Free Pattern Wednesday!

We at Mighty Distractible would like to introduce you to our new FREE downloadable embroidery pattern from our Woodland series. Please meet Hare.

Hare is a feisty rabbit from the Black Forest who looks very cute as wall art, pillow fronts, or even a quilt block. Use floss, crewel yarn, ribbon, felt in any color of the rainbow. Hey, if you love purple bunnies, go with're only limited by your imagination. Please feel free to download and enjoy!

We would love to see your work so please send us pictures of your finished projects.

The Woodland Series will feature 4 designs. All will be different animals and all will be offered free from Mighty Distractible. Please keep checking on Wednesdays for a new free design to download. There is also a link to "free downloads" on the right sidebar for easy access.

We did french knots, you do what you want!

–Alex and Cassandra

My kind of town!

Alex and I had the privilege of attending the HOW Design Conference this past 4 days (thus the absence of a post on Friday) in Chicago. We had a much-needed recharging of our batteries. It's such a luxury to be able to get out of town with the specific mission of creative inspiration. Our conference filled us with ideas and Chicago filled us with good food and the natural excitement that comes from visiting that town.

During one of our lunch breaks I was wandering downtown on foot and stumbled upon a really cute yarn shop, Loopy Yarns. It is located in the historic Dearborn Station on Polk Street. The building is quite grand.

Anyone would be truly lucky to have this yarn shop in their neighborhood. They carry a wide selection of workhorse yarns such as Cascade and lovely, lovely things such as a madelintosh and Malabrigo. If you are ever in Chicago, make sure to stop by for a peek. I will admit to having fallen in love with 8 skeins of madelinetosh vintage in the colorway "nutmeg" when I was there. Mustardy-orange is my signature color, how could I resist?

Interior shot of Loopy Yarns in Chicago.
I have been wanting to knit the Tea Leaves Cardigan for ages (it suggests this brand in the pattern) and it seemed like the time and the place to dive in and just buy it. It is so beautiful. I can't stop looking at or talking about this yarn. I'm sure I have driven everyone nuts with this already...what is going to happen when the sweater is done? Will I be shamelessly flaunting it?? I have problems.

My gorgeous yarn.
 As a rule, I am not a big fan of hand-dyed yarn because the color is usually too variegated for my taste. This yarn however has only subtle color differences. Enough to make it rich and interesting. It took all my will power to not set all the unpacking aside and wind it up when I got home last night. I resisted, for now. Tonight I might just have to cast-on (after a few more loads of laundry).



Recently, Cassandra mentioned how her busy life was getting in the way of crafting. I'm in a similar boat - I'm traveling a lot in the next few weeks and I seem to have an inordinate number of chores to do around the house. Of course, if we extend the definition of crafting (as we like to do here at Mighty Distractible) then all the cooking and gardening and flower arranging gets to count.

I'm even too busy for most of that right now...

What I'm not too busy for is finding inspiration. If this seems like a rehash of Cassandra's post of last week, you wouldn't be too far off but, hopefully, I can introduce you to some additional sources for creative motivation.

You can't swing a dead cat without hitting some new social media site these days. What I've noticed is that they're getting more and more specific based on interests. However, there's one that I just love and have been using for regular inspiration. Pinterest is, ostensibly, a social media site - you can "follow" people and "invite" people and connect with them via common interests - but even more than that, it's a place to catalog things you love.
Tara Jacoby via @pinterest

The way it works is that you "pin" a website or an online item to one of your "boards." Boards are simply self-determined categories of things. When you enter Pinterest, the homepage is filled with various pins from other users. The pins are not necessarily from people you know, but from categories you've expressed interest in. It's a little cumbersome at first - you feel like you should be able to "do" more - but, in the end, the beauty of Pinterest is that it's like walking into the best flea-market ever - you're just meant to browse and fall in love with beautiful, interesting things and ideas and discover some very creative people. It's a treasure trove of inspiration.

