Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Arizona, I Have a Proposition for You

For those of you who don't live in Arizona, please forgive me for interrupting your regularly scheduled blog.  It's only one day.

For you who live in Arizona, the following is a list of propositions that will be on your election ballot next Tuesday.  If you're like me and didn't do the smart thing by voting early, this might be helpful so you aren't standing at the voting booth for an hour trying to figure out what these propositions mean.  I promise - this information is NOT partisan.  It just presents a summary of ballot propositions without opinion.  Here goes:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Family Wedding

Sometimes it's good to go home.  I'm getting to that middle age when you only get to see your extended family at funerals.  Last weekend we traveled to Illinois for a joyous purpose - my brother's wedding.  My four brothers and sisters, husbands and wives as well as most of their children, were there to celebrate.  We are really quite the crowd:

I didn't realize my immediate family was so big until I looked at this picture.  Not only did my immediate family attend, a good number of my cousins with their kids (and a few grandkids) showed up.  I had 23 cousins on my mother's side growing up and counting their spouses, children and grandchildren, there were 21 family members there representing the original 23.  That might not sound like a lot of family members to some people, but my cousins are scattered from Boston to Virginia, from New Orleans to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and everything in between, especially southern Illinois.  The best part?  Because of social media, I feel like I still know what my cousins are doing most of the time.  Gotta love it.

We don't get too many chances these days to gather for occasions like weddings.  My mother was one of five girls and in the last four years, 3 of them have died, including my mother.  It's wonderful to know that even as my mother's generation is waning, their children still enjoy getting together and introducing new members of their families.  How ironic that probably the last wedding of the cousins is my brother's, the oldest cousin.

My kids were very surprised to find out how many "cousins" they have.  Here are the first cousins:

My daughter kept asking how she was related to all the other family she was meeting.  I kept repeating that they were all "cousins," some just farther removed.  During her week in Illinois, she also visited with my husband's family, including "cousins."  After we returned to Arizona, she missed being so far away from her extended family on both sides.  As the unofficial family genealogist, I was thrilled to see both of my children so interested in their family roots.

My cousins used to comment that such a large family came from the five "Wilbourn girls" (my mother and her sisters).  As we get older, our families have become very extended.  My kids and their cousins will now look to the five "Hendricks kids" as their source.

Mom and Dad would be so proud.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Men's Gifts - Etsy Finds

Last week I posted some ideas for unique Christmas gifts for women you can find on Etsy.  This week I found some cool items for the man in your life - husbands, fathers, sons, even friends and co-workers. This is just a sample of some of the items, but there are many more in lots of categories.  Without further ado, here we go:

Leather Messenger Bag
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Retro-phone I-Phone Dock

                              Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Cufflinks With Swiss Watch Movement

Customized Kindle Cover
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Source: via Cindy on Pinterest


Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Old School

Last weekend I visited my Alma Mater where I met my wonderful husband:

The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana is a large sprawling campus that is gorgeous at any time of year (yes, even in the winter).  We were so blest last weekend to have a perfect autumn day to walk the campus.

We walked around campus with my Arizona family, including our kids.  It felt strange to be there with the kids, but they enjoyed it.

On a campus this old, time seems to stand still.  The same stately buildings where we (mostly) studied look exactly the same.

There are so many memories floating around that place, and I felt wistful thinking about the time I was there and the friends I met (especially my husband).  I realized I am living the life I could only dream about when I was there.

Then I remembered trudging across the frozen tundra in -25 degree wind chill on the January night I met my husband and reminded myself why we live in Arizona :)


Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The approach of Fall in the desert part of Arizona is not much like the rest of the country.  This is approaching our best time of year with clear blue skies and temperatures in the 70-80s.  You won't see a cloud in the sky until the early spring rains in February.  Fall begins when monsoon season ends.  When I first heard the term "monsoon" used to describe a season in Arizona, I pictured torrential rivers carrying away houses.  I guess there are some big rains, but to me monsoon season reminds me of the most beautiful clouds and sunsets.

These are all taken near sunset.  The clouds in the east are reflecting the sun setting in the west.

You just can't take your eyes off of them, which is why some of these pictures were taken from the car. Now that monsoon season is over, we won't see these beautiful towering thunderheads for another year.  Not to rub it in, but we will see clear blue skies all winter :)

And some awesome sunsets.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Christmas Shopping Yet?

