Monday, December 30, 2013

A Sad Goodbye

Back in 2006, as I was getting ready to start graduate school, I adopted two kittens from the Humane Society. They were adorable, and I planned on naming them Marti and Margie (short for Martini and Margarita - eh, I was in college), but once I got them home, I always talked to them at the same time, so they just became kitties. Once James and I got married, we began to call them the boy cat and the girl cat. Those are the names that have stuck around for the past five years.

A few months ago, I noticed that the boy cat had started losing weight. At the time, that wasn't such a bad thing - he had been a pretty hefty cat. However, as time passed, he just kept losing weight. I took him to the vet a few weeks ago. He had severe anemia, so they prescribed him some medications, but due to the holiday, getting the medication took a while. It finally arrived on Thursday, and for two days, everything was fine. On Saturday, however, he took a turn for the worse. I was able to take him in to the vet this morning, and after much deliberation, it was decided that the kindest course of action would be to put him down.

So, I had to say goodbye to my sweet cat. He was a big, lovable cat. He purred louder than any cat I've ever met, and he would constantly bump his head into you until you would pet him. He was a bit of a scaredy cat, and was terrified of our dog, so he spent a lot of time hiding. He liked to sleep in the sink, and would carry small plastic items into the bathtub and bat them around. He was a good cat, and I will miss him.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day 12 - Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

May your holiday be blessed with love and laughter!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day 11 - Caramel Sauce

Merry Christmas Eve!

For the first time in years - years - I will be spending most of Christmas Eve at home. Of course, this just means that we'll spend most of Christmas Day going from one place to another, but that's a story for another time. Today, we'll be hanging out, watching Christmas movies (White Christmas, of course), and heading to Christmas Eve service at church. After service, we'll head to my mom's house to have dinner and do Christmas with my step-sister and her husband. We'll do a couple of gifts for Elijah, but we're going to save most of them for Christmas morning. We ended up doing almost all of our gifts on Christmas Eve last year, and the morning ended up being kind of a let down. I don't want that for my kid, so we're changing it up.

My mom says she has everything under control for dinner, but I thought I would bring her some homemade caramel sauce and hopefully get rid of the last of our Thanksgiving apples (which are still delicious).

Here is my recipe for caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp butter
  1. Melt the sugar in a medium pot, stirring constantly (be careful, it will get extremely hot). You want to be sure to melt all the crystals, but also be careful to not burn it. I usually leave it on the heat until it is almost all melted, but take it off and let the residual heat finish the melting process (this was a hint from my chef friend)
  2. Add the butter and wisk until melted.
  3. Add the cream and stir until blended and smooth.
  4. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then pour into a glass jar and let cool. Use hot pads if you need to move it - it will be hot.
I hope your Christmas Eve is full of wonderful people and memories!

Monday, December 23, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day 10 - Framed Sheet Music

Every night, I hum the same song to Elijah. It's the same song I've hummed to him since he was born. For some reason, when he was born, the only lullaby I could think of was "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" by Chuck Berry. I know, it's not a lullaby, but the chorus has worked it's magic for almost three years now. Elijah will ask me to "Lay down, Mama, lay down. Mama song, please." It's cute, and I can hardly ever resist.

This Christmas, I decided to make Elijah a little decoration for his wall. I found the sheet music for the song at, I bought the song and printed out the first page, which contains the music for the part I always hum:

Goodnight, sweetheart, well, it's time to go.
Goodnight, sweetheart, well, it's time to go.
I hate you leave you, but I really must say,
Goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight.
I put the sheet music into a frame, and will hang it on the wall in his room. It's the perfect little gift for him, and while he won't understand it right now, I think he'll appreciate it in the future.
This would be a great gift for anyone you share a special song with - your significant other, one of your parents, your kid(s), or even a best friend.
Again, Blogger and my computer are still not friends - anyone else getting the run time error? For some reason the photo uploader hasn't been working since I started getting that error. My husband insists that it's a Blogger issue, so hopefully it will resolve itself soon.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day 9 - Hot Chocolate Recipe

This morning, I treated Elijah to his very first cup of hot chocolate made from scratch. It was delicious and filling enough to be called breakfast, but somehow he also managed to eat a waffle.

Here's my recipe for 1 (large) serving. I can usually only drink half of one though as it is very rich.

