Thursday, January 31, 2013

Recently Read: Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster

The most recent BlogHer Book Club pick - Here I Go Again, by Jen Lancaster - was like delicious candy. Wait... it was also cheesy. Can candy be cheesy? If it can - this book is it.

Here I Go Again starts off with 30-something Lissy Ryder, teenager of the 90's, prepping for her High School reunion. Lissy was the “Mean Girl” in her high school, and when her life falls apart, she realizes she should have done a few things differently.

I had high hopes for this novel - that it might go off in a Young Adult - type direction (the recent indie film), with the main character driven to therapy by her social instability in adult life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get dark, but it does get campily fun and paranormal, which is a-ok by me. 

As Lissy travels back to high school, thanks to what is basically a mystical potion, she gets to revisit her past sins, her cheerleading uniform, and past boyfriends. She learns a few lessons, and her’s is a pretty general high school story. But some of the peripheral characters are more colorful, and change throughout the book, making for an engaging and relatable read. I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters I went to high school with, and where they might be today. 

What really makes this book different than others is the goofy tone. The parentheticals! Who knew you could pile one on top of the other? But it just added to the light, conversational tone of the book, and made for an easy read. I think I breezed through it in about three days. If you’re in the mood for a light, fun novel, this is it. 

This post is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions expressed are my own. Past book reviews are here

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Hat with a Beard - A Christmas Classic

Yup, I'm still posting pictures of all my holiday gift knitting (and sewing). Hope you enjoy, and leave links to your holiday projects in the comments for me to look at, too! 

Beard Hat & Gloves
Modeled by Chris

Gifted To: Sometime in November, my little brother, Patrick, texted me a photo of a hat with a beard attached that simply said "Christmas?" My baby brother was requesting hand knits? How could I do anything but oblige?!
Pattern(s): I looked around for a good hat pattern, and settled on the Asterisk Hat. It was a lovely, straight-forward hat pattern, perfect for any sort of dude in your life. The mitts are of my own design, based on the Asterisk design elements. For the beard, I based it on the Garter Stitch Beard pattern. I think I used bigger needles, because it was too small. It was a long time ago....

Yarn: Yup, this yarn is leftovers from my Bombshell Shorts - Knit Picks Gloss DK in Clover. It worked perfectly, and Patrick loves green, so it was a good fit. 

Beard Hat

Patrick totally loved this combo, so I count this as one of the most successful hand knit presents I've ever given him. Although he did go crazy for a scarf in MSU colors when he was about 5...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blanket for Baby #3

Yup, I'm still posting pictures of all my holiday gift knitting (and sewing). Hope you enjoy, and leave links to your holiday projects in the comments for me to look at, too! 

Baby Blanket

Gifted To: Technically, this is a blanket for my brother's third baby - a boy - due in March. But I wrapped it up and gave it as a Christmas gift to my brother and his wife, because it just felt a little more special. Plus, they'll get another gift once baby arrives. 

Pattern: Chevron Baby Blanket from the Purl Bee. This one had been in my queue for awhile, just waiting for the right baby and the right...

Yarn: Baby's First, a Lion Brand yarn. Oh man, this yarn! I picked it up on a whim at Michael's when I was doing a ton of Christmas crafting shopping, and it is awesome. An acrylic/cotton blend (that I had never seen before), it feels like a squishy, soft sweatshirt when knit up. I wish they made more colors, because I would totally make a blanket for myself out of this stuff! 

Baby Blanket for #3

When I presented Michael and Jen with this blanket, after ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over it, Jen said, "I didn't know if you were going to make a third one! Madigan has her's, and Ellie has her's, so I thought, maybe there will be a third, maybe not!"

But I will confess to you, dear readers, that one of the sweetest things Jen has ever said (or texted) to me was about those two baby blankets. She once said something along the lines of, "I'm so glad my daughters have special handmade blankets and sweaters, just for them, so they know they are loved and special." I'm paraphrasing here, but just be assured, my heart did melt. And she pretty much secured a lifetime of handmade goodness for her babies. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to Host a Crafternoon

After reading all your comments on my New Years Resolution post, I thought the first item I'd check off the list was to Roast a Chicken. You guys make it sound so easy!

