Sunday, January 29, 2017

Having a Hyggeligt Weekend Because I'm Cold Even Though It's Not That Cold Outside

While we have had a significant lack of snow or cold weather in general, it has been very gray and wet and gloomy. Sunshine is rare and fleeting, and most days are cloudy with that damp feeling in the air that goes right through you and makes you cold, even though the air itself is not actually cold (and, in my opinion, is a much worse way to be cold). The bright side is that it's quite conducive to cozy indoor doings (here comes that over-hyped hygge word again!).

These cookies? Amazing! I used this recipe for these oatmeal cranberry white chocolate cookies. Easy to make, delicious to eat. I got top approval on these from all ranks (which is rare around here). 

I've found that I really like making soup. This is a Tuscan 7-Vegetable (they serve it in my cafeteria at work). I tried to find a recipe online, and this seems to be the one. I minced more than I diced so it looks less chunky, but it's so full of flavor for not many calories at all.

I haven't got any projects in the works, and this makes me fidgety, so I cast on some socks. I'm digging this colorway (for those of you curious the yarn is Knit Picks Felici sock yarn (that green bit of yarn is a lifeline).

 Our paper includes the NYT crossword on Sundays. I do it with my morning coffee. Or as much as I can--today's was a bit of a bugger and I lost patience.

And no weekend hygge-fying is complete without candles. I bought unscented votives as I seem to be getting more sensitive to certain candles. And that holder on the right is from Target's dollar spot--which turned into the several-dollar-spot for me this afternoon.

Throw in my dad's birthday, homemade jambalaya (which, though yummy, was a touch over my spicy threshold), cake, and the whole family over at once and it was a delightful weekend. Even though I've struggled to stay warm though most of it...("Sounds like a personal problem....don't touch the thermostat," as my dad would say).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Faux Leather Double Zip Wristlet

You've probably noticed I haven't been sewing much lately. I don't have an aversion to it, as once I'm going I'm wondering why I've slowed down with it as I love every last tactile bit of it. It's just one of those weird things, or a lack of inspiration, or a case of "how many more of those do I need?"

But anyway, my mom's little wristlet I had made her a couple years ago was looking a little worse for wear, so I made her a new one. She dug through my wee stash, made her choices, and I spent the afternoon sewing and not touching my seam ripper even once. I made a cutting miscalculation (which should surprise no one) so it ended up a touch smaller than I would have liked, but not by much.

I have had that fabric for such a long time. It's kind of like a faux leather, but soft like fabric and backed with a thin woven layer. It feels soft and supple and doesn't smell like plastic. When I started to sew about ten years ago I used to buy all of my fabric at Walmart because Joann's was such a hike. This was a remnant they had. I used a chunk of it to make a purse for my (now) sister-in-law Ashley, and a bit for this (I have a small amount left still). I would definitely use this for a handbag (if I could find it again)--it has a really nice feel to it.

I had a really long zipper, so I cut it in half and attached two silver pulls. It ended up being just the right length. I had sold off all of my hardware stock (I thought I had saved some but I guess not) but I managed to find a silver clip (my natural instinct would have been bronze). I'm glad I only had silver--I really like the way it looks. I think it gives it a western vibe--saddles and leather and bolo ties and whatnot.

I used the ruler fabric as the lining on this purse, too. I remember being little and at my grandma's house, and she had rulers and yard sticks with business names on them. I thought that was such a nifty idea. I don't recall seeing those things at home, and as she lived in a tiny western Pennsylvania town I must have thought it was something only small businesses in small towns did. You definitely don't see anything like this anymore. Except as fabric, obviously.

My mom is pleased as punch with her new purse, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. If you'd like to make one I've got a tutorial for it here. It only took maybe two hours to put together, so it's a nice afternoon project.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Eliminating Some Noise

Hi gang. Just a quick post today (though I do have a cute little purse I made to share with you). Well, I say quick, but we'll see.

Life is noisy. And I don't mean decibel levels. I mean mental noise. Never before have we had so much access to so much information. And while I do appreciate quick updates on news items and a quick way to find out who was the person in that movie that time, the rest just fills my brain with nonsense. Between Twitter and Facebook, I feel this 'need' to keep up with things. I find myself constantly checking on things that don't matter, or looking to see what that girl from second grade who 'borrowed' my novelty eraser and never gave it back is up to. I can't stand it anymore. Please note Instagram is not included in this--I love that space.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately on hygge and mindfulness and awareness. And I've realized that in those moments were I should be present, I am not. I am scrolling through nonsense. And as I'm scrolling I'm thinking "This is stupid. I don't care. That's fake. I know you--your life isn't that peachy." So why bother? Why, indeed. So I'm not.

