Sunday, March 17, 2019

warp speed

I've been working my way through my crafty Christmas gifts!

First up, a Kobuk hat knit in Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted Tweed (thank you, Eileen and Dad!) in the colorway Smoke. I've been dying for an excuse to buy one of these super soft pom-poms, so I snagged one at my local yarn store during a recent shopping trip with Kathy. As is tradition, I had to re-knit this hat multiple times to get the sizing right. Good thing hats are so quick!

Next up, a pair of Fiesta Mittens! These were knit with the very colorful Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino and black Berroco Ultra Wool Fine. There's a different stitch pattern on the front and back of the mitten, which really shows off the Koigu yarn!

Since I was feeling a bit guilty about my selfish knitting, I decided to make a few things for Mae. First, a kid-sized pair of Fiesta Mittens. I simplified the thumb a bit, so I was able to finish these up in just a couple days. She loves them!

Finally, a totally new-to-me craft: weaving! Dan bought me a 15" rigid heddle loom (Schacht Cricket) for Christmas, and I've been itching to try it out. The loom came with 2 balls of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted, so I warped with the purple color (Boysenberry) and wove with the blue (Fanciful Blue). It took me a few inches to get the edges looking okay, but it was so fun (and quick!) once I got the hang of it. Expect to see more weaving projects (and therefore more blog titles with weaving-related puns)!

Details on my Ravelry page for the Kobuk hat, Fiesta Mittens, kid-sized Fiesta Mittens, and the woven scarf.

Monday, March 4, 2019

wains world

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the new wainscoting in our dining room. Considering how much time and planning went into this trim work, I think it deserves a little more attention that just a sentence or two! We opted for picture frame moulding, attaching rectangles made of thin wooden trim (like picture frames) directly to the plaster or drywall. Picture frame moulding is the easier and more cost-effective cousin of the more traditional recessed panel wainscoting.

Our dining room already had a chair rail installed, so we worked around that existing feature. I love the look of white paneling below the chair rail and a deeper color above, though some people opt for the darker (and visually heavier) color below the rail instead.

There seem to be two approaches to installing the picture frame moulding. One camp prefers to pre-assemble the squares using precise measurements and a jig to get perfect 90 degree corners. When the boxes are made, they attach them to the wall. The second camp measures and attaches each piece as they go, building the square directly on the wall. We weighed (and argued about) the two options extensively, but ultimately decided that the second method would work better for several reasons. Our walls are not square, level, or flat. We were worried that a perfectly square box wouldn't line up with both the chair rail and the baseboard. We were also worried that it would be hard to attach the pre-assembled box in parts of the room where the wall bows outwards slightly. Attaching the pieces one-by-one to these bulged wall sections allowed for a bit more flexibility.

To start the process, I used a section of 2x4 as a guide to mark the outline of the boxes on the walls. A 2x4 is actually about 3.5" wide, which was approximately the spacing I wanted from the chair rail and baseboards. This ensured that the tops and bottoms of the boxes would run parallel to the rail, and it seemed more important visually to be parallel than perfectly level. Next I precisely measured each side of each box. No box was a perfect rectangle with all sides being slightly different lengths, which reinforced our choice of method 2 (building boxes on the walls instead of pre-assembling). We added up all the measurements, added 10% for scrap/mistakes, and spent an hour selecting the straightest trim pieces at the hardware store.

At this point, I wanted nothing more to do with this project. Over it. I just wanted it done. I was stressed about finishing the project and worried that it wouldn't turn out with how much time/thought I'd already put into it. Plus, power tools make me a little skittish. So, I called in the reinforcements. Dad came to visit for the weekend, and brought along two critical tools: a power miter saw and a nail gun with air compressor. While we COULD have accomplished this project with a miter box and a regular hammer with a nail punch, Dan and Dad were able to finish cutting and installing all the trim in one Saturday (while Mom and I entertained Mae).

