Category Archives: 'Tis the Season

Family Update – November 2018


Our family update for those following along.

As John’s birthday just passed (he would have turned 50) and now our anniversary and the holidays approach, the kids and I are working on some brain cancer awareness and charity projects in honor of John and his courageous fight.  And also in compassion for those patients and families in the thick of fighting the hard fight, who are in desperate need of assistance.

Orphan diseases receive the least amount of financial and donation support, including glioblastoma. And while support systems and charities are in place for many more common cancers, glioblastoma is so rare, aggressive and terminal that there is almost no assistance available for the families of GBM patients. Many of us GBM widows want to change that, one step at a time.

Towards that end, here’s what the kids and I are working on.

1) We’re asking friends who shop at Amazon to enroll in the Amazon Smiles program and to select the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation, or Greg’s Mission, as beneficiary of the program to help raise awareness and funds for brain cancer research, patients and families. The Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation supports child and adult brain cancer research. Greg’s Mission was founded by long-term glioblastoma survivor Greg Cantwell. His foundation provides critical and free 1-on-1 coaching and support to brain tumor patients and families around the US, and even internationally. Many hospitals refer their patients to Greg for much-needed help, but donations are crucial to make travel possible and keep this mission going.

When you use https://smile.amazon.com to buy from Amazon, it costs you nothing, but Amazon will give 0.5% of your purchase to the charity you choose. It’s a very easy, no extra cost, way to support the charity of your choice. For more information visit: https://smile.amazon.com/about.

Moody Shroom Enamel Pin - Pink Version - designed by Jack Chambers - November 2018 - Cure Glioblastoma2) Our daughter Jack has designed and released some cute mushrooms, collectible gold-plated enamel pins (her drawings turned into pins) to help raise awareness and donations for brain cancer this holiday season. The first release of gold-plated pins is already in her Etsy store named Squash Rabbit, and another design release is on the way, including some roses. 20% of proceeds will be donated to brain cancer charities.  You can find 3 color variations of her little shroom pins to choose from – there’s even a grey option, since it’s the color of brain cancer awareness. Find them in her new Etsy store here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/637121368/moody-shroom-enamel-pin.

Some of you have watched her grow up drawing, so you can imagine how excited she is now to have these special enamel pins of her artwork to share! 🙂

3) I have begun a crochet related charity project that I will be announcing soon! And a neat little bakery in Idaho is helping me. Stay tuned!

It’s been 2 years, 7 months and 30 days since the shift in our family’s journey began. When my John was diagnosed with glioblastoma. And 8 months ago when our son was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer. Your prayers and support as we keep pushing through are greatly appreciated. To everyone who has followed along and simply made a point of witnessing, of reaching out and holding our hands through everything – our utmost gratitude.

– ♡♡ –

#RaiseAwareness  #Glioblastoma  #CureGBM
#IncreaseOrphanDiseaseResearch #CureCHRCC

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Glioblastoma, Jack Designs, NaBloPoMo

The Elephant in the Room…


For my last post of the month, I felt I had to address something.

And that’s the explosion of traffic that just manifested in my blog stats the last two days.

There has been more traffic yesterday and today – individually – than any other day of traffic in the history of my blog.

I wish I could say it’s because I’m a rad crochet personality. But that’s not why yesterday and today’s stats have each broken all other traffic records in a single day on my blog.

The last “all in a day” record? Yeah, that was back in fall 2011 when we had the Cama Beach Crochet Retreat and I posted all those photos during the week.  In fact since I posted every day of the retreat as well as during my extra few days stay afterward, the entire week had high traffic stats. So did the video I made (in summer 2011) from the 2010 crochet retreat too.

Makes sense.

And a close 2nd was my article in summer 2012 about The US Olympics Committee bungle with Ravelry.

Again, makes sense. Crochet, crochet, crochet. Check.

And while it hasn’t broken a record for hits in a single day, the absolute #1 post on my blog is my 2011 post on “What Does Frogging Mean?

So what is it that’s breaking all the records this week, two days in a row? And ain’t over yet? (Vast majority of traffic from the US too.)

Tape Ball.

Yep, it’s my article from last year’s NaBloPoMo about the game Tape Ball, aka Candy Ball.  The simple but fun game played with a large ball that’s made with cling wrap/plastic wrap, leftover wrapping paper, candy, prizes, underwear, a sense of humor and a lot of shenanigans.

My phone keeps going off – “Your stats are booming!!!”

Guess I’m glad that I took my time and compiled a complete how-to last year. To be honest, I did it so I could have something to go back and reference for myself. And at least for now it’s turned into a record-breaking post.

