Saturday, December 31, 2016

Twenty Seventeen

Hello! As I write this, depending on where you live, you're either sleeping in the new year, or getting ready to welcome it. As soon as I publish this I'm going to put on my fancy pants and head out for New Year's Eve.

If you've been here a while, you'll know I find this to be a sad holiday, one I've gotten away from celebrating, one that causes me to look back on the previous 365 days with a feeling of un-fulfillment and sometimes regret (I haven't done this, I haven't changed that, this isn't how I wanted the year to go so I don't want it to be over yet). But 2016 was different.

When I think globally, I think I would say it was not necessarily a good year--contentious politics, a world gone mad, worries about the future regarding jobs, taxes, and so on. Of course that is all balanced out by the world of good that we don't see on the evening news, but still--the world can make you weary.

When I think personally, however, I have had a very good year. I've had a few relationships that didn't work out, but I was able to pull positive things from all of them that have left me feeling more confident and sure going forward. I've made that extra push to get myself out there, to do things that I want to do, to embrace those words 'no time like the present.' As a result, I'm ending this year thinner, healthier, happier, and more sure of what I want in life than in many previous years. For the first time in a long time, I am not ruing the passing of another year with tears (yes, literally--Auld Lang Syne makes me cry), but am actually looking forward to celebrating the arrival of the new. Instead of looking around in wonderment at 12:00:01 and thinking "How are all of you so happy?" I plan on being one of those whooping in 2017. I have a whole new year of blank pages to fill, and I'm so looking forward to seeing how my story continues. It thrills me to my toes to be able to say that.

It seems I've passed the torch, however. My sister texted me yesterday, and told me that A-train asked what New Year's Eve is. She told him it's when we say goodbye to the old year, and celebrate the new one. And he started crying. Oh he is my nephew for sure. January 1, 1985 is still one of the most vivid memories I have.

When we meet again all of our feet will be planted in 2017 so I thought I'd share one last make from 2016. It's a knitted Christmas bauble. I had a plan to make tons of these, but one turned out to be plenty, and looks just perfect in the twilit window. Ignore the visible floats and bobbles and just focus on the adorable heart. It's kind of a metaphor for the past year, eh?

So anyway--happy new year to you and your loved ones See you on the flip side!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Hi, kids. It's almost Christmas here (and might already be so in your neck of the woods). The house is quiet, I've had my tea, and done some crochet. The gifts are wrapped, scones are ready for breakfast tomorrow, and my cold is on its way out the door. I went to church, where the cutest little family sat in front of us (four little boys who behaved as good as gold and sang their little hearts out). I watched a movie afterwards while eating cookies. I've done as much Christmassing as I can this year, and it's been a joyful season. This is well and truly my favorite time of year, and I'm glad I can eke out a whole month of pure joy from it. I am perfectly content right now.

In order to let you get on with your merry-making (or your recovery from it) I just want to wish you a merry, merry Christmas. And to share my mostest favoritest Christmas commercial ever. Happy holidays, loves!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Murder Mystery Quilt Along: Block 12

If this is incoherent it is because my sinuses are so inflamed they are literally compressing my brain tissue and rendering me incapable of writing anything close to a proper sentence.

At what I can't believe is a year already, I've got my final quilt along block finished. It was a mirror image of the month before, but I still managed to use my seam ripper quite often. So here is almost the same block you saw a few weeks ago:

I took my notes, and the clues, and all of the blocks, and really tried to lay things out properly. I think this might be right, but I have no idea. Right or wrong, I still don't know what I'm looking at. We get the answer at the very beginning of January, and there are supposed to be some great goodies for the winner.

I feel like this shouldn't be correct as that one dark block in the corner irks me, but there's no way it goes in the center which is where I think it should belong. My anal-retentiveness for symmetry will just have to relax and let this one be. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with these blocks right now. Maybe I'll think it's a lot more interesting when I find out what it is.

I am going to guzzle some Nyquil and bury myself in my bed. I'm hoping this doesn't linger too long--it's just a few more days until Christmas, and I wasn't a busy elf all December long just to spend it with a stuff head, sitting upon a pile of tissues.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Winner Winner Yarn for Dinner!

Hi gang! Just a quick post to announce the winner of the yarn giveaway. So who's the lucky duck who will get to call this lot their own?

We had 33 comments. So I plugged those numbers into the handy-dandy random number generator, and it spit this out at me:

So I checked my list twice (taking a page from old Santy Claus's book), and the winner is:

Crafty Tokyo Mama!! I'll be in touch via email so I can get this wrapped up and sent your way!

Happy Sunday, gang!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Thank You!

