Friday, June 29, 2012

The Baby Hat

So, as you might remember, I've been working on learning to knit with double-pointed needles. They are best for knitting "tubes," which is the shape you'd use to make a sock, a sleeve, or... a HAT! That was what I was most excited to do, and I decided to start with a little tiny one.
Here it is in progress:
I had some difficulty finding a good pattern to use. It was my intention to make a hat for a newborn, though I found conflicting information during my internet research about what size would be appropriate for a baby of that age. I decided to just go for it and use the yarn above (which is left over from the Labor of Love blanket) to just make a sample.
 Here's the finished product. I was able to test it out on Baby M when I saw her recently. She's 6 months old and the hat is a little small. I measured it at 16" around is probably a little bit for a newborn, but a little small for a 6 month old.

I had initially thought that the real question was how large the hat should be. But, I recognized another problem. The pattern I used didn't have clear instructions for finishing the top, so I tried my best to make it up as I went along. This is the result:
Um.... yeah. For a baby, it might work. Something tells me that when your age is measured in months, you can get away with some otherwise-questionable fashion choices. And Baby M's mom, Ginny, was very generous in her comments about it. Here's another shot of the weirdness:
I'm a little bummed because my plan was to make a baby hat as a precursor to making an adult hat. No adult would ever wear a hat that looks like this. I've got some ideas for how to make it better, and I think I'll need to do some more research. I'll be sure to pass along the next draft!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Bird and the Birdcage

So, while there were too many beautiful things at Homegoods to bring them all home, there were a couple of things I bought and wanted to share with you.

First, "The Bird."
I found this cool little table made of metal with a glass top covering this image. It was a little bit dusty, but a little Sparkle (glass cleaner) and Goo Gone shined it right up.
Here it is in its new home. I was looking for a table to set next to the chair to hold drinks or books or whatever.
Here's the profile view so you can get an idea of how the heights compare. I'm particularly proud of just how well it fits in this spot especially since I didn't measure the space before shopping and or the table before bringing it home. Even still, I think it looks just right!

Second, "The Birdcage."
For a while now, I have been looking for a way to organize my dangly earrings. They have been getting tangled up with one another (and with other stuff) in the flat storage I have in my bedroom. I realized they should be hanging so they could be separated and so I could more easily see what I have. Then, I stumbled upon the Birdcage.
Here it is, hanging in its new home:
I know it looks a little strange on the hot pink command hook, but I had a set of four and three are already hanging just around the corner from this spot where I can hang some clothes.
Here it is all decked out. It's not entirely full yet, which is good! I'm sure the collection will continue to grow.
And finally, here's a close-up of the earrings. I hadn't realized just how great they were going to look all on display together. I've also done some testing since I took this photo and discovered that, with at least some of them, I could slip the whole pair into the same hole. There are tons of possibilities!

I hope you've enjoyed a quick look at the Bird and the Birdcage!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Homegoods Shopping Trip

Last week, I had the chance to stop into Homegoods since I was traveling for work and had some free time on my way home one afternoon. They had lots of lovely things I wanted to show you!

Look at this adorable casserole! It maybe matches my dining room too well (as I'm pretty sure this pattern would camouflage it with my curtains), but I still think it's awesome.

They had lots of storage baskets, including these two. I really like the way these otherwise plain and traditional wire baskets are reimagined in great bright colors.

And though this one completely clashes with the two above, this is great. I like the preppy look with the bright splash of kelly green interior.

This display was familiar to me and might be to you also. I have something very similar to that on the middle shelf on the left side, which I picked up at Homegoods a while ago for craft storage.

Love these blue lamps!

This lamp is also so very cool!

I like this blue Greek key picture frame too.

I love this one too. I think this frame would be perfect for a black and white wedding photo, or a family picture on a camping trip.

Check out this pillow covered with postage stamps. I like it a lot, especially the way the red and blue stamps stand out against the neutral background.

