Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm on the granny bandwagon.

I couldn't help myself. Those cute little granny squares were tempting me, all over blog land.

So I have been slowly making them here and there.

I am getting a bit of a collection. Not sure where this is going, but I am enjoying the process!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

a fresh start.

Notice that things are looking a little different around here? I though it was time to get a new look. I loved the old blog design my friend Samantha had made for me in the fall of 2010......

...but it was starting to feel a bit cluttered with all of the added buttons and tutorials since then! Time for a little spring cleaning! I am liking the fresh and simple look of my new design. I hope you do, too! Thanks so much to Margi for her hard work to make it happen :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Envy chevron cowl

Well, fourth time is a charm, and my cowl is complete! Aren't you green with envy?

I am really glad I took the time to re-knit this. Now, I love everything about it. I love the color- not normally one I gravitate to, but it is so bright and cheerful and makes me believe that spring is really just around the corner! The wool is so very soft. I love the pattern and the weight of it. The lacework makes it airy, and it is light around my neck, not too hot. I modified the pattern so the lacework changes direction, making a chevron/zig zag pattern. I love how it turned out.

I like that I can wear it long or short (though I prefer the short double wrapped version).

Mostly, I love that it is DONE. And not without further drama.....I added stitches as the last one was too short and strangling me a bit, and then this time ended up running out of yarn! Had to do some fancy pants stuff to pull it off....a couple less finishing rows on one end, and then I got to the last TWENTY stitches and ran out...so I used the yarn from the tiny tail from my starting point and k2tog to get this puppy done. With, literally, an INCH of yarn left!! So my finishing is a bit funny looking, but no worries, I keep that little bit hidden at the back ;)

I have been wearing this around non-stop the last few days :) My new favorite accessory!

(p.s. if you are wanting more details, you can find them on my Ravelry page, here)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

finally, a bit of sewing!

It feels like I have not sewn anything since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Almost as long- since Christmas break! Where has the time gone?? So I went on strike this weekend and said I must, absolutely, definitely be allowed some ME time, or I was going to crack and go into full-out Quilting Withdrawal. And, thankfully, my evil plot worked.

Not HEAPS of sewing, but enough to wet my whistle. About 10 blocks (out of 30) for The Middle Child's Far Far Away 2+3 quilt, which will be twin sized for her bed. She is sure to point out REGULARLY how both her brother and sister have received a quilt by Mom, and not her....ah, life as the middle child! More for her to talk about with the therapist someday.

More importantly, I did some prep work. My time these days seems to come in little snippets, and I rarely feel it is enough to warrant hauling out all my sewing stuff for 30 minutes- easier to knit a few rows instead. But I miss quilting! So,what I did was go through all my scraps, iron them, and slice them into 2.5 inch pieces, and sort them into 2 bins- warm and cool colors. I also made some white squares. So, if I have a quick half hour I am all set to whip off a granny square block!

I also got everything prepped for the remaining 20 FFA2/3 blocks- same deal. I figure if I pick away at it bit by bit, eventually, it will be done, without needing an extended chunk of time. Problem, solution! Yippee!

Off to the sewing machine I go :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Epic failure(s)

So let me let you in an a little fact. When I knit something, I knit it 3 times. I am not saying I knit 3 ITEMS......nope, generally I screw up and unravel until I have knit the damn thing 3 times over!

On the bright side.....I am grateful that yarn can be unraveled; fabric can not be "uncut"! So at least when I have one of my epic knitting failures, I CAN start all over again!

Case in point: my Golden Wheat Cardigan. I started it in November. Consulted a "real" knitter for advice (thanks, Linda). Knit my swatch. Got going....realized I did it backwards. Unravel. Knit again. A couple balls of yarn in, I thought, "this looks small....." Realized I had restarted on the WRONG sized needles- SIZE 6 instead of 6mm (size 10!)! Grrr....Unraveled again. Now am on my way (I hope??). Hope to finish it to enjoy this spring!

