Wednesday, April 1, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Secrets and Sweaters

Well, I was a loser again and waited two weeks to make up the next set of clues for the Fuzzy Mitten Mystery KAL - but he's all caught up and looks so cute!
 I'm pretty much sure that my suspicions were correct now - I think it's a turtle :)
Just take a look at that little tail! I'm so excited to get the next two clues. Also, it turns out I didn't use the wrong color, so I will still be able to use my awesome kelly green yarn as planned. Yay!
I also managed to work on my Agatha a little on my Agatha cardigan as well :) I've got all the decreases done and now I'm just working the waist until it's the length I want. I had to fudge things a bit to go from a size Large til the bust and then change to size X Large for the waist. I just changed the number of decreases so that it gave me the number of stitches required for the XL. It actually was pretty easy to do, so hopefully the fit is good.
I also had to fix what seems to be a weird pattern error. The left pic is "before" my fix - the pattern had me work purl stitches until a certain point and then start a knit ridge. Looks bad, huh? I'm not sure why it's written like that, but I didn't like it, so I dropped that stitch all the way back to the cast on, and used a crochet hook to make them all knit stitches instead. The right pic is the "after". Much better :)
That's it for my knitting this week :) I've still been diligently working on my house, which really just makes me super tired, lol. I'll update more on that soon. If you'd like to see what others are working on, head over to Gracey's Goodies and look around!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Catching Up

I've felt so remiss in my lack of blogging lately - it's certainly not because I don't want to! I've had the unfortunate experience of my laptop deciding to not work, so it's off being fixed - thankfully I have my phone for internet or I'd go insane, but it's not great for blog writing. So, I've been quite active on Instagram the last few weeks. I figured I'd use my IG pics to report on what I've been doing, so prepare to be inundated!

I've had a serious lack of knitting time of late because I've been doing so many home improvements. They really are addictive :) The most time consuming "improvement" for the past few months has been painting my kitchen cabinet doors.
As we speak, these 9 doors are all that is left to paint - I'm crossing my fingers that they are done on the back and that I can flip them and do the final coat on the front this weekend. Then they would be done! I'm honestly curious as to how it will feel when I can officially break all this down and not have a painting station in my living room. It's been so long!
The nastiest part has been this final cabinet base. We always thought we would have to just replace the cabinet since it was so disgusting from water damage. Obviously the previous owners had to do some plumbing work in that hole they so beautifully cut out. I have to get a piece of wood to cover it, so technically I will have to paint that as well. The picture on the right is what the cabinet looked like "cleaned" and the left is after I painted it with Kilz Oil Based Primer to cover over the old mold (gross). Since this pic was taken, I have painted it with one coat of XLM primer and 1 coat of paint  and it is AMAZING how much better it looks. I mean, it's still not perfect because of all the crap from the sink and what not in there (plus the big hole), but Oh My Gosh what a difference! I will be painting the final coat tonight and I seriously can't wait!

The doors and this cabinet are all that remains to getting my kitchen "finished" for now. I call it a Phase 1 Remodel because I definitely have further plans, but things like counter tops and appliances get a whole lot more expensive than a few gallons of paint, so at least I will have the basics covered (like finally having doors on my cabinets after 2 years of living without them, lol).
I also gave myself a decent little splurge of sewing time over the past month. Not only did I tackle the Peggy Skirt, I also made a cute pair of PJ pants (which I still have to photograph and blog about), and went straight into making a new dress pattern. I chose Simplicity 1419. I made a muslin of the bodice first and boy, did I have a hard time. I knew basic alterations I needed to the front pieces from the fitting work I did on Simplicity 2444, but I still have gaping at the back neckline of that dress that kind of drives me nuts, so I decided to buckle down and figure it out. Turns out I have a dowager's hump (lovely to know, isn't it?), so after an hour or so of pinching out darts and what not to no avail I pulled out Fit For Real People and consulted the experts. When I read the instructions, it didn't make any sense as to how that would fix a gaping back neck, but I tried it anyway and (amazingly) it worked! Who knew the experts would be right? lol I know, I'm ridiculous.
Once I got the bodice fit sorted, I picked a nice springy fabric to make up my dress :) I have it all cut out and marked, but have yet to sew it together. I kind of hope I can get this done for Easter, but I won't be devastated if I can't finish it. We'll see.
I also got experimental in the kitchen and made these s'mores (which were delicious!). I just used Aldi brand graham crackers, marshmallows and milk chocolate (their Chocheur brand with hazelnut paste in it - oh my gosh). I set the grahams on a tin foil covered cookie sheet, plopped a marshmallow on top and put them in the oven at 350F for a few minutes until they puffed up and started to get just a tinge of brown. I took them out and pressed the marshmallow down with a fork (so it covered more of the cracker). Once they were cooled off, I melted the chocolate in a double boiler and spooned/spread it across the tops. Oh man, these were so good and very easy to make, if a bit time consuming. So worth it though!
This past Thursday, I decided to finally try dying a few items of clothing I'd accumulated. It was an interesting experience, but not completely awful, lol. I'll report more on that later.

