May 29, 2014

Bellies, Bobbles and Blankets

About two months ago, the Sailor and I escaped to the beach for a few days, where we soaked up sun, sand and seafood. 

I used the long car ride on the way home to work on some bobbles. I remember thinking that my belly looked HUGE in this photo. Suffice it to say, it is MUCH bigger now that I'm 30 weeks along! In fact, my lap has all but disappeared.

Forget my burgeoning belly at the moment though, and check out those crochet bobbles! I had an extra skein of yarn leftover from making this bag, and I wanted to make a little companion bag to stash inside of the big one. I didn't use a pattern, which is very unlike me, so it took several attempts until I figured out what I was actually doing. 

I'm still not sure what I did (I really should have written down my method) but in the end, it turned out kind of cute, I think.

I also had some leftover giraffe fabric from this blanket I was working on, so I lined the inside and added a zipper.

And then, when I got home, I finally finished the blanket, too. 

The blanket is super squishy and will be perfect for when the Peanut wants to roll around on the floor. If only I had the energy to make one in my size!

May 26, 2014

Excess, etc...

It may come as no surprise to you that America is a land of excess. 

Almost 20 years ago, when I returned home after an extended time in Ukraine, I remember gawking at a grocery store aisle full of butter. My friend and I counted 50 varieties. I'm pretty sure salted butter hadn't even made it's way to Ukraine that year, so suddenly having 49 other options proved more than overwhelming.

We walked out of the store without any butter, slightly dizzy. 

Grocery stores are not the only places that make me dizzy. I've mentioned before my need to declutter craft supplies.

This week, I dove into the scrapbook heap, determined to catch up on a backlog of ideas and photos. (A friend of mine referred to it as 'nesting'... yes... that must be it!) Whenever I had a spare moment, I'd sit on the floor and craft away.

I had quite a successful week. 

However, when it was all said and done, and I finally got around to cleaning up the mess (I desperately needed to vacuum), I went through the stuff that I had and got rid of a bunch of it. (No dear reader, I didn't throw out perfectly good craft stuff... I'll donate it to a thrift store.) 

While I was crafting I realized that having too much to choose from sometimes stumped my own creativity. Or I couldn't find what I was looking for, because frankly, the pile of paper was too BIG

The Sailor has a thing for excess. He never minds me shopping or buying things... as long as it's not in excess. You can imagine then that he occasionally found my craft stash overwhelming. Happily, I've decluttered a LOT of it, especially the yarn

I often hear stories about people stashing their yarn in closets, under the sofa, in between the sofa cushions -- you get the picture. While I admire their tenacity at storing the stuff, I sometimes wonder how can they remember what they have? And doesn't there come a point where they don't want to use any of what they have (because they have too many choices!) and they end up buying even more? 

A lot of this applies to every day life as well... buying too many clothes can mean you can't make a decision on what to wear because you have too many choices. Buying too much food at one time means that some of it eventually spoils before you can eat it. Even taking out too many library books at one time and then only reading half of one before they are all due is living in excess. (I'm totally guilty of that latter one!)

One of the most amazing pieces of art I've ever seen in my life was by a little girl from Belorussia. She created an incredible scene with a horse, using only twigs and bark and things found in nature. All the gel pens in the world couldn't have come up with something so neat. Seeing that picture made me reassess my own excess.

Did I finish EVERYTHING I wanted to scrapbook? Um, no. But the next time I pull out the supplies, you can bet that I'll have less to choose from... and I'm pretty sure I'll be more creative and efficient as a result. 

May 22, 2014

Clearly Pyrex

It goes without saying that spring cleaning and purging means more trips to the thrift store to drop off items than to actually shop... although I have managed to eek in a few trips inside to scope out potential prizes. 

I've come up pretty empty-handed. (I'm sure I can hear the Sailor cheer from across the globe...) In fact, in my clear-out, I've sold some miscellaneous Pyrex that I decided I no longer used or needed in my collection. (Again, that cheer... the cabinets are probably breathing a sigh of relief too.)

But a few weeks ago I managed to dawdle through an antique store and I found another Pyrex See 'N' Store Canister in Wildflower. 

