Saturday, June 29, 2013

All About Arizona - Scottsdale Guest Post

We're so busy getting ready for the Great Western Vacation, so I'm really lucky my good friend Katie wrote a great piece on things to do in Scottsdale (Arizona) with kids.  Many people come to visit the Phoenix area every year, although I don't think there are many visiting today - it's 118 degrees.  You won't find too many guide books telling you great places for the kids, and many of us who live in Arizona don't know the best places to take kids.  Check out 10 Things To Do in Scottsdale With Kids

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stash Buster Challenge - Thick & Cuddly Baby Blanket

In April I joined the Stash Buster Challenge to get rid of a stash of baby yarn I have.  

If you read Straddling the Gap you also know I absolutely love Bernat Baby Blanket yarn.  Evidently others do too, because it has been popular in my Etsy store.  A little while back I started using a new pattern with my favorite yarn.  I'm not sure what to call the pattern, but it does make a thicker (and thus more cuddly) weave, so I'm going with the name "Thick and Cuddly Baby Blanket."  (Note - if you have a stash that includes the old version of Bernat Baby Blanket yarn - it won't be very thick or feel like chenille - you need the newer version that does.)

It's one of the easiest stitches to do.  I used a size N hook, but depending on how tight you want to make the weave, you can use as small as a K.  I used 1 1/2 skeins of 10.5 ounce size.  (Yes, this is a pig on yarn, so plan accordingly).  To make a blanket about 33" inches square, you start off with chain 53.  (It's 2 + 1 regardless of the size you want.)  Row 1:  Make a double crochet in the third hook from the last chain and double crochet all the way across.  Chain two.  Row 2:  Make a single crochet on the second chain from the hook.  Yo and run the hook behind the post immediately below, yo where your hook comes out on the left side of the post and pull back up.

You will now have three chains on the hook - just like a regular double crochet.  Yo and pull through two chains and then yo again to pull through the remaining two chains.  Then continue in that pattern - single crochet and double crochet behind the post below.  It will look something like this (this picture shows the stitch a bit sideways):

Continue across Row 2.  You should end with a single crochet.  Chain 3.
Row 3 is another row of double crochet.  Chain 2.  Continue with Rows 2 and 3 until you get the desired length.  Make sure you keep those special posts lined up with the ones below.  That's probably the hardest part, but generally this is a very easy blanket to make.  The look of this is great because one side has these ridged posts and the other has almost a basket weave look.

If you want to do a single crochet border, that's great, or any other border you would like.  I wouldn't get too fancy because this is very thick yarn and by this point you've probably used more yarn that you would like.  However, you will love the results - a thick and very soft blanket.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

blanket 2


Monday, June 24, 2013

Kenzie Does Crafts - Origami Ninja Stars

This is a re-post from a while back, but is still a perfect way to show my girl's mad skills.  We're getting ready for our big trip and trying to pick out crafts to do in the RV on the way.  We've found some good ones!  If you want to see them, check out my "Tween Crafts" board on Pinterest.

My Craft Diva has struck again!  She learned to make origami ninja stars all on her own (with the help of YouTube and a friend at school).  They are so cute to make and will challenge you and your kids.  They also make cool banners.

Here are the directions according to Mackenzie:

1.  You need 8 pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, assorted colors (printer paper works great) and scissors

2.  Fold one piece of paper across evenly, which will leave an extra amount of paper at the bottom

3.  Cut the bottom of the paper off to make a clean triangle

4.  Open the paper and fold across the other way to make another triangle.  Unfold the paper.  You should now have a square with fold lines making an "X"
5.  Fold the points on one side of the square to the middle.

6.  Fold in half so it looks like a paper airplane.

7.  This is the tricky step:  turn the "paper airplane" upside down with the back end of the plane facing you.  Reverse the crease down the center so it folds inside.  It should look like a triangle.

8.  Fold the crease to the inside

9.  You should have a parallelogram

9.  Repeat with each piece of paper (7 more times).  Arrange them in the circle design you want.

10.  Hold two of the parallelograms, one behind the other with the points to the left (crease on top).  Insert the parallelogram on the right into the back of the other, forming a right angle.

11.  Fold the tips of the parallelogram on the left over the one on the right.  In this case, fold the blue tips over the yellow, tucking them into the open fold.