  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (semi-sweet works well, too...or maybe mint chocolate, yum!)
  • pinch of salt
  • dribble of vanilla extract
  • mini marshmallows
  • Heat the milk and cream together over medium heat until hot, but not boiling.
  • Add in the chocolate chips and stir until melted.
  • Take off the heat and add in salt and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  • Pour into mugs and add mini marshmallows.
  • Enjoy!
Last weekend before Christmas - are you ready?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8 - Beanbags

Elijah has been playing with beanbags at school, and he has been loving them! I decided to make him a few for Christmas. These would be great little stocking stuffers for a little person.

Sorry for the lack of pictures - I took some, but Blogger and my computer do not seem to be friends at the moment.

Here's what you need:

scrap fabric (2 5"x5" squares)
rice or beans
funnel or squeeze bottle
pinking shears (not pictured)


1. Cut your fabric into 5"x5" squares. I made 8 squares for my 4 beanbags.

2. With wrong sides together, sew around with a 1/4" seam allowance. I used this stitch on my sewing machine so it would be strong enough to stand up to my little guy. Leave a small hole to add the rice or beans.

3. Using the funnel or the squeeze bottle, fill the bag with the rice or beans until about half full .

4. Sew up the hole.

5. Use pinking shears to trim the edges. This will keep it from fraying, and it looks cute!

That's it, you're done!

Add a ribbon and they're ready to be stuffed into a stocking. I plan on just giving Elijah some bowls to toss them in to, but you could also cut holes in a piece of cardboard or a box to make it into a game. These can also be used at little boo-boo bags - simply keep one in the freezer, and get it out when a boo-boo occurs. Or, they can be hand warmers. Just zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds and toss them in pockets to keep hands toasty. Such a useful gift!

Friday, December 20, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day 7 - Last Minute Gift Ideas

Here are some links to some great last minute gifts you can make for your friends and family:

And for those men in your life:
  • A simple crochet beanie in their favorite team colors. It's all blue and green in this house :) Yes, I know, it's my own pattern - shameless plug :)
  • A tie you make yourself. I used a pattern "Father's Day ties" from, but the website doesn't appear to be working at the moment, so I can't give you the link. Perhaps you can find another pattern online. I made a couple of these for my husband a few years ago when I was first getting back into sewing. They didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped, but he was sweet and still wore them. He's a keeper.
  • Or etched beer glasses. My husband would love these! Perhaps I know what else I'm getting him for Christmas this year!

And some of my favorite edible gifts:
  • Pretty much any cookies in a jar gift.
  • Christmas Crack - my aunt makes this every year, but she substitutes Club crackers for the saltines, and sprinkles chopped almonds on top - oh my! Always a favorite gift!
  • Have you ever had chimichurri? It's not my favorite, but our friends, "the chefs", make it and everyone loves it! They refuse to give the recipe, but my husband says this one comes pretty close once you add some minced shallots to it.
Tomorrow, I will show you how I made simple bean bags for my son for Christmas. Another quick and easy gift for a little one in your life. And later on, I'll give you my recipe for caramel sauce - it is delicious and makes a perfect gift! Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Day 6 - DIY Camera Strap Cover

This project is a combination of two different projects that ended up fitting perfectly together.

First, I had a goal of learning to make some crochet lace trims so I could embellish a tank top for my mom for Mother's Day. So, I started working on some of the trims from this book in some Vanna Glamour yarn that I had in my stash. I loved the way it turned out, but it was so not my mom's color, so it ended up sitting in a basket for a while.

Second, I love the idea of camera strap covers, but I hate having to take the strap off my camera to put it on. So, one day I decided to make a strap that Velcro-s on. I measured my camera strap and made a cover out of black cotton, using iron-on Velcro to close it. I used the simple fabric simply to try out my made-up pattern to see if it even worked. It did. So, now I had a boring black Velcro camera strap cover.

"I wonder if I could sew that trim onto the camera strap cover," I thought. Hmm, I grabbed some thread and got to sewing. It worked...and it looked awesome! However, it was missing something, so I added some pearl beads, and here is what I ended up with:

After this picture was taken, I realized that it would be better to use invisible thread to sew the crochet trim on, so that is what I do now.