This is maybe the same idea in a bolder, more streamlined style. I love how it says hello and good bye (in French) on the same surface.

And finally, here we have some gold "bamboo" tables with glass tops. Although their style wouldn't really work in my apartment, I couldn't help but notice them!

That sums up all of the neat things I saw during my visit to Homegoods. Stay tuned until tomorrow when I'll reveal the things I actually bought when I was there!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Week Three

The third week began in even more of a crunch than the last. I made plans with a friend who has a difficult schedule to get together for dinner on Monday night. I knew we'd have fun, and that seeing a fresh face might be good for novel writing, though I was a little worried about how much this was going to impede my progress. Over the weekend, I realized I was super behind on reading my book club book. The meeting was on Thursday of week 3 and I usually try to start reading the book on Monday of the week before (week 2 of NoWriMo, in this case). As you might recall from last week, I was reading the Babysitters Club rather than Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuiminated at the beginning of Week 2. I started working on Illuminated at the Saturday that was the beginning of Week 3, 5 days before the book club session. On Sunday, I remembered I needed to renew the book at the library because it was due 2 days later. I logged in to the library website and discovered that there were outstanding requests and renewals were not permitted. YIKES!

So, I spent Sunday evening and as much time as I could muster on Monday and Tuesday reading Illuminated so I could get as much of it read as possible before returning it to the library.
I kept reading on Wednesday and was able to get the book completed before our discussion meeting on Thursday evening while only incurring a $.30 fine at the library. Phew! I was proud of myself when it was over, though then I had to confront the ugly truth:

I was days behind on my writing.

By the time I woke up on Saturday morning, I was still trying to complete the words that were supposed to be done on Wednesday. I spent pretty much the whole day on Saturday writing. Chris Baty (who wrote No Plot, No Problem) recommends a system for getting 6,000 words done in a day, which involves spending three discrete chunks writing - one after each meal - and taking deliberate breaks to do some other activity in between. I had plans lined up on Saturday evening, so I knew I wouldn't be able to implement his system. And, in all honesty, I didn't want to: I was tired of writing!

So, I tried to compromise:
Yes, this is me writing while watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. I enjoyed myself, though I didn't do all that well on my writing. I got through the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday words, which was good. Unfortunately, I had nearly all of Saturday's words, and Sunday's words to do on Sunday. But, I had plans to be out of the house for almost the entire day on Sunday, so I assumed I would fall behind once again.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dusk 'til Dawn

I know I've posted on this blog before about my love of Marc Ecko's Red handbags. I really like the fabric, which is faux leather with a very soft texture that isn't at all sticky. I first experienced this awesomeness with this bag:
This is a the teal Nip Tucked hobo. I bought it in 2009 and have carried it faithfully during the colder months since then. It's super comfortable to have on your shoulder while you're shopping. The fabric makes it heavy enough it's not always threatening to fall off - which I have found to be the thing that separates expensive bags from cheaper ones. (The one strap design also helps in this regard.) As you might guess, the time has come to replace this bag.

Here's a close up of the problem:
I know this bag is pretty casual, and for me, that's perfect. But I think this tassel has sort of crossed the line from casual to messy, which is a problem.

So, imagine my delighted surprise when I ran across this gem at TJ Maxx last week!
Meet the Dusk til Dawn hobo! Here's a slightly closer view:
I'm very excited about it. I was getting nervous that I wouldn't find anything to replace the sad Nip Tucked by the time next fall rolled around. I was so happy with that bag, I knew I wanted to replace it with something very similar.

I was even more excited when I discovered the standard little surprise in the zippered interior pocket!
It's the tiniest little envelope you ever did see, containing this note!
Enjoy? I think I will!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day by marvelousminnie featuring platform shoes

 I suppose I could tell you that Father's Day with my family last weekend was like this polyvore set. It wasn't! I love Polyvore and pretending to be fancy, but it is merely pretending, especially when my family is involved. We did have  great day, though, and I wanted to share a few details with you. 

