Friday, November 30, 2007

Luggage Tags

I've blogged before about a luggage tag tutorial at My Longest Year that I thought was cute and easy. Now here's an blurb about my own foray into the world of luggage tag crafting.

I was inspired to craft some luggage tags when I saw the following:

Aren't they cool? I'm always on the lookout for good ways to make my luggage stand out from the crowd- our luggage is usually very standard-looking, and I hate trying to guess if a bag is mine as it comes at me on the belt at the airport. These tags seemed like a great idea, so I bookmarked the link and stuck the idea in that corner of my brain filled with crafty ideas I plan to realize someday.

Then, a couple of days ago, I was at the Dollar Tree, and I spotted these:

At 10 for a $1, I can make lots of luggage tags and ensure that I'm never again uncertain about whether or not a bag is mine! I'm making custom tags for my family members for the holidays-- I won't say much, so as not to ruin the surprise, but let's just say that these tags will feature zombies, sharks, shoes, workout gear, Montessori materials, cats and a sleeping guy. I'll post pictures after I give them away in December.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What Would You Do?

If you had this really cool empty can, what would you make out of it? I'm thinking of a pencil holder, but that seems so very predictable. Isn't it great? I don't even like canned peaches, but the "Dainty-Pak" label totally won me over.

And, just for the complete cuteness of it, a photo of my two cats sleeping on my office chair. FYI, I sat perched on the edge of the chair working at the computer for about 30 minutes so as not to disturb the cuteness. Finally my husband came in and moved the cats, muttering something about my carpel tunnel syndrome as he did so.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beginning a Holiday Project: Pet Bed

I belong to a knitting group that has been very indulgent of my absences of late. I guess being in Mongolia is a pretty good excuse for not attending, but now that I'm back, I'm ready to join the madness again. Anyway, one of the excellent knitters in our group, Deb, suggested that we all work on projects to be donated this holiday season, and even connected us to a particular project- knitted pet beds for the local SPCA (so that the animals have some warmth in their cages during the long Buffalo winter).

I'm not sure exactly what the finished product will look like, but I hope it might knit up like the above photo. Of course, I'll post pictures of my finished product. I just hope Mochi doesn't web with my yarn for this project!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stupid Sock Creatures, Revisited

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my colleague and friend Susan, who shared the above photo of her Thanksgiving weekend crafting adventures. She wrote:

Hi Rachel,

I thought of you last night as we spent the evening crafting with socks. When we were Christmas shopping yesterday we bought a “Stupid Sock Creatures” book and kit (by John Murphy) for my sister-in-law and her husband. It looked like so much fun that we made our own stupid sock monsters to send along. Here is a photo of our creations. Jason made the big headed guy on the left, I made the strange creation in the middle, and Chloe’s creature on the right is still in progress.


Okay, now here's the crazy part. Although I'd never mentioned this to Susan before, I actually met John Murphy several years ago (maybe in 2002 or 2003, I'm not sure) and commissioned him to make stupid sock creatures for me, my sister and my brother!

Here's the link to the book and kit, in case you want to make your own. In the meantime, I'll try to scare up some photos of our stupid sock creatures. Mine is named "Sharky the Intrepid," FYI!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Oh, What a Tangled Web...

The webspinner inspecting her work

One of my cats, Mochi, loves to eat wool and other natural fibers (particularly cashmere). In addition to this not-so-charming behavior, she has another yarn-related habit that is pretty cute. If she finds a ball of yarn, she will carry it in her mouth, dragging the tail of the yarn until she weaves an intricate web throughout our house. Generally these webs begin near a table. She weaves the yarn around the legs of that piece of furniture and then carries the ball to another room, where she proceeds to web some more. This is often a nocturnal activity for Mochi, so we have to be careful not to get trapped in her tangled web when we wake up in the mornings.

A close-up of the web at its origins

The web continues into the dining room; notice that it divides into two paths at this point

Path one: Masterful weaving around a dining room chair

Path two: From the dining room into the pantry and kitchen (she ran out of yarn at this point)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gratitude and Feasting

Yesterday I hosted my second-ever Thanksgiving. It was a rousing success- or at least there were no major calamities (no lumpy mashed potatoes, no too-dry turkey, no burnt stuffing, etc!)

