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Welcome Friends! Please be patient while I add more info. I have SO much to share with you. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Crochet Curlique Projects

My "Candy Colored Bracelet" - this Fun Pattern is in the Book, Positively Crochet! - A Book with 50 Crochet Patterns. What A Bargin! Available on Amazon and EBay
I think one of the most unique and fun crochet stitches ever is the crochet curlique. Some people call it a spiral. I have a curlique scarf pattern in 2 of my Kooler Design/Leisure Arts booklets. The first one is Crochet Young and Trendy, published in June 2005. An editor at Leisure Arts told me later that booklet "sailed across the charts that first year". Then in 2015 they did a 2nd printing of that same booklet and titled it Crochet Fashions, but with a different project on the front cover. (A red poncho). This stitch is especially fun for a beginner! I love the fun curlique bracelet with the crochet balls and beads shown above in that first picture. Scroll down to see more curlique projects.

Working The Curlique
The way to work the spiral is to make a chain about 4"- 5" long, adding an inch or two to the length, and when you turn to work the first row, put 2 sc in the second chain from hook, and in each remaining chain across. It will magically start to curl on its on. If you want it to be even curlier, put 3 sc in each stitch instead of 2. You can do the same using all hdc or working dc into the chain. But only work 1 row and then end it off. Your hook size will also determine how tight or loose the curlique will be. If you've never done this, you should try making a curlique now. I promise, you'll be hooked! And I'm sure you can come up with projects of your own. 

Curlique Hair Tie
by Mary Jane Hall

I made the curlique hair ornament with a round stretchy hair thingy. You know what they are! These are cute to wear with a ponytail. 

Another fun, quick project using the curlique would be to make it into a key chain. When a beginner is learning to crochet, I think it is imperative that they have an actual project to work on, rather than sending them home to make a long chain. They will get more excited to be making quick projects they can make for themselves or as a gift for others. This will keep them motivated.

Curlique Key Chain
By Mary Jane Hall

All Curls Scarf
By Mary Jane Hall
Pattern is in Crochet Young and Trendy and Crochet Fashions
(Available on eBay and Amazon)

All Curls Scarf
by Mary Jane Hall

Friday, November 22, 2019

Pimento Cheese Spread for Sandwiches

Southern Pimento Cheese Sandwich

This is another one of those recipes I grew up eating in the south and I absolutely love it! I have never, ever seen anyone bring Pimento Cheese Sandwiches to a gathering of any kind here in Ohio in the 40+ years I have lived here. I am the only one who has fixed it and nobody even knows what it is!
I discovered several years ago that there is a brand called Prices that my grocery store, Kroger,  sells and it's actually pretty good. I even found pimento cheese spread at Aldi recently and it was just as good as the Prices brand. But homemade is much better. I was looking for recipes on Pinterest and many of them added all kinds of spices, but I just love the simple pimento cheese spread my mama fixed. And btw, my mama never used sugar in hers, but I like it in this spread.
Can you tell I miss the south? I do fix southern food at home all the time, but sometimes I feel lonely when many people up here don't even know what grits, okra, black eyed peas, hoe cakes, red beans and rice or pimento cheese is. And of course, these are only a few of the southern foods I love.

Pimento Cheese Spread - great as a dip or spread on crackers for your holiday party! Delicious!

This recipe makes enough spread for about 12 whole sandwiches. What I'm showing above in the small container was what was left over after making 9 sandwiches. You  can also use it as a dip or spread on crackers.

INGREDIENTS - makes about 12 sandwiches

2 cups Colby cheese, grated (it's better if you buy the chunk and grate it yourself, otherwise it will be too dry because of the flour or corn starch they coat it with)
1 cup original Velveeta cheese, grated
1 - 4 oz jar, diced pimentos, undrained (Note: this is the larger of the small glass jars you will find in the aisle with canned vegetables at Kroger. The pimentos (in the glass jar) are usually on the top shelf, near the canned mushrooms)
2/3 cup Hellman's mayonnaise or Dukes gluten free mayo, like I buy for myself (more or less - sorry I didnt measure it!)
6 oz cream cheese, softened
2 - 3 teaspoons sugar or to taste
Optional: 1-2 tablespoons grated sweet Vidalia onion. I like it better without onion but sometimes it's nice for a change.