My dad decided that he wanted a couple of books for Father's Day, and the only other thing he said we could get him was a fishing vest, which he wanted to use to store little parts and other stuff while doing projects at work and at home. My dad has probably not been fishing more than once or twice in my entire life, so I was definitely not excited when I discovered that the new trend in fishing vests is to make them also life jackets. Yikes. So, by the time Father's Day morning rolled around, I had one book to give as a gift. I called my mom to find out what she wanted to do because I was pretty bummed out. I know there are families out there where one gift is the custom. My family isn't one of them, and it felt especially bad because I had a list and tried hard to find the things on it but failed. 

So, Mom decided on Sunday morning that we'd better have brunch (in addition to the planned special dinner) to try to make the day a little better. I offered to bring fruit salad, and then as soon as Mom and I hung up the phone, I scooted over to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients. 

. Apples and bananas...
 with Mandarin oranges...

While I was at the grocery store, I also picked up one more surprise for Dad: 
 And with the fruit salad made and the presents all wrapped up, it was time to go and enjoy the day! 

Mom made brunch, we went to see Rock of Ages, and then took Dad to his favorite burger joint (Fuddruckers) for dinner. It was a great day! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I recently read Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I spotted this in a bookstore in May and as soon as I got home, reserved myself a copy at the library. Luckily it didn't take long to come in. This was one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time!

This book is essentially a biography of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who apparently usually goes by his last name even with family and friends (pronounced "Zay-toon"). Zeitoun had immigrated to the United States about 15 years earlier from Syria and was living with his American wife and their four children in New Orleans at the time Hurricane Katrina struck.

Zeitoun elected to remain in New Orleans while his wife and children evacuated. It seems like he didn't believe the hurricane would be as serious as predicted. He and his wife owned a construction business, so there were materials at job sites that had to be secured so they didn't cause damage to the property where they were located. They also owned some rental properties and he wanted to be there to respond to issues raised by the tenants and to make sure those units were closed up. The description of how he tried to prepare, and how he tried to resolve problems that arose after the hurricane struck, is truly fascinating.

Before the water had receded, Zeitoun was arrested with three other men: one other Muslim and two white men. The story of what happens to them after their arrest is deeply troubling. It appears the police thought that these men, who had banded together to try to save their neighbors from drowning and share one working telephone line, were part of an al-Qaeda cell. They were taken to an outdoor prison that had been constructed at a Greyhound Depot. They were treated in a way that is reprehensible, not receiving appropriate due process and receiving only food that contained pork (which a Muslim would object to eating on religious grounds).

Everything about this book was fascinating. The descriptions of the steps people took to prepare for the hurricane. The impending doom about its arrival. The stories of people surviving. The overwhelming quiet that would prevail in a city filled with water. There is also this sense of "What's going to happen to our hero?" when Zeitoun is arrested, though the tone of the book makes it clear he was released before the book was written, so we don't have to worry that he remained in jail forever.

The most interesting and troubling point the book makes is one I'll leave you with. After Zeitoun's release, the author began doing some research about why he had been arrested. He learned that before Hurricane Katrina occurred, FEMA had been administratively reorganized into the Department of Homeland Security. This makes some sense, but it also means that FEMA's mission now has a counter-terrorism angle, which may be fundamentally in conflict with its other goal of helping save lives. Officials in the government considered the possibility that terrorists might try to attack in the wake of a natural disaster, a time when defenses might be down. I completely understand this line of thinking, and agree with these officials that there isn't much we can do to prepare for that. However, when Zeitoun was jailed at "Camp Greyhound" - the converted outdoor bus station - he spent some time examining his surroundings. Given his background in construction, he surmised that it would have taken a large crew at least a few days to create the jail, though it was not there before the hurricane struck. The author then discovered that in the immediate aftermath of the storm, FEMA concentrated its resources on bringing in prisoners from a state penitentiary in Louisiana to build the jail. Thinking of all the people who died while FEMA was focusing on building a jail is heart-breaking.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Arranging flowers

Unfortunately, this isn't a post about fanciful arranging of exciting fresh flowers. Instead, it's sort of a Dude get on that already project that's just been lingering. I had some faux flowers that needed re-arranging, and this weekend I finally took the time to do the project.

