Friday, December 27, 2013

52 Weeks of Stash-Busting

Christmas is over and New Year's Day is looming on the horizon. I'm not really a big resolutions gal because I just break it in a month with the rest of the nation and then feel like a loser. So, this year, I'm setting some goals.

Like this gorgeous attic craft room...

With visions from pinterest dancing in my head, I've begun to formulate a plan to transform our bonus room from cavern of crap to sweet WOman cave/crafting haven with a guest space. Aside from a wall of books, the majority of which I'd love to transfer to nice bookcases downstairs, there are DVD's, CD and then a whooooole lotta random items purchased for crafts that never came to pass...but that doesn't mean I don't want them to.

I have found that my etsy shop is a great way for me to create something beautiful and then have a good venue to pass the finished product to somebody else. However, I have learned the hard way that I need to be realistic with the amount of time I have to devote to it, and also to guard my passion. It's wonderful to make a pair of socks that I hand-knit from beautiful yarn and relax, and watch the stitches glide off the end of the needles row by row. When I get to try a new technique or pattern at the same time, it's so satisfying! Making three pairs of basic stockinette socks right in a row to fill an order as quickly as possible? Not so much. It's what turns a hobby into a chore, and it was completely my fault for letting it get to that point. Plus, inevitably, the one color I don't have is what's requested, so in addition an opportunity to cull from my stash is lost.

It was in looking through a small bag of embellishments I'd purchased with the intent of making notecards to list in the shop, but never had time for, that the idea for the year of stash-busting came to me. Sure, I've seen lots of people commit to not buying yarn for a year, but my supply hoard goes a little deeper. From chalkboards to fabric for maxi-skirts and everything in between, I've probably got it. Not massive amounts for each thing, but enough to complete one. From works in progress, to those never begun, I've got plenty to keep me busy for the year, and my goal will be to bring any one of them to completion each week. I will create, photograph and blog about the project and then list on my etsy shop if it wasn't purchased specifically for someone...and cross my fingers that it sells so that I don't end up with the new problem of hoarding said completed items. 

Idea firmly planted, where to begin? I thought a good place would be with the sweater I started for the Summer Sweater Knit Along, which I paused in knitting so I could test-knit the Antrorse Sweater for Shannon Cook. That test-knit was exactly the kind of project that makes me giddy with creative happiness. The front of my sweater is complete and I cast on the hem stitches for the back yesterday, so that I can complete it by next Sunday, enabling me to actually wear the sweater while it's still cold enough to do so. 

Here's to a year of stash-busting, please look for a new post each Sunday night! I'll work on creating a badge, and will post when it's ready, who else has a stash that they'd like to bust along with me?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Testing, Testing...

For a long time, I've wanted to test knit a pattern. Just being part of the creative process, and being able to help a fellow knitter bring their idea to life, is so appealing to me. I was honored to be included in the test group for Shannon Cook's first piece of apparel this fall; Antrorse, which was part of the book, Journey, by Shannon and Jane Richmond. The book is now available, full of gorgeous patterns, and I can't wait to knit more of them. The photography alone makes it coffee-table-worthy, and you'll be gazing at the pages over and over again.

Knit up in Quince & Co.'s Osprey (100% American wool) in the color snap pea, the vibrant green and aran weight yarn were so much fun to work with. A central chevron motif that leads the eye up to a funnel neck that can also be unbuttoned and turned down, make it flattering for almost all body types. Visually interesting and quick to knit, it was instant gratification, which I can't say about my sock weight wonder, Hitch, which is beautiful, but will take a little more time to complete. 

Without further ado, here are a few photos of my finished product, and the work-in-progress. 
Before knitting the left arm.

center chevron panel

Thanks again, Shannon for including me in the test group, and I hope to work with you again soon!

Friday, September 20, 2013

BLT Pasta

With a plethora of tomatoes coming on in my garden over the last couple of weeks, I've been doing a lot of last-minute dinners that incorporate them. There is something so satisfying about cutting into a tomato that's still warm from the sun. Plucking them from the vine, they had the most intoxicating smell! I used to hate tomatoes with a passion-turns out I just hated the slimy seed part, and had tried one too many mushy ones which ruined me for the perfection of a semi-firm tomato on a bright summer/fall day.

