Sunday, March 24, 2013

Green Grocery Bags

My sister has been organizing swaps through Facebook.  Sometimes I've been able to join in, and sometimes I haven't.  The swap she coordinated for March was The Green Swap.  Because this swap fell during my spring break I was able to join.

I'm not sure what she had in mind when she picked green (I'm thinking she was probably influenced by St. Patrick's Day) but when I think of "green" I think of "eco."  I wanted to come up with something that incorporated the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra that I live by.  The project I decide on--t-shirt bags--is by no means original (Martha Stewart featured this in 2007, and I'm sure they are all over Pintereset), but because I used my own t-shirts, it is unique.

You start by cutting the arms off a t-shirt.
Then you cut out the neck.
Most of my t-shirts had a higher neckline, so I used a plate to trace a half circle cutting line.  You want the neck to be open enough to get stuff into the bag.
Then (and I don't have a picture of this part) you turn the shirt inside out and sew the bottom shut.  I think we can all imagine what that looks like.  You end up with a big cotton grocery bag.
I thought about zig-zagging the raw edge of the handles so they don't unravel like Lindsay Lohan on court day, but I didn't.  For one, it seemed like a lot of work for the dozen bags I made.  And two, I've never noticed a problem with t-shirt fabric unraveling before.  Most guys have (unfortunately) made muscle t-shirts out of regular t-shirts, and those always (unfortunately) hold up well.

The best thing about these grocery bags is they are washable, unlike the bag that most grocery stores sell (the ones made out of recycled soda bottles).  I also love that they take something that might have gone into a landfill and made it useful.  I think using t-shirts like this actually extends their life longer than if I had dropped them off at a charity store, where they would get used for a bit and then thrown out.  And I love having unique bags at the grocery.

And the whole whack of them, waiting to be packed up and sent along to the fabulous ladies in the swap.
I would love to go shopping with these colorful bags!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Goodies in the Mail

Don't you love coming home to wonderful things in the mail!  I know I do.  I love getting the mail, even on the days when it is nothing exciting.  I love letters and magazines and catalogs and Bed, Bath & Beyond flyers.  But packages are especially wonderful--even when you know they are coming.

My MIL told Mike that she sent a package.  She also told him to wait until I got home to open it.
And then she reminded him again, on the outside of the package.  Good thing, too, because I actually got home first and found this on the porch.  Without the warning I might have slipped and opened it without Mike around.

You see, I knew what was in there.  The most delicious chocolate in the world.
A chocolate fudge Easter egg from Sayklly's in Escanaba, Michigan.  We grew up getting these eggs at Easter.  If you buy them at the store they will write your name on them in yellow icing.  Sayklly's is the only fudge I eat.  It is soooooo good.  Nothing else compares to it, so why even bother.  It is a family owned business where the chocolate is still handmade.  They also sell Yooper Bars, which are the best milk chocolate bars I've ever had.  Every now and then my mother will send us a dozen.  We keep a few and send the rest with Mike to work.  Someone always asks where they can get more of them.

But that wasn't all!  I also got a lovely new knitting bag, perfect for small projects.
Which is great, because I accidentally ordered some new sock yarn.
The yarn is Lorna's Laces Limited Edition for Jimmy Beans Wool in the color Winter is Coming.  Oh yeah, the Game of Thrones color.  The color I received is a bit paler than the color that shows on the website, but it is still very "winter-ish" (or maybe I should say "Snow-ish").  Dark grey, light grey, icy blue, and a little hint of mauve.  I originally ordered the color for Mike, and he said that he is still happy with the color (even with the mauve-y pink) so this will be another pair for him.  Perhaps I will cast on while watching the premiere of Season 3.  (I won't.  I don't knit while watching Game of Thrones.  Too much going on.)

