Friday, May 28, 2010

Still more blooms

Lots more things in bloom this week. I didn't get pictures of all of them, but here are a few. More poppies, red ones this time.
A purple iris. these are taller than the yellow ones I have, and have much skinnier leaves. the leaves are almost grass like.They don't multiply as quickly as the yellow ones either.
This is known to me as Jupiter's Beard. I can't remeber what the real name of it is.
A flowering shrub, Wiegella.
The first rose of the season.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More things blooming!

This is a pink variety of lily of the valley. I only planted white ones, but a few years ago, some pink ones appeared among the white ones, and each year there seem to be a few more. They smell just as good as the white ones.

This plant goes by the unlikely name of trailing pink soapwart. The plant is only about 6 inches tall and is literally covered with these tiny pink flowers.

This is some sort of perennial salvia. The flowers are a very clear shade of blue.

This is a rhododendron that we planted when we moved into our house about 30 years ago. It is taller than the house. The color is more pink than this picture shows.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

I've decided to share one of my lazy day recipes today. I don't like to cook much, but I do like to eat well, so over the years I've collected a number of easy but tasty recipes. This is one I made up myself, and its been very well received. This makes quite a lot of sauce and freezes well. It can easily be doubled if your crockpot is big enough. I serve it over whole grain pasta, with a big salad.

Here's what you need:

1 pound Italian sausage
1 medium to large onion, chopped
small amount of olive oil
2 29 oz cans of crushed or diced tomatoes (I prefer crushed or a can of each)
1 29 oz can of tomato sauce
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic (or 2 to 3 times that much fresh garlic)
1 and 1/2 tsp each of dried basil, oregano and salt
3/4 tsp dried thyme

Brown sausage and onion in hot olive oil until sausage is browned and onion is soft. Drain well and add to crockpot. Stir in all other ingredients. Cover and cook on low setting for 6 to 7 hours. Discard bay leaves before serving.

Variations and Notes:

I add a 1/2 tsp of dried fennel seeds if I have them, but not everyone likes the pronounced licorice taste of it, so I only add it if it's just my family.

If you want a blander sauce you could use ground beef or turkey instead of Italian sausage, and maybe cut back a bit ont he herbs and other seasonings. If you like your food quite spicy, add some dried crushed red pepper flakes, (up to one tsp). It's been my experience that a little crushed red pepper goes a long ways!

If you want to use fresh herbs, you will need two to three times the amount of dried herbs. You can use two 15 oz cans of tomato product in place of each 29 oz can.
I've never tried this next one, but I would think that 2 or three tsp of commercial Italian seasoning could substitute for the oregano, basil and thyme.

I sometimes add a shredded carrot or some shredded zucchini to the sauce to give my family a few more veggies in their diets. Mushrooms and green peppers, (I'd cook the green pepper with the onions and sausage), would also be good, but the picky eaters around here won't eat them.

Look at What's Blooming!!

I went for a walk around our property today, and was pleasantly surprised to find so many things in bloom.

This is a surprise plant. It's a variety of Lamium, and it is one that I discarded in the woods last year. I like the vari-colored leaves and it's trailing habit for my porch pots, and I dumped the entire planter in the woods when I cleaned up last fall. The soil around this plant is still a flower pot shaped hump. I think I'll dig it up and put it in a pot again this year.

Irises and lilacs are among my favorites. I received the yellow irises from a friend and they've multiplied quite a bit. This one is growing at the edge of the woods. I suspect I must have gotten tired of planting them and tossed it there.

Here's my first oriental poppy of the year. I grew this one and about a dozen more poppy plants from a packet of seed I bought for 10 cents at a yard sale a few years ago.

This is lunaria, a biennial. It's pretty, but a nuisance plant, self seeding with abandon. One plant can turn into dozens in just a few years. I pull most of the seedlings out, but I think its pretty, so I always leave a few and resign myself to the task of keeping it from taking over. It's the one that produces those pretty dried seed pods that are round and silvery, hence the common name, silver dollar or money plant.

This is a redbud tree in bloom. My father in law grew it from seed, and its growing at the edge of the wooded area around our house.

These beautiful blue and white Columbines are one of the most carefree flowers I ever planted. They grow without any pampering whatsoever. I just tossed a few seed where I hoped they would grow, and they did. The only problem is that they do self seed quite badly. No problem though, I just dig up the plants and give them away or plant them elsewhere. If I'm really on the ball, I can solve the problem by taking the seed heads off the plants before they open. These plants produce tons of seeds, many of which I've collected and given away.

