01 December 2015

Christmas Crochet Mini Stockings

To get myself back on a crochet page, so to speak, I thought I'd schedule a post-NaBloPoMo post about my latest FO (finished off project). I made 17 mini stockings for Jane and her classmates. I have no idea if they'll celebrate Christmas or have a holiday party or what, but I'm sure I can send them with her the last day of class even if not. 

My Gran crocheted things like these for Owen's classes when he was little (and maybe for my sister's preschool classes too?). She cranked out a TON of them that's for sure. 

Those kids received real candy canes, but I went with a bookmark ruler candy cane (affiliate link). I saw them first in an Oriental Trading catalog but found them on Amazon with Prime, so you can guess what I did...

I looked up a mini stocking pattern, but it used double crochets in groups of 4. I had a stocking Gran had crocheted to look at too, and hers was so small because of her tighter tension and maybe thinner yarn so I used half-double crochets in groups of 3 to get closer to the size of her stocking (mine was still a bit bigger). I tried a few yarn combinations but ended up sticking with that colors she did. But my yarn has a little silver sparkle thread running through it. Jane thinks it looks fancy!

Basically starts with a five-point granny star with three rows.
Fold it and sc around, add a hanger (ch8, sc in 8th ch from hook) - voila!
17 mini stockings with candy cane bookmark rulers!
That's a LOT of ends to weave in (17 x 3 colors x 2 ends per color = 102 ends!) 
I have another Christmas-related crochet project for Jane's teachers, plus I'm finishing up a 3-hat order (reindeer, dinosaur and penguin). Making hats to exact size is MUCH harder than just winging it like I do for all the hats I make for faires. I'm trying to create a pink chevron blanket to fit on Jane's twin bed, but I'm not sure if it will be ready for Christmas. It's a LOT of double crochet, but it looks awesome and is easy/mindless. I'll post those projects as I finish. 

Do you have any Christmas crafting going on at your house?

30 November 2015

24-Hour Product Diary

I love the 24-Hour Product Diaries on Millihelen, an offshoot blog from Jezebel. Of course that blog is being closed so there will be no more diaries. I found some good recommendations via the blogs and it was fun to see such personal but helpful information from writers.

I wanted to write my own product diary and have had it on my "blog post idea" list, so here we go on the last day of NaBloPoMo! This is a fictional day because I don't wash my hair every day, and I wear make up even less often. I'll start my diary at night, since I shower before bed. I'm super lazy in the mornings! Sorry for no pictures -- that's how it goes with a fictional day!

10 p.m. - Wash hair with Chi Infra Shampoo and Conditioner, and while the conditioner sets wash body with Aveeno unscented body wash. When I was pregnant with Jane I was extra sensitive to scents and started using this. I've kept it up, aside from a travel size Bath & Body Works warm vanilla sugar body wash that sometimes sees the light of day or sometimes borrowing her Dr. Bronner's baby mild unscented soap. Shave with Intuition razor, the kind with the shave soap around the blade so you don't have to lather up separately. Wash face with Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser. Rinse, rinse, rinse.

10:10 p.m. - Comb hair and if going curly put in some Tigi Bedhead Manipulator with a pump of Organix vanilla serum (a tip I picked up from Millihelen!). If I'm blow drying straight I'd wash my hair/shower earlier to not have to blow dry so late. I use Chi Infra products for straightening. On my face I use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer "yellow stuff" and All About Eyes cream (my most expensive products). I also use a drop of Acure argan oil in my nose to ward off dry-ness. My mom turned me onto that and it really works. Even though I live in a humid place I still would get nose flakiness and pain but since I've been using this (maybe a year?) that is gone. Maybe I use some EOS lip balm and then hit the sheets. (If my skin is dry I'd use some Eucerin cream, but lately my skin has been OK without it ... also, I am totally lazy.)

