Poufs of all sizes

I just added two new pouf sizes to my Etsy shop, so they now come in small (12 inch),

medium (14 inch),

large (16 inch) (I’m in love with the green stripe!)

and extra large (18 inch).

As they go up in diameter, they also go up in height. The bigger two sizes also have double thicknesses of yarn, so they are extra soft and squeezable. Because what else are you going to do with a giant round pillow?

Just convo me on Etsy if you have any custom requests. I’m more than happy to knit you up the pouf of your dreams. 🙂

Try Nia for free!

If any of my posts have made you curious about what a Nia class is like, or you have been on the fence about checking it out, here is your opportunity to do it without spending a dime.

I am teaching a freebie class at Firehouse Yoga this Friday at 5:15. Firehouse is a great studio space at 2300 University in Des Moines. Beginning in March I’ll be teaching Nia there weekly (I believe Thursdays at 5:30). So we’re doing this demo class to get people excited and show them what Nia is all about.

I’m hoping to do the routine Opal, which is my absolute favorite so far. It’s challenging, super fun and the music is fantastic.

Just as a recap, Nia is like an aerobics class with an holistic spin. It’s an hour -long routine set to music. The beginning is a warmup, the middle very energetic, and the end a cool down with stretching and usually some yoga poses. If you’re a regular yogi who sometimes wishes for a faster paced class, or a former dancer who misses dancing, or someone who likes to work out but dislikes a gym setting, you might really love Nia, so give it a try!

The fastest licker in the west

There’s a new dude in the house this week. His name’s Okie.

Don’t worry, he’s just visiting.

Normally he and Reggie are buds. Sadie is adjusting to not being the new kid anymore. She seems perplexed.

But thanks to his perky, floppy ears, Okie seems to be happy no matter what.

And all three of them seem to be getting along today. I think this picture says it all.

Guilt-free mac ‘n cheese

I think Mother Nature must have heard my pleas. The sun came out yesterday and started melting the snow in our driveway, and here it is again today. Maybe that’s why I was inspired to make up a new recipe last night. It’s based on this Amy’s noodle bowl I used to buy all the time to take for lunch at work. It sounds iffy — marinated tofu and veggies mixed into mac and cheese, but it’s actually really good. And I realized I’d never made mac and cheese from scratch (yikes!). So here’s what I came up with. You can use wheat or whole grain pasta to make it even healthier. Of all the recipes I’ve made recently, this one might be my favorite.

Guilt-free mac ‘n cheese

12 ounces elbow macaroni (about 3/4 of the box I had)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced
1 bag frozen broccoli or 2 heads fresh, chopped
1/2 a block of extra firm tofu, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce

Start by boiling the water for your pasta and cooking it according to package directions.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a glass baking dish mix the tofu slices with the soy sauce and garlic. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once during baking.

Meanwhile put the broccoli in the microwave to steam, and saute the peppers and onions in the olive oil. (This is definitely a multitasking recipe).

Set all the veggies aside while you make your cheese sauce. Heat the flour and butter over medium until you have a thick paste. Then add the milk and whisk together. Cook until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken slightly.

It will still be pretty thin, but that’s OK. Remove from heat and stir in 2/3 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pasta, tofu and veggies to the sauce and stir to combine. Dump the mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Turn the oven up to broil, and when it’s ready, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the casserole and bake for 5-7 minutes or until slightly brown on top.

Wyoming kicked my ass

Most people probably don’t travel 11 hours to Wyoming for a weekend, and they probably don’t go in February for a wedding. But we are not most people.

We took our crazy trip last weekend for my lovely friend Julie’s wedding. She and her husband, Blinn, had their reception in the tiny town of Centennial, about a half hour from Laramie. And when I say tiny, I mean the population sign says 100.

We stayed at the Old Corral, a place that takes the western theme very seriously.

We only really had time to do one outdoorsy thing while we were there, so instead of downhill skiing (which I know I cannot master in one day), we decided to go cross country skiing in the woods. I’d done it once before, on a groomed course in the suburbs of Minneapolis. But this time was a lot different.

Let’s just say that if the person leading you climbs mountains for a living, maybe you should ask just how long this route is before you agree to do it.

I’m not sure how long it took everyone else in the group, but it took me three and half hours. It was as much downhill as it was flat. I must have fallen a hundred times. It was one of those moments that was a true test of character. But I did it. I’d like to think with more practice I’d get better, but all I can say for sure is that I made it, and with only a couple bruises to my knees.