It was a little pricier than I wanted to spend, but you know what... I got the rest of these at such a bargain that I decided I could spare a few bucks. Plus, I use these things ALL of the time -- especially when I'm baking!

I love being able to open the cupboard and actually see how much sugar and flour and oatmeal I have available. For some reason, packaging tends to make me a little crazy. Sometimes it's nice to not bring some other company's branding into my home.  I know it's one extra step when I bring home the groceries, but for my sanity, it's totally worth it.

Plus, when I have the stuff on the counter and I spill liquid... I don't ruin half a flour bag. I can just wipe off the canister. So much easier!  I have other Pyrex canisters storing granola bars and nuts, and I even keep cereal in clear containers (although they are from IKEA and not Pyrex. It will take a while until I find enough of these glass containers at affordable prices for everything.) 

How about you? Is your cupboard clearly see-through? 

May 19, 2014

The Porch Garden

While I'm waiting for my tomatoes to actually grow in our garden, I've been busy on the porch creating a little urban haven. 

I read something a long time ago that mentioned the need to get outside and to actually see green things grow (a photo doesn't count). There is something therapeutic and calming about sitting or strolling in a garden setting -- even an urban one.

While we have an amazing array of outdoor glory right at our fingertips, it doesn't escape me that I still live in an apartment complex. That's where porches make for great getaways -- even in the midst of other people living around you. 

In my early 20s, I lived and worked in England. The British are known for their gorgeous flower gardens. 

My backyard however, was a total disaster. I didn't have access to a lawn mower or any other equipment necessary to keep the area in British tip-top shape. Thankfully, a neighbor took it upon himself to mow the grass for me on occasion.

Once the grass looked presentable, I still didn't know how to keep the flowers in the ground alive, but I did know how to re-pot a plant. So, I ended up with a little potted garden near the back door, and every fine evening, I'd sit out on the steps with whatever beverage the day called for, along with my journal. I'd write while listening to the birds settle in for the night, pausing every now and again to admire my few flowers. 

Last night I had a little flashback to my 23-year-old self. The neighbors have certainly changed; so have I. But one thing is for sure, I still know how to re-pot a plant, I like a bit of green all around me, and I still write in my journal surrounded by that beauty. 

May 16, 2014

Baby-Sized Blue Jeans

At this point in my pregnancy, I'm pretty sure the Peanut has more stylish clothes than me... and the little one doesn't even need any at this point! And, when he or she decides it's time to enter the world and cover up the birthday suit, I'm quite positive these baby blue jeans may only fit for two weeks at the most. 

Nevertheless, I couldn't resist knitting them. 

In fact, I'd love a pair in my size. They look so squishy and stretchy and comfy. 

I nearly finished these way back in March, but I got hung up on the embroidery. They sat in the 'finishing' pile for weeks until I finally tackled them again a few days ago. And now that I've posted the backside photo, I realize I never put a little jeans label above the pocket. So I guess they're not quite done yet. I don't think the Peanut will notice if I leave it off though.

May 14, 2014

Feeling Green

I've been continuing my spring cleaning clear-out. I'm finding lots of things that we took with us that we don't need. I'm also finding things that I've accumulated or even made since we moved here that I don't use or wear.

This weekend, I found this gorgeous cardigan that I made last summer, right after we moved. It felt like a great transitional weather cardigan and the yarn was divine to knit.  

I've worn it ONCE. 

Not because it's ugly... but because it just hangs weird on me. I should know better than to make a 100% cardi... I didn't really like this one on me either.

I tried the green one on over the weekend and it still didn't look right. I do realize that I'm currently sporting an extra 20 pounds around my belly, but this thing never looked right on me. (While I'm not built like a super model, in my non-expectant state I'm pretty proportional! I can assure you that I measured myself properly... and I made the right size and got the right gauge.)  

Nevertheless, the buttons didn't close properly and it just had too much drape. However, it was the perfect amount of drape for a shawl

So I decided to frog* the thing and make something new out of it. 

It's not the first time I've ripped out an entire sweater

I fear it may not be the last, either. 