I've deleted my Twitter account, and this weekend I am planning on getting rid of my Facebook account, too (both personal and for this blog). Over the past month or so I've noticed how much better I feel being present in my life instead of glued to a screen due to some weird mental issue of the 'need' to check everything. So I'm going to eliminate those things that detract from the type of life I want. Which is present, and aware, and seeing what's in front of me instead of a false reality presented through the haze of cyberspace.

I don't know how many (or if any) of you followed me in those places, but if you did I just wanted to offer up an explanation of why I've left those buildings.

See you soon!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Review: The Art of Stone Painting

Recently, I was asked if I'd like to review a book on stone painting. The cover and accompanying materials were so inspirational to me that I said "Yes! Absolutely!" And so here we are, with 'The Art of Stone Painting' by F. Sehnaz Bac.

I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover (metaphorically) but isn't it so stinkin' adorable? The color and pattern play took the express train right to that place within my soul that makes me gasp and think "Yes!!!!! That's the stuff!" 

OK, deep breath. This slim volume contains everything you need to know to successfully paint stones (including how and where to find the best ones, and even make the not-best ones perfectly usable).

That's only half the table of contents. The book kicks off with a review of the necessary materials, all of which can be had quite easily at most craft stores (or perhaps already within your stash).

Each section describes the process for completing that particular design, as well as tips for different looks.

One of the things I like about this book is that while the artist is showing a lot of detail, the process can really be as simple or as fancy as you'd like, making this a great activity for kids and adults to do together. Not an artist? Yeah, me neither. So find an image you like, trace it onto the stone, and color it in. Or follow her simple outlines to improve your drawing skills. 

These can be used as paperweights, as garden decor (properly sealed), and as gifts. They're so very artsy looking that people might think you paid a nice bit for it as a souvenir from your vacation. And the arrangements in the book are so fun to look at. Check some of these out:

Not a fan of having actual cacti in your home? How cute is a pot of painted cactus stones that won't hurt you or your pets, and also don't require any care?

How cute in the garden or on your porch?

Collect rocks and paint them with your favorite theme.

Don't trust your drawing skills? Doodle! Doodling is an art form--just because we frequently do it while 'on hold' on the phone doesn't make it any less so.
With a little bit of drilling know-how and some hardware (and the right sized stone) you can even make pendants. How fun could these be to wear?

I really enjoyed reading the author's story. The Istanbul native studied archaeology, restoration and conservation, and worked for two decades on many Turkish excavation sites. After a long-fought (and won) war with lymphoma, she turned her technical and drafting skills to this art form, inspired by nature and rendered in various media. She currently lives on the Adriatic coast in Italy. She sells her designs in her Etsy shop (and I kind of want all of the things). You can find the book here.

Seriously--doesn't this look hard core therapeutic? I'm very curious how many rocks I'll come home with when I'm out and about now that I 'need' them.

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Potholders: Then and Now

When I was little, I received one of those plastic potholder looms for Christmas or my birthday. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of you had one as well. I remember sitting with my mom and my grandmom, pulling those little nylon loops over and under, making what were surely the world's greatest potholders (out of a meltable substance, mind you--what were they thinking back then?). I, of course, bestowed these upon my mother, who hugged them to her chest and claimed as mothers do "I love them!!!! I can't believe you made these!" For reasons I now understand, she didn't use them often. Actually, I'm pretty sure she only used them when I was standing right there and said to her "Why don't you use the potholders I made you?" She would always say one of those mom things like "I don't want to mess them up" instead of telling you they'd be more useful in a gnome home than a human home.

Even then I had that "I'm pretty sure I messed up but I'm gonna just go with it" attitude. I remember doing the peach and mint combo because my mother loved it, and the blue and yellow because they were my school colors.

I even somehow made the same mistake on both...and still went with it. When you're between the ages of five and seven such things are expected and acceptable.

Fast forward too many years...every year my grandma insists on sending us a wee bit of money for Christmas, no matter how much we ask her to keep it and buy herself something nice. She refuses (as grandmothers do). I usually buy myself something crafty, so this year I put her gift towards the grown-up version of the much beloved potholder loom.

Ignore the part where it says it's a 'best toy for kids.' The term kid is relative. The standard sized loom produces about a five inch potholder; this one kicks them off at about eight inches (which is much more acceptable to someone like me who would wrap themselves in asbestos (if it was safe) just to take a tray of cookies out of the oven).

I stalked the mailman for the package and tore into it like a kid receiving something way cooler than a potholder loom.

I don't remember which my wee little loom came with, but it was either the crochet hook or the other hook (definitely not both). This loom is of nice, sturdy metal and the tools are perfect for the job. The loops even have been upgraded--they're now made out of cotton (which won't melt). The kit comes with a bag of loops, but I also ordered a bag of all white as I knew that I would want to use that as a main color.