Good morning! My final shipment from my wee shop was mailed this morning. I'll keep the empty "building" active until the end of the month just in case anyone needs to contact me through it.

Over the past two months, even with things being marked down substantially, we raised $300 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Happy surprise today when I made the donation--all donations made in December are doubled, so we actually made a $600 impact. Awesome sauce!

Thank you to everyone who purchased something--hopefully you're as happy with your things as I am with what we were able to give.

And while I don't think you doubt me, I understand the world we live in, so here is the donation receipt with some info blacked out--

Thank you from the bottom of my toes, straight through my heart, and out my arms in a giant virtual hug!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Two Quick Reminders

Hi gang! Just two quick little nuggets before I head off to do some knitting--

First, the giveaway for this lovely bundle closes tomorrow night, with the winner being picked on Sunday--

This will keep you quite occupied through long winter nights post-holiday madness. See this post to leave your comment for a chance to win.

The other thing--my wee shop is almost cleared out. My plan is to shut 'er down for good end of December, so if you hop over and see anything make sure you pick it up right away. I ship things quickly, and refund all shipping overcharges. Don't forget--any money from the closing sale goes straight to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Click here to shop.

That's it for now! Happy Friday!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Miss Grace Shawl

I spent my weekend finishing up some handmade Christmas cards to mail to some of the folks at work (the field guys who I'm in constant contact with but rarely see). They turned out so adorable. And as my dad just walked out the door with all of the cards to head to the mailbox, I realized I forgot to take photos. You'll just have to trust me that there's plenty of glitter ink, and that they're pretty cute.

But FINALLY I want to share with you the shawl that took me just over two months to knit (but not a constant two months). The pattern has been available for well over a year, and finally I decided to just purchase the kit as it was on sale. And even though it was tiresome at times, I soldiered on until completion (though I imagine actual soldiers would take offense at my using that term for knitting instead of actual soldiering). I've only worn it once so far, but I've already received so many positive comments on it.

The colors are so different from what I'd usually work with--no pinks, no reds, nothing bright and funky. But nothing so neutral that it's boring and bland. The technique itself has been branded as 'tapestry' knitting. I'm not entirely sure why, unless you look at the effect on the 'wrong' side of the shawl--and I say 'wrong' sarcastically as it's just as beautiful (albeit different) as the 'right' side.

On the left of the above photo you can see the smooth color changes. On the right you can see the stitch bumps much more clearly, but it looks like one of those woven rugs or mats or scarves or bags that you see (which, I'm assuming, is where the tapestry reference comes from).

Oftentimes I'll make a shawl, and it's just a teeeeeeny bit too small for maximum wrapping perfection. This one is just right. I'll show you a picture I took of me wearing it for scale, but the light is tricky this time of year and it's not so great--serves its purpose, though.

What originally drew me to this was the dark forms (that's what they call those leafy-shaped parts in the pattern), contrasted with the light neutral. The mid-range brown section is a little more orange than anticipated, but that's due to the hand dying.

I had to use insanely long circulars to knit that border, and there were almost 800 stitches on those needles when I started; that number grew with each round. I never thought I'd finish binding it off, but I did at last. It was blocking on my bedroom floor on Thanksgiving day, and stayed so perfectly put I'd bet most parents wish their children behaved as well as this yarn.

I had to add stitches to each corner to keep the shawl flat--on two of the corners everything was hunky-dory. At the beginning corner, I had a wee bit of laddering. I tried to do some stitching to pull it tighter, but it didn't look good at all. So I decided to do a bit of a crochet chain stitch that laid on TOP of the work to mimic the knit stitches the other corners had. I don't think it came out terrible, and is one of those things normal people will never notice.

Normal corner

My hacked corner

As I worked this piece I kept thinking (and saying) "OH, I will NEVER make one of these again. OH, it's not worth it!" But then I finished it and blocked it and wore it and thought "OK, I won't make one right NOW, but I would do this again for SURE." Funny how that happens...

OK--so for those of you interested in the details of this shawl--
This pattern seems tricky at first, but it all makes sense as you get going. Instead of following the chart in the Skeino pattern, I found it easier to follow this chart and check off each part as I completed it. 

OK, I'm off to either polish my nails or assist with the Christmas confections being produced in the kitchen right now. Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Woodland Wreath a la 'The Mitten'

A few weeks ago I found a lone, unadorned wreath at Joann's. Honestly, it was just so perfect I don't know how it still existed on the rack. I didn't have an immediate plan for it, but I was shopping with my mom, and she's the queen of "You'd better buy it if you love it that much or you'll regret it" so it came home with me and sat on my sewing table for a while so I could formulate a plan.