Mix all ingredients together and spread on bread for sandwiches to serve immediately, or you can put it in a container and place in the refrigerate for later.

I hope you enjoy this!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Sweet Potato Coconut Casserole - Gluten Free

Gluten Free Sweet Potato 
Coconut Casserole 
Many years ago (in the 80's) I wanted to find a special sweet potato casserole, because I never was crazy about the candied sweet potatoes my mom fixed with toasted marshmallows on top. I don't know why I didn't like that. Maybe it's because they were canned? So I set out for a search in my collection of cookbooks. Please understand, this was before the internet and before Pinterest where you can go to find any recipes you want in a matter of seconds!

I found 3 recipes that sounded good, but I did what I usually do and took ingredients that appealed to me from all 3 recipes and came up with my own. I came up with the most decedent, delicious sweet potato casserole and called it  "Sweet Potato Pie Casserole". It was absolutely deliscious and everyone lovel it, but there was one problem. It was more like a dessert than a side dish! So most people wanted it as their dessert. (Even me)

Then my youngest son, Tracy, grew up and married the sweetest  daughter in law, Ashley, who's from the south too. She's from Nashville, where I have family roots.  One year she brought her own sweet potato casserole to our family holiday dinner and we love it. I did tweak her recipe a little. I cut way down on the sugar and also added a small can of crushed pineapple. This ingredient would be optional, but believe me it adds a little bit of sweetness which is great, considering I cut down on the sugar.

You CAN use the canned sweet potatoes and I've done it that way. It is ok, but much better with the fresh ones. My family is crazy about this dish, but I noticed they didn't really want the leftovers when I used the canned. They usually fight over who gets the last of it! I didn't eat the leftovers either when I used the canned potatoes. The secret to a good sweet potato casserole is the fresh ones. You can peel and cook them in water or bake them, peeling off the skins. This recipe is special because of the coconut and crushed pineapple. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that it's gluten free because I left out the flour that was in the original topping ingredients. I didn't miss it at all!
I hope you try it! If you do, please let me know what you think.

Sweet Potato Casserole
with Coconut

Main Ingredients
3 lg sweet potatoes (cooked and mashed) OR 1 lg can sweet potatoes (about 4-5 cups mashed) Fresh sweet potatoes make this taste so much better. It's worth the extra work.
½ cup milk
½ cup melted butter
½ cup sugar
1 cup coconut
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained (this is not in Ashley's original recipe, but I put it in because I saw it in a recipe on TV and it is delicious-a touch of sweet since there's not a ton of sugar in the potatoes.

½ cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans
Dash of salt

Mix all of  the main ingredients together with a mixer and put in a casserole dish.
Then mix topping ingredients and spread over the top.
Bake in 350ยบ oven for 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Yarn Substitutions

I ran across this website by accident and knew I had to share it. Maybe you already know about it and I am the one who's been in the dark about it! But this is fantastic and I'm so excited to find it!

Art Yarns
Beaded Silk
$64 -Hank
How many times have you had a pattern you are dying to make, but are so disappointed when you find out the yarn has been discontinued? Or maybe that yarn is too expensive for you, which is often the case, and you just need to find a less expensive yarn that you can afford. There are thousands of yarns out there and sometimes you don't know where to even begin looking for a yarn that is comparable.

Malabrigo Rasta
$22 - Hank
Since I am a designer and have been since 2005, of course
some of the yarns I've used or suggested yarns are discontinued and are no place to be found on this planet. People write and ask me once in a while if I know of a yarn they can substitute for one of my patterns. Most of the time I don't have a problem finding a good substitute for them, since it's part of my job to be familiar with yarns.  But if they ask if a particular yarn they want to use is a good substitute and it's a yarn I'm not familiar with, this can be difficult and very frustrating.

WIP Yarn-$26

 I found this website by accident and wanted to make sure I share it with you. I am amazed at all the work that was put into this. I was looking up a Yarn Bee yarn from Hobby Lobby that has gorgeous colors and since that particular yarn was discontinued, this website, called YarnSub (link below) came up in that search. I did not even know that yarn had been discontinued.