Halloween is coming and Thanksgiving will rush by on its heels.  Then the intense fear and desperation sets in.  How do I find a special/unique/desired/timely/inexpensive/wrappable gift for my spouse/child/mother/brother/cousin/great-grandmother or our mailman/babysitter/Starbuck's barista/landscaper/boss/employee?  It can ruin your happy holidays.

Have you ever considered Etsy?  I can hear a few of you - what's Etsy?  Etsy is the premier source for all things creative and handmade.  There are things you might expect on a website for handmade items, but Etsy is so much more.  It includes vintage items and supplies for the creative people of the world.  That's right - the world.  Etsy's reach (and sellers) are from all over the world, so the most unique and one-of-a-kind gift is waiting for you on Etsy.

Each week through the middle of December, I'm going to feature items from all kinds of artisans on Etsy.  I'm not going to feature any description of the items (other than the name), so I can get you a lot of eye candy.  Ready?  Set?  Go!

This week I'll feature 10 items for the woman in your life - wife, mom, sister, grandmother, etc.

"Forgive" handmade postcards with envelopes:

Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Vintage 60's bag and shoes

Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Multi-functional I-pod stand
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Monogrammed Flower Bag
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Catholic Charm Bracelet
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Vintage Look Nightgown
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Sage Pillar Candle
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Sage Green Quartz Necklace
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Woodland Garden Apron
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Grandma "Nana" Keychain
Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

Whew!  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Hopefully, you noticed this too:  not one of these items cost more than $100, and only one cost more than $50!  If you are interested in any of these items, click the picture which will take you to my Pinterest page and then click the picture there to go to the Etsy listing.  While you are at Pinterest, you can "like" my page so you can see all of the items on my "Etsy Finds" board.  You can always repin any of these images to keep the Etsy links.

I could easily find 100 more unique items on Etsy.  Look for more Etsy finds next week right here, or better yet, start your own Christmas shopping on Etsy today.

Don't forget to take a look at my little Etsy shop - Pretty Pretty Cindy


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Softest Baby Afghan Ever!

This is another one of those projects I needed to finish and I love this one so much I'm going to make another one just like it.  This is Bernat Baby Blanket yarn in "Pitter Patter," a multi-color yarn in white, pink, blue and yellow.  It is a super bulky yarn that feels just like chenille - but thicker.  I've never worked with a super bulky yarn, but it is worked with a size N crochet hook.

The result is a super soft, cushy afghan - perfect for a baby.  It's also easy to work with because the stitches are so big.  It also doesn't take long to make a blanket like this.  It measures about 32" square and is worked from the middle, which makes it easier with this type of yarn.

I made this one for my Etsy store, but it didn't take long before I had to give it away for a co-worker's baby shower.  She loved it, as did everyone else at the shower.  I still listed it on Etsy because it won't take long to make another.  The pattern is from Bernat, but you can find it here.

Aren't these pictures gorgeous??  They are from my very talented friend, Kate Eschbach, who blogs here.  She has been taking photos for a long time and does a great job on product shoots as well as portraits and landscapes.  Great news for folks in the Phoenix area - Kate is now available as a full time photographer!!  I'm so excited for her because this has been her dream for some time.  It is a wonderful thing when you can work doing what you love.  

Speaking of doing what you love - I loved working with this yarn and I'm on a roll with crochet right now.  More coming soon.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Art of Learning

On Saturdays, it's my job to teach my 11-year old son, because my husband does it all week.  I teach Language Arts and Art.  Language Arts is fine - I'm pretty comfortable with that - but Art is another issue.  I am creative, but not artistic.  I can craft, but don't make me draw a picture.  There is a lot of picture drawing involved in this class.  There are no patterns involved.

As part of this teaching gig, I'n learning about elements of art.  Line, color, shape, texture, are part of my vocabulary now, but only to the extent of appreciation.  Today we were learning about balance.  The easy type of balance is "formal."  It's the easiest to understand because it's simple symmetry.  We also learned about radial balance, in which items "radiate" from a single point, frequently unseen.  The best example I can give is a fan.  Finally, the last form of balance we learned about was "informal" or asymmetrical balance.  That one was the most interesting, but also the most difficult to understand.

As part of the lesson, Christian and I had to walk around the house looking for examples of each type of balance so he can sketch them.  Here's his example of formal balance (symmetry):

What I realized is that there is a natural sense of balance in all kinds of things.  I didn't realize that what I find myself doing when I take pictures is trying to achieve a type of balance, especially asymmetrical balance.  (Photography is the closest I get to being an artist, and I'm hardly a good photographer.)  But, I will say that learning some of these elements of art might make me a better photographer, so at least my scrapbooks (if I ever make them), will be more interesting.