I also have some new reading material.  3191 Miles Apart (the bloggers) now publish a quarterly magazine.  I say "now publish" but since that is issue 9 and issue 10, they have been publishing for at least two and a half years.  But since this is the first I have heard of it, it is "now publish" to me.  I used to read their blog quite a bit, but stopped for some reason or another.  (This sometimes happens when I switch computers, since none of my bookmarks follow me.  I'm told there are ways to make that happen; I just don't know any of them.  But now I get to re-discover blogs that used to share my day.  Kind of like happening across an old buddy at the pub.  Lots to catch up on.)

Now off to work on those other socks, so my needles will soon be free for Winter is Coming!  Ohmygoshjustonemoreweek!  Game of Thrones!  I just can't wait!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Dreaded Pantry Cupboard

Linking up with Jules at Pancakes and French Fries as part of the William Morris Project.  Check out her blog for lots of great links!

This house has one of those "pantry cupboards" in the kitchen.  The cupboard is as big as a refrigerator, and has four roll-out type shelves.  I know that people love these cupboards, but I really don't.  All the hardware necessary to make the shelves roll takes up a lot of room, not to mention that the shelf is actually a shallow drawer, meaning that there is even less space for pantry items.  And it is really hard to organize!

Case in point:
Things are just thrown in, with no real rhyme or reason.  Except for the all the plasticware being on the bottom shelf.  A closer look?  Sure.  Here we go, from top to bottom.

Ugh.  What a dump!  But after a little bit of time, some rearranging of foodstuffs, and some vacuuming (I shake my fist at you, onions and potatoes!), I now know what is in here.
The plasticware has all been sorted and nested.  We are moving slowly to glass storage containers, which are kept in a different cupboard (where they won't roll around when I pull out the "shelf"), but I'm not willing to just throw away all the plastic.
This shelf probably had the most dramatic turn around.  I put most of the dried beans into wide mouth quart mason jars and found a couple of baskets for potatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger.  Hopefully the baskets mean that I won't have to drag my vacuum to the cupboard again.  I like the mason jar idea, but eventually I would like something a bit bigger.  A one pound bag of beans does not quite fit into a quart jar.  I've labelled them with masking tape since I think I will want something else eventually, but these were here and they function so much better than the pile of bags that I had going on before.
Mainly jars on one side, mainly bags of stuff on the other.  I suppose this would be the condiment/breakfast/dried fruit shelf.
And then the tea.  More than half this shelf is tea.  The mason jars on the left are the large tea bags I use for iced tea.  (I had a lot of mason jars around.)  After seeing this, I think I should probably hold off on buying tea for awhile.  Especially since there is also this in the kitchen:
Yup. More tea.  The pretty containers make it out of the cupboard.  Fourteen (!) more tea varieties.  Geez, I hope tea doesn't go bad.  Habit or vice?  At this point, I'm not sure.

Anyone else have any "healthy vices"?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Working through the To Do List

In an effort to plow through another item on my Spring Break To Do List (list item: start Hedgerow Mitts), I had to locate a pair of US 1 needles.  Since I couldn't find any (which doesn't mean that I don't have any US 1s free; it just means I can't find them [see list item: organize the stash {which was supposed to encompass the stash closet, and thus the needles}]) (Really, Karen?  Three different types of parantheticals?) I had to dig out the unfinished socks, which was actually a good thing, since another list item involved the UFOs.
And I found my favorite US 1 needles on the green socks.
The needles are the really nice Blue Sky Alpaca wooden needles.  I have a set of nine, because I broke one needle so I bought a complete new set.  I like to knit socks with five needles, so four wouldn't cut it for me.  And actually, I really like having the extra needles.  It makes picking up gusset stitches really easy.  I've started using the extra needles to pick up the stitches on both sides before I start knitting the round, since picking up stitches is almost my least favorite thing to do in knitting.  As of tonight, the second sock here is actually knit up to the beginning of the heel flap.  So progress. 

But I have US 1 needles on another pair, too.
These needles are metal, and longer than the Blue Sky.  I think the Blue Sky needles are five inches, and these are six.  This morning I was working on these socks (morning light means good time to work on dark blue yarn) and the needles felt almost too long.  The metal was really slippery, too, after using the nice grippy wood.  I think these are Hiya Hiya stainless steel needles, and really slick.  I got used to them right quick, but there was a momentary learning curve.  This sock is almost down the the heel flap.  

