May 31, 2013

Cotton Apron

I am a complete slob in the kitchen. Having a small space doesn't help... more flour often ends up on me than in the bowl. I have always benefited from using an apron. I have a cute one that I sewed years ago that I practically live in, but recently I saw this Vickie Howell Apron Strings pattern in Interweave Crochet, and I knew I had to make it. 

Here's a sample of the fun stitches. This is whipping up pretty quickly, so I should have it done soon. Perfectly cool, cotton yarn for weekend crocheting. I'm not sure how much cooking I'll actually be doing in it, since temperatures are starting to sore again, but at least I'll look cute fanning myself in this apron. 

May 28, 2013

Giving a Handmade Gift

I know the pickings seem slim in the crafty department, but I can assure you the needles and hooks have been flying in between moving mayhem! I am surrounded by boxes and most of the craft supplies are already buried deep. Thankfully, I remembered to leave out the gift I'm giving a friend. (I really do promise to show you photos of the actual gift I'm about to give, but you'll have to wait until after the weekend...

My morning coffee, perched atop the stack of moving boxes.
Usually, with a hand knit or crocheted gift, I like to give the recipient a little leftover yarn, along with a laundry care instruction card. I like to think that my handiwork will last a long time, but the reality is, stuff rips. It's nice to have some yarn that matches in case the recipient needs to mend something. If the gift has buttons, I try to include one or two extras as well.

I often just tie the yarn right onto the card, or put it in a small plastic ziplock bag (like those small ones that hold extra buttons on new clothing). This time, my project used multiple colors, so rather than shoving them all into one little bag to get tangled, I decided to make a little yarn card holder. 

The only supplies needed are paper and a hole punch (I used a standard sized hole punch, but any size or even shape could work.)

First, I found some paper. (This alone was a miracle. I really have packed away most of the craft supplies. In the future, I would definitely use sturdier cardstock -- my paper was pretty flimsy, but it did the job in a pinch.

Finding the paper may well be the most difficult task in this project! Here's the rest:

Punch a half hole on each side -- two holes for each strand of yarn.

Wrap the yarn scraps around the indentations. You can either tie them at the back or just loosely fold them over each other. 

Fill up your yarn card. 

I slid the whole card into a narrow ziplock bag (I measured and cut the card smaller than the bag before I wrapped the yarn). 

Not all yarns are created equal and some require special care. I usually just glue the washing instructions from the yarn ball band onto a handmade luggage tag. I sometimes add info on there like whether or not I have pre-washed the item. Even if I don't have time to make a tag (or if I forget...), I'll usually remember to at least give the recipient the actual yarn ball band. 

I tied both the laundry tag and the yarn card together, and then promptly put it with the gift. Hopefully the gift doesn't fall apart, but in case it does, the recipient will be well-equipped to mend. At the very least, the extra yarn could be used for a scrapbooking or other crafty project. 

What extras would you like to receive from a homemade gift?

May 26, 2013

Beet Greens

I don't know if it's because bathing suit season is around the corner, or simply because I'm making a choice to be healthier, but I'm definitely trying to eat more green stuff these days. 

With so many varieties of fresh food over the summer, it's not that difficult, actually. I'm also trying to use everything that's actually edible on the vegetables I purchase.

This past week, I went to the local farm market with a friend. She bought some plump, gorgeous beet root... and as she got to chatting to the vendor, she discovered you could actually eat the greens. I don't know why this came as a great surprise to the pair of us -- after all -- if you look closely at those bags of mixed salad greens, beet leaves are often amongst the rocket and iceberg lettuce. 

My friend gave me a handful of the greens to take home with me. I promptly set about washing, cutting up, and sauteing the greens in a little olive oil, onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes (cut in half), and chopped turkey bacon. 

DELICIOUS. The only downside is that these greens cook way down -- similar to spinach. So fry up more than you think you will need because they won't stay on your plate for long. Obviously you can add whatever mix-ins you like. These don't take long at all to saute.

Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Isn't my mama's rooster hilarious?! We saw it at a local store years ago and couldn't stop laughing in the aisle, so we knew one of us had to buy it. (My mom is a great thrifting companion! To see how I got my mom hooked on Pyrex, and to see what else I got at that flea market besides beet greens, read more here.)

What are you cooking up this Memorial Day weekend? 

May 23, 2013

Spring Cleaning and Donations

In my last post, I mentioned spring cleaning (and finding fabulous thrifted goods as a result) as one of the bonuses of warm weather. 

What I didn't mention is that I'm also in the throes of my own spring cleaning. You see, the Sailor and I are moving in a few short weeks... and while we have lived a number of places both as singles and as a couple, this is the first time we're moving together, quite far, with STUFF. 

I don't think we have more than the average American by any means, but we've still got some stuff (my craft stuff alone seems to have multiplied when I wasn't looking). And even though we're moving to a slightly larger apartment, I don't want to haul ALL of the stuff stashed in here with us. 

So I've been purging. 

