Thursday, August 9, 2018

Bracelet Making The Easy Way

Attention all Mimis! Or anyone who needs a fun project for kids. We made these friendship bracelets at Mimi Camp and both girls loved making them. The four year old could do this by herself...after I got the yarns set up in the little loom. (And she taught Daddy-O how while I was taking a shower one night.) And the seven year old actually got out of the wading pool one afternoon to go work on her bracelet.

There are so many ways to make friendship bracelets. Some have beautiful complicated patterns. But this method using the cardboard loom is by far the easiest I've ever seen. It's perfect for young children. But the adults who have done this have also found it strangely addictive.

You can find instructions, both written and video, online by googling "friendship bracelet cardboard loom." But I'll show you what we did. First I cut cardboard circles from a shoebox. I traced the top of a Tervis tumbler to get my circle pattern.

Then you mark 8 spot around the circle. You don't need to measure anything. Just mark top and bottom. Then halfway between those marks, use your pencil to mark the sides. Then make the last marks halfway between the four "north-south-east-west" marks. If you are a little off with your spacing, it won't matter. I measured nothing!

Cut a little slit at each mark, about 1/4 inch. Then poke a hole in the center. I used a nail to make the hole. Then I used a pencil to enlarge the hole enough to get the yarn through it. You can use scissors, a pencil, or anything you can poke through the cardboard.

Cut 7 strands of yarn or craft cord or embroidery floss (don't separate the strands) about 20-22 inches long for a child's bracelet. Make longer strands if you want an ankle bracelet. Or, a grownup bracelet. We used leftover sock yarn for one bracelet and embroidery floss for the other. You can buy a package of craft cord or embroidery floss for under $4 at a craft/hobby store if you don't have leftover yarn at home.

Poke all seven strands of yarn through the hole and tie a knot on the underside (so the yarn doesn't pull through) about an inch or so from the end. Yes. Tie all the strands together. I used a pencil to push the yarn through.

Then drape the yarn strands over the top and tuck one strand of yarn into seven of the slots. Leave one slot empty and turn that one "toward your tummy." That's how I explained it to the girls. Always keep the empty slot "toward your tummy."

Starting with the yarn to the right of the empty slot, count three yarns to the right. (You can also work to the left if that feels more comfortable. But only go in one direction.)

And move yarn #3 to the empty slot. Rotate the circle so that the empty slot is "toward your tummy" and do that again. (You can also work to the left if that feels more natural. Just make sure you always go in the same direction.)

As you continue moving yarn #3 to the empty slot, the braid will begin to grow on the underside of the circle. Give it a tug every now and then to pull it down. The girls got so excited when they could see their bracelets growing.

We also figured out that every few moves, we needed to run our fingers down through the strands of yarn to keep them untangled. Just like you would run your fingers through hair to untangle it.

When the bracelet is long enough—for these little girls, we made the braid 5-1/2 inches long—take the seven yarns loose from the loom, pull the bracelet down through the loom and cut the yarn a couple of inches above the end of the braid. Trim off the ends (or not) to suit you.

We used the simplest of joins. I untied the original knot and then tied the two ends together. You can check this video for other ways to make a join. Make sure you don't tie it too tightly. I also measured generously and had extra yarn at both ends. That was trimmed off later. I found it was easier to tie and untie knots when there was enough to work with.

Little Sister and Baby Girl wore their bracelets home and asked for me to start another one for each of them so they could work on them in the long car ride home "so we won't be bored." That was a grand idea, but Baby Girl was asleep before we were very far down the interstate. But they have their looms set up and ready to go at home.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Baked Bowties w/Tomatoes, Spinach & Mozzarella

Baked Bowties w/Tomatoes, Spinach & Mozzarella

Here is a recipe that I've posted before, but it's been ages since I made it. Maybe you've forgotten about this one, too. Or, maybe you've never see it if you are new here.

It was our dinner on the first night of Mimi Camp. Mommy brought the girls to the farm and they arrived just as this was coming out of the oven. Both little girls ate heartily. Maybe it was because they were excited about camp. But they must have also loved the pasta because they had seconds. When we finished the meal, we made an official declaration that "Mimi Camp has begun."

This recipe is great for serving to your vegetarian friends. Or, for the nights you want a meatless meal. I won't wait so long before I make it again.


3 cups uncooked bowtie pasta*
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained 
2 cups Alfredo pasta sauce (I used a 15-oz refrigerated Buitoni sauce)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
2 handfuls baby spinach

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with PAM. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat tomatoes to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for  6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is nearly evaporated. Stir in spinach just to wilt it.

