December 31, 2013

Life at Abel Hill Farm: What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Life at Abel Hill Farm: What are you doing New Year's Eve?: The girls are laying 3-4 eggs a day now.  While the chicks are coming along nicely! Well, three out of five ain't bad.  Three of ...

December 13, 2013

We've Bought the Farm

Quite literally.  We've bought the farm.   Forty-six beautiful acres of Kansas prairie, complete with cross fenced pastures and barns.  (Can anyone say sheep?)

The adventures of our farm life are found at NIK's companion site, Life at Abel Hill Farm.  With a new baby (who is almost a year old), kids growing up, and now chickens and soon to be sheep, I've found little to no time for knitting lately.  I've worked on a few projects, but nothing that required pattern reading. 

I can't get over the response Graham has had!  I'm trying to keep up with my email correspondence, and answer questions in a timely manner.  But if you've emailed me and think I'm ignoring you, please send your email again!  There's a chance it's gotten lost in a sea of emails that accumulated while I was offline during the move.

If you're interested in things farm related, and enjoy watching a city girl screw up a farm royally, then you should check out the new site.  It's little more than a journal of what we're learning (often the hard way) as we settle into a new life on the prairie.

I hope all is well with everyone.  And that this time of year finds you knitting feverishly!

Happy Knitting~


November 8, 2012

Camp Out Races...

Camp Out Fingerless Mitts, [ jenleigh's ] version.

Knit using both Noro Kureyon (colorway 217) and Silk Garden (colorway 337).
Knit on size US 7s.
Modifications below.

Baby Girl is due December 25th.  I. Kid. You. Not.  And I'm starting to panic a bit (a lot...) about having everything ready in time.  Furniture is due to arrive November 19th so we have a timeline for finishing up last minute touches to the nursery.  And I have a box full of layette and goodies waiting to be washed and put away.  (I'm stressing myself out thinking about it!)  But I still want to make sure I get Christmas knitting finished!  Handmade is just way better...

Because I'm limited for time this year, I decided to let Noro do the hard work for me, and I'll just take all the credit!  I love these Camp Out fingerless mitts by Tante Ehm.  The pattern is really simple and fast.  Not to mention the mitts turn out so lovely knit up in Noro, and are a knit that is sure to get lots of wear during the winter months.

The mitts shown Center are knit in Silk Garden, the outer mitts in Kureyon.
I still have a couple more pair to knit, and have been modifying the pattern slightly as I go along.  Here are my notes from my project page on Ravelry:

Believe it or not the pair of mitts shown in the browns and the pair shown in the yellow/turquoise mix come from the same colorway! I knit one pair from the center pull of 2 balls and the other from the outer of the same.

• I knit all 3 pair on size US 7s, but the Silk Garden came out quite a bit larger (shown center), which is GREAT because these mitts are really small. I personally like the Silk Garden version much better, and the color changes are much more dramatic. Not to mention the mitts are way softer.

• I also modified the sore thumb. There wasn’t much allowed for the thumb in the original pattern which made the mitts tight around my hand (I have really skinny hands). So I just added a second row of knitting between decrease rounds for the thumb and the size worked out much better, and there is more room for the hand.

• I still have a couple more pair of these to knit and I plan on either increasing 2 stitches either side of the wrist or finishing with 2 garter ridges because they are really tight.

Using a Basic Knit bind off makes these mitts nearly impossible to put on so instead I opted to: (k2tog, sl st back to left needle knitwise, k2tog) and repeating () to end of round. I’ll use this same bind off with extra wrist stitches or a garter ridge edge.

Even after blocking the Kureyon mitts are really small. If your want a little wiggle room I would recommend sizing up to a US 8.

I have some baby things finished and photos taken so I'll be posting them soon!  I hope everyone is well!

Happy Knitting!

August 22, 2012

Step One: The Knit Stitch.

Beachy Cowl [ jenleigh ] version

Knit using Classic Elite Mountain Top Vail (Parchment) and Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in pale pink, mild green, black, yellow, Bahama blue, tomato red, and eggshell.
Knit on size US 10.5 circular needles with parchment held throughout cowl with contrasting Silky Wool colorways.
I've got to stop giving away the good stuff.  Or better yet, just plan on making two of everything!  In the spring of 2012 we had our annual Artapooloza auction at school.  The auction raises money for the Art Departments in the lower, middle, and upper schools.  I've donated different projects over the past years, and this year was knitting lessons, a gift basket full of all sorts of yummy yarns and notions tucked in a pretty Jordana Paige bag, and this beautiful cowl designed by Purl Soho. 