I have a few general rules about material purges. And since my life seems to consist of lists lately (hence all of the blogging lists of late!) I thought I'd also share these purging guidelines with you. (Notice I said guidelines, not rules. Exceptions, of course can be made.)

1. If you haven't worn an item of clothing for a year -- get rid of it.  

EXCEPTIONS: One or two special items -- like your wedding gear, or that sassy red dress you bought on clearance that you haven't had occasion to wear yet. However, if you have a closet full of the equivalent of sassy red dresses that you haven't worn yet, get rid of a few. 

TIPS: Some people suggest putting the hanger backwards in the closet at the start of the year (or your purge), and then when you wear the item, put the hanger the right way. At the end of the year, you can quickly see what you haven't worn. And by all means, only keep clothing that you love. If you wear something and think, 'I can't stand this' -- then get rid of it. 

SIDE NOTE: If you are waiting to lose weight to fit back into something (we're not talking about those times during the month when things fit more snug than usual -- I'm talking at least a size difference), I suggest you get rid of it. The times in my life when I have reached my heaviest, I looked at my skinny jeans and wanted to cry. Rather than motivating me to lose the weight, the skinny jeans simply reminded me of how fat I got. Likewise, when I lost the weight, I got rid of the fat jeans. I didn't need a reminder of that time period in my life -- and I certainly didn't want to keep something in expectation that I may gain weight again. 

2. If you buy something new, get rid of something equivalent in your closet or cabinet. 

EXCEPTIONS: Things you didn't have in the first place -- you can't get rid of the old blender if this is the first one you've ever purchased! Just be sure to actually use the blender.

TIPS: Just because it's cheap at the thrifts, it doesn't mean you should buy more. Thrifted items still count as 'new' even if they're old. Ask yourself: 'If money wasn't an object, do I love this item enough to pay full price for it, or am I simply buying it because it's cheap?' If you're only buying it because it costs a buck, hang it back on the rack. 

SIDE NOTE: I still bought stuff even after we knew we were moving. I know I have a Pyrex problem -- let's just get that out of the way. In my defense, I made sure I got rid of something of equal value if I bought anything. For instance, I found this Butterfly Gold loaf pan and my mom became the proud new owner of my old glass pan. 

3. Try to imagine the benefit someone else may get out of your stuff. 


TIPS: Ask yourself: 'Can someone else can use this stuff more than I do at the moment?' Think of it as a good deed for the day.

SIDE NOTE: We didn't have a lot of money growing up. We never once went 'school shopping' for new clothes. I lived in hand-me-downs until I got to college and even then, I still thrifted my way through my 20s. I remember how excited I was on the days we came home from church with a garbage bag full of clothes given to us by another family. It was like Christmas to me -- I felt like a princess. In turn, when I outgrew the stuff, my mom had me box things up and give them to the next family in line, or we donated items to Goodwill. 

An added bonus is that many thrift stores aren't out to make a profit -- your donations to them support various charities and people who may otherwise not have a job.

If you prefer to make some extra cash with yard sales, eBay, or Craigslist, consider donating a portion of your sales to a charity or non-profit involved in the recovery of the recent horrific tornadoes in Oklahoma. It's not always easy to box up your clothing and ship it to someone who may need it (and the people of Oklahoma need many things right now), but plenty of charities are able to offer support thanks to monetary donations. 

Here are a few of my favorites: 

The Red Cross: In times of disaster, the Red Cross provides shelter, food, health and mental services to help families and communities get back on their feet. 

The Salvation Army: These unsung heroes are often the first at a disaster site with mobile food canteens. (Bonus, they have thrift stores! Donate your goods directly to them.) 

Hope Force International: I have personally worked with and for this organization and can vouch for the excellent emotional and spiritual care they offer to people in disaster situations.

What's in your closet?

May 20, 2013

Five Reasons to Love Warm Weather

1. Crochet. I love to knit, but it seems to take a backseat to crochet as soon as the weather warms up. Knitting elicits images of wooly warm yarn on bamboo needles by the fire. Crochet on the other hand is my staple fiber art during spring and summer, especially with cotton yarn. I'm making something super fun (but can't divulge yet since the recipient may also read this blog.) In the meantime, check out this Bullion Beach Blanket I made -- in case you missed it!

2. Hammocks. There's nothing quite as peaceful as swinging from a hammock on a lazy day. You can even knit in one (despite me just saying I crochet more in warm weather.) You can find out where to buy a very cool hammock here, at the bottom of the post. 

3. Craftiness. The winter isn't the only time to be crafty. Spring and summer bring forth a whole host of fun ideas. I raided my stash to make the simple wreathe below. 

4. Spring cleaning. Warmer weather means people are cleaning out their homes and attics, which means bargains galore in thrift stores and at yard sales. I just found the Golden Pine Pyrex Space Saver (top white dish) for $1. See more photos of this gorgeous holiday promo here

 5. Outdoor activities. Quite possibly my favorite -- longer days and getting to spend time outside. Watching the sunflowers bloom is a bonus.

Eastern Ukraine, circa 1999. It's time to return and get an updated photo in those fields!

What's on your warm weather to-do list?