But nope, apparently that wasn't ambitious enough for me, so I decided to plow full-steam-ahead into my very first Craft Night gathering. Which turned into a Crafternoon.


And now, you can recreate this crafty gathering at home:

Step 1: Assemble some crafty friends. I used a Facebook group for communicative purposes and we found a time to assemble. Not a "Craft Night," my friends, but a Sunday afternoon.

Step 2: Mimosas and baked goods. It's Sunday afternoon and you're crafting! What further reason do you need for libations and pastries? 

Stacia's Crafternoon

Step 3: Have everyone BYOCraft. We had a lot of fun working on our own individual crafty projects and checking in with each other for inspiration. We had knitting, painting, embroidery and valentine-making.

Robin. Tunney's. Wig.

Step 4: Put on a Crafty Movie. We went with a classic - "The Craft" - which I own on VHS. Yes, I am one of the few holding on to my VHS player, since it's attached to our TV. And yes, I can't resist pointing out how terrible Robin Tunney's wig is in this movie (why is it always blowing in the breeze?). 

Man Socks
I worked on this pair of man socks for Chris

Step 5: Make new friends. Have your crafty group bring their crafty friends! It was fun bringing ladies together in the name of craft. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

NOEL Scrabble Pillows

Yup, I'm still posting pictures of all my holiday gift knitting (and sewing). Hope you enjoy, and leave links to your holiday projects in the comments for me to look at, too! 

Noel Scrabble Pillows

Gifted To: My Grandma. She got an iPad for Christmas last year (2011), and loves to play Words With Friends, using the chat feature quite liberally (things got pretty heated around election time!). So when it came time to choose what to make for G.Ma, I knew it would be something Ww/F or Scrabble-related.

Back of Noel Pillows

Pattern: My own. After looking around for some inspiration, here's what I did: 

I Googled "Scrabble Font," and printed out the letters that I wanted as large as I wanted them. Then I cut them out and used them as pattern pieces. I backed the felt with iron-on adhesive (this stuff), then cut out the letters using my pattern pieces. I cut 6" square pieces of linen and backing fabric. I ironed the letters where I wanted them on the linen, then hand stitched them. I sewed the front to the back, and then stuffed the little pillows. 

Fabric: Red Felt, linen and Christmas left-overs I bought from Sew Mama, Sew about 3 years ago. Stash-busting! 

Grandma's Couch

And here they are on Grandma's amazing mid-century couch. I have laid heavy claim to this couch, but I'll have to fight off my Uncle Mike for it, according to my mother. It might cost a bit to have it shipped from Ohio to California - but I think it's worth it. Plus, Uncle Mike lives in London - so it's not like it's cheap to ship it there! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Christmas Wallpaper

Yup, I'm still posting pictures of all my holiday gift knitting (and sewing). Hope you enjoy, and leave links to your holiday projects in the comments for me to look at, too! 

Wallpaper Cowl

Gifted To: My Mom. Dare I say, I gave her two cowls for Christmas this year. She requested one of the samples from my Chevron Sunshine pattern, but then while I was knitting this one up as part of the Wallpaper Cowl KAL, it just kept calling her name. When she opened this one first on Christmas morning, she said "This is not the one I wanted... but I like this one better!"

Closeup on Wallpaper Cowl

Pattern: Wallpaper Cowl by Emma Welford. 

Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss DK in Hawk and Fairy Tale, and Knit Picks Gloss Fingering in Kenai. I really, really love these colors. I'd been wanting to use Fairy Tale for something all Fall, so this was my chance! And I love the contrast color lining in the design. 

Needles: US 6. I was totally boring and followed this pattern completely as written. It really didn't need anything else! 

WP Cowl

Watched while knitting: All of the possible Christmas movies I own. Which is not as many as the Halloween movies I own, but it's a lot: White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Nightmare Before Christmas (it's both! Chris says it's just for Halloween but he's WRONG), Home Alone and Love Actually. I like to get into the season with my film-watching. 

