Knitting Patterns

Stretchy Headband

I made a ponytail hat for a family friend last Christmas, but wasn’t too happy with the finished product. Working on a hat, I accidentally stumbled upon this little pattern when I ran out of yarn! This cute little piece can serve as a head band (with hair above or below) or can accent a cute ponytail.

Size:  Fits a woman’s head.


  • Size 4mm (6 US) 16″ circular needles
  • Worsted weight yarn (about 80-100 yards? I used stash yarn)

Gauge:  Not too important since it’s so stretchy but approximately 22 stitches in 2×2 ribbing.


  • Cast on 92 sts using elastic long-tail or preferred stretchy cast on method.
  • Place marker and join to work in the round, being careful not to twist the stitches. Work as follows:
    R1: K2, P2
  • Repeat R1 until work measures 4-4 1⁄2 inches from cast-on edge.

I cast off in K2, P2 pattern to create a more stretchy cast-off.

Inspiration, Leadership

For One Who Holds Power


For One Who Holds Power

May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,
Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,
May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

When the way is flat and dull in times of gray endurance,
May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.

When thirst burns in times of drought,
May you be blessed to find the wells.

May you have the wisdom to read time clearly
And know when the seed of change will flourish.

In your heart may there be a sanctuary
For the stillness where clarity is born.

May your work be infused with passion and creativity
And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.

May your soul find the graciousness
To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.

May your power never become a shell
Wherein your heart would silently atrophy.

May you welcome your own vulnerability
As the ground where healing and truth join.

May integrity of soul be your first ideal.
The source that will guide and bless your work.

-John O’Donahue

Family, Inspiration, Love

Jessy & The Zombie Apocalypse

Our family, like many families, has been discussing the recent murders in Orlando and vigorously debating what could be or should be done to prevent such unimaginable tragedies. We talk about the particularly complicated nature of these events – xenophobia, homophobia, mental illness, public health and safety concerns, the inaction of our elected representatives, the anguish of the victims’ families, and more. And I am reminded of the zombie apocalypse.

moms hatsThis idea first emerged shortly after 9-11. Our children were much younger then, only 4 and 8, so we worked hard to shield them from much of the news coverage. My husband and I talked in hushed tones about what we’d do in the event of a widespread attack. Who would be closest to the children? Where could we go? Should we find each other first and then go? Or just determine a safe location to meet up later? How surreal it was to even discuss. Over time, the kids have joined the conversation about our plan, though we don’t refer to it directly. Instead, it has become, in our house, the “zombie apocalypse.” This allows us a bit of distance and some humor as we contemplate injustice and hatred in today’s world.

kids 2015Our children are now young adults, 19 and 23. We’re enjoying a moment in time when both happen to be living at home. They are delightful people – funny, thoughtful, and fiercely passionate about their opinions. Jake is heading toward his sophomore year in college. Jessy just finished her first school year as a teacher.

And so, in our conversations these days, the zombie apocalypse idea re-emerges. We’d all be in different locations, which makes it a bit trickier. I’d head out from my office downtown, pick up my mom who lives nearby and we’d all rendezvous at home. Then we’d grab groceries (non-perishables), the antique rifle (or is it a shotgun?), and head for the mountains. Sounds like a plan. “Nope,” says Jessy, “I can’t do that. I won’t leave my kids.” Her “kids” are the first grade students she teaches. She is steadfast. Sure, perhaps some parents would come get their kids, but if any were still at school, the only way she’d leave is if they came with us. We discuss how many of them we can fit in our smallish vehicles and determine perhaps two cars is the way to go.

People, we live in a world where my daughter won’t leave the children she teaches during a zombie apocalypse. There is plenty more to be said, but somehow, absurdly, this sums it up. How do we begin to make this a safe, loving community where we build each other up rather than tear each other down? Let’s promise not to leave each other during the zombie apocalypse. Let’s create the world we want to live in, together.