Another example: I was to make a cowl on the airplane to/from Disney. Did the knit/unravel dance 4 times and then finally finished it....but it seems a bit small, even though I had made it longer than the pattern. It is wearable, but I know it will drive me nuts and I love the yarn and pattern too much to waste it....so this one will be "frogged" and restarted yet again! But I LOVE the yarn feel and color, and the lacy pattern is nice and light weight so it will be the perfect accessory to enjoy from winter right into spring. Here is a sneak peak (from before I unraveled it!):

So, there you have it, the secret to my "success"! But, even with all the frustration, I still love knitting. What can I say? A glutton for punishment I guess!

And, much like quilting, one of my favorite parts of knitting is finding fabulous new yarn. Here is the next delicious pile I plan to mess up with! Tanis Fiber Arts Green label in Shadow. My "birthday" yarn ;) Gonna knit me up a sweater....maybe in time for NEXT year's birthday!?!

I am salivating over the hand-dyed greys with the hints of blue......

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Winner, and gallery of embarassing photos revealed

So, for a giveaway entry I had asked you to guess which of the Epcot countries I had visited in real life for a chance to win an Oliver and S layer cake. The options were:

United Kingdom

And a bonus entry for those who could guess where we spent our honeymoon!

Well, there is no fooling you people. I HAVE been to Italy, for our ten year anniversary (2010):

We had actually also visited Venice on a backpacking trip in 1999, and I had gone with my sister to Venice, Rome, Florence, Pisa on a tour in 1995! One of my favorite countries :)


United Kingdom- England, Scotland and Wales, anyhow (1995). I didn't have a single good photo of myself there (well, there was one of me in front of a rock wearing a tank top and jean overall shorts. Seriously? Even I didn't have the guts to share that!), so here is one of my little sister in Edinburgh :)

France (1995, 1999). Paris (shown here) and Nice, mostly. Did some para-sailing in Nice and survived a bomb threat in the Paris train station!

Japan (1992, on a Rotary exchange trip- check out those bangs, baby! I was 3 inches taller back then!):
I stayed in a small town in northern Japan, and they treated me like royalty. I met the mayor, was in the local newspaper more than once, and they even put me in their parade! I was the only blond and a good foot taller than everyone else :)

Germany (1995, 1999). Here I am in Berlin in front of Brandenburg Gate. Also spent some time slugging beer in Munich and toured a couple of the German concentration camps.

Mexico (1997, 1999 and 2000 with the U of M Dentistry Class of 2000!). Nothing says Mexico like an iguana wearing a sombrero!

But NOT in Mexico for our honeymoon! Oh no. For that, we went to....Morocco! And southern Spain , too :)
Among many other adventures there, yes, we DID ride a camel! Took an excursion out on the Sahara on camel-back and then spent a night camping out on the dunes under the stars. Magical!

So lots of right answers, and only a few who got the bonus honeymoon question right- good for you! I feel really lucky to have had the chance to visit so many amazing places, and it was fun reminiscing as I sorted through some photos to share with you here! Can't wait to someday add to "my list"!

That puts it at 52 correct answers entered!
So, without further ado (or embarrassment), the winner is.....

SassyCathy! I have emailed you to let you know. Thanks for playing, everyone!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Featured today

Just wanted to let you know that AnneMarie has featured me on her Follower Friday segment over at Gen X Quilters today! I had the pleasure of meeting AnneMarie at Sewing Summit this past fall, and she is just the sweetest :) Feel free to hop on over and give it a read if you want to learn a bit more about what makes me tick ;)

Just a reminder, there is one day left to enter my giveaway for a layer cake from the latest Oliver & S line, Cape Ann. I will give you another hint- the honeymoon was NOT in Mexico, people!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wanna win fabric?

{This giveaway is now closed}

Happy Valentine's Day!
Thought I would do a little giveaway for some fun.

I have a layer cake of Oliver & S Cape Ann. Super cute, but, in reality, I have no time to put it to good use, with so many other projects patiently waiting in line! Would you like it?