Lining of Wallpaper Cowl

Monday, January 14, 2013

Felt Desserts (Perfect if you're on a diet!)

Yay, I can post pictures of all my holiday gift knitting (and sewing)! Hope you enjoy, and leave links to your holiday projects in the comments for me to look at, too! 

Felt Ice Cream

Gifted To: My niece, Emlyn, and Chris' nephew, Josh. Once I came up with the idea for Ellie, I made a double batch so Josh could have some, too! 

Pattern: My own - inspired by many others around the interwebs. 

Yum! Felt Donuts

I was at a loss this year, trying to figure out a gift for my two and half year old niece. And then my sister gave me a big clue, "Ellie loves dessert!"

With that directive, I took off running. It's been awhile since I made play food, but it's always fun to figure out how to best represent one's favorite foods with felt. I knew I wanted to make her some ice cream - so the ice cream cone came first. Then I added in some Oreos, since they're easy to make up in large batches. 

But those donuts - oh man - they are my favorite of the three desserts. I want to eat them, they look so good! But they were a bitch to sew (each one completely by hand), and I stayed up way past my bed time to get them done. 

Felt Dessert!

Chris totally wanted to keep one for himself. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recently Read: The Willpower Instinct

I think the Blogher Book Club has officially changed my mind about self-help books. The most recent book up for review, The Willpower Instinct, by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, was not only an interesting read, but one I found quite helpful.

You may remember that one of my New Years resolutions is to “Lose 30lbs before I turn 30,” so when the chance came to review a book about willpower, I knew it could be useful. Although I’m always skeptical about non-fiction (what can I say, I love me some fiction!), McGonigal’s book immediately drew me in. She has a easy, chatty tone with interesting stories about her students and their willpower challenges, and a great sense of humor. 

McGonigal’s writing style combines a scientific discussion of willpower with strategies to overcome nature’s pitfalls in your own life. Chapter 4, which focused on Moral Licensing, really spoke to me. How often have I told myself “I deserve this treat,” when it’s counter-productive to my overall goal? No longer! 

The book is designed to be used like her class - at the end of each chapter there are lessons and rules to put into practice, along with a chapter summary, and you’re supposed to conquer one a week. Of course I had to read the whole book in one go for reviewing purposes, but I think I’ll go back and reference McGonigal’s rules and ideas for weekly improvement throughout the next few months. This format makes it easy and accessible to really use the book for it’s intended purpose - giving you the willpower to overcome your challenge. Hopefully it’ll help me with mine! 

This post is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions expressed are my own. Past book reviews are here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Falling Leaves Mittens

Yay, I can post pictures of all my holiday gift knitting! Hope you enjoy, and leave links to your holiday projects in the comments for me to look at, too! 

Leaves Mittens

Gifted to: Allyson, although when I started this, I didn't know that they would be for her! However, when I was done, I knew that I wanted to give these colorwork beauties to someone who would really appreciate them, and needed something extra special this Christmas. I guess I started a lot of projects this year without knowing who'd they would go to! 

Pattern: Woodland Winter Mittens, by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence. 

Closeup Leaves Mittens

Yarn: Knit Picks Palette in 7 colors. The yarn and pattern came as part of a kit that I received for Christmas in 2011. There's colorwork charts that correspond to the months October through March, and enough yarn in the kit to make 6 pairs of mittens. That's a lot of fiddly colorwork mittens, so I'm proud to have finished at least one pair in 2012! 

Needles: Size 2 circs with a 40" wire for magic loop. These would be super annoying on DPN's. 

Modifications: The pattern recommends a size 1 needle, but after I swatched, I realized my gauge was way off. And I'm not the only one - countless others on Ravelry said that they went up one or even two needle sizes in order to get mittens that fit. Part of that is the tiny needles - but the pattern is also written very small. These mittens were fitted on me (and Allyson), and I have tiny hands. I think I'll try knitting the next pair on a size 3 needle and see how it goes, or add a border of extra background stitches.

