Sunday, July 16, 2017

Back to the 'dale

More often than not lately, I turn the idea over and over in my brain of discontinuing keeping up with my little space here. I make a barely measurable fraction of what I used to, and Instagram makes it so easy to quickly share those life snippets that used to be saved up for paragraphs and paragraphs. But then I think "No...not just yet." And so here we are.

Life has certainly been busy, though. Birthday parties, graduation parties, picnics, mountain trips, and the annual hop west on the 'pike to visit my dad's side of the family. For the first time ever, I did not emerge from the car needing a nap, a gallon of hot tea, and utter silence. The dog behaved, there was minimal traffic, and turnpike rest stops have upped their healthier food options.

I sat my rear down on Grandma's porch with some knitting (of which I have no pictures--the yarn started as a shawl, decided it might like to be a sweater, and then changed it's mind again to try life as a baby blanket) and my camera, and chatted away the hours. I switched it up with some reading--

I bought this book in a thrift shop in the mountains a few weeks ago. As though it's not nerdy enough reading this for fun, I'm also picking out all of the mistakes an editor should have picked up on. Some of the work is amazing, though--I feel like a rock star when I knit socks, and there is a shawl in this book that is six feet square and of a lace so fine the whole thing can pass through a wedding ring.

But then there's also nonsense like this:

*Ahem* "Approximately 2,650 stitches were cast on and worked in a gauge of twenty-two stitches per inch." Can you imagine? I'm over here like "Cast on 80? Are you kidding me??" I would love to watch these knitters from centuries ago--the speed at which they must have worked has to be mind-boggling.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day in the 'dale, and my grandma's yard is always pretty.

I have a thing for red and yellow. And sunshine.

This cardinal must have been  about 150 yards away. I got up to get a better angle (and a more stable shot) when the little jerk flew away. The cardinal in my yard does the same thing, so they must have some secret cardinal network to alert each other when I'm trying to photograph one.

There is some beautiful light green moss growing on this tree, that I couldn't quite capture. I'm looking at this photo now and wondering why I took it--and I'm pretty sure it's because it reminded me of something out of a fairy tale.

This kid. Oh, my heart. I remember when Z-man was this exact age, and I can't believe how quickly time goes. This is at my aunt and uncle's house on Saturday for our family picnic. It was kind of chilly when the wind blew, but the kid wanted to swim. There was a small crisis at the start of things--A-Train alerted my uncle that "We've got a real bad bee situation going on. A really bad situation..." Which was the discovery of this--

Yellowjackets are nasty things, but there didn't appear to be activity here after they were sprayed. My Uncle Rick and A-train decided a sign was needed, though--

I was then told "Hey, that sign could be about you when someone tries to hug you!" El. Oh. El.

It's always nice to learn that certain things are genetic and that you come by them honestly. One of those things being an appreciation for things like this:

That gnome is eating healthier than I did. I'm slightly afraid to get on the scale tomorrow...

My aunt set up the desserts in the garage so people wouldn't have to keep running upstairs for food. A-train decided immediately that it looked like some kind of dessert shop and sat there yelling like a street vendor--"We've got cupcakes here!!! I've got strawberries and pineapple and lots of fluff!! It's all free! Come on by!" When I went to get my dessert he came around the table saying "Let me get that for you ma'am! Just say when! These strawberries look great--how many would you like?" I had to go multiple times because how could I not when he was the cutest little salesman? "It's all free! Just take it and enjoy!" (I said cutest, not best). He even filled cups with ice so when people went to get drinks he'd have that ready for them, too. He's so adorable it makes my heart smile.

I think this is the first year ever Z-man didn't go with us. I get it--when you're fifteen and it's summer you want to hang with your friends. But still. He'd definitely have been placed in the 'tall' section of the grandkids photo (actually, I think we'd all be in that section--we are not short on height in my family. See what I did there? Hahaha!). But we've got one on leave from the Marines, but two others couldn't make it--one day we'll all make it in.