It's exciting for me to see how knitting interest has grown year after year!  I love getting texts and emails for groups and individuals wanting to learn how to knit.  And after completing a round of Knitting 101 I always have students knit a scarf for their first project.  There's nothing like rows and rows of knit stitches to truly learn all the ins and outs of our craft.  

I'm a stickler for one thing in knitting:  learn how to read your work.  Period.  I believe if when someone is learning how to knit they are also learning what the different stitches look like, then when a mistake comes (mistakes... what are those?) they will be able to look at their work and correct the mistake.  I have helped so many people over the years who have the knit and purl stitches down, can do yarn overs, and lacework, but when they make a simple mistake they are at a complete loss as to both what they've done wrong, and what they need to do to correct it.  I think that for a lot of beginning knitters this is why there are so many projects left unfinished and new ones started.  (Now, for the record, we all have UFO's tucked away... many of them for completely different reasons...)  But so often, as beginners, we get out ahead of ourselves, which leads to countless frustrations, the main of which being mistakes we don't know how to fix.

I have several beginning scarf patterns I go to for beginners, and this cowl by Purl Soho is a great one!  Nothing more than thousands of knit stitches knit in the round (new technique!) with occasional color changes (new technique!) and within a week or so you have a gorgeous cowl for year round.  Well, three out of four seasons anyway...

I knit mine using a combination of two yarns, Vail by Classic Elite, which is an alpaca/bamboo blend.  And Silky Wool by Elsebeth Lavold, which is a yummy wool, silk, and nylon blend.  I LOVE how this cowl turned out.  Because my yarn was a bit thicker than the yarn denoted in the pattern, it made my finished cowl a shade longer than the original, so the finished piece has lots of room for layering without adding weight.  It's surprisingly warm to be so light, and the alpaca gives the overall piece a gorgeous halo effect.

There are so many color options for this cowl, and I'm looking forward to knitting one for myself in a monochromatic theme, maybe differing shades of grey?

So if you are a beginning knitter... start here!  This is a simple scarf with only a couple of new techniques that you can easily access online.  For me, I love going back to the basics.  Sometimes it's fun to throw in a lacework shawl, or colorwork mittens, but for easy-going-TV-watching knittin' there's just nothing better than step one:  The Knit Stitch. 

I hope everyone is doing well and you're well on your way to lots (!!) of yummy Christmas knits!  

Happy Knitting!

August 20, 2012

How the Cobbler Crumbles.

Peach and Cherry Crumble
This time of year means one thing, peaches.  I've been stewing them (served over ice cream) and baking them every chance I get.  And while at the grocers the other day I saw a sign for "Fresh, Local Peaches."  So I went to work and picked out a few choice ones.  Unfortunately, "fresh and local" might not mean the same thing to a large scale grocery store as it does to me.  I think of peach orchards back home, or peach trees in neighbors backyards that we all took from.  That's my idea of how a peach should taste.

So I ended up with a few, not so great peaches.  And I was curious to see what could be done with them.  After I rummaged around in the pantry for a bit I found a can of cherry pie filling (do not judge me...) and thought I might be on to something.

Cherry pie filling can be very sweet (although I can eat the glaze with a spoon...) so I seldom use it.  But the "fresh and local" peaches worked perfectly with it to give it a tart flavor that I found surprisingly tasty! 

I cooked up a yummy Peach and Cherry Crumble that I will definitely make again.  I will even go so far as to say I recommend firmer peaches (aka "Fresh and Local") for this recipe.  They hold their shape well, and the cherry glaze sweetens them just enough.  Enjoy!


Serves 6

2 semi-ripe peaches, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
1 can cherry pie filling
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4  to 1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2  teaspoon Kosher salt*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the ingredients for filling and scoop into small ramekins or medium sized casserole dish (8 x 8).  In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment combine flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon, and butter.  Mix on low speed until butter is the size of small peas.  Spread evenly over fruit mixture.  Place ramekins (or casserole) on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until crumble is brown and crisp, and juices are bubbly.  Serve with scoop of favorite ice cream.