The purple and blue striped pair are on US 0 needles.
As you can see, there are two types of needles on this sock.  I started this sock on the Lantern Moon US 0 bamboo needles and snapped one needle right in half.  Jimmy Beans Wool replaced the one needle (quickly, too, and without question; great customer service!) but I found some metal Susan Bates one needles in the stash.  I still haven't worked on it since the new needle arrived, though.

The last pair is on US 1s, but on two circulars.
I'm through the heel flap on this one, which means that I am ready to turn the heel.  After that, we all know, comes the picking up of the stitches.  As much as I don't like picking up stitches, I really don't like picking up stitches for the gusset with a circular needle.  It is really fiddly and involves a lot of moving about stitches, and I just don't like it.  So these have been sitting at this point for over a year.

And yes, that is Deborah Norville yarn I'm using.  Glad you noticed.
I honestly didn't notice this until I started to photograph these socks.  But too funny.  I guess Vanna White shouldn't have all the fun!  (I bought this yarn from Hancock Fabrics about a year and a half ago, but I don't know anything else about this line.  I've never seen it anywhere else that I know of.)

Despite not finding some free needles to start the Hedgerow Mitts, I did get something accomplished on them.  I wound the yarn.
I consider that to be a start.  So at least I get to check that item off my list!  

It is so hard to capture the subtleties of hand painted yarn in a photo.  This is MadelineTosh sock in Pop Rocks, and it is about sixteen different shades of pink.  I can't wait to see this knit up.  I need something bright and cheerful to work on, and I think this fits the bill.  Hopefully the socks hogging my needles will be finished soon, and I get working on this happy color.

Now I'm off to watch Nashville and knit on my dark and stormy blue socks.  (Sort of fits with Nashville, don't you think?  Does anyone else watch this show?  I love it.  And I'm not a "country" music fan.  I do love, though, singer/songwriters with an interesting, folk-type style.  And I adore Scarlett on the show.  I'm hooked.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rainy Day Woman

It has been raining since before I woke up.  The kind of rain that can last for hours.  (The Snufflepuffs do not like this kind of rain, however.  It means that eventually I will have to put on wellies and take them for a walk.  Given their druthers, they would sit under the covered area of the deck and watch the rain.  Or not even go out in it at all, like Frosty.  Despite Frosty's love of walks, he has been known to turn right around once he feels a raindrop.  Bit of a prima donna, that one.)

Spring rain is one of the things I really like about North Carolina.  Spring rain often lasts all day, unlike the summer rain.  The summer rain comes in hard, lasts an hour, and makes the already humid air even more heavy and close.  We haven't hid humid weather yet, so this rain isn't going choke me.

Rain is one of the things I really missed when I lived out in San Diego.  The weather in San Diego is very much the same most days.  San Diego is almost the absence of weather.  The joke is that it is 75 and sunny, every day.  And it pretty much is.  I once asked a co-worker about his vacation to the midwest, and the first thing he mentioned was that he heard a thunderstorm for the first time in years.  I don't think it thunderstormed the entire time I lived out there.

So when we get days rainy days like this here, I celebrate it.  I make up for all the rain I missed.  I light candles in the day time, listen to mellow music, and drink buckets of hot tea while knitting and reading.  (Unfortunately not at the same time.  I wish I could be one of those people who can knit and read, but I can't.  Not yet anyway.)
Two new yarns, wound into cakes for two new projects.  The pink (MadelineTosh Tosh Sock in Pop Rocks) is for a pair of Hedgerow Mitts (Rav link).  The brown is Dream in Color Smooshy for a Little Oak (Rav link).  Behind the yarn is a pile of new library books.
I'm currently mining the Young Adult section of the base library for books.  Gregor the Overlander is the first book in a series by Suzanne Collins.  She wrote this series before she wrote the Hunger Games trilogy.  Stoneheart begins a trilogy about statues in London that come to life.  Really, how could I leave that on the shelf?  The Iron Throne is about magic and witchcraft set in a Victorian-ish America.  (I didn't know that the steampunk movement influenced YA fiction, but I guess I'm not surprised.)  I thought it was a stand-alone novel, but when I linked up to Amazon it seems that it is a trilogy.  Another thing I'm not really surprised by, as many YA novels are series novels.  I didn't quite mean to start three different series simultaneously, though.  Whoops.

