Homemade Granola

In my house, we are crazy about granola. You won't find boxed cereal now that M is past his Cheerios obsession. Nope, we like crunchy, nutty granola, something that won't get soggy sitting in yogurt. We've tried many boxed granolas, and find them either too bland or too sugary. We like the granola you get in the bulk foods section at our local grocery store, but I'm often left wondering just what's in there.

So this month, when Everyday Food arrived, and there was a recipe for homemade granola, I just had to give it a shot. I ended up modifying the recipe, kind of a blend between the one in the magazine and the one Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family. This is what I came up with:

Favorite Homemade Granola
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup sunflour seeds
pinch of salt
a generous pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey
1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter
1/3 cup low sugar dried pineapple
1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Place the butter, honey, and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, until butter melts and all is combined (stirring occassionally). Slowly pour the butter mixture into the oats mixture, stirring as you go. The oats will be sticky but not wet. Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet, and bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until evenly browned and crispy. Let it cool down a bit, and add the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container, and enjoy!

I bet it would be equally delicious with different nuts or dried fruits; these are the ones we used because it's what we had on hand. Enjoy!



I started knitting in 2009, but it wasn't until recently that I discovered KnitPicks, which is too bad because they are very budget friendly. They sell some really beautiful yarn, and after admiring it for months, I finally placed my first yarn order a few weeks ago. It was my first time ordering yarn, preferring to visit my local yarn store to touch and feel the yarn prior to buying, so I was a little nervous about what the yarn would be like. I was delighted to find that the yarn is very soft, and from what I've read in Ravelry, is even softer once washed.

I was so tempted to order all sorts of different yarns and colors, without a real plan for them. It was hard, but I stopped myself and ordered only the yarn that I have an immediate plan for. This is what I've got planned:

  • I'm using Swish Worsted (in Peapod) to make the Easy Baby Cardigan, which I'm already almost done with (but sharing will have to wait, as the baby it's intended for hasn't yet arrived)
  • I'm using Swish DK (in Dusk) to make M a second Treasure Vest, which I hope to have ready by Easter (though I haven't yet cast on for it)
  • I'm using the Felicy (in Rainbow) to make M a Curly Snake (a special request by M himself, after he found my Itty Bitty Toy books the other day)
  • The rest of the Felicy (in Botany and... I don't remember the other one) are destined to become baby booties to go with the Easy Baby Cardigan, and a pair of socks for me (my first!)

Seriously, I know how ambitious that list is (especially knowing that the odds of completing a project are exponentially higher when I only have one or two going at a time...), you don't have to tell me. But how could I help myself, with that yummy yarn? Now to get that Tomten jacket finished so I can cast on my next project...


Happy Friday

I'm looking forward to some sunshine-y time with my boys this weekend, with a good dose of knitting squeezed in. I've got new projects on the needles, which will hopefully see some progress this weekend and can be shared soon. Wishing you a happy, crafty, sunny weekend!


Sidewalk Chalk

Today was warm and sunny all day long, so when we got home this afternoon, we broke out the sidewalk chalk. M decorated our front steps with monsters, dinosaurs, and some interesting rainbows. It was pretty cool watching him drawing so intently... it almost made me forget that we were all covered in chalk by the time we went inside for dinner.

I'm loving watching this little guy's imagination come to life on our front steps. Here's to hoping for a sunny tomorrow, so we can continue adding creatures to our front steps.

Wishing you warm sunshine!


Hello, Spring

This past weekend, we were lucky enough to have sunshine and warmth, the perfect way to welcome Spring. We've been having incredibly wet, dark, dreary weekends lately, so it was a welcome change. We spent a large part of our weekend outdoors, enjoying the warmth and sunshine, but on Saturday, we spent an hour or so starting our tomatoes and onions indoors. We're trying a bunch of different varieties of tomatoes this year, all of them early varieties, which we hope will do well here in the Pacific NW. Last year, we had such a cloudy, cool summer that our beautiful tomatoes never ripened. 

This will be our third year having a garden, and every year M becomes more and more aware and interested in the process of growing our own food. This was the first year that he was really into helping get the plants started. We've been talking a lot about seed selection and the gardening process, and he was more than thrilled about getting the seedling mix ready, holding the seeds in his hands, and carefully watering each container.

We were having so much fun that we went a little crazy with the tomato starters, but I figure it's better to have extra than not enough. Plus, this way, we'll have extra plants to pass on to friends and to swap with neighbors for other veggie starters -- maybe zucchini? Or broccoli?

Such a fun weekend. Hello, Spring. We're ready for you.


EZ lovin'

A few weeks ago, I mentioned having added some new craft books to my personal library. The truth is that I don't need any more craft books, but I love them so. And, well, they get a fair amount of use around here, whether for inspiration or to actually make the project as described. KnitPicks had a book sale a few weeks back, and I decided to add some of Elizabeth Zimmerman's books to my collection. I had purchased Knitting Without Tears a couple of years ago, when I first had contemplated making a sweater for M. At the time, I didn't have enough experience knitting to understand what she was describing, and, frankly, I was more overwhelmed than inspired.

Fast-forward to 2011. I've now become acquainted with different stitches and have even completed my first toddler-sized sweater (more on that later), and picked up KWT again to read on the bus. Suddenly, what made no sense before, made complete sense now, and, what's better, made me laugh! And, of course, I'd seen Amanda mention EZ's writings recently, so I was inspired. Naturally, with the purchase of new craft books, comes the promise (to my husband, especially) that they will be used to make many, many projects. I'm happy to report that this time the promise will be kept: I've already cast on (and half completed) a toddler-sized tomten jacket. I'm so excited, I wish I could spend all day knitting!


