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Friday, March 30, 2012

Crochet: Catherine Wheel Afghan

This was a little project I did while I was in Hawaii.

This was my first attempt at a Catherine Wheel stitch and I'm pretty pleased with the results.  I would say that it is a pattern for an intermediate crocheter, but once you get the pattern, it's not bad at all.  You need to know a chain stitch, single crochet and triple crochet.  I used two colors because it creates a little more contrast.  I would not suggest using more than two colors to begin, because it can be a little hard to keep track of the rows.  With two colors, it's pretty easy.

You will need 12 chains for each wheel you want to make, plus two extra for the first stitch.  In this example, I have 10 wheels across each row (12x10=120), plus 2 for the base chain (=122).  Each wheel has a bottom half in one row and a top half in the next row.  The only exception is row 1, which looks like the top of a wheel.  The pattern also refers to the "joining stitches".  This is the stitch which is worked with multiple triple crochet stitches, or a single crochet between wheels.  Both are referred to as joining stitches.  I used the pattern from Crochet Geek which is reprinted below.  I also highly recommend the tutorial video, also from Crochet Geek:

Here's how I made this blanket:

SC=single crochet; TC=triple crochet  CH=chain YO=yarn over (wrap around hook) (In my afghan, Color A was the cream and Color B was the rose)

Chain 122.

Row 1 (top half of wheel in Color A):  1 SC in the 2nd chain from the hook *skip 5 chains, 9 TC in the next chain, skip 5 chains, SC in the next chain, repeat from * across for each wheel.

See how the 9 triple crochets are all stitched into the same chain?

Don't worry that the hole might get big or look loose.  It all looks right in the end.  I'm giving the directions below with pictures, but if you want just the directions without the pictures, you can find it here.

Row 2: (Color B)(Bottom of Wheel) - CH 5, work a TC in each of the next 4 TC from the first row, leaving the last loop on the hook for each TC.  (In a normal TC, you will pull through 2 loops 3 times.  In this row you will pull through 2 loops 2 times and only 1 loop the last time)  You will have 5 loops on the hook.  

Yo over and pull through all 5 loops at once.

YO again and pull through to secure.  You now have a 1/4 wheel for the right edge.

CH 5, SC in the next SC (5th TC).  

*CH 5.Work a TC in each of the next 4 TC, then 1 SC, and 4 TC, leaving the last loop on the hook for each stitch (including the SC).  You should have a total of 10 loops on the hook.

YO and pull through all the loops in a single motion.  YO and pull through to secure.  You've now created 1/2 of a wheel (the other 1/2 will be on the next row).
CH 5, SC in the next SC (5th TC).  Repeat across from * across for each wheel.   At the left edge of the row, CH 5, work a TC in each of the last 5 TC, leaving the last loop on the hook.  You will have 6 loops on the hook.  YO and pull through the 6 loops in a single motion.  YO and pull through to secure.

Row 3 (Color B):  Right edge:  CH 5, work 4 TC in the joining space.  (The joining space is the "hole" in the middle of the wheel.  In the picture, I'm pointing at the joining space where you will work 4 TC. (You are NOT leaving the last loop, just doing regular TCs.)

SC in the next SC.  (I'm pointing at the next SC and yes, it's a stretch from the last stitch.)  *9 TC in the next joining space to complete the top 1/2 of the wheel.  SC in the next SC.  Repeat from * for each wheel.  On the left side 5 TC in the last chain joining space

Row 4 (Color A) - CH 1, turn, SC in the same stitch * CH 5.  Work a TC in each of the next 4 TC, 1 SC, 4 TC, leaving the last loop on the hook.  You will have 10 loops on the hook.  YO and pull through all loops.  YO and pull through to secure.  CH 5, SC in the next SC (5th TC on previous row).  Repeat across from * for each wheel.

Row 5: (Color A)  CH 1, turn, SC in the same SC. * 9 TC in the joining space of the next stitch.  This will complete the top portion of the wheel.  SC in the next SC.  Repeat across from * for each wheel.