In addition, oddly, my 2011 story about accidentally making butter in my Ninja blender when I was trying to make whipped cream for Thanksgiving has also been getting an unusual amount of attention the last two days too. The 4th most popular post on my blog, incidentally. Either a lot of people accidentally screwed up their Thanksgiving desserts, or someone’s trying to get back to their old-fashioned roots – with power kitchen tools.

Gee, you know thinking about it – that’s an awful lot of blog popularity all written back in 2011 right there.

Does that mean I was a better writer then?

I don’t know, but in either case, I predict that this holiday season will be a lot more fun for some strange reason.

And I want pics.

 

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More about the Christmas Elf Hat design that I’m developing…


So today I finished up the hat for my friend’s grandson.

I’m really pleased with it!

I’ve been working on variations for this design.  However, this started largely due to my need to tweak the shaping.

In order to get a hat that behaved more like the one worn by everyone’s favorite elf, I needed to experiment and play with the shaping.  Because there’s a big difference between how the fabric from a tiny felt cone hat on a doll behaves, compared to the fabric of a larger hat crocheted in yarn behaves.

One of the keys to its shaping is in what type of yarn you use.  And if you don’t use the right kind, you have to make up for it by changing the stitches.  So it looks like my pattern variations may be more involved than I first thought.

Which brings up something. I’ve come to realize that the way I prefer to write patterns is as teaching tools.  It’s not enough for me to write every step in terms of “Row 1; Row 2” without a holistic approach.  I want people to succeed at replicating what I’ve come up with.  Which takes some explaining when it comes to technique, yarn and tools.  And depending on your materials, it might require some problem solving too.

So that means more photos and writing.

Anyway, here are some quick shots I took of the final hat before my friend whisked it away tonight.  What d’you think?

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Crochet Patterns, NaBloPoMo

I’ve been working on a Christmas Elf Hat Pattern…


So, I’ve been terrible about updating anyone on what I’ve been creating of late.  And while I want to tell you more about the TARDIS, I also want to share photos of the latest crochet related projects.

As it turns out, the Christmas Elf Hat photos are more easily available at the moment to show you.  So tonight, I’ll fill you in on this.

See, a friend of mine asked me about making a red elf hat for her grandson.  Seems he’s a big fan of the Elf on the Shelf.  And he’d like his own elf hat.

I went digging across the net, but just wasn’t really satisfied with any of the crochet patterns I came across.  And, of course, who am I kidding anyway.  I never stick with a pattern I didn’t write.  I don’t stick to recipes as written, I don’t stick to sheet music without modifications and I don’t stick to any crochet patterns as written either. Often not even my own.

So, I started playing with ideas and working out how I wanted the shaping to work out.

The main thing I noticed while looking at elf hat photos for various patterns is that they don’t always pay attention to how the pointy hat slopes.  And the Elf Shelf guy specifically has a hat that’s generally quite tall and “dunce” like cone in shape.  It’s a gradual incline, and it takes a bit of doing to make sure the lines are subtle in their increase, while also having to contend with a completely different kind of material to make said hat than a little toy with a felt cone on his head.  So I wanted to pay attention to that detail while making something that will actually work on a human head.

Also, I want there to be options.  I haven’t published a ton of patterns mainly because I prefer to write patterns with variations.  There are several in various stages on my computer and in my notebooks.  I like options and I want my fellow crocheters to enjoy those options too.  So I wanted to figure out, what about a brim, what about without, what about this tall, and what about not tall at all?

Right now, I’m working on a toddler size hat.  With variations just for that size, it’s been a lot of work to bring everything together according to international yarn and pattern standards.

Toddler Christmas Elf Hat - By Aberrant Crochet

I’m also getting some help finally from a friend who is a photographer.  I don’t have toddlers at home anymore, so I need to test my design out on someone else’s kid(s).  And I need good photos, not just my cell phone snap shots.  Hopefully I will  be dropping hats off to her for a photo shoot next weekend.

Here’s a sneak peek of one of the variations I’m working with.  It’s getting there.

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Crochet Patterns, NaBloPoMo

Happy New Year Everyone!


Well, it’s 2015.

19 years and 2 weeks ago, John and I got hitched.

I can’t believe it.  ::sniff::

Life flies too fast y’all.

Hug your babies tight.

Savor every second.

Don’t let a day go by that you don’t appreciate something and invest in one more memory that matters.

And don’t get so sucked into survival that you hold back from living.

Happy New Year everyone!

Plan to have a spectacular New Year!

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Tape Ball / Candy Ball – A Hilariously Simple Game For Groups


Looking for fun activities for a party?  Need to kill some time or stall the kids?  Looking for some fun memories to pad your holidays?  Then I might have just the thing for you.

