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Little Monkey Shop

Create Your Own Crochet Chunky Cowl

A way to a make a quick scarf or cowl is to use chunky (thick) yarn and a large hook.

This week I'm working on creating several different pattern for chunky cowls for men.

It seems easy to make a more feminine scarf, but harder to create a more masculine crochet pattern.

To add texture to the chunky cowls, I've being playing around with some fun stitches - front and back raised double crochet stitches.

Here's how to make them:

Frdc (front raised double crochet) – yo, insert hook from the front around the stem of the dc in the row below from right to left, then complete the dc in the usual way.

Brdc (back raised double crochet) – yo, insert hook from the back around the stem of the dc in the row below from right to left, then complete the dc in the usual way.

How to Create Your Own Cowl Pattern:

I use chunky yarn - there's several varieties you can buy - and a N Hook.
1. Start with a chain of stitches the length you want your cowl - it will stretch a little as you add stitches to it, so start a little on the short side.
2. Connect your ends together to create a circle.
3. Make a row of double crochet stitches as a base.
4. Create your own unique pattern with Frdc and Brdc in an number and order that you like. For example - 3 Frdc, 2Brdc repeating (example 1).
Or mix it up even more - 3 Frdc, 1 Brdc, 2 Frdc, 2 Brdc (example 2). Play with it until you get the look you want.
5. Then repeat that pattern for each row until you get the height you want for your cowl.
Note: To get your pattern to come out right, your beginning number of stitches needs to be a multiple of the number of stitches in your pattern. For example 1 - your beginning chain needs to be a multiple of 5. For example 2, your beginning chain needs to be a multiple of 8.

Here's a few cowls I've made recently

                         Ribbed Chunky Cowl


Textured Cowl


Unique Stitches

This cowl doesn't use Frdc or Brdc - I just mixed up a bunch of easy fun stitches to create a unique pattern.
If you want a written crochet pattern to follow or you aren't a crochet-er and you want a cowl crocheted for you, visit my Etsy shop:


Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Butter and Cream

I see all the exquisite squash at the Farmers Market in the fall and wonder what to do with them.

On a whim, I tried this soup and it was delicious! Light and nutritious, while also being sweet and savory.

Served with a slice of homemade bread, it is perfect for a cold fall or winter evening dinner.

This soup with quick and easy to make. I blended it up in our Ninja flood blender, but having an immersion hand blender would make it much easier and quicker.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Butter


1 butternut squash
2 TBL butter
1 onion chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
4 cups vegetable broth
cream - heavy or 1/2 and 1/2

Sage Butter

1/4 cup butter
6 sage leaves


Preheat your oven to 400F. Slice the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Lay the squash in a baking dish. Bake for 1 - 1.5 hours, until a fork inserts easily into the squash. Remove from oven and let the squash cool. Then scrape the squash out of it's skin into a bowl.
In a heavy pot, melt your butter over medium heat. Add your onions and garlic and saute till soft, about 5 minutes.

Add your roasted squash and broth. You can see that some of my broth is still frozen in the picture.

Simmer for 20 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in a blender. An immersion blender would work as well.

To make your sage butter, melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Add the sage leaves and cook until the butter browns and the sage is very aromatic - 3-4 minutes.

Pour soup into a large serving bowl.

Serve the soup, drizzled with browned sage butter, 1-2 sage leaves, and a swirl of cream.
Enjoy with a salad and a slice of homemade bread.

Best Gift Exchange Ever!

Image courtesy of Idea go at
Gift giving this time of year can get out of hand! After a while, if you're like me, you're more stressed about what to get everyone on your list, than enjoying the winter season.

Our family tackled this monster several ways, and have finally come down to a simple and intentional gift giving solution.

First, we went to kids only gifts. Each family bought only gifts for all the kids in the family. After all, kids are a little easier and less expensive to buy for. That worked well for a few years as our families were young and just beginning to grow. Then we looked up and realized we now each have 14 children to buy gifts for! Yikes!

Not so good on the budget or stress level!

Next, we went to family gifts. Each family gives one gift to each of the other families. That kept the clutter down in each household and was easier on the budget. The problem we ran into after doing family gifts for a few years was that the age spread of the kids in each family got further apart. Our family has an almost 18 yr old all the way to a 22 month old, both boys, with 3 girls in the middle. How do you buy one gift that would make all 5 children happy?

It didn't work too well.

Now we do something different with each family within our extended family.

One of my sisters lives in Dubai. It is very expensive to send packages to the UAE.

So, we don't.

When they come back to the States for a visit, we have a big Cousins Birthday Party. We've had all year to keep our eyes out for a perfect gift for each of my nieces and nephews. That's half the fun. Then, we get to see them open it!