A-train and I both have slightly impish looks on our faces (because we were whispering schemes to each other before this photo snapped).

No good picnic winds down without a fire and s'mores--

There was a memory-sharing session about my uncle who passed away a few months ago. I left before that started and I'm glad I did. I loved him very much, and listening to things like that destroys me. I remember that same uncle showing some old family photos he had arranged and set to perfect music right after my grandpa died, and I blubbered like a fool the whole way through. When I went in the kitchen to get a tissue my mother said "Well why are you watching it if it's making you sad?" and I told her "Because it's beautiful!" Welcome to my brain, folks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Young Mr. A-train had his fifth birthday this week. With that one starting kindergarten, and people asking if Z-man is going to get his driver's license when he turns sixteen I'm not exactly feeling youthful (until someone says to me "What are you, twelve?" and then proper order is restored unto the world). He absolutely loves his bike and his big wheel, and the pedal car he got for his birthday, and as he likes to make his imaginative play butt right up against reality, I decided to make him a few traffic signs out of foam.

I've never worked with foam before, but I rather enjoyed it. There was something sensorily pleasing about cutting into it and arranging it on the background pieces. Much more satisfying than paper-crafting, though not exactly a sophisticated craft medium.

I ended up making six signs in total--stop, yield, no parking, speed limit, and 2 hazards (because I didn't want to waste the extra yellow pieces I had cut)--

As always, don't look too closely as you'll see some oopsies in there, but overall I really like the way they turned out.

I think the speed limit sign is my favorite. I was going to make the limit a more of a realistic big-wheel speed, but A-train would tell me "I go way faster than that, Aunt Bee." To get the fonts and sizes right, I tried for about four seconds to free-hand those, and then said some adult words and printed off some templates from Google Images to trace in reverse.

The yield sign cracks me up with the crooked letters. We joke that it looks like it reads as "Yield? I guess? If you want? I'm not sure..." The stop sign I needed my sister's help with--I do not have a math brain and there are eight angles and eight sides and that's just way too much to deal with on a Saturday afternoon. Wanna know a secret? The 's' is on upside down. It's all I can see! But A-train is five, and has zero cares to give. It's really his nutty auntie who will be driven mad by this.

I used a thicker piece of foam for the base, and then bought the self-adhesive stuff for the details. I bought everything at Joann's. I bought some square sticks (where they sell the wood stuff and dowels) for them to be stuck into the ground, and simply glued them to the back and secured them with black duct tape).

I should have bought the next size up as these were not super sturdy for poking into the ground, but I didn't realize that until after they were made. However, my brother-in-law added some sturdier bits of wood to them to make them play-time ready instead of 'for display only.'

Of course now as I'm driving my brain is a constant whirr of "Ooo, I could make that one! Ooo that would be easy!" Because, again, I'm twelve.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fill Me Up, Buttercup (with Cheddar, Indigo, and Tangerines)

Remember in the old days when I used to sew bags all the time? Like multiple bag posts a week, sometimes? I wonder when I had the time for that. Not that life is so different and so busy now, but I have no clue where I got the energy for it. I guess one of the first hints that I'm getting older is that my back now protests if I spend too long standing over a table and cutting or hunched over my sewing machine stitching.

ANYway, last week I finished up a bag, and I've been giving it its test run this week and have found it to be quite acceptable.

This bag is the 'Fill Me Up, Buttercup' tote by u-Handbag. It's quite oversized for my usual needs, but I do like carrying a bigger bag. The handles are a generously sized pair of thirty inch leather handles in tangerine. The fabric is from the new Cheddar and Indigo line. I interfaced each piece (lining and exterior) with two pieces of Pellon ShapeFlex 101. It feels quite sturdy and strong, but doesn't have the bulk to it that fleece or padding would give. I wasn't entirely sure how it would hold up, but so far so good.