Also on the inspiration roll recently is Anthropologie. This retailer has a very distinctive style - a little bohemian, a little trendy, and a lot high-quality. While the items are usually well beyond my price range for purchase, browsing and being inspired is always free. I'm very often taken with the detail on the clothing or the simplicity of some housewares item that they carry. I love that they tap small, independent artists and artisans and will carry an item or two for a period of time. This give the artist amazing national exposure and is a stamp of approval about the quality of their product. I may have mentioned it before but I want to create an apron pattern based on one that I saw at Anthropologie last year. That's the big sewing project that's in my queue.

Finally, I've been getting a lot of inspiration lately from high-quality design in film and TV. Specifically, the new episodes of Masterpiece Mystery's Poirot are stunningly designed - the detail of the art deco sets and costumes makes me swoon. Also, HBO's Game of Thrones' costumes and sets are just incredibly well-conceived and executed from the young, future queen's exquisitely simple dresses to the dark, dank interior of a northern castle.

There's something about having sunshine until 9pm that makes the whole world inspiring right now. I find myself staring at my plants each morning to see if I can discern any growth and staring at the pink sky at night to enjoy the last bits of daylight. Maybe soaking up the summer is my craft for right now.

- Alex

Dirty Girl

I am a flag-waving girly girl. Ruffles and all. So, those who know me well think the fact I went camping past weekend is pretty hilarious. I am not a fan of getting dirty, but, as a mom of little boys I feel like I need to suck it up and be more outdoorsy. More importantly, I have figured out ways to make camping fun for me and still give the littles the opportunity to experience some nature.

View from the campsite.
It's no secret that I'm a fan of the Little House books. This is why I look to Ma Ingalls for inspiration around the campsite...particularly when it comes to cooking over the fire. She was able to stop the wagon, set up a makeshift camp, and make foods so delicious that Laura was able to recall them years later. Ma rocked. It's in her spirit that I started experimenting with campfire cuisine, with the hope of being able to create something as memorable as she did.

Camping is messy.
The tool I love most for cooking over the open fire is my big cast iron pot. It cooks so evenly that, with a little practice, you can really gauge when you need to back off the heat so things don't burn. These kinds of pots were specifically designed for the "one-pot meal" so they're really perfect for camping. Just throw it all in and let it simmer while we're swimming or fishing or doing some other outdoorsy thing.

This past weekend I made a vegetarian pasta dish that went over really well. The recipe originally called for Italian Sausage but, as you may know, we generally don't eat meat - and definitely not pork - so I've done a lot of experimenting with faux-meat options to try to get the flavor and texture just right. The best I've found is the Seitan Italian Sausage from Upton's Naturals. This stuff is amazing. I highly recommend it!

Pasta cooking next to some cornbread.

Here is my recipe:

Sausage and Angel Hair Pasta

2 pkgs Upton's Naturals Seitan Italian Sausage
1 lb of Angel Hair Pasta
Olive Oil
5-1/4 Cups of Water
2 Roasted Red Peppers (cut into julienne strips)
Parmesan Cheese (to taste)
Fresh Basil Leaves (chopped)

Warm the Italian Sausage in about a half-cup of olive oil. When the Italian Sausage is heated through and crumbly remove from oil and and set aside. Add more olive oil to pot and throw in the uncooked angel hair pasta and toast it using tongs to turn it often. It will brown a bit. Press the garlic over the pasta as it is browning.

Now add the water, bullion, red peppers, parmesan cheese and sausage. Bring to a boil and simmer vigorously for 5-6 minutes or until pasta is tender and water is absorbed.

When pasta is fully cooked, add basil. Plate and top with more parmesan to taste.

This was just one of the yummy things we ate over the course of our time in the woods. Good food, inspiring scenery, new experiences...all those memories have come home with me. There is a lot I can learn from getting out of my comfort zone once in a while. I will admit to having come home with a sense of peace that I didn't have last week.

A fisherman was born.


