Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Seriously, can you handle a sandwich this awesome?!

Bam! I have just kicked the grilled cheese sandwich up a notch.

Yes, it's a spiral. Just when you thought grilled cheese couldn't get any more fantastic. Snack on that!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Contagious Crochet, Part II

One of the first things I gleefully unpacked after our move was my yarn and crochet hooks. And after four months of being yarn-deprived, it's more like crack than crochet! I've been on a tear since then - whipping out cotton scrubby washcloths and trivets like no one's business. Well, except of course, that I'm about to post lots of pictures and totally make it your business. If you're interested, that is! :-)

I made my first flower trivets before Christmas, and they became gifts for LOTS of people, shown here wrapped around a small jar of crazy-good dill dip mix.

I also played with making a few small coordinated sets, each including a flower trivet and two washcloths. (One washcloth is a plain flat double crochet sheet, and the other is the nubby scrubby pattern that I came up with while recycling a failed bath scrubby!) These were considered highly experimental, and only distributed to a select few who I could trust with their honest but loving feedback.

Well, this time around, I've taken it up a notch and am now working on sets of five pieces. One round flower trivet, the same two square washcloths and two granny style washcloths as well. Ta da!!

The four square washcloths are my own patterns and design. The round flower trivet is made from a pattern by Maggie Weldon, of

The inspiration for this was finding the natural ecru cotton yarn on a huge 14 oz CONE and going :: Wow, I could make a TON of washcloths with this! And I totally am. :-)

My design philosophy has changed slightly, incorporating the brighter colors more as accents than as central elements. I've also tweaked the patterns some to achieve more uniformity of size through the set. I'm just having so much fun with these things it's getting a little ridiculous. So far I've knocked out five full sets - three of them in the new color scheme with blue/green, red/green and pink/purple.

I'm hoping to take them outside (in the new backyard!) and get some better photos soon. These were taken indoors, but will have to suffice for now.

Like 'em?  LOVE 'em?  Wanna get 'em in your colors?!  They are now available in my Etsy shop.  Woo hoo!  I'm happy to make a set just for you, as shown, or in pretty much any color combination you can think of.

They are 100% cotton, completely washable and reusable, so soft and gentle on your hands ... they will inspire more hand-dishwashing and counter-scrubbing than you can imagine, but totally in a good way.  :-)  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I dream of boxes! (and sweeping!!)

The cross-country move is now behind us, and as we settle into the new home we are swimming in corrugated! Literally, I spent one night unpacking in my sleep ... and was quite disappointed to see that dream-time productivity did not translate to the real world.

Sigh. But no bother. It's not like the towers of boxes are going to go anywhere on their own! They'll wait for me, I am sure.

But in addition to the logistics puzzle of fitting all the old stuff into the new space(s), I am also realizing that my housekeeping routines are going to need some updating as well. Luckily I did some prep work (before I even knew I needed it), when I created my set of washable and reusable Swiffer dry sweeping cloths.

The bottom floor of the house is all hard floors - tile and wood - and with a long haired dog, two kids, pollen from countless trees, etc., the daily sediment buildup is impressive!  I like the concept and simplicity of the Swiffer sweeper, but I didn't like throwing all their expensive, single-use cloths away. Still, it took a friend to wonder aloud what could be done about it before I turned to my fabric stash for the answer.

Using one of my last sweeper cloths as a pattern (dimensions noted on tub in pic, below), I cut new sheets from scrap fleece. Ta da!! Swiffer sweeper cloths that can be used and washed over and over, and will probably last forever. I cut six cloths for the set, intending to use scraps only, but got talked into using a piece or two of "premium" from my 4 year old helper. :-) All in all, it took about five minutes. Sweet!

Now to find a place to set up the sewing machine, so I can get cranking on that again as well. Happy crafting!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

So, a party banner might strike some as an unusual way to mark Mother's Day - even one so artfully arranged to nearly look like a waterfall of flowers! - but this party banner is special. Even more special than usual, I mean. :-)

Some good friends of mine are in Thailand this Mother's Day to meet and bring home their adopted daughter, Grace. The banners are part of Grace's "welcome home" decorations, and will also become permanent additions to their playroom decor.

The vibrant fabrics feature dots (on green stripe), rainbow checks, ladybugs (on yellow), and a "narrative" pattern with boys and girls from all around the world. I finished the banner with a handmade 1" double-fold fabric ribbon in white with white stars.

I love how this banner turned out! It is so cheerful, and so spring-like. It will bring the sunshine indoors on even the coldest and dreariest of days.