I was so busy cooking that I didn't take any photos. But despite the lack of photographic evidence, I'll state for the record that I am ever grateful to have shared a feast with 10 of my nearest and dearest. After all of our recent adventures overseas, it felt really nice to be gathered around the table with loved ones. For those who might be interested, my menu:

Turkey, stuffing, gravy
Mixed greens salad with pears, pecans and dried cranberries
Mashed potatoes (with sour cream, heavy cream and butter- not an everyday food!)
Sweet potatoes
Purple cauliflower* and (regular, orange) carrots
Green beans with onions
Squash stuffed with cranberries and apples (made by my sister Sarah!)
Traditional cranberry sauce and cranberry chutney
Sweet potato pie
Pumpkin pie
Apple pie (made by my sister Sarah!)

I have to admit that while I orchestrated the whole dinner, I had massive amounts of help from my mom, who actually spent the night and woke at 5 AM to put the turkey in the oven (it was a big turkey, and since we eat early-- at 1 PM-- we had to get it started in the early morn).

Anyway, I hope your holiday was as much fun as ours!

*According to Wikipedia: Purple cauliflower exists naturally. The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include 'Graffiti' and 'Purple Cape'.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One Potato, Two Potato...

In honor of the 10 lbs. of potatoes I peeled today (for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner), I present potato-related crafts:

1. Potato Dough
2. Potato Necklace
3. Potato Printing
4. Baked Potato Bag

Happy Eating and Crafting!

Added: an excellent potato video from the 1970s by Rita Pavone, courtesy of mely. Thanks so much- this is awesome!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Little Julia, the Adorable Disco Duck

A while back I made a little sweater for my friend and classmate Heather, who was pregnant with her daughter Julia. Julia's now growing fast, and is now the size to wear the yellow and white creation. You can't really tell from the photos but the white yarn has silver threads running through it, leading to a sparkly, disco-y effect. Isn't Julia's smile the cutest thing? I think she looks really wise in these photos, like she's in on a joke or something.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I am loving the idea of this book, The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life: How to Sew a Sampler Quilt and 49 Other Pioneer Projects for the Modern Girl by Jennifer Worick. Here's a short blurb:

Here's your chance to travel back in time, step into our remarkable foremothers' boots, and recreate wonderful homespun handicrafts and activities. Rich stories of frontier women weave their way through the guide coupling with a range of the projects that made up the daily life of these pioneers. Peek into the past, and bring a little bit back into your future.

I think it's the 3rd grade-Laura Ingalls Wilder-lover in me that finds the idea of Prairie-related crafting so appealing. I've always wanted to make a braided rug and/or embroider my pillowcases, after all. And making a batch of bread-and-butter pickles sounds awfully tasty. Let me know if you've read/crafted from this book.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Amy Sedaris on Martha Stewart

I found this really funny video of Amy Sedaris on the Martha Stewart show over at Montessori By Hand. Check it out if you've got a few minutes to spare- I love Amy Sedaris!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Wish I Were In LA... I could go to the plush food show (cleverly called STUFFED) happening now.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Travel Scarf

Yesterday I posted about some crafts I made while traveling in Mongolia. As promised, here is a shot of the scarf I made for my friend Urna.

I crocheted this using Lily Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn. I made 14 flowers following a modified granny square pattern and then linked them together. (For free crochet flower patterns, check here.) I made it on the plane ride from Beijing to NY and one of the flight attendants kept stopping to check my progress- I was tempted to give it to her but I really wanted to make something for Urna. I hope she likes it!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Travel Crafts

I crocheted two small bags and a scarf out of the one (huge) ball of yarn I brought with me to Mongolia. I gave one of these bags to Odna, my friend Urna's aunt (Odna and Urna are pictured below in a restaurant in Sainshand, Mongolia). The other one I gave to Urna's awesome grandma. Odna intends to use hers as a makeup case and I think it's the perfect size for that.

The scarf, which I will feature tomorrow, is for Urna. I finished it on the plane ride from Beijing to JFK and have to send it to her soon. I hope she likes it!

This yarn is the same kind I used to make my grocery totes a while back.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Almost Over Our Jet Lag

John and Rachel under the "Scholar's Tree" (it seemed appropriate) in the Forbidden City.