Okay people, I'm going to make you work for this one ;) Here's how to enter. And yes, it is a Disney-themed question :)

In Epcot, the world Pavilions include the following countries (in order of appearance):

United Kingdom

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment correctly naming a country I have visited. Canada and USA are kind of OBVIOUS so they don't count ;)

HINT: there is more than one correct answer. If you were a follower about a year back (or want to do some snooping in my archives), one answer is there ;)

BONUS ENTRY: As it is the Day of Love...leave a second comment correctly guessing in which of these countries the hubs and I spent our honeymoon (again, not the US or Canada).

I may even reveal some embarrassing photos from my past....

Winner to be drawn on Saturday, February 18! Entries from the above countries or all over the globe are welcome :)

{This giveaway is now closed}

Monday, February 13, 2012

Disney Lowdown and Advice

As promised, here is my long, drawn out post on our Disney World vacation ;) If you are planning a trip yourself, I have added tips and advice based on things that worked for us!

It was our first time to Disney World. I had been once, as a kid, waaaay back in the '80s, but it was generally all new terrain. I was a bit overwhelmed by it all before we left...what to see, what to do, how to not spend all day standing in lineups. In the end we bought a book, Fodor's Disney World with Kids, and it was well worth the money just to get a quick overview of the parks, and to give you a bit of a "plan" as to what to hit first to avoid lines. Between that and Fast Passes, we didn't ever wait more than 15 minutes in line for a ride. The longest we waited in line for anything was to meet a couple characters for autographs! Being from Canada and "international", our internet didn't work there (well, it did for a large roaming fee...it cost us $27 to send my mother-in-law a happy birthday e-mail!!) and surprisingly, Disney does not have free WiFi in the park or in our hotel, so using apps was not possible for us, so I can't comment on how well those work.
(now, are those true princesses or what?!?!)

We stayed on site and allowed 2 days for each of the 4 Disney parks, which was perfect for a thorough tour! Each day ended something like this......

...fun to the max! :) You know you had a good day when your kids are ASKING to go to bed!

When we booked, since we were visiting in off season, we also qualified for a free Disney Dining Plan, which gives you a certain amount of meals and snacks in any of the parks, hotels, etc....the amount varies with the level of plan. We upgraded (for a small fee) to the one with one "table service" (sit down and order restaurant style), one "quick service" (cafeteria/fast food style) and one "snack." This was HEAPS of food, and the table service meals could be used towards character dining...dinner with the princesses, Mickey, etc, which were a huge hit with our kids.

I would totally recommend this arrangement. I think it saved us a ton of money. Staying onsite saved all the hassles and costs of parking, the shuttle buses were frequent and convenient, our hotel was just a value resort (All-Star Music) but our room was a huge 1 bedroom suite with 2 full bathrooms and kitchenette. The resort had 2 pools and a big screen poolside that showed Disney movies nightly at 8 pm. It was perfectly comfortable for our family.

One more thing about dining- the sit down restaurants require reservations. These can be booked starting 180 days before your holiday, but being a procrastinator, I left it to 3 weeks before we left. While I was able to book all the places we wanted (except the Cinderella castle dinner, but we went to the princess one in Epcot and it was AMAZING!), but most of our bookings were at "off" times. In the end, this was the HUGEST blessing in disguise! We had most of our dinners booked around 4:00, which, if you have kids, you know is the "witching hour" so it was actually the perfect time to get out of the sun and take a break. Also, when we were finished, most others were on their way to dinner...which meant zero lineups for rides! Since we were having an early dinner we planned an early lunch around 10:30-11:00 which had the same benefit, and in the morning we would just leave the hotel room with a cereal bar in hand, so we were able to get to the parks right as they opened instead of wasting time taking 3 kids out to breakfast. In the evenings, we would grab an ice cream and find a good seat for the fireworks, etc, using our snack allotment. Score all around! I completely recommend booking your meals this way, it really worked well for us.