I hadn’t heard of Tape Ball (or Candy Ball or even Saran Wrap Ball) before a few months ago, but I wanted a simple, fun and cheap activity to add to our Teen Halloween Party last month.  And it turned out to be the perfect party experience!  None of the kids had ever played the game and they weren’t sure what to think of it at first.  But as soon as the action started, they were hooked!  By the end, they were yelling and cheering and having a blast.  It was a big hit and a lot of fun!

Apparently some people play this game as part of a Christmas tradition, but I think being mostly made of candy, it’s perfect for Halloween too.

Supplies you will need

Candy
Plastic Wrap
Clear Packing Tape
Bits of wrapping paper or other scraps paper
Torn up grocery bags work too
Other fun prizes
A pair of dice
A pan to roll the dice into

Playing The Game

Have your group sit in a circle on the floor. There’s no minimum or maximum number of people, but I think more than a classroom sized group might be too big.

Figure out who in your group is going first.  Hand them the ball.

Decide if you’re going to go clockwise or counter clockwise, and then hand a pair of dice to the appropriate person sitting next to the person who has the ball.

At “Ready Set Go,” the person with the ball begins trying to find an end of tape so they can begin unwrapping as many layers of the ball as they can, as quickly as they can. (This is not as easy as it sounds.)  Anything that they manage to unwrap, they get to keep!

At the same time, the person with the dice rolls them again and again until they get doubles. Once the second person rolls doubles, the ball immediately passes to them to unwrap, and the dice pass on to the next person in the circle to roll.

The cycle repeats all around the circle, over and over, until the entire ball is unwrapped.

The Ball

Of course, first you have to make your ball.  (This does take time.)

The basic idea is that you use plastic wrap, packing tape, wrapping paper scraps, etc. and you literally wrap and tape candy and other prizes – layer by layer  – into a ball.

Start out with something in the center, like a jingle bell or a rattle or something else noisy.  The noise helps with the game.  Or, do like one family did, and wrap a set of chattering teeth into the middle.  The teeth were all wound up ready to go and scared the bejeezers out of the person who did the last unwrap.

Once you have your nucleus wrapped, add to it layer by layer with candy, socks and underwear, toys, money, weird stuff – whatever suits your fancy and that you think will be fun and appropriate for your players.  Make sure every layer has something wrapped into it.  You want each layer of tape or plastic wrap to b around 18 inches or so long.  You also want your ball to be a pretty good size, and to tape it pretty well (without being completely evil) or the game will be over too quickly.   Unless you plan to use this with little kids, then you’re going to want to ease up on the taping or it might be too hard and frustrating.

I would have liked to have made ours the size of a basket ball, which I read many others have done, but I ran out of tape and plastic wrap.  So instead it was about the size of a small kick ball.  But it was a lot of fun and with 16 or so kids, it took 15-20 minutes to play.

What to put inside?

I used Halloween candy, yo-yos, playing cards, pennies, Christmas socks, dollar store tie, a Christmas music box button from a greeting card (it kept going off inside the ball, so awesome!), jingle bells, bottle caps, milk rings and more in our tape ball.  And when I ran out of plastic wrap, I grabbed grocery bags and whatever else I could find.  It should be pretty hefty when you’re done.

Other tips?  You could also add underwear, creepy things like a toy spider, “chance” cards that make a player perform a task when they unwrap them, extra dice for extra possible twists to the game, money, gift cards, fruit cake, white elephant gifts – you name it! Get creative, because this is a game that let’s you do just that!

Tape Ball Candy Ball Saran Wrap Ball - Fun Game Instructions - by Aberrant Crochet

This is just the beginning!

I wish that I could show you what our Halloween ball looked like, but I didn’t have time before the kids started the game and none of my photos from the game turned out either!

However, here’s a quick shot I took of the making another ball while it was still small. It should give you a good idea of how the ball looks and how to start with making it.

So there you go.  A fun, wholesome activity everyone in the family can enjoy.  Even Grandpa.

So what about you?  Have you ever played Tape Ball or Candy Ball?  How did you play it?  Any tips?  Because I totally want to take this to another level the next time we do this.  Share your stories and tips below!

UPDATE 2015: Aside from comments below, people have reached out on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere to share with me their tape ball game stories!  It’s been a heck of a lot of fun to be able to be a vicarious part of their fun. Families have added money, small tech items, lottery tickets, mementos, video games and more to make their cling wrap balls even more unique.  Crazy love it! Here’s a video from LC about her hit ball made from wrapping paper and foil. Check it out!


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

12 Brilliant Ways To Create More Time To Crochet!

Heartbeat In My Ears…

Jellyfish For A Pet


 

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Halloween, NaBloPoMo

I Have Some Thank You’s To Share


There are some important people and groups to be grateful for today.  I received two contributions this week for my Spain trip.  I know how to reach Doug to thank him, but Donna, EF is very secure, so I have no way to contact you personally to say thank you for your help!  (Thank you for leaving a name!)  So, Doug/Donna – thank you so  very much for your kind words and support: both for my work and for my upcoming trip.