Over the course of the next week, I primed (to cover my pencil marks), filled, spackled, caulked, and painted the trim and walls. The caulk helped to hide all the (very minor) sins of my trim installers like nail gouges and slight imperfections at the corners. I chose the color that most closely matched the existing chair rail and window trim so I wouldn't have to repaint those also (untinted Sherwin Williams semi-gloss superpaint... very glamorous).

I'm so pleased with how the trim turned out. It's added a lot of drama to a previously drab room. While it wasn't a difficult or expensive project, it did take a lot of planning and effort. Well worth it, in my opinion!

Saturday, February 23, 2019


Today is the one year anniversary of moving into our house! I spend so much time dwelling on my to-do list, that I thought it would be fun to look back on my did-it list. So here's a look at everything that's changed since we moved in!

While it was nice to start with a "blank slate," the cream-colored walls (and ceilings) quickly started to wear on me. We bought this house for so many practical reasons (location, price, space, layout), but I have struggled to build an emotional connection to it. Each time I finish painting a room, the house feels a little more like home.

First up, our entryway. We changed out the light fixture (does a bare light bulb qualify as a "light fixture?") for a lantern-style pendant. I painted the door in SW Dignity Blue. And I spent an embarrassing amount of money, effort, and time replacing the corroded brass door handle and trim set. (Worth it.) New shutters and landscaping are still in the future.

Next, one of the most impactful painting projects I've done: the built-in bookshelves in our living room. They just needed a little love when we moved in. We replaced a section of shelving, and I painted the back SW Web Gray. I love the dark backing, which really helps to show off all our pretty books and knick-knacks. We've been seriously hurting for bookshelf space since we "hacked" the IKEA shelves in our old house, and these give us plenty of room to grow our library. Plus, I get to display my vintage puzzles and my charm box.

The rest of the living room is painted SW Liveable Green with patterned curtains from IKEA. The room could use some decor (lamps, console table), but I'm very proud of my thrifty fern pictures. I downloaded the pictures for free, printed them at Staples, and put them in cheap frames from Michael's.

The dining room is probably our crowning achievement to date. We replaced the light fixture with this fantastic one from West Elm and added a ceiling medallion. I painted the ceiling a crisp white. Over the course of a weekend, Dan and Dad installed the wainscoting/moulding below the existing chair rail. I caulked and painted the bottom white and the top SW Green Bay. The color took me a while to choose, but I love how it works with the curtains (IKEA again).

I'm currently searching for the perfect wall decorations. I have one item that's made the cut, Dan's watercolor print of Cafe 210 West from Penn State. The original frame, a dark wood, blended into the walls too much so I refinished it using Rub 'n Buff (ridiculous name, excellent product). I blended gold and silver to make this champagne silver color. I also replaced the gray matte with a white one.

I decorated Mae's playroom shortly after we moved in. This room is an addition off our kitchen and has been great for keeping the toys contained and not exploding all over our living space. I bought the flower painting from Target and the colorful rug online (Wayfair, they had just what I need). I made the Valentine's garland from felt hearts and baker's twine. It looks so cute in here, I might just leave it up year-round!

I'm also growing a mini-jungle in the bay window. This room gets so much light! Plus, it's the perfect spot for my Flying Pig poster.

Next up, our bedroom. I used the same color card as our old bedroom (SW Dovetail), but several shades lighter (SW Repose Gray). The rug is from HomeGoods, and I finally bought new bedding from Macy's after pining for this comforter set for a few months. My favorite thing in the room (besides our wedding pictures of course) is the gold wire-framed mirror from Pier 1 that hangs over our dresser.

Are you wondering what happened to Mae's art gallery that used to adorn the wall over my desk? Don't worry, it has found a new home leading up the stairs! I need to swap out some of these pictures soon, but I just love her tiny handprint art!

Okay, I'm bending the rules a little here... I actually finished Mae's room before we moved in. I kept everything the same as her old nursery, to ease the transition to our new house. (Actually, it was because I just wasn't ready to give up her confetti curtains after working so hard on them.) A new blackout roll shade keeps the room dark for nap time. I installed trim pieces to separate the walls from the dormer ceilings, so I could paint the ceilings white and the walls Sherwin Williams Rainwashed. We had a custom-sized piece of carpet bound by a local flooring store, which is an affordable way to get a large, decent-quality area rug. (Yep, Mae's still in a crib. She hasn't realized that she could easily climb out. I'm hoping we don't have to give up her cage... erh, crib... any time soon. Giant Knit Bunny agrees with me.)