Am I crazy? 

Perhaps. In fact, in the evening it took me to rip the thing apart, I felt a little sick -- green, actually. I had such high hopes for this cardi. But then I felt liberated. What's the point of having a cardigan if you don't even like it enough to wear it?!

So now, I'm super excited about actually making and then wearing a shawl with this yarn.

But I still may be a little crazy.

* Frogging is the term for ripping out knitting or crocheting. If you listen carefully while you rip, it sounds a little like frogs. Considering this yarn is green, the term proved highly appropriate.

May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day First

Nearly two decades ago, I took a taxi across Budapest at 3 AM. I got dropped off in a back alley where the driver demanded far more money than I thought necessary, and then I had to wait in a fairly empty train station for my 6 AM departure to Ukraine. I fell asleep clutching my bag on my lap, only to wake up to the sounds of two men fighting right across from me. The Hungarian man next to me motioned for me to go back to sleep... and for whatever reason, I listened to him. 

Did I mention I was on my own? 

Before I dozed off again, I remember thinking, 'My mother would kill me if she knew what was going on at this very moment.'

Clearly she didn't. In fact I probably never bothered to tell her that part of my 'adventure' even after I returned home.

I've done a great deal of things that my mom never had the chance to do. I went to college, worked overseas, traveled solo through countless countries in my 20s, became a writer, volunteered onboard a hospital ship and married a foreigner. While I wasn't anti-kids, I never felt like I needed children in my life. My life has been abundant and rich in so many other ways.

Last Mother's Day, I made brunch for my mom. I wrote about why I'm not a fan of Mother's Day in general here (not because I don't believe in honoring mothers everywhere, but because I think they deserve our thanks and flowers more than once a year.) 

I grew up hearing my mom say she wished she'd had more of us because my brother and I were apparently so much fun. And even after my mom lost her firstborn son, she sat there at that brunch and told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me not ever having children one day -- that maybe there was a different path I was meant to take. 

A whole year changes a lot.  

Today, someone told me they'd wish me a Happy Mother's Day in a few months, after the Peanut is born. I laughed, but inwardly, I seethed a little. (I blame the pregnancy hormones for my internal outrage.) I'm already a mama to this active growing bundle, I thought. While I'm not yet spending my days feeding, burping and changing a newborn, I still feel responsible for this baby inside of me.

This week, I mentioned to my mom some weird baby fact that I learned through one of four pregnancy apps I have on my iPhone. She's been fascinated by the amount of stuff I've relayed to her over these past few months. I reminded her that it's been nearly 40 years since she last gave birth, and information is much easier to find these days. 

She never knew you were supposed to count the baby's kicks after week 28, or that you should steer clear of certain foods. She gave birth in a time before ultrasound photos, daddies in the delivery room, breastfeeding classes and pregnancy apps that offer advice. She brought us home and bathed us in the kitchen sink, then let us eventually play in the mud before she hosed us off again.

Apps can only offer you so much though. Today, while telling my mom about the Peanut pushing his or her butt into my left side (and secretly wondering if this was normal or early contractions) she reassured me that my brother and I did the exact same thing to her.  

I breathed a sigh of relief, and then got kicked in the ribs. 

I realized today that I have taken for granted the fact that I can walk through this whole journey with my own mother.

Don't get me wrong... I have always been grateful for my mother.  But today it suddenly hit me that she never even had her own mom around to ask any advice when she had her own babies. 

While I have boarded more planes than I can count, and I'm pretty sure I can still make my way through a train station riddled in Cyrillic without a problem, my mom has taken a journey that goes much further and lasts longer than any of the trips I've ever taken. You see, she gave birth to and raised her own babies without an ounce of advice or help from her own mother. By the time she was my age, she had a teenager and a tween, with no sign of Google in sight. 

This is the first Mother's Day that I realized my mom never had the chance to send her own mother flowers or to even ask her mom what labor would actually be like. And now this is the second Mother's Day she's been without her son.

But I also know this one thing -- my mom continues to amaze me.

