Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grinch before Christmas

Take it from me, sometimes lessons come where you don't want them to. Contemplating the holiday season had filled me with such joy in past years, but this year it's giving me indigestion.

People have told me, "life goes by fast,'' "time flies," "enjoy the small moments because they don't last." I'm hating that advice right now because I'm finding this holiday season hard to embrace. 

We're planning to travel for Christmas and even though I'm beyond excited to see family, I'm nervous and overwhelmed with the ideas of the holidays coming again. 

I want to make the most out of this time. I want to be like the commercials with great decorations, gourmet meals, festive snacks, great outfits that are new and stylish, and of course everything in it's place with no loose ends to be seen. 

As I look around my house I see how far this dream is from my current reality. I think my anxiousness comes from the idea that I'm not feeling the holiday spirit yet. While I want to get all into the happy-go-lucky festivities, I know I would be a grinch in a caroler mask. 

I can guarantee I will have presents for everyone and there will be food that will be delicious, but that doesn't really make a holiday great. My family is so far away and this is the first year that we will not be all together as both a brother and a sister can't make it to Christmas. 

Everything just feels so new. So foreign. Last year should have felt like this. Last year we were in a new place and everything was different. Suddenly, I realize that the difference with this year to last comes when I think about years in the not so distant future and no knowing what will happen. Since we will have a child next Christmas, will we make the 12 hour drive to the grandparents? Will we make it to a family Thanksgiving? And if not next year, then when, if ever?

Knowing it's the last year before we have to make some really hard decisions makes this feel like it has to be extra meaningful to make up for the future. THAT CAN'T HAPPEN! No matter how great this year is or isn't, I can't count on it to get me through rough years in the future because they will come with their own relief. So how I embrace the Spirit of Holidays before they pass me by?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spirited Shopping

The Christmas season gives me more reason to get into another of my pleasures...SHOPPING!

Getting a bargain on something I know a family member for friend will enjoy really gets by heart pounding. This year, however, seems to be kicking me in the gift department. I feel life has just flown by! Honestly, where did Fall GO!?!

As Christmas is really coming close, I really just want to embrace everyday with my family before the baby comes and life changes forever.

Even as I say that, life has already changed. I now have daily reminders there's a little one growing and moving inside me. The baby room is getting closer to being finished. I'm blessed with making items for payment and consistently being pushed to make new items.

I've been blessed with the opportunity to spend a week with my family and want every second to be squeezed from that time. That is the real present that I want this year. I want to shop in my family and come away with blessings instead of packages, memories instead of receipts.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Small Thanksgiving

Today, Black Friday, comes with a deep exhale. Yesterday was the celebration of family coming together and being thankful for the blessings God is showing to us.

We started with prepping the turkey and veggies. Since I have cooked a full turkey before, I was elected to have the honor of handling the bird. At 10am, our oven was already full with festivity! A lemon garlic turkey quickly gave fragrance to the house as we made mashed potatoes, au gratin potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and gravy. All these, along with crescent rolls, pecan pie, german chocolate pie, and pumpkin pie that were completed the day before, made our table bursting as well as our stomachs more than satisfied.

The conversation both while we were preparing the meal and while we were partaking it, filled a starved part of myself that went deeper than my stomach. Seeing family for the first time in six months made me aware of how much I miss being able to hug my sister, see my grandma cry from laughing, and see all the things my aunt and uncle have been working on.

Sitting down today with nothing but relaxation planned struck me this morning as boring and tedious. However, under more contemplation, I see that if I were to fill my day with doing, I would be starving myself in the presence of a feast. Not just the food or drinks, but the company that is so rare for me.

This year, I am more than thankful for family as it is the true delicacy that we celebrate at this time of year.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Confessions of a Susie-Homemaker Wannabe

In my recent life, there have been many changes, a new house, new dog, and a new expectation. My husband and I are expecting our first baby. With this development, I have come to the realization that becoming the idealistic stay at home mom is full of unpleasant realities and necessities. I have great examples in my life of women providing welcoming, warm homes. My mother raised 5 kids. She not only homeschooled and worked part-time, we had home cooked dinner every night together at the table. She made it seem effortless. She was not alone. So many family friends had this "effortless" air about their home making abilities.