I started with this:
There are flowers in this bottle whose stems were folded up because I had been unable to clip them. I bought myself some floral wire cutters, which is something I should have done ages ago.
Here is a shot of the flowers with the bent stems. Ick. The new wire clippers are to the left.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Next step: add the sand. The sand had previously been in a different vase, which is now filled with the clear glass marbles in the bag on the table.
Here's the finished product in its home!

In tandem with this project, I also clipped and refilled flowers in a different vessel:
It started like this...
I clipped those bent up brown stems and removed the sand.
After having rinsed out the vase, I tossed in the glass pebbles.
And ta da! Here is the finished product. I like the shiny texture of the glass pebbles instead of the sand.

Overall, this wasn't a huge project, but it's one I've been meaning to get to for quite some time. With regards to whatever you've got hanging around at your house, I'll say this: Dude, get on that already!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Week Two

Here's the update at the conclusion of my second week on the NoWriMo wagon:

The second week was more challenging than the first. The book predicted that this would be because I'd be tired of writing or out of ideas. I didn't have those problems specifically. I found myself in the middle of a busy period at work, without much warning. Working hard to stay afloat there took time away that I might otherwise have spent writing. While I did get a few words in on Monday night, by Tuesday evening I was completely burned out. I left work only about 30 minutes behind schedule (pretty good for a busy week!), but then got home and spent the evening eating leftover pizza, watching Gordon Ramsey's TV programs and literally reading a Babysitters Club book. A friend in my book club loaned me the BSC prequel a few weeks ago. I wanted to get it read by our next meeting, so I did need to work on it. But, it's still a reflection of how burned out I was!

Things got a little bit better on Wednesday, when work started to slow down. I had a chance to do some catching up, though by Thursday evening, I had some social obligations I'd committed to before starting the challenge. Including a Twins game! 
 Oh Minnie and St. Paul... we love you even though the Twins got whomped by the Phillies! 

Wheee! It didn't rain even though the forecast called for an 85% chance of severe storms!

I had a lot of fun spending time with friends on Thursday and Friday nights, but it wasn't conducive to making up my word deficit. I will say that one nice thing about being busy is that when I sit down to write my words, I pound them out. No dilly-dallying, facebook checking, or really much wondering what I am going to write about. I sit down and write and that's it. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was even further behind. I spent most of the day on Saturday focusing on writing. I wrote during 4 different blocks of time of varying lengths and was ahead by the time I went to bed on Saturday. Sunday, Father's Day, was another story entirely and I fell behind again. The day was crazed with family obligations and other things, so I didn't start writing until about 10:30 pm, knowing that alarm would be ringing in 6 am no matter what. I did about 750 words (ie, less than half the goal) and then stopped. The story will be continued during next week's summary of week three! 
As I became busier at work and at home, I found that I did have some trouble meeting my word counts. There were some moments when it was a real struggle, and I'm sure these will be obvious when I go back and edit the work later on. I should point out that, for me, writing isn't tremendously difficult. I have the kind of job where I write long, non-fiction pieces all the time. I do research and talk on the phone and other things, but the main output that I focus on is writing. So pounding out 1,667 words in a day isn't a huge deal, especially when I get to make them all up. For people who are not accustomed to writing this much, I'm sure this whole exercise, and the second week especially, is more challenging.
For me, one other piece of the puzzle that I didn't anticipate was the impact it would have on my blogging. I did expect that it would be more difficult to do my preferred 5 blog entries per week because I figured I wouldn't have the time or inclination to write the blog. I've actually found the opposite to be true: I really enjoy the chance to write something for fun other than my novel. I know my characters are good people, but I'm a little tired of them! The challenge with blogging has actually been that I haven't been keeping up with my regular schedule of projects, which are what I write about. I'm reading less and making less of an effort to get out and do things. So, you may see a bit of a reduction in the caliber of this blog as I try to wrap up the novel at the end of the month. Please bear with me and know that I'll get back up to full speed on the crafts just as soon as I can.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My first link-up