There were yarns that said 99% match, down to 90% match, but they suggested at least 20 different yarns! I am so impressed! What a great tool to have. Click on the link below. I hope this is helpful! Note: Scroll down below the website link for a little more info.

Yarn Substitution

My Cap Sleeve Top, which is my most popular design/pattern of all time from my book, Crochet That Fits, calls for a dk weight yarn and I suspected it may be discontinued, so I just now looked it up on that website.
Nashua Grand
The yarn I chose for that is gorgeous and I first saw it at TNNA in Columbus, when it was brand new. This yarn, Nashua Handknits Grand Opera, is just too beautiful, but the book doesn't show how truly beautiful it is, because there's a tiny metallic thread running through it. By the way, I give yarn substitutions in that book since I know everyone can't afford a high end yarn from a local yarn shop.
Indeed, I found out it is discontinued and several yarn substitutions came up, but it also says this:
"We're only showing yarns that contain metallic thread.  If you like, you can widen the search to include yarns without metallic thread."

So see, they've got you covered no matter what! I am so impressed!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Authentic Hot and Sour Soup

This may look like a long recipe to you and could seen a little overwhelming, but once you cut everything up, it only takes about 30 minutes to put the soup together and it's done! The recipe looks long, because I do a lot of explaining as I go.
Authentic  Hot and Sour Soup
If you're one of those people who have not tried Hot and Sour Soup, you should really give it a try. I've eaten Chinese food all my life but had never tried this soup until the 90's when friends of ours in Salem, Indiana took us to a special Chinese restaurant. I still think of it as the best Hot and Sour Soup I've ever tasted. Since then, I haven't found any of the soup that even compared to what I ate in Louisville.
Being disappointed, I set out to look for a good recipe. As most of my friends know, not only do I crochet, but I like to cook as well. In fact, I may have as many cookbooks as I do crochet books. Even though I still love sitting down to look at a cookbook, I'm a huge Pinterest fan too. I probably have as many recipe boards as I do crochet boards. I looked at many Hot and Sour Soup recipes, trying to find one that had the most authentic ingredients. I also looked at several recipes on YouTube. As usual, I didn't find any one recipe, but took ingredients from several different recipes and I'm happy with the results. I hope you enjoy it and if you try it, let me know!

Note: please read the entire recipe before purchasing your ingredients, because I give tips that are important. I've done all the research for you, which took me days or weeks of searching, to come up with what I think is the best soup.

Mary Jane's Authentic Hot and Sour Soup

Authentic Hot and Sour Soup  (Mary Janes recipe)


2 cups pork loin or chicken, cut into small pieces (I prefer pork with the soup, but it's great with no meat at all!)
8 oz pkg shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Note: You can buy the fresh at Kroger -or- the dried shiitake mushrooms at an Asian grocery store. I have used both, but the last time I used the dried, they were tough to chew, so I probably didn't let them soak long enough. An advantage of the dried is that they will keep forever and the bag is enough for 3 big pots of the soup. I really like the fresh better, I think.
8 oz pkg white button mushrooms, sliced
8 cups chicken broth or stock
1- 2 cans water chestnuts, sliced and then cut ¼ - ⅓ " wide
1 - pkg dried Lily Buds (from the Asian grocery store or online) This is what they look like.
1 cup wood ear mushrooms, dried, also called black fungus (Asian grocery store or online) This is what they look like. You can buy them whole but I buy them already slicked.
1 can sliced bamboo shoots, cut into matchstick size
⅔ - ¾ cup grated or julienned carrots
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated (or ¼ - ½ tsp powdered ginger)
1 bunch green onions, chopped (used as a topping in each bowl right before serving)
1-2 tsps fresh garlic, chopped  (or you could use ½ tsp garlic powder)
1-2 cups firm tofu, cut into small squares
3 eggs + 1 egg yoke, whisked into a small bowl
which is Ground Fresh Chili Paste (you can find the small jar, with a gold label, at most grocery stores in the Asian section for about $2)
Chinese black vinegar, rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese Shaohsing Wine (or more)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or more) I bought gluten free at the Asian grocery store
¼ - ½ tsp ground white pepper, added at end
1-2 tablespoons Toasted sesame oil (this is the most important ingredient to me and it has to say "toasted" on the front, or it won't be good. I use more than 2 tablespoons, but that's what gives it an authentic taste.
1 tsp sugar
Cornstarch or Arrowroot flour for thickening at the end