Advent, Knitting Patterns

Christmas Headbands

Well, it’s been a while and I am a bit sad that my post is a knitting pattern and not some profound bit of wisdom. During the past year, I have, in my head, written 3 dozen blog posts that should have changed the world!

2015-12-14 17.34.31
Finished Size: 
One size should fit most any woman’s head.
Yarn: The featured yarn is a beautiful blend (40% wool, 40% alpaca, 20% silk) called “Moonshine” from Juniper Moon Farm. It’s a 100g. One headband takes way less than a full skein. Any worsted weight yarn will work.
Needles: Size 8 16″ circular needle


  • Cast on 80 stitches. Join and work in the round.2015-12-14 08.45.56
  • Rows 1 & 2: Purl
  • Row 3-5: Knit
  • Rows 6 & 7: Purl
  • Begin pattern rows:
    • R1: K3, S1 (slip as if to purl) – repeat until end of row.
    • R2: Knit
  • Repeat pattern rows for 2 1/2 to 3 inches or desired width.
  • Repeat rows 1-7.
  • Bind off purl-wise and sew in ends.

Enjoy! This is a simple pattern that can be knit right up in an evening. Great gift idea for those non-hat-wearing friends.



Knitting Patterns

Epiphany Mitts

Here’s an attempt at an original fingerless glove pattern. It’s an amalgamation of a variety of epiphany mittsstitches and patterns I like.

  • Finished Size: One size fits all (but I’d say it’s for a small to medium-sized woman’s arm/hand)
  • Yarn: I used Malabrigo Finito, which is a beautiful, soft, buttery 50 gram yarn made of pure superfine merino wool. Any fingering weight (sock) 4-ply yarn will work.
  • Needles: Size 3 – I used a 42″ or larger circular so I could Magic Loop. You may want to adjust your needle size as necessary for sizing purposes.
  • Gauge: 24-26 sts = 4 inches or about 6 stitches per inch.

Ktb1 = knit into the back loop
K2tog = knit two together


  • Loosely cast on 44 stitches (you may want to increase/decrease stitches in 4’s as needed). Divide onto two needles, with 20 stitches on front needle and 24 on back. (Note: dividing the stitches this way becomes very important later on, when you start the cable pattern.)
  • Using magic loop method, work in the round using a Ktb1, P1 rib pattern to make 1″ cuff.
  • Continue in pattern:2015-01-03 22.44.54
    • Row 1: K3, P1
    • Row 2: K
    • Repeat for 2-3″.
  • Begin thumb gusset and cable pattern when you are about 3-4″ from cast-on edge.
  • Cable pattern coincides with gusset pattern. Cable pattern is worked on front needle; gusset pattern worked on second needle. So for each round, you work the cable pattern on the front needle and the gusset pattern on the second needle. See detailed directions for each below.
  • Hand setup row: Once cable and gusset patterns are complete, return to K3, P1 rib pattern. On second needle, k1, remove first marker, K1, bind off 17 stitches knit-wise, K1, remove marker, then finish row in K3, P1 pattern. (For left hand on second needle, you’ll knit 20, then remove marker, K1, BO17, K2 – removing second marker when you knit 2.)
  • Next row, knit all stitches, working through first two stitches on second needles, cast on 1 stitch OR increase 1 stitch to restore correct number of stitches for rib pattern. You should now have 44 total stitches on your two needles. (For left hand, simply increase one at end of round.)
  • Work 6 more rounds in established rib pattern.
  • Finish with approx. 1″ top edge in Ktb1, P1, then bind off in pattern.

Braided Cable Pattern (top of hand):

  • Row 1 (cable row): K4, P2, *slip the next 2 stitches to cable needle and hold at back, knit the next 2 stitches from the left needle, knit the 2 stitches from the cable  needle; repeat once from *, P2, K3, P1. (This should all occur on first needle.) Work second needle in established pattern, working in thumb gusset.
  • Row 2: K4, P2, K8, P2, K4. Second needle in established thumb gusset pattern.
  • Row 3 (cable row): K4, P2, K2, slip the next 2 stitches to cable needle and hold at front, knit the next 2 stitches from left needle, k2 stitches from cable needle, K2, P2, K3, P1. Second needle in gusset pattern.
  • Row 4: Repeat row 2.
  • Repeat rows 1-4 for braided cable 8 times for a total of 32 rows.