Summer Friday

I have a friend who works for a company that does "Summer Fridays". Basically, this means that, every Friday during the summer months, people get to go home early. Now, I'm not really sure how this works in reality because you know that someone is getting screwed. If EVERYONE left early, who's doing the work, right?

Anyway, I'm taking a Summer Friday. Cassandra is camping (I'll explain why that is hilarious some other time) and the weather is absolutely perfect. I'm leaving work early and going home to have a cocktail on my patio.

Before I go, I thought I'd share this awesome guerrilla crafting project with you. Some knitters got together to yarn bomb as part of the on-going protests at the Wisconsin Capitol. I'm proud of my friends...

The fabulous Carrie Ouradnik (organizer)

If you're interested in joining the group, you can learn more on Facebook at the Crafty Progressives page.

- Alex

Buried Alive

June is always a really busy month for me with family obligations, travel, house chores, etc. Consequently, I have very limited time to "create." Not having the space to focus on my projects makes me realize how important this part of my life really is. It is my meditation, my way of centering myself. 

Since my time to actually "do" crafts is limited, I am using this fallow time to step back and do some planning. I keep my eyes open when I'm out and about and look for inspiration. During downtime in the car, I can read about possible new projects or surf the web for patterns and ideas. One of my favorite planning activities is finding out-of-the way places to source my materials - cool little online shops or even brick and mortar shops in a town we're passing through. All this research gets me excited about the projects that I have coming down the pike.

I thought I would share with you today some of the places I have been looking...and finding much inspiration....

Vintage Fabric Prints
Children or adult themed patterns from the 1930's have been calling to me. While I love the more modern prints I wrote about here a couple weeks ago, something makes me think that I need to make a project (or two) out of something old school. A quilt perhaps...or maybe just some summer-weight pajamas for little boys. It is possible that the advent of antique fair season is responsible for this inspiration.

I found this little company called Warm Biscuit that carry some really fun vintage kids prints. They don't have a ton, but what they have is intriguing. For instance, their Vintage Italian Alphabet fabric is just stunning.

This might have to become curtains in Little Bear's woodland themed room.
 For more grown-up projects, like quilts or a cute summer shirt for me, I have been peeking at calico. So subtle, so harkens back to the depression era sensibility on my mind.

Calicos I found at Moda.
The world around me is suddenly brimming with color. I live in a valley and the nature surrounding my home is an endless source of ideas for placing unexpected colors together. Green matched with a violet...birds nest brown matched with robin's egg blue. It's all out there, waiting for you to notice it.

Pinks next to greens next to oranges...all in my backyard.
 One of the most wonderful things about the digital cameras is the exposure we now have to photography on the internet. So many people take up a camera and put their work out online for us to see these days. I have friends with formal photography education and thousands of dollars worth of equipment as well as friends with a point-and-shoot camera in their bag and a God-given talent for taking an amazing photo without all the frills. Their images inspire me, the colors especially.

A beauty by my point-and-click photographer friend Troy.
Books and Blogs
One of the things I can sneak in when I have a moment is reading. There is no prep time to dragging out a book or opening my laptop and clicking through to the bookmarks I have to some of my favorite blogs. I can get a lot of inspiration in 15 minutes.

One of my favorite bloggers (Meg McElwee at Sew Liberated) has written another book. I just ordered it yesterday (on the strength of the home-made teepee on the cover) and I can't wait until it comes in the mail! She has great patterns on her site for purchase and her blog is a super resource for sewing tips and tricks.

How could I not order this? I'm sure to be blogging about it soon!
I am a competent seamstress, but recently a very basic beginner's book called Me and My Sewing Machine jumped out at me at the library. This is the best book ever. It goes over the parts of your sewing machine and different sewing techniques (such as zippers or a variety of hems) all in plain English. Even someone like me who has been sewing for 20 (ahem) years can find this useful. It has gone on my must-buy list. This book has really motivated me to sew more often, stretching my comfort zone a bit more each time.

If you noticed, I didn't spend much time talking about knitting today...I guess I have summer fever!