*Where to buy the Ingredients*
You can find most of these ingredients at your local grocery store, such as Kroger or Wal-Mart, but you'll need to buy the dried wood ear mushrooms and Lily buds, Shaohsing wine and black vinegar at an Asian grocery store or online. (The lily buds and wood ear mushrooms cost only about $2- $4 at an Asian grocery store, but cost more if you buy them online). Click on the links so you can see what each ingredient looks like if you're not familiar with it. I've read that the authentic Hot and Sour soup calls for the Chinese black vinegar, so that's why I bought it, but some people aren't crazy about the taste. If you just want to use Rice Vinegar or Rice Wine Vinegar and not buy the black vinegar, I think that would be fine. You wouldn't use it much anyway and this is the only Chinese recipe I have that calls for it.  Not all the recipes I found call for the black vinegar.

Give yourself plenty of time to cut up the ingredients, either the day before or 2-3 hours ahead of time. You'll need to marinate the meat for a little while and soak the dried Wood Ear mushrooms and Lily buds. After the Lily buds and wood ear mushrooms have been soaked, you will want to cut them up in smaller pieces because they are really long! If you wait to cut up ingredients as you go, you will get way too stressed. Once everything is cut up, the rest is easy and takes only about 30 minutes to get done.

Soak the Lily buds and wood ear mushrooms in water for at least an hour, saving the liquid when finished soaking, to add to the cornstarch for thickening later.

Cut up the meat first and place in bowl for marinating. You need to marinate the meat 30 minute - 2 hours. You can actually skip the marinating. I didn't marinate last time and it was fine.

Marinate Liquid: (these measurements are not listed above)
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp Shaohsing wine
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
Whisk ingredients together and stir into the bowl with meat.

Cut up the following ingredients and place in separate small bowls. You can put the chestnuts and shoots in the same bowl. Slice shiitake and button mushrooms. Cut up carrots, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, green onions, tofu and set aside. If you want to, you can put all the liquids in one bowl, then put them in the pot when it's time, at once. I like to measure the liquids ahead of time, just to make it easy to pour everything into the pot, which makes it quick and easy.

*Note: read below before you start of how I add everything.  If you want to just add all the ingredients at once, without sauteing the meat and vegetables, that is just fine. It's a little quicker and still tastes great.

Hot and Sour Soup

After meat has marinated, saute it in a large pot with 2-3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil until partially cooked. Set meat aside to add to soup later. Add vegetables (carrots, ginger, garlic, mushrooms) to pan, adding more oil if needed. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Add chicken broth and other ingredients (except green onions, white pepper, sesame oil and eggs) to the pot. Then add the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine, and Sambal Oelek (chili paste). Now add the tofu. I add it toward the end so it won't get torn apart while stirring and simmering.

Taste to see if you need more vinegar for sourness, and more chili paste if it's not hot enough. If it needs more soy sauce (for saltiness), you can add a little more of that or you might choose to add a little more chicken broth (or instant with water, like I do).  I keep a container of instant chicken bouillon in case I need more chicken broth for this and other dishes. Let it simmer for a few more minutes. Next, add the white pepper. The recipes I read said the white pepper gives it that authentic taste, but it is also part of what makes the soup hot, so just add a little at a time, tasting it. I like the soup hot, but you may not like it as hot as I do. If there's someone in your family, especially kids, who don't like hot foods, you can always add less Sambal Oelek (chili paste) and white pepper, but add more of those things to your own bowl of soup if you'd like. This is what I do if it's not hot enough or sour enough (adding more vinegar and chili paste).
If you want your soup to have a little thickness to it make a slurry of 3 tablespoons cornstarch + 1-2 tablespoons cold water or mushroom liquid that you saved. Stir into soup and simmer a few minutes til it thickens.
Now, the last thing you need to do is add the eggs. If you've made Egg Drop Soup, you would add the eggs in the same way. If not, drizzle slowly (around the top), wait about 10 seconds, then stir the soup around gently through the liquid with a knife or fork.
**If you're interested, my Loaded Egg Drop Soup recipe is here.

