Monday, November 30, 2009

Girls Night: November

This past week I hosted Girls Night at my house. We were excited to have back our missing member, A. ! A . and her husband moved across the country last spring and were home for the Thanksgiving holidays. As usual there was a lot of eating and laughing.

I decided on a craft idea inspired by some photos of table settings in the fall Pottery Barn catalogue.

The girls could decorate their glass candle holders (from the dollar store) with jute, brown ribbon, fresh cranberries, and hazlenuts or almonds.

I also bought rhinestones thinking that it would look stunning to use as an initial over the ribbon/ glass, but the girls were into the rustic look vs. the glam look, and I think their candle holders turned out great, don't you?

I didn't make one b/c I was on baby-holding duty. Somehow a baby and a glue gun just don't seem to go together, but maybe it's just me. A. was kind enough to give me her beautiful creations b/c she wasn't going to lug them back on the plane with her. The night was the perfect jumpstart to the holiday week.


I can't wait for our next Girls Night (even though we will be missing A.!); I'm hoping we continue with the Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. I spend months training for this event. I toil for countless days in the field researching the best recipes. I talk for hours with other bakers about the appropriate cooking times for each cookie. I plan and list chilling times, baking times, cooling times. I work up a sweat doing short sprints between the refrigerator and the counter. I work on leg squats by the oven door, pulling out the cookie sheets and working my triceps and biceps all while the kitchen timer relentlessly ticks the seconds away. When all the prepwork is finished I'm finally ready for the big event. And although the cookies are swapped and supposed to be given to friends, family and neighbors as gifts, I usually have to try all the different kinds. Only to maintain quality control, of course. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if the cookies weren't up to the proper standards. So, if that means I have to eat a cookie or two--or twelve--so be it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Keep or Toss?

Is this trash? Should it be kept or tossed?

Every now and then I get the urge to purge my house. Before Baby C. was born I, like many expectant mothers, turned the house upside down throwing things away and organizing like a madwoman. I don't know how productive this was, since the whole house looked like it was a casualty of WWII bombing after we brought home the little 8 lb darling. As much as I would like to blame the mess on Baby C. it's hard to frame it on him since he can't walk and pretty much slept and ate the entire first couple months. Hmm...maybe I'll just blame it on my husband instead. It can't have anything to do with me. Oh no...not me. I'm innocent.

Whoever's fault it is--not mine, I swear!--cleaning and organizing your house can force a diligent crafter to face one of life's most difficult moral dilemmas: should this be kept or tossed?

Sometimes keeping things makes me feel like one of the squirrels I see outside this time of year, frantically hoarding nuts like an obsessive compulsive. Other times I have nightmares that the police will have to come to my house to investigate a crime scene, and they'll have to wade through a bunch of junk that I've hoarded to collect evidence, finally giving up b/c there's no way they can navigate through all the stuff. Funny how the actual crime is not part of the nightmare; it's the obtrusive junk. This reminds me of the advice to always wear good underwear in case you have to go to the hospital. Again, apparently going to the hospital in an emergency situation is not nearly as bad as the nurses seeing you in underwear with a hole in it!

So even though my house is not nearly disorganized enough to have nightmares about, I sometimes feel compelled to just "throw it all away." We had a massive yard sale last spring and it felt awesome to see everything go...

Except that feeling didn't last long. Because a couple days later I was looking for a cookbook I rarely used but have held onto for years. I NEEDED a recipe for a coffee cake that was in that book. The book that I just gave away with a stack of others for a dollar. No biggie, right? I just went on the internet and got another recipe that wasn't quite the same but was just as good. No big deal...

But then a month or so after that it happened again! This time it was a bag full of 5 skeins of yarn and a set of knitting needles. It was also sold for a dollar at the yard sale. It went to a lovely woman "for her mother." I must have held on to that bag for twelve years. At nine months pregnant I thought, I haven't used these in years, the yarns are too dark, and I like crochet better than knitting anyway. Let me toss it. Of course within two months I was cursing myself for selling it; I became interested in knitting again and the dark yarns would be perfect colors for a little boy. What was I thinking?