You can purchase one in my etsy store, or you can follow the basic pattern below to make your own to give as a gift to the photographer in your life...or to yourself.

  • Small-ish amount of fabric (you will need two 24" x 4.5" rectangles - based on a 23" x 1.5" camera strap, you may need more or less depending on your camera strap size)
  • Crochet trim pattern - you can also look for crochet bookmark or bracelet patterns. For this tutorial I used this one.
  • yarn and hook to match the pattern - for mine, I used Vanna Glamour and an F hook, which made the trim slightly larger than the pattern which called for thread
  • invisible thread
  • 5" of 3/4" width Velcro - I used iron-on, but you could use sew-in if you prefer
  • beads or other embellishment (optional)

1. Follow the trim/bookmark/bracelet pattern and make your crochet piece 24" long when pulled taunt. I did 47 repetitions of my pattern.

2. Cut two 24" x 4.5" rectangles from your fabric. (This is for a camera strap that measures 23"x1.5"...if you have a different size camera strap use this formula: length + 1" and width x 3)

3. Sew around the outside of the rectangles, right sides together, with a 1/4" seam allowance. Leave a 2" space for turning. Trim the corners to reduce bulk.

4. Turn the rectangle right side out (use a chopstick or knitting needle to help with the corners) and press.

5. Topstitch around the edge of the rectangle (being sure to close the opening). At this point, fold the cover around your camera strap to make sure it will fit.

6. Cut the Velcro in half, and then into small pieces, about 1". Use old scissors if you're using iron-on Velcro - they will get sticky

7. On one side of the strap, just underneath the topstitching line, place the Velcro every couple of inches. Then fold the top of the strap down, and place the matching piece of Velcro to the other side. Be sure one side of the Velcro is on the inside of the strap, and the other side is on the outside. Follow the directions on the package for attaching the Velcro.

8. Using the invisible thread, sew your crochet trim to the center of the strap section that will be on top of the camera strap.

9. Add any beads or other embellishments. I first hot glued the beads down, and then sewed them on for extra security.

10. Velcro onto your camera strap and enjoy!

Less than a week until Christmas. Have you finished your shopping/ gift making yet? Check back tomorrow for some great last minute gift ideas.

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    12 Days of Christmas: Day 5 - My Cookie Secret

    Got a cookie swap coming up?

    Here is my trick for "the best cookies [people] have ever eaten" (their words, not mine).

    It's so simple. Make your favorite cookie recipe - sugar cookies and peanut butter are my favorites. Then, before you put the dough on the cookie sheet, roll it into a ball, and then roll it in sugar. Put the cookie on the backing sheet, flatten if necessary (like for peanut butter cookies), and bake as directed.

    The sugar helps make the outside of the cookie a little crunchy, while (somehow) helping the middle stay moist. I'm telling you, I do this with every cookie recipe I make, and people LOVE it! They can't quite figure out why they're so good, but they think I'm a genius!

    I'll take it!

    Happy cookie baking!

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    The Day the Grades Posted

    The Tuesday after Finals Week is the day that grades get posted. It's also the day I get a couple of e-mails from upset students who will not be passing on to the next level.

    I get things like this:

    "Please help me pass. I will study harder next quarter," says the student who failed nearly every test I gave. No, and you should have studied harder last quarter.

    "I got an E. That is not possible for me," says the student who didn't turn in a single piece of homework, failed at least half the tests, and only showed up about 2/3 of the time. Yes, yes it is possible.

    Crushing students' dreams one e-mail at a time. Sigh.

    12 Days of Christmas: Day 4 - Grandparent Ornaments

    Each year, I'm having Elijah make ( make) ornaments that we use as gifts for the grandparents and his godfather. I also keep one for our tree, and I'm putting away one each year to give to him when he gets married/moves out. Growing up, my brother and I got to pick out a new ornament every year, and when I moved out, I took all of my ornaments with me. It is always a little weird to see my parents' Christmas tree without my ornaments, so in preparation for Elijah growing up and moving away, I'm making/buying duplicates of all his ornaments.

    Last year, we made these ornaments:

    This year, we made these:

    How did we do it?

    I had Elijah paint a couple of pictures, and then I picked up those cheap papier mache ornaments at the craft store.