The wreath cover reminds me of sweaters and mittens and hats (not a big stretch of the imagination, considering that it's knitted).

The first thing that popped into my head was the children's book 'The Mitten.' The book is about a young boy whose grandmother knits him a pair of mittens in white yarn (she tries to tell him he'll never find them if he drops them in the snow, but he insists). Sure enough he drops one, and it ends up providing a cozy home for some cold animals, until...well, you'll just have to read it to find out (haha--like how I went all Reading Rainbow there?). The idea was short-lived as I couldn't find patterns for animals to make that would be small enough, and all the store-bought stuff was way too big. I was going to just knit some cardinals, but they ended up looking like...not cardinals. Or birds, even.

I went to AC Moore (it's like Michael's) to buy...OK, I'll tell you. Remember Colorforms? The little vinyl stickers that you arranged and rearranged to make different scenarios on this coated cardboard base that had a pre-drawn scene on it? Well, they had a Peanuts set on sale and I neeeeeded it for nostalgic purposes. It's quite fortuitous that I went, as I saw the perfect little creatures just waiting to come home with me.

I spent maybe an hour hot gluing and arranging things, and now I have the original project I envisioned. Oh, in case you were wondering, hot glue is still reallllly hot.

I know the berries look very much stuck through the loops, and they are, BUT they're supposed to be growing out of the snow.

It looks like some kind of family portrait, haha. I love their adorable little faces! I think the fox is my favorite.

I had one extra guy I bought that wouldn't fit (but he goes perfectly with the dining room window decorations), but I didn't want him to be left out of the photos as he's so adorable--

My ultimate goal was for a winter wreath, and I think it fits the bill. It has a Christmas vibe to it, but isn't so Christmassy it can't stay out after the rest of the decorations are put away.

If you don't already have it I highly recommend the book. The illustrations are beautiful, the story is sweet, and it's a winter tale that you can enjoy after the Christmas books are packed away when it's still cold enough for hot chocolate and homemade afghan snuggles.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Giveaway for the Yarn Hoarder

Did you ever have one of those weekends that felt longer than it is? Usually the opposite is true, but I had such a nice weekend. I left work early Friday and got some errands out of the way. I then lit some candles, made some tea, and crafted the afternoon away. On Saturday I did a little shopping, made some scones, crafted a bit more, and then spent the evening with the family. And today, I made a winter wreath (I'll show you that next), had the obligatory cup of tea, and even painted my nails so that it looked like an adult did them. It was just simply one of those highly enjoyable weekends where nothing big happened, but was full of a lot of little happy moments. Very hyggeligt.

Anyway, I'm hoping to share a smidgen of my happiness with you in the form of a little giveaway. I had joined a yarn subscription box, and have yet to make any of the projects for the simple reason that I simply cannot get caught up with the other project to-dos I have, so rather than let this languish I'd rather pass it on to a good home. 

Up for grabs is one skein of Sweet Paprika's Grazioso yarn. You can see the delicious yarn make-up here:

This is a lace-weight yarn that is a beautiful silk and linen blend in a light misty green color that I believe is called 'lichen.' Two shawl patterns will also come your way--one crochet and one knit (the knit one comes with a knitting chart). I don't have a good picture of the patterns, but they are available on Ravelry if you'd like to take a closer look. Click here for the knit pattern, and here for the crochet pattern.

Also included is a bag of wee beads that you can work into your shawl, along with a clasp to keep it secure while you're wearing it.

So if you fancy winning this little lot--

--leave me a comment on this post. Make sure it's linked to your email or that you include it in your comment as if you're a 'no reply' commenter I won't be able to contact you if you win. I'll hold the drawing on Sunday, December 18th, so you've got about two weeks to enter. I'll close comments at 11:59 pm EST on December 17th. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Murder Mystery Quilt Along: Block 11

Hi people! I'm down to the next to the last block in this series, and although I've lost my excitement over this project I'm still going to finish. I'm not sure if it's because the quilt itself is not exactly my style, or if it's because it's just almost a year and that feels like a long time for something simple. But anyway, almost done. I submitted my guess for who the whodunnit, but when I look at the blocks and read the bonus clues and so on, I still have no idea. I don't know if real detectives would ever get anywhere if they had to solve crimes in this fashion.

And here are all the blocks together--

According to the block eleven bonus clue--this is a completely incorrect layout. But I didn't do much better following the clue, soooo... It would seem like a decent idea to just stop working on this, but there's a prize basket drawing for correct guess, and another one for completing all of the blocks. And even though being randomly chosen is a slim chance, I always have that hopeful thing that it's gonna be me, so I can't quit now.