The dogwood trees are also in bloom as is some of the wild honeysuckle, but I didn't feel like fighting my way into the woods to get their pictures.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Day baby Blanket

This is a relatively easy blanket, which I think should be achievable by an advanced beginner. It takes a little practice to get proficient at the crossed doubles, (mostly just figuring out which is the next stitch to skip, since the crossed Dc pulls the stitches that they have been worked into, close together), but once you get it, they are easy.

This blanket can be adapted to be a full size afghan or it can be made smaller. See end of pattern for some ideas on how to change the size.

Gauge: unimportant

I crochet somewhat loosely. My blanket will be about 42 inches square.


WW yarn, (I used 26-28 oz of yarn.)

Crochet hook size K

Yarn needle for weaving in ends

Any yarn will work, just use an appropriately sized hook, size will vary with yarn used.

Stitches used:



sc-single crochet

dc-double crochet

Crossed doubles

fpdc-Front post double crochet (instead of working into the top of the dc in the previous row, you work around the post of the stitch from the front of it)

bpdc-Back post double crochet (same as above, but you are working the stich from the back of the post of the dc from the previous row)

Front and back post stitches form what I call “fake cables” or ridges on the front of your work. I like them because they are an easy way to add some texture and interest to crocheted fabric.

Note that all rows will have 120 stitches in them. The afghan is made in one piece. However, I have divided the pattern into sections to make it a little easier to keep track of. Do not end off at the end of a section, keep crocheting onto the next one. The afghan is made as follows:

section 1, section 2, section 1, section 2, section 1.


Chain 121.

Section 1:

Row 1: sc in second chain from hook and in each chain across. (120 sc) this is the right side)

Row 2: ch 2 (always counts as first dc), dc in each stitch across.

Row 3: ch 2, bpdc in each st across until you reach the turning ch, dc into top of turning ch

Row 4: ch 2, fpdc in each st across until you reach the turning ch, dc into top of turning ch

Row 5: ch 2, dc in each st across, last stitch will be into the top of the turning ch

Row 6: Ch 2, * skip a stitch, dc into the next stitch. Now, working around the stitch you just made, dc into the skipped stitch. (your crochet hook will be in front of the dc you just made)* (These two stitches made one set of crossed doubles) repeat from * to * until you get to the turning chain. Dc into the top of the turning chain.

Row 7: Repeat row 2, finishing with a dc in the top of the turning chainrow)

Row 8: ch, sc in each st across, finishing with a sc in top of turning ch

Row 9. Repeat row 7. (it’s a DC row)

Row 10: Repeat row 6. (crossed doubles)

Row 11 –13: Repeat rows 7 to 9.

Row 14: Repeat row 6. (crossed doubles)

Row 15: Repeat row 8. (sc row)

Row 16: repeat row 2. (double crochet row)

Row 17: repeat row 3. (bpdc row)

Row 18: repeat row 4 (fpdc row)

Row 19: repeat row 8 (sc row)

Section 2:

Rows 20-32: ch 1, sc in first st, dc in next st, *sc in next st, dc in next st * repeat from * to * to end of row (end this section with a wrong side row)

The rest of the afghan is repeats of the previous sections.

Rows 33-51: repeat section 1

Row 52 to 64: repeat section 2

Rows 65-81: repeat section 1

Do not cut yarn. Work a sc border all around the blanket, placing 3 sc into each corner and spacing stitches evenly across the ends of the rows. I try to make the same number of stitches in each end, so that the finished blanket turns out nice and even. I finished with a row of reverse HDC. (*HDC in a stitch, ch 1, skip a stitch* and repeat from *to*) worked all around but from left to right, rather than the usual right to left. This makes a nice rope like border.

This blanket can easily be made larger or smaller. Start with an even number of sc in the first row.

To make the blanket narrower, you could subtract some rows from section 2, (making sure to end with a wrong side row), or leave out rows 11 to 13 in section 1. This would give you a panel with two rows of crossed doubles in between the fake cables created by the fpdc's and bpdc's.

To make it wider, you could either add panels, add more rows to section 2, add some extra rows into one of the panels, or make up additions of your own.

I purposely didn’t add any very lacy stitches, because I wanted the finished product to be suitable for either a boys or a girls blanket.

Pattern is untested, except by myself. Please let me know if something is unclear, or you find a mistake.
You may sell one or two items made from this pattern, but you may not sell the pattern or publish it anywhere else. Please link to the pattern if you post a picture elsewhere.