One of the best things about working with my son is that I get to channel my inner teacher.  I've taught a bit, mostly informally.  I really like it.  If I weren't a lawyer, I would like to be a teacher.  But doing this one-on-one with my son is a great opportunity to connect with him on a totally new level.  It's awesome to see the lightbulb go on when he grasps a new concept.  So, with something like art, we're learning together.  Cool.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Tranquil Sea Baby Afghan

Finally - here's a project I finished!  I didn't make this for anyone in particular (which is why you can find it in my Etsy store - PrettyPrettyCindy).  The yarn was a bit difficult to work with because that baby yarn can be so thin.  But the shell pattern with the delicate look of baby yarn was beautiful.

The best part of this afghan was a little trick I learned to give a regular shell pattern a three-dimensional look.  On each stitch, I inserted the hook into the back loop of the stitch below.  It looks a little like this:

O.K., it's hard to see in my picture, but I'm not great at taking a picture while holding fine yarn.  However, if you notice, the loop on the far right is the previous stitch and the one in the middle is yo over for the double crochet.  If you look at the stitch immediately to the left of the back loop, you will see that there are two loops on each stitch.  If you insert your hook into just the back loop instead of both loops (like you normally do), you get this three dimensional look.  It's also cool because that dimensional work appears on both sides of the afghan.

The other thing that was a little difficult was that the thin yarn appears to pull the stitches out of shape so they don't appear tight enough.  This is just amplified by using only the back loop.  But as you can see, it works just fine.

The other advice I would give working with this thin sport yarn is you really have to COUNT!  I hate counting stitches and many times when I'm making afghans, I just "eye" it so the sides line up.  But with fine lightweight yarn, that's nearly impossible.  I learned that the hard way when I had to rip out rows of stitches when I discovered I messed up many rows back.  Now wonder why it's been a while since I finished a project??

Anyway, I'm really proud of this one.  And, because I was given a lot of this baby yarn in white, pink, blue and green, I'll probably be making more baby afghans.

If you want the complete pattern for this afghan, you can find it here.


Monday, October 1, 2012

October Project List

As promised in my last post, I'm picking some projects for October.  As usual, I'm being ambitious with 5 projects, plus I would like to finish the projects I've been working on.  Well, at least I can try.  I've picked some I've been meaning to do for a while, but I also found a few new ones that look intriguing.  All are on Pinterest, so if anyone cares to join me, feel free (but let me see yours too!).  So without further ado, here are my five projects for October:

1.  Tutu - Oh man, I have to do this because Mackenzie has been begging for a while and I bought the tulle over a month ago.  There's no way I would hear the end of it if I decided to do a bunch of other projects first.  Like so many of these projects, this one is from Make-It-Love-It.

2.  Redo Sneakers  - This is one I just found, and it's actually two separate DIYs.  The first one is a fabric recover on some Toms (although I'm using my Target knock-offs) and the second is a recover of the soles.  These look fun because it's not anything I need, but if it works, I could use it.  This first one is from Elemental Carbon.  The re-sole is from Dream a Little Bigger

3.  Easy Elastic Band Skirt - This is another thing I've been wanting to do for a long time and I've had the elastic forever.  If this thing is as easy as it says (and they never are), I should be able to knock this out in an afternoon.  Yeah, right.  Again, this one is from Make-It-Love-It

4.  Fleece Hat and Scarf - I've got some fleece I need to use and this looks pretty easy.  I'm not completely sure what I will do with them because I'm in Arizona, but I can always throw them in my Etsy store.  The picture from the DIY is very bizarre because the lady who made these (Nebraska Views) doesn't show her grandchildren's faces.  So, here are some fleece scarves and hats on some smiley faces.

5.  Braided headbands - This is also a new thing I found that also looks so easy.  It should be a quick craft, but that's just not my way.  If these work, I'll also put some in the Etsy store, but I would definitely keep some for myself.  These beautiful items are from Alisa Burke, Redefining Creativity.

So there it is.  Five "simple" projects plus a couple quilts and afghans in progress (and a special project for a friend).  I'm getting a little excited.  Maybe this is a way to get me out of my crafter's block.  Cross your fingers.