You can make the crumble(s) ahead and store unbaked in the refrigerator.

*Different Kosher salts have different weights.  Diamond brand Kosher is lighter than Morton.  I usually cut the salt measurement in half when cooking with Morton to avoid over-salting. 

August 7, 2012

Christmas in August Casserole

The basic... i.e. Kid Approved.  
While living in New Orleans my husband and I became addicted to bread pudding.  There are so many versions, (my favorite only has a handful of ingredients...) both savory and sweet.  And when you look at the traditional Breakfast Casserole, it's really just a savory bread pudding.  Which makes me very happy...

Like most folks we typically have our casserole on Christmas morning.  And I always serve it with a simple fruit salad.  But a couple of days ago I was seriously craving comfort food, and of all the great options, we settled on our Christmas casserole.  (I say we... but you know what I mean.)

There are so (!) many versions of this casserole.  And all I have personally tried have turned out great.  Bacon, sausage, spinach, mushrooms, umpteen cheeses.  Any and all combinations work amazingly well.  But, sadly, my sweet children are finicky.  If I jazz something up too much, or heaven forbid put some of that "stinky feet cheese" (i.e. Gruy√®re) in a casserole, they will turn their noses before it hits the table.  Little Lu is great as proclaiming, "but I did try it and I didn't like it!" about the time I am taking the dish out of the oven... 

They'll even let me sneak a few mushrooms in there...
So in honor of my two sweet, yet finicky angels, I kept this Christmas in August casserole simple, just for them.  And they approved.  


Sausage & Cheddar Breakfast Casserole
serves 9-12

• 1 small Vidalia (or yellow) onion, diced
• 1 8 oz. package baby portobello or button mushrooms, sliced
• 1 pound Maple breakfast sausage
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
• 1 small loaf French bread, or half of large loaf
• 6 eggs
• 2 cups half and half
• 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg   

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease (or spray) 9X12 glass casserole dish.  Tear French bread into 2 inch pieces and spread across the bottom of casserole dish.  In large skillet, brown onion and sausage.  Ladle sausage mixture atop French bread and reserve drippings in skillet.  On medium-low heat, add olive oil and saute mushrooms in sausage drippings until tender.  Ladle mushrooms over sausage and bread.  Sprinkle shredded cheddar over mushrooms.

In a large glass bowl, whisk 6 eggs with half and half until well blended.  Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Pour egg mixture over bread, sausage, mushrooms, and cheese.  With spatula, press down to soak all ingredients well in egg mixture.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, or let sit for 15 minutes.  (Either way works fine!)

Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes until casserole is set and top is golden brown.  Remove to cooling rack and let casserole rest for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.  Enjoy!    

August 3, 2012

Adobo Pulled Pork

Aunt Di's Adobo Pulled Pork
Being from the South (specifically within an hour of the Barbeque Capital Memphis), I am always on the lookout for a new pulled pork recipe.  There are few things that can light my family up like its glorious smell rising from the cooker... I mean, six hours worth of heaven wafting through the house and out the door.  My husband swears he can smell it in the driveway, and a smile spontaneously always manages to spread across his face.

We are Memphis barbeque purists.  I've tried the offerings from all the different regions and love them all.  Alabama's great "white sauce," Kansas City's super sweet, and of course North Carolina's yummy vinegar based sauce.  But for me it all comes back to Memphis.  Memphis style sauce is a combination of vinegar, tomatoes, and any number of spices.  A little sweet with a lot of tang, we prefer it "on the side" and not "mixed in," so we can control the amount ourselves.

Smoking pork requires a lot of time and a lot of attention for the home cook, and quite frankly, I don't have it.  Therefore, I thank God daily for my slow cooker.  (Well not daily, but often...) And just like all the regions of barbeque, there are countless numbers of recipes for the slow cooker as well (just Google slow cooker pulled pork).  So when people start talking pulled pork my ears perk up.  And I managed to score a couple of new recipes just this week while visiting family in Tulsa. 

This is the recipe my cousin Diane uses for her pulled pork.  I have no idea where it originated, but I thank her for it!  The flavor is deep and rich, as a matter of fact my kids couldn't keep their fingers out of it while I was pulling it!  (That's always a good sign...)

