Sunday, April 13, 2014

Multi-Purpose Counter Top Pads

I made a set of these a while back and I have to tell you that I highly recommend having a set of them in every household!

These awesome counter top pads pull triple duty, as was my intent when I made them. They are potholders, but with the cotton woven front and terry-cloth backing, they are handy to wipe up those little kitchen spills or quickly wipe a rinsed dish. They are also decorative, and can be kept out on the countertop without looking out of place.

I will warn you, the lotus flower knitting stitch is not for the faint of heart or the beginner knitter. But you can substitute a different stitch if needed, just make sure that it's bulky enough to create a thickly woven cover for your pads.

To make this project (set of four), you will need:
4 thick terrycloth wash clothes
4 skeins of cotton yarn (I prefer Peaches & Cream)
5.5 yards of cotton trim fabric - 2" wide
Size 5 knitting needles
Needle and Thread

To see how the Lotus Flower stitch is made, there is a great tutorial and video about it on this webpage: How to Knit the Lotus Flower Stitch.

To make the top cover for your pad:
CO 77 stitches.
*Remember that your first two stitches on each row will be knitted, so that you will get a stockinet border on either side.
Row 1: Knit 2, Purl 73, Knit 2
Row 2: Knit 2, P1, *p5togm5, p1; rep from * to the last two stitches, Knit 2.
Row 3: Knit 2, Purl 73, Knit 2 .
Row 4: Knit 2, P3togm3, p1, *p5togm5, p1; rep from * to last 5 sts, p3togm3, Knit 2.

Repeat these four rows until your pad is approximately 12 inches in length - or a square.
Fold your cotton trim in half lengthwise and press it. Fold in the edges of your terrycloth washcloth and lay pin your woven cover to it with your trim sandwiched in between. Sew it down and that's all there is to it! Make them for yourself or as a lovely gift!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year, A New Project!

I decided that 2014 is going to be a relaxing year. I'm going to make that happen. Because I'm in complete control of my universe and when I say I'm taking it easy this year, it's set in stone. SO. I'm lining up a soothing, easy project that may well carry me all the way to December... are you laughing? If you know me, probably! 'Cause you know, the taking it easy thing really isn't me.

Ok, no more fooling, let me tell you what I'm really up to! In 1999, I made a set of four stockings and a count-down-to-Christmas calendar for my family. Each stocking is navy blue cotton with faux applique scenes depicted out of scraps of fabric that I used some sort of iron on adhesive to affix, and then I used silver glitter fabric paint to go around the edges. When the subsequent children were born in '06 and '07, I made them new ones to match.

To be perfectly honest, I hated these stockings almost immediately after I made them. They're garish and ugly and at this point, I can do WAY better! I'm almost embarrassed year after year to pull these out of storage and hang them up. Of course, my husband who has a very strange idea of sentiment and gets attached to all of the wrong things fights each year to keep them. Right now, a week after Christmas, he could give two shits about them or the calendar or anything related to holidays. I'm starting new stockings and a calendar now, so when the Thanksgiving turkey is slowly churning in our bellies in November, I will a have a stronger argument than his for retiring these atrocious things to the attic forever. I mean, babe, I've worked ALL year on these new stockings! We'll see how well that goes...
Here's my plan for the new calendar. I'm really big into celebrating the origins of Christmas (aka Yule), particularly focusing on the pagan aspect, in December. Odin was only one of the forbearers to modern Santa. There's also St. Nick (he was a real saint), Sinter Klaus... Ok Google that shit because I don't really feel up to explaining it all.

Odin, who in MY portrayal is modeled after Gandalf (because Gandalf is f'ing awesome and needs to be hung in every home for Christmas!), is set among a moon lit sky on a tree lined mountain slope. The moonlit sky is very important as it is indicative of the winter hunt. It's all relevant in pagan/Yule lore.
So I photoshopped Gandalf from a scene in the movie "Lord of the Rings" into two separate images I found that had the sky and ground backgrounds I wanted. When I had everything jiving just the right way, I opened the image in Window's paint and saved it as 256 bitmap. That degrades the colors to give me an easy to follow map.

