Recipe of Comfort and Joy

The countdown to Christmas is fully underway. This year for Vlogmas, a YouTuber’s countdown, I decided to find a way to take a break from the hectic pace of Christmas, at least for a few moments each day.

With that goal in mind, each day I am spinning a small bundle of fiber, enjoying a tiny chocolate treat, and choosing a rejuvenating suggestion from a jar I filled with suggestions back before Vlogmas began. So far in the first days of December, I have crafted with beads, made a savory treat, tried a new embroidery design, and started reading a new book. Today when I withdrew the small folded paper from the jar, I was delighted to see that it suggested I make a sweet treat. I’ve been looking forward to this suggestion appearing because I have a brownie recipe I have been wanting to share.

A few months back during the heat of summer, I invested in a small convection oven, marketed as an air fryer, it really is just a fancy toaster oven, but with excellent versatility that past toasters lacked. There didn’t seem much sense in heating up the house by using the large oven during the summer months, now that my husband and I are empty-nesters again. A smaller oven would heat up the house less and would correspond with our smaller food preparation needs. It was the perfect solution with just one hurdle to cross – smaller batch recipes. Cooking, and especially baking, just for two is not the easiest thing to accomplish. Most recipes are designed for feeding 4-6 people. Cakes and pies are especially difficult. The humidity and the heat of Virginia makes sweets treats fuzz up quite quickly unless they are refrigerated, and there is nothing that makes a crisp pastry go limp like refrigeration.

So with new mini-oven and a goal to make smaller portions of favorite foods, I embarked on an Autumn of culinary experimentation. In my previous blog, I share some of my Autumn favorites, but now the temperature have turned cold chocolate is what is needed.

After years of a love-hate relationship with the classic American dessert, the Brownie, I have finally figured out a recipe both my husband and I will consume with joy. It has both crisp bits and gooey bits, and is small enough to bake in an 8″ x 8″ (200mmx200mm) baking pan that fits just perfectly in my Instant Vortex Air Fryer. I am sure the recipe would also work in a regular oven or full-sized convection oven with just the minimal baking time/temperature adjustments.

I hope you find joy in this basic, but tasty comfort food.

Happy Holidays

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If you choose to take a few moments and watch my Vlogmas video, you will also hear how I stumbled upon a second chocolate delight when a foggy brain necessitated making a second dessert.

By simply adding extra sour cream (about 3 tablespoons total) and steaming it in a pressure cooker for 60 minutes, rather than having a Brownie, you will have a Chocolate Steamed Pudding instead. If you have never made a cake in a pressure cooker, I highly recommend looking up Instant Pot recipes by Amy & Jacky at https://www.pressurecookrecipes.com/

The Story of my Steamed Pudding

Saith Me… Getting the Mojo Back

Sometimes when the mojo seems lost, looking at the everyday items around us can often provide inspiration. In this case, the packaging that made a frozen desert appealing, inspired a wooly fiber project. Working through the project helped the mojo resurface.

The mojo wasn’t lost, it was just buried under world-weariness and needed a lift.

Gelato Inspired Fibers

The Magic is in Me

One of the things I love about hand crafts is that the process of doing the craft reminds us that we are the element of change – we are the magic that transforms one object into something greater than its original state.

On New Year’s Eve we find ourselves hoping there will be some magical force that will change the days ahead into something better than the days of the past. In recent years, it seems we cannot even make it through a full week into the new year without having this hope diminished.

When we realize the magic is inside our own selves, then we begin to understand that the hope for a better new year is a hope that can be achieved.


Be Kind to Yourself

As the big crafting season begins, I have been thinking about one of the most important lessons life and aging teaches. Be Kind to Yourself – it is such an important thing to do all year long, but as crafters, it is something we often neglect to do as we scramble to make just one more item before the holiday deadline.

In my latest video, I talk a bit about how bad I am with this lesson life keeps teaching me. After showing of few of my latest projects, I change gears (around the 20:57 mark). Even when I am trying to be kind to myself and not over-do it, the unexpected can happen and force me to slow down even more. Learning to find peace and joy when the brain and body war against each other is not always an easy lesson to learn. It is, however, a worthy lesson to learn.

I hope you enjoy my video – pieces or the whole – I have enjoyed sharing it.

The free pdf pattern for the placemat I share in the video is here for your enjoyment if you wish to download it.

A Full Year

It has been one year since I began making and sharing videos, and it has been a year full of so many wonderful adventures. Now with the beginning of another Tour de Fleece at hand, I took some time to select the fiber I hope to spin and reflect on the stories that accompany most of my fiber. Like many other spinners, I enjoy purchasing fiber from the breeders who know and love their animals. It is such a joy to learn of the animals, and in some cases meet the animals that provide me with such lovely fiber.

It has been a joyful year of fiber, filming, and fun. I look forward to another year yet to come, and anticipate all the new challenges I will give myself in order to keep growing as I unwind with fiber and fabric.

Keeping Things Simple

Every year when Tour de Fleece nears, the chatter includes discussion of challenges and goals. Tour de Fleece (TdF) is a wonderful opportunity for personal challenge, and for growth as a spinner. In years past, I have spun through large quantities of fiber and tackled challenging spinning techniques. This year I plan to take a different approach – to go Wild & Free – to keep it simple.

In its own way, this will be the challenge.

The only prep for this year’s fiber has already been completed – everything has been through a bath (except for some of the alpaca which may or may not get spun this TdF). I have Angora, Pygora, Cashmere, Alpaca, Bison, Mohair, and many different sheep breeds to choose from. Each day I will spin 1 ounce of fiber (different animal every couple days), and will ply the singles every 4-5 days. Certain fibers will spin up fast and others will take longer – 1 ounce of fiber can take a long while to spin when it is ultra fine Angora, but is a breeze to spin when it it Leicester Longwool.