Repeat rows 2-5 for the remainder of the length of the pattern.  To finish, create an edge using Row 5 around the afghan, matching up the wheels on the edge.

This afghan is about 44" square.  I did 10 wheels across (plus the half wheels on the pink rows) and seventeen wheels high.  That's not rows, because it takes 2 rows to make one wheel.

Remember, if you want to see the complete instructions without the pictures, you can find them here.  If anyone tries this, I would love to see pictures!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Ear Piercing

Ever since Dear Daughter was 5 she's been begging to "have her ears to pierce".  I figured I would wait until she knew how to ask before I would agree.  My mother didn't let us pierce our ears until we were 12.  I've also heard my daughter howl in pain at the top of her lungs when you brush through her hair or she gets a splinter.

Because she just turned 9, I thought it wold be a good time, especially because she was still so excited to do it.  We went to Claire's about a week before her birthday, just in time to watch another 9 year old get her ears pierced.  Watching that little girl go from near tears to a smile sold both of us on the idea.

So the next week she was sitting in the same seat:

She was a big girl.

Since the ear piercing I've noticed a new sense of maturity.  She's becoming a young lady.  I'll miss my baby, but I think I could like this new lady in our house.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scrapbook Sunday - DIY Easter Place Cards

So far on Scrapbook Sunday I've been showing completed pages I have done, but today I couldn't wait to show you some place cards I made several years ago for Easter.  I think I found this idea in Family Fun magazine.  They are a great example of paper piecing:

These are not too hard to make, although they take a bit of time.  Hopefully, you are not having too many people to Easter dinner - I had 12 that year :)

You need scrapbook paper in two solid colors, one in a patterned color and some white for Mr. Bunny.  You also need vellum paper, brads, a little ribbon and some 3-dimensional adhesives - like sticky foam squares.

Because I made these several years ago, for this tutorial I used slightly different colors.  First cut your card (background paper) into 3"x 5 1/2" rectangles and fold in half.  If you have a scoring tool, this will make your fold cleaner.

Next, cut your front square in a contrasting color.  Mr. Bunny will sit on this square.  I used pastel green because it matched my china pattern.  Cut the squares 2 1/2"square.

Next cut the patterned paper in a rectangle about 2 1/2" x 1".  This will be the background for your vellum name.  I used a pink gingham, but you can use any pattern.  

Now comes the part that many might find intimidating but it's pretty easy.  Take the white paper and draw a head (like a fat pear), two ears and two fat feet (look like elongated circles).  You might want to start by drawing them, but once you feel comfortable, you can probably cut them without patterns.  Remember, each Mr. Bunny is unique.

Next, draw two big dot eyes close together, a long skinny pink nose, a little line below the nose and whiskers on the face.  You also need to draw paw makers.

Using your computer's printer, pick a fun font and print the names of your guests on an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of vellum.  A thicker, paper weight vellum does great in a printer.  Once you print all the names, cut them in rectangles just a little smaller than the patterned paper.  Get some tiny ribbon and tie little bows.  Add a little hot glue drop if you are nervous about the bows coming apart.  Now you are ready to piece.

Start with the background paper and glue the square onto the front half.  Piece each piece of Mr. Bunny on top of the paper, with the head on top of the ears and feet which are glued first to the paper.  You may want to use a 3 dimensional adhesive to make Mr. Bunny pop (or in his case, hop).  You will want his feet to slightly overlap the patterned paper and his ears to stick up above the fold.  A pair of tweezers will help immensely.

Now you want to layer the patterned paper (in purple above) over the green and then the vellum with the name over the patterned paper.  You are going to hold them together with metal brads.  (Here's a bonus tutorial on how to apply a brad.)  A brad is a small piece of metal you drive through your paper to attach papers in a decorative way, or, in this case, attach a piece of vellum.  It's very hard to glue vellum without it showing.  I also like brads because they come in a variety of colors.  On my sample I used a pastel green brad, but here I'll show metal brads.