Thumb Gusset (worked on 2nd needle with 24 stitches):2015-01-03 22.45.40

  • Setup Row 1: Work across 21 sts (20 in cable pattern on first needle, k1 on second), place marker, k3, place marker, work remaining 20 stitches in K3, P1 pattern. (Note: these gusset directions assume this is for the right-hand glove. For the left hand, build the gusset on the other end of the second needle – so, setup row k20, place marker, k3, place marker, k1.)
  • Setup Row 2: Knit all stitches.
  • Gusset Row 1: K1, work to first marker, slip marker, increase 1 stitch (by knitting into front and back of stitch), knit to within 1 stitch of second marker, increase one stitch, slip marker, work to end of row in k3, p1 rib. (Right glove: K20 in K3, P1 rib, sl marker, inc 1, k to 2nd marker, inc 1, sl marker, K1.)
  • Gusset Row 2: Knit all stitches.
  • Gusset Row 3: K3, P1 pattern.
  • Gusset Row 4: Knit all stitches.
  • Repeat gusset rows 1-4 until there are 19 sts between markers, ending with row 2 (knitting all stitches).

Confused? I know, it’s tricky. It helps to remember that when you begin Row 3 of the cable pattern on the first needle you will be working Row 1 of the thumb gusset pattern on the second needle. So, here’s a little cheat sheet to help you:

Row #    1st needle (cable)          2nd needle (gusset)
1                 Row 1                                    setup row 1
2                Row 2                                    setup row 2
3                Row 3                                   gusset row 1
4                Row 4                                   gusset row 2
5                Row 1                                    gusset row 3
6                Row 2                                   gusset row 4
7                Row 3                                   gusset row 1
8               Row 4                                    gusset row 2
9               Row 1                                     gusset row 3
10             Row 2                                    gusset row 4
11              Row 3                                    gusset row 1
12             Row 4                                    gusset row 2
13             Row 1                                     gusset row 3
14             Row 2                                    gusset row 4
15             Row 3                                    gusset row 1
16            Row 4                                     gusset row 2

The rest just goes on . . . Round 17 is Cable Row 1 and Gusset Row 3. Pattern ends with Round 32 – Cable Row 4 and Gusset Row 2. These 32 rows are a pain, but the end result is well worth it!!

Family, Inspiration

Five Things I Really Appreciate About My Mom

Joy and her girls, Ruth Marie & Kathleen, at the Grand Canyon, July 2012.


Mother’s Day is a Hallmark holiday, and as such, I want to ignore it. I’d like to believe that I do a great job of letting my mom know how much she means to me all year long, so why would I observe this artificial “holiday” that merely lines the pockets of florists, card companies, and large retail establishments?

Nevertheless, today, as another Mother’s Day approached, I found myself perusing the hundreds of cards at my local large retail establishment. Finding the perfect sentiment, I balked at the $5.47 price tag and opted for an email card and this post instead.


Here are five things I really appreciate about my mom:

Grammy celebrating a recent birthday with 3 of her 5 very funny  grandchildren.
Grammy celebrating a recent birthday with 3 of her 5 very funny grandchildren.
  1. My mom has a great sense of humor. It’s important not to take yourself too seriously, and believe me, if Joy is your mom, you won’t. She has the ability to find humor in everyday life and has great appreciation for the absurd. When I was about 12, I dropped a ladder through the church ceiling (don’t ask), creating a large hole in the false ceiling just above the sanctuary balcony. . . on a Saturday. Needless to say, my preacher daddy was less than thrilled, and after a stern reprimand, sent me home to grab some tools. Breathless and in tears, I ran in and shared my story with Mother. Her response? She laughed (it really is quite funny in retrospect, though I didn’t get it at the time!). Another day I brought a stray cat home only to have it escape and terrorize the household. Daddy? He did a little yelling as he ran around trying to capture the poor feline. Mother? Giggles. When my sister Kathleen baptized herself with a big can of green Hawaiian punch? More giggles. Over the years, she’s gotten a huge kick out of her grandkids and their many endearing and often unintentionally funny sayings. Just this week, my mom and I had a good laugh over a “Jake-ism.” Even during the dark days of my dad’s final illness, we often found humor in otherwise grim situations. “Grammy” has taught our family to find the silly or funny in most every part of life. A good laugh brings healing and happiness and is just plain fun. Like my mom.