Which park did we like best? All of them had their highlights, I probably couldn't choose! Here are some photos with some of our favorite memories :)

Big G and his "Goofy" hat! He wore this thing everywhere, and it was even autographed by Goofy himself! Then, on our second last day, he lost it during dinner. He was devastated! We checked in with lost and found a couple times during the evening, but no luck. One of the amazing staff in guest services saw Big G deflate at the news...and then proceeded to get him a new replacement hat, and even had it signed by Goofy again! It was an amazing gesture of kindness and customer service, and really reflects our experience with staff ("Cast") there...they were beyond eager to help, and the answer was always "yes." The had a great can-do attitude and really took care of us!

Last But Not Least and the Expedition Everest ride in Animal Kingdom. This is a crazy roller coaster ride that goes up, down, backwards, forwards, through dark tunnels, etc. It had a 44" minimum height requirement, and my 43.5" daughter was determined to ride it. The first day in the park: denied. The second visit, we had a plan. We packed an extra pair of socks and rolled them up, placing one under each heal in her shoe, essentially allowing her to be on tip-toe undetected! It was just enough for her to scrape by! She was the happiest kid you ever did see, and went on to ride it EIGHT times.....no fear, I tell you!

The girls (and boy) at the Princess Dinner in Epcot. It featured 5 princesses: Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora and Snow White, who each came to the table for a personal visit, autographs and photos. Also included was two 8 by 10 professional photos with Belle, and eight 4 by 6 copies. These were all covered under one ticket per person from our dining plan. Sweet deal! It was a really great dinner to boot, excellent food! The girls were all decked out in their princess buds and just shone from the moment we arrived until, well...still shining!
In Epcot for the World Pavilions, grab a "Duffy Bear" from one of the Kidcot centers. As you go to each country, the kids can color the bear and have it stamped with a "passport" stamp. They will also write the kids' names in Arabic, Japanese, etc. We thought this section of the park would be dull for them, but between the Duffy Bears and the great shows, our day spent in the World Pavilions was one of our favorites.

In Hollywood Studios, if you go early enough, you can sign up your kids (aged 4-12) for "Jedi training" in one of the daily shows on a stage near the Star Tours ride. Our older 2 kids participated. They loved fighting the Dark Side...there was a surprise visit by Darth Vader during the training, of course, and it was a riot with them decked out in robes and wielding light sabers!

Roller coasters!!!

Meeting characters, especially those in matching outfits ;)

Fashion!! Hats are back in, people!

Some of our kids favorite things? Swimming in the hotel pools, riding the escalators before and after rides, the staff blowing bubbles. Yup, could have saved a heap of money staying in a local hotel!

In short, I would recommend Disney World to anyone. The parks are a blast but the main reason? The excellent customer service. That said, you could not pay me enough to go during prime season...this was busy/claustrophobic enough for me!! We made so many wonderful family memories, but of course there were "real life" moments....tantrums, tiredness, sibling rivalry and so on. There was more than one occasion where I thought to leave the little ungrateful whiny buggers on a corner somewhere! Sigh. But I think to expect these "parenting moments" to disappear, even in "the happiest place on earth," is unrealistic. So go with that in mind, and you will have a Magical trip :)

(LBNL always manages to "strike a pose")

A few traveling tips in review:

1. We loved staying onsite, it was affordable and convenient. The All Star hotels were a great value. You also get to participate in "Magic Hours," when the parks are only open for those staying at Disney Resorts, so very few lineups!
2. If staying on-site, opt for the dining plan. And remember to book your sit down dinners early. We really benefited from booking ours at off times to avoid lineups! Email me if you want specific restaurant recommendations!
3. Use your Fast Passes. A great tip I got (thanks, Adam!) was that, although the passes have a return time range of an hour, they will never expire and they will let you on the ride any time! We would collect a bunch in the morning as we made our rounds, then came back to the rides to use the fast passes in the busier afternoon times and they always accepted them. Once I even used one from two days prior and they took it!! This flexibility will really free up your day and help you to keep movin' along!
4. Don't bother hauling heavy water bottles, there are about a million water fountains in the parks!
5. In Hollywood Studios, if you want your kids in the Jedi Show, go sign them up in the ABC building (near Star Tours) early...it was all booked up for the day within a couple hours of park opening. Also in this park- go DIRECTLY to the Toy Story ride, get some Fast Passes, then get on it (save the passes for later). This ride had mental lines, and all of the Fast Passes were given away well before noon daily.
(Shooting 'em up on the Toy Story ride in Hollywood Studios)

