What to make?

Every year I look forward to my husband’s family reunion. It’s a grand time with tons of family (obviously), food, and old-fashioned Texan fun! We all catch up, overeat, and then sit down to watch the show. The show happens to be the patriarchs of the family hilariously running an auction of goods brought in by the family. Some are purchased, some are of the white elephant gift variety, and lots are homemade. Last year I donated this, my labor of love:

African Flower Blanket

It was so fun to make, but I procrastinated and finished weaving in ends on the drive there! But THIS year I’m starting early. Er, planning to start early. First I have to figure out what to make! I plan to go with a blanket again (if only to narrow down my options ;)). Here are the current top contenders (click on the photos to go to the patterns):

 WEEKEND IN STOCKHOLM THROW

1: Weekend in Stockholm Throw by Debbie Stoller

Larksfoot Blanket

2: Larksfoot Throw, courtesy of Meet Me at Mikes

an 'ordinarily extraordinary' blanket

3: An ‘ordinarily extraordinary’ blanket, courtesy of dottie angel

And there’s always 4: a random assortment of granny squares.

And so, I say to you, VOTE! Please, please, please don’t make me make my own decision.* Which do you think is best?  Last year my blanket was one of the top sellers, so I can’t disappoint! (No pressure though..) SO, which should I make? :)

*I reserve the right to make my own decision if I decide I don’t like yours. 😉

Happy Belated V-Day!

heart tights diy

I hope you all had a wonderful Saint Valentine’s Day :) Ours was so hectic, but beautiful!! Lots of little specials throughout the day ♥

There are many big things happening in my world right now. Everything is hectic! We were in New Orleans over the weekend for my soccer tournament – super fun, but exhausting! Long story short: drove all day Friday, won first game Saturday 3-0, got a concussion in game 2 (we lost), French Quarter in the evening, cheered on my team Sunday (ended up in 3rd place!), and a looong drive home. Enjoyable craziness!

More news to come….but that’s all for tonight 😉 Oh! And you can find the DIY for those adorable heart tights right here, on the pineneedle collective. Make cute things! xo

Menu Planning

Last summer, my husband Alex and I decided to go on a low-fat vegan diet. He stayed on it for the planned 3 months (during which we also cut out processed sugar), and I decided to stay on it indefinitely. Of course, since I do most of the cooking, he’s on the diet at home still 😉 We also cut out most processed foods, including faux meats. As a result, even though we ate relatively healthily before, we are much healthier now! But it also means that we cook a lot.

Menu planning is key. Since we both work full-time, it’s hard to go shopping every day. Knowing exactly what we need for our meals means we can make one quick trip for several days worth of food, without wasting any money on items we won’t use. So I set aside time to research recipes and plan meals ahead of time. It’s a great strategy no matter what your diet.

Menu Planning

1. Find a couple good cookbooks and/or online sources. I like to have both, so I can search depending on my mood. My current favorite cookbooks are Color Me Vegan and Big Vegan. Some great online sources are Pinterest (check out my meal board), Whole Foods, and Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

2. Pick out your recipes. I like to pick a 1-2 that are intense (because I love a challenge!), 3-4 that take 30-60 minutes, and 1-2 that are very quick and easy. It’s good to have a variety. I also try to use recipes with  some overlapping ingredients, especially with things like parsley that come in a big bunch. If you find more recipes than you need for the week, tag them for later use.

3. Plan your week. Going out Wednesday? Leave it blank. Are Mondays always exhausting? Choose an easy meal. Can you use leftover rice from one meal in another? Plan it out. I use “The Eat Sheet” from Mommy Tracked – it’s a great printable menu planner that includes space to list ingredients (pictured above).

4. Grocery shop. I usually get 3-4 days worth of food at a time, making sure to always have staples (e.g. grains, canned beans, olive oil) in stock. This way the veggies are fresh, and I have room to shift the menu a bit if need be. (Side note: I use this grocery list)

5. Cook! Since everything is planned out and ready, there’s no last minute scrambling (or snacking for two hours while you try to figure out what to cook…or is that just me?) You just get to have fun trying new recipes and recooking old favorites :)

Well, I hope that’s helpful. I know it’s really come in handy for me! Frequently one week’s menu will last a week and a half (if we have dinner at a friend’s on night, decide to have leftovers another, etc.). Since I only buy food for a few days, I can wing it in between shopping trips. Sometimes I leave a couple days blank just to experiment!