Bloody Battles

Grape tomatoes - bought already fruiting
Bloody Battle No. 1 - The Battle of the Cold.

It's finally garden season in Wisconsin. Granted, heartier stock than I got their gardens in ages ago and are probably thinking, "WTH, girl?". But I'm the definition of a fair-weather gardener. I, quite literally, will not work in the garden if the weather is bad - or even questionable. So, as you all know, Mother Nature has been weirdly unpredictable here for the last couple of months which has severely effected my digging in the dirt.

Bloody Battle No. 2 - The Seige at Market

Saturday morning, I hauled my butt out of bed at an ungodly 6a.m. and went to the Farmer's Market. My intention was to just to get the plants I needed to finish up the food garden. I managed to come home with most of what I needed and a bunch of stuff I didn't. My bag contained:
  • A grape tomato plant
  • A Mr. Stripey tomato plant
  • Three Heritage Cherokee Purple tomato plant (because they only came in packs of three)
  • A bunch of little cucumber sprout, of which I used 6 or so and gave the rest to my neighbor
  • A bunch of sugar snap peas, most of which I used
  • Four Swiss chard plants
  • Four fennel plant (the kind with the bulbs)
  • A new oregano plant, since mine died over the winter
  • A rosemary plant
  • An Italian parsley plant
As if that weren't enough, I still needed arugula because I couldn't find it at the market. At the greenhouse I found one, solitary pot of the peppery leaf (with four plants in it) and - my favorite find of the year - Malabar climbing spinach. I know... I'd never heard of it either. But the idea that I could have spinach all year long and that it would grow UP instead of out?? Heaven, baby!

I also bought some new tomato stakes that are supposed to be the bomb. It's just a spiral piece of coated metal and you train the tomato's main stalk up the middle of it. I bought the 7 foot Gardman's brand. We'll see if it works. I despise tomato cages. 

The spinach is against the fence

Fortunately, the weather was glorious on Sunday - sunny, low 70's, no humidity - so I got a solid three hours in the garden and everything's in the ground.

Making the most of small spaces
Bloody Battle No. 3 - The Colonization of the Patio Strip

Mine is an urban garden, taking up little strips of earth wherever I can wedge something in. As a result I tend to plant things pretty densely and deal with culling the plants later. I tried pot gardening a few times but never had much luck and I seem to get quite a bit out of my tiny plots of land. The concept of "square foot gardening" is great when you have a tiny area to work with. While I don't specifically follow it, I think that it's a good starting point for people with limited space. I'm also fond of the concept of "vertical gardening" where you plant things in such a way as to make them grow "up." My favorite example of this is the potato cage. I haven't built one yet but might now that the bulk of the gardening is done.

Bloody Battle No. 4 - The Battle of the Bunnies: The Final Stand

Another plight of the urban garden are urban rabbits. My neighbor encourages them. This year, I bought some deer and rabbit repellent. We'll see if it works. My dogs keep trying to eat it because it's made with garlic and spoiled eggs or something disgusting like that. All I can say is that, if the little bast*rds eat my cool new spinach, I'm coming after them with a rake.

Not actual rabbit
The war is won. With the plants in the ground and the work shifting from "planting" to "tending", I finally feel like summer is here. Unfortunately, with my late start, I'll probably be eating from my garden a little later this year. There are a lot worse things to worry about, I suppose - like, who's going to pull all the weeds that pop up.

- Alex (aka Ms McGregor)


I have made many things for the people I love. Mittens, blankets, sweaters, animals, etc. I am fortunate to have a family that not only embraces my handmade items...they ask for more. So it's really a shocker when something gets...well...I'm just going to come out and say it...rejected.

Owlie when he was just finished. He's little bear's favorite

Flashback to last January. Below zero temperatures, wood floors, little feet. The situation was just screaming for cute toddler slippers. And, as luck would have it, I had been eyeballing this adorable pattern by Bekah Knits for quite some time. I ran out to a local yarn shop and purchased what I needed to cast-on. (I ended up choosing Spud & Chloe for this project. It is such a workhorse yarn and washes up like a dream.)