    I painted the ornaments, and then traced half of one onto a blank sheet of paper. I cut the templates a bit smaller than the ornament, and cut the shapes out of Elijah's paintings.

     I Mod Podged the shapes onto the ornaments and then added some glitter glue/paint to the edge. I added a ribbon bow, and "Elijah 2013" to the back.

    Cheap and easy! And the perfect gift for grandparents - they eat this stuff up! :)

    Eight more days until Christmas - are you ready?

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    12 Days of Christmas: Day 3 - Crochet Bow Hat

    Today, I get to go to the post office and mail my annual Secret Santa gift to my best friend's nephew/soon-to-be-adopted son. In the gift, I included a couple of gifts for him and a basic crocheted beanie in his favorite colors. This year, he also has a new little sister, so the annual tradition is starting for her as well. I included a car seat sized crochet blanket that I made for her before she was born, a picture frame that matches her nursery theme, and this little hat:

    How cute is that going to be on a little girl?

    The pattern is super easy and quick! You still have time to make them for all the little (and not so little) girls on your Christmas list.

    • Worsted Weight Yarn in 2 colors (I usually use Vanna's Choice)
    • I hook
    • Yarn needle
    Hat Pattern - For a Small (6 - 18 months: 16-18"). For other sizes, check here for patterns.
    Round 1: With main color, in magic circle, 12dc, join to first dc
    Round 2: ch 2 (counts as stitch throughout), dc in same stitch, 2dc in every stitch (24 stitches), join to beginning ch
    Round 3: ch 2, dc in same stitch, *dc in next stitch, 2dc in following stitch, repeat from * (36 stitches), join
    Round 4: ch 2, dc in same stitch, *dc in next 2 stitches, 2dc in following stitch, repeat from * (48 stitches), join (measures about 4.5" in diameter)
    Round 5-10: ch 2, dc in each stitch (48  stitches), join
    Round 11: Change colors, ch 2, dc in each stitch (48  stitches), join (If you are making a different sized hat, simply change colors the third to the last round, and follow with two rounds of the main color)
    Round 12-13: Change back to main color, ch 2, dc in each stitch (48  stitches), join (measures about 6.5" in length). Fasten off, and weave in ends.

    Bow Pattern
    Row 1: Chain 31 (chain more for a larger bow), sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc across (30 stitches)
    Row 2-6: ch 1, sc across. At the end of row 6 (or more if you want a bigger bow), sl st the sides together to form a ring. Fold the ring in half lengthwise and wrap the yarn tightly around the middle to form the bow. Fasten off, and sew onto place on the hat.

    Happy Crocheting!

    Sunday, December 15, 2013

    12 Days of Christmas: Day 2 - Camel Christmas Paper Embroidery

    Uh-oh...Guess what day Christmas is on?

    I'm sure you all know the Geico camel commercial by now. I love that commercial! It cracks me up - mostly just because I love camels. I actually hate the term "hump day" and I have ever since I was little. But camels, love 'em! In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the commercial:

    Today, we're headed to the zoo for Zoo Lights (they decorate the zoo with Christmas lights - none of the animals are out) with one of my coworkers and her family. At our zoo, there is a camel all decked out in Christmas finery that you can pay to ride, so I thought today would be the perfect day to share my Camel Christmas Paper Embroidery project.

    Here it is! (Woot, woot!)

    All I did was create a 5x7 image in Word with a camel silhouette (just Google image it), and added the words in a simple, easy to embroider font - MV Boli. (I ended up needing the increase the font size for it to embroider clearly, so you'll notice my finished product no longer says "Hump Day")

    Then I followed the same procedure I used here which one big exception. Instead of transferring the image to my cardstock, I cut my cardstock down to 5x7 and printed the image in a very light gray directly on to it. Worked great!

    I plan on wrapping it up, and having my mom open it as the first present on Christmas morning. She'll get a kick out of it! (Mom, if you happen to be reading this - act surprised!)

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

    12 Days of Christmas: Day 1 - German Pancakes

    Today, we are going to Leavenworth - a small Bavarian town about 3 hours east of our home. We've been there quite a few times, but only once for their nightly (on the weekends) tree lighting. This year will be Elijah's first time at the tree lighting, and some close friends of ours are the new pastors at one of the local churches there, so we'll get to see them as well. We are looking forward to the trip...well, not the drive so much, but definitely seeing friends and watching Elijah experience the whole town lighting up. It would be a bonus if there was a bit of snow as well.

