Monday Project Report – The Prudence Vest

Okay, today’s post is a quicky for a couple of reasons.

First, I finished this vest last year and don’t really remember alot about it at this point and second, my real job insisted on taking my time and attention today.  I represent kids in Court and sometimes you have to just jump in and work the phones and do some investigating and schmooze and threaten and persuade and, if none of that works run into court and beg the judge to force everyone else to bend to your will.  I did everything but run into court today – and some of it worked but not all so tomorrow I will be running into court – wearing my lawyer costume.  :)

I guess that also explains why I knit this particular vest.  When I meet with kids I don’t dress in a lawyer suit – what 6 year old is going to feel relaxed with that.  So I usually wear my good blue jeans (no holes) and a sweater or vest.  When I saw this particular pattern it just looked like it would work – it is casual and comfy.

It is the Prudence Vest pattern by Berroco and it is a free pattern on their website.

I had previously posted pictures as I was working on the back of this vest – here is how it ended up.

prudence vest backKinda boring, right?  Well it is better in the front.

prudence vest frontI never like having to pick up stitches around a neckline to add ribbing or a collar but it wasn’t that bad in this.  It all fit pretty easily.

The negative is the yarn – which has since been discontinued by Berroco.  It doesn’t really hold its shape and when it gets wet it loses all structure and has to be completely reblocked.

But it’s comfy, and mom-like and perfect for my life.  So I am happy with it.

Okay, I better get back to work on my second knee sock – I’m on the gusset now.  I would love to be able to show you that as a project report sometime in 2014.  Hoping your projects are moving faster than mine.

Onward and Upward.

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Food on Friday – Strawberry Almond Chocolate Chip Muffins

Markus has turned into our baker and has been very busy lately baking muffins – which in turn has had everyone in the house very busy eating muffins. So this week, armed with both his mixing bowls and my camera, we turned over the Food on Friday blog post to him to memorialize his wonderful strawberry/almond/chocolate chip muffins.


Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees.  Grab some parchment paper muffin cup liners and put them in your muffin tin. Then gather the ingredients.

muffin ingredients

You start by creaming 6 tablespoons (3/4 of a stick) of butter at room temperature in your mixing bowl.

creamed butter

Then cream ½ of a cup of sugar into the butter

creamed butter with sugar

Next you beat one egg – we prefer eggs laid by colorful hens such as this red one here . . . .

red egg

and add it into the butter and sugar.

butter, sugar and egg

Next beat in 5/8ths of a cup of milk (which is ½ a cup plus 1/8th cup or 2 tablespoons).

butter, sugar, egg, milk

The milk never beats in completely and it will look lumpy.
Add ½ teaspoon vanilla . . . .

butter, sugar, egg, milk, vanilla

And then add your 2 cups of filling – in this case 1 cup of chopped fresh strawberries. . . .

chopped strawberries

½ cup of toasted almonds. . . .

toasted almonds

and ½ cup of chocolate chips. Markus forgot to get a picture of the chocolate chips – but I am sure you can visualize this part pretty well on your own. :)

Mix the fillings with the wet batter.

fillings mixed into basic muffin batter

You mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. I use my whisk to blend them all together.
Mix together the following:
2 cups of unbleached white flour – pastry or all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder (optional)

Then you pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and very gently mix the two together.

muffin batter

Fill each muffin cup about 2/3rds full and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

muffins right out of the oven

These muffins do not rise a lot but they are surprisingly soft in texture.

single muffin

And are full of wonderful ingredients in every bite.

open muffin

We hope you like Markus’s muffins. He took all the pictures for this blog post and will be doing more in the future. He gets full credit since I never even entered the kitchen while he was working on this.  I fully believe in supporting a budding baker in our midst.

This recipe is a fairly basic muffin recipe that allows you to improvise to your heart’s content  You can change up this recipe by using different filling combinations. I like doing straight blueberry muffins with this recipe, as well as mixing of peaches with walnuts or pecans. We are going to try banana walnut using this recipe soon. Mangos would be real interesting too. Let me know if you come up with more interesting fillings.

Have a great weekend. I appreciate your stopping by and checking our blog. Markus really appreciates it because he is betting Chip that he can get more views on his post than Chip got for his Hawk Studio post yesterday. :D Nothing like a little blogging rivalry in the family.