No last minute shopping stress, high mailing fees or busy post office runs!

My sister-in-law and I just decided together to call quits on all the gifts at Christmas time. Instead we get together and do something fun as families, Maybe a weekend trip somewhere or an outing to a museum or other exciting place halfway between us.

It works for us and them and is about as simple as you can get, yet intentionally fun and relationship building!

With my grandparents and a few other family members, we've taken a different road.

We play a version of a $5 gift exchange. In the fall we all draw names. We each buy a gift that cost $5 for the person whose name we drew. Notice - I didn't say a $5 gift!

The point of the game is to see who can get the best present for $5. In other words, who can get the best deal, while still getting a gift the person will enjoy!

 You have to be on the lookout for sales, specials, and coupons.

My grandmother is a shopper and usually wins!

Last year I drew my oldest daughter. I found a $20 watch, marked down to $10 at JCP. I also had a $10 reward coupon at JCP, so I bought the watch for FREE! But the gift has to be $5, so I was able to look for other fun items to add to the gift - a chocolate candy bar, a package of gum, some funky socks.

This $5 gift exchange makes you really think, not only about what the person would like, but also about how to spend your money. Getting the best deal often means watching and waiting, and learning some patience, while looking for clever ways to get the most for your money.

This is a practice we really should put into every purchase we make all year long.

What has your family done to tame the gift giving monster that likes to clutter our house, wreck the budget, and stress us out?

My Baby is 18???

Today my little boy turns 18 years old! Where did the time go?

Having a toddler in the household too makes it really hit home how fast children grow up.

This young man has taught me so much in life - not just about parenting, but about life in general.

When comparing my 18 year old son with my toddler son, it makes me realize how much children learn by copying us.

The toddler learns to do everything in life by mimicking what he sees around him, good and bad. Of course, his curiosity gets added in there too!

It reminds me of a phrase I heard this fall and have really taken to heart  -

 "We can't out-talk our example."

No matter what we say, children are going to follow our example before they heed our words.
And all the right words to a child can't make up for a wrong example set before them.
This teenage son of ours has taught me that I can talk all I want and say as much as I can, but my example is going to "speak" the loudest to him.
He may not remember all the directions I gave him loud and clear, but he'll remember when I don't live up to what I ask of him.
Hopefully he notices when I do set a right example before him too.
 I can look at his life and see by his example to his siblings that he's picked up some good characteristics.
I've learned that often times the best thing to do in a situation (or really, in life in general) is to say less and do more.
It's as simple and as intentional as you can get - setting a right example for children to follow makes a much greater impression on a child than anything we can say.

Easy BBQ Dinner


1 Pork Roast or Shoulder
1 Bottle of BBQ sauce
2 cups Water
Seasoning - optional


Set your oven on 350F.

Put water in the bottom of a large dutch oven or other lidded pan.

Add your pork roast, season as desired - I use a dry rub seasoning. It's fine without any too.

Pour half the bottle of BBQ sauce over the top of the roast.

Cook for several hours, until the roast is done and shreds easily with a fork.

Use 2 forks to shred the roast into pieces as desired, incorporating the sauce in the pan.

Add more BBQ sauce if necessary, or serve sauce on the side.

Dinner Ideas:

Serve with green beans, a salad and cornbread.

Bake potatoes and make stuffed BBQ potatoes.

Toast some buns and have BBQ sandwiches.

Note - You may also use this same recipe and cook it in your crock pot on high for 6-8 hours, depending on the size of your roast/shoulder. 

How to Make your own Broth

During the winter we eat a lot of soups. They are easy and nutritious and perfect for a cold evening. A slice of warm homemade bread is the only side you need, though a salad goes well too.
With all the soup we eat, I go through a lot of chicken and beef broth. The past few years I have been saving money and boosting the nutritional value of our soups by making my own broths.
It's not hard!
Chicken or Beef Broth


Chicken or Beef bones - I use the leftover bones and skin from cooking and deboning a whole chicken or beef bones from the butcher.
Optional - onion skins, carrot tops, other leftover veggie pieces


1. Put chicken bones and skin and any veggie pieces into a crock pot.
2. Fill crock pot with water.
3. Cook on high for 12 hours.
4. Turn crock pot off, remove lid and let cool for an hour.
5. Strain broth through a colander into a large bowl.
6. Discard bones, skin and veggie pieces.
7. Put bowl of broth into the refrigerator for several hours or over night.
8. Once cool, skim off fat from top of broth.
9. Pour the broth in containers to store in freezer until needed.
If you are using leftover bones from a chicken or beef dinner, this is virtually free broth!

