Showing posts with label toys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toys. Show all posts

December 13, 2015

'Tis the Season...

While I haven't posted on here in a month (!) I can assure you, I haven't forgotten about the blog. But after the hectic month of November, and writing an entire novel, I promised myself a few weeks of calm in December. 

My fingers also cramped up at the thought of hitting the keyboard again after NaNoWriMo

Years ago, when I worked onboard a Mercy Ship off the coast of West Africa, crew members got off an entire week for Christmas break. Now, of course, we didn't all have off 24/7, as the ship still needed to function. So we took turns helping out in reception, or the galley (the kitchen) or even gangway watch. But it was still a more relaxed pace than the usual frantic Decembers we often think about with the holidays. 

I still like to have a calm December, so I try not to go crazy (ie, I avoid the mall). Around the apartment, I've decorated with a few white twinkle lights, a tiny tree, some Christmas music, gingerbread cookies and a few minutes of knitting when the Peanut finally goes to sleep, or sits quietly 'reading' all of his books. 

That's my kind of holiday.

In between writing 50,000 words, I did a knitting and crochet photo-a-day challenge on Instagram in November, which helped me at least keep up the visual creativity. My camera is still kaput, but I have a plan to get it fixed in the next month.

In the meantime, here are a few highlights from the past month via my phone: 

Amazing weather when it's not raining: totally conducive to playing on the porch and knitting outside. 

Chickens! This kid is totally into chickens at the moment. And I'm loving Susan B. Anderson's Spud and Chloƫ at the Farm book. Let's face it, I love all of her designs and I have almost most of her books. Super cute kid stuff and I'm excited that the Peanut has so much fun playing with the things I've made for him.

This pattern is the Mother Hen and Chicks. Every night the Peanut and I put the chicks to sleep, and then in the morning, he finds them under the Mother Hen. (The little bluebird is also one of Susan's patterns: Egg to Bluebird. I told you I love her stuff.)

More chickens! I also found this cute crochet pattern on Ravelry for a chicken and egg coaster set, and I sent it to a good friend who has her own flock of birds. 

Sunrise/Sunset: Shorter days mean less daylight, but I have still been working on this sunrise sunset blanket, one square at a time. I finally finished it and it's en route to a friend now for her birthday. 

Cardigans: It is December after all, so a cardigan is occasionally in order. The Peanut can now wear this, which makes me thrilled and a little sad all at the same time. I remember finishing this over a year ago, wondering when the Peanut would be able to fit into it and he's already rapidly outgrowing it. 

I'm going to need to knit him some new cardigans soon, which is an excellent excuse to go yarn shopping. The Peanut is a wonderful helper in the shopping cart... he loves to hold the yarn and basically anything else I'm trying to purchase.

Christmas cards: Apparently some of my Christmas cards didn't make it to their destination until FEBRUARY of last year. I'm on the ball this year (well, at least more than last year!) and I've been working on getting my cards in the mail. Our family photo, however, is still goofy. I'm using the broken camera as an excuse. One of these days we'll either invest in a professional photographer or a selfie stick. Recipients, enjoy the laugh when you see how hilarious our 'selfies' are. 

Finally, I managed to 'win' NaNoWriMo

(Now, for you novel novices, that simply means I made it to the 50,000 word count within the month of November.)

The novel itself needs a TON of work, but I mainly did it to simply challenge myself creatively for the month of November and to get out of my writing rut. 

The whole experience was far more fun than I thought it would be! I got a mini thrill watching my word count increase throughout the month and I felt like I had an entire virtual team cheering me on. 

I have been writing non-fiction for so long, that it truly was freeing and fabulous to simply make stuff up and write it down. I'm thinking that I should keep writing fiction for fun. 

I hope I can write a bit more on here before Christmas. With the energy level of the Peanut these days, it might not happen (although he has miraculously been napping the entire time I've worked on this post!) 

Just in case I don't get around to posting more this month though, for more non-fiction holiday writing, see 2013's Christmas post here, and 2014, here

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, wherever and however you celebrate! 

April 17, 2014

We Built a Zoo

Some people buy a zoo*. I decided to build one instead.

As soon as the palm tree and the giraffe were both finished, the rest of the animals arrived en masse! This pattern is super clever -- each animal ring gets gradually smaller as you make your way towards the top, so the crochet time subsequently gets less and less.

I'm not sure which animal is my favorite, but I'm leaning towards the lion. 

His mane and cheeks are the best! 

Having been on safari with the Sailor several times, I wanted to make my little zoo authentically African. As cute as the tiger was in the original pattern, I made a zebra instead. I used the same techniques to make the ring, and then I just sort of made up the head and the stripes as I went along.