Onward and Upward. . . . .

Posted in baking, cooking with kids, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Hawk Studio – Leather Braiding – The Mystery Braid

Chip showing the boys how to mystery braid

Ahhhhh – the question that always arises whenever someone sees a belt or a strap in which Chip has incorporated the mystery braid – “How did he do that?!!” Well, pay attention, because he is going to tell you how right here.

A mystery braid is a braid that is inserted into a solid strap of leather with no breaks at either end.

The mystery braid

The strips are cut into the leather with a strap cutter.

cutting straps into the belt

a belt which has been cut into strips

This is Chip’s strap cutter.

Chip's Strap Cutter

You can’t buy it. It is custom made for this type of work.

First – Chip is left handed so he had to have one made that would work in the direction he cuts.

chip holding strap cutter

Second, a commercial strap cutter contains a guard over the razor blade so you don’t cut your hand to smithereens. For a mystery braid, you need the blade exposed to cut the strands of leather inside of the belt.

exposed blade on strap cutter

It also needs to be adjustable to account for the varying widths you have to cut.

adjustment portion of the strap cutter

Next, you need to know that to make this work you have to cut an odd number of strands for the braid.  It can be five or eleven – but it can’t be four or ten.

varying amounts of strands

Once you cut your strands, you start to braid them.

braiding the strands

Next is the secret – after doing a bit of braiding, you take one of your ends and flip it through the braid.

flipping the belt through first time

And then you braid again – and flip again.

second flip through the belt

Then you kind of shake it out to level the braid.

shaking out the braid

You need to do an even number of flips through the braid. The more flips, the tighter the braid. Here is a 5 strand braid with differing numbers of flips.

2 flip and 4 flip braids

When Chip and I got married, our wedding bands were leather mystery braids. My beloved husband did a 5 strand mystery braid in a quarter inch wide piece of leather for me for that day. Not surprisingly, it did not hold up very long just because the leather was sooooo thin that it wore apart. He made me several more over the years until we finally found our current metal bands that we agreed to use instead. We did our engagement belts (yes, we both had matching engagement belts) using the mystery braid and it is incorporated into all of my bags. I love that idea of the continuous, unbroken piece of leather that still travels about itself in the center.

So that is Chip’s gift to you all today – the secret of the mystery braid.

Tomorrow – Markus shares his strawberry, almond, chocolate chip muffins with you. I just love my family.

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Days of Easter Past

Going through my pictures from the past year I found the pictures the boys took of their first foray into hand-painted easter eggs.  As we are rapidly heading into this year’s Easter egg projects, I wanted to post these now for my boys so they will remember their wonderful artistic eggs.  :)

Vash painting eggs

Vash's green malachite egg

Jesse painting eggs

Jesse's purple eggMarkus painting eggs

Markus's orange egg2013 Easter Eggs


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A Lord Of The Rings Halloween

Today is another entry from the non-blogging year to catch up. As you may know, if you follow this blog, we spend a lot of time in making the boys’ costumes for Halloween. This past year was no exception.  With the release of the Hobbit, the boys renewed their interests in all things Tolkien and marathon viewings of the entire Lord of the Rings series of movies started occuring, resulting in a Halloween theme of Lord of the Rings.

Markus started growing his hair out for Legolas on the first day of November in 2012 to be ready for this year. No more bangs. He succeeded in getting it long enough for the Legolas braid down the back.

Legolas Braid down the back

We also spent a lot of time working on his jerkin. It still is not completed – I have to work on how to inset the wrap around sleeves and add the metallic design work – but it was functional for this year and we will keep working on the design.

Markus as Legolas

Chip made the bracers for him . . . .

green Legolas Bracers

and the quiver.

Back view of Legolas with his quiver

We did shortcut some of the costume – using a light blue long-sleeved t-shirt instead of the blue silk shirt he wears. I am trying to control my costume making and remind myself that it is only worn for 3 hours at most – since their school does not allow the older kids to wear costumes to school – and I have to stop knocking myself out with these costumes. Still . .. . .