Of course I didn't see any of that fuzz until I edited the photos, but let's focu on those lovely gathers instead, shall we? The pattern called for stitching some basting threads and tugging the gathers into place, but I don't find that method to be what you'd call fun so I just moved along in sections, pleating and pinning that way, until everything was in place and could be stitched down. The lining is gathered the same way--

The closure is a suspension bridge style zipper. I ended up trimming a little too much off the ends, but it's not restrictive or noticeable by anyone but me, so it's what the general public would call just fine.

The lining has my standard zip and slip pockets--

You can see how much space there is. It'll still hold an umbrella, a bottle of water, and a folded up cardigan or the like. And the handles are quite comfortable.

They are piped leather handles that I stitched on with embroidery thread. Quite easy to do, and the leather handles make the bag look store-bought (but in a good way). I tried to fuse some scraps of the lining over the stitches on the inside of the bag, but it doesn't want to behave properly, so I'm going to have to take needle and thread to it and whip-stitch them into place (they're purely aesthetic so I'm in no rush. I also just did my nails, and the way I hand-stitch will destroy them).

Anyway, that's my new bag. For once it's in fabrics that just came out, instead of having been used by everyone while I hemmed and hawed over if I wanted to ride that particular bandwagon, and then hunted like the dickens (and paid too much money) for exactly what I wanted instead of just buying it already.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Destash Giveaway Winner!

'Allo! Just popping in to announce the winner of my fabric destashing giveaway. So let's get right on down to it, shall we?

Here's what was up for grabs:

And here is the winning comment--

Janarama, you're the big winner!! I'm going to shoot you an email, but if you read this before you read that--congratulations!! As soon as I get your address I'll get your goodies shipped to you.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fabric Destash Giveaway!

Hello, kids! I know, it's been a very long time. Three weeks. One and a half fortnights without a howdy-doo, a hey-pal-how-are-ya, a how's-tricks?? So I thought I'd pop back in with a wee giveaway!

I decided to destash a decent amount of fabrics last week--things that are decent scraps from previous projects, or things that I've had for a while that I haven't used (and, if I'm being honest, probably won't use). It's enough that I feel bad buying new fabric, but I don't know what to do with this stack, so I just sit in a state of creative ennui, frozen by my own self-imposed buying restrictions.

So here's the lot--I don't hang onto wee scraps, so there is a decent amount of fabric here. A few things are less than a fat quarter, but there are plenty of full fat quarters, and some larger than that. There is definitely plenty here to keep you busy for a long time. Would you like to see?

Some are novelty bits, some are Christmassy, some are your basic blenders.

There's a mix of designer prints and things from Joann's or other shops of that sort.

I forgot to photograph it, but I also have a bag of Halloween scraps and fabrics that will be included.

So would you like to help a girl out and take these off my hands? Here are the rules:
  1. I am so sorry, but due to the weight of this package I can open this only to those in the US.
  2. Giveaway is open until May 31, 2017 at 11:59 P.M. I will then draw a winner over the next day or so.
  3. To enter, please leave a comment on this post about what you're most looking forward to this summer. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win (you can write it this way to hopefully avoid spammers: youremailnameATdomainDOTcom). I'll also announce the winner in a separate post.
Good luck!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

What's Gonna Come Shootin' Out?!?

Soooo the only reason I'm telling you that today is (was?) my birthday is so I can show you this cake my sisters and A-train made for me. As your classic introvert, birthdays are a conflict between "please don't make me the center of attention" and "don't forget about me either." As I'm inching closer to the door of forty years old, I had a rough time confronting this one. I have always abhorred this growing up business--nobody asked me if I ever wanted to do it, and I don't, and it's not really fair.