I'm seeing now that "effortless" takes work and help. The most recent realization came when I was in bed tired and sick from pregnancy having it's way in rearranging my body. As I could barely get out of bed, our home-cooked dinners were not happening. I tried to work up the effort to get something together but it was not happening. As I was just there, trying to not be sick.

I saw my husband coming home and tried to work up the energy to greet him at the door and not look like a zombie. He came in the door and I quickly expressed that I didn't feel well and didn't have anything planned for dinner and the dishes in the sink would get done later. I was so afraid he would be disappointed in me but instead, he gave me a hug reassured me it was ok and to take a nap. The ah-ha moment came, I was really upset about not being the Susie-Homemaker I had aspired to be. I was a Susie-Homemaker Wannabe! That was my disappointment, that thought was draining my energy even more.

I went back to the couch to take a nap. My husband not only took care of the dog, did the dishes, but also woke me with a plan to go and get dinner as take out or if I was up to it, as casual sit down.

I realized later, as I was thanking God for my wonderful husband, this was how my mom and all those women were able to have an "effortless" home. They had HELP. Their husbands, children, and friends where able and willing to step in and pick up the slack.

I never knew I was really helping my mom. I see now, I should have helped her more.

I am confident that I will make mistakes, but I'm also confident that the people around me are willing and able to step in, help out, and encourage me to keep going as I aspire to be a Susie-Homemaker Extraordinaire.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Going From Renting to Being Home Owners

I've been counted absent from the blogging world because of a great life change that required much more effort than first thought. Our new home!

We purchased a home that needed minimal work but for some reason it has felt like it still has been an eternity of trips to Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, Target and numerous take out eateries.

After my husband refinished the floors and I painted the rooms, we gathered some friends to move our things from our apartment to the new house. After setting up a few rooms and a last large project or two (baseboards and cleaning the carpet), we are able to relax and enjoy our evenings for the first time in a while.

I say all this to account for my seeming lack of creativity. I've been creative in ways of packing boxes and rearranging and repurposing furniture. Not very blog-worthy in my mind since it's all been a blur and trying to process how we've gone from renters to homeowners.

Here's a start:
January-talked to a realtor and researched neighborhoods for our new home
February-found a short-sale we liked (everyone warned us it would take forever to close if it went through at all)
May-partially approved, then wait
June-the other part approved and then wait on the first to be reapproved...more waiting
July--MAD DASH for closing by the end of the month
August- refinish floors and clean out house
September-move in and settle in

The last two months have just flown by and I can't wait to get back to my crafts as I am starting a crochet doll series for my sister's friend.

I'll document my findings!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

No More Tangle Ear-Buds: How To

Here are the instructions for the No More Tangle Ear-Buds from an Earlier Post:

Step 1a: Tie a slip knot and secure around cord right below ear-bud

Step 1b: Loop behind, yarn over and pull through in order to start the single crochets down the cord.

Step 2: Pull another loop from back to front so there are two loops are on the hook. 

Step 3: Yarn over and pull through again to make the first single crochet. 

Step4: Continue to single crochet down the length of the cord until you encounter when the two ear bud cords join together. 

Step 5: When encountering the Y-connection, chain down the length  and then single crochet after you reach the edge.  (In this case, chain 1, single crochet, chain 3, single crochet)

Step 6: Repeat steps 1-5 on other side of ear-bud. (I like contrasting colors  on left and right ear-buds)

Step 7: Continue to single crochet down main cord of ear-buds to plug in.  

Step 8: Chain 1 and cut the thread of the loop. Then use a needle to hide thread in previous stitches. 

Step 9: Listen and enjoy no more tangled cords!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vintage and Handmade Shopping

I decided to venture out on this beautiful day in Minneapolis to see a few shops in the Linden Hills area. With trying to sell some of my items, I stuck to only a few adventures today, The Linden Tree. This shop is quite charming as there is specialty fabrics and handmade items filling the store. I could only stay a few minutes as the shop owner had to run out for a few hours but what I did see made me want to come back.