At this point, it was pretty simple to trace this out onto paper and then onto a piece of white cotton muslin. I put the fabric into an embroidery hoop, took the image to the sewing shop to buy the appropriate colors of embroidery floss, and am filling in the entire image with tiny stitches as if I'm doing a paint by number. This technique works extremely well for making heirloom products (such as family portraits onto pillows), or making custom patches or badges, as I show you HERE.
I have been wanting to do a large tapestry in this medium for a very long time, and now I have a great reason! So, here is the start:
The finished tapestry will be 11" x 14" and will be sewn as a panel onto a new count-down-to-Christmas calendar. If you're wondering what I mean by that, picture a piece of fabric with pockets numbered 1 to 25 and an object that is moved from one pocket to the next, each day in December. The numbered pockets will also be embroidered and I'm planning to use high-end fabrics for this project as I'm expecting these to last my family for another 15 years, if not longer. They may last until I'm an old lady. My family may fight over my dead body for them... or maybe not! It's going to be a fun project though and it will give me a reason to sit on my ass and watch trashy television, which I'm expecting to do a whole lot of this year.

Oh! And I'll keep you posted on progress. If you have any questions, shoot 'em in the comments. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ebook Review: Superfood Super You, by Dr. Josh Axe

This week, I downloaded this free ebook, to help me recover from my poor eating over the holidays. I have no excuse, really, and I surely know better than to let bad eating habits get the better of me. The holidays are peak season at my job, and they are my peak season for my painting business as well. So, I have been quite busy. Still, that's little consolation where I'm sitting now, with my back hurting and my head stuffed with cold, nor was it comforting on Christmas Eve and Christmas day - which I slept through in my flu induced fever. I'm sick and sore and desperately needing to take a healing approach to food. I found Dr. Axe's book to be a wonderful refresher, and I love that it includes some very easy meal plans to follow while I'm still quite busy dealing with the holiday aftermath.

Introduction: Dr. Axe begins the introduction with statistics on America's health crisis, outlining the most common ailments and diseases. He then shares a personal story of his mother's fight with breast cancer and lung cancer, and how changing her diet to include superfoods and natural eating helped her fight/beat cancer the second time.

The format of the ebook is in PDF. With a clear and easy font, bold and colorful subtitles and illustrations and photos on every page, it makes the reading easy to follow.

In Chapter 1, Dr. Axe shares the benefits of superfoods, and includes a list of 20 top superfoods, which include berries and almonds, among others. He also lists four plans that he created, to help tailor your diet to which health problem you are most affected by:

  1. Weightloss
  2. Detox
  3. Anti-Aging
  4. Muscle Building

While I read all of the chapters for review purposes, I chose to focus on 2, 3, and 4. My goals are specific to creating a healing diet to help my body recover from injury and illness; after poor eating during the holiday season; help my muscle and cardiovascular system remain youthful so that I can avoid further strain, injury and illness that are likely to affect me now that I'm over 35; and building muscle to help support my skeletal system and again, to avoid trauma to my joints and spine.

In Chapter 2, Dr. Axe discusses the benefit of weight loss and the decreased risk of heart disease. He then lists the foods that specifically aid in weight loss, and not only outlines the foods origins but describes how it works in the body to help lose weight. By specifically naming the compounds that affect metabolism, fat stores, digestion and other contributors, it's easy to see how utilizing them can help meet weight loss goals.
At the end of Chapter 2, the doctor has compiled an easy to follow meal plan and super simple exercise regimen.

In the following three chapters, Dr. Axe continues in the same refrain, specifying foods that meet the needs of those agendas: Detox, Anti-Aging and Muscle Building, where he outlines certain foods to meet those needs, and follows up with a meal plan and exercise regimen.

Beyond telling us what foods are most beneficial, afterwards is a section discussing which foods are most damaging, including conventional meats and dairy and hydrogenated oils, among others. There is a short section on Beyond Organic, which talks about the importance of avoiding chemicals in our food, and shares the story of Jordan Ruben, who was riddled with disease until he began eating foods that are much more natural, and who went on to write a best selling book, start a vitamin chain, and started a company to create the healthiest superfoods in the world.