7:15 a.m. - theoretically start putting on makeup. This would be about when I'd be getting ready for church, which is the day of the week I always wear make up. I use a BB cream (beauty balm or blemish balm, depending on who you ask) -- right now Garnier and I have a Cover Girl tube to use next just because I had a great CVS coupon. I put it on with a makeup wedge sponge. Then I use a Maybelline eyeliner and Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara (or whatever mascara I had a coupon for). Mascara is the make up I wear most often. I might use a little eye shadow -- basically whatever came free in the last Clinique bonus bag -- and I'd put it on after eyeliner but before mascara. I like lighter, neutral shadows. I also use a Cover Girl clear mascara on my eyebrows to tame them a little (they are wild and I only moderately pluck them). I rarely wear lipstick because I can't get used to the idea and think I look weird with it on, although seeing myself in a picture next to Jane and her cutie pie cherry lips I should maybe try to wear it sometimes!

I own a LOT more make up and hair products (sometimes I'd use a generic mousse to go curly but I'm trying out this new product combo for now), but this is what I've been using lately. All items are purchased by me (or my mom in the case of the argan oil). This is not a sponsored post!

Some Amazon affiliate links used. Using those links to make a purchase (even if not the linked product) should earn me a few cents at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog! (I have never earned any affiliate money, but I keep linking because I find it helpful on other blogs.)

29 November 2015

One Month as a Bullet Journalist

Or maybe it's bullet journaler? The official Bullet Journal website calls them journalists though, and I like that. There's a video on that site that explains the basic set up.

I first heard about bullet journaling on Miss Zoot's blog. She's a super bullet journalist and has perfected the system to work for her. A quick look on Pinterest finds tons of boards and cool ideas for layouts. It's pretty intimidating and inspiring at the same time.

The idea for a bullet journal is that you put your lists in one place. No more floating pieces of paper with notes and to do lists. It's all in one notebook and you create an index and page numbers so you can find lists later. I used to use a Franklin Covey planner (still have it and it serves as my hard copy address book despite being so ginormous), but lately I'd been without a real planning system and relied on assorted lists, calendars and my memory (never a good thing to rely on!).

Also new shirt from my mama for my birthday!
The preferred notebook seems to be a Moleskine or something similar. I didn't buy a new notebook to get started. My mom had given me a beautiful spiral bound hard cover notebook with purple elephants that I decided to use. So far it's working fine, although it isn't as portable as a Moleskine and doesn't have the band or pocket to keep any loose papers. I started off using a "nice" pen but have since devolved to just using whatever regular ballpoint is close by.

I started trying to follow the system exactly - or as exactly as I could with a newbie's understanding. There were only a few days in October when I started, but I did the "calendar" list of days -- just W28 for Wednesday the 28th, etc. And I gave myself two lines for calendar items like appointments or date-specific tasks. After only four days I gave that up and switched back to my normal to do list. 

I use a half page to one page for each day and just list things that need to get done. Some items get repeated because they're really not daily tasks but "do sometime this week" kind of tasks. I also could make a separate "Weekly" list or "Longer Term" list, but I'm still finding my way and think I would lose a weekly list in the crush of daily pages.

I also started with the recommended box for a task, circle for an appointment labeling, then filling in the box or circle when the item is completed (or put an arrow in it if it's moved to another day). I LOVE crossing off things too much that the idea went by the way side and now I just have hyphens for each item and cross through as done. I might try again with the delineation, but for now I'm OK with appointments and to-do's being in the same list.

I also keep a separate pocket calendar for the month-at-a-glance type stuff. I don't have tasks in it, but that's where my appointments, visitors, etc. get written down. I carry it in my purse. I also keep a Google Calendar, which is something Shawn and I share (and have shared with family if they needed to know where we are -- I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law is looking at it daily). 

In addition to the day-to-day lists, I really like having a single place for all my lists and notes. Some of the lists I've made include:
  • Jane's birthday party, 
  • books I want to read, 
  • Christmas gift ideas (until I shifted that to an Excel file to do the math for me!), 
  • health tracking notes, 
  • Jane's classmates' names and their parents' names (as I've learned them -- how weird the school never gave us a class list? pretty weird), 
  • Thanksgiving meal planner, 
  • to crochet, 
  • wish list of things I'd like to buy, 
  • thank you notes needed to write, 
  • blog post ideas, etc. 
The index is helpful. I left about 5 pages for the index because I wasn't sure how much space I'd need. I'm on page 50 now and have used less than one page for the index (numbering starts after the index). I don't index the daily to-do lists of course. I did write a journal entry in the book on Jane's birthday that added a few pages (because while I over-packed for her plane travel I under-packed for me and had nothing to do for big chunks of the travel, especially when Jane had to use my Kindle because her tablet battery died).

