Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Windy Day

There's a storm in Buffalo today; it's one of those perfect opportunities to stay inside, crank up the heat, pop popcorn and watch a movie. The course I'm teaching is canceled for tonight because the college is closed, John is home sick for the day, and the cats are happy campers.

If it wasn't so darn cold, I'd think about building an igloo in our backyard.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Totoros Galore!

My husband John is one of the best surprise-gift givers I have ever encountered. He's not one to celebrate on predetermined days (we're not big on Valentine's Day around here, for example), but he'll often surprise me on a non-holiday with something really cool. Today is one of those days! The mail carrier rolled up around 10:30 AM with a big box from Japan. Whenever I get a box from Japan via John, I immediately suspect that a Totoro gift is inside. After opening the lovely packaging, my suspicions were confirmed. Not only did John get me a large, extremely warm Totoro blanket, he also bought the cutest Totoro apron and bag (see below). And there were two origami Totoros included in the box. I just found online instructions for how to make your own origami Totoro; check it out here.

The items came gift-wrapped (of course I saved the paper for re-use):

And, on top of the lovely gift wrapping, one of the items had an origami Totoro decoration:

The incredibly warm and lucky Clover Totoro blanket now gracing our couch:

My new bag, perfect for carrying books to school and/or groceries:

My new apron, which I absolutely love and can't wait to put to use:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monkey Cake

Who wouldn't want a monkey cake for their birthday? My sister-in-law Ginny decided to make one for her friend Alex's birthday recently. She sent photos of the final product today, and I thought it was so cute that it needed a wider audience... hence this post. Perhaps best of all, the cake was banana with chocolate frosting. Sounds delicious and looks too cute to eat. The inspiration is from a Martha Stewart recipe, which can be found here.

Happy Birthday Alex!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Crafting Food into Words

I haven't been working on anything crafty today, except an article on the Middle Eastern markets in the City of Buffalo for Buffalo Rising. Stay tuned... I'll let you know when the article's done and gets posted.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Felting a Bag: Steps Two and Three

I've finished steps two and three of my felted bag. After washing and drying this bag five times, I finally achieved a felted look! I also achieved complete domination over our laundry pile. After some thorough cat inspection (FYI: Mochi approves), I sewed the handle into a tube and wove it through the holes in the top of the bag. Now I've got to figure out if I want to add to this bag by needle felting a design or not. I'm going to sit with the un-needle felted bag for a while and see if the crafty spirits move me in that direction.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Great Apron Pattern

Over at one of my favorite blogs, Montessori By Hand, blogger Meg McElwee has created a pattern for a great apron, called the Emmeline Apron. You can pre-order your pattern today, to be shipped on February 8, 2008.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Felting a Bag: Step One

I've finally finished crocheting a huge bag. It's in the process of being felted right now, so the only photo I've got is of step one, which is the pre-felting stage. I'm felting the bag and the handle separately and will sew the whole thing together after I finish making several trips down to the washing machine to shrink this puppy as much as possible. You can't really tell from the photo, but I've crocheted holes near the top perimeter of the bag so that I can weave the handle around after the felting's done. Okay, back to the basement for felting #4. One good aspect of this project is that I'm getting a lot of laundry done.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Geographically Relevant Outlet Covers

Yesterday my sister and I worked on a project for her new condo: decoupaging outlet covers. We decided to use an old (and I do mean old-- we're talking Soviet Union era) atlas to cover her many electrical (light switch, plug and cable) outlet covers. We decided to do each one based on a place she's lived or visited. So now she's got covers featuring maps of Mongolia and France (above), Kenya, Spain, The Philippines, California, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Virginia (some of which are below). We wound up re-doing the black and silver cover because we didn't like it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stinky But Cheap: Making Your Own Pore Cleaning Strips

I've been meaning to try making my own pore cleaning strips for a while. The idea behind these is the same as the ones that you can find on the drugstore shelf (like Biore, above). I don't use these on a regular basis (in fact, I'm rather a minimalist when it comes to skin care and make-up-- water and facial soap pretty much comprise my daily routine) but when I saw this recipe on Bath and Body Recipes, it looked like too much fun to pass up.

The bottom line? The recipe (see below) seemed to work pretty well, but it stank. I think anytime you warm up milk and brush it on your face, it's bound to be, well, a smell adventure, but there's something about the mixture of milk and gelatin that really didn't appeal to me. At all.

That being said, it was fun. And there are tons (787 at the moment, to be exact) of do-it-yourself bath and body recipes on the website, so check it out.

This recipe makes a pore cleaning "strip" which works just like those sold in popular drugstores.

1 T Knox unflavored gelatin
1-1/2 T milk

Mix two ingredients and microwave for 10 seconds to slightly warm. Using a clean cosmetic brush, apply to nose and chin area. Avoid delicate eye area. Rinse brush immediately. Allow mixture on nose and chin to dry for 10-15 minutes. Mixture will dry quite stiff and form a "stiff film." Peel off the film and stare at all the little porcupine quills that used to be in your nose pores (one of the chief entertainment factors with B'Strips!).