It's uncanny how an item that has collected dust in the basement for over a decade can suddenly seem so important and necessary after it's been thrown/ given away. I'm sure it's some subconscious desire to always have what you can't.

This is very troublesome for crafters when it comes to scraps/ supplies. I wonder if the items in question are trash or treasure. Will I ever use those fabric scraps from my first quilt again? Sure, I haven't used my chalk pastels since college, but will I suddenly be struck with the motivation to use them once they're gone? What about that beautiful yarn that's too scratchy to use for anything, but is too beautiful to get rid of? All these things are stashed away in rubbermaid bins, hoping they escape the next yard sale.

I like to imagine that woman's mother from the yard sale has used the yarns that I took for granted for so many years and made something really special with them. Or maybe that exact bag is now sitting in her basement! As for me, I'm off to the craft store to buy the exact yarns and needles I sold last spring. I solemnly swear to be more discriminating from now on when it comes to purging.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I received a new Garnet Hill catalogue in the mail last week. I
was so excited to see so many beautiful handmade products in its pages. From the Christmas ornaments and stockings to these stunning throws, it was a crafter's dream.

These blankets are particularly awesome, because they're crocheted! The top two are hexagon grannies (I mentioned how I have been wanting to make something with that pattern).

And this last one is--you guessed it---Circles in the Square, which I am very familiar with. Circular patterns are very eye-catching and more modern looking when it comes to granny squares, in my opinion.

I'm currently knee-deep (hand-deep?) in yarn at the moment, making a lot of holiday gifts, attempting crochet snowflakes (I spent two hours working on one before I realized the pattern I was using was flawed. I would like to stab the pattern writer with my crochet hook! Hey, that's a lot of valuable nap time to waste, people!), and constantly feeling the pull of other crochet projects I would like to try. The pre-holiday season is a very busy time for us crafters. If you know other knitters/ crocheters, I bet they have started to get that serious, game-face look. Maybe beads of sweat have started to break out on their brows. When you talk to them they have that far-away, preoccupied look on their faces? Yep, they've got a lot of crocheting/ knitting to do before Dec. 25th.

I'm going to buckle down, focus on my current projects, and finish them. Then I can start to think about these lovely inspiration pieces pictured above...or maybe I should get started on next year's Christmas gifts?

For the cost curious, the hexagon blankets are priced at $348 and the pillows at $98. The Circle in the Square blanket is priced at $128. Crafters all over are raising their prices, I'm sure.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Once Upon a Square

I mentioned in the previous post how I'm a sucker for instant gratification. This became even more apparent to me this week as I stayed up way too late each night reading a book lent to me by my friend K. As I read the suspense/ romance Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart, I realized that I wanted to finish the entire book in one sitting so I could find out what happened--immediately. I didn't do it this time, but I have been known in the past to read ahead to find out what happens, or even read the last few pages of a book before I'm done. Yes, I'm one of those people. As I sacrificed much-needed mom sleep, it became increasingly clear that I really have a problem. Hi, My name is S and I'm impatient.

Here's another example of how crochet feeds this bad habit: I became interested in crochet again a year or two ago because I learned how to make granny squares. Just like the baby earflap hats, granny squares are like crack for a IG (instant gratification) addict like myself. Again, in only a short time you have a completed sqaure to admire. It's more satifiying than looking at the several rows you crocheted in a blanket or scarf. There are so many beautiful patterns to choose from as well. The practice squares in the picture above are a simple Solid Square; the twister blanket I made for my neice is a Circle in a Square. There are so many others I'd like to try. It's very exciting for a craft nerd like me.

The key to all granny squares, hats, mittens, snowflakes, leaves, and other motifs is to chain a circle. The beginning of this video is a good example. Once you master this easy technique, virtually all crochet doors are open to you.

I have grand plans for future blankets and pillows utilizing the dozens and dozens of different patterns, and we're not even talking about the hexagons, and triangles, and paisley motifs. The endless color combinations, the countless stitches to try...Oh, the suspense of it all! If only I could just make them all RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE! Wouldn't it be wonderful?
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