There are many religious (Christian) references in the book, and mentions of eating the way God intended or eating in a biblical way. Many may likely find this an enjoyable touch. I personally love that Dr. Axe writes from his heart and is obviously passionate about sharing his information and the stories of how good, natural, Earth based foods have helped his loved ones become healthy and even brought them from the brink of death. Very nicely written and advice and information to live by.

If I have one criticism, it's that Dr. Axe did not include beans in his book, which, by many experts assertion should be write at the top of the list of the top 20. Nonetheless, if you follow this book and throw in some beans, you should be pretty well set!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

DIY Christmas Tree Bows From Re-purposed Materials

 These tree ribbons came out even cuter than I expected, and much better than my husband guessed when he saw the denim strips. He asked me skeptically if I really thought they would turn out to look good. Do you not know me? Silly!

I made two dozen of them and they give my tree the country-cozy feeling that I like in the fall. There is just something about denim on a Christmas tree that feels right to me. Add in the contrast of textures with the burlap and cotton muslin, the splash of red and natural grape vine and I just adore my little bows! Also, like many of my crafts, these were done for free using  materials I had on hand or found outside. You can come up with some creative combinations if you look around your own home to see what's available!

Old Jeans (adult sized)
Cotton Muslin
Scrap Yarn
Polished Hemp Cord
Salt Dough
Red Paint
Woody Tendrils (from a grape vine)
Glue gun and glue sticks

To start with, cut the pant legs off of your old jeans. It's best to use jeans that have good denim. Trim off the inside and outside seams as well as the cuffs, so that you have four wide strips of denim to use. Lengthwise, rip the jeans into two or three strips. Don't use scissors for this, the ripping helps with the fray.
Take a needle or your fingernail and pull out ten or so outside strands of thread, to make a 1/4 inch fray.

Finding the center of your strip, fold the sides in and under. Then fold the ends down, as shown in the photos. This can be tricky and takes a bit of practice.

 Slide a piece of scrap yarn into the center of the bow and tie it in place. Trim the ends of the yarn.
 Tear the cotton muslin into strips, 12" long and 1 1/2" wide. It's good if it looks a little rough, but trim the excess strings. You want it to look tattered but tidy.

Cut a swatch of burlap, 4 inches long and two inches wide, then cut a slit up the center of it.
 Shape the muslin into a bow as you did with the denim and tuck the burlap behind it. Use a foot long piece of hemp cord and wrap tightly around the two bows and the burlap. Leave four to five inches of cord at the top of the bow to become the hanger.
 Salt dough beads are super easy to make, and I found a recipe that I was able to make and then paint within minutes! Really! I was skeptical too, but I tried it and it worked.

That recipe is here:  Quickest Ever Salt Dough Recipe at Rainy Day Mum

I rolled the salt dough into tiny balls, about the size of blueberries. I did poke holes into them with a needle, thinking I would sew them to the bows which would have worked. But I realized I had new glue sticks so I didn't go that way.

I used enamel paint (and some gloves) to paint the "berries" bright red and dried them on craft paper.
 I know that not everyone has a boat-load of grape vine growing in their backyard, you can probably find these dried woody tendrils at your local craft store (look in the silk or dry flower section). Otherwise, you might be able to buy them online. If you can't find them anywhere, a good substitute would be dark metal wire, twisted and wrapped into curly-Q's.
 I pushed the ends of the grape vine tendrils underneath the cord and used a daub of hot glue to simultaneously secure the tendrils into place and glue the red berries to the front of the bow.

Had I not had glue sticks, I would have used a carpet needle and upholstery thread to sew the beads on and secure the tendrils.
 I strongly resisted the urge to add a glittery element, a touch of gold would have made these even better. But I wanted to keep them as organic and natural as possible.

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup hot (not scalding water)
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp salt
3 to 5 cups flour

Mix the water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl and allow it to sit for 20 minutes until foamy. Add shortening and salt, beat for one minute. Fold in 3 cups of flour and begin to knead. Add flour one half cup at a time, when the dough becomes sticky. Use as little flour as you can. Too much flour makes bead heavy.
Knead for ten minutes. Too little kneading will result in coarse bread.

Allow to rise for 45 minutes in a warm place until double.