Screen time

This is where I've been spending a lot of my time lately. I know that there's an end in sight, but it doesn't feel like it right now. I'll be back later this week, to share what I've been working on on my commute (aside from reading all those articles you see piled there, next to my computer!).


Homemade Yum

" take the time every now and then, say once a week, to make some good food with yur own hands for your friends and loved ones, that is something that may vastly improve the overall quality of life."
-- Mario Batali

This past weekend, I made homemade fettucini and Mario Batali's mushroom ragu (recipe here) for my guys.  It was only the second time making my own pasta, and I have to say that it went a lot smoother than the first time. I used a recipe from an older Cooking Light cookbook, and, while good, I think next time I'll use the pasta recipe in Mario Batali's cookbook, Molto Italiano.

Have you ever made your own pasta? It's really not too difficult, just perhaps a little time consuming, but so worth it.

Though I love to cook, I tend to stay away from making really work intensive meals, because the truth is that I'd rather be playing with M than cooking in the kitchen. But this weekend, I decided to slow down and take the time to make something that I knew we'd all enjoy. It was so delicious and such a hit with everyone. This is something we'll be making again. Next time -- tagliatelle!


Outdoor treasures

Last year, when I was trying to make one project-a-month from a different craft book, I made M a little treasure bag, like the one in SouleMama's book, Handmade Home. While he definitely liked having his own little bag, he preferred to tote around his little cars and trucks rather than using it to collect outdoor treasures.

This year, things are different. He's rediscovered his Treasure Bag (and calls it by that name, too!), and requests it every time we are headed outdoors. We've had a bit of a soggy, cold, windy winter in our neck of the woods, so there are constantly pine cones, branches, twigs, and more to be collected. It's really so very cool watching him enjoy being outside, discovering nature. And it's even cooler to see him do it with a mama-made bag in tow.


Very Pretty Lace Scarf

I recently splurged on a few new books for my craft book library (more on that later), and among the new purchases was More Last Minute Knitted Gifts, which is truly a beautiful book full of projects that I am dying to make. I decided the first project I would tackle was the Very Pretty Lace Scarf as a birthday gift for a dear friend. It was my first time knitting lace, and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as hard as I'd imagined it would be. I will definitely be trying my hand at it again.

My LYS doesn't carry the recommended yarn, so I decided to pair up Lang Alpaca Superlight with Malabrigo lace for this project. I have to say that while I loved knitting with these two yarns, I'm not sure it was the right choice for this project. The scarf knit up beautifully and is very warm, but it's a lot "poofier" than it would have been had I used the recommended yarn. Still, it turned out very well, and I'm hoping my friend will enjoy wearing it as much as I enjoyed knitting it.

The project is included in the "6 to 8 hour" projects section of the book, but, at least for me, it took much longer than that to complete. I typically knit during my commute, so there was much starting and stopping, and knitting in small spurts of time. It's hard to say exactly how many hours it took to knit up, but I'm pretty sure it was a lot more than 8 hours. I'm thinking that now that I've tried this pattern, the next time I knit it up (and there will be a next time, as I love it so!) it'll go faster.

What project have you recently completed?


S'mores in wintertime

I am a big fan of s'mores, and would eat them year-round if it weren't unreasonable to make a big bonfire every day. My husband, on the other hand, is not at all a fan of s'mores, but loves cupcakes. And so, years ago, I did a search for s'mores cupcakes and came up with a ton of hits.

One recipe I found, used Martha Stewart's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes as the base (recipe here) and used a buttercream frosting with marshmallow cream added to it. If you've got a buttercream recipe you love, I would just use that and then add the Marshmallow cream to it. In case you're interested, here's how I make it:

Marshmallow Frosting
You'll need:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 cups confectioner's sugar
a small amount of vanilla (I never measure, but probably around 1/2 tsp)
1 jar Marshmallow cream (7 oz)

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar until incorporated. Add Marshmallow cream and vanilla. Continue beating until fluffy. Color with food coloring, if desired. This recipe will make enough to frost 24 cupcakes.

After I frost my cupcakes, I add a chocolate square and some graham cracker crumbs for garnish. You could make a graham cracker crumb crust for the cupcakes, too, and I bet that would be delicious.

These have become our standby cake and frosting recipe, making an appearance at every birthday, celebration, and even at our last Thanksgiving dinner. If you're craving some sweets, I'd highly recommend making these. If you do, let me know how they turn out, ok?


Big Boy Quilt

When we moved M to a big boy bed many months ago, it was quite an ordeal. Some kids are thrilled to move from their crib to a big boy bed, but our little guy wanted nothing to do with it, and would have a big melt-down, crying for his crib. The problem was that he'd figured out how to climb out of his crib to get out, so going back to the crib was unsafe and out of the question. To sweeten the deal, I made him a "big boy quilt" for his bed, using all sorts of boy novelty prints.

I used that quilt as you go method from Patchwork Style, which allowed me to do straight line quilting without a walking foot, but was really time consuming. Because this whole transition took place in the winter, I ended up backing it with some orange fleece initially intended for a pumpkin outfit. I have to say that I'm less than crazy with the backing, but it was more for function than anything else. We live in a cold, drafty old house, and I figured the quilt would better keep our little guy warm backed with fleece than if it were backed in the pretty truck cotton print I'd originally picked out.

I wanted to make the quilt a bright, colorful addition to M's room, but sometimes I think it's a little too much. Maybe I should have limited myself to using basics in primary colors (checks, stripes, plaids, dots) for the logs, and limiting the novelty prints for use in the center of each block. But then I watch my little guy closely studying the quilt, proudly identifying everything he sees ("Cars!" "Horseys!" "Fishies!"), and I figure that as long as he likes it, that's all that matters.