I also added 4 more stitches to the thumb, which was worryingly small, and just worked those extra 4 stitches in the background color around the thumb pattern. 

Leaves Mittens Front

Watched While Knitting: Season 1 of Friday Night Lights. Everyone's been talking about this show for years, and I was all like, "Yeah, but I don't like football!" I'm dumb - this show is awesome. The camera work and characters are both equally amazing, and I think now that the holidays are over (I go crazy for Christmas movies), Chris and I will watch more. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tri-Color Multiplicity

Yay, I can post pictures of all my holiday gift knitting! Hope you enjoy, and leave links to your holiday projects in the comments for me to look at, too! 


Gifted To: Sharriese, my friend in Chicago and roommate in college. As soon as I started knitting it, I knew it would go to her - the colors just scream "Sharriese." Plus she texted me that she cried when she opened the package, and if that's not a sign that she deserved it, I don't know what is!

Multiplicity 4

PatternMultiplicity from Holla Knits Accessories, by Allyson Dykhuizen

Yarn: This pattern is wonderful for stash busting! It calls for DK, but I didn't have enough of any two colors of DK weight, so I turned to worsted. I picked a skein of Wool-Ease in Grey Heather and a skein of Full O' Sheep in Mediterranean.

But then about halfway through, I got worried that I was going to run out of yarn before I finished, and I thought about doing the striped gusset in coordinating colors. I picked out leftovers from Honors Geometry, but ended up just using a small ball (less than a quarter skien) of Sheep(ish) in Lime(ish) striped with the grey. I also used the Lime yarn to whip stitch the pocket together. I absolutely LOVED these three colors together!

Needles: I went up to a size 8 to match the change in yarn weight.

Strap: A coordinating strap from Homestead Heirlooms, LLC in "Split Pea."

Modifications: Other than shifting the gauge to match the yarn, I made no changes in the pattern as written. But, I did re-enforce the side seams of the bag with my sewing machine, because I wanted to make sure it would stand up to every day purse-like use. 

So I sewed everything together by hand, as Allyson designed, and then went over it again with the machine. I definitely recommend doing both if you're going to use the machine. Machine sewing + hand knitting can get really icky, fast. 

Multiplicity 2 

I love the way this one turned out, and I really loved using up stash yarn. This could definitely be done with two of your standard worsted-weight skeins. You know, the kind you buy when walking through Joann's without a plan (always a bad idea). 

Allyson and I were joking that since I didn't have any DK yarn, I shouldn't go up in weight, but down. So a Mini-Multiplicity made with sock yarn and size 2 needles is now officially on my "To Knit" list. Because I'm a crazy person who wants to double knit on size 2's. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Resolutions

So I wasn't going to do a list of resolutions, because I think they're kinda silly. Because people don't hold on to them past January, or make the same resolutions year after year, without actually changing anything.

These succulents felt New Years-y for some reason...

But then I realized that I have been making little goals for myself for the next year. I suppose you can't fight the reflection that the end of the year brings. So I started writing things down, and before I knew it, I had a whole list. So I'll call them resolutions, or goals, and put them out in the world.

Happy New Year! New Year's Breakfast
Chris & I on NYE, Chris made a fancy New Years brunch

1. Lose 30lbs before I turn 30 years. Yup, this year I turn 30 in September. I'm not dreading this in the slightest, except that I know that it will only get harder to lose weight and get fit from here on out. By the way, this goal started as "Lose 25lbs," but then my sister and I were chatting about it, and she said, "Too bad it's not 30, that would sound better!" And I said, "Well, I've probably gained 5lbs over Christmas..." Hahah...

2. Get a commercial agent by April. I've been in LA for a year, now, and although I've done some great stuff, I'll need an agent to take things to the next level. So this is my first concrete career goal of the year.

3. More reading, more music, more sewing. How to put this one into a simple sentence? This year I did less of these three things (I only read 9 books!) than ever before. Clearly, I have a lot of hobbies, and I think they help me relax. So this year, more of relaxing though hobbies.