Put Alfredo sauce into a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 90-seconds to heat. Stir in shredded cheese. Heat another 30-seconds and stir until cheese melts. (Mine usually is not totally melted.) Mix in tomato-spinach mixture. 

Put pasta in the baking dish and pour sauce over it. Stir gently to mix it all. 

Bake uncovered, about 30 minutes, or until hot in center.

*Make note this does not take a whole box of pasta—if your box is 16 oz. 

Mommy makes this at home and says she adds more spinach to hers. And she coarsely chops the spinach, too.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mimi Camp 2018

Another Mimi Camp has come and gone. It was a success! Did we do all that I had planned? No. Did they like all the activities? No. Did everything go smoothly? Mostly.  But they both said, "We want Mimi Camp to last forever!" (For the record, Daddy-O and I couldn't last "forever" doing all we did last week.)

If you are planning a Mimi Camp—or Nana Camp, or Auntie Camp—know that there are as many ways to do a "camp" as there are Mimis. You plan it to suit you and your littles. But here is a peek at what we did with ours for five days.

Every morning starts with "the box." There is something in the box that is related to the day's activity. One day our box had yarn for loom knitting and a jar of applesauce for baking muffins. I'll be honest there was a day we never did the activity from the box. My own motto for camp is "go with the flow."

Making bag puppets and putting on an elaborate puppet show was a hit with the girls. I'm so glad I didn't throw out the giant cardboard box a few weeks ago in my big cleaning out.

It was Baby Girl's first time coming to "camp" and we had worried about her spending the night here without her mommy. Plus, we worried that she would not go to sleep well here. She is famous for not going to sleep easily. Those worries were all wasted energy. They were so tired at night that everyone was ready for bed. (She did fall out of bed once, but crawled right back in.)

They both love to bake and they requested that we make applesauce muffins. Then we prepared a snack tray for a visitor that came to the farm that afternoon.

We took them to the town park with the splash pad and then came back to the backyard sprinklers. We lucked out with incredible weather all week which made outdoor time fun. They loved the wading pool in the yard and juice popsicles and lots of splashing.

There were pre-breakfast games of "gold fish." By the end of the week, Baby Girl knew it was called Go Fish. We visited a cousin who taught them to play Chinese Checkers. And Daddy-O played Candy Land with them. There were some serious lessons in fairness and good sportsmanship that happened during the games.

Paints. Markers. Crayons. All the things that are messy were fun were good camp activities. But neither girl wanted to finger paint. "Too messy!" Now, that surprised me.

And in a few days,  I'll share the how-to for making bracelets that was the craft they loved best. Easy enough for a four year old to do, and interesting enough to keep the almost-eight year old engaged.

We live in the country, on a farm, where there is lots of space for running and racing and all things with wheels. For the suburban dwelling children it was paradise. Bikes, scooters, wagons, cars, coasters. They did them all. No wonder they were tired at night. And we were tired at night.

Last year Little Sister fixed some party foods to surprise Daddy-O and it was so much fun that she talked about it all year. Now she says, "It's a tradition." So we did it again. Don't tell her, but it's a great way to clean out the refrigerator on the last night.

We used the last of the vegetables that we snacked on during the week to make a vegetable tray and finished up the chicken salad and pimento cheese to make little sandwiches. Little Sister set the table (see the Christmas napkins?) and they both cut flowers for the centerpiece. It's not the food that so important for a's all in the presentation. Fancy trays. Tiered servers. Paper doilies. And voilĂ , it's a party!

I let them do all the work. It was going well until I realized that Baby Girl was sucking the juice off all the pineapple chunks before she put them on the toothpicks! We made a tray especially for her, and her sister finished the rest for us.

At the final night party, we officially declared that camp had ended. And the next morning, it was time to drive them back to their home. They live in another state, a few hours away. They won't be back here at the farm until Thanksgiving. But we have lots of fun memories to last us until then.



You surely have noticed that there are no ads on this blog. There are no places to click so that I'm making money from the blog. (Hats off to those who can do this, though.)  So this is purely a recommendation from my experience...

These paint sets from Crayola are by far the easiest and least messy to use of any I'm seen. I get them at Michael's. These are pricier than other Crayola sets, but you can use a Michael's coupon to get them cheaper. There are always coupons.