I don't put my grocery or Target shopping lists in the book - mainly because I put those on a magnetic pad on the fridge and already have a system that's working to get what I need. I also REALLY don't have a desire to save those lists. But I see the value of ONE SPOT FOR ALL THE LISTS so maybe I'll change my mind later especially if I start training myself to ALWAYS have the notebook with me on my person.

When I was working full time I managed my to do list in a Word doc that I could print out, mark up and then update. I'd break up the list by projects and also kept a separate calendar for meetings/calls. I used my email inbox as a place for reminders, which is something I still do (right now it's full of shipping and purchase notifications because of all my Christmas shopping -- I'm almost done with my whole list and am faced with an s.t. of wrapping, but I'll probably spread that out across the month).

So - I recommend the bullet journal method if you like lists. It's worth a try anyway, and I'm liking it so far. I'm going to stick with my current notebook for now and maybe after I fill it up and/or fine tune my method some more I'll go for the preferred, smaller notebook.

Have you heard of bullet journaling? How do you keep yourself organized?

28 November 2015

A Habit: One Daily Bible Reading

This year I've been reading through the Bible again with my One Year Bible, New Living Translation. I've used my Kindle Fire, which is nice to make highlights and look back on. I rarely write in real books, including my Bible. I've mostly shifted to reading digitally, but there's something special about a torn up, well-used Bible. I've read through my hard copy of this book at least twice in my life. It's pretty convenient to have the Kindle option for travel, not that I did much this year, but I almost always go to bed with my Kindle in my hand. (I do my reading at the end of the day. Maybe someday I'll shift to morning devotional, but I don't know.)

Anyway, I can look up the things I've marked via the Kindle browser reading app, and I thought I'd record some of them here. I'm (obviously) not finished with the year, but Dec. 31 isn't part of NaBloPoMo, and who knows if I'd remember to do it or even be up for doing it then?! This wasn't as easy as copying and pasting, since rightly for copyright reasons Amazon doesn't let you just copy text out of ebooks. Hopefully I got all the citations correct - let me know if you notice any are wrong.

Psalm 22:14b: My heart is like wax, melting within me.

Exodus 33: 19b: For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.

Psalm 36:5: Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

Psalm 56: 9b: You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
I remember my Gran talking about this verse some, and how comforting that was knowing our tears are noticed and collected even metaphorically.

Luke 17: 21c: For the Kingdom of God is already among you.
This idea of already here AND not yet is so weighty and doesn't automatically make sense to me. I'm starting to get it, maybe?

Proverbs 15:17: A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

Job 16:16: My eyes are red with weeping; dark shadows circle my eyes.
I cry a lot so I seem to mark passages about tears and crying. But I also marked a few that would be easy to memorize. I was thinking back to the AWANA years (just a few in middle school since it wasn't at my home church but another in my town). Often we would be scrambling just before meeting began to come up with a scripture to memorize. It's the same thing with the heart like wax melting within me. Beautiful and sticks in your head no problem...

Psalm 89:15: Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
Once our church started working on the capital campaign, called The Walk, I started seeing and hearing about walking with regards to faith, quite a bit.

1 Peter 3:15b: And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
I am a big fat failure on this one, so I marked it as a reminder/encouragement/get your act in gear kind of thing.

These are just a few of the verses that spoke to me this year. I also mark ones that I question and that don't make sense. Sometimes later something in a sermon or Sunday school class will clarify some question. On other issues I'm still in the dark. And maybe I'll have to be OK with that.

Affiliate link on the Bible image.

27 November 2015

Disk Digger Solution to Recover Video Files on SD Card

Even though I've officially passed off the responsibility for recording and posting the weekly sermon videos my anxiety remains elevated about the whole thing since the new guy hasn't been successful yet (all my fault)!

One of my biggest gaffes was unintentionally completely erasing a memory card. I had imported that day's video files to the computer already, but of course after the mistaken erasing (I meant to just remove some of the older videos) the files were not on the computer.