Later that day, I decided to tackle a big reorganization project. My good friend Leigh gave me an awesome Ikea shelf unit thing she had used with a tabletop on it, but no longer had space for and it had been sitting in my living room for a day. Originally I hadn't planned on tackling it yet, but I had some time and wanted that stuff out of the living room (it took up a lot of space). So ... I dug out my whole closet in my sewing room and situated the cabinets - I kid you not, they fit exactly - like, if they were even 1/2" wider, they wouldn't fit in there. The two piece together are 60" wide and 24" deep, so the tabletop Leigh had wouldn't fit (it's cut to overhang them), so I have to get a top piece cut and painted for it, but check out what I did in the meantime...
HOLY FREAKING GOODNESS! I guess I have just a little bit of fabric, huh? Those shelves are stacked two rows deep, so there is even more you can't see. I unloaded 5 Rubbermaid tubs and 1 large box (it was bigger than the tubs) full of fabric onto this baby. I still have one file box that I couldn't fit (sigh), so I will be weeding through my stash and eBay-ing some of my less-loved pieces. In my defense, I did not purchase all of this myself. I got quite a bit of this when others destashed and just gave me a whole box of fabric. Anyway, it's AMAZING to see all of my fabric like this! Some of these fabrics I haven't looked at in at least a year. I organized each shelf by type of fabric, so I will be able to "shop" my stash for my projects instead of ignoring my buckets and going to the store. I used to have to literally unload my entire closet to get to my tubs, and then pull everything out each tub to find what I needed, so this will be kind of life changing. I'm hoping it increases my productivity :) Since taking this photo, I have also cleared all that junk from in front of the closet and tidied up about 2/3rds of the rest of the room. Once I get it all cleaned up and have a topper on this, I am planning on a new tour of my sewing room post!
And why not round off this post with a gratuitous sexy shoe photo? I'm a total convert to Swedish Hasbeens, folks. I have a black pair and this pair, which I figure should serve me well until I find more on super-duper sale like these were, lol. Wooden shoes FOR EVER!

So, if you've made it this far, thanks :) I know it's just a bunch of random-ness shoved into a post, but I just really wanted to update my goings-on. Once I get my house projects finished, I will be doing some before and after posts of epic proportions (no joke, my house looks SO different than it did just 2 months ago), so check back for that soon. Now I'd better get back to cleaning ... or painting ... or knitting ... you know, the essentials.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: Not Cool by Greg Gutfeld

This book was a total wild card for me - I'm not usually one to read much political commentary since I usually don't really care, lol. This book sounded a bit more up my alley than other political books, so when I needed something to listen to on a long car ride and this was available to checkout, I decided to give it a go.

