Friday, December 16, 2011

Daily Ramblings - Adopt-A-Family 2011

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been pretty slammed all this week shopping, wrapping, labeling, packing and delivering all the gifts for the annual adopt-a-family program at work.  This is a program that I've been heading up for the last 8 years and while it's amazingly rewarding, I think it also makes me a little nutso (in a good way of course!) Donations were dropped off today and it's always bittersweet when I know it's all gone.  

I can't say enough about the amazing generosity of my co-workers.  We received about $1,000 in donations which went toward buying gifts and gift card, plus the piles of toys, clothes, books and food that were left in the donation boxes.  Considering times are hard for everybody right now, the giving nature of those around me impresses me every year.  I always have that moment of panic when I wonder if we've taken on too much but, by the end, I'm always overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of gifts that we're able to give to these less fortunate families.  Thank you to all my WMG friends - you are a wonderful bunch!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Daily Deuce - Cat burglar strikes again

It's that time of year again when I am thoroughly involved with my holiday adopt-a-family program at work.  I've been heading up this particular effort for the last 8 years and, while I was totally planning on doing the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day this round, I am suffering a bit of a time crunch.  You should go check it out though - a chance to find some great new blogs to read and possibly win some stuff too!

This weekend, I went shopping with the $570 worth of cash and check donations that I'd harrassed encouraged people to donate at work.  I found some awesome sales so managed to get a ton of gifts for about $450, which means money left over for gift cards. Yay!  [Pictures of the haul to come shortly]. 

Saturday afternoon, husband and I also popped out to get some cat food and a few kitty gifts for the holidays.  I was about to start organizing all the purchases when I hear rustling from under the dining table just to find that Deuce had extracted one of his gifts from among the melee of bags, and was attempting to remove it from the cardboard backing. 

Being the mean mom that I am, I took the toy away from him, stuffed it back in the bag and tucked the bag in among all the others.  Later that evening, the little smart-ass had found the bag with his toys in it again, dragged it across the room, and was once again trying to help himself to a toy.  Gifts and toys everywhere but he still figured out exactly what was his.  The toys are now hiding on the top shelf of the closet (shhh...don't tell him where it is). 

This is not the first time he's helped himself to things that he believes to be his...

- the pincushion he took right out of my hands [see picture]
- the treats he removed from on top of the fridge and ate before depositing the evidence empty bag behind the living room curtain
- the bag of toys he removed from the bathroom cabinet and threw all over the living room
- the hanks of yarn that he tried to sneak out of the room front of me. 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Daily Chuckles - My completely random gift guide

I feel like I've been completely lacking inspiration for gifts this year - I was even having a hard time deciding what I wanted for myself (seeing as I wasn't going to make husband buy me a $500 camera lens).  I also go through the annual problem of having our wedding anniversary, Christmakuh and husband's birthday all within 3 weeks.  Yeah, I know, first world problems.

Anyway, I took to the internet for ideas and, in doing so, found a lovely assortment of completely random gifts that I just had to share with you all.  Here it is - my completely random gift guide (a/k/a stuff that I find hilarious).

Moo, I'm A Goat T-shirt
(courtesy of Snorg Tees) - $19.95

This shirt needs absolutely no explanation...or does it? Perfect if you enjoy seeing how long it takes for your friends to try and figure it out.
Magic Wand - Programmable TV Remote
(courtesy of Think Geek) - $89.99

Apparently it learns from your existing remotes, which inspires Harry Potter geeks and Muggles alike to be running around the house yelling "expelliarmus" and "accio" while waving the wand at TVs or ceiling fans. I'd actually be sorely tempted to teach it how to work the remotes in the office too, to really get everybody thinking that I have magical powers. Oh, the possibilities are endless!
Clocky Alarm Clock on Wheels
(courtesy of Brookstone) - $39.95

Don't go to the gym, just chase your alarm clock around the house! Apparently, Clocky will give you one chance to wake up and then will jump off your nightstand and take off. It doesn't say if Clocky is any good at hiding, seeing as an alarm clock you can't find could be a bit of a problem. Also doubles as a pet toy.
Kilt Beach Towel
(courtesy of Catalog Favorites) - $29.95

This will have folks wondering what your man's got under his kilt. I think this one is best used in public places and perfect for covering up those Speedos.
Monkey Tea Infuser
(courtesy of Waste Some Cash) - $9.75

If you've ever wanted to hear the phrase "there's a monkey in your tea", this is the time. You can then correct them by saying, "actually, there's tea in my monkey".
Slingshot Flying Monkey
(courtesy of Amazon) - $2.09 (sale)