Jesse as Frodo

Jesse was Frodo – Chip even took a gold picture hanger and bent it into a ring for him to wear.

close up of Jesse as Frodo

The transformation in Jesse was crazy when we added the wig. This wig is not only a very handy costume accessory, it is downright transformative when your boys have long blonde hair.

Jesse in character as Frodo

We used the same fabric that we used in Markus’s costume for Jesse’s pants and found a stretch velvet for the cape as the elven fabric was supposed to change in the light.

Jesse in his elven cape

We did not forget the furry feet – attached with an elastic across the bottom of his foot – though it looks like we attached it to the sandal. It was just too cold for him to walk barefoot that day so we made do.

Jesse's furry feet

Finally we have the Ringwraith – and not any Ringwraith – the Witch King who is the chief Ringwraith.

Beware the Ringwraith

This was the easiest costume for me, since Vash was a Dementor from Harry Potter the year before, and the hardest for Chip since Chip had to make the helmet. LOVE the helmet!! So did Vash, though we had to pack his head with fabric because it was a little loose on him. I think Chip was kind of amazed when I told him to paint our wooden claymore black. He kept asking me if I was sure and I kept telling him yes. He had to have a big black sword. And one must sacrifice to stay true to the character. :)

The Witch King costume

So that is our 2013 Halloween costumes. Markus wants to continue as Legolas for this coming year. I will figure out the sleeve wraps this summer and be ready for the fall. We told Vash that he could pick anything he wanted but we had to be able to see his face. The last three years he was a ghost, a dementor and a ringwraith and we never saw more than his eyes.

He said he wants to be a beagle. Oh my.

Hope you liked the costumes.

Have a great Tuesday.

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Monday Project Report – Incognito

Every year our family gathers together on Christmas Eve at Chip sister’s house to celebrate the holiday.  It is really the only time during the year that we all get together because the rest of the family lives 2½ hours away from us and everyone is busy with work, raising their kids and their own lives.  When the kids were all little, one of the Aunts would buy matching pajamas for all of the kids to put on after they opened their presents and we would take pictures (there are 7 first cousins on Chip’s side of the family), but that got harder as the older ones grew out of child sizes.

This year I wanted to make something that kept that idea but on that the entire family would be part of.  I have been carrying around this project in my head for awhile and this year we are going to do it.

Incognito Jesse

We are going to make the Incognito mustache cowls for everyone in the family.

Incognito Markus

They all will be matching – but with different mustaches.

Incognito Vash

I have only made one so far – but you get the idea.

First I had to pick a base color that everyone would wear that I had in my stash.  I had 20 skeins of the Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran in my stash in a stonewashed denim blue which I thought would be perfect.  Everyone wears blue jeans.  I also had a large skein of Plymouth Encore Worsted in a dark brown for the mustaches so I was ready to begin.

The pattern is basically a plain cowl and then you add the mustaches using a duplicate stitch.  I was not sure if I wanted to do that so the first one I made I knit in the mustache and stranded the yarn around the cowl.  The problem with this method is that you see the brown under the blue when it is stretched.  On the otherhand, I thought it would add a bit more warmth around the face.  It worked out alright.  Then next one I will try the duplicate stitch and see if I like it more.

Incognito cowl with it stranded rather than duplicate stitched

The pattern can be made simply, knitting the cowl and then sewing up the hem edges into the cowl after it is done, which worked out okay.  The first hem I did I forgot to sew it loosely so it could stretch when going over the head.  I noticed the pull when putting it one but it still went over the head okay.  The second hem I sewed looser and it worked out fine.  I think I am going to try the “tangy” version on the second one.

The pattern is free and is a pattern.  Lots of folks have made this pattern and have posted charts for different mustaches that I want to try.  If I get them done I will post a family picture after Christmas to show you how they worked out.  For now, I just have to get knitting.

Hope your Monday is a good start to a good week.

Onward and upward.

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Food on Friday – Avocado-Mango Salsa

Scallops were on sale last week so Chip came home from shopping with both a pound of scallops and a pound of shrimp.  Next was to find a recipe that would use both.  Nothing in the cookbooks so I did my usual and went to the Bon Appetit website, did a search for scallops and shrimp and found their Mexican Seafood Saute with Avocado-Mango Salsa.   Since we only had two pounds of shellfish, we also did the Mexican Pepper Casserole from the Moosewood Cookbook and Popovers.  But to pull this off we needed all hands on deck.

