for the bags, I have a couple waiting to be lined, and am writing up a pattern for anyone who might want to make their own. My hope is to have a few in my very much neglected etsy store in the next week or so. They’re so much fun to make, and so cute when they’re finished. I’m going to have a hard time deciding which ones to sell – I want to keep them all!

~Mellie ★

Crochet Swap Squares

Happy Monday to all!

I hope it’s nice and warm where you are. We got a ton of snow yesterday and even more is on the way. I shoveled snow three times in the past day and you can barely even tell! But we got a nice snow pile out of it that my kids are using to sled down, and we even built a snowman! That’s the first one I’ve made in at least 20 years, and it was so much fun. Winter is definitely here.

Crochet Swap Squares

Inside, we’ve been trying to keep nice and warm as well! I’ve had soup simmering on the stove and it’s been amazing to be so snug and warm under the blankets while looking out the window at the fat snowflakes falling down so thick that just across the yard looks like it’s in a fog. It’s so incredibly beautiful, like a winter wonderland to just be surrounded by white falling snow. Even though I’m not a fan of the cold, and I really don’t like driving in it, when I’m safe and warm at home, winter has its moments of being magical.  And there sure is a lot of it!

Crochet Swap Squares - mellieblossom.com

And now we’re in February already. I had all these goals of everything I wanted to accomplish in January, and so little was accomplished. We instead passed around the flu and slept and drank lots of water and tea, and when I had the choice of whether to sleep or to crochet, I slept and slept. Maybe I even hibernated, because it doesn’t seem like it should be February already, does it?

It seems like around this time every year, when I’m home bound and sitting among my yarn that I get inspired to join a crochet swap. I joined one last spring with the Pink Lemonade swap, and then the year before with the Carrots swap. The problem is that the swaps usually end in May, when no one is still sitting at home looking at the snow anymore. May is one of the busiest months around here, with quite a few birthdays, the obligatory graduation parties, taking finals, planting the garden and finally getting some warm enough days that finally ease our cabin fever. By the end of the swaps, I’m no longer inside crocheting, and usually stress myself out trying to catch up.

Crochet Swap Squares

This year, I’m trying to be a little bit more proactive and starting early when I actually am at home. The theme for this swap is “sprouting hues” and the colors are what lured me in. I’ve always loved earthy colors, and dreaming of my garden is only adding to that. I even started a separate blanket (the Big Colorful Throw) in these colors as a complement.

So in the past week or two I’ve made up a couple of squares for the swap. Wouldn’t you know, they were not easy squares for me! The patterns were written well enough but for some reason I had a lot of difficulties. The rounds rippled on one, which I pulled out and re-did three times; on another, it was just me not paying close enough attention to the pattern and not realizing it until several rounds later when I didn’t want to rip them out. But overall, I think they turned out nicely.

Crochet Swap Squares

The first one I made was this Picture Frame square. I first saw it on Pinterest, and saw that it was an Interweave download. I went ahead and followed the link and purchased the digital magazine, only to realize that it had linked to the current edition instead of the Fall 2010 issue where it was featured. Oops. So then I bought the correct digital issue, which made this pattern a very expensive one for me!  The link to the actual issue is here if you’re interested in buying one. 

Crochet Swap Squares

In order to cut my losses, I tried another one in that issue. This one is called Lotus Blossom, and wouldn’t you know that this afterthought square turned out to be one of the most beautiful of them all! I had such a good time making this, and the pattern went to easily.

Crochet Swap Squares

 

Finally, I found this third pattern that I just fell in love with… and also messed the pattern up. No worries, I’ll be making this one again soon. I love the effect of the different colors throughout the square. Even though my version isn’t perfect, it still turned out nicely and definitely acceptable for the swap.  This square is called Twist and Shake and you can find it here for free

I have a little under 2 dozen left to do, so I’ll be posting some more soon! I’m keeping my eye open for lovely granny squares to crochet, so let me know if you see any that catches your eye!

~Mellie ★

Free Tropical Delight Crochet Pattern

Free Tropical Delight Crochet Pattern

Here’s my county fair afghan entry, slowly, slooooowly coming along. I think this will be the fourth or fifth year I’ve been working on it, a little at a time. I wrote about this a little bit before (here if you want to read about it), and while I’m still plugging away at it, it seems that sometime between when I started this and now that the pattern has gone out of print.

I got a request a few days back if I could share the pattern since it’s not readily available. Mindful of copyright laws, I did my best to search on Amazon, eBay, and elsewhere on the internet to see if I could find a legal copy to direct the searcher to, but I found nothing. Finally, I decided to call Herrschener’s directly to see if they had back copies in stock or anything like that.

Free Tropical Delight Crochet Pattern

I talked with them for a bit, and when they confirmed that the pattern was out of print and that they couldn’t direct me to another place I could purchase it from, I asked them if it would be all right to share the pattern. I was told that yes, I could share the pattern as long as I was not making any profit off of it. So, I am happy to share with everyone this free Tropical Delight crochet pattern.