I decided to scan the shelves as I left and saw button rings, crochet eggs, jewelry, bags, wristlets, and banners, each one more intriguing than the last.

This shop is a great spot for gifts, inspiration, and supplies as the shop owner is very friendly. As proof to this she let me stick around for a few minutes even though she was rushing out the door! It was as if she we were already friends and neighbors and I was just stopping by to chat on her front porch.

I can't wait to go back!

The next shop that struck my fancy today was Hunt and Gather. I felt like I stepped into the show American Pickers because I found "rusty gold." Letters, license plates, furniture, pictures, jewelry, OH MY! This store had it all! I couldn't help recognize a few items that were peers to items in my own home. This store gave me joy as the carefully and playfully displayed items. The juxtaposition of a vintage stripped umbrella, wrought iron candelabra, and lace evening gown gave me a smile as I could imagine these items working with so many different settings. The jewelry closet was what caught my eye, I had to pass by it on my first walk through but couldn't help stopping back as a red stone charm bracelet caught my attention and wouldn't let go.

Again, I can't wait to go back and find more treasure!

Card Box Sets

I love boxes of cards that have cute prints. Not only are they great by themselves as an everyday "how ya doing" card, but also they are such a cute base for personalized cards that can say so much more than a card just picked off the self. You can use scraps of yarn, ribbon, and paper--and what a good excuse to have cute stickers on hand! Never know what will strike your fancy until you see it together!

I recently have had wedding and graduation cards to make and send and these have been perfect for both occasions. With a variety of prints, I can choose what suits my fancy for a person or event and can just be minutes away from putting it in the letter box.

Haven't gotten any response saying "love the cards" but I know that I would love receiving a handmade card and this just makes that one step closer!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Crochet Trimmed Fleece Blanket

I know I'm not the only one who has those common blankets that are just fleece with a bound edge. I have several that I got on clearance from Walmart after the cold weather's threats were over. I knew that they were plain and wanted to improve them as I needed a project one day. I decide to try to pair these with members of my yarn stash. 

Here are the results:
I am very pleased with the outcome as they are now more unique and I can still just toss them in the washing machine so there is no fear of damaging an expensive throw. My husband and I have taken them to the lake for picnics as well as for warmth on a camping trip.

I started with doing a single crochet around the entire blanket, allowing the edging to act as the foundation chain. After going the perimeter of the blanket, I decided on a variety of boarders using double crochet clusters and picots in order to give each blanket it's own flavor.

I know that I have now stumbled upon a great way to give a "handmade" blanket to someone where a time crunch is concerned but still be able to complete the project while having enough time to wrap it before rushing out the door!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

No More Tangle Ear-Buds

I've seen so many people on Pinterest showing these friendship style knot covered earbud cords. I found them difficult to work with and easily frustrating. I looked at the results I was getting and was not happy. After ripping out almost two days of work, I decided to try something more in my bag of skills. I crocheted them!

I made one for me and one for my husband. I used embroidery floss on one and a finer perle cotton on the other. Hands down, I liked how the finer cotton made a thinner cord and that is why I will use it if I make these again for a gift or just as a way to jazz up a cheap pair of earbuds.

Here are the results:
Perle Cotton 

Embroidery Floss

Look for the How To Soon!

UPDATE: Here's the How To. Enjoy!

Crochet Thread and Ric-Rack Pot Holder

So I tried my hand at mimicking the beautifully worked crochet pot holder I mentioned in an earlier post. It looked simple but turned into quite an undertaking, the thread is hard to keep in tension and hard to see. The ric-rack seems to just gracefully weave in and out of the double crochets but it's hard to find a needle with that large an eye so you have to work it in while you crochet. Also the ric-rack ravels and so leaving a raw edge for a while exposes ugly fuzzy fringe that has to be trimmed and tucked (another thing I didn't anticipate). I found myself juggling a hook, thread, and an awkward ric-rack board between only a few fingers. I've never been much of a juggler so my pot holder is more of one that would be for a kid's pretend kitchen. I still had fun, and might try another but might have to embrace the old lady look of using reading glasses and use simpler techniques.