Vash prepared the star of this post – the Avocado-Mango Salsa.  What I love is the simplicity of this dish combined with the great flavor punch it gives to the meal.  It is simple in its ingredients.salsa ingredients

Can I just say that I LOVE that you can buy pre-sliced mango.  I used to mangle mine trying to get the fruit off the pit.  Buying the slices made this recipe a breeze.  As you can see, all you need is sliced mango, ripe avocados, a shallot, a jalapeno pepper and some limes for their wonderful juice.  We gave everything to Vash and he got to work.

First he diced the mango (we used the entire package).

Vash dicing mango

Then he halved each avocado (we used two), twisting it to remove the pit.

twisting the avocado to remove the pitNext, he took his knife and cut slices into the avocado – then cutting across the slices to cut chunks in the avocado.  They came out a little small – we will make fatter slices next time.

Vash cutting slices into the avocado

Then he diced the shallot – again, first cutting slices and then cutting them cross-wise for the smaller pieces.

Vash cutting the shallot

Then he diced the jalapeno – being VERY CAREFUL not to rub his eyes after his hands touched the pepper.

Vash dicing the jalapeno

And finally he juiced two limes and added the juice to the remaining ingredients.

Vash juicing limes

That was it.  Avocado Mango Salsa.

avocado mango salsa

While that was being made, Chip had made the marinade for the saute (we left out the tequila and just used water, and I hate cumin so that was left out too).  After getting the scallops in the marinade, he and Jesse started working on peeling the shrimp (which was thankfully deveined prior to purchase.)

Chip and Jesse peeling shrimp

Let me jump in here to say that the crazy messy kitchen and life I have are part of why this is a family life blog and not a food blog.  Food blogs have pictures taken in beautiful clean kitchens with white countertops and food in pretty china bowls.  In my house you see the dog chewed cabinets (leftovers from our puppy fostering days), the boxes on the table that were dropped there from unloading the car, wrappers on the counters because we don’t clean up until after we are done cooking, and all the rest of the mess that goes with having a houseful of kids and dogs and four businesses all working out of one space.  So yes, here you get real family life – though just once I would like to have a food blogger’s kitchen.  But that is for another day.  Back to this day – which was Tuesday by the way.

My job for this meal, besides handing out cooking assignments, was the Mexican Pepper Casserole.  While I usually love the recipes from Moosewood Cookbook, this one came out  a little too greasy/oily when it was done so I am not including it in the blog.   It is basically sauteed onions and peppers layered with slices of cheddar cheese, topped with a sour cream/egg custard sprinkled with paprika.  Here it is just before coming out of the oven.

mexican pepper casserole

The boys liked the paprika.

Markus’s job was to both help Chip and to make the popovers.  Now, popovers are not exactly mexican, but I needed something bready that I could make quick that would go into a 375 degree oven and they were the first thing I found.  He did a good job.

Markus's popovers

They came in handy to sop up the sauce from the saute.

I am not going to list the full process of making the saute.  It is in the recipe that is linked above.  However, after the shrimp and the scallops were sauteed, the marinade is added back to the pan to make a sauce that is out of this world good!!.

mexican seafood sauteNext time I think I will make rice so that I have something to really absorb that sauce because we were all taking our popovers and wiping the pan when we were done.

So here it all is for that short period of time before it was all gone

mexican dinner

Reviews were that the Mexican Pepper Casserole is not to be repeated.  It just did not work.  Everyone loved the salsa EXCEPT for Vash, who found the heat of the jalapenos just tooooo spicy.  The Seafood Saute was a HUGE hit with everyone and the popovers all went quick too.

The boys are very happy that the Food on Friday blogs are back.  They love showing you what they cook.  Markus has been busy photographing alot of his baking but is finding that he is doing that same thing that I tend to do – forgetting to photograph the end results and then eating his work before he remembers – so we have to wait until we buy more strawberries for him to show you his strawberry, almond, chocolate chip muffins.

Have a great weekend everyone.  I have a new project to show you on Monday.  Can’t wait.

Onward and Upward.


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