Since the slippers would be toddler-sized, I figured that I could get 2 pair of slippers done in a weekend. Yeah, right.

One of the truly great things about the finished slippers is that, when knitted with the Spud & Chloe yarn on the smaller needles required for this pattern, the resulting fabric is seriously thick and dense. These slippers are built to last. Unfortunately, the process of knitting that firmer fabric made my hands get really sore (not usually a problem for me) so I could only knit on them for a little while before I needed to take a break. Needless to say, this made it impossible to finish quickly and it ended up taking me a month to get them done.

But, I am a loyal soldier in the handmade army. Deep in the trenches of the never-ending toddler slippers and I was going to come out hook or by crook. So I pressed on and finished them. The blocking was also a slow because they took days and days to dry due to their thickness. (Pro tip: I stuffed them with cotton socks to shape them during the blocking.) Eventually they were finished. And they turned out pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself!

Slipper-y cuteness.
Of course, I popped them on my three year old to get some photos for my Ravelry page right away. As soon as they were on his feet, he gets riled up and starts running...wood floor....slippery knit get the picture. Luckily, I had seen a solution for this problem addressed by another knitter on Ravelry. She had put stripes of fabric puff-paint as treads to give the bottoms some traction. I did it too. Awesomeness. Here is my finished project ravelry link.

Detail of the puff-paint traction.
So, at this point, I was feeling pretty good - the long knitting process was done and the technical kinks worked out. There would be no more cold, little feet in our house! Or so I thought...

Yeah, neither of the kids will keep them on their feet for more than 5 minutes. I kept them in the living room, trying to coax someone into them here and there for about a month. Eventually, I gave up and put the rejected slippers in the kids' closets. All that trouble for naught. The only saving grace is that it's not as painful to have your work rejected by a toddler. Maybe next fall they will have a change of heart. :)


All Up In My Grill

After I bought my house, one of the first things I invested in was a gas grill. I'd never owned one before because, truthfully, I never had the space for something that big, nor the inclination to deal with it every time I moved. However, I used to tell myself that charcoal was better because of the taste and the ability to use wood chips for smoking and flavor. I never used any woodchips.

So, as soon as I had the space, I went to Sears and bought myself a proper gas grill. It has a counter on one side to put my plates or utensils on and a gas burner on the other so I can have a pan of something going while I'm working the grill. Granted, this is pretty much the set up of all gas grills, but I was enamored by the features when I got it. There are little hooks to hang my tongs and spatulas from and there are three separate grilling areas. The world of outdoor cooking suddenly became mine.

Having the ability to, quite literally, turn on the fire makes gas grilling the only way to go. It's so much less of a chore and, suddenly, the idea of coming home and quickly grilling up a burger or a piece of fish is kind of a no-brainer. It's nice to not heat up the kitchen on a hot summer day.

Grilling 101 (burgers, chicken breasts, steaks) is fun and easy but Advanced Grilling (fish, vegetables, shellfish) is where the real challenge and reward lies. This past weekend, I grilled lobster tails for the first time. Surprisingly easy and incredibly tasty, this is one fish that should probably be moved down into the "grilling basics" category. I also grilled asparagus (and only lost one spear through the grate) and the best eggplant I've ever made.

So, today, I'd like to share these recipes with you and encourage you to try them regardless of your gas versus charcoal stance. Bon appetite!!

- Alex, the grill-master

Grilled Lobster Tails

(recipe serves 6)

3 1/2 lbs or larger lobster tails
1/2 stick of butter, melted
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of lemon juice

If frozen, defrost the tails by placing them in a ziplock bag and submerging them in a bath of tepid water until they're no longer frozen. To prepare, place the uncooked tail shell side down on a cutting board. With an very sharp knife, cut the tail lengthwise, all the way through the shell. If you can't cut through the shell with the knife, use kitchen scissors to cut the shell down the middle. You will be left with meat nestled in two half shells.