From across the blogiverse…

As I am exhausting myself at a soccer tournament in New Orleans right now, I thought I could leave you with some fabulous finds from the blogosphere.

Have you noticed that geometrics are totally in right now? I knew that repeating, usually symmetrical geometrics look great on fabric, but I’ve seen crazy assymetrical designs popping up all across Etsy (like this necklace ♡) and Pinterest (like this wall thing) A new fad, perhaps? What do you think? Either way, I like this triangle-themed mobile, spotted over on Smile and Wave. Don’t you want to make one? Project ReStyle: Modern Mobile

I started one of these a while back, but lost motivation. Seeing it again (and accompanied by a tutorial!) makes me want to try again! Weave your own basket out of newspaper with the help of nifty thrifty things:

As a long-time fan of stripes and a new-found lover of crochet, I have to share these crocheted striped hand warmers from the Purl Bee! In case we get another cold snap (hey, it’s possible!), I’ll whip up a pair of these 😀Whit's Knits: Crocheted Striped Hand Warmers

And I must not be quite over Valentine’s Day yet, because I think this simple balsa wood heart on Design*Sponge is just super cute! diy project: scandinavian-inspired wooden heart

And make some adorable kitchen utensil holders with this tutorial from Crafts by Amanda:Make Your Own Kitchen Utensil Holders

Have a fun and crafty Saturday! 😀

a surprise and a good book

Lego creationCreationary

I threw a surprise Lego party for Alex’s birthday Thursday, and I just have to tell you that it was a hit! Good dinner, great friends, and lots of Legos!! I also decorated his cake with chocolate Lego men. [Here’s how: Buy a Lego minifigure ice cube tray. Melt white chocolate and color it yellow. Fill the mold and wait for it to set. Pop out, and draw faces with black icing gel!] It was awesome. He got lots of Lego gifts and afterward we played Creationary. I love theme parties 😀

In other news, I’m in love with this book:

You may have seen me tweet about it a couple times. I’ve now read it cover to cover! It contains tutorials – some are simple and obvious, some are novel and interesting. It gives many ideas for living sustainably (cheaply, resourcefully) by reusing things in new ways, by creating your own natural products instead of buying chemicals, and by many putting to use things you’d otherwise throw away. And it includes a ton of profiles on art projects and artists who have done all these things! There are chairs made from suitcases, chandeliers from eyeglasses, and speakers from paper cups. There are vintage products made new, packaging made into furniture, and a million other trash-to-treasure stories. I’ve found it to be a great source of inspiration, and I bet you’d like it, too :)

Valentine DIY Round-up

No other holiday lends itself to homemade gifts quite like Valentine’s Day. It’s a great way of showing someone you care!

Twig & Thistle helps you sweeten someone’s day with her DIY stickersNaturally Sweet DIY Valentine

Print adorable class Valentines (and find some sweet party ideas) on One Charming Partyprintable class valentine

Roxycraft shares an adorable amigurumi heart patternFree Amigurumi Heart Pattern

I still love these sweet fabric window Valentines from the Purl BeeMolly's Sketchbook: Fabric Window Valentines

String up a heart garland with a DIY from Design*Spongediy project: molly’s crochet heart garland

Dip your own chocolate-covered strawberries with Food NetworkChocolate-Dipped Strawberries

I hope this gives you some ideas for sweetening up your upcoming V-Day! Do you have any crafts already on your list?

Sewing a body pillow

The other “Home Improvements” project I finished last week was a body pillow for our bedroom. I created it to fit into our plan for a cohesive style. I decided to use two fabrics to give it a little extra, and I’m very happy with the result. Though I made a few (fixable) mistakes as I went, it’s one of the few finished products I’ve been able to call perfect.

Body Pillow

Special considerations:

  • Color: I chose silver and grey to fit into our overall palette while contrasting each other enough to express the difference between materials
  • Material: Silk and velvet fit the feel of the room, but they are slightly more difficult to work with. I used a smaller sewing needle and lots of pins.
  • Zipper: Since I want the pillow to last, I included a zipper in the design – this way I can change out the stuffing if it starts to lump, and remove it for cleaning.