That silver thing is a brad tool.  Notice that the end is not flat, but has a tiny point that you insert in the brad to hammer it.  I like this tool set from Making Memories.

Put the brad, smaller side down, over the papers you want to hold together.  Use a hammer (see the one above) to pound the brad tool down, driving the brad through the papers.  PLEASE make sure to use a hard surface - the harder the better (granite countertops, tile floors, heavy wood furniture) - AND a self healing mat (or plastic cutting board in a pinch) under the papers.  If you don't, you WILL have a mark in your surface underneath the papers.  Once you hammer the brad through the papers and turn over the papers, it should look like this.

Take the same brad tool and insert it over this side of the brad and pound it down.  It will force the brad shaft to spread, "grabbing" the paper.

You've done it!

Your guests will be so impressed at your craftiness and that you cared enough to make beautiful place cards.  Depending on the colors you pick with your dinnerware and tablecloth, they can also make an attractive addition to your table.

Happy Easter!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Fit Friday - You Gotta Have A Plan!

I'm learning that it's not enough to say "I'll lose weight" or "I'll exercise more."  Those are great resolutions, but with no execution of the resolution you've got no solution.  Enter - a plan!

More than half Most Almost all of what I write here is encouragement for me.  I'm certainly not in a position to be speaking from a place of knowledge.  Having said that, a plan is in order - for me or whoever wants to be successful in getting healthier.

It takes 3 weeks or more to develop a habit.  Until then, you probably need a strong routine.  For exercising, it means scheduling a specific time each day during the upcoming week when you will exercise.  In fact, you should also plan exactly what exercise you will do.  Hopefully, after the 3 weeks of the routine, you will be in a place where you will know when and how to exercise regularly.  I'm still waiting for that to happen.

With weight loss for me, it's all about accountability.  I need to weigh myself every day at the same time.  I know many people strongly discourage that, but for me, if I don't do it every day I won't understand and recognize that the extra helping of mashed potatoes I ate yesterday resulted in the extra pound today.  It can also go the other way - that hour on the treadmill resulted in a bonus pound loss.

Most importantly, you need goals.  The long term goal of 30 pounds by next November is great, but how do you get from Point A to Point B?  How do you know if you're on track?  I recently sat down with a calendar and determined how much weight I wanted to lose.  I don't have a particular timeline - a class reunion, a wedding, whatever, so I don't have a specific date that I need the weight gone.  I do know that I wanted to take a slow, sensible approach (especially after a stint on HcG).  I figured that for the first half of my weight loss I could do a rate of 2 pounds per week (which is pretty ambitious over time), but the second half I would do at 1 pound per week.  I figured out how long it would take me and marked the ultimate deadline on my calendar.  Then, I wrote the goal weight for each week on the calendar.  Now instead of thinking that 6 months is a long way off, I know I need to lose 2 pounds before next Tuesday.  Every "Tuesday" I plan to mark down my actual weight under the goal weight for that week.  If I'm ahead (I lost 3 pounds instead of 2 this week), I just got a cushion!

The same is true with exercise.  (I'm really paying attention to my own advice here.)  Identify the days this week you will go to the gym and the time.  Initially don't worry about what you do there or how long - just GET THERE.  Later you can set the goal for time and exercises you will do each time.  Finally, you can just identify the number of hours per week you need to exercise - how much cardio and how much strength training.

Wow, I have a lot of work to do.  Get out that calendar and get a plan!