I loved it so much, in fact, that I made a second one from the scraps! The original banner has 16 flags. (The mini has 8 slightly smaller flags and would work well around a window or large doorway.)

But the point is - wherever you might be celebrating, and however you might be decorating - Happy Mother's Day!  :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This 'Money' book actually HAS the answers!

I'm happy to introduce a new category of post on SoSaje - the Christian book review! Call it a 'wish I'd written that' perhaps. :-) A friend connected me to the BookSneeze blogger review program from Thomas Nelson Publishers, and I am having a blast! Please continue reading below for my first book review, and I hope you will join me for more in the future. :-)

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I devoured The Money Answer Book by Dave Ramsey during one airplane flight, and upon landing I immediately sent a text message to my husband: "On the ground again. :-) Beautiful flight. Oh, by the way, I LOVE Dave Ramsey. Pretty sure after reading this book that you will too."

I had no prior exposure to Dave Ramsey (or any of his various programming), and I found The Money Answer Book to be a great starting point for someone wanting to get a broad introduction.

The subtitle is 'Quick Answers for Your Everyday Financial Questions,' and with chapter topics ranging from Budgeting, to Automobiles, to Retirement & Estate Planning, he addresses a lot of subjects. Each question (such as "How do I get started on managing my money?") is followed by a one or two page discussion. He also offers several worksheets that will help you specifically target where your finances stand.

Ramsey is quite blunt, and does not skirt around the fact that solving tough financial problems is going to require some WORK! But he is also compassionate, understanding from personal experience that people make mistakes, and that the current financial society is NOT engineered to help you make wise choices.

At the root, he is trying to help people address and change the behaviors that cause financial distress - not just apply a band-aid to the symptoms. I found his suggestions and analysis to be accessible, understandable and applicable in the real world.

If you're already familiar with Dave Ramsey or keep up with his other offerings, this book might be a re-tread of material you have seen before. If you're looking for a primer or an overview to decide if Dave Ramsey is right for you - this IS the book you want to read. I'm not saying you have to buy it (check it out at the library!), but for a very short investment of your time, you may reap great rewards toward your family's financial health and your peace of mind.

(( Disclosure: I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ))

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Geometry at Lunch!

If necessity is the mother of invention, then have I got some necessity to drop on you!  :-)

I'm also introducing a new category: Gizmos & Gadgets - in honor of all the tools and handy little, well, gizmos that make my life easier.  They'll come from all over, since there's no limit to where we can benefit from a little extra productivity or ease.  And sometimes, just sometimes, you'll even be able to outsmart your toddler at lunchtime!

So the story starts with a simple grilled cheese sandwich ...

... and my question of "Do you want me to cut it in squares or triangles?"  To which the toddler in question answered quite cheerfully "Circles!"

Circles, huh?  Not to be outwitted by a three year old and two slices of bread, I stared at the sandwich for a moment.  How do I do this easily?  A regular knife was just not going to cut it - cheesy pun intended.  :-)  But I realized I did have a tool at the ready ... enter the Gadgety Gizmo!

My Trojka kitchen shears from IKEA.  A whopping $1.99 (plus tax) and best of all they are dishwasher safe.  And on this occasion they also turned my lunchtime geometry problem into short work.  Observe!

Ta da!  Circles!  I was obviously impressed enough with myself to re-stage and photograph the entire thing, and I think DD#1 was pleased as well, since 'circles' is how she has continued to order her grilled cheese and other sandwiches since that moment of discovery.  But really, with the kitchen scissors you can sculpt your sandwich into just about any set of shapes imaginable.  Discover, experiment, and bon appetit!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Visions of Spring Giveaway, by Irish Rose Creations

I'm not sure what to claim as "wish I'd thought of that" for this one ... doing a giveaway myself, or being able to offer such a spectacular prize!

The giveaway of mention is being offered by fellow Etsian Irish Rose Creations, and you can see all the details on her BLOG.  Short story is she'll be giving away THREE amazing "Ring of Roses" doilies (like the one above) to one lucky reader on March 8th.  (Full disclosure: I'm blogging about it here to get a few extra chances to win!)

If you have a moment, be sure to browse her shop - I've highlighted a few of my favorites below.  Her work really is amazing.  And she must be a much faster crocheter than I am ... no way I could offer a doily of that intricacy for less than $30 ... unless I only wanted to make 50-cents an hour!  Then again, I've only been crocheting for 18 months (give or take) and she's been doing it for 25 years.  I'll get there, eventually.  :-)

This one is just so charming! And maybe it's because I'm in Michigan and getting ready for the spring flowers, but somehow this afghan is so hopeful - looking forward to new blooms!  I also really like the "quilty" quality of the block placement.  It really does look like a pieced quilt top, except it was pieced out of granny squares.