13 Non-Toy Gifts for Children

With the holidays coming up, our de-cluttered, simplified homes are in danger of becoming cluttered with new toys that will often only be interesting to the child for a short while.
In a matter of days the children will be back to playing with their favorite toys, leaving the new toys lying where they left them last.
Probably not in the toy box!
Between my sisters and sister-in-law we have 18 children to buy gifts for. That's ridiculously expensive and time consuming. Plus if we travel, we can't fit all those toys in our vehicle and us too!
Our solution - family gifts. Then I only need to come up with 3 ideas/gifts.
 Family gifts really helps to simplify the holidays!
I've made a list of non-toy items that would be great gifts for the children in your life. A lot of the ideas would work for adults as well.

Non-toy Gift Ideas

1.Gift cards - could be to a favorite store, restaurant, or online shop.
2. Special Meal - ingredients to make their favorite dish or dessert together. Or go out to a favorite restaurant, together.
3. Classes- pick something that interests the child/ren such as art, soccer, music. It could even be a tutoring class such as a math or ACT study class.
4. Membership - at an art, science or history museum. A gym membership is a good idea for teenagers. A membership to a local attraction would work as well. A membership to a American Science and Energy museum will get you into science museums all over the world for one small price. YMCA is a good idea too.
5. Weekend trip - pick somewhere everyone would like to go and go together. It could be a local place you've never been to but always wanted to go, or a destination that requires a short road trip. Planned together  - where to stay, where to eat, what to do at the destination - makes it something fun to do and look forward to as well. Family Fun has given us lots of family travel ideas.
6. Tickets - to a local amusement park, a musical or opera, a basketball game to see a favorite player.
7. Day trip - ice skating, roller skating, National park.
8. Camping - what child doesn't like sleeping out under the stars!
9. Books -  a series, a classic, or a popular new book. Once read, books can be shared or donated to the library. A cookbook could go along with idea #2. Goodreads has a great list of classic books.
10. Subscription - to a favorite magazine, or online educational site.
11. Art and Craft supplies - clay, play dough, glue, scissors, papers, markers - anything to bring out a child's imagination.
12. Outdoor activities - supplies for fishing, gardening, playing ball games.
13. Pet - either a real one - with permission - or an adoption of a pet at a zoo.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread in Minutes

If you've ever looked at the ingredient list of supposedly "healthy whole wheat" bread, you've noticed that there is a lot more in that loaf of bread then whole wheat.

My limit on packaged foods is 5 recognizable ingredients. Anymore than that, and it tends to be fairly processed.

It's hard to find a loaf of bread at the store that fits my parameter. And it's pretty hard to find store bought bread that beats the taste - or smell! - of homemade bread!

It's really not that hard to make healthy homemade bread. The hands on time is minimal if you have a heavy duty mixer. I love my Bosch!


Makes 2 loaves

3 cups warm water                 
5 TBL olive oil                        
1/2 cup honey                         
1 1/2 TBL yeast                       
8-9 cups of whole wheat flour  
1/2 tsp salt                              

First, I put my warm water, oil, honey and yeast in my mixer. If you'll measure out your oil in the measuring cup you plan to use to measure out the honey - and swirl it a bit - it'll keep the honey from sticking to your measuring cup. Turn the mixer on a minute to combine ingredients.

Add your flour and salt. Put 8 cups of flour in to begin with, and you can add the rest of the flour as needed.

This dough is too wet so I added 1/2 cup more flour at a time until the dough cleaned the sides and center of the bowl. Don't add any more flour after this or your bread will be dry.


I let my mixer mix the dough with a dough hook for 10 minutes. I have to set the timer or I'll forget it.

I let the dough rise for 30 minutes or until it doubles in size.

Then I butter my pans and my hands. I divide the dough into 2 pieces. I roll each section of dough into itself, creating a log and put it into a pan.

I set my oven on the lowest temperature it will go - 170F. I let my bread rise for 30 minutes again - this time in the oven. I have found that if I let it rise on the counter top I have a habit of bumping it on the way into the oven to bake and it falls. This prevents that mishap.
Plus it rises much quicker in a warm oven.
When it's almost to the height that I want it, I turn the oven up to 350F and set the timer for 30 minutes. It will rise just a little bit more as the temperature rises before it starts to bake.

As it starts to brown, I put a piece of tin foil over the top of the loaves to keep them from burning.
Once they are finished baking, I let the loaves cool for a minute on the baking rack before taking them out of the pans.
If you leave the bread loaves in the pans to cool completely, you will have soggy bread!

Let the bread cool completely before slicing. If you slice warm bread, it will tend to gum up on you as the bread actually continues to bake a bit inside as it cools.