I can’t believe we leave in 98 days!!!  crochethook

If you are unfamiliar with the story about my wish to travel the world to study crochet hooks and the hands that hold them, please read my post: I Want To Travel The World And Meet Other Women Through Crochet!  (Again, not a pickup line.)  That post tells the back story of this crazy idea I have about making a documentary about crocheters around the world, about all the very different kinds of hooks on every continent in the world, and about the hands and stories of the women who own them.

It’s crazy!  And yet, I’ve never been outside the contiguous United States ever in my life.  Ever.  I’ve never even seen Alaska or Hawaii.

So I’m set up to go as a chaperone on my daughter’s AP Spanish trip to Spain.  However, because I’m not staff and because I’m not a student, I’m on my own for all fundraising.  So that’s where selling all my crochet and asking for help comes in, because I’m running out of time.

Thank you so much for the help guys!

I also want to take time to express gratitude for two young marines I know who will not get to spend Thanksgiving home with their family.  Instead of sitting back and relaxing after a hefty meal, they and many other US service people around the world  are working their butts off for us.

So here’s a shout out to all the soldiers, police officers, firemen, doctors and emergency personnel who are working today, keeping watch and being there should they be needed.  To all the people who respond to emergency situations, to the agencies that keep things running and the night watchmen who let us sleep, and to those who volunteer at the food kitchens and keep the roads and transportation open:

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Ergonomics In Crochet Hook Design And The Hands That Use Them

My Crochet Hook Experiment Will Be At Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire! Tomorrow!

What Gripes Me (Crochet Hook Shapes) – Crochet Ruminations

Crochet Hook Engineering – Types of Tools – Crochet Hook Challenge

Crochet Holding Positions For Hooks – A Tutorial

Did You Miss Out On This #Crochet Goodness?
(Twitter crochet chat from around the world!)

Juicy Crochet News: Catch Me In Print!


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Filed under 'Tis the Season, NaBloPoMo

Pumpkin Pie Secrets Plus A Gluten-Free Version


I love the Thanksgiving time of year.  We didn’t keep Christmas when I was a kid, so Thanksgiving was the one time each year that I got to spend with all my other family members, no matter what our religious beliefs at the time.  That one holiday was responsible for most of my memories of my cousins and uncles.  And it’s the one day a year we stop and purposely, as a family, as an example to our children and as a nation, take time to be grateful.  I know many don’t, but in our families, we take it very seriously.  Perhaps because our American family roots, both mine and hubby’s, on all four of our parents’ sides, goes back well over 225 years.

There were many food traditions in my family during the fall and winter seasons, but one absolute must tradition every year (besides turkey) was to have pumpkin pie.  Not sweet potato pie, not pecan pie (though that’s a must for my husband’s family) and not chocolate or apple or any other pie.  Though many of those pies were always present too.

But pumpkin pie…  This was a command performance every year.

If you don’t like pumpkin pie, then I’m going out on a limb and saying, it must be because the only kind you’ve tasted is store bought.  Which is nearly flavorless.  Pumpkin pie should have all the exquisite spices and in my opinion, that is mostly skimped on in commercially produced pies.  And if you think you don’t like homemade pumpkin pie, I’m guessing it was made by someone who didn’t have long pumpkin pie traditions in their family to know how it should taste.  Because pumpkin pie is an amazing custard dessert that easily doubles for a (mostly) nutritious breakfast, with coffee of course.  And those holiday scents don’t hold a candle to the real thing!

There are a couple secrets to how it should be made, of course.  And it doesn’t require growing your own pumpkin.  In some ways, I’d like to think that my family’s long and deep cooking traditions might have some influence on even me today.  They probably don’t, but it’s nice to think they might.

In either case, I do know that this is how my great-great grandmothers liked to make this pie.  They also liked to substitute sweet potatoes when pumpkin wasn’t available or was too expensive to get, but it’s not nearly as good.  Some people can’t tell the difference, but I most certainly can.

Trivia: Did you know that pumpkin custard was often baked not in a pie shell, but inside a pumpkin shell?  And let me tell ya, it’s not the easiest to move around!  (I helped my daughter make it once for a school project.)  Pie shells = way easier.  Pumpkin shells get soft and like to collapse.

Julia's Pumpkin Pie

This is one of my pies, after cutting into it to make sure the custard had set just right. See how dark the orange color is?

1)  Don’t use white sugar.  In fact, I don’t use light brown sugar either.  I use dark brown sugar.  Yep, get the flavorful stuff.  And if you don’t have dark brown sugar, you can try substituting 1/4 cup molasses + 1 cup white sugar for each cup of dark brown sugar you need.  (Mix it well.)