    My mom with her mom, the original family hostess.
    My mom with her mom, the original family hostess.
  2. My mom is a wonderful hostess. When you look up “hospitality” in the dictionary, I believe there is a picture of my mother just next to it. She gets it honestly, a legacy from her mother whose baked Alaska is still discussed in revered tones at family gatherings. She hosts many a gathering, frets over all the details, and always produces a fabulous event. Whether a bridge gathering, a family birthday, Christmas dinner, or a party for her “Single Sisters,” her hospitality exemplifies my mother’s innate kindness, warmth, and helpfulness. Many of us also head to her place when we need a sympathetic ear and a soft shoulder on which to cry. We are fortunate to be the frequent recipients of her friendly, comforting hospitality.
  3. My mom is tough and resilient. I’ve always known my mom as a working mom. When my sister and I were younger, she worked nights and weekends to be more present during our waking hours. As we got older, she began a career in nursing administration, working long hours and coming home to another whole shift of managing our household. She has long been a consummate multi-tasker, keeping copious lists and calendars to ensure everyone was where they needed to be when they needed to be there. She meticulously planned our vacations and our meals, getting really creative with salmon and mac and cheese in between paychecks. When my dad got sick and required nearly total care, my mom refused to allow him to languish in a long-term care facility. She brought him home and ensured his last months and years were ones of quality. She managed the health care bureaucracy, his care, his diet and his comfort with a tenacity that blew all of us away. We stand in awe of her amazing ability to get things done, no matter what.
  4. My mom is generous. What’s that parable about the woman who gave what little she had to God? My mom’s heart is huge, which translates to a generosity that outshines even those more affluent than she. She gives of her treasure, yes, but also, in equal measure, her time and her talent. Whether helping assisted living residents play bridge, guiding seniors in making insurance decisions, praying for others, caring for grandchildren (during the elementary years especially), providing financing for the odd family need, underwriting the trip of a lifetime, or doling out sage wisdom and advice, everything she offers comes from the heart. She lives her love!

    My mom and dad, Joy & Hal, on their wedding day, September 14, 1963.
    My mom and dad, Joy & Hal, on their wedding day, September 14, 1963.
  5. My mom is full of joie de vivre . . . the joy of living. How appropriate that my mom’s given name is Joy! No matter how tough or lonely life can get, my mom finds that nugget of goodness or life lesson and comes out of even her hardest moments with a renewed appreciation for the life she has. Her genuine enjoyment of her loved ones and friends, her great canine companion Buddy, her books and games, and her lovely home are infectious. Her great love for her family, her passion for justice, and her deep and abiding faith are inspiring.  My mom’s energy, dedication, and joy are truly a joy to us, her biggest fans.

Joy, Mother, Grammy – we love you! Because you’re in our lives, life is richer and better, and we are absolutely certain that every day is a “Joy-full” Mother’s Day!!

Family, Inspiration, Love

Blessed to Miss You Terribly

daddy2Thursday will be my father’s 77th birthday. Last Tuesday was the 2nd anniversary of his death.