One of my favorite quick dinners of late consists of only a few ingredients, but it's so tasty! Start with a few slices of bacon that you cook to crisp and then remove to a paper towel to drain. Put several grape or cherry tomatoes into the hot pan with the bacon grease and cook them until the skins open and then turn down the heat to let them simmer and their juices will create a sauce with the drippings; deliciousness that needs no additional salt or seasoning because the salty bacon does the work for you.

Porter Dark Cherry and Juliet Grape tomatoes with fresh basil

After the tomatoes have had a chance to simmer for about 5-10 minutes, chop the bacon into smallish pieces and toss them with the tomatoes. If you have arugula on hand, it's a great green to wilt into the pan at this point, but I didn't so I just used some basil from the garden for the fresh, green flavor. Toss in some cooked pasta and plate out your portions. I have also used a spinach raviolli in the place of the whole wheat spaghetti pictured and it was also really good. A little glass of vino makes the meal complete. (I started using the luncheon sized plate from Fiestaware, so I can still have a full plate o' pasta with a reasonable portion.)

Bon Apetit!

Friday, September 6, 2013

That's My (Notions) Bag, Baby

Today over on Luvinthemommyhood, Shannon posted about the contents of her knitting bag. I have about 62 project bags stashed around the house, but only one or two sets of the essentials which get transferred from project to project. Sometimes they get contained in their own little bag, but usually they're just tossed in with the current project. Here's what I always have:

A package of stitch markers (locking and regular), scissors, a pen, waste yarn, measuring tape, row counter and a cable needed of some sort. Right now, I'm using an 8 inch cable needle that I've found to be a sock knitter's best friend.

I love using my ipad for the patterns I'm working on. As long as I don't have to make adjustments to what I'm making, I can be paperless which has drastically cut down on clutter for me.
Speaking of clutter-when I'm finished with a project I almost always have a partial skein of yarn left, the band for which I've removed and probably tossed. If you would like to re-organize your yarn stash, Shannon also created a free printable DIY yarn stash ball band that you can print in either skein or cake size.

It helps if you keep good notes in ravelry on your projects so that you can go back and enter all of the pertinent information on the label, but whatever information you can add is better than nothing. Keeping notes on ravelry has saved me more than once. I had a photo of a prior scarf I'd made as an example listed on etsy, and the customer wanted that exact color; thanks to my notes, I was able to reorder the same colorway and cast on.

Now that the kids are back in school, I feel the urge to start purging and organizing my spaces. Closets and storage bins, I'm looking at you!

Fellow mamas of school-aged kids, what projects do you like to take on with the time you've gained having kids back in school?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

School Daze

This morning I woke up at 6:45 and realized my house was still silent...and it was the first day of school. The only alarm I set these days is for my 5am running date, but I've been struggling to motivate for that 4:30 wake time lately as my neighbor, who I've been training with, was diagnosed with a stress fracture so will be resting almost right up to her marathon. Time waits for no mama, however, so it was out of bed for us and into a routine. I try really hard to make school mornings, especially the first day, as stress-free as possible. Even though I woke later than I wanted, the kids were dressed, fed a healthy breakfast (egg and cheese with ham on whole wheat english muffins; a favorite of the whole clan), hair and teeth brushed and then it was off to the front porch laden with supply-filled backpacks and lunchboxes for a quick picture or twelve.

H became increasingly somber as we approached his school, but by the time I left him he was smiling and comfortable in his classroom. Last year, Charlie cried every day for the first few months that I left him but this morning, he was able to say good bye, which was good since there was already one little boy screaming hysterically.

Back home, I walked in the door to be greeted by relative silence-until I realized I should probably turn around and get Jack in from the garage. Laundry whirring, counters wiped, and babe laid down for a nap, I have some free time-I think I'm gonna like this.
Every knitter's dark hour is when they have to insert a lifeline of waste yarn and rip back...If I continued with my modification it would end up being a maxi-dress. Good thing I have some dedicated knitting time today!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hermione Hearts Ron

This summer we've continued our nightly reading of the Harry Potter Series and we're now almost done with book six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I stopped letting the boys watch the movies after number three, as the rating went from PG to PG-13, the language in the movie was more than in the books and it was just getting overall more mature and intense. When reading to the kids, I can edit and it's up to their imaginations, but with a movie you don't have that same control, so boring mom it is.