Cutting FabricSewing Silk

1. Measure and cut fabric. I used the full width of my velvet, then added enough silk on each end to make it the width of our bed (adding seam allowances).

2. Pin and sew end pieces to middle. I made each silk end piece exactly the same size, then pinned them to the ends of the velvet (right sides facing) and sewed together.

Layout fabricAlign fabric

3. Line up all pieces and trim. I first made this as one large rectangle, then cut it in half (to make the 2 sides) and trimmed each to match up.

4. Pin together. Make sure all your seams are aligned!

Pin ZipperTurn

5. Add the zipper (optional). Design Sponge has a great tutorial here. Put it in a place it won’t be noticed – mine is along the bottom (but not the whole length). Don’t forget to unzip it when you’re done, or turning will be a pain!

6. Pin and sew around. Remember to back-tack! (If you don’t add a zipper, you’d better leave an opening to turn.) Go ahead and trim any bulky seams and clip corners, too.

7. Turn right side out, stuff, zip. (No zipper people: sew the gap closed.) You’re done!

Quick & Easy Cushion Tutorial

Chase on his new dog bed

I made mine to be a dog bed for Chase, but this could also be a floor pillow, a bench cushion, or a million other things – the possibilities are endless!

Supplies:

  • Large pillow case (or fabric, folded) [Mine was $2 on clearance at Ikea!]
  • Fabric scraps and/or stuffing
  • Sewing machine, pins, thread, scissors

Now for the instructions!

Cut seams2 squares and 2 stripsSew strips togetherPin sides to square

  1. Cut your pillow case in half to form a square from the closed end (or cut 2 squares from your fabric). Turn inside out; remove side seams and cut fold so you have 2 squares.
  2. From remaining pillow case (or fabric), cut 2 strips along the cut edge – the width will be the depth of your cushion.
  3. Cut one side seam off each piece, so that they are strips instead of circles (each should now be the length of 2 sides of your square – the seam in the middle will be a corner).
  4. Pin the 2 strips right sides together. Sew each end. You now have the 4 sides of your cushion, forming a square.
  5. Pin the sides to one square of fabric, right sides together. Sew around.
  6. Now pin the second square to the open sides. Sew, leaving a 4in. gap.
  7. Turn and stuff! [I used fabric scraps I’ve been saving forever!] Sew gap closed.
  8. Place in a cozy place and add sleepy dog (Optional ;))

Sew, right sides togetherLeave 4" gap for turningStuff with fabric scrapsscrap-eating monster! nom nom

I tried to make this really simple, so I hope it makes sense for everyone. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions! Now go make and enjoy your quick & easy cushions 😀

Sleepy dog on his new dog bed

Santa Threads

It’s Thursday Threads time! But today, in honor of a Handmade Holiday, I’m sharing some awesome winter clothing tutorials!

A Santa Hat by Puppy52Dolls. It’s for a Blythe doll, but you can customize it for any size!Santa’s Hat pattern

The Purl Bee has a tutorial for these beautiful flip-top mittens:Hand Warmers and Flip Top Mittens

Make a festive headband with creativeyarn:

headband-with-bow

This patchwork scarf by Sew, Mama, Sew! is adorable for kids or adults!Patchwork Scarf Tutorial

You can find these toe-up socks on Knitty:toe-up short-row sock worksheet

And make these adorable tie on slippers from Cut Out + Keep:The Elle Tie On Slippers

Handmade Holiday: Sweetness

In addition to the Holiday Bread in a Jar and Peppermint Marshmallow recipes, I thought I would share a few that I’ve found online that just look delectable. These are recipes that I think would be great for holiday parties, for a quiet night at home, or to give as gifts!

Eggnog Fudge by Recipe Girl (who also has a list of amazing Christmas cookies):

Eggnog Fudge

Hot Chocolate on a stick by Giver’s Log:Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Homemade Cocoa and Chocolate Ganache from In Jennie’s Kitchen :homemade hot cocoa + chocolate ganache recipe

Gingerbread men from Joy of Baking: Gingerbread Men Recipe

Crunch Top Apple Pie by Paula Dean on the Food Network:Crunch Top Apple Pie