Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Girls Night: February

It was my turn to host Girls/ Boys Night last Friday. It was great seeing everyone especially since I haven't felt like getting out much because of the snow. K. was 9 months pregnant (she's at the hospital in labor right now, actually! I can't wait to meet the new little one!), so it was especially nice that she ventured out.

I've been craving Spinach-Artichoke Dip so I randomly used this recipe. I really liked it and would definitely make it again. And I've been in the mood for Monkey Bread ever since I had my sister-in-law's a month ago in South Jersey. I used this recipe. I always put white frosting in the center of the "bread" because the million cups of sugar already in the recipe are obviously not enough for me. K. and P. brought goodies as well. I think I ate myself into a food coma.

I decided on a practical craft that I found here. It seemed pretty easy: save tin cans with lids from the recycling bin and cover them in decorative paper. Kids always seem to have a ton of junk, like broken crayons, markers, little toys, etc. These tins are easy storage.

It's also a great way to recycle if you are trying to be more green.

Baby C. likes to roll his empty containers around on the floor. Here's another tip for new parents: don't buy your child any toys; just give them trash to play with. Baby C. can have the nicest toy in the world sitting right in front of him, but he will inevitably want to play with an empty box of spaghetti or toilet paper roll. Why is this? If he had his way he would beeline for the trashcan, knock it over, and then spend an hour or two happily sifting through the garbage. Nice. Maybe he'll go into Maintenance when he's older? He also likes putting his hands in my mouth and picking away at my teeth/ gums. So, he may gravitate toward dentistry instead. Who knows?

We will be taking a short hiatus from Girls Night since K. will have her hands full with her little newborn. P. is also expecting in the spring, so we will probably not meet regularly for a little while.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Once Upon a Quilt

Once upon a time, long long ago, like three years ago, I thought it would be a really great idea to make a baby quilt. I knew that I wanted to have children at some point and figured I would make a unisex quilt for the future. My generous husband had gotten me a nice sewing machine for Christmas, and I was anxious to try it out. I went to a genuine quilt fabric store in a cute little shopping village with K. and P. and had a jolly good time picking out fabrics. P. helped quite a bit b/c she legitimately knows how to sew and quilt. Even though I had no idea what all the little gadgets did on my sewing machine, and I stared ignorantly at the quilting mats, rulers, batting, etc., I felt pretty confident b/c this was not my first quilt rodeo.

The first quilt I ever made was when I was in third or fourth grade. I made it for my dog, Mickey. Mickey was a really adorable (and extremely patient) Yorkie. I remember painstakingly cutting out squares from old t-shirts and shorts and laying them out in a pattern for his blanket. I hand sewed the squares together (a real hatchet job). I remember being hunched over on my bed, biting on my tongue, feverishly working on Mickey's quilt. At one point I realized that I couldn't lift up the blanket anymore, and then I realized that I had sewn it to my bedspread as well as to my underwear. I had to practically start all over again. But Mickey was worth it. And every dog needs a quilt. Obviously.

Making the baby quilt was much easier b/c of the machine and P.'s expertise. A year went by and I had made a little progress, but I wasn't in any rush. I wasn't expecting and other things took up my time:  movies, books, going out to dinner, vacations, leisure time---all things that would go by the wayside once Baby C. showed up.

Fast forward to a week before Baby C. was born. I was a big nine months pregnant staring down at an unfinished baby quilt laid out on the floor. If there was ever a time to finish that quilt it was now. I turned to YouTube to figure out how to add batting, and bind and finish it. I remember spending hours crawling around on all fours trying to finish that stupid, stupid quilt with my large, 8.4 lb baby-containing stomach hanging down like a weight, almost touching the floor. I shed tears and blood finishing that quilt. My pregnancy-addled brain could not handle doing math or measuring anything. I was in a total fatigued fog. My husband spent several hours helping me, crawling around on the floor on all fours with me after I had yet another crying fit. I had mis-measured and cut my fabric incorrectly. There was no way I could deal and he had to take over. I remembered thinking at the time, this is really hard work. Between the cutting and crawling around, and getting up all the time to iron. How do old ladies do it? Quilting was more like a sport than a hobby.

The quilt was finally finished about three days before the baby was born. It guess it's more of a blanket than a quilt, since it's not quilted. Like Mickey's blanket, it was totally worth it. And it got used almost every single day for tummy time since Baby C. came home. It's not heirloom-worthy because of all the mistakes, but I'm pretty proud of it. And I'd actually like to make another quilt one day when I have a little more time. So, like in twenty years or so.

That is the story of my foray into sewing/ quilt-making. And we all lived happily ever after. The End.

*** Pillow Update

I'm still not done that darn pillow...I should have just gone with my first instinct and gotten rid of that no good yarn in the first place. It demands all of my time, sits on the couch like a log, offers no conversation. What about my needs?

I thought that that yarn would be "perfect" for a pillow, and what a great way to use up extra yarn. Well, it's not that perfect when you don't have enough of it. I just had to go out and buy another skein. I've been holed up in my house unable to go to the craft store b/c of a blizzard this past week which has caused a big delay in production.

Anyway, I hope to be finished it soon. I'm not making any promises though. Right now we're not talking to each other. And between you and me, it makes me sick to look at it. No good, lazy, good fer nuthin' yarn...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pillow Talk

You know how it sometimes feels when everything just clicks? The stars seem to align and the universe smiles down benevolently on you, filling your heart with swelling anticipation and excitement??? Like here was this awesome thing sitting right in front of your jaded eyes for so long and then--BAM--you suddenly realize how wonderful and perfect it is?

I have had this lonely yarn sitting in the closet for probably 8 years now. It was originally going to be used for a blanket which I had started and then ripped out. I fell out of love with its "homespun"-ish look and had no idea what to do with it. Our relationship was completely over and during my anti-hoarding period I even considered throwing it away like a used tissue--very heartless, I know.

Since Baby C. was born, the throw pillows on my couch have taken a serious beating. (Note to new parents: make sure to cover anything you care about with a burp cloth or blanket because the baby will spit up on everything. I still don't know why I had to learn this the hard way). Anyway, I was looking though a new Pottery Barn catalogue the other day and saw these crocheted pillows featured in the pages:

It finally hit me. The "homespun" yarn would be perfect for a throw pillow. And the yarn even goes perfectly with the color of the room. This is a match made in heaven!

I think it took me so long to seize on this idea because I have only really seen crocheted granny square pillows before, and I'm not that crazy about how they look. I never really thought beyond this design. Taking inspiration from Pottery Barn, I decided on either a basket-weave look, or a simplified, small crossover pattern.

I asked the yarn for its forgiveness and patted it lovingly as I crocheted. While working, I decided to abandon a pattern completely and just use single crochets; the yarn is textured enough without throwing a pattern into the mix. I don't know how I could've overlooked such personality and charisma before. What a fool I've been!

Here is the WIP:

You wouldn't know it by looking at it, but this represents 4+ hours of work; it's kind of a big pillow and I'm kind of a slow crocheter. Hopefully I can finish it this week.

It's very satisfying to be able to use things you already have to make something new. And it's nice to be able to fall in love all over again with this yarn. I have a feeling that this relationship is going to last.
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