    So, to start this 12 Days of Christmas series, I thought I would give you a recipe for German pancakes. They would be the prefect breakfast for Christmas morning.
    My high school/college boyfriend and I used to make these all the time. They taste kind of like a cross between French toast and scrambled eggs.

    • 6 eggs
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Blend the eggs, flour, milk and salt in a blender until smooth (remember to put the lid on it - she said from experience)
    3. Pour the melted butter into a baking dish, and add the batter.
    4. Cook, uncovered for 20-25 minutes.
    We usually eat these with powdered sugar and pancake syrup, but they would be equally good with fresh fruit or jam.

    On a side note, these are also often called Dutch Babies. Once, we decided to make them and my boyfriend's parents' oven wasn't working for some reason, so we went to my parents house. We got the batter into the oven and then kind of forgot about it. All of a sudden, he jumped up and ran to the kitchen. My step-sister and her friend/boyfriend (don't remember which) looked at me confused and I said, "Oh, we have something in the oven..." (slight confusion and shock) "I mean, we have a Dutch baby in the oven" (obviously not any better) "Ugh, nevermind...we're making breakfast."

    Funny, I haven't thought about that in years...

    Happy First Day of Christmas! Did anyone get a partridge in a pear tree?

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    First Day of Vacation and an Upcoming Christmas Series

    I'm so glad that quarter is done finals are finished and graded, my grades are calculated and submitted...I'm free! Walking out of work yesterday, I felt a little like this:
    That is, until I got to my car, which had been blocked in my a maintenance truck due to a severe plumbing problem on campus. The situation was soon resolved (my car being blocked, not the plumbing issue), and I was back to that feeling of freedom. :)

    For my first day off, Elijah went to school and I ran some errands - post office, library, Joann's (of course). I got dinner in the crockpot, made some coffee cake for my department Christmas party that I'm headed off to in a couple of minutes, and finished some other Christmas-y stuff around the house.

    I am so looking forward to my three weeks off, and I plan on taking advantage of every day. I have so many things in my head that I want to do and accomplish, and I thought I would bring you along for the ride.

    Coming up, starting on Saturday, December 14, I'm going to be posting a 12 Days of Christmas series with easy crafts, gifts, and recipes. I hope you'll stop by and check it out!

    Now, I'm off to a Christmas party with my coworkers - it's one of my favorite parties of the year! They are some of my favorite people!

    Friday, December 6, 2013

    St. Nicholas' Day

    Today, as I'm sitting at work, I'm trying to find possible excuse to avoid grading the stack of papers in front of me. I've read blogs, talked to coworkers, texted my husband, and now, I'm writing to you all. It's the last day of class, and I'm pretty burnt out this quarter. Only 1 more class, and a couple of finals until I'm free to enjoy 3 weeks of much needed vacation.

    In other news, today is St. Nicholas' Day. James and I randomly decided yesterday that it would be fun to celebrate, and it would give us a time to do stockings for each other and Elijah without making my mom feel bad. It also allows us to do a little of the St. Nick/Santa Claus stuff with Elijah, without the creepy "man watches you all year and then comes down the chimney one night while you're sleeping" stuff. I like the idea of focusing on all the kind things St. Nicholas (supposedly) did, and I sense a new family tradition starting!

    We've set a budget of $30 each to fill each other's stockings with fun things. Next year, we will be much better prepared for this, but for this year, we're both running around like crazy people to get the stockings ready for tonight.

    We were able to fill Elijah's stocking with some Thomas trains, Octonauts figurines, a shirt, candy and a DVD that we picked up at the store last night while constantly trying to distract Elijah from what was in the cart. We only had to deal with one screaming meltdown. Ahh, 2 1/2 year olds...

    Before work today, I stopped by the Dollar Store and Grocery Outlet to pick up the candy and random items portion of James' stocking. I also happened to find some great deals on really nice flashlights for James' friends for $3 at Grocery Outlet - score! You should totally check them out if you have one close to you. My real-life friend, Ang, often blogs about them over at The Coupon Project.

    After work, I'm going to stop by Guitar Center and pick up the actual gift part - I'm thinking percussion instruments because James is trying to add some more acoustic elements to his studio.