OK, so cake. In the interest of trying to watch my caloric intake, I told my mother a fruit tart would serve well as a birthday cake. The female siblings had other pinterest-inspired ideas. Apparently the making of this cake was quite chaotic, and I was warned like so:
"So, Alicia and I [Rachel is doing the talking] made you something. It's a cake. Aaaaand we think it's ok. I mean...the inside should be cute...we think it's was'll have to wait until you see it. But we just wanted you to know it's not perfect. But our intentions were really good. So it might not look just right....but we meant well and we really tried hard. But we just want you to know it might look a little homemade. But it's going to taste good. But it was hot yesterday, and we didn't realize how much harder that would make's not perfect. That's all."
With an intro like that, my brain was swirling with what exactly they were talking about. I thought maybe they went for a rainbow cake and everything mixed on the inside and would be some strange shade of brown. When we went into the kitchen, there was some concern that the cake had shifted in the container on the drive over and that things would be a smooshy mess, and that layers would upend themselves when the lid came off. BUT--the lid came off, and this cake was probably one of the most "me" cakes you could make--

Polka dots, and red icing and the little heart!!! That heart apparently was a point of contention. One sister thought it was verging on "too much" and the other knows that when it comes to certain things I'm quite Victorian in my "more still isn't enough" approach. Rachel told A-train "Don't bump Aunt Leesh while she's writing on the cake." And he didn't. He stepped on her foot instead. Those little fruity gigantic non-pareils were a labor of love, apparently, in getting them to stick to the sides of the cake (and were a fiasco in and of themselves when A-train went to shake the container and the lid was off and they went everywhere). I declared the cake perfect, and that was that.

We had dinner, a bunch of us went for a walk, and then we came back for cake and tea. A-train insisted on putting the candles in the cake--

My mom and sisters were telling him "You have to put the candles in a certain way!" which is code for "symmetrically." He did it the same way he decorates Christmas trees--everything in one spot. It was a bit tricksy lighting the candles and keeping your fingertips fire-free.

The song was sung, a wish fervently made (I even closed my eyes and crossed my fingers, so you know it's legit--I take wish-making very seriously), and candles blown out. I went to cut the cake and was told "Make the first piece a nice big one." As I cut down, something felt funny, and I thought "OH my goodness, this must be what they messed up! I actually feel it!" So I made my two cuts, and was told "OK, take it out." I said "What's gonna come shooting out of this thing?" As I removed the gigantic slice, I heard a bit of a clatter. And this! This was the center of the cake--

Four layers, two partial, stuffed with M&M's, iced all around, with jimmies (you probably know them as sprinkles) everywhere, and red icing with a heart on top. They even picked out the brown candy so that it would be nothing but color.

As they told the tale of how this cake came to be, I could sense the tension that must have been in the room with two perfectionists (but in different ways) and a "helpful" little boy trying to pull off a layer cake in a hot kitchen. I'm surprised they all made it out alive.

And in case you're wondering--it tasted just as perfect as it looked. It certainly made this year's trip around the sun a little easier to swallow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Outside of the Box

Soooo there's a chance I might be a bit of an impulse shopper. Liiiiiike if something is in a really cute package but I'll never use the actual product? I'll probably buy it. If I get really excited about the idea of something but don't get much further than that? I'll throw money at it. Cute shoes that might not be comfortable? They're actually in my 'donate' bag right now. It's never anything overly extravagant as far as price is concerned, but as someone who feels angsty and overwhelmed amid too much stuff, having the stuff unused is worse than losing the money I spent on it (which, again, usually isn't much).

Case in point. Last year I signed up for a yarn subscription service (which didn't last long once I realized the error of my ways). They sent me a nice 'hello' gift, and then my first box.

The gift was a small skein of yarn, a measuring tape that hooks onto itself that you can use to take your own measurements, a few patterns, and a fun little zippy pouch.

My first box was a couple of patterns and some yarn and beads. I actually gave this away a few months ago as the yarn is beautiful, but I knew I'd never get to it.

As time is wont to do, it flew by, and even though I signed up for every other month that time came too quickly, as did my second box.