While we're on the topic of monkeys, want an awesome gift for any white elephant gift exchanges coming up? This is guaranteed to be a big hit at meetings, given that it is a toy complete with screaming sounds.
Air Swimmer Remote Control Shark
(courtesy of Toys R Us) - $49.99

Another great item to have in the office, parties, or just following you around in general...especially if you've already purchased the wand remote.
Star Wars Chop Sabers
(courtesy of Think Geek) - $12.99

Technically, if you were really a Jedi, you could use mind tricks to get the food in your mouth. If that fails though, might as well use these chop sabers, which you could also use in battle should somebody try to steal your sushi.
ABC (Already Been Chewed) Cookie Cutters
(courtesy of Waste Some Cash) - $7.99

This may be the most brilliant method of keeping the cookies all to yourself!  An alternative for those of you who are used to licking your food to stake your claim.
Cock Blocker Wine Stopper
(courtesy of Amazon) - $7.95 (sale)

You always need something to prevent unwarranted advances...on your wine!  Helpful if you don't have your light-saber chopsticks on hand.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Daily Art - Precious

My new camera arrived this week - got myself a new Canon 7D DSLR [insert happy dance here].  I've been yearning after this baby for a long time but with an unemployed husband it wasn't really feasible.  Of course, now he's gainfully employed, I was able to swing it and I can't express how happy I am!

Yesterday, we took a trip to LACMA (Los Angeles Couty Museum Of Art), which is part of the Bank Of America Museum program - $free.99, thank you very much.  We've been talking about taking advantage of the offer for a while, but didn't succeed due to various issues with bad planning prior to this.  If you have a BofA account though, and you're looking for something to do the first weekend in a month, I highly suggest checking out which museums are available in your area.

It was the perfect opportunity to take the camera (dubbed "my precious") on it's first field trip.  I do love me some ancient artifacts and whatnot.  I'll let the pictures do most of the talking. You can also view the entire set here.

Of course, I had to end the outing with some photos of the lamppost installation at the front of the building.

It was a really fun afternoon and I'm in LOVE with the camera - no post-editing required.  Hope you all had a good weekend!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Daily Review - Brioche Knitting e-book

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.  Sorry I've been so quiet - we were pretty busy and had a nice time with family in town.  PLUS - I had the opportunity to meet my 5 week old nephew (so small, squishy and completely adorable!)

Given the extra day off work, this finally gave me a chance to review an e-book tutorial for Beginner and Intermediate Brioche Knitting.  I was excited to review this as it's something I've been meaning to try and I'm always happy to learn a new technique.  Thank you to Liat of KNITFreedom for providing a copy of this e-book for me to review.

[NOTE:  This e-book does require the latest version of Adobe Reader to view, although there is a handy link within the e-book that you can follow to download an update (which I needed anyway!)]

This e-book lesson is a wonderful collection of step-by-step Brioche knitting videos with written direction.  The videos are nice and clear, and I found I was able to knit along at the same pace as the video was going even though I was learning.  They compliment the written directions well as I think that trying to learn this stitch using written directions alone would have me completely lost.  The videos are also presented in both American and Continental knitting styles so you can follow on no matter which way you prefer to knit.  By a half-hour in, I was comfortable with the cast on, set up, had knit about 10 rows of my swatch, and even learned a new bind off technique.  

Although just starting out, I did try the section regarding brioche knitting in the round, which I know I'll want to be using for hats along the way.  This involving learning both the brioche purl stitch and joining in the round.  I also tried Brioche knitting with two colors - which makes for beautiful scarf designs that I've seen but never known how the patterns were achieved.  Following along with the video, it didn't take long before my little swatch started taking shape and I'm thrilled that I was able to produce this just by following along with the videos.  [I was using a bigger needle than necessary for my yarn, so my stitches are super wonky in the swatches that I did below, but you get the idea.]

Plain one color Brioche stitch. 
Two color Brioche.  
This is definitely going to take more practice and I'll probably stick with the one color Brioche working flat for a little while until I get the hang of it.  While I'm learning though, this e-book is a great reference guide and the table of contents is really nicely laid out so that I can jump to whichever section is needed as I want to learn new things.  There's also a variety of helpful links throughout, plus tips for blocking techniques and fixing mistakes (which I know will be coming in useful at some point!)  It's like taking a knitting class, except you can refer to it over and over!

The e-book is selling for $34.77 on Liat's website, or through Ravelry.

