Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

Hope everyone in Hurricane Sandy's path weathered the storm safely.  We were lashed by the outer reaches of it yesterday and today, and it's much colder than it usually is for the end of October, but that's about all the  storm news to report from here.  There was snow on the rooftops this morning, but it was gone (either melted or blown away!) by noon.

Luckily I had nowhere to go today, so after days and days of having to be up and out early (including both Saturday and Sunday), I took advantage of the clear schedule and slept in a little this morning, and baked a batch of pumpkin muffins.  I searched through my blog kitchen archives and can't believe I have never shared this recipe here before.  It is such a staple in my household.  I can't remember where I originally came across this recipe--probably another blog--but I've been making it for years.  I've tweaked it a bit (reducing the sugar), and here is my iteration of it:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 oz can pumpkin (or 2 cups cooked pumpkin)
2/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray muffin tin with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.  In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. In another large bowl, beat eggs and stir in sugar.  Add pumpkin, applesauce, and oil to the egg mixture and mix well.  Stir wet ingredients into dry and stir just until dry ingredients disappear into wet ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.  

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Makes about 34 muffins.  (If you use the original measurements of 2 cups of sugar, you can easily get a full 3 dozen muffins.)

You can make mini muffins instead if you prefer.  Use mini chocolate chips instead of full-size chocolate chips and bake at 350 for 13 minutes.  The yield for mini muffins is 6 dozen.

These freeze well.  After I bake them we eat them fresh for a day or two, and then I put them in the freezer.  The kids take them to school in their lunch boxes for dessert.  We put them in the lunch box frozen in the morning, and they thaw by lunch time.  If anyone wants one at home, a muffin will thaw in the microwave in about 10 seconds.

Muffins are my preferred thing to bake because I am content having just one muffin a day.  With cookies, I will eat a cookie here and there throughout the day until I've had 6 (or more) cookies before I realize what I've done, but muffins are too decadent to eat repeatedly.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Knitting update: mistakes were made (and probably more will come)

So, the baby sweater I am knitting...sigh.  I got the back piece finished.  Hurray!  Then I started the front left piece.  Things began smoothly, but I panicked as it grew on the needles.  I kept looking at it and thinking: This isn't the left piece, this is the right piece.  I wonder if I'm doing this wrong? I wonder if there's a mistake in the pattern?  Before I panicked about that for too long (a day or two, tops), I realized my perspective was confusing me.  As I held the piece out in front of me at arm's length, it seemed like the right side piece, but if I held it up to myself as if I were wearing it, I realized it was the left piece.  Whew!  And sheesh.

The next panic moment came when I had to begin the decreases to shape the neckline.  Technically this was going along just fine, but the piece seemed much too short.  I checked my gauge--that was right on target. I checked online for pattern errata--there weren't any.  How bizarre.  The proportion of the front to the back seemed way off, but I chugged along, thinking that maybe babies just have really fat necks, and what do I know about garment construction anyway?

I finished the left front piece.  Hurray!  Then I started on the right front.  New challenge: buttonholes!  I made it through the first buttonhole (and the first yarn forward) with only one YouTube consultation, so I was feeling sassy, but then as I stitched along, counting rows, the next buttonhole came up too quickly, only a few rows above the first buttonhole, and suddenly the instructions seemed wrong.  They were telling me to knit a row when I knew it should be a purl row.  What was going on?

I took a good hard look at the instructions.  I compared the instructions for the two front pieces.  I got a pencil and a calculator and drew little diagrams and added up rows of stitching.  And that is when the mistake I'd been making finally stood up and waved at me with a fiendish grin.  If you heard a loud despondent wail last night, that was me saying "NOOOOOOO!"

That part where it says "Rep the last 2 rows 22(27:32:32:39:45) times more"?  That doesn't mean 32 more rows.  That means 64 more rows. DUH.  

Knitting progress report:  Technical Skills, showing improvement.  Pattern Comprehension, needs work.

left front piece for a giant-necked baby.  go ahead and laugh.  
Thanks to my keen observation that the buttonholes were too close together, I saved myself from making a mess of the right front piece (still in progress, so maybe I shouldn't be counting my chickens just yet), but that sad little misshapen left front piece will have to be frogged and made over. 

