30 December 2013

Our New Custom Microwave Cabinet




Are you kidding me with that talent? Can't wait to fill the bottom up with my Kitchen Aid and other goodies. I love additional storage space!

29 December 2013

Toddler Road Trip Successes

Having just survived a big road trip with a 25-month-old I thought I'd share a couple successes for keeping her entertained. It was by no means easy or fun, but it was manageable. I just wish she'd sleep more!

Gel clings on a white board
We have this amazingly cool travel tote box with one side as a white board and one side as a chalk board. It slides open to store goodies -- crayons, books, etc. I had bought some window gel clings from the dollar bin at Target, thinking that Jane and I would decorate our French doors and sun room windows. That didn't work out so well/she wanted to keep pulling them down and playing with them, so I brought them with us so she could do that on the white board. That was an activity that was a lot of fun for a long period of time. She would rearrange them, pick them up and put them back on their plastic holsters, etc. I'd definitely recommend that or something like it if you're trapping a toddler in a confined space for a long time. (Or if you just need one to sit still for a while!)

Old wallet with expired cards and pictures
Wallets full of old cards turned out to be a lot of fun. I think I saw the idea on Pinterest, although really who knows. As I was cleaning things out for a big Goodwill run I found some old wallets (and some Forever stamps, hurray!). I filled a couple up with different expired membership cards, small photos, etc. and let Jane have fun pulling things out and putting them back in. She always wants to play with my wallet when we're checking out at a store, so this is could be a good thing to carry and hand her when I don't want her to play with mine (which is always, but usually it's not in her direct line of vision). It was a great car toy, and she especially had fun looking at baby pictures of Owen.

Take it or leave it was a soft neck pillow with a bear face (affiliate link). Jane slept half an hour on the 12 hour drive there and about an hour on the 12.5 hour drive back. The pillow didn't make her sleepy or comfy, although it's so soft I figure she can at least enjoy it as a plaything during travel.

Always good are stickers, colors (the whiteboard made an excellent lap pad too) and her headphones.

25 December 2013

Christmas Crochet: Pink Chevron Doll Bed Blankie

I made this little blanket to fit my daughter’s Ikea doll bed that she’s getting for Christmas (about 16x20 inches). I used leftover yarn and tried a “cornrows” stitch pattern from a book I have.

Basically a chevron (7 SCs in each up/down) and every stitch in backloop only, making the blanket much stiffer and seeming thicker. A really neat effect, although I was glad it was such a small project because it was tedious.


Christmas Crochet: Festive Toddler Hats

Inspired by browsing Pinterest, I used the toddler ear flap pattern (http://allicrafts.blogspot.com/2011/12/free-pattern-earflap-hat-toddler.html) to create a flurry of festive Christmas hats for the toddlers in my life. Once I started I couldn’t stop. There are so many ideas for hats, and I have many more I want to make. My own toddler will not want for head gear!

For my nine-year-old nephew I made an Angry Birds hat (thinking he’d think any Christmas-themed hat would be too lame), and I used the same pattern with a slightly larger hook. The baby reindeer hat was made with the baby version pattern (6 months) for a baby. I improvised the starflake, and the snowflake is from an About.com pattern (it’s so ad-heavy I don’t want to link it). I used the buckle part of Micah Makes’ Santa belt hat pattern: http://www.micahmakes.com/blog/free-pattern-crochet-santa-hat.

So far they've been a big hit with everyone who has acknowledged receipt!

For Owen

For my new baby cousin -- probably the cutest.
For a college friend's almost-2-year-old
For my cousin's 2-year-old
For Jane
For a high school friend's 4-year-old
For a high school friend's almost-2-year-old
For friends' 3-year-old and 1-year-old
Extra, small one, maybe for a friend's newborn to grow into (made with smaller yarn so is too small for a toddler)
For my cousin's 3-year-old
Extra, maybe for a friend's 3-year-old. I ran out of yarn for the ear flaps on this one.
In addition to the ear flap hats I also made Jane a couple red Christmas hats that have been in heavy rotation this month, especially since we've been in cold and blustry Oklahoma.

Santa hat for Jane, using the Red Heart toddler Santa hat pattern
Shell hat for Jane using Stitch 11 toddler shell beanie pattern
I absolutely love the shell hat. There are a couple errors in the pattern, but since you can't copy and paste the text I didn't take the time to correct a copy -- just did it in my head as I went along and found the errors. It fits Jane's head beautifully and is so warm. Simply Soft is usually pretty hard to work with, but doubling up made it really easy. The hat is receiving a lot of love, and the yarn is getting a little fuzzy, but it's so cute and gets so many compliments that it's worth it even if it's only a one season hat. I improvised the granny star with some white yarn I had on hand. I plan to make some more of these with other colors -- maybe for Valentine's day in red and pink?

24 December 2013

Christmas Crochet: Barbie Charted Afghan


I made this huge afghan for my sister for Christmas. We opened presents together today due to a confluence of things, so she has it and loves it, so I can post about it! It's for her Barbie-themed guest room and is intended for a full-size bed, although this photo was taken on a queen size.

