Thursday, September 29, 2011

Daily Craft - The search for the perfect cardigan

I don't knit things for myself very often.  One factor being that I live in Southern California, which doesn't present itself a ton of opportunities to bundle up with warm wooly items.  [Really, it probably would have been a good idea for me to learn to knit when I was still living in England, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that.]  The other factor is that I do a lot of sample knitting - which I enjoy, but it is work and leaves me very little time to knit for myself because I tend to gravitate toward other crafts between sample knit projects.

As the weather is starting to cool off out here in sunny CA, I have concluded that it's about damn time I made myself a cardigan though.  I love the patterns for cardis and jackets using fun, chunky yarns that knit up in no time...but realistically, I won't wear a lot because the cold season is so short.  I also wouldn't wear anything too thick in my office.  A month from now they'll be turning up the heat in the building and I'll end up sweating with my desk fan blasting at my head because my office is a closet (complete with fuse box for the entire floor - ah yes, I have the power to turn stuff off!) 

So, yesterday I continued my search for the elusive cardigan pattern that would carry me through some of the colder days, but also work nicely during fall and into spring.  Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner!  Check out this jacket by DROPS Design.

I will admit that despite being pretty advanced with my knitting, even if I say so myself, DROPS patterns have always been somewhat intimidating to me.  I think it's because a lot of them are converted from Scandinavian into English and aren't written in the standard knitting language that I know and love.  I decided to copy and paste the pattern into a word document and reformat slightly so that the directions were a little easier to follow.  Now, all I have to do is find the right yarn and I'm ready to go. 

Naturally, I picked something that's done in sock yarn so potentially could take me until the spring to finish anyway, but I love it and can't wait to finally be working on something that I'll be able to proudly wear and say "yes, I made it!"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Daily Ramblings - Vegas baby, Vegas!

If the title of this post wasn't enough, we went to Vegas over the weekend to visit my brother and in-laws.  It was a thoroughly entertaining weekend - some highlights for you!

- The new car has really big side mirrors.  I'm not usually inspired to take photos in the side mirror but I couldn't help it.  We passed under a gigantic dark cloud on the way out, but beautiful blue skies ahead...

- Did you know that the cops in Vegas carry barf bags?  They're bright orange and can be slipped over someone's head, somewhat like a feed bag.  Convenient when the person is handcuffed on the side of The Strip and you're dealing with their unruly girlfriend who is also handcuffed but causing a ruckus.

- We were witness to what seemed like a standard traffic stop...until the crew from "COPS" popped out of the back of the cop car and started filming.  There are no words to describe how awesome it was to see this happen, after years of seeing the show on TV.  I did think about singing the theme song ["Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do...], but suspect that's probably a highly unoriginal response...

- I apparently have a "fish-eye" setting on one of the camera apps on my phone.  I'm not sure if it looks like a fish-eye or if it just looks like a mangled photo of a postcard.

- If you're ever looking for some really good fine dining, go to Postrio at The Venetian.  My brother happens to be the Asst. General Manager there, which means fantastic eating for me!  We got a delicious bottle of wine, plus a 6 course tasting menu - thai shrimp soup, caprese salad, artichoke and goat cheese stuffed tortellini, seared salmon in miso broth, filet mignon with veggies, then an apple tart and cheesecake with fig for desert (below).  You are permitted to be jealous!

All in all, a fantastic weekend with family - albeit very little success at the blackjack tables.  Sometimes it's hard to be back at work after such a fun weekend away!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Daily Craft - Making progress

So I realize I didn't give you all that much of a clue as to what I was working on in my last post.  On account of having to use some vacation time (which is not a problem that I would want to whine about), I was able to spend part of yesterday working on the quilt blocks that I so mysteriously hinted at.  I'm about half way done putting together the blocks, but here's a little preview of what it's going to look like.  I'm in love with the fabrics and enjoying how it's dramatic, but has a feminine touch.  I still haven't decided how big I want to make it, but I guess I'll see how the blocks I've already cut work out once they're all put together.

Anyway, hope you're all having a happy Friday!  Any good plans for the weekend?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Daily Craft - Squares and strips

I think I finally narrowed down the design that I want to use for my next quilt, and started cutting all the squares and strips last night.  It's really quite satisfying to sit down with the rotary cutter and end up with neat little stacks of fabric, ready to be sewn.

Now that I've started cutting and looked at the fabric patterns together, I've concluded that I need some plain colors mixed in to make each individual pattern really pop.  The patterns together as I have them now will be just a little bit too crazy!  Of course, buying additional fabric means I could end up making this a really big quilt...or perhaps two smaller ones would make this process more manageable.  I'm still deciding if I want to do the plain fabrics in just white, black and grey, or if adding a matching teal (assuming I can find a perfect match) will be too much.  Sometimes I think I just have too many ideas all at once - decisions, decisions!  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Daily Ramblings - Dating vintage

I used to be somewhat obsessed with the BBC show, Cash In The Attic, where people would let appraisers into their home to find hidden vintage and antique treasures to sell at auction.  [Admittedly, I have a bit of a crush on Paul - he has good dimples.]  I was always amazed at how the "experts" could look at a chair/figurine/glass/etc. and be able to tell exactly when it was made based on certain features or markings on each piece.  In fact, that show gets the credit for the Royal Doulton gravy boat, in a discontinued pattern, I picked up for $3 at a thrift store and is actually priced at closer to $100. 

For me, one of the interesting things about vintage is trying to figure out the story so are you ready for a quick history lesson?!