She never once complained about how hard it was having children, especially traveling the mostly solo road that she did raising us. She never gave any indication of mommy martyrdom, or ever needing a vacation. It never dawned on me that Mother's Day would be hard for her not having her own mom around, because she spent the whole day telling us what fun she's had being a mother herself.

I may have traveled to far more countries than my mom, but this whole birthing and raising a child thing... this is uncharted territory in my world. However, it's a place my mom has been to before, and she assures me it's the greatest adventure of all. I'm thankful she's there to help me navigate the road and I can only hope that I'll be just as amazing of a mother to the Peanut as my mom has been to me. 

Happy Mother's Day to all of you fabulous women out there and a very special Mother's Day to my own Mama. (Sorry I never told you about that dodgy Budapest story... but realistically, would you have let me ever go back?

May 9, 2014

Magazine Magic

If you're anything like me, you may have quite a few editions of your favorite magazines around the house. As much as I love reading books, magazines have always been my guilty pleasure. They're generally cheaper to buy than a book, easier to skim through, and I don't feel nearly as bad about giving them away after reading through them only once (whereas I often feel like I can just check a book out of the library instead of paying so much cash for it!) 

Last week I promised you a few ideas on how to de-stash your magazines -- how to turn your Magazine Mayday into Magazine Magic, if you will. 

First things first... if you're done with your magazines and they're still in one piece, pass them on! Ask at local hospitals and doctors' offices if they would like your magazines. I often pass them onto friends or even thrift stores. 

Schools and summer camps may also be on the lookout for magazines for craft projects. Be sure yours are age appropriate (no nudity or even Cosmo, please...) 

Often times though, my magazines are not intact... especially if they have numerous knitting patterns or recipes or great articles I want to read again. In this case, I tear out the stuff I want to keep, make a new book or folder out of the compiled pages, and throw the magazines into a separate pile for recycling. (In some cases, places that want the magazines for crafts, may still want these ripped apart magazines!) 

Other ideas for excess magazines, especially if you've already torn out a bunch of stuff: 

A flower garland (there is a link at the bottom of her post for the actual instructions.)


As a teenager and in college, I crafted numerous letters and envelopes to friends from my old Glamour magazines. My envelopes weren't fancy... I would just tear out the page and fold and tape the thing into a rectangular envelope. 

Then I'd put a sticky label on the envelope for the address. If the outside of the envelope has enough white space though, you can always just write the address in it! If you want something similar but slightly more precise (let's be real, I didn't even cut a line down the one side. I just ripped the page...) then you can see a more detailed how-to here.


More wreathes

Christmas trees

You can also reuse neat photo pages from magazines as gift-wrapping for small items, or to use as packing paper when mailing fragile things.  

If a photo or design strikes my fancy, I tend to put it in my paper stash for later use on a handmade card or scrapbook page.

Finally, give your excess magazines to your kids! To this day I have an affinity for the Burpee Gardening Seed Catalog because my mom let me have her old ones to destroy for crafty things. I can't tell you how many paper 'gardens' I created out of those catalogs, but I know simply cutting out flowers and vegetables and then pasting them onto plain paper kept me occupied for hours! 

What other ideas do you have for recycling and reusing your magazines? 

May 7, 2014

Basket Case

The Sailor and I decided that we have been busier than usual these past few weeks. We're not really sure how that happened, because we're normally pretty laid back people. We don't like to fill our calendar so full that there's no time to relax. 

However, gorgeous weather has beckoned us outdoors for multiple hiking trips and gardening afternoons. And of course we've slowly been getting ready for the Peanut's imminent arrival in just a few short months! (Secretly, I think we're simply trying to cram a bunch of last minute things into our life before we get to meet the bundle of energy currently bouncing around inside of me.)

Last night, during a rare moment of sitting still, I finished my knit basket. 

The pattern is from a British magazine, Simply Knitting September 2013, and came as an extra insert -- the needles shown were also part of the package. I mentioned before that I'm a sucker for magazines... don't even get me started on the ones that offer free gifts inside the plastic wrap! 