12.  Repeat for the remaining parallelograms.

13.  When you get to the last section, fold the last corners over both layers of paper to the center.

14.  Ninja star!!  (Wait a minute, that doesn't look like a star . . .)

Watch what this ninja star can do:

Push the sides in gently

Now push the other sides together:

There it is!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mom, I Have Arrived

My kids are 10 and 12.  They've always been good kids and generally well behaved.  I ask them to do something and eventually it gets done.  Yes, I may have to ask more than once, but no one has perfect kids, right?

Recently I've started to hear things I have never heard before coming from my children's mouths:   Why?  How come?  Now?  When it first started happening I was too surprised to respond or I tried to explain why, how come, and when I needed them to do what I asked.  Today, after I asked for something to be done and heard "why," I was shocked to hear my own voice with my mother's words.

"Because" I said, "Because I said so.  Because I'm your mother, and I don't need a reason to ask you to do something."

Whoa, who is that?  It's my mother.  I've become my mother!  You know what?  It's O.K.  What else would I say?  It's true.  They should do things because I asked them, I'm their mother and I don't need a reason to ask.  Right?

But I know more is coming:  "When donkeys fly" (That's a particular twist from the usual "when pigs fly" courtesy of my mother.);  "As long as you live under my roof;" "I'm the mother and you're the child;" and my personal favorite that has been handed down from my grandmother and then my mother: "If I say white is black and black is white, then white is black and black is white!"

I feel like I've attained an entirely new level of parenthood.  I guess it's a transition I must accept.  My kids are entering the testing phase.  I guess I need to transition with them.  I miss my mom - she died a few years back.  But now, whenever I hear one of these statements coming out of my mouth, I will think of her and smile.

And hope my kids are doing whatever I just asked them to do.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

All About Arizona - State Capitol

State capitols are largely overlooked when visiting a new state.  That's too bad because most state capitols have some amazing history.  Of course I'm a history nerd so I love that stuff.  Before school ended Mackenzie's class visited the Arizona State Capitol, the Arizona House and the Arizona Senate in Phoenix.

The original Capitol was built in 1901 when it was the territorial capitol.  It proved to be too small for a new state, so additions were built in the back of the building in 1919 and 1938.  Behind that is the tall modern executive tower that was built in 1974.  If you enter the Capitol from the oldest end and walk straight through to the Executive Tower, it's funny because the hallway width and flooring changes as you walk though into each addition.

On the top of the Capitol is a copper dome with the beautiful white Winged Victory:

She is a weather vane, turning with the wind.  The story is that when the cowboys would come riding in, they would shoot Winged Victory to see her spin.

One of the advantages of living in such a young state (Arizona just celebrated its centennial), is that things don't change much:

Then . . .

And now . . .
The kids especially liked their access to the Senate floor (which only happened because one of her classmates is the child of a senator).  Here's the state seal with the 5 Cs of Arizona - cattle, climate, citrus, cotton and copper.  Tourism doesn't begin with a C.

Maybe I'll get my own senator someday:


Check on the Bucket List

This summer I'm making a big checkmark on my bucket list.  The great American family vacation - that's on my bucket list.  It's a long vacation - 21 days - the longest vacation ever!  Ever since I was a kid I wanted the big western family RV vacation.  We're renting a RV and that's scary enough, but imagine a 21 day road trip with a 10 and 12 year old.  We know the kids may not enjoy every day (or any day), but we are confident that it will be a vacation they will always remember.

The journey begins in our home state - Arizona.  We're not going to see the obvious - the Grand Canyon - because we've already seen it and can with only a three hour car ride.  Instead, we'll be motoring through Utah, Wyoming, a bit of Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado and New Mexico.  That's right, 7 states and nearly 3000 miles in 21 days!  On the way we'll see multiple national parks, monuments and forests and some of the most beautiful places in the United States.

Oh boy, this is going to be awesome!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Am God's Hands

That's the name of a blog written by a 9 year old boy (he only identifies himself as "G" which is probably the wisdom of his parents).  The exact blog address is  G makes duck tape wallets and billfolds.  Great, you're saying, him and thousands of other 9 year olds make duck tape wallets and billfolds.  This 9 year old is a little different.

G makes and sells wallets and billfolds with 100% of the proceeds (not profits) going to two organizations:  Divine Mercy Care and Arlington Missions.  Divine Mercy Care provides health care to crisis pregnancy centers and poor women and children.  The other website supports the Pontifical Missions, which provide assistance to the poor and hungry worldwide.  G makes wallets for Life - those born and the most vulnerable unborn.  He only charges $1 (or $2 for a billfold).  He takes his cue from Matthew 25: 34-46:

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'  

Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'  

And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'  Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'  

Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?  