6. I loved the live shows, and 2 of my favorites were in Animal Kingdom: Finding Nemo and the Circle of Life. Broadway quality! Favorite 4D shows? It's Tough to Be a Bug (Animal Kingdom) and Mickey's PhilharMagic (Magic Kingdom). Skip the Muppets 3D in Hollywood Studios, it stunk.

7. There are "professional" Disney photographers all over the park who will take your photo then give you a card, your PhotoPass, that you then have scanned each time they take your photo. When you get home you can enter the code on the back and see all the pictures they took of you during your visit (ours also had a bunch of a lovely Asian family, but anyways.....). These photos are about $15 each to purchase, OR you can PRE-BUY all your photos for $100 BEFORE you start your holiday. We ended up with 500 photos on our card. You can edit in characters and borders, etc. That said...were all the photos super? No. And, if you ask the photographers they will use your own camera to take a photo for you. But it was nice to get some photos with all 5 of us in them.

Okay, that is LONG ENOUGH! If you are still reading this, you deserve a medal :) And if you are, then you will be the first to know....I have a wee giveaway planned for you! Come back tomorrow!

Hope you have a Zip-a-dee-do-dah day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Homecoming mail!

We are home from Disney World! We had a fantastic trip!! I promise to subject you all to a long drawn out post once I get my thoughts and photos together. In the meantime, I had some other goodies to show off. I was excited to come home to a lovely pile of crafty mail! Zip-a-dee-do-dah! ;)

When Krista asked me if I would be willing to do a swap for one of my cable knitted hats, I jumped at the chance. I prefer impromptu private swaps among blogging friends far more than the organized group variety, and I love Krista's work, so I knew I was in for a treat. I requested an armrest pincushion made from Amy's tutorial. One of those things on my bucket list for ME, so of course I never get around to making it.

She did an awesome job! I love, love, love it. I adore the Enchino fabrics, and the thick quilting thread really makes it pop. She even included a box of pins, in case I ever get over my aversion to, well, pinning stuff ;)

This will be the perfect partner as I do some hand stitching while catching up on some t.v. by the fire during the winter months. My husband will be pleased that he no longer needs to pluck stray pins and needles out of his arse. Lots of little pockets for scissors and measuring tape and such. The only thing it is missing is a place for my beer, but fear not! That is why God invented the beer helmet. Hands free beer-slugging awesomeness. I sent the cabled hat (which, sorry Krista, does not hold beer) on its way along with a package of those goofy "This took forever" tags and a little sewing magnet. I think it looks so cute on her! Thanks for a wonderful swap, Krista!
(pssst- I stole this picture from Krista's post)

I also got a big box-o-fabric from one of my favorite fabric mules, Kaelin. You know, that really loud chick in the neck brace? She is such a Temptress, with her destashing sales! I couldn't say no to this bundle of Denyse Schmidt Country Fair home dec fabric. Really- how could I be expected to resist? I also bought some Heather Ross Princess and the Pea...will incorporate it into my daughter's bed quilt that I will (eventually) get around to sewing up! You guys are going to demand some substance to this blog eventually, I'm sure ;) Also in the box....a beyond adorable but top secret handmade gift from one of Kaelin's upcoming patterns......filled with chocolate, no less. Thanks, Kaelin!!

And finally, Little Island Alison spoiled me with yet another set of those highly addictive Mollie Makes magazines! Am looking forward to a quiet moment to peruse. Do those moments exist???

Have a good day, friends :) It's good to be home again!