The good news is this is almost over and you won't have to see quilt blocks that make no sense to you anymore. The bad news is--tomorrow is December already.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sale, List, Glue - In That Order

Good morning! I know that many of you are busy getting ready for Christmas (or trying to avoid it), but I've got a couple items for you that might make it easier.

First, my wee shop is 'this' close to being emptied out. Things are now on sale for 75% off!! Please note--as the site calculates shipping, it frequently overcharges, and I always always always refund the shipping overages. All proceeds from my shop shut-down sale are being donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society--so you score some great items at a discounted price, and your money goes to cancer research and outreach. Win win! Actually, win-win-win as I get to reclaim some space in the house. I'll post proof of the donation, so you can be assured your money is going where I say it is.

Second--several years ago I made up some adorbs shopping lists to help keep you organized (hopefully). You can find them by clicking here (they hold up best on card stock, but regular paper will obviously work, too).

And finally--I posted this Christmas countdown page, last year--it was always one of my favorite traditions from childhood. Click here for the file.

That's all I've got right now! I've got decorating on the schedule today, and then I'm hoping I can snap pics of some finished knitting projects and get started on making my Christmas cards tomorrow. Have a good one!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Creativebug Sale!!!

Hi kids! I know it's a busy few days here in the States for most of us, but I wanted to alert you to a great deal that's only available through Monday.

I've mentioned here before that I'm a big fan of Creativebug. Normally, for the low price of $4.95/month (and a free two week trial) you get access to all of their classes on pretty much every crafty topic you can think of (baking, sewing, quilting, knitting, drawing, painting, and on and on). But now, until Monday, you can get a three month subscription for $1.00. That's insanely cheap, and you can cancel at any time. That's one George Washington in exchange for access to hundreds of classes for three months. However, this deal is only good until Monday, November 28th, so hurry up if you're interested.

I know December is a busy month, but I often find myself wanting something to do in the long, dark months of January and February. Do you know how many of these classes you can take in that period of time? They're presented in small manageable chunks, so you can work at your own pace, or watch the whole thing in one go.

I am in no way affiliated with Creativebug--I'm sharing this post for the simple reason that I love their site and their courses, and what have you got to lose except a dollar?

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Do you ever find yourself saying to yourself "I'd like to do [this or that] but I don't want to do it by myself?" I say that a lot. For certain things (like international travel or something like that) I feel that it makes sense to not go alone. But for most local things I felt I needed to just get over it and do something I wouldn't normally do alone. So this week I had three mini adventures.

First up--last Saturday I went to see the live Philadelphia broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion down at the Academy of Music. There was an article in our paper, and I decided to just order a ticket so I'd be locked into going short of a true emergency. I was so worried I wouldn't make it as construction made traffic a nightmare, and then I had to work my way through downtown Philly, but I made it just in time. It was so worth it.

The new host (Chris Thile) did a great job. He's not Garrison Keillor, and there was no Lake Wobegon monologue in that soothing baritone, but you can really see that he's going to tweak the show just enough to make it his own, whilst keeping in place the things listeners have come to love. The best part came at the end. A mainstay of the show is the audience sing-along at the end, and this time we sang This Land is Your Land. It was beautiful.

I had a great seat, but part of me wished I had gotten a balcony seat. I always thought they looked so luxurious and elite (which is funny, because they were cheaper). So next time I go to a show (and now I will, on my own or otherwise) I'll be sure to do so.

Next up was the movies. I usually don't go to the movies by myself. Actually, I never go by myself. But at a fairly local theater (one of those delightful old single-screen theaters) they were screening A Man Called Ove, a Swedish film based on the book by the same name. Most people I know don't like to read their movies, but I loved the book so much I really wanted to see it. So off I went.

Oh! I loved it! So well done! The book is so worth the read, and the movie stayed pretty true to the book. It was nice to hear sniffles from other people (sometimes I feel like I'm the only one crying in the theater).

And finally, a day trip. I haven't used much of my vacation time at work this year, so I have some time to use up or I'll lose it. Friday's weather was Indian summer beautiful (can you still call it Indian summer a week before Thanksgiving?) so I wanted to take a little jaunt somewhere. Sometimes I'll take a day and run errands and do the things I've been putting off, but it was one of those times where I knew I wouldn't be doing anything like that and would truly waste the day. So I popped up the question on Facebook asking for ideas. I got a few that weren't what I was looking for, and a few that I had done already. But then there was a suggestion for a place I'd never heard of before--historic Smithville, NJ. I normally get fairly nervous driving in New Jersey, but it was supposed to be an adventure, right? So I put on a cute outfit and headed across the state, dang close to the shore.