This is what it's supposed to look like....with a little practice!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daily Review -

I'm a tactile person and when it comes to buying craft supplies, I've found that I generally like to buy in store.  I like being able to touch things and get an idea of size or color without the concern of monitor color variances.  Having said that, I recently found out about while looking for some findings in specific metal colors not as easily available to me in store and it has to be said, I was impressed.

I found the site pretty easy to navigate and had no trouble finding what I wanted with the search.  Their selection doesn't seem quite as huge as Fire Mountain Gems (the only other site I've ever really explored), but I actually found that it wasn't as overwhelming and I was able to explore the different sections without losing myself!  I think that one of my favorite things was having an option to buy almost everything individually - which is great if you don't want to get stuck buying an entire bag/strand when all you want are a couple of an item.  If you do want to buy in higher quantities, the prices drop the more you buy.  I also liked that you only have to spend $10 to get free shipping, which is a nice low minimum and not hard to meet! 

My order was shipped the day after I purchased and took about a week to arrive.  Let me tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to open the package.  It was neatly packaged, wrapped, and even had a little note to say who had fulfilled my order.  A very nice touch!  Everything was so nicely packaged and labeled that I really enjoyed going through everything.

Seeing as I always default to earrings first, I decided to dive right in and knock out a couple of pairs using fun Czech glass roundelles.  They have what is called a half Picasso effect, which is essentially a marbling on the top and bottom of each bead.  It gives them a really unique look and I think it allows the bead to really be the focus of the piece.  The red beads used for the copper pair were far more vibrant in person than on the website, and that pair found a new home within 24 hours of being made!  I already had the Celtic metal findings for the other pair, but they'd been waiting for the right bead.  I think it's a good pairing. 

I think that another great feature of the Art Beads site is the user reviews.  It even allows the reviewer to upload a picture of their finished products, which says more than words can when trying to describe how a product was used.

I think I'm always going to enjoy buying in person more, but I'm definitely sold on this site and I'm sure they'll be getting lots of my business in the future. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Daily Tip - Jewelry photography

When I started photographing jewelry for my shop, Crave Creation, I wanted a consistent clean background with as few shadows as possible.  I discovered that for earrings, this wasn't a big problem as they're quite light. I taped some thread across my lightbox, and was able to suspend the earrings to photograph.  However, necklaces were proving to be a bigger problem.  I wanted a way to photograph them that would show how they hang but the thread I was using for the earrings just wasn't going to be strong enough.

The answer?  Use a wire coat hanger!  I bent the "neck" of the coat hanger at a 90 degree angle so that it provided a base, and then I can use the rest of the hanger to drape the necklaces from.  That allows me to take a photograph from this.... this...

...or even something more like this (which shows more of the necklace length).

I can also use this for earrings as the wires are easily moved to whatever position you need them in.  I finally have a purpose for those dry cleaning hangers!

I found this tip while surfing the internet on a lunch break.  Unfortunately I've forgotten which site I found it on (as I'd love to give credit where due) but it was too good not to share.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Daily Craft - All done!

Remember that cardigan I was knitting in sock yarn that I thought would take me 6 months to make?  I'm proud to say that one month and six days later, I am DONE!  I think I surprised myself a little bit with this one, especially considering I didn't actually spend every day knitting obsessively and giving myself carpel tunnel.

The verdict?  I'm actually very happy with it and my only complaint would be that it's perhaps 2 inches shorter than I'd like it to be.  I should have trusted my instinct on that when I was knitting it up and gone a little longer.  Hopefully it'll stretch out a little bit with some love and washing.

Knitting a garment with sock yarn wasn't as painful as I thought it might be, and I find that lighter yarns are better for me anyway - both more flattering and better for my internal temperature control (I run warm).  I was also pleasantly surprised by how easy the DROPS pattern was to follow.  When I was a less confident knitter, I remember looking at a couple of DROPS patterns and being completely intimidated/confused.  Apart from anything, the way the patterns are laid out in a clump of text makes it all look far worse than it actually is.  I ended up cutting and pasting into a word document, which I formatted to my liking and made it much easier to follow.  They have a truly extensive database of good patterns though so I'm glad I'm over my mental block when it comes to their patterns!

I've dubbed it the "Year Round Cardi" as I suspect this will be getting lots of use.  I've got the cardigan bug now though and I'm contemplating what I may make next.  Hopefully I can finish another in a similar time frame!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Daily Review - Blog Tag! You in?