I spent all day fretting and trying different things, knowing that I had an "import complete" message before I removed the SD card from the computer. Finally I stumbled upon Disk Digger, a free piece of software that I was able to use. I think I just did it on my PC instead of the church Mac, and it really was free (unlike a lot of the other utilities that come up with you search for "restore SD card" or similar).

Between every file you had to do two clicks to continue, although the option to pay and do all the files at once was available. I wasn't sure it would work so I didn't try paying. Finally I realized I could just do the last few files in the list (I only needed videos from that day), and it worked.

I was so delighted and a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I've had more video-related anxiety since then, but I'm hoping by passing on the responsibility that will decrease or maybe go away all together. I'll still serve as back-up for recording and processing (the new guy has his own Mac/iMovie so didn't need to use the church computer -- rats!).

So I recommend Disk Digger if you delete an SD card or important file from a drive. And I should probably pay for the full software in gratitude, but a praise-filled blog post will have to do!

26 November 2015

Thanksgiving Cooking, Day 2 and Birthday

This is 35 (and 4)
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. You say it's your birthday. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Happy birthday to you! 

I woke up to Shawn singing "Happy Thanksgiving to you, Happy Thanksgiving to you. It's also your birthday, let's celebrate that too!" Sweet. I got to open presents on Thanksgiving, and I'll get to do it again on Christmas in less than a month (!).

Shawn preheated the oven for me, and I put the turkey in just about 7:30 a.m. (My family tradition is to eat at lunch so I keep that going. Mainly I like to get it over with AND I like having the leftovers ready for supper.) Pretty sure I made a mistake by cooking the turkey with the giblet/organ bag, but whatever I did I couldn't find it pre-roasting! The turkey was pre-brined from Trader Joe's ($25 for 12 lbs). And the turkey turned out OK even with that dumb mistake.

Last night I did make my Parker House rolls, a recipe from Bon Appetit, a copy of the magazine I got as a hand-me-down from a friend when she moved. I've made them for a few years now and they're very tasty although a pain in the neck. Timing is hard too because you're supposed to let the finished rolls rest in the fridge for 30 minutes - 6 hours. I just did it overnight, so probably more like 15 hours, and they turn out fine. There's also the rising and kneading time to consider. Delicious.

The turkey cooked while we watched the Macy's Parade on NBC. Jane hadn't seen it before, but we're loosening up on screen time restrictions -- or maybe the better way to say it is that she's at an age able to handle more screen time from time to time. She really liked it, although she set up her table and chairs in front of the TV so she could color and "work" to pass the time.

Not quite a beauty shot, but I promise it was cooked to temperature and looked better IRL
After the turkey cooked for 3.5 hours I pulled it out to rest and baked the dressing (it looks a lot better after being baked). It really tasted good and like "home" for me. I make it a little drier than Shawn's grandma does, but they just poured gravy over their servings to get their preferred consistency.

20 minutes after the dressing went in I added the green bean casserole to the oven. I add sliced water chestnuts to the generic recipe and go overboard with the fried onions. NOM.

10 minutes after that in went the rolls and the sweet potatoes I pre-prepped yesterday.

These were browner in person too -- and also the melted butter and salt added at the end make them taste OMG.
While that was baking I whipped cream in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Super easy, but I didn't think to take a picture. I also didn't sweeten the cream, so we have a lot left! I can always fold in a bit of powdered sugar to up the yum factor even more.

I also heated up some Trader Joe's turkey gravy. I didn't eat any, but the others said it was good. And I will say it was easy -- much easier than creating a scratch roux and finagling the drippings out from under the cooked turkey (kind of a pain for something I don't even want to eat myself - LOL). I don't have a gravy boat, so that is something I have on my list to get before Christmas when I'm hosting my side of the family! I could also use more potholders, and those are things I can crochet. I should make complete holiday sets because I ended up having to use doubled over towels and maybe ruining/marring my table top even though we also had double table cloths on. Drat.

Shawn carved the turkey and we served it on a platter. Much easier to serve than doing it at the table, although I do say the presentation is less appealing. We did the wishbone, and we both wished for the same thing. So hope it comes true! (I won, technically.)