Late last week, I promised you some methods on dealing with your own magazine mayday and mayhem. I haven't forgotten! It's coming soon... probably as soon as we get a rainy day around here. In the meantime, knit yourself an even bigger basket than this and stash those extra magazines in there.

May 4, 2014

Weekend WIPs

I seriously can't remember the last time I actually bought yarn (!) That doesn't mean I haven't been crocheting or knitting though. I'm just really trying to use up my stash before I purchase more -- and I'm trying to be more purposeful about buying yarn for a specific project, rather than stocking up willy-nilly just because some yarn is on sale.

A few days ago, Lion Brand posted this article about yarn organization on their blog. The headline started out with something about 'Too Much Yarn...' When they posted the story on Facebook, I read through the multitude of comments it elicited -- most of which said you can never have too much yarn. 

While I can jokingly agree (I mean, I'd hate to see the day that I have NO project to work on because I'm completely out of yarn...) I also believe that stashing the stuff can be to your detriment on occasion. 

For instance, this weekend, I found three nearly complete skeins of Bernat Cottontots -- all in different colors -- in my stash. I had purchased the yarn at a clearance sale and then made this blanket. I also used up some of the pink and green for this Princess and the Pea dress.

I scrambled through patterns and looked on Ravelry for ideas on using up the remainder of the skeins, thinking that I would just go and buy some more and make a striped blanket or something. Then I discovered that this yarn is now discontinued. 

Just great. I made that blanket three years ago. Had I really been hording those leftover balls of yarn for that long?!

I'm also pretty sure I have some yarn in the basket that I've been storing since I re-learned how to crochet nearly 5 years ago. It's definitely time to do something with those leftovers. 

So I'm still making dishcloths and washcloths and even baby cloths. Even if I don't use these myself, I'm going to keep a stash of them as gifts for people. Just the other week, the Sailor and I had a BBQ with some new friends and when I next saw them, I gave them a thank you note for their hospitality and two dishcloths tied with ribbon. The lady was thrilled!

I've also been using up a bunch of other cotton yarn to make some teethers for the Peanut. Something tells me the next three months are going to fly by... and then this baby will start teething before I know it. These would also make great last minute baby shower gifts or even just a token gift with a card for a new mom-to-be. Pattern available here

Finally, I purchased way too much yarn for this bulky blanket. (Remember, it started out as  shrug #1 then shrug #2...)  So this weekend, I started making a basket. You know, to store more yarn. Or those teethers. Or maybe these little squishies I'll eventually make for the Peanut as well. 

All in all, it's been a good weekend for stash busting with the current Works-in-Progress. When the stash is under control, I have some scrumptious sock yarn that I plan to use for a gorgeous two-toned shawl, as a reward for my efforts, if you will. But first, I have more dishcloths to make. 

May 1, 2014

Magazine Mayday

It's May 1st, and by now many of us have spring cleaning on the to do list. After all, summer is just around the corner. 

Spring cleaning or even spring sorting a constant thing around here. It seems like every week I find something that I don't use or wear regularly, and it either gets re-purposed, or it makes its way out the door to the nearest thrift store as a donation. 

Today, I discovered that I had a
magazine mayday on my hands. 

I do have a healthy magazine obsession. Ever since I was a teenager, I've been perusing the magazine rack at all manner of stores that carry them. Whenever I travel I purchase one or two magazines that I normally wouldn't buy on a regular basis. The Sailor brings my favorite one back from South Africa whenever he flies through there. And I do tend to leave several laying around the apartment because they're easier to pick up and skim through than a book on most days. 

Buying a magazine or getting one in the mail as part of a subscription is still one of life's little treats for me. And as much as I love technology, there is something so calming about sitting in a comfy chair and paging through an actual magazine.

I have this rule though that if the magazines don't fit in the holders on the shelf, and if the magazine rack is overflowing, then I need to clear a few out. 

(Surprise surprise... the magazines no longer fit in the holders, and the magazine rack is about to burst.)

Something needs to be done. 

I'll be posting some ideas on what to do with that stash of magazines you may also have multiplying around your own home. In the meantime, I'm going to grab a snack and flip through the latest issues that I haven't gotten around to reading yet!