Along with reading the books, I've found a few Harry Potter inspired patterns, and made this beautiful hat out of upcycled 100% cashmere that I purchased for a custom listing and had enough left to make something else. It is absolutely gorgeous yarn, and has the velvety feel of a pair of well-worn jeans. The pattern is beautiful and the decreases at the crown create an interesting starfish-esque pattern. It's available in my etsy shop and is truly one of a kind due to the upcycled cashmere yarn.

Do you have a favorite hat pattern that you make over and over again? I will definitely be making this one again, but my old standby is the Hannah hat by Pepperberry Knits. I've made at least twenty of them!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sweaty Summer, Summer Sweater


Summer is almost over and it was another whirlwind of park playdates, pool time, vacations, weddings and library visits. I have been a pinning fool this summer with visions of free mornings during the school year dancing through my head, so I should have a lot of blog fodder at the very least. School is just around the corner and I am committing to post at least three times per week throughout the school year.

To kick things off, let's talk knitting. I have wanted to knit a sweater for myself for some time now, and saw through Pepperberry Knits that Luvinthemommyhood was hosting a Sweater Knit-along. I hadn't heard of her prior to this kal, but she has a lot of great posts about both knitting and sewing, in addition to lifestyle photos and crafts.

This Summer Sweater Knitalong can be found on Ravelry with a full discussion board and she also has a pin board featuring a lot of the patterns that are being knit by the participants. I love the idea of this knitalong. You start a sweater at the end of the summer, so that it's actually ready to wear when the brisk autumn days catch us by surprise in our shorts and t's. I am excited to be participating, but have just in the last week or so been able to dedicate real time to it and I'm finally making progress. I chose the pattern Hitch by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

Photo via pattern page on by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark
The pattern as written produces a hip-height three-quarter sleeve sweater. Hip length looks terrible on me, so I was planning to do one extra repeat of the cabled lace motif. However, I didn't read the pattern ahead as carefully as I should, so it'll actually be about four inches longer. Hitch is knit in two pieces, from the bottom up. When you complete the front half of the sleeves, the top stitches are held and then grafted together with those from the top of the back half of the sleeves so that the only seam I'll have to sew will be up the side and under the sleeve in one continuous line. I think I can do that without making it look like a kindergartner stood in for me, but you never know.

The yarn is KnitPicks Palette, which is 100% Peruvian Highland Wool, in the color Mai Tai Heather. I wanted to use a less expensive yarn for my first in case it was a total disaster, but I didn't want it to feel so cheap that I wouldn't wear it, so this is a nice middle ground, wool yarn. It's fingering weight, which means itty bitty stitches for the scale of a sweater, but that will just make the next sweater I do in worsted weight seem all the more simple and speedy.

Here's my progress shot, and I have until September 18th to finish with the group, but the back is all stockinette so it will fly off the needles.

(increases made just before casting on the stitches for the sleeves)

What do you think? Have you tackled an adult sweater yet? I have so many in my queue!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rock-a-bye Baby

It's been almost nine months since the babe joined our family, so it's easy to calculate how long it's been since I've had a full night's sleep. But time waits for no man, so I've been busy knocking projects off the to-do list that never ends (or maybe just magically re-sets with new tasks once it dwindles to a certain level). The big boys were a little envious of the transformation their old bedroom took when it became the nursery, so I've been gathering and gathering, testing swatches and having fun planning a big boy room that will finally be pulled together by next week. However, before I started that, I wanted to get a few more things done with the nursery. I'd purchased fabric several months ago so that I could re-cover the ottoman but never just sat down to do it.

Yesterday afternoon I had to get the sewing machine out to sew the patches onto H's cub scouts uniform so decided I should probably just get 'er done. As for the patches, if I ever complain about sewing the patches on J's man-sized military uniform again, please remind me of tiny sleeve and pocket that is a cub scout shirt. There were no curse words muttered.

As for the ottoman, the biggest thing I learned is that girls who have no patience for tedium should not be so ga-ga over bold graphic prints. Because guess how obvious it is when you don't take the time to match up the pattern?