This morning as I sat in church, my thoughts inevitably turned to my father, a Moravian pastor. He had 70+ years of good health, then 4 and a half years of ill health prior to his death. At the time of his life-altering aortic dissection and stroke, he was playing golf, mowing his yard, and teaching his 10-year-old grandson basketball. Of course, we expected him to live forever. He was a kind, calming influence with a dry wit and balanced approach to life’s challenges. His childhood was undeservedly difficult, but he persevered, served God and others, married wisely, and made good choices. Still, at the time of his death he was a shadow of himself, unable to do nearly everything that brought him satisfaction or joy. Why?

Why? It’s a question I’ve never expected to answer but continue to ask. Please don’t tell me it’s God’s plan. I cannot believe in a God who would cause something so tragic to befall this faithful servant. Every day, our family – my mom, my sister, myself, our husbands, our children – every day, we suffer his loss. We feel his absence keenly and we grieve. We miss him terribly.

We know we were blessed to have had him in our lives . . . to have benefited from his unconditional love, his quiet wisdom, his supportive presence, his back pats and shaking shoulders, his uplifting humor, his gentle manner. I think of people estranged from loved ones, or those who knew only an abusive or absent father. I realize it is a gift to miss my beloved daddy.


And he’s among us still. Echoes of my father resonate in the sure strides of his grandson Jake on the lacrosse field, in the corny puns of his colleague John, in the lush green of the 18th hole, in Andy Griffith’s southern drawl, in our pastor Stuart as he serves communion in his crisp, white surplice. We sense Granddaddy’s approval when celebrating the achievements of his wonderfully talented grandchildren, and of course, when the Braves or Panthers win.

My dad would “knock a hickey on my head” if I left you with the impression that I blame God for life simply happening. With us every step of this difficult journey is the very God my father served with such devotion. God gave us strength to carry on through the darkest days and nights. God showed up in the form of caring friends and thoughtful volunteers. God still provides inspiration and solace through scripture and prayer. And it’s God who links us to these precious echoes of my father each and every day.

So, yes, God, I get it. And Daddy, please know how blessed we are to miss you terribly.

Fam03-requested for enlargement

Diet & Nutrition, Recipes

Crock Pot Taco Soup



  • 1 can (15 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 small can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (10 oz each) diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, undrained (I used the Rotel with the lime juice)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 can (about 13 oz) vegetable broth
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning (gluten-free)
  • 1-2 lbs ground turkey, chicken or beef
  • shredded Mexican or cheddar cheese (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • tortilla chips (optional)
  • avocado slices and/or fresh cilantro (optional)

Layer onions, peppers, then canned vegetables, sauce, diced tomatoes and broth in crock pot. Sprinkle in taco seasoning, stir, and heat on low for 5-6 hours. (Optional: I made this as a veggie dish, so browned the ground beef/turkey/chicken separately with a bit of the taco seasoning and offered it with the cheese, cilantro, and sour cream as “garnish.”)

Simple and delish! Serves 6-8.


Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs

2013-11-25 19.04.57

I am not a food blogger, but this seems like a great way to capture some of my thrown-together recipes. I am hopeful this will save me time the next day I want to fry some chicken. Since I’m gluten-free and currently grain-free, seems like an even better reason to remember what I did!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

4 large chicken thighs (these are from Costco with bone in)
Coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup almond meal (trader joe’s)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (trader joe’s)

Penzey’s Seasoning Salt (eh – just a bit)
Some seasoning (I added rosemary, but you could add any dry herb that strikes your fancy)


  1. Thaw those chicken thighs (I always forget to do this ahead of time, but the microwave works well for this purpose). Remove skin (if you like) and pat dry. Set aside.
  2. In gallon Ziplock bag, toss all those dry ingredients, then seal and shake to mix.
  3. Melt a crap-ton of coconut oil in the skillet at medium-high heat.
  4. Throw the chicken thighs in the bag with your breading mix and shake (do remember to seal the bag first)
  5. If your oil is heated and ready, throw those thighs in the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn and cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Turn once more and cook another 5-10 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  7. Drain on paper towels, then serve with some roasted cauliflower for a terrific and quick dinner.