Not Cool is described pretty well in its tag line "The Hipster Elite and Their War On You". Being a person who has long touted how ridiculous our pop culture is and how detrimental it is to those who don't pay attention, the title intrigued me. I'm definitely "not cool" - always have been - and I have learned to wear it like a badge of pride, letting my "freak flag fly" so to speak :) In this book, Gutfeld points out specific instances that the desire to be viewed as cool has caused major societal problems, even leading to deaths on a massive scale. We allow people to commit horrible acts of violence and evil, justifying it for them because we don't want to be seen as going against "the coolerati". Some of the examples he uses are: the Angela Davis/George Jackson craziness in the 70s, the Jenny McCarthy anti-vaccine movement, the movie Elephant about the Columbine shootings, Rolling Stone's pretty-boy cover photo of the Boston Marathon Bomber, and much more. Gutfeld does make an interesting point: our modern society is more concerned with "understanding" these mass-murderers and criminals than remembering their helpless victims and their families. It's an interesting notion and really is messed up when you think about it. How many films have been made about various disgusting serial killers, yet how many have been made about their victims? It's horrible to think about. That's just one small piece of Gutfeld's ammo again the cool in this book.

Like I said, this isn't a book that I would normally read. This isn't because I don't agree with Gutfeld's politics - he is a libertarian, and I sway toward that party myself on most issues. Mostly I don't read books like this because I tend to agree with their point of view, so I can't necessarily learn much. Not Cool did point out many facets of each of the example instances that I hadn't known about before, mostly because our media didn't report on it because it was counter to what they wanted us to think. Gutfeld makes references to several celebrities and politicians throughout the book, some of whom I'm not familiar with because I don't care to watch the news. I won't pretend that this is an unbiased account of modern history. His opinions are unvarnished and accusatory, with the occasional uncouth joke or insult thrown out about those he criticizes. It was interesting to read things through his eyes, but still not my usual speed of book. Normally I don't put a lot of quotes in my reviews, but the final paragraph of this book really did a fantastic job of rounding it all off:
It is a mistake to worry about how others view you. Other people are like images created in your mind - it is only your desire to appease or impress them that makes them meaningful. I refer specifically to peers you want to impress, not your family. If they're impressed, you've done your job, and if they're disgusted, you should listen. By pretending that the cool are mannequins, you can disarm the desire for cool and eliminate the need for acceptance. You reclaim your authority. You don't need their observation or approval. You're already observed by those who matter: your family, your friends, yourself. Don't let the cool replace those things. Who needs it? You don't. Really, you don't. It won't help you one bit. We all have the feeling that we are being watched, but by what? Your conscience? Who knows. What we have to learn is that it is better to imagine being watched by something moral and good than by something who's criteria are amoral. Your ego will be fed, but nothing cool will provide that sustenance.
It was also a big boost to me that I pretty much fall into his description of uncool, which I strive for to be honest, lol. It was also nice to have my church described so accurately when he used it as an example of a true, functioning charity (but we are most definitely "uncool"). The truth is that most of the "cool" people in the world have done nothing to deserve their status except make the rest of us feel lesser. Once they have our attention on their "coolness", they try to spread their influence on topics they don't understand and have done no research on, but for some reason they still get the spotlight and a large chunk of our population usually takes their opinions as real facts. This is poisonous at the very least. This books just made me a little more proud that I am completely uncool :) I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WIP Wednesday: The Mystery Begins ...

This week I finally managed to start the annual Fuzzy Mitten Mystery Knit Along :) I found Fuzzy Mitten patterns last year just in time for the mystery then (I ended up with this adorable kangaroo), and I've looked forward to the fun again ever since. She releases 1 clue per week for 6 weeks and the final clue will be what the toy is meant to be and how to put it all together. So much fun! I'm only 2 weeks behind the rest of the group, but still. So this is clue #1 and #2:
The rain hat and rain boots was week 1 and the arms and legs were week 2. Everything went together quick and easy and I love the shaping of the legs and boots in particular! The only problem I have is that apparently I used the wrong color for the limbs - the designer said her colors were green, dark green, and yellow, so I got some that were close out of my stash; but I didn't pay good enough attention to which green was the "main color" and which was the "contrast color" and I mixed them up. I didn't even realize until I read her saying that the lighter green was used for the face so you could see the facial features better. Doh! Oh well, I'll get something figured out. I've had lots of fun so far and I can't wait to get next week's clue :)

I must shamefully confess that I haven't touched my Agatha Cardigan, nor have I blocked my socks yet. I've actually been working on my house more and even sewing (gasp!) so I haven't had much knitting time. Hopefully this week :)
To see what others are up to this week, head over to Gracey's Goodies!