I haven't yet done anything with our office, kitchen, guest bedroom, or upstairs bath, so you'll have to wait on photos of those rooms. However, there is one last space that deserves a mention: this pink paradise.

Sure, it looks good here, but our main floor guest + master bathroom is in need of some serious love. It has cracked tiles, dated (not original) fixtures, and a general air of... sadness. Fingers crossed, we will have a contractor gutting this beauty in about a month. I can't wait!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

camas blouse

Another sewing project... This is the Camas Blouse pattern by Thread Theory Designs made with a solid-color Laguna knit by Robert Kaufman and an Art Gallery Fabrics knit print called "Bougainvillea." I was pleasantly surprised to see how well these fabrics pair together; it's really hard to order coordinating colors with online color swatches! Both fabrics are from Hawthorne Threads.

I made a size 8, with only a small modification to make the neckline a bit higher in the front. It's still not quite high enough to skip wearing a cami underneath, so I might bring it up a little more if I make this pattern again. The shirt is very wide/boxy, so it would probably look better in a fabric with more drape. Alternatively, I could bring the sides in a bit at the waist.

I interfaced the outer placket only, using Pellon EK130 knit interfacing. I'm not sure if this helped or hindered the already tricky placket assembly. My anxiety level rose quickly while attaching the stretchy, non-interfaced shirt body to the much more stabilized outer placket. (Dan wisely slunk out of the room when he noticed an increase in my grumbly mumbling.) Next time I might forego the interfacing. I didn’t make buttonholes and instead stitched the buttons through both layers to hold the front shut. The shirt works just fine as a pullover.

I finished this shirt in the fall, but hadn't worn it until our trip to Las Vegas. With it's low neckline and 3/4 sleeves, it's a better top for transitional weather than chilly winter days.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

what happens in vegas...

... Gets plastered all over social media. The line to get our picture taken at the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign was a half hour long! (Worth it, right?)

Anyways, here are my DOs and DON'Ts of a winter Vegas getaway

DO wear your FitBit
I got over 50,000 steps during our 3 days in Las Vegas! (I finally beat Dad at our weekend competition. His Saturday tennis matches usually crush my best attempts.) We stayed at Bally's, which is right in the middle of the strip, across from Bellagio. Friday we walked south, to Mandalay Bay and back. Saturday we walked north, as far as Wynn. We did a little window shopping and admired all the glamorous Chinese New Year / Year of the Pig decorations. Seriously, pigs were EV-ERY-WHERE.

DON'T assume that desert = hot
On Sunday, we rented a car and drove to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The sky looked a bit ominous as we made the turn off the main road, but I was completely unprepared for "desert winter." The sky darkened. The wind chill dropped from 50F to 27F. The sleet/snow mix began as we started on the 13 mile driving loop around the park. The Visitor's Center made bank on sweatshirt sales.

We stopped at several spots along the loop to walk around and take photos. I was entertained both by the beautiful scenery and by other visitors' excitement about seeing snowflakes. "A snowflake!! Take a picture, take a picture!!"

DO eat some good food
We took the recommendation of our Uber driver and breakfasted at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris. It's not too expensive, opens early, and has patio seating right across from the Bellagio fountain. Just check out this view. Handsome dude and a classy hotel.

We ate lunch at China Poblano, José Andrés' Chinese-Mexican fusian restaurant restaurant in Cosmopolitan. It was the perfect menu for Dan (could eat Asian food every meal for the rest of his life) and me (never tires of Mexican food).

Also, I had a slice of cheese pizza from Sbarro. It was excellent, as always.

DON'T waste your money on slot machines
Waste it on cheap video Blackjack. Way more fun.

