Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The End of the Never-ending Blanket

If you were a young child in the early 1990s or the parent of such a child, you may know the TV show "Lamb Chop's Play-Along," which aired on PBS from 1992-1997.  My daughter was three years old in 1992, so she was part of the prime demographic for the audience.  The show starred Lamb Chop, of course, and Shari Lewis along with Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse.  Oh my goodness, the goofy skits, the knock-knock jokes, but mostly the closing theme song!  "The Song That Never Ends."  A preschooler can get a lot of fun out of singing that one over and over and driving her mother mad, mad, mad. Lamb Chop was a lot older than she looked though.  I remember seeing Lewis and Lamb Chop on TV during the 1960s, when I was a kid.  According to Wikipedia, Lamb Chop first appeared in 1957.  The point here is that "The Song That Never Ends" has been on my mind lately as I finished up my crochet sampler blanket, which seemed to become the blanket that never ends.  But it did end.

I started making the blanket before I even knew I was making a blanket.  Back in April, I purchased 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans by Jan Eaton.  I thought it would be fun to try a few of the patterns.  Then in June, I showed you my first four squares.  At that point I was thinking about a little lap throw for my daughter.  As things seem to do around here, however, the lap throw got out of hand and turned into this:

Sixty-three squares of crazy.  I think when the daughter saw that I was making a big blanket for her brother, she was determined that hers would be big too.  No sibling rivalry here, folks!  Here's a view from the other side:

Is it perfect?  Goodness no.  Aside from the garish color combinations, let's just say the blanket has character, shall we?  The squares didn't turn out the same size, so there was a fair amount of adding and tweaking.  Still, I had fun doing it and almost each new square became my short-lived favorite.

No two squares are the same pattern.  Here, in alphabetical order, are the patterns I used: Alternate Bobbles, American Beauty, Anemone, Arcadia, Begonia, Big Round, Blocks and Shells, Briar Rose, Bright Flower, Candy Stripe Bobbles, Catherine Wheel, Centered Square, Chocolate Box, Christmas Rose, Coffee and Cream, Colorful Bobbles, Criss Cross, Dahlia, Daisy Chain, Danish Square, Diamond in a Square, Double Stripes, Edwardian Fancy, Four Patch Granny, Four Square, Framed Flower, Fretwork, Fudge, Gothic Square, Granny in the Middle, Granny Stripes, Granny with a Twist, Into the Blue, Italian Cross, Kingcup, Lacy Wheel, Lemon Stripe, Marigold, Nine Patch Granny, Openwork Square, Pastel Delight, Peach Rose, Peony, Primrose Square, Queen Anne's Lace, Saint Petersburg, Seville, Snowflake, Solid Square, Spinner, Square Target, Starflower, Subtle Stripes, Sunray, Sunshine and Showers, Sunshine Lace, Traditional Granny, Tricolor Square, Victorian Lace, Waterlily, Willow, Wisteria, and Zigzag Bobbles.

I think daughter plans to take the blanket back to her apartment next time she visits, but in the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy the color it adds to her room here at home.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Savory Muffin to Ward Off the Gloomies

Yesterday was a dreary day filled with gray skies and freezing rain.  Fortunately, I had planned for such a day and had all the ingredients to make a big pot of comforting vegetable beef soup (recipe here) and savory Parmesan muffins.

I don't know where I got the recipe for these muffins.  I have had it several years and I had jotted it down on a scrap of paper, so I imagine I pulled it from a magazine in the dentist's waiting room.  The muffins are pretty homely and ordinary to look at, but they make a great accompaniment to soup or even steak.  It's easy to halve the recipe, which is what I did yesterday since there were only the two of us.  Serve them hot!

Savory Parmesan Muffins

2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon powdered or crushed dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a muffin pan.

In small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and olive oil.  In separate, large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, rosemary, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, mixing until cheese is well distributed.  Add wet ingredients and mix until combined.
Spoon into well-greased muffin tins.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on tops.  Bake about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Makes 12 1/2-cup muffins.

The other bright spot in a gray few days is this bunch of sunny daffodils the husband picked up at the grocery store. They were tight buds when he brought them home, but every one has opened into a happy little harbinger of spring to come.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alfie Gets Cozy

Brrr!  It's been cold, and Alfie got chilly.  Okay, I just think Alfie got chilly because, after all, he didn't show any signs like shivering or his teeth chattering.  But with highs of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I get cold, and, as my kids will tell you, if I am cold, I assume everyone is cold and will foist hats and coats on all and sundry.  So . . .

Well, okay, maybe I just wanted Alfie to have a sweater.  Especially after the husband told me it wouldn't work and that Alfie wouldn't wear it.  Alfie not only wears it, he wags his tail when I get the sweater out of the basket.

I pulled this gorgeous pure wool Pendleton sweater from the attic where it has languished since I stole it from my mother ten or more years ago.  My mother is a tiny woman; there is no way I was ever going to fit into that sweater.  So I cut the sleeves off (don't tell my mother), slipped it over Alfie's head and front legs, and he was ready to go.

Alfie might have had doubts right at first, but once we tried it outside, he got it! Warmth and style -- what could be better?

Alfie looking askance.  What the heck am I wearing?

Monday, January 21, 2013

With One Meatball

When I was growing up, my mother would occasionally make meatballs and cabbage.  It was never my favorite dish -- I prefer my cabbage raw -- yet I made it for my own family as they grew up.  It's a simple dish of porcupine-style, rice-studded meatballs, stewed with cabbage and tomatoes.

The most appealing thing about this meal growing up was it would usually prompt my dad to sing a few bars of One Meatball, a Depression era tune recorded by The Andrews Sisters among others.  Of course, I never heard a "real" version of the song until the internet came along.  In fact, I wasn't even sure there was a real version.  And frankly, no one else sings it like my dad.  Every time I eat this dish, I hear him warbling "You don't get any bread with one meatball."

Dad isn't much of a singer, but he did have one other signature song.  As with One Meatball, my dad only sang the "good part" of his other song, Jack of Diamonds.  Here is the part I learned as a wee little child.
"If the ocean was whiskey, and I was a duck/I'd dive to the bottom and never come up."  
This was followed by a loud hiccup.  I love the complete political incorrectness of teaching that song to little kids.  By the way, my father is the next thing to a teetotaler, so it's especially funny that this is "his song."

Just as I've shared the meatball cabbage meal with my family, I also passed my father's two songs along to my kids.  I hope they'll remember to sing them to their kids someday too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Would You Like a Little Dog with that Yarn?

Check out my assistant who is "helping" me complete the never-ending sampler blanket.

If I stare at you long enough, will you stop crocheting and play with me?

Alfie -- Crochet Dog Deluxe!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ice Water and Open Spaces

After a couple of days of unseasonably warm weather, winter is back in northern Illinois.  We've had almost no snow this winter, but it's turned cold again.  Mother Nature doesn't want us Midwesterners to get soft, after all.  I thought I'd share a few wintry shots I made today.

I stopped by a forest preserve and was rewarded with the sight of ice floating down the river.

The barren fields certainly look cold and bleak, don't they?

I actually love to drive in the country when everything is frozen and bare.  There is nothing quite like rocketing down small country roads crusted with snow and being able to see forever across the wide open spaces.