Even the four year old can open and close the little paint pots by herself. The palette holding the paints keeps them from spilling. And the brush is actually a decent one. I also use small jars with a couple of inches of water for brush cleaning. Plastic cups tip over too easily.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Making Beds The Easier Way

We had the loveliest weekend at the lake. This time, just the two of us. It's wonderful to have every bed full and to have the lake cabin full of grown children and little grandchildren. To have the house filled with voices and laughter. But a quiet weekend for two is a different kind of wonderful.

It was an unexpectedly pleasant weekend when we could enjoy being outside. Usually in July, it's so hot and humid, that staying inside seems the better choice. I loved spending my time on the porch working on a new baby hat.

 Daddy-O spent his time on the pier with a fishing rod and reel. 

I would meet him there in the late afternoon to compare notes of our lazy day.

And being the very best kind of Daddy-O, he brought me coffee in bed in the mornings.

Before we left, I put clean sheets on the bed. It's ready for the next guests. And that reminded me that I need to share a tip that I learned a few months ago. For years that I dreaded putting on a fitted sheet. More times than not, I had the short end on the wrong corner of the bed. It made this chore take longer. And it aggravated the daylights out of me.

My genius solution to that problem was to buy sheets with woven stripes so that I could tell which way to turn the sheet. Stripes go top to bottom. Easy enough. But not all the sheets I own have those stripes. So with those, it was always "try and hope." I was wrong more times than not. 

Then I read a brilliant tip on a blog I enjoy—Everyday Cheapskate. A tip that was in the "how did I not already know this?" category. 

Look for the corner seam with the tag. This tag was a few inches away, but it's obvious which seam goes with the tag. Most times the tag is right at the seam.

Then put the corner with the tag on the right hand corner of the bed at the foot. (When you are standing at the foot of the bed looking toward the headboard.) And voila! You've got your fitted sheet turned correctly. No more trial and error!

I've been making beds for many, many years. But this was new to me. I've tried it with an assortment of sheets, new and old, different brands. Some at the lake are really old ones and this works with them, too. After a family week, there are a lot of beds in need of clean sheets. So far this tip has worked every time.

Then when our housekeeping chores were done, we went to brunch on the lake. Brunch with pirates. It was a delicious end to the weekend.

Now we are home, getting ready for Mimi Camp that starts tomorrow. I don't think you'll hear from me again this week. Two little girls in residence for the rest of the week will undoubtably keep us busy. But if we survive (and we will), I'll be back here in a week or so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Knitting And Unknitting

Deschain sweater, Kestrel yarn from Quince&Co.

I know. I know. You can't see a mistake on a galloping horse. That's what a lot of knitters say when they talk about mistakes they've made in their knitting. And I can agree...up to a point. Deciding when to correct a mistake, or to even start over is a purely personal decision. Let me share my thinking on this issue that is bound to crop up from time to time.

I haven't knitted much since the wedding shawl. For the most part, knitting has been in the background this summer. But I've had this yarn staring at me for nearly a year now. I bought it last fall while on our anniversary trip. I bought the yarn to make a summer sweater. I thought it would be nice to use the yarn before our anniversary comes around again. So I cast on a few days ago.

It's a pretty straight forward pattern. But I managed to make one mistake fairly quickly. Somewhere I was missing a stitch in the lace panel. I added a stitch in the next row to compensate and kept going. Then I did a wrong stitch at the very edge.

Then I discovered I was one stitch short AGAIN in that lace panel. Made another correction. But as I neared the end of the first skein of yarn I took a hard look at my knitting. I tried to tell myself it was okay. No one would notice. And I figured out where I had made my mistake. Twice. So I wasn't likely to do that again. (See the circled stitch on the pattern in the top photo?)

I set it down and went to bed still thinking about it. The next morning, before my coffee, I decided that I could see the mistakes and I was never going to be happy with this. Then I pulled it all out and rolled it back into a ball. Doing it before my coffee was the key. Quick action. Less thinking. Like ripping off a bandaid.

I erased my check sheet of rows and cast on again. Then I had my coffee. And more coffee. And then I  started over, with a clearer understanding of the pattern.

During the afternoon I knitted this again. No mistakes this time. I marked the spot where I had left out a stitch both times to remind me not to skip it. (How did I not read that in the beginning???) Hopefully it's smooth sailing from here to the end.