In addition to the cover, I added a bookshelf above the rocking chair with some of the books we've received for him (board books that aren't tattered, hooray!), and I love the bookend (in white in the nursery) so much that I bought a set in grey for the big boys' room. They're just simple, but not plain, and for whatever reason, they just struck the right chord with me.
I have a fun craft in the works that I'll be able to hang up after his first birthday and I swapped out the hand-embroidered alphabet that I did for this more masculine and simple one.

At almost nine months old (gasp! Really?! Already?!) Jack is just on the cusp of crawling, so I'm pretty sure we'll be swapping that tall paper lamp out for a pendant in a matter of a month or so. I am really loving the look of this one, but wonder if it will be too feminine. I would likely make it myself, out of roving or a super bulky yarn, to cover a simple pendant shade, because I could do it for far less than $70. What do you think?

What are you working on right now? I love to ogle other people's images, so if you have links to your projects, please feel free to include them in the comment! My sister and her family are coming from Iowa for a visit in two weeks, and I vow to have the big boys' room done before they get here, so stay tuned!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What a Chore!

The other day H proclaimed 'I have to do everything around here!' Really? Because I just asked you to put your pajamas in the laundry basket. Then it occurred to me that H and Charlie are plenty old to start having some regular responsibilities. They actually like to do things like dust and vacuum the couch cushions, though apparently putting an article of clothing in a basket ten feet away is akin to capital punishment. I have what one might call minor control issues, so having them do things like swiffer "Argh! You're just getting more dirt everywhere!" or clean the bathroom "Get away from the toilet, there are germs everywhere!" would be counter-productive if the goal was to have them take some responsibility in helping keep our house clean independently. 

Before I finally broke down and hired someone to clean my house monthly, the only time my house really would get dusted is if I was moving furniture around, actually moving, or my mom did it for me. Until now, we've moved every two to three years so that was totally fine, right? Therefore, dusting is the perfect example of a chore for me to 'give away'.

I came up with a chart for each kid that includes everything from brushing their teeth and feeding the dog twice a day to making their beds and weekend chores like helping with their laundry and dusting or wiping down the bathroom counters.

I printed it on a normal 8.5x11 sheet of paper, trimmed the edges and put them in an 8x10 frame with a marker for each so that they could check off their list without having to print a new sheet every week. They're on the bathroom counter so they can look at them as they're getting ready. Charlie's gonna be wicked good at making x's by the time he hits kindergarten.

When I showed it to them, they were actually both really excited. (Really.) H asked if he was going to get paid a dollar per chore, and I just laughed at him. Um, no. Your 'reward' for completing these menial tasks is to live in a nice house that you can feel pride in helping to create. And leisure time. The screen time is a much bigger carrot than 'sense of accomplishment' but whatev' it'll come. 

So far, they have been doing a pretty good job, especially with the weekend chores because they're still kind of a novelty. Either way, it's nice to have a little help, and it motivates me to get the work done first thing while they're still eager to help so that it becomes routine. It's always surprising to me how long I wait to give H a task, yet Charlie is perfectly capable of it at the same time even though he's three years younger. I have so much to learn about parenting, but I guess that's why the first kid is kind of like the first pancake. A little crispy, maybe even slightly burnt, until you get the temperature of the griddle just right for the others. Ah, the guilt that comes with being a highly imperfect mom.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Spice of Life

Like a lot of people, I store almost all of my spices, oils, vinegar and other cooking and baking supplies in the teeny tiny cabinet above the range hood/microwave. Who doesn't love leaning very near an active gas burner to reach the back of said cabinet and have multiple bottles of basil or cumin fall all over them? I know it totally makes my day. Alas, I have been searching for the perfect spice organization for quite awhile until fortune smiled upon me. Or was it the World Market algorithm? Either way, after about an hour of sorting, organizing and yes, trusty label maker utilizing, I am one happy girl.

IHeart Organizing featured kitchen organization last month, so I've been on kind of a nerdy organizing streak, packaging pirate's booty into freezer canning jars as 'snack packs' and purchasing an over-the-door pantry organizer that is still sitting on my washing machine because the pantry door needs to be re-hung to make it fit correctly (j is super stoked when I start projects that cause him more tedium.) but still, the cure to my spice overload eluded me. Until...