Thumbs up for the pattern -- it was a worthy splurge. Plus, I ended up saving money in the end since I used up a lot of my stash yarn to make both the tree and the critters. 
 I think they're all going to be pals for a long, long time.

* We Bought a Zoo is a great movie. I highly recommend it, especially if you are an animal lover.

April 8, 2014

Crochet Giraffes and the Real Deal

One giraffe down, four more animals to go, and we have a little zoo, along with the tree! 

I am loving this pattern. It's so cute and innovative! And despite my earlier skepticism on my decision to use leftover shades of green on the treetop, rather than one color, it's totally growing on me. 

And the giraffe? Well, they amaze me in any case. My first ever stuffed animal was a giraffe. Then, when the Sailor and I got married, some friends pitched in to purchase us two nights at a luxury game lodge in South Africa. Along the dusty road towards the lodge, the Sailor and I chatted about which animals we really wanted to see. The Sailor was itching to see a lion; I of course said a giraffe. Not one minute later, a giant beast of a giraffe crossed the road in front of us. Our safari experience was already off to an amazing start.

We saw even more giraffes during our visit. I doubt this was the same one we spotted on the way in, but look at how close we were this time! That's our driver's scout sitting in front of us. (Photo courtesy of the Sailor.) 

The Sailor never got to see his lion, but that's all the more reason for us to return someday. In the meantime, I'll make sure to crochet him one.

March 31, 2014

Jungle Crochet

I feel like I've been knitting a lot lately, and with warmer weather (hopefully) around the corner, I'm ready to start crocheting more. There's something about cotton blends and hooks that make crochet more conducive to warm weather fiber fun. 

I don't remember having a single crocheted or knitted toy when I was a kid, although I know I had some hand sewn dolls in the mix. (I'll introduce you to Topsy Turvy Laura and Nelly one of these days...) As soon as I learned to crochet and knit though, I realized how much fun it was to make little gifts for my friends' children.

I made a slew of amigurumi animals long before I ever started this blog; sadly there's no photo proof. Amigurumi is Japanese for the art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and the like -- even food, like a burger, or meatballs

Amigurumi a great way to make tight stitches so that your stuffing doesn't fall out. I never seem to get such a tight stitch when knitting, but I can sure achieve it with a hook. 

We're not finding out the baby's gender until the Peanut wants to make his or her appearance. We're all for surprises these days. I'm anyways a huge fan of neutral and natural colors -- so when I saw this Into the Jungle pattern, I knew I had to make it. I also didn't want to buy yarn for it since the pattern cost more than I would usually pay, so I've decided it's the perfect way to use up my stash. (For more ideas on stash busting yarn, go here.)

So far I think I have enough of the right colors for the animals. The tree however, was a different story. I had just enough green for the leaves, but in all different shades. I crocheted it anyway. I don't think the Peanut will mind.

And for now, the jungle tree seems quite at home amongst the living plants.

September 5, 2013

Meatball Madness

As I child, I wasn't a fan of meatballs in any form. To me there was nothing worse than getting a mouthful of dry meat with my spaghetti sauce and pasta. Clearly, my mother's Italian roots came out, because her meatballs were enormous. Years later, when I had to get eight teeth extracted before they could straighten the rest, I realized why I had such a difficult time chewing. Apparently I had a small mouth for the size of my teeth. 

Things have definitely changed in the past few decades and now I'm actually a big fan of meatballs. I even crave them every now and again. The next time I make them for the Sailor, I'll be sure to share my yummy (and juicy!) turkey meatball recipe.

In the meantime, you can make your own giant dried out meatballs right here. Remember the Talking Squash? I sent the same friends this crochet cheeseburger, because I knew they needed some meat to go with those veggies. Then they reminded me that they were serving up meatball grinders for the toddler's birthday party... and could I maybe make up a few meatballs as party favors? 

Last year, they had a blueberry theme... and even though we trolled through craft stores central, we couldn't find suitable blueberries for party favors. 

I made these instead. 

This year, I used the same basic orb pattern and just added eyes. I've had this brown yarn in my stash for so long that I can't even remember why I bought it in the first place -- but it definitely worked for the meatballs!  

The best part about homemade meatballs, is that they don't have to be perfect. In fact, imperfections are welcome.

I'm not sure what I'll be crafting for the third birthday party next year, but I'm guessing it'll be something round and squishy! I think I have some green yarn that needs to be used up. Peas perhaps? 

Recipe for Crocheted Meatballs

Yarn scraps in brown, white and black(I used worsted weight #4) 
Crochet hook to get a tight enough gauge so that the stuffing doesn't poke through (I used a 4 mm hook)
Yarn needle

sc: single crochet
sc2tog: single crochet 2 stitches together. Insert hook in next stitch, yarn over and draw up a loop, 2 times. Then yarn over and draw through all three loops on the hook.