You can serve it Memphis style with slaw and beans, or use it to jazz up Pulled Pork Tacos.  There are countless ways to use this recipe:  enchiladas, barbeque pork pizza and nachos (two of my son's favorites), add to pasta or seasoned rice, or add a bit to Huevos Rancheros.  You name it. 



• 1 Vidalia onion, sliced thin
• 1 4 pound pork shoulder roast (bone-in)
• 4 tablespoons brown sugar
• generous sprinkling of pepper, garlic salt, and seasoning salt
• 2 cans Dr. Pepper
• 1 7.5 oz can Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce

Diane slow roasts hers in the oven in a large cast iron (Le Creuset) roaster for 6 hours on 300 degrees.  I opted for a slow cooker version.  The directions are the same.

Turn slow cooker on HIGH.  Slice onion thinly and spread in bottom of slow cooker.  Place roast on top of onions and generously rub brown sugar, pepper, garlic salt, and seasoning salt all over roast.  Pour Dr. Pepper over and around roast, and pour peppers and sauce over roast.  Set slow cooker on HIGH for 6 hours, checking occasionally and basting in juices. Remove roast from cooker and let sit (covered) for 15 minutes before pulling apart with fork.  Serve with your favorite sauce (we prefer Curley's Hickory Smoked) and enjoy! 

July 28, 2012

Sass-Mouthin' Chocolate Chip Cookie

World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. Period.

To quote Minny Jackson:  "The only thing you need to know about cookin' is right here; Crisco."  And when it comes to baking (and the occasional frying) I have to agree.   It is indeed the greatest thing since they put mayonnaise in a jar.

I am a huge fan of butter, don't get me wrong.  I swear by butter when making scones.  But Crisco was just made for cookies and flaky pie crusts.  

With two kids (and a sweet-toothed hubby), I make a lot of cookies.  A lot.  And I have tried so many recipes, modifying them all.  But this cookie takes the cake.  The basic recipe needs no tweaking, which leaves only the potential toppings to occupy your mind (and of course the best options are usually a combo of whatever little bits are left in the pantry.)

I wish I could take credit for the recipe (I don't think there's a recipe out there today that anyone can actually take credit for anymore...), but I can't.  As a matter of fact I am straight up stealing it from the card that comes inside that pretty little 3-pack of Butter-flavored Crisco sticks.  So I look at this as sharing the love.  And it definitely produces a cookie you be a little cocky about.  Your Yeah-I-know-how-good-my-cookies-are-but-thanks-for-noticing Cookie.

When it comes to cookies I have found a couple of tricks that produce a great and consistent cookie every time.

1.  Bake at 375 degrees.  Not 350.  Seriously.  

2.  If you're not going to bake immediately (and I mean within the next 2 minutes), pop the container of cookie dough in the fridge until your ready to go.  It'll help the cookie keep a pretty shape, especially if you're reusing warm cookie sheets.

3.  Round or ball the cookie dough slightly after you put it on the cookie sheet.  It helps in avoiding the dreaded spread of your cookie.

A tablespoon of cookie dough then rounded into pretty little balls!
 Sassy Lu is a cookie dough fiend.  She is always waiting to steal the paddle attachment!

To make smaller cookies I just use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.  They make just the right size for a class of hungry fourth graders!  But for a larger cookie, and one I can claim without lying to myself, I only had one... I use a tablespoon.

These cookies are perfectly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Even the next day.  


adapted from Crisco's Ultimate Double Chocolate Chip Cookie
(makes 3 dozen smaller cookies and 2 dozen larger)
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup Crisco Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • or 3/4 stick Crisco Baking Sticks Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cup Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bits
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Combine brown sugar, shortening, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat egg into creamed mixture.

  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into creamed mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits.

  3. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough 3-inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

  4. Bake 9 to 11 minutes.  If baking 2 sheets at a time, remove top sheet at designated time and let bottom sheet cook an additional minute.  Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

July 27, 2012


Pop blanket by Tin Can Knits
Knit using Lang Mille Colori in #s 5566 and 5741, and Imperial Columbia in Pearl Gray
Knit on size US 9 and 10 needles.

Hello again!  It's been pretty crazy around here the last few months.  We were knee deep in "end of the school year" activities for the kiddos when we found out we had a visitor on the way!  =)

Needless to say we were thrilled!  Okay, the first few days are a little fuzzy.  We weren't expecting this!  But after I had some time to wrap my mind around it, it happily transitioned to baby knits. (Of course!)  So I started stocking my queue with adorable patterns for the little one, and my shelves with all sorts of yummy sock and dk yarns.  (Goodness knows they would never be used for SOCKS.) 