I'm off to load up the CD player with some Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons, and Nick Drake and start knitting.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Whoo Hoo! Spring Break!

I made it to Spring Break!  I cannot tell you how much I need this time off.  Having a clinical spot 104 miles from my house has really taken it out of me this semester.  Between the driving and the learning, both my mind and body are tired and ready for a rest.

I have so many plans for break, you would think it was two months long instead of a week.  This break, I hope to:

  • make sense of my UFOs
  • finish my Baktus
  • organize my craft room
  • go through The Stash
  • start a pair of fingerless mitts (Hedgerow, to be specific)
  • run at least fifteen miles (not all at one time, but spread out over the break)
  • clean out the master bedroom closet
  • finish the biscournu
  • finish a card I'm making for a friend
  • finish a cross stitch set I've been working on for a year
  • write a few letters
  • read at least two books
  • update our household budget spreadsheet
  • sew some things for a swap 
  • learn French
Okay, that last one is a joke, but looking at the length of that list, and considering that I still have to do some schoolwork, I might as well be grand.  If I'm going to leave something un-crossed-off, it might as well be something impressive.  It seems excusable to not have time to learn French on a school break.  Not cleaning the linen closet?  That hints at laziness and time wasting.

But the first thing I'm going to do?
Open this sweet little bunny and read through the instructions!  Alicia at Posie Gets Cozy has created such a delightful little softie!  I can't wait to make her.  She might have to wait until after break, but I'm really hoping to get one stitched up by Easter.

Oh, and I plan to spend some time snuggling with these little dudes, too.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On my nightstand, Spring Break Edition!

The nightstand hasn't changed much from last month (February books) so I'm not going to go into too much detail.  There is one new addition--Stacy London's book.  I love Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear, and I've always said that if anyone decided to nominate me for the show I would not be offended.  It seems that I will never get to fulfill my dream of having my entire wardrobe mocked and trashed on national television.  That's right, the show is over.  What Not to Wear is ending.  I had no idea they had been doing it for ten years!  At least I will still get to see Clinton on The Chew.  And Stacy, I suppose, on Pantene commercials.  (Does she still do those?)

I think I only finished two books last month.  I finished the last book in the Linger trilogy.  The trilogy is young adult, so it was kind of a quick read.  I have to say I liked the first book the best, but the series overall was pretty good.  It was a new and unique interpretation of werewolves, and although the resolution seemed rather pat I was glad that I read it.

I tried to read And Then We Came to the End.  (I'm not even linking to it.  If you want to find it, you will have to Google it on your own.  I'm tired of uniqueness masquerading as Good Literature.  Different does not necessarily mean Wonderful.  Sometimes it is just different.)  It is written in first person plural.  Different? You bet.  Creative?  Yeah, I guess.  Gimmicky and annoying?  After the first thirty pages, when the newness wears off, yes.  It is about office mates and the office politics of an ad agency hitting a rough spot and downsizing.  The entire book is "we thought" and "we did" and "we said."  It was fun at first.  (The author also had the annoying habit of sometimes referring to characters by their first name and sometimes by their last name, and I couldn't keep anyone straight.)  I've worked in an office, so I understand the office gossip, and sometimes he was really humorous.  Not laugh out loud funny, but smile openly way--partly because, and I think this is the point--a lot of that stuff has happened to anyone who has ever worked in an office with more than three people.  And then the gimmick got old.  It took me two weeks to slog though seventy pages, so I decided to be finished with it.  Two good weeks of my reading time!  Good riddance.

But now, I have to finish that paper on TBI.  Just a test and a paper and then freedom!  Or eight days of lighter course work and nothing due.  But I prefer to call it freedom.