I lost $4. The pain of my loss was eased by the fact that I found $2 on the ground. Dan lost $0.25 (which is practically winning, considering that he played for a couple hours). High rollerrrrrs.

DO see a show
Saturday evening, we saw Cirque du Soleil LOVE, the one featuring Beatles music. I had to adjust my expectations after the first few minutes, since it was much more about dance, performance, and staging than the mind-bending acrobatics I expect from Cirque. It was high-energy and visually mesmerizing, with fabulous music (of course).

DON'T get hung up on finding the perfect souvenir
Even with all the shops and bling in Sin City, I actually never found a Vegas-related bracelet charm. One of the little shops in the Paris hotel had an Eiffel tower charm. I can't quite put my finger on why, but that just didn't feel very "Vegas-y" to me. Fortunately, National Parks/Preserves/Conservation Areas always have me covered... so, no Vegas charm this trip, but I did get a Red Rock one.

Our most successful souvenir purchase of the trip was a pair of kids' binoculars for Mae. She's super into "noculars" right now (thanks, Daniel Tiger) and was thrilled to have her own pair... even if she looks in them backwards sometimes. "I see youuuu. You soooo tiiiiinyyyy."

DO come home (eventually)
Mae spent the weekend with Grandma and Grandpa, and had a great time. They went to an indoor pool and had a long playdate with Oliver. But, by Sunday, Mae was telling Grandma, "Mommy and Daddy live in Las Vegas."

Monday afternoon, Mom met us at the airport with our car and our kid. Mae was so excited to see us. I walked up to the car first, and she started screeching, "Mommy! Mommy!" When Dan showed up a few minutes later, she actually burst into happy sobs. (Yeah, yeah. I know. He's the favorite.) The whole ride home, she addressed every statement to, "Grandma Grandpa... erh... Mommy Daddy!"

She has been such a chatterbox lately. Last week during dinner, I was trying to tell Dan something and she kept talking over me. I turned to her and said firmly, "Mae! I am talking to Daddy right now!" To which she cheerfully replied, "Yeah! I talking to Daddy, too!"

Pretty crazy weekend, right? Maybe it was actually totally wild, but all that stuff "stayed in Vegas," so I can't tell you about it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

linen stitch

This cold, wintry weather just makes me feel like knitting. Plus, I got some new yarn for Christmas (thank you, Kathy & Eileen!) so I'm trying to finish up a few languishing projects and start on new ones! Both of these projects were knit with my purchases from Kentucky Wool Fest this year.

First up is a pair of Broken Linen Stitch socks (the socks aren't broken, that's just the name of the stitch pattern). The yarn is Good Juju by Deep Dyed Yarns in the colorway Nebula. This yarn looked so cool twisted up in a skein, and I love how it knit up into socks! This was my first time knitting a heel flap, and it wasn't nearly as difficult as I expected (although I did have to re-do the gusset a couple times to get the heel over my foot). This was also my first time making ankle socks. They are super comfortable and way quicker to knit than mid-calf socks. Project details on my Ravelry page.

I also knit what felt like a mile of (unbroken) linen stitch for this cowl. (It was only a quarter of a mile, actually.) I started out strong but it became a little monotonous towards the end. The yarn was in the mystery bag I picked up from Jessica's Creations at Wool Fest this year. It's a sock weight yarn in the colorway Sunny Days. Project details on my Ravelry page.

I wore the cowl the to zoo a couple weeks ago for the penguin parade, where the zookeepers lead penguins on a walk through the zoo. I didn't realize how much I looked like a penguin in my black coat and yellow scarf until I saw the pictures later. We had so much fun getting up close with the penguins! Plus, it was a good excuse to try out my new camera lens. The autofocus on my kit lens has died a slow death over the last year, so I finally bought a new lens. I've only taken a few pictures so far, but I'm having fun playing with my new toy!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

the snowy day

Winter is here! I've been telling Mae that when there's enough snow that you can't see the grass, then we can play with the new sled she got from Santa. When she woke up last Saturday morning, I took her to the front door and opened it to reveal the snow-covered lawn. She was so excited she almost cried while asking, "Can we go play??"