When I felt depressed about my knitting mistake last night, I thought I'd soothe myself by starting this pattern--a present for my daughter--but when I went to assemble the supplies, I realized I'd run out of DMC 310.  That is the color black.  What kind of cross stitcher runs out of DMC 310?  The cross stitch authorities are going to revoke my license to stitch if word of this gets out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I was reading Frankenstein at midnight last night in our darkened house. I was the only one still awake. Suddenly there was a flash of lightning and a loud crack of thunder outside my window!  Spooky, atmospheric, and good unexpected campy fun.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I finished this little cross stitch this week.  It was a bonus pattern (one of three) included with the Lizzie Kate Very Scary Mystery Sampler (blogged here).  I haven't put a single stitch into the sampler since I last posted about it, but I really wanted to get this bonus pattern done in time for Halloween.  The fabric is a gorgeous orange color, deeper and richer than my camera could capture.  This was a quick stitch, except for that big block S, which took forever!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween Decorations

I walked around my house and took pictures of the Halloween decorations I haven't showcased here before.  Some of these are old toys that my children don't play with anymore, so they've been appropriated for holiday decorating!  

 My daughter made the tree tile in 5th grade art class a few years ago.  I crocheted the pumpkin.
 The pattern for the Boo cross stitch was a freebie from here.
The plastic pumpkins in the photo above are from the bottles of Pumpkin Juice we bought at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The little white bowl with the hearts in the two photos below is from Julie Smith's etsy shop.  It's not Halloween or fall themed, but it's so cute I leave it out year round.  The children and I made the salt dough ghosts six years ago following these instructions, and the little pointy things are soft trees I made with Halloween fabric.

And finally, a Lego jack-o-lantern.  I miss the Lego days so much.  I thought my son would play with them forever.
If you'd like to see my older posts about Halloween crafts, books, recipes, and decorations, click on the Halloween label on the right hand side of my home page.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Knit gets better

The knitting went a bit better the past few days.  A knitting friend was here for lunch last week. She looked at my work and suspected I was periodically knitting into the wrong place.  That's what I get for thinking I can knit while watching a movie or sitting in a darkened concert hall!  I have been paying extra careful attention to every single stitch, and it's going well.  The back of the sweater is nearly complete.  Just one more inch to go and I will bind off some stitches and put the rest on a stitch holder.  Then I move on to complicated pieces, like knitting and shaping the front pieces, and making buttonholes, and picking up stitches.  I don't know why picking up stitches strikes terror in my heart, but it does.  Expect to hear more complaints from me in a few days when I muck that all up.

The camera also cooperated for these pictures.  Happy times indeed.

P.S.  I am hoping that sewing the sweater pieces together and blocking the whole thing will fix the curling of the bottom edge.  Please tell me I am right!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Knit happens

I mentioned last spring that I wanted to knit  a sweater for my niece's baby.  I actually did start to knit it last spring, but the dusky pink yarn I was using looked too mauve, almost brown, as it knit into fabric, so I stopped and shopped for a brighter pink yarn.

Then summer started and I didn't get around to casting on the brighter pink yarn until last week.  I am sorry to say it is not going well!

I have already had to start over completely, and every night I end up having to undo most of what I've accomplished.  I seem to keep making the same mistake, but I can't identify what is happening.  It's not a dropped stitch, but I seem to be crossing stitches and ending up with a weird loop on the backside of the fabric. Or something.  It's confusing.  This constant frogging and reknitting is wearing down my good humor.  How many times can baby cashmere yarn be frogged and reknit before it gets all worn out?

I really do want to make this sweater, but the lack of progress is disheartening, especially given all the other stitchy projects I have in mind to do for Christmas.

Also, my camera doesn't seem to want to focus any more.  It's a simple point-and-shoot, 5 years old already, and I've taken approximately a million photos with it, so I guess this is to be expected.  New camera for Christmas this year, perhaps?

Because pictures like this just won't do!

(I'm really hoping I can get this knitting thing figured out.  I just love how all those loops look sitting on a knitting needle, and when I sit with my "cheater" glasses on and a lap full of knitting, I feel all snuggly and cozy and kind of smart.  That is, until I realize I need to frog again.  Then I just feel mad and frustrated, and I want to go running for the crochet hook.)