So, who's up for a game of tag?  This one isn't a bunch of random (and probably useless) information about me.  This is a game of Blog Tag, where I get to look back over my blog and posts that I've written.  Thanks to my blog buddy, Lucy, for suggesting the game.  If you decide to do this, come back and share the link - I'd love to give your posts some love!

Which is your most beautiful post?
The photographer in me is having a hard time choosing between my Vegas weekend, where we visited Red Rock Canyon, and my birthday weekend, which involved a trip to Griffith Park Observatory.  I think that Red Rock Canyon wins in the end, seeing as it's quite humbling to be surrounded by something so beautiful created by nature.  It reminds me that I should take my camera out for weekend field trips more often, seeing as sometimes pictures say more than I possibly could in words. 

Which is your most popular post?
My review of definitely wins.  As a follow-up, I've been using these needles almost exclusively in the last 18 months and have only run into one problem (where the cable came off the needle).  Still can't beat them for the price (and that reminds me that I need to order a new set of double pointed needles!)

Which is your most controversial post?
I try to stay away from controversial most of the time, but when some asshats sprayed graffiti on the outside of my building, I couldn't hold back on the rant.  Still not particularly controversial I think, but that's about as close as you're gonna yet.  

Which is your most helpful post?
Based on the number of views?  My [dummies guide to quilting] tutorial for a disappearing 9-patch block.  You can see what the finished quilt looked like here.  

I actually very much enjoy creating tutorials and the few that I've done have a link on the sidebar.  I've been meaning to come up with concepts for more tutorials that you guys may find interesting so feel free to make suggestions if you have any. 


Which post's success surprised you most?
When I randomly took my camera on a walk one morning in my neighborhood, I figured I'd shoot some pictures on my route for fun (and to attempt to keep me motivated to get off my butt and walk in the morning).  I had no idea that other people would find the random photos so interesting.  This post is second to my knitting needle review in terms of views.  Perhaps I need to do it again.  :)

Which of your posts do you feel didn't get the attention it deserved?
To me, it's surprising that some of the recipes I have posted haven't received that many views.  You can see all of them if you click "daily dish" on my sidebar, but the Tagine that I made didn't get much love (although very much loved by my belly).   Now that we're in winter, I'm definitely going to be making this more often - it's excellent comfort food and super simple given that you can leave it in the crockpot all day, with the added benefit that it makes the house smell delicious. 

Which post are you proudest of?
Without question, it is my post - "I made it!"  That post was speaking to everything I've worked toward during my adult life.  The trials and tribulations of my immigration from England to the US could practically be a book.  [If I were ever to write a book, there would definitely be a chapter on things NOT to do, another on what to do when stranded in another country without your clothing...]  Regardless, the day I got my green card held a sense of accomplishment, relief, and pride in my own determination. 

It's interesting to look back at my posts, some of which I'd completely forgotten about, and see how my blog has progressed.  When I was writing my old blog, I spent too much time worrying about what I thought people might want to read and staying true to a theme.  As a result, it became a chore for me.  When I started over with this blog, I just wanted to have fun and share a piece of me, no matter how random.  I feel like I've made a few friends, and gathered a few followers along the way - and [as Tosh.O may say] for that, I thank you. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Daily Ramblings - It started with a mullet....

While that may be the strangest post title I've ever used, it's true.  Last week, Joann's was getting rid of their Halloween section at 60% off, and I happened across a rather fantastic mullet wig with matching mustache.  For the bargain price of $5, it was too funny NOT to buy it, so it came home with me.  I didn't really think too much about what my costume plans were but, using the mullet as my entire inspiration, I woke up yesterday and raided my husband's closet for the most redneck things I could find and ended up with this. 

Holy crap, I'm sexy.

Things I discovered while dressed as a redneck:
1) It's impossible to eat nachos with a handlebar mustache attached to your face with tape...unless the melted cheese dripping from said mustache can be considered part of the costume.
2) When wearing men's jeans, I naturally start walking like a trucker. 
3) Apparently, when completely decked out in my husband's trashy clothing, I look like I'm 12.  I found this out while trying to purchase the Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boy on the way into work.  The guy behind the counter didn't want to sell it to me, which had nothing to do with the fact that I was buying beer at 8:30 in the morning!  It took both my ID, backed up by debit card for name verification, before he'd take my $2. 
4) Boxer shorts are far more comfortable than thongs.

I was pretty proud of my rather last minute costume attempt, especially after winning 2nd prize in the work costume contest. 

Meanwhile, I gave to give props to the crew upstairs who turned the lobby into a "Dexter" style kill room.   They're quite the creative bunch!

How was your Halloween?  Any good stories to share?