Sunday, December 13, 2009

Easy Crochet Potholder Pattern


Crocheted potholders can be a quick and easy gift to make for Christmas gifts. Here is a basic potholder pattern that I use for many of my potholders:

Basic Potholder Pattern

Materials:
2 balls cotton yarn in two different colors- one for main body and one for border
Size H hook

Chain 17.

Row 1: Using two strands of yarn in the same color or two different colors, single crochet in second chain and in each chain across. Chain 1 and turn.

Rows 2-16: Single crochet in each stitch across, Chain one and turn.

Single crochet around outer edges of potholder counting out 14 single crochets per side and 3 in each corner. Finish off and weave in ends.

Border: Attach two stands of contrasting yarn with slip stitch, chain 3 and single crochet into every other stitch. Sew a plastic ring into back if you want a hanging ring.

These potholders can be decorated with buttons, ribbons, or appliqu├ęs. You can make stripes by alternating two colors every two rows. It takes me about 30 minutes to make one potholder.
This strawberry potholder is a little more difficult but very pretty.

Strawberry Potholder
Follow instructions for basic potholder beginning with sage green yarn for two rows and then changing to white for two rows. Repeat for 16 rows and crochet around edges using sage green. Attach red with a slip stitch at the first of the 3 corner stitches at the top left corner. Chain 3 and double crochet in same stitch. Chain 6 . Turn. Slip stitch into last double crochet made. Make 10 single crochet in ch-6 space, slip stitch in same double crochet stitch as last slip stitch(hanging ring made). Make 3 double crochet in last of corner’s 3 single crochet stitches. Repeat the following pattern around rest of border: Skip next single crochet and sc in next sc. Make 5 double crochet in next sc and skip next sc but make 7 double crochets at each corner. (Hint: You may have to eliminate a skip stitch to get your 7 dc in the middle of the 3 single crochet corners.)
Join with slip stitch to beginning chain three, finish off.

Strawberry:
Row 1: With red, chain w, 2 sc in second ch from hook.
Row 2: Ch1, turn, w sc in each sc across: 4 sc.
Row 3 and 4: Ch1, turn, sc in each sc across.
Row 5: Ch 1, turn, 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 2 sc. 2 sc in last stitch: 6 sc.
Row 6: Ch1, turn, sc in each sc across.
Row 7: Ch1, turn. 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 4 sc., 2 sc. In last sc: 8 sc.
Rows 8 and 9: Ch 1, turn, sc across.
Row 10: Ch 1, turn; pull up a loop in first 2 sc. YO and draw through all 3 loops on hook, sc in next 4 sc, pull up a loop in last 2 sc, YO and draw through all 3 loops on hook: 6 sc.
Trim: Chain 1, turn; sc in each stitch across to last stitch, 2 sc in last stitch, sc in end of each row across, 4 sc in free loop of beginning chain, sc in end of each row across and in same st as first sc; join with slip stitch to first sc, finish off leaving a long end for sewing.

Leaf:
With green, chain 4; join with slip stitch to form ring. *Chain 4, sc in second ch from hook and in next 2 chs; slip stitch in ring; repeat from * 4 times, finish off leaving a long strand for sewing.
Sew leaf to top of strawberry. Arrange strawberry on potholder and sew.
I have a few of these left in my store if you would rather buy them already made :http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=350195218345 .

Friday, December 4, 2009

Putting up the Tree


The countdown begins – just 3 weeks until Christmas. I’m thinking a lot about getting a tree. We’ve had a lot of different trees in the last 29 years. Artificial trees are very beautiful but lack the fresh smell of a real tree. You can get the freshest tree by cutting one down at a Christmas tree farm but that takes a lot of time and effort. I like to choose one on a lot although it can be a challenge choosing a fresh tree that hasn’t been artifically colored.

We usually put our tree up about now and take it down sometime after Christmas. It usually doesn’t make it until New Year’s Eve. We cut off at least an inch of tree at the bottom and soak it in a bucket of water overnight. Then we wrap it in an old sheet and bring it inside and place it in a stand. The sheet keeps most of the needles from being shed all over the place on the way inside! I save the cut off branches and make them into a centerpiece. I use an initial mixture of 1 tsp bleach, ½ cup corn syrup, and 1 quart of water to help keep my tree fresh and then keep the reservoir filled with fresh water. They soak up a lot of water the first few days and more if the air in your house is dry.

I start decorating by placing the angel at the top of the tree. The angel needs to be attached to the lights so I get it arranged first. Then I put on the lights. The secret to a pretty tree is putting lots and lots of lights on it. I put them on vertically starting at the top if I have a full tree and I want to make it look taller or horizontally if I have a skinny tree that needs to be filled out. I like to mix in a strand or two blinking lights. Next I put on a few garlands. My husband and I usually put the lights and garlands on together but we decorate the rest as a family.

We like to make a party of finishing the decorations. We have 29 years of child made ornaments and other nostalgic ornaments to put on. We get out some cookies and hot chocolate, put on some Christmas music, and let the memories begin. It’s an awesome tradition and our children always love this part of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Time to Make Fudge

It’s time to start thinking about making fudge for Christmas! I love fudge. Well wrapped fudge stored in an airtight container will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator and for up to a year in the freezer. Creamy, melt in your mouth, fudge is wonderful to have on hand to serve visitors or to give as gifts. I have several varieties that I make every year and I have also been collecting recipes all year to experiment with.