At one point we did stop and take some photos because it was just gorgeous back there. It snowed this perfectly calm, picturesque snow. I wish I could have enjoyed it more!

Next time … massage?

Okay winter, you’ve made your point

And it’s time to move on.

Just once I would like to take a trip without fear of dying by swerving semi truck.

Just once I would like to know that my dogs are still in the yard, not having used the snow as a step to hop over the fence.

I want mice to stop using my house as a warm retreat.

I want my windshield wipers to work.

I want to feel my toes again.

Is that too much to ask?

Our drive back from Wyoming (where we attended Julie’s awesome wedding reception, more on that soon) was another harrowing adventure on I-80. Though it was beautiful and sunny, we started with ice leftover from the previous day’s snow. Then about 4 or 5 blissful, uninterrupted hours before blowing snow in Nebraska scared the living crap out of us. Or me at least. Mike is from Wisconsin. ‘Nuff said.

This is what the median looked like much of the time. If you can’t tell, there is actually a car so badly smashed that someone has covered it with cardboard boxes so you can’t see it.

Then, after the blowing snow stopped, it started falling from the sky. Because you know what we needed more than anything was MORE SNOW.

I actually liked shoveling the driveway about the first 26 times I did it, because it’s a pretty awesome workout and it makes me feel like I am hardcore in some way. But now, there is literally nowhere to put the snow. All politeness about not putting snow in your neighbor’s yard is gone. If there is space, that’s where the snow is going.

I was trying to use my shovel to illustrate how high the snow layers (that haven’t melted) have become in the front yard. It’s well over the top of the base, maybe 2 feet total. Will I ever see my grass again?

The icicles on the front porch have become deadly. I hope I don’t get sued by the mailman, who has to walk underneath them daily.

I think I’ll move to Vancouver. I hear it’s much warmer and has way less snow there.

I’ve started calling this our year in Duluth. Minnesota seems like a piece of cake now.

On the plus side, the Olympics are on, and I am one of those people who needs to watch every event, even if I have no idea how it works. I love it all.

And aren’t these tiny snowflakes pretty?

Le pouf

I am so excited about this guy. It’s my first pouf!

As you can see, the dogs are less excited.

Technically it’s my second pouf. I started by making a giant one so big you could use it as a footstool or sit on it. They look funny together.

But I am much happier with the second one, which is slightly less lumpy and has no seam on the side. It took a while to figure out the pattern based on the yarn I have and the size I wanted. But now I want to make millions of them.

If you are interested in the little one, it’s now in my Etsy shop.

Craft show this weekend!

It’s so nice to know that in the depths of winter, during the post-Christmas slump (when sales always come to a screeching halt), our local community is still supportive of us makers.

Saturday I will be selling my wares at the Living Room coffee shop, the most adorable place in Valley Junction. Stop by, if you get a chance! You can see some of my new goodies in the Etsy display to the left.

Million dollar cookie, take 2

I got the urge to bake something last night, and I thought it might be a good time to see if I could improve on the peanut butter ball cookies I was not quite happy with last time I made them.

So, apart from the fact that they are a peanut butter cookie stuffed with a sweetened ball of peanut butter, I pretty much changed everything.

This time I used my own recipe for peanut blossom dough instead of the pre-packaged stuff. I skipped the cinnamon and the peanuts in the recipe, and substituted raw sugar for the regular sugar that you roll the cookies in. And finally, I made them bigger. Because life is too short for tiny cookies.

The result was fantastic! So much better than the first time I made them. And I still got 24 cookies out of the recipe so it didn’t take me very long to bake them all, and my kitchen isn’t overrun with cookies this morning.

So here is my adjusted recipe. Give it a try.

Peanut butter ball cookies, my way

1 3/4 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the peanut butter balls:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup raw sugar for rolling
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend up your dry ingredients in one bowl (I like to use a whisk for this). In a separate bowl cream the peanut butter and butter, then add both sugars, the egg and vanilla. Slowly blend the dry ingredients into the wet, until your dough forms a ball. Stick this in the fridge while you roll the peanut butter balls.

Combine the peanut butter and confectioners sugar in a bowl until it forms a ball. Divide this ball in half, then half again. You will need to get 6 balls out of each of these pieces. Roll all 24 balls and set them out on a plate or cookie sheet.

Now divide your cookie dough into 24 parts the same way. Flatten each ball into a disk and place a peanut butter ball on top. Fold the excess dough around the ball and roll the whole thing into a neat ball. Roll this in raw sugar and place on a lined cookie sheet. When you have 6 balls on a sheet, flatten each one out with the bottom of a glass that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 12 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the cookies.