I don't generally go for crocheted bookmarks - which is odd since I like crocheted everything else!  But what strikes me about this one is how the shells come together almost like a butterfly motif, that is of course particularly apt for Easter.  I really like the packaging as well; it highlights the form and style of the item very nicely.

Again, the price point on this one blows my mind ... THREE dollars.  Are you kidding me?!  Either I'm greatly overestimating the amount of work required here, or I'm just way off base, but that seems crazy low to me.  I think these are just delightful!  Hmmm ... now to think of a new project where I could use them!  ♥

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Welcome to the family!

Let me introduce ... the family!  And also introducing a new category of posting on SoSaje - things I wish I'd thought of.  :-)  An opportunity for me to highlight great ideas and projects that other people are working on.  Enjoy the (vicarious) creativity!

So back to our introductions, my wonderful mom created the family dolls above and gave them to us at Christmas 2007.  They have become such an important part of our daily and imaginary play lives that she's currently planning an addition to the family to include the new friends that we've made over the last few years.

Each person is designed with a particular fabric that compliments their personality - my mom's for instance features snowmen.  :-)  Although we are many miles away from our extended family and only manage a few visits per year, the girls know everyone's name and face.  And since we're talking about (and to!) the dolls/family constantly, it really helps to keep these family members current and "present" for us and the girls.

I am also continually amazed by the different ways the girls think of to play with our "in house" family - taking them on imaginary trips, selecting various participants for special outings, playing catch!  (Yes, extended family members have been known to fly headlong across the playroom.) 

So, thanks mom!  I never would have imagined to ask for these dolls, but now that you've created them - I can't imagine our home without them.  Love you!!  :-)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tied by an Angel!

I was putting the finishing touches on a baby set, and tied up the Texas flag lovey with my favorite bit of package bling - the crafty angel. It's so cute  and so easy ... I was inspired to attempt my first tutorial for SoSaje. So here we go!  :-)

   ~  medium butterfly clip (#2 size), available at office supply stores
   ~  8 mm bead
   ~  narrow ribbon, cut to desired length
   ~  threading tool - I'm quite partial to plastic dental theaders since they're so easy to work with, but really any piece of dental floss or strong thread will work

The beauty of this little project is that it's so simple, once you're working it from the correct end! In this case, it's the bead that goes on first, not the clip.  :-)

1) Insert the threader through the bead, and string your ribbon through the threader. Slip the threader through your bead so a loop of ribbon is now through the bead.  Remove your threader. (In the case of using the dental flossers, this means separating the sides until the handle splits in half - but not to fear, it can easily be used again since the plastic is quite rigid.)

2) Insert the ribbon loop through the center diamond of the butterfly clip.  From the other side, tuck the bead under the ribbon loop and cinch the knot down to form the angel's "collar."  (Click the photo below to see a larger view.) Then slide the bead down to center the head between the wings ... and done!


Use the loose ends of the ribbon to tie up your packages, create a book mark, or tie the ends together and create a whole host of angels with which to decorate someone's office or nook! 

Also a great craft to do with your kiddos or another group of young blessing sharers - Girl Scouts, youth groups, etc. I hope you enjoyed this, and that you'll be sharing angels with lots of others. ♥

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Party Time!!

I love the fabric party banner! Rainbow colored, themed or even monochrome - it's a perfect punch of color addition to any event or celebration.

  • birthday party? Check!
  • family coming home from the airport? Check!
  • gorgeous, sunny day that makes you really happy? Check!
  • playdate scheduled with friends you just saw yesterday? Check!

It's gotten to the point that I have just left the hooks up in the entryway since I know I'll be asked to put it back up again pretty soon. Yay! And since it's made of fabric, not paper, you can know that this durable banner will last, year after year.

And fun to make as well.  :-)  I did a custom for my MIL - photos to come soon, I hope!  And working on another custom themed banner for a friend.  Meanwhile, some "artsy" photos to share from the ones I've already made.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Contagious Crochet

Part of the 'problem' with crochet, apart from the relative cheapness and long shelf-life of yarn, is the abundance of free patterns to spark the imagination! I got started crocheting with a free pattern from Caron yarn for a heart motif cap - it's not listed any more, but there are lots of other great projects available. Plus you can always pick up a few new patterns down the yarn aisle of your favorite craft store, with the nice benefit of it being printed in color on handy-sized stock. (I've finally taken the step to organize my patterns and even have a small (5½ x 8½ in.) binder to put them in. Geeky good fun!!)