I am in possession of these really cute holiday plate and mug sets.  They are in the original box, but no identifying markings as to where they came from as the base simply says "Made in Japan".  So, I set off on my search to figure out when these were made.  The reference number on the box was no help to me.  Unfortunately, they were just marked as "Hand Decorated Porcelain Mug Set", but no reference to the name of the design.  Naturally this yielded a whole bunch of nothing in an internet search. 
The only clue as to where they were purchased is the price tag, marked by J.W. Robinsons. 

I did a little research on J.W. Robinsons.  The original store was opened in Los Angeles in 1883, and it wasn't until the 1952 that the company started expanding to other locations within L.A.  Robinsons became part of Associated Dry Goods Corp in 1957, which was then acquired by May Company in 1986 - leading to the better known moniker of Robinsons-May.  So, going back to my plates and mugs, I know that these date to the time when J.W. Robinsons was operating prior to the merger with May Company. 

The second thing I have to go by is that there is no barcode/UPC on the box.  Barcodes were originally conceptualized in the 1930s and, in the subsequent decades, there were attempts to develop various types of automated retail checkout systems including a circular "bulls-eye" barcode.  It wasn't until 1974 that the current bars and stripes UPC/barcode was first used in grocery stores, while the widespread use of the barcode wasn't until the 1980s. 

Holiday themed ceramics such as these were a tradition in Europe long before they became popular in the U.S. during the 1960's - and now it's not at all uncommon to give or receive a favorite holiday mug.  So, my powers of deduction say that these are likely dated sometime between the 1960s and early-to-mid 1970s and, while I will never know for sure, there's also a very strong possibility that these were originally purchased in one of the original J.W. Robinsons department stores here in Los Angeles.  I truly wish I'd been able to find out more, but unfortunately my Google-Fu has been bringing me to a bit of a dead-end.  Regardless they are in beautiful condition (although there is one mug missing) and wherever they end, their story will doubtless continue!

Do you have any good stories of vintage items in your house?  I love the research because I always feel like I'm learning something new and hopefully can find more stories to share.  :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Daily Craft - Finished disappearing 9-patch

Firstly, I should say that trying to photograph a quilt is kind of a pain in the ass.  I checked out a few websites, which advocated photographing the entire thing in natural light at a 90-degree angle in order to avoid any bizarre trapezoid-looking quilts.  Of course, finding a way to hang it where you can place the tripod at a 90-degrees is a mission upon itself.  I finally figured out that I could achieve this using some skirt hangers and the door frame - not perfect (because I still picked up a weird shadow from somewhere), but I'm glad that I can now share a photo of my finished piece!

So, here it is - my Disappearing 9-patch quilt...

I really enjoy how it looks random, even though there was actually a decent amount of "organizing" the blocks.  Truth is, I'm not very good at being completely random!  This is also the first time attempting to do binding properly, which is something I definitely plan on practicing more.  Overall, I'm very happy with my accomplishments and I keep telling myself that the only person who is likely to notice the imperfections is me anyway.  The colors in the shot below are more true to life, and also show the simple quilting that I did around each block. 

I have to give props to Joann for this line of fabric.  I can't wait to get started on the next quilt with the other fabrics that I bought, although still haven't decided upon the block pattern to use. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Daily Giveaway - We have a winner!

Congratulations to knitterpixie, who has won a copy of the My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Suite.  I hope you enjoy playing around with it!

Don't forget, I do have a coupon code that you can use if you'd like to purchase the product.  It gives you $10 off the purchase of the software ($39.98 retail), plus an additional $10 to spend on scrapbooking elements in the store.  Enter code STMMMS90189 at checkout.

Thanks to everyone for dropping by to enter!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Daily Giveaway - A quick reminder

How has your Labor Day weekend been going?  Yesterday, we made an impromptu visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain - which led to a bruised rib and a small harness rash.  Totally worth it (although I do remember the days when going to a theme park didn't result in feeling quite so beaten up!)  There were some amazing rollercoasters, but the most entertaining part of the day had to be getting soaked head-to-toe on the log ride.  My friends' 21-month old didn't seem to bothered by it at least.

Anyway, if you haven't yet entered, just a quick reminder to submit a comment for your chance to win the My Memories digital scrapbook software giveaway.  I've been playing with the software even more over the last week, and it is very versatile and fun to use.  I'll be picking the winner tomorrow afternoon.

Share your Labor Day stories with me!  Did you get to enjoy the long weekend?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daily Deuce - Happy Birthday Deuce!

It wouldn't be right to forgo wishing Deuce a Happy Birthday today - after all, I named this blog after the little fuzzbutt!
Dear Deuce

Today you turn 2 and I want to wish you a wonderful birthday.  I love how you give me little sniffy kisses every morning when I leave for work, and it makes me smile that your furry face is the first thing I see when I come home.  You constantly amuse me with your antics - even when you have your butt in my face, or you're attacking me with your fists of furry.

You're such a sweet little guy, always checking on us to see what we're doing, and wanting to join in with every activity.  You love to play and enjoy nothing more than being chased around the house until your tail puffs up, chasing your ratty old ball around, wrestling with your mouse, or sunbathing under the dining table.  I love it when you're being chatty and telling me about your day.  I have no idea what you're saying, but I'm sure it's all good stuff!

We're so happy that you're part of our family and wishing you a wonderful year filled with treats and tuna.

Love and ear scratches,

She who feeds you