    Here's hoping our first St. Nicholas' Day celebration goes well! I'm very much looking forward to tonight.

    Do you celebrate St. Nicholas' Day? Any advice? Traditions? I would love to hear them!

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    Basic Crochet Octopus Applique Pattern

    I made these little guys a couple of months ago. Meet Ollie, Violet, Inky, Squish, and Coral.

    I made Ollie on a total whim, and loved him so much that I decided he needed a couple of friends. As I crocheted them, I developed a personality for each one and a little story about them. Ollie and his friends formed a band called The Cephalopods. They are a huge hit in their underwater community, Octopia.

    Ollie is the leader of the group, and the lead guitarist/singer of the band. He is kind, adventurous and loves to have fun. He is enjoying being famous, but sometimes he wishes girls would stop chasing him around...but only sometimes...

    Violet is his little sister. She is sweet, but has a mischievous side and loves to play pranks on her big brother. Her most favorite prank? Convincing Ollie that there was a shark outside the venue they were playing at and causing him to ink when Inky quickly swam around the corner. She sings and plays keys.

    Inky is the muscle of the group. He plays the drums and is usually the one hauling all the stage equipment around. The Cephalopods don't need roadies with Inky around. He is well-intentioned, but doesn't always understand what's going on around him.

    Squish is the brains of this operation. He has a head for business and acts as the band's manager as well as its bass player. He is often quiet, but very witty. When the band isn't performing, you can usually find him air siphon deep in a book.

    Coral is the newest addition to the group. She just moved to Octopia and met Violet at school. They became fast friends and Violet invited her to join the band, much to the initial annoyance of big brother, Ollie. Coral sings and plays percussion - tambourine, triangle, xylophone, and of course, cowbell. (What's a band without a cowbell?) She is creative and spontaneous, and is always up for anything. Ollie is now very glad that Coral is part of the band. He even has a bit of a crush on her, not that he would ever tell anyone.

    The Cephalopods are getting ready to go on their first tour together and they are so excited! Can't you tell from their dilated pupils? :)

    I know...weird, right? My mind comes up with strange things while I'm crocheting. Although, I do think it would make a cute children's book/cartoon. Anyone out there want to option it?

    Anyways, enough about that, here's what you came for...a pattern to make your very own octopus. This is a simple pattern and can be adapted in many different ways - as you can see from the different shapes and sizes of The Cephalopods. All you have to do is change the number of stitches in the first round, the number of increase rounds, or the number of chains for each tentacle to make a wide variety of these cute little things. Squish was a little different - I started him with a ch of 5, and then worked my rounds on both sides of the starting ch, increasing 3 stitches at what would become the top and bottom of the octopus. Have fun experimenting - that's the best part of this project!

    Here is the pattern for Ollie (or in this case, Ollie's twin sister, Opal):

    Round 1: Using any yarn, and a compatible hook (I used scrap worsted weight yarn, Bernat Waverly I think, and an I hook), make 11dc in a magic circle, join with a sl to the top of first dc. (11 stitches)

    Round 2: Ch 2, dc in same stitch, 2dc in each stitch around, join with a sl st to the top of the ch 2. (22 stitches)

    Round 3: Ch 2, dc in same stitch, *1 dc, 2dc in next stitch, repeat from * around, join with a sl st to the top of the ch 2 (33 stitches)

    Round 4: Ch 1, sc in the next 8 stitches, turn (now working in rows)

    Row 5: Ch 1, sc in each stitch across, turn

    Row 6: (Tentacles) *Ch 13, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each ch, sl st into same stitch from row 5, sl st into next stitch, repeat from * 7 more times (8 tentacles). Fasten off and weave in ends. The tentacles will curl up on themselves, but you might want to give them a little twist as well for definition.

    For the eyes, I used 4 buttons -2 larger white buttons and two smaller black buttons which I sewed onto the octopus at the same time. That's it...addicting aren't they? They come off the hook so fast (insert witty fishing remark here) and are so cute that they're hard to resist.

    And here she is - Opal! Opal doesn't play in the band, and at times she gets a little jealous of the fame that her twin brother and little sister are experiencing. She doesn't let her jealousy get the best of her though, and tries to enjoy the perks that go along with having famous siblings. She stays busy at school with her duties as class president and captain of the debate team. Her and Squish have a little thing going on, but they're keeping it a secret for now.