All this makes me thing of the folk art crafts long past, like embroidery samplers, crochet pot holders, doilies, and monogramed handkerchieves. Most of these were ways for women to provide beauty in their lives while providing function and necessity. This leads me to ask, where is this outlet today? What in this internet age allows people to add beauty with personal touches to the function of their life? In a world run with mass produced borderline materials, where can the beauty be added?  Do we really expect out homes to reflect personal touches if we do not venture from shopping at a cookie-cutter strip mall or big box store?

 What is the folk art of 2012?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Question Factory

Sometimes I feel like I'm working in a question factory. Everyone is coming up to me asking what product is better, how to use this, how much of that to buy, is one enough? Would my kids enjoy this? Can I schedule I class? Do you have personal experience with this seam ripper? and ON AND ON! Sometimes the questions float around in my head and then I start to get sick in the drowning wave of questions.

I guess the store brings it on itself, however. It is so full of various crafting materials even the most experienced crafter would like to consult some sage advice on the process. I think the difference is that with an experienced crafter, the have learned the principle of experimenting. Just like a factory has a Research and Development division, so does every crafter's mind. See a new product that could be beneficial to an existing project or spur you on to a new and adventurous one. Well rather than asking questions of the person who has fewer ideas on the matter (little retail shop girl writing this), just buy it, experiment with it, and if you don't like it then chock it up to experience and tell other people about it. Sometimes I want to tell this to the customers at the store: Just experiment with it already! THAT'S HALF THE FUN OF CRAFTING!

I know my greatest triumphs have come when I've been intrigued with how something works and seeing if I could master it. For example these eyelet embroidered napkins and table cloth with serged rolled edge. While I do not hope to master this level of embroidery at this moment, I know I could learn the basics. So I bought a hoop and needles, I already had the floss from another project. I started with the wrong fabric, the wrong spacing and a horrible printed background that distracted from my work. But I learned! I now know the needles I got were too thick, but would be great for counted cross-stitch, the fabric scrap I used was not sturdy enough to use all six strands of floss. So next time, I'll use a different fabric and have better results.

These items added a spark to my fire of a new craft: Serging! I did some research, and financial conversations with my husband, and bought a serger! It's marvelous. For some reason my brain connects with this machine much more than a traditional sewing machine. I can already see how I'm going to construct something using this machine, I'm so excited to learn. Here goes the grand adventure in R&D of the Question Factory!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Delicate Dance in Delicate Crafts

And the dance has begun. I've been intrigued for a while with many delicate items like crochet in cotton thread, embroidery, filet crochet, detailed sewing and many others. I think this stems from the fact that for the past few weeks I've been finishing projects. Hence the absence from writing.

I've finished a beautiful baby blanket in light blue, off white, and chocolate brown. As well as the one shown on the left in green, pink and blue. I've finished pyramid bags that will be given as goodie bags at my best friend's bachelorette party/bridal luncheon. (I'll have to wait to show pictures of these since they are gifts and still want to surprise the recipient) I've worked these bags first in fabric and now in crochet. I realized for some reason these bags were very difficult for me by sewing because of my limited experience. I gave up that endeavor and finished them in crochet along with button holes and buttons.

This experience definitely need to work on my sewing techniques and skills. There are times when it would be nice to have a project with nearly instant gratification. I seem to pick crafts that are time intensive and therefore can get frustrating when the project does not come together as quickly as I thought it would.

I've found that the delicate crafts that are so graceful to have your hands dance with also seem to drain the time like sand through a sieve. However, isn't the dance the best part of all? The rhythm of the thread coming through your fingers, into the hook, and adding into the work; the push of the needle and the floss leaving its trail across the fabric; the delicate flowers that quickly emerge from the ball of cotton. These are enjoyable moments are their own type of gratification. The creation process is almost if not more enjoyable than the creation itself.

I hope you find yourself enjoying the process and the creation of delicate crafts that cause your hands and heart to dance.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend of Magic

This past weekend was full of all sorts of magic!