Sorry for the delay in posting these photos. Although we're back home and the faster internet connection ostensibly makes it easier to log on, I've been taking a break from blogging for the past couple of days as I try to get over my horrible jet lag. Interestingly, John and I found ourselves on nearly opposite jet lag sleep schedules over the past few days. I have been waking up somewhere between 2am and 4am, after going to sleep around 10:30pm, while he has been going to sleep between 2am and 4am! In any event, it seems that we're both beginning to adjust to being daylight dwellers in North America again, so I present a final post about our last days in China!

Our friend Sandra was a wonderful host- she's working on creating a website called Savour Asia and we were fortunate enough to accompany her to many delicious Beijing restaurants in the name of web research! We also wrote an article on Mongolian cuisine for her website- check it out! One of the things we already miss about China is the delicious food, like the dish pictured below:

Here's a close-up of John and me on the Great Wall of China:

Here's John outside the Forbidden City, at what may be the most famous place to take a photograph in Beijing!

Here's a particularly quiet courtyard in the Forbidden City:

And here's John outside of Mao's Tomb in Tiananmen Square:

I guess that this blog will likely now morph back into a craft blog. I hope you've enjoyed following us on our travels. Please stop back occasionally to read about my crafting adventures as well!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Some Night Market Photos

We've returned and in spite of some bad jet lag (or maybe because of it), I'm keeping my promise and posting photos of the Beijing Night Market, along with some of the tasty morsels we ate there!

I believe those of you who know us well are aware that we approached this experience with an open mind and an awareness that cultural difference is totally relative- what's unique in one context is familiar in another. For those of you whom we haven't met, please understand that we experienced these foods not as "other" or "weird" but rather as a way to expand and broaden our own horizons. And we were not disappointed- John liked the scorpions so much that he ate 1 1/2 of them (minus the stinger) and I found starfish to taste remarkably similar to breaded pork chops.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What's the Most Interesting Thing You've Ever Eaten?

Before this trip, I'd have said scorpion. Now John and I can add silkworm larvae and starfish to the list. Yes, starfish. On a stick.

If you want to see photos of these adventures, I want comments! Please write in and tell us what unusual foods you've encountered and then I'll post photos of some of us eating some really interesting (and sometimes tasty!) stuff.

Oh, and in case you're wondering- 2 scorpions on a stick are quite pricey, at $6.75 US. Silkworms, on the other hand, come about 8 to a stick and are only .65 cents US. Starfish is served one to a stick for $2 US.

Now, don't you want to see pictures??!

We're headed home today so I'll be posting lots of picture-heavy posts once we get back. I'm not just being coy with this post- it's actually difficult to post to Blogger in China. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wild Wall Beijing

We had a great time climbing on the "wild" Great Wall of China on Sunday. We took a hike through some brush up to a section of the Great Wall that is not repaired or technically open to the public. It was an amazing, off-the-beaten-path experience and we're thankful that our gracious hosts helped us get there! We finished off with a lovely bowl of noodles at a restaurant called The Schoolhouse. Yum!

Za, Bayartai Mongol Uls!

We have left Mongolia and are making a slow journey back to the States via China! I'm posting from Beijing today, but I wanted to include some photos from our goodbyes in Mongolia. We had such a wonderful time, and we are so incredibly grateful to everyone for their hospitality-- especially Zorigoo, Alta and Urna (Zorigoo and Urna are pictured above with us, at the airport). It's been a great experience.

After we get back to the US, I'll post some more photos from Mongolia, especially our trip to the Gobi, which I only partially blogged about. In the interim, here are some goodbye photos with friends:

John with our dear friend Nansa's family in UB (he was too tall for their house, much to everyone's delight!)

With my friend Solongo at her office (Mercy Corps Mongolia).

Both of us with Bayarsaikhan, the Associate Peace Corps Director for Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Mongolia.

On the plane with Urna's friend Aza and her friend- they helped us by checking in together, ensuring that our bags were not overweight for the Mongolia/China leg of the flight (the weight restrictions are less than half of our China/US flight- yikes!)

Incidentally, "Za, bayartai Mongol uls" means, "Okay, goodbye Mongolia!" :)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Vote for Qualia!

Please go to and vote for QUALIA in the Battle of the Bands this week! It's my brother's band and I want him to win!

(More posting to come... we're in China now and it's been a bit difficult to post for the last several days...)