It all started when Our Best Bites posted a photo on facebook of a lime glazed quick bread that they'd portioned out into adorable blue and white mini bread pans. What?! I know-I promise, I'm getting there. Clearly everyone else was smitten with them, because a quick scan of the comments revealed World Market as the source of said cuteness. I hopped online and after I put them in my virtual basket, the helpful folks suggested I might like some round glass spice jars. Hold. The. Phone. Why yes, yes I would like them. Actually, I would like thirty-two, thanks! They arrived and then sat on my counter for two days.

Tomorrow morning I'm leaving for the weekend. My first child-free weekend since last December's (2011, not 2012) weekend at the Rock-n-Roll Vegas Half-Marathon. A weekend of girlfriends, laughter, wine consumption and blessed, sacred, uninterrupted sleep. I have a lot to get done before I leave-closets to purge, books to sort and laundry to fold and put away. Naturally, this was the perfect time to organize the spice cabinet.

(Sorry for the iphone pictures)Here's the scary and overflowing before:
Notice that several of the jars are precariously perched...guess how many times they've lost their footing.

After taking everything out of the cabinet, I knew I wanted the bulk of the spices to go in one of the drawers by the stoves so a quick shuffle of contents so that things made better sense and I had a empty drawer. I then matched up all the spices because lord knows when things are that crammed, there are going to be duplicates because sometimes it was just easier to buy another bottle of turmeric than to find the one that you think you're pretty sure you maybe saw when you took them all down to find the coriander last week.

I initially thought it would be cute to paint a square if chalkboard paint and then write each spice...cute unit, it rubbed off the first time. Also, who has time for that? So I busted out my old pal the label gun, and I filled each jar then applied a label so that I wasn't left to later guess what one might be. I was able to fit a lot of them in the drawer, and chose the few that I use infrequently to go back in the cabinet above, but the new jars and labels made the, easily identifiable. My big containers of cinnamon and chili powder went back in the fridge door-I'm sure it's not true, but I heard somewhere along the way that they are better kept there and I'm sticking to it.

The ahhh after. Like Pretty maids all in a row!

I like these jars for several reasons just a few of them being that at $3.99/four-pack they're affordable, they can hold more than a full-sized jar of most brands and they have a wide enough mouth that all of my measuring spoons will fit inside. Next up; baking drawer organization. I know, the excitement of my life is just astounding.

Everything in its new home and I may or may not have opened the drawers about twenty times just to gaze at the shiny little jars. I swear they winked back. And then I made a batch of Banana Nutella Granola to take and share with my girlfriends-organized and yummy smelling kitchen?! It's the 1-2 punch for this girl. Now, I must pack.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mind Your Beeswax

In just two short weeks, I'll be heading to a girlfriend weekend (including time with my big sis, who I haven't seen since our adventures in Aruba last December) in Portland with zero children-the first time you leave any baby is always bittersweet, but I'm definitely ready for the rejuvination that you can only get when you spend restful time with people you love. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that jazz.

Part of the fun of the weekend is that we're all bringing something to share with the group. It's supposed to be something to represent who you are. I love to take care of people and pamper, so I'll be knitting up some chunky cowls and made some fun lip balm today, based on this tutorial by Our Best Bites. From pulling out the supplies to popping lids onto the cooled tubes was less than a half hour. Hands on time was about 5 minutes, and it's just a fun thing to make.

Logo labels-a little shameless self-promotion never hurt anyone.
In the future, I'll use candy flavoring in addition to the essential oils; and I'll use more of the oil. I should know by now to just follow the directions given by OBB because those girls have never steered my wrong, but after just about ten drops of the lime oil it smelled so strong and I got nervous so I stopped at that then added about five drops of peppermint and it has just the barest hint of minty freshness on your lips, but for a basic lip balm it turned out well. Just one batch made 20 tubes of balm and filled a 2.5 oz glass baby food jar. I've been keeping a tub of lip balm in our kitchen stationery drawer, so why not use the stuff I made myself?

As for the cowls, I'm going back and forth between making several different patterns, or just stick to two patterns with multiple colors to choose from; the front runners are Quick Cabled Cowl, Holding Hands Feeding Ducks and of course the Ramona and Poppy Cowls that I've already done before and loved.

Either way, I can't wait to spend a weekend drinking wine, running with my sister, lounging and laughing, and I'm sure there will be some tears as well, just so it will qualify as a true estrogen fest.