And of course, the ultimate idea-generator ... seeing things that other people have made and trying to duplicate them! Take, for instance, the crocheted bath pouf. I had seen several on Etsy that really intrigued me, but I couldn't bring myself to: 1) shell out for something that I 'easily' could make myself - ha!; or 2) buy something that I wasn't for sure I would like or not.  Free pattern to the rescue ... again!!  :-)

But I was 85% of the way complete with my very own bath pouf - and it looked spectacular! - when I realized that it was so dense that it would never really DRY between uses.  Since using a pre-dampened bath scrubby is unappealing (and I'm unlikely to actually launder it between every shower), I needed to find a way to un-make my nearly-pouf into something useful.  (Did I mention the other super-fabulous aspect of crochet? It's so easy to rip out and remake!)

So I un-made the pouf ... and created the washcloth/scrubby!  I've seen various patterns and examples of the crocheted dishcloth, but this one is from my very own imagination (not a pattern).  Even so, it turned out to be pretty close to 6" square, yay!  I did an alternating double crochet post pattern that gave some nice texture and scrubby areas, with bands of single crochet to add interest and make it work up a tiny bit faster.  :-)  (You can click to see a larger image.)

I was easily able to get this one made while watching the last two Doctor Who episodes; now that I know what I'm doing (and won't have to rip as many rows!) they should go faster.  And fun!!  :-)

Of course, that pushes all my other projects back down another rung on the to do list ... but that's a subject for another day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ta Da!!

New format & layout for SoSaje!! Hooray!

Thanks ReLoved for the inspiration to go and pimp out my site just a little bit.  :-)  And check out her lovely blog as well!

Free design elements available at Shabby Blogs ... but I don't think they're very shabby, not one bit!

♦ D'oh! ♦ Wrong shout out above. :-) It was Regina's blog that tipped me off to the Shabby source. Got my R's crossed ... it happens sometimes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Self-Diagnosed Craftitis

So, I'm starting to think there's nothing wrong with my to do list, per se, other than the fact that I keep putting things ON it! To wit, here I am 10 days before Christmas, weighing the implications of my new-found obsession with plarn ... the ultimate way to merge recycling and crochet!

You start with plastic bags, lots and lots of plastic bags. And through a nifty little process described HERE you can turn the bulk of the bag into a plastic yarn (hence "plarn"), and from there you're only limited by your imagination! My first goal is to make a mesh-style tote bag out of old plastic bags, and maybe just maybe actually have it finished in time for next summer's farmer's market.

Until then I'm going to keep using the Envirosax reusable bags that I already own and LOVE, and will faithfully mutilate any stray plastics that happen to wander into my house. It's fun shredding them at any rate, and yarn doesn't go bad. Plarn either, I'm guessing. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Little Scrap Fabric Will Cover a LOT of Toys!

We are swimming in stuffed animals. They come from everywhere, and it's really hard - for me! - to purge and toss something so sweet, fuzzy and squeezable. But that's not to say I'm not T.I.R.E.D. of seeing them all over the floor in the playroom and everywhere I look throughout the house!

Exhibit A: Playroom BEFORE

Granted, the 70 lb dog doesn't really add to the clutter problem (no wait, she does!), but you get the idea. There were too many toys, and they didn't have a home ... at the end of the day, if we're actually going to clean - and have it make a difference! - they need somewhere to GO. But what to do with a heap of soft, squishy stuffed animals? ...

Exhibit B: Playroom AFTER, with Sophia sitting on top of the spoils!

Make a chair out of them! Specifically a denim and fleece zippered bean bag chair. :-) All but a very select few stuffed critters now get crammed in the bag at night (zipper is on the bottom, in the center panel), and the resulting lumpy cushion is surprisingly pleasing to crash on. Good times for all! In fact, this turned out so well, I'm mid-way through attempting an all-denim version made from upcycled blue jeans ... wish me luck!

(P.S. No, the dog was not stuffed inside the bag! She had the good sense to wander off when I went looking.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I Can Really Crochet, Part II

The little brother just turned 30, and to mark the occasion I made him a "plant." :-) Can't take creative credit though, as I was following a pattern. But I did do all the work! And if I'd known at the beginning how many hours it was going to take me to reach the end ... I may very well have gotten him something different. Of course, I didn't, so now I am pleased to present to you the Super Mario Piranha Plant, Crochet Edition. :-)