Work the ball in a spiral, which means don't join at the end of the round. You can use a marker, safety pin, or a piece of contrasting yarn to keep your place. Or, if you can concentrate and crochet, just count. Even if you lose concentration, there's nothing wrong with a lumpy meatball every now and again. 
Round 1: Make a magic loop (tutorial here) and chain two. SC 6 times into the loop and pull tight. (You can always just chain two and then work 6 sc into the 2nd chain from the hook, but I think the magic loop makes it tighter.

Round 2: Work 2 sc in each sc around (12 sc) 

Round 3: (sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc) 6 times (18 sc)  

Round 4: (sc in next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc) 6 times (24 sc) 

Round 5: (sc in next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc) 6 times (30 sc) 

Round 6: (sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc) 6 times (36 sc)  

(If you want fatter meatballs, increase another round or two after Round 6, before continuing on.)

Rounds 7-11: (sc in each sc around) 

(If you increased more than Round 6, remember to start the next round of decreases appropriately -- ie, if you added one extra round, sc in next 5 sc, sc2tog 6 times before starting Round 12.) 
Round 12: (sc in next 4 sc, sc2tog)6 times (30 sc)

Round 13: (sc in next 3 sc, sc2tog) 6 times (24 sc) 

Round 14: (sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog) 6 times (18 sc) 

Stuff the meatball with fiberfill.

Round 15: (sc in next sc, sc2tog) 6 times (12 sc)

Stuff a little more fiberfill in there if necessary.

Round 16: (sc2tog) 6 times (6 sc) 

Pull the yarn tight and cut, leaving a long enough tail to weave in with your yarn needle. 

EYES for meatballs: 

With white yarn make a magic loop and chain 1. SC 4 times into loop. Pull the loop tight and slip stitch to first sc made. Leave a long enough tail to sew the eye onto the meatball. 

Once the white of the eye is on the meatball, add the pupil by making a secure french knot right in the middle of the eye. 

Weave in all ends securely. 

Serve immediately, in vintage Pyrex, of course. 

No need to refrigerate.

August 21, 2013

Talking Squash

I know it's still summer, but let's talk squash for a minute. Before you know it, fall will produce a bounty of butternut squash and if you're anything like me, you'll be swimming in soup and stuffing rather than in the pool. 

Here's a treat that can be enjoyed anytime of the year: knitted squash. I recently whipped up a pair of gourds to turn into Veggie Tales characters for a friend's daughter. She apparently is enthralled with brothers Jimmy and Jerry Gourd from the TV series. 

While there is no shortage of vegetable patterns available on Ravelry, there aren't many specifically for Veggie Tales. Instead, I found this free pattern for butternut squash online. 

I made the Jerry doll using the pattern and a small amount of leftover yarn from my stash. I added crocheted eyes with a french knot in the middle, a crocheted nose, and then I embroidered a little smirk. I also gave them both some eyebrows.

Since Jimmy is slightly plumper, I simply increased a few extra rounds at the bottom, and then made him shorter than his brother.

There's no chance these guys will get turned into soup, but I'm going to bet they'll be squashed and cherished in a toddler's hands for quite a while.

March 21, 2013

The Princess and the Pea

No matter how much I travel, it is always wonderful to come home to sleep in my own bed. I used to brag that I could sleep anywhere, and for the most part it is still true. Just because I can sleep on a plane though, it doesn't mean that it is comfortable, OR good for my neck, for that matter. 

Some nights -- and depending on the hotel chain and the quality of bedding -- I really do feel like the Princess and the Pea. 

No matter how great the trip, there is always a marvelous moment when I get home and realize I get to sleep in my own bed. 

A while back, I made this adorable Princess, fully equipped with mattresses, blanket and pea pod. I wanted to post it earlier, but I also wanted to wait until my friend received the gift package I mailed. I had a suspicion she was perhaps a reader on this blog; I didn't want to give away the surprise before she received the doll for her daughter.

Now that both the package and surprise are in the correct hands, I can share with the rest of you this gorgeous and fun Princess and the Pea.

The pattern is from Itty-Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anderson. This isn't the first toy I've made from this book, nor will it be the last. All of her patterns are adorable... and an absolute joy to knit. I've made several reversible toys from the book, and a few hand puppets, but by far, this was my favorite doll to knit.

I especially loved the little pea pod that goes with the doll. 

While I didn't make nearly as many mattresses as I could have, the Princess seems to have plenty to keep her occupied for a while. As for me, I'm happy with the one mattress I have at the moment.