First, I got to spend a wonderful two days with some good friends which is always it's own kind of magic.   After traversing a few hours north, we came to an area that they treasured as the home of their past generations. We heard story after story of going to this place with Grandpa and that place with Great Aunt Louise, and how Uncle Chuck and Auntie V were such a beautiful match for each other. Late into the night we settled down in anticipation of a thrifty day ahead with dreams of shopping adventures giving us chills as we drifted into an excited sleep.

Almost like it was Christmas morning, the day started earlier than planned and the sites and deals where not far behind. In the antique stores, milk glass matching my growing collection was everywhere in pieces I had only seen in a catalog. I found beautiful collections that I wish could have told all the stories of how they came together.  However, most of the pieces were out of my price range for this trip and I had to leave them on the store shelves.

As we discovered the town we were visiting, we deepened our relationship by finding that we all could find joy in a city bakery that had carmel dipped cake doughnuts with toasted coconut on top and cake pops to boot! Our joy was compounded when we overheard of an estate sale that was "packed." After a quick time spent in figuring out how best to get to this estate sale, we were on our way, full of hope of the treasure to come. This was adventure time.

As we pulled up to the driveway, we all made a point of reminding each other that we only had so much space for the four of us, our bags, and whatever else we bought. Soon, all was forgotten with walking through the door and spotting a table 12 feet long filled with milk glass. My heart stopped, my voice was nowhere to be found and all I could do was jump up and down in joy. I had found better pieces than I had left in the stores! As I turned to the woman helping with the estate sale she greeted me with better news! Everything over $1 is half price! My mouth went dry as I started to scuttle all the pieces I wanted into the box: Eight matching snack plates and mugs, final prince $7.50; four custard dishes, $1.50; and four small plates, $2 .50.

After the hurried rush to grab all the glass I wanted, I slowly started perusing the rest of the house. I found a beautiful off white table cloth with matching napkins that I could take home for $10. My husband did not go home empty handed either. He was able to get a record player with amazing speakers, with much prompting from the woman running the sale. He had been out the door when she called out the price he could not refuse: $5.

Our friends walked out with a film projector, divided drawer, cook book, milk glass dish (I love the things I share with this woman!) and the knowledge they would be able to play the home movies taken long ago. All in all this was the mother load that we thought had made our weekend. We were in for more treats!

After dinner with Auntie V, we were blessed with going over to her house and started hearing story after story of family member after family member. She brought out crocheted thread pot holders that were works of art and such an inspiration to me (I'm planning to try my hand at it soon). These folk art pieces started a pleasant discussion of functional art and it's place in the American home.

Soon the attention went to the large trunk off to one side of the room. The beautiful red roundtop trunk that was brought over from Norway was remarkable enough with its original key but the beauty we saw first did not match what was inside. As Auntie V started unpacking the chest showing us this and that from here and there, my friend and I zoomed in on beautiful vintage dresses, one in white and one in green. Auntie V said that she had made the white one she had worn to her bridal shower and the green as her going away dress after her wedding.

We exchanged a glance and I knew my friend had the same idea I did, but with more courage than I she asked, "Can we try them on?" My heart pounded as Auntie V chuckled and said yes. The white eyelet dress was so fresh and springy that my friend couldn't help but twirl in excitement!  The pencil skirt green dress with a high neck and cap sleeves miraculously fit both my friend and myself (magic once again).  We both knew we would have to try to replicate this as we envied this for our own wardrobes. As we explored more of the wonders of this trunk, Auntie V shared another treausure from her closet, the dress she wore to her father's funeral, a wide collared v-neck with full skirt once again transported both of us to a time of elegance and grace.

This night was magical!

Our friends had introduced us to a wonderful woman who has been a light in their life and since spread her light to us. As we left for the weekend, she invited us back with eager anticipation to share more stories and more love of all things lovingly made.

Thank you Auntie V!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Art and Craft of Breathing

Making crafts is like breathing to me. Every time  I see something at a store or online I think, how could I improve this? My mind goes wild with what supplies I have and new ways I might  be able to use them to beautify or improve my surroundings.