Stir the crushed garlic and lemon juice into the melted butter. With a basting brush, baste the butter mixture on the meat of the lobster, letting it run into the shell. Let the tails sit, basted while you heat up the grill.

Just prior to putting the tails on the grill, baste the meat one more time. Place the lobster tail halves, flesh side down, on a high grill and cook until the flesh has "grill marks" on it (approximately 1-2 minutes). Lower the heat to medium-high. Turn the tails over (shell side down on the grill) and begin basting with the remaining butter mixture. Continue basting for approximately 4 minutes or until the lobster is cooked through. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the tail if you have trouble knowing when it's finished. The meat should be about 140 degrees and opaque.

That's it! Serve with drawn butter and/or lemon for an amazing meal.

Grilled Vegetables 
(asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash)

bamboo skewers - soaked in water for 1/2 hour
Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing, made with balsamic vinegar

Wash the vegetables. Cut the fibrous ends off the asparagus and slice the eggplant, zucchini and summer squash into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Try to keep the slices as even as possible to aid in even cooking times.

Place all the prepared vegetables in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Cover with a full container of balsamic dressing. Zip the bag and marinate for at least 1/2 hour. (Vegetables can be prepped the day before and marinated for up to 24 hours.)

Heat the grill to high.

Take the marinated asparagus and skewer as many as will fit on a bamboo skewer through the thickest part of the asparagus.

Before placing the vegetables on the grill, reduce the heat to medium.

Place the vegetables on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until nicely browned on both sides and limp. Be careful of flare ups from the oil in the marinade - you don't want your veggies to burn.

If your squash slices are fairly small, it's easy for them to fall through the grill. Patience and no regret for the few lost pieces is the key.


Lately it seems like the entire blogosphere has been taken over by posts about strawberry and rhubarb. Totally understandable. Everyone gets so excited about the advent of summer that we can't keep a lid on our trips to the farmer's market or the blooming peonies in our yards. I know here in the Midwest we have a precious few months of pure summer, so we hold them dear.

Lilacs at the Madison Farmer's Market.
And this isn't even a crowded day.

So, I'm going to add to the many posts about strawberry and rhubarb...

This weekend I did something new - I made jelly (strawberry-rhubarb, of course!) Now, many of you are probably seasoned jelly-making veterans but  I'm a complete newbie. My only resource was my cousin Julie who has a thimbleful of knowledge on this subject so she invited me over to help with the sweet, sticky mess.

This is the brand we chose to run with.
We followed the directions for cooked jam by the trusted experts at the Sure Jell company. Since neither Julie nor I are particularly good at math, deciphering the ratios of the fruit to pectin caused a little bit of heartache, but we didn't let that stop us. (I am the queen of "eyeballing" it, btw.) I don't really have a recipe to share with you since, like I said, we just followed the instructions on the box but I can tell you that one of the modifications we made to the original recipe was to not add the butter. It seemed arbitrary and in the end our finished product was just fine without it.

Cutting up pints and pints of strawberries.
Cooking down rhubarb until it became mush.
The other recipe alteration we made was to cut way back on the sugar because we were trying to achieve a jelly that is a little bit more tart. I think we added half the amount that was called for on the box.

Skimming, skimming, and more foam skimming.
 Neither of us has a proper canning pot with a basket (I am going to remedy that shortly) so we made "freezer jelly". That means that, once the jars are filled and cooled, they were popped into the freezer - except for one that went in the fridge for immediate use. And wow! It is seriously tasty! Sweet, tart and curiously fresh tasting compared to store-bought jelly.

Jars of goodness waiting to be frozen.
The effort was enough of a success that I now have the jelly-making bug. I would really, really, like to try this again - and get better at it. Since this adventure, I have been browsing for recipes on the web and dreaming about all sorts of flavors. Overall, the process was pretty easy and yet it helped satisfy that "pioneer" urge I get to make things from scratch.

–Cassandra (aka Half Pint)