Free Tropical Delight Crochet Pattern

This is one of the most beautiful squares I’ve ever crocheted, and the assembled afghan is even more spectacular. I found it originally in Herrschener’s More Blue Ribbon Afghans – it was the first pattern in the book and it caught my eye instantly. To make a pdf file, I took photos of the copy in my book and compiled them together to download. The pages are not perfect – there are coffee and paint stains, but the pattern is clear and legible.  See note below. 

Free Tropical Delight Crochet Pattern

Again, I want to reiterate that this is not my pattern, and I was given permission to share it for free.

Update Feb 16, 2015.  Download file has been temporarily removed in order to convert it from photocopy to text, so as to avoid publisher copyright.  I apologize for any inconvenience.  The pattern should be back online soon. 

Update Feb 26, 2015: Pattern is back – still the pattern, but not photocopies of the book.  The pattern was originally published through Herrschner’s before it was included in the Blue Ribbon book I own.  Hopefully this clears any concerns!

Tropical Delight Crochet Pattern

Let me know if you have any problems accessing it, and I’ll do my best to help out.  Enjoy!
~Mellie ★

 

 

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

January’s in full swing now! I’m loving the quietness now that the bustle of the holidays are over. The temperatures outside dropped drastically, and we’ve been snuggled up indoors with pajamas and blankets, good books, hot coffee and one of my favorite winter breakfasts – steel cut oats.

I started making overnight crockpot steel cut oats in my some years back because I loved waking up to a hot and hearty breakfast on cold winter mornings. But I had to experiment a lot to get them to the point where I was either scrubbing the crockpot for a good half hour in the mornings or waking up every half hour or so to see that the oats hadn’t gotten too hard on top; double-checking them over and over.

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

Little by little, though, I changed a little bit here and there until I got a method set up for perfect overnight crockpot steel cut oats – where you can sleep in an extra few hours if you want to, and where cleanup is a breeze. And perfectly made steel cut oats awaits you for breakfast every morning.

The first change I made was to stop putting the steel cut oats directly in the crockpot. Even when I’d spray the sides of the pot with cooking spray, I would still be stuck with a baked-on mess pretty regularly. Instead, I started using a long and narrow bowl that I would spray with non-stick spray, and put the steel cut oats and water in there then. After that, I put the bowl in the crockpot and then add enough water to the crockpot so that it comes to about level with the oats and water inside the bowl. This saves a huge mess and actually doubles by cleaning the crockpot while still cooking breakfast.
The second major issue that I changed was the way it cooked overnight. Sure, if I knew I was waking up in 5 or 6 hours, I could set it on low without too much trouble; but after 8 or 9 hours, even on low, there was a good chance that the top of the oats would be hard as a rock.

  Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

So after a few changes, I found the best, and most flexible way to cook crockpot steel cut oats. Here it is:

 

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats
perfectly cooked overnight steel cut oats
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Ingredients
  1. cooking spray
  2. a narrow bowl that will fit inside the crockpot when the lid is closed
  3. 1 part steel cut oats (e.g 1/4 cup)
  4. 4 parts water or other liquid (e.g. 1 cup)
  5. seasonings, such as salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, etc
Instructions
  1. Take a narrow bowl that will fit in your crockpot with the lid closed.
  2. Spray or grease it lightly.
  3. Place steel cut oats in with a 1:4 ration of liquid
  4. Add salt, if desired, or any other seasoning (brown sugar, cinnamon, dried apples, raisins, etc)
  5. Place the bowl in the crockpot and fill the crockpot with enough water that it is level (or close enough to level) with the level of the water in the bowl.
  6. Cover and let cook on high for 1 hour.
  7. Turn the crockpot to the “warm” setting, and go to sleep.
  8. In the morning, the steel cut oats should be perfectly cooked.
  9. Add any extras as desired (I usually top my oats with sesame seeds or slivered almonds) and enjoy your healthy, minimum-effort breakfast!
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/

All that’s left to do is enjoy!  Have you had success with steel cut oats in the crockpot?  I’d love to hear about your methods as well!

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

 

~Mellie ★

Delicious Crochet Cupcakes

Crochet Cupcakes

First off, I want to apologize to anyone who’s had trouble accessing this site lately.  I upgraded my servers yesterday, so there shouldn’t be any more loading problems.  If there are, please let me know!  And a big thank you to all of you who keep coming back, I’m so appreciative of all your emails and comments and views!

Crochet Cupcakes

And now on to… cupcakes!  What better way to start the year than to crochet cupcakes – and a bunch of them at that!  These aren’t actually for me, a friend of mine wanted some for her daughter, but I was happy to oblige.  After all of the hard work I put into these long-term Christmas projects that took months to finish up, it was a nice break to start and finish a project within a day or so.    Plus they are so cute! 

Crochet Cupcakes

I actually tried a few patterns out before finding one that I liked, and I had a trail of what looked like half eaten cupcakes with the ones that didn’t.  The pattern that I ened up liking and utilizing is this Quick Cupcake pattern, which is free and turned out perfect. 

Crochet Cupcakes

They’ll be going out in the mail today and I hope they provide as much fun as I had making them!

~Mellie ★