Pumpkin pie should not be a light color.  It should look like a burnt pumpkin color thanks to all the flavor inside!

2)  Pumpkin pie spices should include not only more than a dash of cinnamon, but also cloves, ginger and nutmeg.  And sometimes a smidgen of allspice.  If you have it.

Those two rules right there will go far in making your pie better than anything else you’ve had – providing of course, that you don’t have similar family recipes and already know what I’m talking about!  Time and again, people are amazed how much they do like pumpkin pie when they try mine.  I currently hold about a 90% win-over rate.

Want to take a stab at a delicious pumpkin pie?

Pumpkin Pie:

2 deep-dish pie crusts (homemade is always tastier)
2 eggs, lightly beaten (larger the yolks, the better)
1 15oz can solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or sub 1/4 cup molasses + 1 cup white sugar, mix very well)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (Watkins is the best brand)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves (no more – or it will over power the recipe)
2 dashes of nutmeg
1 dash of allspice (optional)
1 12oz can undiluted evaporated milk (or a 1 1/2 c. half & half)

Prepare pie crust dough according to recipe or package directions.  Mix filling ingredients in order of listing above. Pour into pie crusts.  Bake in preheated 425˚F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350˚F. Bake additional 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool before serving.

Note:  When using a metal or foil pan, bake your pies on a cookie sheet.

Want to make this pumpkin pie gluten-free? 

You can bake it like a crème brûlée custard!  Ditch the pie shell and instead pour your mix into greased oven-proof ramekins or custard cups.  Line a 9×13″ pan with a towel, carefully keeping all edges of the towel inside the pan.  Place the custard cups inside the pan on the towel, then pour hot water around the custard cups and saturate the towel.  (I use a teapot.)  You want the water to come half-way up the side of the cups.  Bake, uncovered, at 350° for the first 20 minutes.  At this point, if you want to add a topping like pecans or streusel, this is the time to add it.  Then bake it another 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Total cook time this way is 50-60 minutes (or until knife comes out clean).

And there you go. Pumpkin pie heaven!  crochethook

Happy Thanksgiving preparation day, everyone!  If you try my recipe, you must be sure to let me know!

PS  🙂  You may share my recipe as long as you include my name (Julia M. Chambers) and a link to this post on my blog. Thanks!  🙂

Go ahead and click a link below to pin or share this post. You know you want to! : )


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Nature’s Seasons Are Unique At Our Place….


Butterflies come about April/May for our flower bushes. That’s when the backyard is all a buzz and flutter.

Mid-July through September, that’s when you can count 100 dragonflies in my yard. I don’t know why they like my yard so much, because they don’t hover over the neighbors. I thought perhaps it had something to do with the weeds, but now we have real grass this year, so I dunno. I keep trying to photograph them, but they never turn out. Too small and fast.

Cardinals, all year round. I’ve enjoyed watching mom and dad bring at least two groups of fledglings this year to the bird feeder to feed.

Cicadas, they sing their songs about August on.

Geckos and lizards – our back yard is surrounded by an old rock wall, which the gecko kind all love. At night they come out and hunt moths on our house windows while entertaining our cats and sometimes frustrating the adults when the curtains get ruined. My kids used to watch them all the time when they were little.

Crickets. They come about twice a year here and the store fronts sometimes hint at something from Revelations. They don’t get into our place much due to the neighborhood cats.  Speaking of crickets, one just sailed around my ceiling fan. I thought he was a moth at first. My cats are so excited.

Bats are generally always around since we live close to the Round Rock colony. We have a larger lot that’s a bit bare after a storm took out a tree. The bats like to sweep in circles around our lawn space and then zoom to the bugs drawn to the street light across the way.

Spiders. I remember one year when it seemed a bumper crop had hatched all around Austin and the sky was full of silk balloon fluffs as if freshly blown from giant trees.

It was amazing.

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Kumihimo Could Be The Ultimate Stash Buster


Today was well spent at A Good Yarn taking a beginning Kumihimo class from Jeannie.  She’s a good teacher!  And the class proved to me what I suspected…  Kumihimo might just be the ultimate stash buster.

Kumihimo is the Japanese term and method for braiding.  There are many different types, but we learned a basic yatsu umi, or 8-strand round braid.  Jeannie even introduced us to using beads.  For a basic yatsu umi starter project, we each started with four strands of about two yards each, doubled over to make eight strands to work with, and create a key chain.  Most everyone else stopped with a normal sized key chain, but since I was camping out for part of the day anyway, I kept going until I had no more threads left to work with!  So mine’s actually long enough for a necklace now.  I’m thinking about taking the split ring off and instead adding a decorative clasp for an offset design.  Maybe add a crochet element.  Not sure yet how, but pretty sure this is going to be a necklace.