We barely had room for plates, let alone the centerpiece Jane made in Sunday school. But I managed to squeeze it in and light the (thankfully unscented!) candle. Jane and I blew it out together, and I wasn't even thinking that we should make a wish for our birthday month!

The table was laden, we all ate a lot. And then I went for a walk. Dale, Shawn and Jane walked with me for one block and then I kept going until I'd walked nearly an hour. I won't have time or daylight to walk after supper of leftovers, so I'd better be more discerning/eat less!

I'm planning to add up what I spent on the meal all in. I probably won't estimate some of the things I had - like flour for the rolls, mustard and mayo for the eggs, etc. I haven't done the math yet though! I'm guessing $125-150, although that's not too bad for enough food to feed 5 people for at least three meals (and some of the things I bought I still have some leftover like spices, butter, eggs, etc.).

Hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving and enjoy the long weekend.

25 November 2015

Thanksgiving Cooking, Day 1

More freebie spaces for NaBloPoMo -- just write what you cooked that day. OMG I worked for hours this morning, a bit more this afternoon and plan to make the Parker House rolls this evening (bake tomorrow). And I still have to make supper! (Quick turkey chili and some corn muffins.)

I multi-tasked a lot in the kitchen, but the first completed dish was the broccoli mushroom salad. It's the thing that needed dill, tarragon and basil. I never found fresh tarragon so used 1 tsp of dry instead of 1 TB of fresh. The recipe is from Real Simple, and I have the page torn from the actual issue.

Next to be complete was the cranberry Jello salad, which is an improvised version from our church cookbook using my mom's tweaks to make it sugar free. Instead of marshmallows we use lowfat cream cheese and of course swap Splenda for sugar. It fits perfectly in the crystal bowl Shawn's grandma gave us when she moved from her house to an apartment.

I deviled (or "doubled") 12 eggs, easy peasy. About half of my eggs came right out of their shells and are beautiful. The other half are a big mangled, but they'll still taste great. I put the eggs in cold water, boil, turn off the heat and cover, set a timer for 15 minutes. Then I drain, add ice and shake the hell out of the pot before peeling. I mash the yolks with a few squirts of Dijon mustard and a couple spoonfuls of mayo plus salt and pepper. Sprinkle paprika and DELISH. They're Jane's favorites, and although a bit fatty they are high protein and low (no?) carb.

Next I made a quick pie, which I'm going to use as my birthday cake. No candles, but I'm going to let myself indulge. I did swap Splenda for the sugar, but I didn't find sugar free Coolwhip. This was supposed to make two pies, but I must have had a bigger crust than the recipe called for because I fit it all in one crust. I'll just have to make another at Christmas (was going to freeze the second) if it's as good as I remember. Although I may want a different treat in a month! Recipe by my Gran and in the church cookbook from 1990. You can click this picture to see the recipe.

The last few holiday dinners I've waited on the sweet potatoes until the last minute and then they're always undercooked or just late to the table. I went ahead and boiled and mashed them today and put them in a casserole dish so I can just heat them up tomorrow after the turkey (the plan is pull out turkey to rest and pop in the dressing; 20 minutes later add the green bean casserole; 10 minutes after that add the sweet potatoes and the rolls).

Speaking of dressing I used my Gran's recipe for cornbread dressing, although I leave out the "Accent," once I realized it's just MSG. But the dressing still tastes phenomenal and here's the secret THREE STICKS of butter. Oh-em-gee. Also carbo overload with the cornbread and most of a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing. I made two pans but froze one. I'll bake the one for tomorrow and wait until Christmas to bake the other one. My sister makes it better, and she will be here for Christmas, so if we need more she can be in charge of that (although it's a really easy recipe).

Jane and I made the pumpkin pie together, and then I made a second with Splenda (sensing a trend here?). She did a great job measuring and mixing, although we ended up with too much filling for the frozen pie crusts I bought. (I can do a lot of things, but no thanks on trying to make a scratch pie crust.) I marked the sugar free pie with pecans so they're easy to tell apart.

More tomorrow. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and lots of success in the kitchen. What's your favorite Thanksgiving recipe/food/treat?