He will answer them 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'  And these will go off to eternal punishment, the righteous to eternal life.

G started his blog in January and the last entry was on Easter Sunday.  I'm not sure why G hasn't posted lately (that's not an uncommon problem for bloggers), but I'm going to leave a comment on his last post to ask how he's doing with his project.  I did notice that in the last post he mentions that his entire inventory was purchased, so maybe he's working on more duck tape wallets and billfolds.

I hope so - I hope G is still God's Hands.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Hippie Dress

I'm not sure what to call this dress.  It started off as a simple A-line dress (my favorite style to sew) and I changed it - several times.  It's easy when you have an inspiration.  I found this great book "Absolutely A-Line" in a Barnes & Noble.  It's from Wendi Gratz the author of an awesome blog Shiny Happy World and the teacher of all things sewing and embroidering.  Wendi's book is great because it launches you into the creativity to take one simple A-line pattern and transform it in almost as many variations as you can imagine!  (This is my photo of the actual book - Wendi's advertising photo certainly looks better than this!)

I've already done a few for my Etsy store, PrettyPrettyCindy.   (The paisley dress is still available in size 4).

This time I was ready for another variation (or two).

First of all, the base fabric is a (lean in close 'cause I'm whispering) a . . . tablecloth.  It is new, but I just loved the fabric and couldn't resist!  As much as I liked the fabric, it needed some serious contrast, so I chose the pink and brown/pink paisley fabrics.  Next, I changed the neckline to make a more wrap-like look.  I did use a trick from Wendi's book to have the bias tape (the brown paisley fabric) show around the neckline.  Because I kept the bias fabric thin, it almost looks like cording.

When I separated the bodice from the skirt, that left a "waist" that I really did not want to see in the main fabric because I like the illusion of a single straight A-line dress.  Solution?  Create a "sash" at the waistline that ties in the back.  That wasn't too hard to do using another piece of another dress pattern.


I still needed more contrast at the bottom and after adding the first strip, wanted more length so another strip was added.  I wanted one more "touch" to make the dress different and special.  I've been making yo-yos (those little flower thingies) for a while, but haven't had much use for them yet.  You can see how to make yo-yos here.  I layered two sizes of yo-yos and added a few seed pearls.


It may seem a little funny to start with one idea and end up with another.  That's what I like about Wendi's book.  She's not wed to specific design functions which leaves me comfortable with experimenting with different elements.  I like the outcome.  If you like it too, it's available in my Etsy store in a size 5.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Kenzie Does Crafts - Yarn Mache Bowl

This is a project Kenzie and I did a while back, but it was really popular, so we'll give it a redo with a little update.  Here's the directions from the Craft Diva:

A yarn bowl is really just yarn mache because it is the same technique and same paste as paper mache.  First, you need the paste.  Here's the recipe:

Combine 1/2 c. flour with 2 cups water
Boil 2 c. of water and add flour/water mixture to pan
Bring total mixture to boil (watch so it doesn't boil over)
Let mixture cool and then add 3 tablespoons sugar
Paste will thicken as it cools completely

You can use balloons to make paper mache or yarn mache, but for this project we used a bowl.  Cover the bottom of the bowl in clear plastic wrap, so you protect your bowl.  (You'll see the bowl below.)  Pick your yarn.  I like a regular worsted weight, although a cotton would probably work very well.  I used a "homestyle" yarn, which wasn't the best choice because it started to unravel.

Cut the yarn in the lengths you want and dip each piece in to coat completely.  I wouldn't recommend dunking the yarn too much as it makes it harder to remove the paste.  As you take out each piece, strip the wet paste off and wrap the yarn around the bowl in any pattern you choose.

Use as much (or as little) yarn as you would like.  We tended to use a little more to make the bowl more solid.

Once you have finished, allow the bowl to dry COMPLETELY, at least overnight.  If you live in a high humidity area, it may take longer.  Slowly remove the plastic wrap from the bowl first and then carefully peel the plastic wrap off the inside of your yarn bowl.  If the yarn doesn't hold its shape as you pop the plastic wrap off the bowl, stop and let it dry longer.  (You may also have to use more paste to get it back into shape.

We also tried a slightly bigger one in multiple colors:

This is so easy and fun for kids to do with their parents.  I think it's cleaner than paper mache.  Now I would like to try making balls for the multi-colored bowl using balloons.  A single color would look great in that bowl.  It might also be easier because you just have to pop the balloon.

And there you have it - Kenzie does Yarn Mache Bowl.