The fun thing about Kumihimo (and I should have taken some photos of Jeannie’s examples to do her justice), is that you can use up scraps of yarn and thread that might not be long enough to do much else with.  She had examples of several made from a variety of yarns, thick and thin, including pigtail-eyelash.  How much stash you can bust with braiding depends on your end project idea, of course, but it adds one more thing to my bucket of tools and growing skills.  I look at kumihimo and see possibilities for jewelry, where crochet might not give me the result I want, but also, I think this could make a much stronger, less stretchy purse strap for some of my weighty beaded purses, over crochet.  One of my fellow classmates mentioned wanting to make some for decorating Christmas presents.

Here are some photos of my yatsu umi.

image

This is the basic beginner's small Kumihimo kit, long with my yatsu umi hanging out the backside.

image

The yatsu umi has a spiral effect when you use contrasting colors.

image

Beading adds a nice element to the spiral braid.

image

My yatsu umi is long enough to make a necklace! I'm thinking I might take off the split ring and instead turn this into an offset necklace with a decorative clasp.

If you find yourself in Prescott, AZ, I can’t recommend the local yarn shoppe – A Good Yarn – enough. They are incredibly helpful, friendly and a bright spot to visit. I also LOVE Debra’s “Buck A Ball” community donation project. Drop off your unused yarn leftovers, or balls you aren’t going to use, and Debra puts them in a box for $1 a ball, with all proceeds going to the local women’s shelter. Umm, yes I found some goodies to buy in the box too. Gracious and community oriented, this store is one of the most crochet friendly yarn stores I’ve ever shopped. And you can tell that Prescott locals value them too, as they stayed busy with many local friends coming and going, friendly chatter, along with newbies who dropped by today as well. I met a lady from South Africa today who said she’d heard so much about this store she just had to come. Seriously, you can’t help but be in great hands!

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Carma, Jeannie and Debra! When you are in Prescott, you must visit these super friendly ladies and tell them I sent you!

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Artist Information & Notes, Crochet Community, Crochet Education

Up And Coming Projects…


NaBloPoMo is getting close to an end!   And so far I’ve managed to stay on track!  It’s been a good exercise for me to pursue different writing ideas and a kick in the rear to get it done!  As I look ahead to what’s left of the year, Christmas is not far away now and I have a trip, custom orders, more shows and school fundraiser stuff to keep up with.  Whew!  Not to mention a project my brother and I might collaborate on.  We’re still hashing out the details to see if we think it’s viable or not.  Oh! And thanks to Facebook, three childhood girlfriends and I are planning a slumber party during winter break!  I’m so excited!  It’ll be our first Christmas occasion together!  😀  I have to thank Facebook for making it possible to bring people I love back into my life.

Today is run around crazy and do all the laundry day so there’s plenty of clothes for everyone.  And I need to clean out the car and get some of my show stuff from last week put into storage.  Plus I couldn’t sleep much last night, so I worked on these two hat beauties for a custom order.  Though similar, each hat is made with different yarns, different hooks and different stitches to achieve the same essential look.  Except for the squiggles.  They are identical.  This will give my customer a choice as far as color saturation.  My daughter was kind enough to model them for me.  Even letting her true nature out during one shot!  I’m playing around with lighting, with flash and without flash, trying to get the purples to really come out.  So there are a few photos here, but only two hats.  Can you tell the difference?  We call these Squiggle Hats, named by my daughter when she was little.  They are an Aberrant Crochet exclusive design.

All my cameos sold at the last couple shows.  I hunted for more like them, but couldn’t find the exact colors in those sizes.  And my original supplier is no longer supplying.  I did however find similar and a mauve design I like pretty well.  (OK, I’m picky.)  I also found two new lacy frames I really like that are reproductions of antique frames.  I can’t wait to work some crochet lace into them!   Still waiting on the right sized cameos for the smaller frame though.  Plus, I came across an estate collection of Gothic skull cameo pieces from an old jewelry store that I scarfed up too.  They will be quite fun to work with and I know my daughter’s friends will be interested at the school bazaar coming up.  Since the bazaar too often has little of interest to teens, and more of interest to the younger kids, I’m happy to oblige hunting down some steam punk/goth rock/pirate stuff for them. Never was into teddy bears, me.