Notes after Making:

  • You might use all almond meal. Coconut flour is dry and requires more liquid than I used. I had to add coconut oil several times during the frying to produce enough fat. You could also use olive oil for cooking or perhaps leave the skin on to produce more fat during cooking.
  • This was delicious! Cooked perfectly for about 27 minutes.  Was dry enough there was no need to drain. Flavor was delicious, especially the hint of rosemary.
Inspiration, Kids, Random Stuff

Shane’s Story

My nephew, Shane Burcaw, is a bit of a media star at the moment. He’s all over the blogosphere, and just finished up an East Coast speaking tour. He’s become the subject of many a video, news story and blog post. You can read about him at his tumblr blog. Start at the beginning. I will warn you, his language can be pretty raw but the story’s worth reading.

The whole journey’s been really wild and weird at the same time. I’ve watched from the sidelines, proud of Shane and what’s he’s doing, but with a bit of discomfort relative to the media coverage of his journey. I recently read a blog post by Bill Peace, a blogger with a lot to say about living with disability.  I was righteously indignant when I first read it, but on a second and third read, decided it was a great opportunity for me to articulate what is really unique and positive about Shane’s wild ride.

Here’s my response to his post:


Your post helped me get words around parts of Shane’s recent media journey that I’ve found unsettling, but have been unable to articulate. So, for that, I thank you.

I am horribly biased here; Shane is my nephew, the son of my husband’s brother. I have known him all of his short life, which has extended far beyond his original prognosis. Every day we have with Shane is a gift and we, his family, are profoundly grateful, as we are for each day we have with all of our children, nieces, and nephews. Burcaw children ROCK, that’s all there is to it. We watch Shane continue to live his life, to write, start a business, make new friends, and experience far more than we ever thought possible, and we are happy. We laugh and enjoy life with him. Burcaws do a lot of laughing.

2013-05-29 19.55.07I have a larger point too, one that doesn’t include me telling you to “get stuffed.”  Yes, Shane’s message is simplistic, and yes, I do cringe when I see how the video producers have dramatically emphasized the terminal nature of his disease and go on about his courage (though he is absolutely courageous). And, I absolutely hate it when he talks about his private parts on his blog with 300,000 followers!! Ugh. How is this elevating the dialogue regarding disability rights? I’ll tell you — it’s not.

And that’s just fine.

Shane’s audience is not your audience. It’s not my audience. Not even close. Shane spoke yesterday to middle and high school students in an alternative setting. These kids have disabilities of their own, mostly mental and behavioral, and are on the fringes of society, screwed over by every “system” with which they interact. They are mostly poor and African-American. When Shane spoke to them, you could’ve heard a pin drop. He talked about his life, his disease, and some of the challenges he faces. He did talk about being positive in the face of life’s adversities, whether large or small, though he used simpler words, like “suck.” Afterward, he took questions. The kids asked him how he took tests, how did he eat, did he sleep in a normal bed, what were his fears? One kid stood up and thanked Shane for coming and for talking  to them about his life. I believe he may have used the word “inspire.” Then, we all had cake together to celebrate Shane’s 21st birthday.

You’re right – no laws were changed, no one waxed poetic on the lack of rights afforded those with disabilities, though we did talk about how several large men had to lift Shane’s gigantic wheelchair onto the stage because it wasn’t accessible. But , those kids now know more about what it means to be disabled. They know Shane’s not developmentally disabled just because he looks like a “T-Rex” as he says. They think it’s cool they can follow him on Twitter. They know that even though he’s a little, funny-looking white kid, he’s a lot like them, with fears and insecurities along with hopes and dreams for a better future. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect those kids might now think twice before parking in a handicapped space.

So, okay, “inspirational porn” is a bit harsh, but I can see how you might feel that way. I encourage you to close YouTube and go on about your business of elevating the dialogue, important business which absolutely needs to happen. And Shane will keep on talking to kids about life and how it doesn’t have to suck. He’ll tell a few jokes when he does this. And we’ll be laughing with him all along the way.

burcaw kids 2010

Burcaw children, 2010.