Now, where I was headed was a collection of a variety of shops--clothing, gifts, books, food, housewares, toys, and so on. Most things were quite pricey, but I had a good old time walking around and looking at everything. I literally gasped when I saw the light coming in through this window--

This shop had a set-up for every color of glass you could imagine (most from estate sales), and let me tell you--if I had a place for it all I'd have certainly stocked up. I had to sneak this photo, as every shop I went in had a big 'PLEASE--NO PHOTOS!!' sign in the window. But I'm a rebel so I took one. I would have taken one of the red window, but the owner was standing right there. I'm also a weenie and I didn't want him to yell at me, hahaha!

There's a big duck pond in the middle of the village, but most of the day they were just sitting and chilling like this. The benches were filled with older men, who I assume were waiting for their wives.

It was such a beautiful day. Bright blue sky, sunshine, perfect temperatures, not too crowded. I went into a tea shop and bought a peach roobois tea, and snagged a photo of this perfection--

--but one thing I do not need is more mugs. But you can see how I would neeeeed these, right? Don't worry--they're still on the shelf at the store.

I grabbed lunch (a grilled Swiss, crab and tomato sandwich) that was insanely delicious, and headed back. I probably shouldn't have stuffed myself and then driven eighty miles without buying a coffee to accompany me, but after what seemed forever I made it home. All I could think of was trying my new tea in a proper teacup, and eating the linzer torte I bought at the bakery. So my mama and I sat and had a little impromptu tea party and relaxed for a bit.

Big adventures are fewer and more far between, but little adventures are just as good for the soul.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Random Blather for an Afternoon Cup of Tea

Without getting too specific as to avoid any argument, I think we can all just agree that this past week has been a bit stressful, or worrisome, or chaotic, or contentious. The week before was very difficult for me on a deeply personal level, so here's hoping that the last several weeks of the year are cozy, and filled with love and warmth and family, and candy and cookies. 

So light a scented candle, pour some tea (I'm having a cup of spearmint), and join me for a bit of blather.

I went craft shopping last week. I practiced a great deal of restraint, too! I had my hands full of stamp pads and stamps and papers and all kinds of things, and then I literally stopped in my tracks and thought "Wait. How much of this are you likely to use ever again? Will you end up giving this stuff to someone else after one use?" So I reconsidered and put a lot of things back. 

The one thing I have no idea for is that fat quarter--it was just too cute to leave there. But that book (from Joann's) has tons of cute stuff to make, the yarn will be peppermint-shaped dishcloths, the tags will be decorated gift tags (I've got glitter pens and markers on hand--surprise, surprise!), and that little pack of bon-bon yarn will be miniature socks, hats, and sweaters for a garland (OR if I don't get to it I'll set it out as Christmas decor, haha).

The leaves are dried and crunchy, and give that perfectly autumnal rustle when the breeze blows them down the sidewalk. I haven't seen very many in the brilliant colors of fall that we've come to expect--I wonder if it's because the weather has remained fairly warm?

Do you remember Skylanders? They were a Wii game from several years ago, where each character had to be bought in the form of a figurine that sat on a pod. Z-man loved these, and was great at the bribery necessary to obtain them on a frequent basis. A-train and my bil Matt discovered these over the weekend, and immediately set them up to play. The volume wasn't working, but that's fine by me as a listener, as the sound effects worm their way deep into your brain and stay there. Z-man hooked this up to the stereo one year and put it on surround sound at about eight in the morning when he had slept over. I'm pretty sure I came out of my slumber in so sudden a fashion that I literally hit the ceiling.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the low angle of the sun. In the morning my bedroom is bathed in a golden glow that is absolutely gorgeous (but also makes me cringe because I know I have to get up then). The other thing I love is this--

--curtain shadows.

I can't even tell you how long I've been working on this shawl. There was a not-my-fault mishap at the start that delayed this a little bit, and I've been working on it for seven million hours now (give or take one or two). I love the design, loved the colors more online (it was a kit), but I'm very ready for this to be finished and blocked. I'm hoping that happens very soon. The final knitting will go very quickly.  But I have to pick up about five hundred stitches, and ultimately bind off almost eight hundred. I feel like if I can get this done this week I'm going to fashion myself a gold star.

Well, kids, I've got a date tonight. It's with myself, so I know we'll get along fine and have a great time with each other. I'm headed down to the Kimmel Center--they're broadcasting A Prairie Home Companion from there tonight, and I splurged on a ticket. So enjoy your day, and I'll see you soon!


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