When I decided to attempt this project I couldn't find a pattern, so I made my own with a free online program called Knit Pro. Instead of filet crochet, where the pattern is made by leaving open squares, I decided to try changing colors and carrying the unused color behind. It worked out fine, as you can see, but it took about three tries to get started.

Also, the graph pattern that was created wasn't completely square, and neither are double crochets. I did two DCs to each block on my pattern, and the result was slightly squatty. It wasn't as obvious in the "Barbie" part and I worked from the bottom up, so by the time the silhouette didn't look as good as I'd hoped it was too late to turn back!

As I was working I kept googling and found some posts and suggestions about doing "interlocking" crochet, but it came too late for me in this project. I think it turned out really well for something that I just made up as I went along.

I finished things with a simple crab stitch/reverse crochet (my favorite edging). I used Red Heart yarn in black and pretty 'n pink.

22 December 2013

Baton Rouge Zoolights


We went to the Baton Rouge Zoo's Zoolights this year, and we went on the perfect night. It wasn't cold or even chilly -- we didn't even wear jackets. For all my complaining about the weather it is a good benefit for evenings out.




Zoolights was a nice, easy stroll around the zoo, although there were a couple parts that weren't lighted so I was confused as to whether we were going the right way, particularly around the tiger cages. It turned out that we were, but it was a little stressful.


It cost $13 for the three of us (two adults at $5 each and Jane was $3). It's the only lights display I know of in Baton Rouge, and it was worth it as a fun thing to do.


We ate supper early and then drove the ~20 minutes to the north side of town. Jane loved seeing the lighted animals, and she liked talking about ZOOLIGHTS! They also had a snowman, and the PA system played Frosty at one point, so she was especially happy then. She didn't want to leave!


There is another lights display across the river in West Baton Rouge Parish that might be fun to check out next year. Perhaps when Jane's older she'll be up for a drive to New Orleans. I'd definitely like to check out their City Park display and ride the flying horse carousel.


19 December 2013

Pinstrosity: Better Than Salt Dough

NAILED IT!
Jane loves the homemade play dough we made this fall, and I thought we could try our hand at salt dough ornaments for Christmas. I kept seeing pins on Pinterest for "better than salt dough" with the most beautiful image of pure white ornaments. I knew I couldn't get anything that looked like that, but I was still tempted.

The link for the pin led to a private blog (WTH?), so I couldn't use that for more info. The caption seemed to have enough info so I mixed up the ingredients. Uh ... it was a big soupy mess. I did a bit of googling and found a tutorial that told me to COOK the mixture (just like I did with the original play dough recipe).

Ta da! I had pretty white clay, and once it cooled Jane and I played and I made some ornaments with cookie cutters. I also made a baby hand (she wouldn't do her left hand, Grandma Dale) and then trimmed around it. All seemed OK.

I think I made them too thick/didn't roll out the dough enough. I KNOW that I left them in the oven too long. I was trying to dry them out and I think I cooked them because they turned brown and cracked. The baby hand is too heavy as an ornament anyway, so I need to try again (although with thinner dough she would just press her hand right through it and make holes, so I'm not sure on that solution). Basically a bummer and I just trashed them all. So sad.

I'm going to have to think of another way to capture Jane's hand this Christmas. If nothing else just a paper cut out we can hang on the tree next year next to the two impressions we have from Christmases one and two.

Hope you have better success in crafting than we did.

17 December 2013

Christmas on the Bayou

So I love Christmas movies, and not big Hollywood ones like Elf or the like. I mean the crappy, low budget Hallmark and Lifetime movies. Oh man, they are so bad they are good.

This year there is one called Christmas on the Bayou, and it was actually filmed in Louisiana. It's a formulaic plot -- busy, overworked NYC single mom comes home for Christmas and finds love, resists love and her kid learns about the true meaning of Christmas, i.e., Santa Claus (or Papa Noel in this case ... and played by Ed Asner).

At least they didn't have it snow in Louisiana -- although that seems like the closing "miracle" for every Christmas movie I've seen this year otherwise, including those supposed to be set in the South. (Christmas in Conway was another one I enjoyed with a southern setting, but it did have the snow-at-the-end bit.)

http://bedandtango.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/bonfires-on-the-levees/
This will be our fourth Christmas living in Louisiana (although we've never actually spent one here), and this is the first year I've heard of the bonfires that light the way for Papa Noel, which is the Cajun version of Santa Claus. He rides down the Mississippi and/or bayou on a barge pulled by alligators. AH! What a funny tradition. I kind of want to learn more and buy Jane a book that I read about in a local parenting magazine (I think A Cajun Night Before Christmas). That's where I first read about Papa Noel and the alligators, but then I also saw a story about the bonfires on the local news (which we sometimes watch for a laugh ... and the weather forecast). This silly Christmas movie was the icing on the cake.

Maybe some year we'll have a Louisiana Christmas. Waking up in our own house on Christmas morning might be a treat, but this year we're in for something even better.