Note: I was a little distracted making this bread - cleaning, cooking, and baking for company coming this afternoon, plus overseeing homeschool work of 4 children and chasing a toddler out of the pantry! So, I accidently put too much yeast in the dough. That's why the bread is so tall. When I checked on the bread just a few minutes after putting it in the oven to rise, it was so tall, I was really afraid it was going to fall! It didn't! So Happy!!

I love these bread pans I use, as they make the bread the perfect width for sandwiches. When I ordered the pans, I ordered a lot of them! Let me know if you are interested in one. I think the cost was about $8 each.

I ordered so many because we made bread to sell at the time.

I also thought it would really save time to make 6 loaves of bread at a time - the number that will fit in my oven.

This is a mistake unless your family can eat 6 loaves in 2 days.

Homemade bread, without all the preservatives, will dry out quickly, even wrapped up well.

As quick and easy as this bread is to make, my family is much happier with me making fresh loaves every other day.


Take Time to Enjoy the Beauty of Fall

The turning of the leaves and cooling of the temperature calls us to slow down for a moment.
The beautiful fall leaves only last a short time.

Best fall activities? A hike through the woods, jumping in the leaves, a brisk cool morning walk.

Just looking out on the colors of nature is soothing to the soul.

Leaves, leaves, and more leaves. They turn colors, fade, and fall so quickly. Causes me to stop and contemplate the shortness of our own lives. Make the most of each day!

Make sure you take a moment to stop and enjoy the beauty of fall!

Before long this view will be the black and white and gray of winter.


Even the honey bees have slowed down their activity. They've stored up for the winter and are busy keeping their hives warm.

A tree of every color.

Make Yourself a Scarf

Fall is here and winter is just around the corner. So are the holidays! A scarf is a great accessory for those cold, windy days ahead. It's also a useful item anyone would love to receive as a gift!

Here is an easy infinity scarf pattern I created that you might enjoy.

Queen’s Lace Infinity Scarf by Little Monkey Shop

Yarn - Worsted 4: Medium – 2 balls                         

Crochet Hook – Size J

Yarn Needle - optional


ch – chain

st – stitches

sl st – slip stitch

sc – single crochet

dc – double crochet

hdc – half double crochet


Row 1:  Chain 24.

Row 2: (dc, ch 2, sc) in 4th chain from hook. *Skip 3 chains, (2dc, chain 2, sc) in next chain.* Repeat * to * to the end of the row.

Row 3: Chain 2, turn, (dc, chain 2, sc) in first chain 2 space. (2 dc, chain 2, sc) in each remaining chain 2 space across to the end of the row.

Row 4-90: Repeat row 3

Join ends by slip stitching ends together or sew together with a yarn needle. Weave ends in.

Adjust the length of the scarf by taking away or adding rows after row 3.

Finished scarf is 6.5 inches wide and 56 inches in circumference.

Leave me a comment if you have a question about the pattern.
Finished scarves can be purchased on my Etsy shop Little Monkey Shop. Custom orders welcome.

Please do not copy, sell, or redistribute this pattern in any way. You are welcome to sell finished items. Please provide this link to my etsy shop when selling finished products online.
Pattern by

Thank you!

What's in your Salt?

As we all seek to eat more real, whole foods, and less processed foods, we are getting good at reading food labels. We know not to buy anything that has a million items in the ingredient list, especially foods containing many ingredients we can’t pronounce or that we don’t know what they are.
Something we don't often think about though, are the seasonings that we add to our food. Have you looked at the ingredients of your salt, pepper, cinnamon, or seasoning blend?
Salt is one seasoning that will really surprise you.

Here's what Real Salt says about most salts on the market today.
"Real Salt means – well, real, authentic salt. A quick glance at the ingredients label on most salts might surprise you! Many salts contain anti-caking agents and even dextrose (sugar). Others have been heat processed and stripped of their natural trace minerals."

Natural sea salt contains more than 60 trace minerals giving you many health benefits.
Ready Nutrition has a whole list of all the benefits the come from natural sea salt.
These benefits include boosting the immune system, weight loss, relief of itchy skin conditions and improvement of overall skin hydration, and regulation of cardiac, muscular, skeletal, endocrine, respiratory and even mental health.

Frontier Coop and I agree - "Although sea salt and processed table salt contain about the same amount of sodium — so neither offers an advantage for those concerned with sodium consumption — many consider the naturally harvested, minimally processed, additive-free and mineral-containing sea salt to be the tastier choice."

When we choose table salt over natural sea salt were missing out on a lot of micronutrients. Though natural sea salt cost quite a bit more than table salt, it's definitely a situation of "you get what you pay for."

You can often find natural sea salt at your local grocery store, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's, and online at Amazon, Vitacost or Frontier.