Along with some patterns and cute yarn-themed goodies, the project was for a produce bag in a nice cotton-alpaca blend. I used the cord for something else, the notebook is used for grocery lists, and the yarn is...somewhere. I didn't care for it as it has no memory, and I'll never use it as a produce bag. So I'm doing really good, right? Gave one away, and dispersed the contents of the other to 'somewhere.'

So I cancelled that subscription once I took hold of my senses. But then I got a tug on the heartstrings. Many of you may have heard of Amanda Bloom's Little Box of Crochet. It's a monthly subscription service that Amanda started with her teenage daughter Jenny. Way unfortunately, her daughter Jenny has been battling cancer for several years and is nearing the end of her fight. I didn't come across this until January, when Lucy of Attic24 announced she was the designer for February's box. So of course I signed up because if Lucy chose it you know it'll be full of color, and because from far away from the UK it felt like helping somehow. The box did not disappoint.

In addition to an adorable box and pattern booklet, there was a crochet hook, buttons, stickers, a stitch marker, a Russian doll pin, and a rainbow of yarn.

The suggested project was a mug cozy. I don't know that that's something I'd use. I have a fabulous knack for dripping coffee down the side of my mug before I've even taken a sip, and I didn't want to make something so cute just to gross it up. I had no ideas on what to make, so I asked A-train. He's so imaginative I thought he'd see something I couldn't right away. He told me I should make a blanket for "baby Henry" (my cousins' son). When I explained there wasn't enough yarn for a blanket he said "Just make a small one, then." So I am still undecided on this, although all I see is something to do with flowers.

I did get the second box, and then cancelled my subscription as I could sense that feeling of "Why do I keep buying these things when I already have too much yarn and too many projects?" 

This one had some beautiful mercerized cotton and some other goodies.

The pattern for this box was supposed to be a crocheted lace scarf. I tried. I really did. I don't think I started fewer than ten times, but this just did not want to work. I do love the colors together, so I will definitely have to find a project for these.

So, that's that. Yep. Not another thing to report.....OK, I'm lying, one more. I KNOW! What is WRONG with me? This one was not a subscription, but for a crochet-along for a beautiful Scandinavian-inspired shawl. The Scheepjes yarn company hosts a CAL every year (I've used their yarns a few times now, and they are beautiful!), and while my primary instinct was to not take part, they introduced a new colorway that I gasped over, and bought right away. I don't have a picture of it in the box as I've pulled it all apart already, but here's an image from the info page:

OK? Tell me that's not gorgeous! 

Again, I tried. I gauge swatched and finally got going. Then I realized...I kind of wasn't liking it for me. It's beautiful in pictures, and I can immerse myself for a while in the Instagram photos, but guys? I have a lot of shawls that I don't wear as much as I should considering the time invested, and if I wasn't loving the feel of this one it didn't make sense to continue. So the small colored skeins (that make up the heart above) have been squirreled away for a floral project simmering in my brain. And the pink of the background is currently on my knitting needles as a warm-weather cardigan (it's cotton yarn). I had to very carefully search for a pattern, and I think I'll be able to squeak this one out. Eventually. Because the section I'm working on now feels like it will never end. It honestly feels like there's a gremlin unravelling as I stitch like the dickens because how can I not be further along yet?

However, I do not lack for shows to binge watch so I think I'll survive it. OH! Speaking of shows. First--I don't know how you all have waited for an entire week to pass by to watch Call the Midwife. I've only recently caught up to what's airing now, and it's torture to wait for Sunday night! BUT if you like shows with strong, smart women you might like The Bletchley Circle on Netflix. It seems to have only had a brief run, but the premise is interesting--a group of WWII code-breakers decide to put their skills to use to solve murders. I've enjoyed what little there is of it, so if you're not wanting something that lasts too long you might enjoy this.

OK, must trot. Because in addition to too much yarn, and always too much fabric (which I swear I'll be cutting and stitching again soon), I also have too many books, so I'm going to go make a dent in that pile. 


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