12 December 2013

Blue & White Chevron Crocheted Baby Blanket


My latest "FO" (finish off) crochet project is a blue and white chevron baby blanket. It's made with a stitch from a crochet dictionary I checked out of the library (I am a sucker whenever they put out anything crochet-related on the new releases table). It is much wavier and less chevron-y than I envisioned, but as it worked up I fell more and more in love with it.

I did three rows of each color and on the color changes I crocheted in the back loop only. That made a nice texture and makes the stripes almost appear to be floating above the other colored stripes -- depending on which side you have up. I finished with a round of single crochet and then crab stitch/reverse crochet (basically my favorite finishing stitch ever). I am not good at crocheting-in-the-sides-of-stitches, so the sides of the blanket aren't quite square, but I'm still very happy with how this turned out.

I hope the mom-to-be likes it. I haven't sent it yet, but it's packed up to go whenever I get my other Christmas packages ready to be mailed. (She doesn't read my blog to my knowledge, otherwise I would hold off on posting here.) She is from Florida, and Shawn thinks this blanket has a very ocean-esque feel, so maybe I subconsciously did that. Definitely not intentional, but I like it!

As a side note, I would like to briefly gripe about Blogger/Google+/Picasa/whatever connections. I can't prep blog posts to go live on Christmas Day with pictures of the presents I have crocheted because even when you do a draft post and upload a photo it goes live in your Google+ and Picasa albums. It might even notify people in your circles that you added a new photo. Annoying! Another reason why WordPress might be the better option. I know when you upload a picture it's live, but until you hit publish on the post it's highly unlikely that anyone is going to find the image, and certainly no one would be notified about it. End of gripe.

04 December 2013

Baby Hand Wreath

After my mother-in-law made a passing comment about "is this it?" re: my Christmas decorations I have been feeling that something is missing, that I should have more. It's a horrible feeling I try to stamp out -- I want to want LESS and to ultimately be satisfied with what I have in every aspect of my possessions, including Christmas. It's a constant battle.

In any case I decided to make this baby hand Christmas wreath. First, Jane loves to have her hand traced, and two it seemed easy. I bought the construction paper (got a multi-pack so I can use other colors for other things later) and a red bow for the top of the tree.

Because Jane and I have November birthdays and because I am unable to throw out most perfectly good boxes, we have quite a collection of cardboard in our house. I used a dinner plate and a salad plate to make a wreath base -- just traced around them onto a flattened Amazon box.

Step 1: Trace plates for wreath base
Cutting the cardboard was a real pain in the hand. My scissors aren't the best, and there's got to be a better way. Since it is a small circle I just powered through the pain and ended up with this. I mollify myself about the inconsistency and wonkiness by saying it adds to the kid-like quality of the project (and the base will be covered by baby hands so it doesn't really matter!).

Step 2: Cut out wreath base
Step 3: Trace a baby hand and cut out
I traced her hand twice and then cut out four sheets at a time (which also hurt my hand because of my janky scissors, but I powered through). She was over it so I had to use one of the cutouts to do the last two tracings. I cut out a total of 16 baby hands, just flipping them over alternating when I placed them on the wreath base.

Step 4: Arrange the baby hands on the wreath base and secure in place
I positioned my baby hands with fingers pointing out. I've seen pictures online of them staggered and more sideways around the wreath (also using two colors of green, which looked nice). I attached the paper using loops of Scotch tape, but double sided tape, glue or anything similar would work. This isn't very heavy work. I just made sure to cover up my deformed base as much as possible and keep the pen-marked tracings with the pen-mark toward the back.

Step 5: Add an optional red bow and hang up
I used the red gift bow to anchor the wreath and add a pop of red. I've also seen the idea of adding red circles as holly on a wreath like this. This gift bow came with twisty ties attached, so I just poked holes through the top of the wreath (hands and base) and twisted it in the back. I used tape again to attach the wreath to the window part of our front door. It looks very cute from the front and even looks a bit festive from outside.

Baby hands!

03 December 2013

The War on Glitter

We went to Hobby Lobby today for yarn. I am making a baby blanket and ran out of white. Yesterday I got some at Walmart, but it ended up being not as soft as what I had been using ... oh well, another excuse to shop! Jane and I (and all our purchases) came out of there covered in glitter.

YUCK!

It's so pervasive, and while beautiful is a real bitch to clean up. I am still finding glitter on our couch from an unfortunate T-shirt I bought Jane that vomited its glitter everywhere. It was her most expensive shirt I'm sure since she only wore it once before it hit the trash. Ugh.

I also bought some red Christmas (non-glitter) balls today, and I put them in my cake stand in the china cabinet. It's reminiscent of a big brandy snifter that my Grandma Jane had at her house and filled with red Christmas balls every year. I can't remember if it lived in the old fashioned bedroom or on the piano (maybe both different years or times of the year), but I always loved the look of it. I should probably estate sale and antique store shop to find one. But until then this cake stand will work (and I'm not doing any holiday baking this year, so there!)