I never want to go to the store to pick out something for a specific project--I'm more inspired by the items themseves and want to pair the items I love with other items I love. My shopping is much more if a time to  see what's available. I'll get a single skein of yarn just because I like the color or the texture is interesting or it's on clearance (I'm a sucker for the clearance signs!). Then when I come home I sit down with it and think, what would make the most out of this yarn? How can I show off the color, texture, as well as learn a new stitch or pattern?

The way I shop is so much like the way I crochet and experiment with yarn. I rarely follow a pattern to a T. I'll change the yarn or finish it in a different method or use a different hook size without thinking twice. Many times I've started a hat with one intention but what comes out is totally different. I'll add flowers and pom-poms hap-hazardly or make a long ruffle to give the hat an elegant flair.

All this comes out of a yearning to learn all I can and push my experiences with yarn that comes as second nature to me. I'm so thankful to be this way! I can do the same project over and over again and get different results each time. Just like a tree recycling air, I love bringing in items to my home, do a little crafting and taking out new, beautiful pieces to the world.

Enjoy your craftiness!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Crafty Day

Friday was another day of putting away tims, buttons, paper punches and organizers (I wish that it had been in my craft room instead of at work)

My husband repaired a chair we got off craigslist and had it all sanded down waiting to be refinished in our kitchen. It was as if it was greeting me as I came in shouting, "PRIME ME! PRIME ME!" How could I refuse a call like that! After stirring up the primer left from another project, I set about priming the chair while putting on a guilty pleasure show on my laptop. Even though I was only able to find a one inch flat brush, it came out nicely. I decided to make an off-white color by using a warm ivory and white acrylic paint.

After allowing the primer to dry over night, I started with the off white covering. It took a few tries to get the consistency and color right since I was using a watery craft ivory paint and a thicker tube acrylic white paint (gotta love those college leftovers :) ). The front legs of the chair have turned detailed that I decide would look great in alternating burnt orange and teal. However, after doing all of one side, I think I'll add more blue to the teal, it just looks quite child-like and not quite right for our dining room. I do want to try some floral motifs but I'm honestly getting sick of this at the moment and the apartment smells like paint even with the window open. I'll put it to the side for now.

I'll include pictures later on of this project

I love the way inspiration hits! While working on the chair I figured out my next hat and scarf combo! This makes 8 hats in the last two weeks!

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Today I've worked at a retail craft center (my day job), trying to be productive by unloading  a truck. After a backbreaking 8 hours, I spoke with a wonderful woman about a SERGER and all the wonderful things I could do with it. I used it and fell in love (sorry honey :) ). Now I just have to save up the money! Hope my hats sell!

Getting the right tools is imperative to enjoy the crafts you make. How would I be able to sit down for hours in pure enjoyment with my crochet projects if I had hooks that made my hands hurt and yarn that was difficult to work with, splitting with every stitch. ? I wouldn't enjoy it and I probably would quit. It doesn't mean that my first hook was hand turned ebony hook that I use for silk yarn scarves, I definitely use bamboo and soft acrylic. Mainly because it's cheaper.

Obviously it's easier to get affordable materials for crochet than other crafts, but their's always a trade off. The time you put into crochet is much more extensive than other crafts. To prove the point: the serger, how much could I make quickly with that machine (I could churn out clothing, bags, envelopes, pillows, aprons, cases, and so many other fabulous wonderfulness!) but the tool is SO expensive.

So my dreams of quick craftiness with have to be but on the back burner. My day ended at home working on tags for my hats and cowls. I loved simply experimenting with different ways of laying out the tag and writing a few descriptions. Oddly I even got some great ideas for more projects just by envisioning the tag I would attach to it! Love it when inspiration strikes! Like a granny square baby blanket and thank you card sets. I wish there were more hours in the day. I guess it's a good thing my day tomorrow starts at 5am and I have the weekend coming soon!

{God bless my creativity and remind me to honor you and give glory to you for my talents and in my creations}

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Starting a Site

So I'm trying to start a blog where I can document my efforts in crochet, crafting and starting to sell my wares! Here Goes!