So, each week, I see the Make-It Monday link party over at Brassy Apple. She has such an awesome round up of all different kind of craft ideas, I couldn't help but toss my hat in the ring. If you want to check her out, visit her Monday link up here. I'm Number 35 in the DIY category!

Hope everyone had a good weekend. I'm not ready to be back to the grind just yet! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Anchors Away!

Nope, I'm not going sailing. At least not right now! I did, however, just make a bag that would look perfect on the arm of a sailor and I thought I would share it with you.

I crocheted this bag based on a modification of the pattern I used for the Fashion First Aid bag. I decided I wanted a bag that was more of a hobo style and that was bigger. I also though that the anchor pattern would be perfect for summer. I made a gauge swatch to figure out how many stitches I'd need to make (width and height) to achieve the right size. I also designed the anchor shape.I did some googling to look at different anchor shapes. Then, I drew one onto graph paper, which is how I've typically seen crochet patterns with shapes drawn. You could probably do just about any shape you wanted, though shapes that are actually round I think will tend to be more challenging. I considered using a peace sign instead and just couldn't figure out how to use the squares to make a circle. I also chose to use cotton yarn rather than the acrylic yarn I'd used before because I wanted to have something that would be comfortable to carry under my arm even on the hottest days. For this project, I used Sugar and Cream yarn, which is 100% cotton. This is by far the largest project I've made out of this type of yarn, and I'm impressed with its sturdiness. I'm also a little surprised that, though it's not fuzzy at all, it's quite heavy. 

I knew that changing between different colored yarns in this pattern was going to be very similar to what I had done in the Fashion First Aid bag. But, I didn't initially think about how much more challenging it was going to be with a shape that's more complex.
Um, yikes. I knew from the start that this was going to be the inside, but still. Do you want to have that on the inside of your purse? I don't. So, I ripped every thing out up to the cross bar piece of the anchor. I knew that I couldn't really do anything different with the pieces above there. But it was those big strings leading out to the tips of the bottom piece that I was really nervous about. The pattern for the Fashion First Aid bag is really very simple, and you don't encounter these issues. Debbie Stoller's suggestion for multiple color knitting is that the main color goes along inside the contrasting color while you're working in the contrasting color. Her analogy is that the main color is like the filling inside a Twinkie - you can't see it, but you know it's there.

Once I saw the status of my project pictured above, I had the idea that I could invert this. So, while the navy is the filling when I'm working in turquoise, the turquoise becomes the filling in rows where it has to move between two sections, like the bottom four rows pictured above. I also knew that there would be some strips of turquoise yarn on the backside that I just couldn't avoid. (Like the ones on the upper left and lower right corner of the cross bar.) I decided that I would tack these down to prevent snags by simply sewing over them with navy yarn. Here are a couple of close ups of these areas once the sewing was done:

So, when I had remade the bottom of the anchor, and done the sewing, the inside ("wrong side") of the bag looked like this:

I made the strap and stitched it on to give the bag some structure. It has a little, though it's a VERY slouchy hobo. There's nothing wrong with that, but the fabric is pretty heavy and it tends to collapse onto itself. I think I know now why the Fashion First Aid bag pattern calls for a smaller size. But, I'm planning to use this more as a tote bag than a purse so I'm not too worried about it.

Here's the finished product:

If you're interested in other DIY projects, you can check out Brassy Apple's Make It Monday!