4. De-stash. I have a lot of craft supplies, and live in a tiny apartment. So no buying anything new - this year I'll use up the stuff I have. This also includes listing things on etsy that are sitting around (a lot of felt curios and brooches).

5. Re-design Blog. It's been almost two years since my sister designed the awesome header up there. So yeah, time for something new.

6. Write on the blog. It's so easy to post pictures of projects and call it a blog post, right? And sometimes that's just what you want, but to be honest, I don't feel like this blog has been a very true representation of my personality lately. Movies and TV are also a huge part of my life that I almost never share on here. So not all the time, but sometimes, I'll write more, about more subjects.

7. Buy less, be more creative with what I have. I have a lot of clothes, a lot of shoes, a lot of stuff. So this year, I'll be more creative with the things I have, and get rid of the things I don't like to use.

8. Learn to use my DSLR. Ok, so I'm not, like, a novice. But there's a lot more to learn on my fancy-ass camera, and this year I'm finally going to learn. There's even a video function!

9. Roast a chicken. This is my cooking goal for this year. Chris does most of the cooking around here, but I like to get in the kitchen once in awhile, and this year I'm going to roast a chicken, whole. Because I love roast chicken.

10. Host a monthly craft night. I spent 2012 telling my crafty friends that I was going to host a craft night. Time to make good on that promise. If you're crafty in SoCal, let me know so I can add you to the list!

You might notice that none of my goals are about knitting, travel, etsy, designing, and such. I don't really feel the need to make concrete goals for those things - I know they will just happen!

Thanks, friends, for reading. I hope you've had a lovely New Year, and I'm so thankful that you've stuck around for another year. I look forward to another year of friendship!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year!

2012 was a hell of a roller coaster for me - how about you? I wanted to try to do a wrap-up of this year, but honestly, it feels a bit overwhelming, so how about I just do "selected highlights from 2012", sound good?


Most importantly, I moved from Chicago to LA this year! My sister and I drove across the country at the end of January, and now I get to look at this kitschy apartment building every day.

apartment complex

I honestly couldn't be happier in LA - it was a life change that has brought so many interesting challenges, new friends and so much fun. 


I wrote and published knitting patterns for the first time this year. Holla Knits was huge for me. Thanks to Allyson's urging, I had the courage to put my designs (and myself) out in the world. I was equally lauded and criticized, and it's been amazing seeing finished knits from my designs. 

Honors Geometry Cowl - Shawl-like

Meg's Sweater - BackHolla Back Tank BackBack of Lace Stripes

I knit a lot this year. I'm talking 5 sweaters, 2 baby blankets, 10 cowls, 10 misc. accessories, 4 pairs of gloves, 1 hat, 1 pair of shorts, and 72 mini mittens.

72 mittens

Oh, and socks. This year, I finally conquered socks, and knit 3 pairs. 

socks, two at a time

I dyed my own line of yarn for WORK+SHELTER using tea, and knit a few cowls with it.

Yarn hanging to dry

The yarn looks beautiful, and it was so inspiring to get involved with this wonderful organization, but overall the yarn line was a failure. It's kinda weird to type that, but it's the truth. I learned a lot from this experience, and I'm so happy that I went through it. Would I do it again? Probably not like I did the first time, but we'll see what 2013 holds for the ladies of W+S.

chevron scarf

iphone case Louise's Bridesmaids' Hair Pieces

I sewed very little. Much less than I did in 2011. In fact, these pictures are pretty much all the sewing I did in 2012, plus one wedding dress (still waiting on pictures!), and 5 sets of fabric napkins. I really miss embroidery, so that's one thing I'll be doing more of in 2013.


But I did make this sweet Instagram Wall. It is, hands down, the thing people ask about most when they come to visit my home, and I love it. I'll probably trade out a few of the pictures soon!

my instagram wall DIY

And lastly, this year I traveled a lot. Beside my cross-country trip, living in California has opened me up to a ton of weekend adventures, and I've loved seeing this side of the country. From Disneyland to Portland, Chris and I have seen a lot of awesome sights this year. 

us on the beach