After a quick breakfast, we bundled up in our full winter gear and went outside. Our driveway slopes down to our backyard, so we had the perfect little hill for Mae's first time sledding. She LOVED it. She took turns with each of us and did a few solo rides.

In the front yard, we built a tiny snowman. The snow was a little too powdery to stick together well enough for a big snowman. Mae named him "Snow Snowy" (I think a mis-pronunciation of "Sir Snowy" from the Amazon Prime cartoon version of the book "The Snowy Day.") She insisted on the carrot nose, and I found some blueberries for his eyes.

Dan shoveled the sidewalk and driveway while I brushed off the cars, and Mae very carefully cleared all the snow from her slide, picnic table, and our plastic Adirondack chairs in the backyard. The we pulled Mae around in the sled for a bit. At one point while Dan was pulling the sled, it tipped sideways and she did a full face plant directly into the snow. Dan and I both burst out laughing, and she came up looking very startled before she noticed us laughing and started to giggle. I caught the whole thing on video and can't watch it without cracking up.

We walked down the street and did a few sledding runs down the long sloped alley a few houses down. Because the snow had covered everything, I don't think that Mae understood we were in the middle of the street. After warning her, I called to Dan, "I just told Mae we needed to hold hands because we are in the street, and she looked at me like, 'We are???'" To which Mae responded, "Penn State!"

On Sunday, we woke up to a couple more inches of snow. After breakfast and church, we bundled up for more wintry fun. The snow was much stickier, so we built a big snowman and dressed him up with hat, scarf, and gloves (plus the obligatory carrot nose and blueberry eyes/mouth). Afterwards, Mae sat in the snow and ate all the rest of the blueberries. (Yes, she was wearing a hat, but she took it off before this picture... Also, this is last year's 18-month-sized snowsuit, but it still fits and kept her toasty as a furnace!)

Most of our snow had melted by yesterday (along with Snow Snowy), but we got a few more inches today. Unfortunately it was much colder today (around 15 F) so we didn't get to enjoy it yet! I am loving that it finally looks like winter around here!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

that's a wrap

It's not a shawl... it's a wrap. Or perhaps a crescent-shaped scarf.

This is the Vindaloo Wrap knit in Ella Rae Classic in the colorway Lunar Green. Kathy found the yarn for me at a good discount during Small Business Saturday in 2017. I finished knitting this near the end of last winter, but I'm still very undecided on whether I like it. I love the pattern, and it was an easy knit with minimal counting/concentration required. But, it's been hanging out in my closet, waiting for cooler weather and waiting for me to decide if I'll ever wear it.

I decided to give it at least one wearing before making any decisions to repurpose the yarn. I put it on Saturday for errands and a party in the afternoon. It's definitely warm, and it was a fun accessory. I'll give it a bit longer to see how often I reach for it in the closet.

What do you think? Should I give it a bit longer to grow on me or give the yarn a new life as something else??

Monday, January 7, 2019

the hoosier state

When Kelsey moved into her apartment this summer, she gave me a tour of her new place over FaceTime. Her roommate Emily had a framed Texas-themed watercolor print hanging in the hallway, and Kelsey mentioned that she would like an Indiana-themed one. So, I made this personalized version for Kelsey! (Sorry for the ugly watermark... apparently people like to steal art online.)

I sketched and painted the little symbols and vignettes separately and then scanned them to the computer where I arranged them and adjusted the colors. I tried to capture some typical Indiana icons (racecar, basketball, Soldiers & Sailors Monument) and some official state symbols (fireflies, sugar cream pie) while adding a bit of personalization (all our colleges are represented, with Kelsey's front and center). Can you figure out what everything is and how it relates to the Hoosier State? (Hint: we have a city called Santa Claus.)

I ordered a giclée of the print on watercolor paper and a custom frame. Even though I finished this in August, I didn't get a chance to deliver it to Kelsey until we visited her a few weeks ago. It looks very cute hanging in her front hallway, across from the Texas artwork!