    And that little bow? The pattern is super simple:
    Row 1: ch 15, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in every ch (14 stitches), ch 1, turn
    Row 2: 15 sc, fold in half lengthwise and sl st together. Wrap the end around the middle 10-15 times. Fasten off, sew into place, and weave in ends.

    There have been some requests on how to make Squish, the oval headed octopus, so here it is! To make the oval, you make a chain (I did 8), work sc in both sides of the chain and include an extra stitch in each corner (so the first and last chains will both have 3 stitches in them). You sl st to join, and then ch 2 (counts a dc), and dc around, working 2dc in each of the 3 stitches in the corners, sl st to join. Again, ch 2 (counts a dc), and dc around, working 2dc in 4 stitches in each corner, sl st to join. Then follow the tutorial for the tentacles. Here is a little chart to help:

    Now go make yourself a whole little octopus minion army...and while you're at it, make up a little story about them!

    What am I going to do with all these little octopuses? (That really is the correct plural, look it up!) I have no idea, but I think they would make a cute garland above my desk, so maybe I'll give that a try later. Or perhaps they'll get sewn onto the next blanket I make...or bag...who knows!

    Update: Here is where my little octopus friends are currently living - right above my desk, making me smile every time I look at them.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    DIY Advent Calendar

    In my family, stockings have always been a huge thing at Christmas. Our stockings get stuffed full of candy, shaving cream and razors, foam soap, a gift card or two, and tons of really (really!) random dollar store items. I have a bag of those really (really!) random items in our closet, and every once in a while I'll pull out something for Elijah to play with - plastic spiders, balloon powered cars, ridiculous children's books with finger puppets - and he loves them all!

    Eventually, we will come up with our own stocking tradition for Elijah, but for now, I'm going to keep letting my mom do it. However, I wanted to do something special for him this year, so I decided that since Advent Calendars weren't a big tradition for us growing up, that would be a good place to start without stepping on anyone's toes.

    Elijah is currently obsessed with numbers, so I knew he would love having to find the right number each day. I wanted something that could be reused year after year, so those nasty chocolate calendars were out (my apologies if you love them). Also, I wanted something homemade, so I knew I had to get to work.

    I stopped by Artco, a little independent craft store in town, and picked up a wooden set that included a tray and 24 little round boxes. I also picked up 4 pieces of double-sided Christmas themed scrap paper, and 1 piece that had numbers on it (stickers would work as well). I went home and after much cutting and painting and Mod Podge-ing, here is what I ended up with...

    Want to make your own? Here's how:

    • 24 wooden containers - round, square...your choice
    • 1 wooded tray that fits all 24 containers
    • Paint - I used 4 colors (red, light green, dark green and white) of leftover paint I had at home
    • Scrapbook paper - I used 4 double-sided sheets
    • Scrapbook paper with numbers, or number stickers
    • Mod Podge
    1. Paint the tray - I used the dark green.
    2. Paint the containers - I  did 6 of each color, and did two coats of paint on each one.
    3.  Cut out shapes to fit on top of the containers. You want them to be slightly smaller than the lid so that there will be a border of the paint color.
    4. Glue (or stick) the numbers onto the shapes.
    5. Mod Podge the papers onto the lids of the containers - put a thin layer of Mod Podge on the lid, lay the paper down, press the edges to make sure they stick, and paint another layer of Mod Podge over the top. Let dry.
    6. Put the lids on the containers, and put the containers in the tray (mixing up the numbers, or not).
    Each day, I put one piece of candy in the right box and let Elijah find it. He is loving it, and I am loving the fact that he can go through all the boxes each day and still only get one piece of candy. There's no worrying about him getting ahold of the calendar, opening all the little flaps, and eating all the chocolate in one sitting -  which, trust me, he would totally do given the opportunity. I love that I control what gets put into the boxes. In the future, I may put little toys, or Advent activities, or Bible verses in the boxes, but for now, a little Hershey's kiss a day is perfect (and easy!).


    Up next on my holiday craft list - a wooden block nativity set for Elijah to play with. Check back next week to see what I've come up with. I might even remember to take pictures as I go this time :)