The easiest recipe I have is Microwave Fudge. It is very easy to make and cooks up quickly in the microwave. It is delicious!

Microwave Fudge
Ingredients:
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup cocoa
½ cup milk
½ cup margarine
1 Tbsp vanilla
½ cup nuts, optional

Blend sugar and cocoa in a microwave safe 8x8x2 inch dish. Pour in milk and place butter on top. Cook 2 minutes. Remove and stir. Add vanilla and nuts. Stir until well blended. place in the freezer for 20 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into squares. This fudge looks really pretty when sprinkled with colored non pareils. Be sure to sift the sugar or you will have lumpy fudge. This fudge has a tendency to be soft so it should be refrigerated when not being served
.
My favorite fudge is the one my mother always made. It has a really good flavor and I could eat tons of it.

Fudge
Ingredients:
2/3 cup Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups mini marshmallow
1 2/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup nuts, optional

Mix milk, sugar, and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla, and nuts. Stir until melted. Pour into buttered 9 inch square pan. Cool. Cut into pieces.

My mother-in-law’s awesome Peanut Butter Fudge:

Peanut Butter Fudge
Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
½ evaporated milk
½ cup margarine
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Cook sugar, milk, margarine, peanut butter, and vanilla over medium heat until mixture boils. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add marshmallows and oatmeal. Mix until well blended and pour onto butter 13x9 inch cookie sheet. Cool and cut into squares. You can sprinkle chocolate chip on top right before cooling and spread to make a chocolate frosting. You can also add ½ cup nuts or coconut with the oatmeal for a different flavor.

Eggnog Chocolate Fudge has 2 layers of chocolate. I love eggnog so I can’t wait to try this recipe that I found in a Woman’s World magazine.

Eggnog Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients:
2 – 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1 – 11.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (you can substitute semi sweet if you can’t find bittersweet)
3 cups white chocolate chips
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp rum extract
1 ½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp salt
Chocolate shavings, optional
1. Line 8 inch square pan with waxed paper and overhang by 2 inches and coast with cooking spray. Pour 1 can milk into large microwave safe bowl and bittersweet chocolate chips. Microwave on high for 30 seconds intervals, stirring between intervals until smooth. Spread in pan.
2. Pour remaining 1 can of milk into clean microwave safe bowl and add white chips. Microwave on high for in 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth and stir in extracts, nutmeg, and salt. Gently spread over mixture in pan.
3. Refrigerate until set for about 6 hours or overnight. Cut into squares and decorate with chocolate shavings and dragees.


Cherry Swirl Fudge looks really pretty. I found the recipe in an old Crafting Traditions magazine.

Cherry Swirl Fudge

Ingredients:
1 ½ tsp butter – no substitutions
1 pkg. vanilla chips (10 -12 oz.)
1 can vanilla frosting or 2 cups
1 tsp cherry or almond extract
4 drops red liquid food coloring

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and butter. In a heavy saucepan, melt chips over very low heat, stirring frequently or microwave at 70% for 10 -20 second intervals until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the frosting and extract until blended. Pour into prepared pan. Randomly place food coloring drops on top of fudge and cut through with a knife to swirl. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hour or firm and cut into square.

My friend cannot get fudge recipes to work and swears this is the only recipe that turns out good every time. It looks pretty easy so I’d like to try it.

Jell-O Fudge

Ingredients
1 package pudding mix (chocolate but not instant)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
(confectioners), sifted
1/4 cup nuts, Chopped
Directions:
Combine pudding, butter and milk. Bring to a full boil. Boil gently for 1 minute; stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Quickly blend in sugar; add nuts. Pour into greased 8x4 inch pan. Cool; cut into squares. Makes 1 lb.

Now for the bad news. That last fudge recipe has 1516 calories per serving. The eggnog fudge has 109 if you cut it into 64 servings. I would probably cut it into 16 squares which would be 436 calories. The microwave fudge has 77 calories per piece if cut into 36 pieces. The carnation milk fudge has 76 calories per square if cut into 36 pieces. Ouch! No diets allowed!
Here are a few diet fudge recipes although they are more sugarless than low calorie:

DIET FUDGE (Cooks.com)

Ingredients:
1 can (16 oz.) evaporated milk
3 tbsp. cocoa
1/4 c. butter
2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs, finely crushed
1 tsp. vanilla
4 packets Equal
1/4 c. pecans, finely chopped

Set aside 1/4 cup of the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl. Combine evaporated milk, cocoa and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from heat. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, vanilla, Equal and nuts. Mix well. Set aside until cool enough to handle. When mixture cools, shape into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in the reserved graham cracker crumbs. Store in refrigerator until ready to eat.
Makes 36 servings.

Can’t Resist Diet Fudge (Diets in Review)
Ingredients
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup Splenda, or to taste
4 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients in pan over low heat
2. Stir and until melted
3. Pour into greased pan & chill