I feel like I’m forgetting something though.  And that’s one of those big fears I always have.  I hate forgetting things.  So I’m wracking my brain today, making my “Remember The Milk” lists and trying to meditate on details in a logical order to see what might be missing.  If you haven’t heard of it, Remember The Milk is a handy app that allows you to create multiple lists.  There is a free version, which you can just use on your computer and a pro version that allows you to sinc it with your smart phone multiple times a day.  I have not fully explored the whole platform, but so far I’m finding it very handy.  I keep a perpetual grocery list this way too.  As soon as I remember something, I type it into my list.  When it’s time to go to the store, I sinc everything to my phone and voila! I have my list everywhere I go!  Which is good, because I lose paper lists.  Chronically.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll remember that thing that’s bugging me.  In the mean time, check out the pics!

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Apparently It Is Easy To Make Butter When A Ninja Is Involved – A Thanksgiving Mishap


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Lightly sweetened butter, that was supposed to be whipped cream.  I poured off the liquid already.

Everyone knows that whipped cream is a requirement for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

It’s pumpkin pie season!  My favorite.  I didn’t have ready made whipped cream, so I whipped out the carton of heavy whipping cream I keep on reserve for chocolate ganache and whipped up a batch. LOL. See how punny I am?

I love this time of year.  Pulling out old family recipes, taking time not to be stressed about the world and just be thankful in this sacred space.  It’s a special day of magic really.  The kind that only love and gratitude can create.  I like this day.

ANYway… When the need arises, I usually whip up little batches of whipped cream with one of my small food processors. (Only the real stuff for me.)  It’s a great way to cheat at all sorts of things, like whipped cream and cream gravy. I have cooked from scratch all my life, but I have never really been able to master a rue. How do I get around that?  Blend some flour, spices and milk in a blender and you’ve got instant cream gravy or stew thickener. Corn starch too. I love me my food processors!

Truth be told, I’ve been through a lot of them. I love frozen fruit smoothies too. Been making them since I got out of college and could buy my first machine. However, I like the all fruit kind and I don’t water them down with ice. Which is actually harder on the machines. Ice shatters easily.  Frozen fruit does not.  Those drink wands? I burnt out three of them. Along with several small food choppers and blenders. Then there was the small Cuisinart I brutalized until it finally had plastic bits cracking off it from the sheer vibrational impact of frozen fruit blending in a machine that was never designed for what I was putting it through. But my frozen goodie product was yum!

Later I finally got a Magic Bullet. OMG! I loved it! Still have it too. (If you don’t want yours, I’ll take it!)  However, you can only make a small bit at a time.  And my kids love smoothies too.

So then came the opportunity to own a Ninja. Sam’s Club had one left on clearance for half price. It’s one of the smaller models, but I took one look and grabbed it. Hell yeah. Strawberry/Spinach smoothie tonight!

It’s a little finicky, but my Ninja works well. The larger model might be less finicky.  Mine’s really designed to make the smoothies that you water down with ice. And if you do, you will have no trouble with it. However, as you already know, I don’t like adding ice. Probably doesn’t help that I don’t have an ice maker. But I did figure out that if I toss in the strawberries and other frozen fruit in alone, before adding spinach or anything else, it will powder them nicely and then I can easily add my yogurt and greens. But not until then. (It helps to use sliced frozen strawberries too, btw.) Once you have that figured out, it works like a dream blending up a whole pitcher of smoothie at a time. 😀

So back to whipped cream. A small food processor will help you whip up the good stuff in no time without pulling out your blender and all the clean up. (I’m all for practical and the least amount of work.)  Add your cream, a tad bit of honey for sweetener and blend until it looks right. Voila. Whipped cream.

Along come Ninja. This is the first time I’ve used it for whipped cream. In about 20-30 seconds I had whipped cream. Upon tasting, though, hubby didn’t feel it was sweet enough. So I added more honey and blended away. About another thirty seconds later, I had chunks in my cream and by another 30, it was butter. It wasn’t until I opened it up that I realized what was going on.

Stupid Ninja, I wanted whipped cream for my pie and now I don’t have any at all.  So now I have instead a delicate sweetened cream butter I’ll have to decide how I want to use. Grandma Leona would have been jealous.

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts

Vintage Finds Slated For New Life


Some of my latest finds. A couple will take up residence with the costume gallery. The rest will go into my store.  I’ll have fun figuring out how I want to enhance or embellish with crochet.  Though I pick up vintage pieces with all this in mind, I also usually bring everything to shows and will put into my store when I haven’t gotten to them yet.  I can only work so fast with my two hands, so I’ll toss a coin and see what gets attention first.  If it disappears from my listings, it probably means I’m working with it.  Unless it’s show-time.  Everything in my on-line store goes with me to shows.

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Such fun goodies!

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The curl is interesting. My daughter has another stamped with the brand name "Monet." This one looks older and has no stamp at all. I think I want to have an expert look at it.

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The grape pearl cluster is a neat find! Also pictured is a lone earring that lost its partner. It shall become a pendant for one of my crochet chokers.

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This owl pendant is a good 5 inches long! I'm going to have so much fun with this one.