4 apples, peeled and cubed
1 tsp. Lemon juice
2 tbs. Butter
1 tsp. Salt
1 cup sugar
2 tbs. Cinnamon

Boil the apples with lemon juice and salt. Strain and mash with a fork, leaving it a little chunky. Stir in butter.
Punch down bread dough and roll out to 1/2 inch thick rectangle.
Spread evenly with apple sauce and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up and cut into eight slices.
Grease a cookie sheet and place the cinnamon rolls with sides touching. Let rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat your oven to 375F and bake rolls for 20 to 22 minutes.

Two cups of brown sugar
1 cup whole milk or half and half.
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 cups walnuts

Bring brown sugar, milk and salt to a boil I'm a medium saucepan stirring occasionally. Cook for 5 minutes. Spoon quickly over cinnamon rolls and top with walnuts before the caramel sets.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Homemade Peppermint Chocolate Syrup

Hey. It's peppermint and chocolate. I could tell you why I love it but I don't think I need to. It's that season, past putting pumpkin in everything and now we're moving on to eating and drinking ridiculous amounts of peppermint spiked concoctions!

You need:

Bottle to store the syrup
3 tsp pure peppermint extract (1 tbs or 1/2 fluid oz)
3 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup powdered baking cocoa
1 tsp salt

In a large saucepan (the syrup will rise when boiling and boil over if you're not careful so make sure you use a pan with plenty of extra room), combine the sugar and water. Heat to steaming and whisk in the cocoa, salt and peppermint extract. Don't add too much peppermint, pure extract is really potent! Boil for 1 to two minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful of boiling over. Boiling hot sugar syrup can cause some nasty burns! Once it has cooled down enough to not melt the bottle (or shatter it if you're using glass), use a funnel to pour the syrup into your container and put it in the fridge.

Make sure you shake it well before using it, in case the peppermint extract rises to the top. That doesn't taste nice!

What do you do with it besides resisting the urge to drink it out of the bottle? You can:

Add it to coffee with some half and half or cream, or milk, or just drink it in plain coffee.
Drizzle it on your cheesecake.
Drizzle it on any cake.
Drizzle it on pancakes.
Use it as a dip for apples or other kind of fruit.
Use it in cocktails.
Use it in many baking recipes.
Stir it in milk, microwave, and you have peppermint hot chocolate - or drink it cold, even.

Really, you can add it to just about anything!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hand Embroidered Candles and Holly - Holiday Ornaments 2013

 Last year, I made and shared tutorials for 7 different holiday ornament designs:

Knitted Cat
Knitted Dog
Knitted Bear
Knitted Mouse
Glitter Kitty
Denim Stars
Wooden Snowmen

And the year before, I shared:

Cereal Box Painted Faux Metal Stars

This year, I have already begun my tree ornaments and I will surely have another design or two to share. :)

Before continuing with this tutorial, take a look at this one, which explains the technique for this embroidery technique. I used the Long and Short Stitch to fill in the blocks of color of the design below.


  • Blocks of fabric with embroidered design on the front
  • Scissors, needle and thread
  • Crushed velvet fabric
  • Lace trim
  • Poster board or sturdy card stock
  • Strips of brown paper bag

Print the pattern to the left, so that the printed version is approximately 2" tall. Place a 4" x 4" swatch of white cotton fabric on top of the pattern and trace it. If necessary, use a window or a light box to see through the fabric.

Using the Long and Short stitch, fill in the blocks of color with embroidery floss. I filled in the holly with 3 shades of green; the candle with 3 shades of tan/cream; the flame with both yellow and orange and the ribbon with two shades of red.

Using a round object, approximately 3 inches wide (like a pasta sauce lid), trace a circle onto the card stock.
Cut a piece of velvet (or your chosen backing material) to a 4" inch wide circle. Use a needle and thread to loosely sew a basting stitch around the edge of your velvet.
Place your round cardstock on top of the wrong side of your velvet swatch and pull the thread to cinch it up around the cardboard and tie it off.
You could use twine, yard or any tie material of your choice, I decided to use a strip of brown paper sack and twisted it tightly to make a small rope. I sewed the flat ends into the ornament.
I sewed the lace trim around the edge of the ornament.
I pinned the embroidered block of fabric to the front of the ornament, and sewed it in place using small, even stitches.