Don't forget to check out the Fit Club every Monday for more inspiration.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Craft Room Musings

I've been thinking about it a long time.  I've had my eye on our den, picturing what it would look like if I moved most of the furniture out and converted it to a craft room.  A couple of weeks ago, I came home on a Friday and found that my wonderful husband moved the furniture!  Wow - now I actually had to think about this.  Here's the before pictures when the furniture was there:

Yep, that's my husband's beer can collection on those shelves high up.  Here's what it looked like after the furniture (but not all the junk) was removed:

Now I actually have to figure out what I'm going to do!  I've been working at it for a couple weeks now and I think I will get it usable within the week.  However, I really want to paint and make curtains and decorate :(  It's just going to have to wait.  I'm trying to be thrifty, so I've had a couple of ideas I'll be sharing here soon.

My big score so far has been a 6 foot table from a Blockbuster store that is closing.  It has a durable plastic top and it only cost me -

wait for it


Unfortunately, I have to wait another week or so until the store actually closes.  Hopefully by then I will have some pictures to show of my usefully organized (but probably not pretty) craft room.  I'll leave you with the rooms I can only see on Pinterest:


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lemon Bars

When God gives you lemons, you make - lemon bars!  We have a lemon tree in our backyard that is very fruitful.  It's probably too fruitful.  Every year we try to think of ways to use a few of the lemons (other than lemonade).  This is our favorite recipe for lemon bars:


2 1/4 c. sifted all purpose flour
1 c. powdered (confectioners' sugar)
1 c. melted butter
4 eggs
2 c. white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
5/8 c. lemon juice
(Really?  Why can't it say just a little over 3/4 c.?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 inch pan.  (I bake it in two smaller square pans because I have a hard time spreading the crust over a 9x13 inch pan.)  

In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups of the sifted flour and powdered sugar and blend in the melted butter.  Press it into the bottom of the pan, making sure to press it up slightly on the sides.  You don't want the lemon mixture to touch the sides of the baking pan because it tends to stick.

Bake the crust in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  In another bowl beat the eggs until they are light and fluffy.  Combine the sugar, baking powder the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and stir so there are no flour lumps.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Pour the mixture over the crust (you can do this right after the crust comes out of the oven if you want).  

Bake another 30 minutes.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.  As I hinted before, we had some small problems with the bars sticking to the side, so make sure to grease thoroughly and before cutting into bars, cut around the perimeter of the pan.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Just Us Chickens

During our recent trip to Kauai we noticed an unusual addition to the tropical wildlife.  Yep, we saw the famous roosters of Kauai.  Heck, you couldn't miss them or their constant crowing.  Instead of trying to explain the hows and whys, I let them do the honors:

Cock-a-doodle-doo!  I'm a beautiful specimen of a rooster and a direct descendant of chickens that were brought to Kauai by Portuguese sugar cane workers.

My ancestors were domesticated chickens, but some of the other guys have cock fighters in their family tree.

Our big break came in 1992 when Hurricane Iniki struck.

Most of us flew the coop and went out on our own.  
Soon, the chicks were all over and we were crowing our way around the island.

That's right.  We crow all day, everywhere.  We've become a tourist attraction.  See?  We even pose for pictures:

Next time you're in Kauai, look us up.  We aren't hard to find.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Salt Dough Easter

I love making Easter crafts.  It's a great sign of spring and you can show them off at Easter dinner.  I have some cute Easter/spring cookie cutters, but didn't want to make cookies because they are a bit counterproductive to my weight loss ; )  I decided to try some salt dough - it rolls out and cuts well and makes a semi-permanent decoration you can use for years to come.  The Craft Diva helped and offered to model the process.

Salt dough = 1 cup flour, 1 cup salt & 1/2 cup warm water (a little more if you need it).  I doubled the recipe for this project.

Mix and knead your dough.

Roll it.

Take a short break to be silly.

Cut the dough with cookie cutters.

Bake at 200 degrees for 1-2 hours or until hard.  If you live in a dry climate, you can put them in the sun.

Finished baking.  Time to paint with acrylic paints.  

I used a white glitter/shimmer paint on top of the acrylic, although this is optional.

Varnish or use sealant to preserve and shine.

A prettier (and healthier) alternative to chocolate bunnies and Peeps!

Happy Easter!