If the soup tastes like you want it to, serve up in bowls and add green onions to top. I usually put the Sambal Oelek (chili paste) and white pepper on the table for those who like it extra hot. Sometimes I go to a Chinese restaurant ahead of time, and buy some of the crispy noodles to serve with the soup.

A cool thing to do is have a Chinese dinner and serve the soup in Chinese bowls and spoons you can buy at the Asian grocery store. The name of the one I go to in Dayton, Ohio is  called Far East Center at 116 Woodman Dr in Airway Plaza, next to the China Garden Buffet.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please contact me if you have any questions!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Classic Hamburger Stroganoff with Rice

This is one of my favorite meals. I got the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens classic cookbook & have been fixing this since the 1970's. Of course most people have it with noodles, like the recipe calls for but I put it over rice, since I'm wheat intolerant.  Also, my husband was Celiac.

Classic Hamburger Stroganoff

Hamburger Stroganoff

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons flour or gluten free flour (I leave the flour off completely)
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced (I use more garlic)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 8 oz container fresh mushrooms, sliced or 1 can (8 oz) mushroom stems and pieces, drained (the more mushrooms, the better!)
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup dairy sour cream (or more)
Hot cooked rice or cooked noodles
Fresh parsley

In a large skillet, cook and stir ground beef and onion in butter until onion is tender. Stir in flour, salt, garlic or garlic salt, pepper and mushrooms; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir in soup; simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Stir in sour cream; heat through. Serve over noodles. Sprinkle with snipped parsley.

4 to 6 servings.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Important Info on Errors in Pattern Books and Magazines

As a designer and author, the thrill of having a book released cannot be described in words, especially when people love it and the book is getting 5 star reviews. But one of the worst things we experience is finding out about an error in a pattern. The only consolation we have is that now we have the Internet so anyone in the world can look up the pattern on the author/designer's website, blog or on Ravelry.

I want you all to understand how the errors can happen and how it can't always be helped. No matter how perfect you think your manuscript is when sending it off to the publishder to be seen by the tech editor, something is going to end up being changed. I want everyone to know that as professional designers, we have every single project tested by a pattern tester, and when they report back to us that they made the project with no problems or if they have pointed out something they didn't understand and it has been corrected by us, the designer, we feel 100% confident there are no errors.
But at the same time, I have to face reality. Even though I know my patterns have been tested and cleared for errors, worded the way I know can be understood and know the tech editor will probably condense the pattern, some for the sake of making more room in the book, it still makes me very nervous. When the process happens, you just have to trust the tech editor and trust the publisher for hiring the best tech editors in the business. That's the only way I can sleep at night!

Knowing all this and having told you what the process is, there are bound to be mistakes because of human error. The patterns not only go through me, the editor, and the tech editor, but it goes through proof readers as well. Sometimes when the tech editor is correcting any math (grading the sizes), condensing the pattern, or rearranging the wording, things get left off or rearranged because of copying and pasting. Then the patterns are all sent back to us as the designer to check for any errors the tech editor may have made. Seems simple enough, right?
But it's not that simple. I try to read every single word of the patterns again to check for errors, but it is humanly impossible to catch every single error or thing that was changed. Actually, the only way I could be sure to catch any errors would be to start the project over, and make it again myself, or have a pattern tester make it again! There's no time to do this, because of deadlines, just hoping and praying we have caught everything. 

When the book is released and as people are making patterns, you may get comments about things that are minor, such as a comma missing, a stitch count missing, or occasionally the number of sts that weren't added for a larger size, but when someone finds a major error that would cause someone to give up on the pattern, or that could give the designer a bad reputation, this is devestating! I'm thankful that most publishers now include a stitch pattern diagram making it easier to understand, and as happy as it makes me that inexperienced crocheters are trying the patterns, sometimes they just don't understand because of inexperience. I try to be patient and help them understand when they contact me.

But like I said, thank goodness for the Internet and my blog! Thanks for allowing me to explain this because readers automatically think the errors are the fault of the designer and that's not always the case. We are meticulous about writing our patterns correctly and hiring pattern testers. I'm not saying we don't make mistakes. As humans we all do.