I spent a happy morning over Christmas break looping and weaving and grinning.

I used Google Images for ideas on color layouts. I made two before my hands needed a break (as you get towards the end it becomes a bit more difficult to weave the loops through as things become quite tense).

The instructions say to just pull that last loop through and it's done, but I'm inherently distrustful of 'finishing' instructions like that, so I sewed a few stitches in there to keep things secure.

Wanna see the stark size difference? Remember--these recent makes finish at about eight inches square.

So I expected my poor mother to extract things from a very hot oven with these teeeeeeeny little things. The thing about moms, though--she saved these. Not in a box in the attic or in the closet or something, but in the drawer in the kitchen where she keeps her dishtowels and cloths and aprons. And I bet if I asked her she'd say she likes those old things better even though she doesn't use them (and even if she's lying, haha).

I'm going to mail these to my grandma with a note telling her the wherefore and whatnot. She can use them as potholders, trivets, mats for her potted plants, whatever she wants. I'm pretty sure she'll get a kick out of them.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cozy Winter Weekend

I've been trying to be more conscious of being in the moments of my life, of putting the phone down and doing what I'm doing. I'm not always successful, because sometimes I just get stuck in a social media time-suck and emerge from the other side with a "What? What happened?" look on my face. But I try.

This weekend was perfect for enjoying little moments. It started with a Saturday snow storm. We only got a few inches of snow, but it was cold and windy and a great day to stay inside. We took down all of the Christmas decorations last weekend, and this weekend we hauled them up to the attic. We shoveled snow, we lit a fire in the fireplace, I baked cookies (chocolate chip but with butterscotch chips instead of chocolate), my sister practiced her hand-lettering and calligraphy, my mom and dad cooked up a pot of soup--it was all just so very cozy and delightful. Sunday morning we had a big breakfast, I finished my crossword puzzle (!!), and I made gravy and meatballs for dinner (I rarely cook, so when I do I feel like it's worth a mention). 

I didn't take any pictures, because I think if you're trying to embrace hygge you don't stop to take photos. But this afternoon, when I was taking pictures for my next post, the setting sunlight was coming through the curtains in just such a way that I had to snap a photo.

This was at about four this afternoon. I know I'm in the minority, but I do so love the early sunsets of winter. I feel that if you look at things as a thing of beauty you forget the negatives that go along with it (like my aching back from shoveling snow and lifting heavy boxes of Christmas decorations).

I'm off to crochet a bit before I tuck in for the night. Have a good Monday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Trego Cardigan

Hello! I made this sweater last year, have worn it several times, and have just now (again) remembered that I never shared it with you. I absolutely must because it's so comfortable, it was easy to knit, and the color is beautiful.

This is the Trego sweater, found here on Ravelry. My reason for making this was to use up some stash yarn I had (Stylecraft Special Aran (weight) in Silver). The yarn is super soft, and almost has a reflective quality, as it has a very subtle sheen. As it's acrylic, it is quite warm, but it's super soft and cozy and perfect for cold winter days.

The sweater is knit top-down, and then the buttonless button-band added at the end. I tried it on while it was in progress and thought I was pleased with the length, and while it's okay, another inch or two would have made it so perfect (for me--it's a personal fit taste thing, as this sweater is by no means too short; as a matter of fact my mother keeps telling me to knock it off and that it fits just right).

I followed the pattern exactly as written, and had no issues. The only true thinker spot in the whole affair was maintaining the sleeve stitch pattern in the underarm section--I simply followed what I had visually and made any adjustments that felt right. Luckily winging it worked this time. I really like the subtle changes in the stitch textures--they really work together so well without overwhelming anything.

One thing I really liked almost seems silly but it really makes a difference. See that bit of stitching that contrasts with the ribbing? What you do is knit the sleeve down to where you think you'll fold the sweater cuff up, knit a row, switch back to rib, and finish the cuff. That momentary hiccup in the stitch work keeps the cuff folded right where you like it.

I've received some lovely compliments on this sweater--most along the lines of "It looks so cozy!" And it is. If I made this again I would definitely use wool for more breath-ability. If you're an advanced beginner knitter or higher, I definitely think you could successfully give this a go.

And while we're speaking of knitting, I've uploaded all of my yarn projects to my Ravelry page and added a button at the top of my side bar in case you'd like to check it out. I feel like I should really have a lot more things to list, but I think a lot of the afghans and other things I've made were way back before I blogged and took photos of everything. It seems for all the stitching I do I should have hundreds of items up there...

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I had some dental work done today so I'm going to go hunt down some ibuprofen. Cheers!


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