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The cross is definitely going into the costume collection at home. Love the faded ribbon and tarnished brass. Haven't decided on the olive suede thong necklace.

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All my Xmas trees sold last winter, so I was happy to find another. Popular holiday gift. And I love the coin montage.

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I'm thinking the Texas star is mine. The ring is missing pearls, however, the two left leave it balanced and it still looks cute. That sun pin is heavy-duty and will look great as a center piece on a hat.

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Photos from Austin Craft Riot – Happening Now!


Freebies I donated to the goody boxes.image

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Great Crowd!

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Some items that have sold.

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Doing the Show Circuit

Donations Needed for Local Hospital….


I’m helping to coordinate an effort to gather clothing for the emergency room at South Austin Hospital. They are mostly in need of men’s, but could use some women’s. Clothing often has to be cut off of the injured and especially when they are homeless, they are in need of donations to give patients a set of clothes to leave in. As their donation closet is currently fairly empty and the other night they had no shirt for someone in need, I decided to help. Size large or even some XL is best and fairly generic clothing is best, like jeans or sweat pants and t-shirts. And again, they need men’s clothing the most. Let me know if you want to help and let’s coordinate.

Thanks!

Blessings,
Jules

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Community

When Someone Goes Beyond Courtesy to Kindness….


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Yesterday was a busy day. I had a customer to meet to deliver two custom hats for. It was actually a bit of a drive for me. He was a return customer, though, and for that thanks, I was happy to meet him closer to his home. And I knew he was studying for finals all day as well, so it’d be hard for him to take off a lot of time just to pick up his order. Dear hubby kept the kids so I could take care of business. And besides, it gave me an excuse to go by Central Market.

When I got to the Starbucks we were to meet at, my customer was nowhere to be found and I hadn’t realized my cell phone was dead. To make matters worse, the cigarette lighter in my car is broken. (And I mean broken.) So there’s no way to charge my phone on the run.

So I talked to an employee at Starbucks to see if there was a phone I could borrow. He said they didn’t have a public phone, but to check out the AT&T store.

When I walked in to AT&T Mobility, down on the corner of 45th and Lamar, a sales support rep named Sajid Sanchez was there to greet me immediately. I explained that the folks at the coffee shop had sent me over to see if I could borrow a phone. He immediately said, “Sure! Use any demo phone on the walls.” I was grateful. Especially since I’d just realized that my customer’s number was actually a long distance number. Never matters on my cell phone, but would have mattered had I borrow a land line.

I managed to make my call. My customer was so busy studying that he forgot the time and said he’d be right over in a few minutes. I hung up relieved that I hadn’t driven 30 minutes just to turn around and go back home.

I thanked Mr. Sanchez for the loan of the phone and explained that I really did appreciate it since I was due to meet a customer and my own cell phone was dead. “Well,” he said, “What kind of phone is it? Perhaps we can charge it up for you here.”

I hesitated, wondering if this would turn into a hard sell to buy an AT&T phone. “Well,” I said, “It’s a Sprint phone….”

And that’s where Mr. Sanchez surprised me. “No matter, let’s see if we can try charging it anyway,” he said.

Mr. Sanchez proceeded to try several jacks around the store. Then he even raided through a box of oddball chargers they had stored away in a closet, trying out each one, looking to see if one of them might help charge up my phone a bit so I’d have a little juice at least for a little while. He was very polite and professional and not once did he say anything about buying a phone or switching my service.

In the end, there wasn’t a charger he could find to help me, and I needed to get back to the coffee shop to meet my customer. But I appreciated, none-the-less, that he went above and beyond. And I really don’t think it had anything to do with the season either.

I wasn’t even an AT&T customer. I’ve never had any cell service other than Sprint. But here was someone, even in a sales environment where time really can be money, who stopped and offered the time to see if he could help me out. With no strings attached. That to me really stands out. That’s the way business is supposed to be. When you focus on helping others, the rest just falls into place. And as a small business owner who knows a little something about sales, I really appreciate it too. So I went back over, after making my delivery, and asked Sajid for his business card so I could blog about his customer service and share this story with you.

So folks, if you might be in the need for a new phone or service, perhaps you might want to talk to Sajid Sanchez over at AT&T Mobility on the corner of 45th and Lamar in Austin, TX. I was very impressed with his professionalism and I’m sure you will be too. The main number there is: 512.879.8156.

Oh and hey, if you do decide to call or come by and check them out, please tell them that you read my blog post about Mr. Sanchez. I think his superiors ought to know they have a valuable employee. It would be a wonderful gift to him if you said a kind word on his behalf too.

So thanks again Mr. Sanchez – and Merry Christmas!

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Filed under 'Tis the Season, Community, Inspiration, Random Thoughts