Bath and Body Recipes

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pet Peeve: Lost Crochet Hook

One of my pet peeves is when I lose a hook or needles from an in-process crocheting or knitting project. I am in the middle of making a big crocheted bag, which I plan to felt eventually. I got about halfway done with this project and ran out of yarn. It took me a couple of days to get to the store to buy more yarn, and in the meantime our cat Mochi decided that the halfway-done bag made a great toy. Somehow she managed to lose the hook. I know I can just go to my stash of hooks and needles to replace it, but it's driving me crazy that I can't find it. Fortunately my hooks are just the plain ol' metal kind, not like these fancy ones from Grafton Fibers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bubbles Galore

My cats love bubbles. They will run in from another room if they hear me opening a container of bubbles. Accordingly, I've been doing some internet research on bubble recipes.

Bubble Recipe Sites:

1. This link includes a jell-o bubble recipe.
2. Bubble art (may be a bit advanced if your primary audience is two cats).
3. Lots of links to bubble recipes.
4. The definitive source, it seems.

The more I write the word bubble the weirder it looks. Apparently it's from the Middle English bubelen, to bubble. My source?

bubble. (n.d.). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved January 16, 2008, from website:

Can you tell I'm in the middle of editing an academic paper and looking for distractions?!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Finding the Right Fabric: Not There Yet

I recently renovated my kitchen. This involved a bunch of steps, some of which I've blogged about already. I painted the ceiling and window and door trim, painted the walls, painted the cupboards, replaced the cupboard hardware, replaced the ceiling light/fan, installed new curtain rods, and got my countertops replaced. I wanted to make the kitchen, which is small, really vibrant and fun. I therefore painted it a bright green color called Tart Apple. I got black, white and grey solid surface acrylic countertops. The new light/fan is a funky retro design. The new artwork I created (from rice paper purchased in Toronto's Chinatown and wooden frames that Ginny and I painted grey) adds a graphic punch without being too loud.

So all of that is great. Here's the rub: I can't find fabric to match my vision for curtains. I'm imagining something that's mostly black and white, in a mod/sunburst-inspired pattern like the fabric above, with maybe a splash of green and a bit of grey. I have searched and searched, online and in person, in the U.S. and Canada, and have yet to find fabric that corresponds with what's in my head. I have confidence that I'll get there, and until then my plain white sheers will have to do, but I'm kind of surprised at how hard it is to find what I'm looking for. If all else fails, I think I'll make my husband really happy by making curtains out of this fabric:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ginny's Coming to Visit!

My sister-in-law Ginny is arriving for a visit today. In honor of her trip, I've made her a little bag to hold her Charlie Card. This little bag is made from the same fabric out of which I crafted my second-ever art smock.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Art Smock, Redux

After completing an art smock for Bea and making a trip up to Toronto's Honest Ed's and finding some awesome tablecloth material for sale by the yard, I decided to make a smock for my friend Hanna's daughter Haya. I'll be seeing Haya (and parents) in mid-January when she makes her annual winter trek from Madison to Buffalo, and I hope she likes this smock.

Mely, what do you think? We purchased this flowery goodness together, after all...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Globalized Yarn

Behold, a hat and scarf made from yarn that's traveled the world! This lovely wool/acrylic blend originated in Italy, was purchased as a gift for me in New Zealand by my colleague and cat sitter extraordinaire Carolyn, brought to New York, where I've fashioned this hat and scarf to send as a pick-me-up to my friend Susan in Colorado. I could make a complex political argument about global consumerism here, but instead I'll direct your attention to Pietra Rivoli's book, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade.

Me, modeling hat and scarf in my husband's lair, uh, I mean, office. And in case you're wondering, yes, that is an official lightsaber replica on the shelf above my head, along with a luchador, a Darth Maul figure, and a Homer doll.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Still Not Over the Holidays? Design Your Own Sweater!

I just found a funny website where you can "knit" your very own over-the-top holiday sweater! Check it out here.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Crafting: The Early Years

Imagine my glee on Christmas morning 2007 when I opened a present from my parents and found these two shirts. "Surprise!" my mom said, "These are t-shirts you crafted at camp when you were young. I thought you could feature them on your blog!" It's amazing what a trip up to the attic can unearth.

We made these t-shirts at Camp Sky High (Sing along: "Sky High, Sky High, is the best, the B-E-S-T best, oh yes, oh la dee da") sometime in the early 1980s (although I'm sure you could date these based solely on the style [who doesn't love a shredded T?] and prevalence of pony beads!)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Welcoming the New Rees Baby

My wonderful friends Liz and Matt and their cute little son Nathan will welcome a second child into their family at the end of May. I used 5 skeins of Lion Suede yarn to crochet this blanket; three were the color "Moonshadow" and two were "Taupe". I got all five skeins of yarn from my mom for Christmas. I hope it keeps Baby Rees nice and warm.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My Crafty Family

My brother-by-another-brother Matt (see here for an explanation) gave me some awfully crafty Christmas presents. I'm so impressed with his ability to get me gifts that I genuinely like and want. I'm especially enamored with the book shown above, Knitting for Peace. Now I've just got to figure out which of the projects to knit first, and when. I guess I can use my new knitting calendar (see below) to work out a schedule.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sisterly Love

My sister Sarah knitted me this amazing felted bag as a Christmas present. I'd known she was making it (we knit together so it would've been hard for her to hide it from me) but I thought it was a present for my mom. Sarah used a lot of her excess yarn to make this bag, including some bits and pieces she got at a yarn swap at Karma Knitting. That makes me love it all the more. And the fact that it perfectly fits my stuffed Totoro is another endearing feature, of course.

Welcome, 2008

Here's to a new year filled with crafting delights... and prosperity, laughter and health.