No carding, no combing, no dye, and maybe some time spent spinning in nature – 23 days of keeping things simple.

I put together a short video of my sample spin. This sample helped me decide that 1 ounce rather than 2 was wiser if I hoped to get anything else done each day. Plus it reminded me of just how much I do enjoy spinning Wild & Free.

Quilts, Fibers, Aging, and Silliness

As I near the anniversary of making my first video, I find myself amazed at how much I have learned. Certainly video making has had its learning curve. Yet, it is what I have learned about myself that amazes me the most. When I began this new adventure, I would have been anxious and even horrified by the silly video-short that wraps up my latest vlog.

Covid-quarantine hair notwithstanding, a year ago I would have struggled with accepting the person I see on the screen. Now I can find joy and whimsy in the person – the whole person – who allows herself to be filmed.

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of a major turning point in my life. I went from being/feeling healthy to something else entirely.

As with most who find themselves challenged with trauma, tragedy, and underlying health issues, I travelled through many phases of adjustment, including anger, denial, and the belief that I could control the outcome. Finally in this past year, I gained a greater understanding and perspective of just how much I have faced in these last decades, let alone, what I faced in the earlier years of my life. With a more clear understanding of the past, I was able to feel at peace because was able to stop longing for what I could not have, and instead, I began to truly celebrate who I have become.

None of us want to believe we are vain. Although vanity is not always a bad thing, it is a crippling thing when it prevents us from embracing life and from sharing our life with others.

Aging is a part of life, and for some, the events of our life speed up the aging process. It certainly has in my case, but then again, my body and mind have never really been in sync.

As I compiled this latest video, I recognized that vanity and fear of aging could prevent me from sharing a silly video-short with the wider world. This gave me pause and had me reflecting all that this past year of vlogging has taught me.

After reflection, I decided that I would continue embracing the joys of life and the pressing onward with my healing. Yes, my healing. Being able to see myself as I am and not as I have wished I could be is indeed a sign that I am healing.

My Mid May Vlog

In this video, I share updates on what I have been doing, provide a quick fiber dyeing tutorial, and share a ridiculously silly demonstration of basting a king-sized quilt with my husband on a breezy day.

The Promised Pattern

Saith Me… Master and Beginner

We live in a world were we no longer seem to celebrate the concept of mastering a craft or in celebrating the beginning of that journey.

There is nothing wrong with intermediate, but that is not a place where we get to sit while putting down the beginners or scoffing at the journey of further improvement.

I will likely never be a master, but I will never stop improving, nor will I ever forget the joy of beginning. The process of self-improvement, even when it is diminutive improvement, is where the joy truly begins. For in that small, simple advancement of the skill, we are rewakening the memories of our first glorious attempts at something that inspired us to try something new.

Better Late than Never?

Creativity is a marvelous thing, but sometimes creativity can lead one to an avalanche of unfinished projects. The positive flow of energy that can come from beginning a new creative endeavor, may in-turn, devolve into a negative sea of stress. The question then gets asked, “Must I finish what I have started?”

In the world of fiber arts, there are many UFOs cluttering up closets and spare rooms. For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, UFO stands for Unfinished Fiber Object. After many months, even years of living in dusty corners, these UFOs may resemble those other objects bearing the moniker of UFO. For after awhile, Unfinished may very well be replaced by Unidentifiable, and may lead the project to be tossed through the air and into the rubbish bin – flying, you might say into the trash.

While I doggedly try to avoid ever throwing away a project, I readily admit that there are times when one simply must toss out a UFO. Certainly recycling is the best option in these cases, however it is not always feasible. What is feasible, and is a must, is not allowing negative thoughts to beat unceasingly down upon us. Recognizing that while “better late then never” is a catchy phrase, sometimes it is not anywhere near the truth. When our health is in question, it is best to let go of the thing that once gave us joy but now causes us distress.

I began dyeing over 10 pounds of fiber a few months ago, and began spinning it up shortly after. It gave me joy and I have now completed it, but in these last weeks, it has been a bit stressful. The time constraints rather than the project itself was making this project less joy-filled. There were many days when I had to have a serious chat with myself over whether I should halt the project and call it “good enough”. Fortunately, I did have just enough time allotted to stretch the project out and give myself some rejuvenation and healing time. This factor, in-the-end, was the key to success. Even still, I paid a physical price for my determination to finish.

Sometime our bodies and our minds just need a break. Sometimes they require more than rest, they require a bit of a fresh start. During these times, there is nothing wrong with dusty UFOs taking flight. Of course the relief of de-cluttering the closet will never equal the joy of completing a project, but sometimes the peace it can bring is a joy in itself.

Overcoming Fear

Fear is never an easy thing to overcome. Whether great or small, fear can prevent us from fully benefiting from the joys of life.

One of the great fears in knitting is cutting open a finished sweater so that it can become a cardigan. This fear is made even greater when the sweater is knit from handpsun wool, loving carded and spun for the purpose.

Overcoming the fear allows the knitter to have the ease and benefits of knitting in the round, while also having the benefits and comfort of a cardigan sweater.

I enjoy making the top-down raglan sweater for ease of construction, accuracy of fitting, and management of yarn use. When making this latest sweater for my son, I was able to spin the yarn as I was also knitting on the sweater. This ensured that I had little unused yarn when the project was complete. Since the yarn I used was a blend of Mohair, Alpaca, and CVM sheep’s wool, I was glad to avoid making any more yarn than was necessary.

I have steeked sweaters before but the nervousness of cutting open a sweater remains.

While it is never easy overcoming any fear, great or small, it is always worth the effort, and it does become a bit easier as our confidence in ourselves grows.