One of the first patterns I saw was Pop by Tin Can Knits.  What a clever idea!  I had been wanting to knit a baby blanket but wanted something a bit more modern.  Pop! fit the bill exactly!

I love this idea!  The pattern is so simple to remember and you can quickly knit squares just about anywhere.  I've knit more than one waiting in line for my son after football practice!  

I've opted for Lang Mille Colori for the circles and Imperial Columbia for the squares.  I had to do a little bit of adjusting for the squares to work smoothly around the circles, and after a little testing I decided on size US 9s for the colorwork and 10s for the gray.  The blanket calls for 24 squares total (6 x 4) but I'm planning to knit 30 (6 x 5).  It makes the blanket just slightly bigger and more in line for a growing baby.  And I have every intention of this baby being covered in wool from day one!  

Once the squares are finished I'll seam them together.  The pattern calls for crochet but I might decide on something else, a three-needle bind off perhaps?  (Anything that keeps me from attempting crochet...)

I have a few other things on the needles right now as well, including Owlet in some of Orange Flower Yarn's yummy silky merino dk, and a pair of End of May Mittens that are a Christmas gift for little Lu.  

I hope everyone is well, and knitting like crazy.  (It's so hot here I keep the air turned down low enough for a cardigan and it keeps me in the (knitting) mood!

Happy Knitting!

April 24, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks

My family has stories.  Or more accurately, my family are great story tellers.  I grew up hearing my grandmother tell stories of her childhood.  Born in 1901, she could remember getting too close to the "wash pot" my great grandmother used to "boil clothes" and the hem of her dress caught fire.  She recalled her mother rolling her on the ground trying to smother out the flames.  Fortunately she did smother them out, but not before Grandma was severely burned.  My grandmother suffered from the scarring of this accident her entire life, but she never complained.

My family are also optimists.  We laugh our way through life.  Especially the tough stuff.  It's how we cope: preferring to remember the good, put in perspective the bad, and recognize that the present can chart paths we never would have dreamed possible.

That would be the premise for my father's new book, Jack Dale:  The Life and Times of an Unforgettable Coach.  Growing up in our house we all knew the stories of Jack Dale well.  We would ask Daddy to tell and retell them.  Jack Dale was my father's high school football coach.  And Dad was arguably Coach Dale's favorite player.  Jack is in the Arkansas Razorback Hall of Fame for his athletic feats, but it's his unbelievable life story that makes Coach Dale a character to remember.  Jumping from an "Orphan Train" as a child, and then living out of a piano crate is quite a beginning to an amazing life story!  Coach Dale was resourceful, opinionated, and stubborn.  He was also incredibly sensitive and real.  The latter being qualities he chose to reveal to only a handful of people; fortunately for us my father was one of those people.

For years, classmates of my father asked him to write down his "Jack Dale Stories."  And their shenanigans both on and off the football field are one-of-a-kind.  Hilarious, ornery, and touching, the stories of Coach Dale are those of a determined man shaped by a difficult life, yet made magical under the lights of 1950's high school football in small town Arkansas.  

When my father first started this project he had no idea where it would lead.  He often refers to his initial manuscript as "one very long email."  But thankfully my cousin Jamie read it and encouraged him to consider making it a book.   So Daddy decided to put together a "booklet" for his high school teammates and friends.  Through this effort, more stories began to pour in, including a former assistant of Coach Dale offering stories from his own book written about the coach!

Dad's email became a booklet that became a book.  Instead of a small collection of football stories, we now have a memoir about an amazing figure.  

My father turned 74 in January of 2012.  This is his first book.  He would tell you he knew nothing about writing before this, and then go on to say he still doesn't know much about it!  But he wasn't afraid to try.  He wasn't afraid of not knowing "how," but chose to receive help when offered and learn as he went.  He wasn't afraid to let editors edit and critique his work.  He took it all in stride.  For my father, the end justified the means.  An end he never would have dreamed possible two years ago.  But one we are all fortunate to have.

We're very proud of him.   

Mom and Dad, 2007

March 2012 at my parents.  Me, Benjamin, Mom and Dad.  (Taken by Annabelle.)