Here's my thinking on correcting mistakes and ripping out and starting over:
1. The most important factor is "will this bother me forever?" Doesn't matter if no one else will notice the mistake. If it really bothers you, admit it. Be honest. You'll never enjoy your hand knit if that mistake annoys you. 
2. Many mistakes are easily fixed if you see them soon enough. Best knitting advice I ever got is "Stop often and admire your work." Spread it out and give it a look over. It's easier to make a correction if you see it before you are six inches past it. If I had realized that I had skipped a yarn-over when I did the next row, it would have been an easy fix. It would have been an actual correction—and not a compensating added stitch.
3. Think about where the mistake is. My wrong stitch on the edge wasn't a big deal. It was going to be under my arm when I wear the sweater. Truly no one would see that one. Not one I would have bothered to fix.
4. But if the mistakes fall front and center, it might be time for drastic action. My missed yarn-overs were right in the front in the most noticeable spot of the sweater, close to the neckline. And I had TWO mistakes in that area. 
5. How much have will have to be ripped out? I had knitted less than 50 grams of yarn, so it was not so painful to pull out a few rows. 33 rows to be exact. Rows less than 100 stitches. That was not the end of the earth to undo. I decided that starting over would be faster for me than trying to drop down stitches and make corrections.
Again, be honest with yourself. My mistakes weren't going to affect the fit, so I could have kept going. (And the front would be done now.) You might be fine with forging ahead. I am much happier now that I pulled it all out and started over.

There are many mistakes that can be corrected fairly simply without ripping back rows and rows. If you don't know how to pick up a dropped stitch, change a purl to a knit, or add a missing yarn over, find a class on "fixing your mistakes." Or, look it up online. Not all mistakes can be fixed quickly (like mine this time), but any knitter needs to know these skills. It's well worth your time to learn.

PS...I let this post "rest" for a few days before I posted. And I let the sweater rest, too. Picked it up yesterday and worked a few more rows. And darn, if I didn't do the edge stitch wrong again on a couple of rows. Realized it a few rows later. THOSE mistakes are staying! They will be caught in the seam and it was too much to rip out again. See? I told you that to rip or not is a personal decision. And it might be different each time. It all depends.

Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn, Size 5 needles.

In the knitting success category, here is another sweet baby hat, knitted for a new granddaughter of a friend. As long as babies keep coming, I'll keep making these.

For newborn size, use DK yarn and size 5 or 6 16-inch circular needles. Switch to DPNs when necessary as you decrease.
Cast on 72 stitches. Knit for 5 to 5-1/4 inches. Begin decreases:
K2tog, k6
K2tog, k5
K2tog, k4, etc.
When there are 5 stitches left on needles, work i-cord for about 6 rows. Last row, work two k2tog and k1 to have 3 stitches left. Cut yarn and with a yarn needle, run tail through those 3 stitches. Take yarn down through inside of stem and work in end.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Deep Dive Decluttering

In a rare week with nothing on my calendar, I've stayed at home, emptying cabinets, pulling things out of drawers and then getting rid of lots of that stuff. According to Psychology Today, mess causes stress. I should be much more serene now.

It's a law of physics, isn't it? "Nature abhors a vacuum." My cabinets are proof positive of that. I have a crazy amount of cabinet space here. Don't be envious. It just provides more places for things to accumulate. As I've emptied, we've taken boxes of books to the library for their ongoing book sale. There is a stack of things headed to a thrift shop. And bags of trash are already gone.

This set of cabinets was like an archaeological dig. So what did we find? In the "why" category were empty light bulb cartons and broken remote controls. There were duplicates of items that I'm sure were bought because we couldn't find the original. Because how many rolls of masking tape or flashlights does anyone need? That's all sorted out now.

But there were fun things, too.  I found a sweet crocheted baby cap that had belonged to Daddy-O. I uncovered other keepsakes, like the caricatures of our daughters that were drawn at a local festival years ago. Jessica was four. Mommy was six. The artist asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. You can see how they answered. Jessica is now an art director at her company. She knew even at four what she wanted to do.

But the real treasure was finding a ceramic chess set that I made for my father soon after I graduated from college. Remember when "doing ceramics" was a popular hobby? This was the only ceramics project I ever did. And I had wondered what happened to it. It was safely tucked away in a high cabinet.  In a box with no label. Daddy, who loved chess and woodworking even made a wooden chessboard to go with it.

He loved playing chess. He would have friends over in the evening to play. And for a long time he played with out-of-town friends by mail. He had a separate board for that game with numbered squares. In this day of instant communication and online games, it's hard to imagine that waiting a week or so between moves could possibly be any fun. Good memories were unearthed in this find.

My work isn't over, but at least I'm making progress in the decluttering game. Less stuff is the goal. Shelves aren't empty. (Before I started, they were crammed full.) But it feels like there is room to breathe now. I didn't make a "before" photo and I doubt I would have shown it to you anyway. But trust me, I'm making progress. And feeling calmer.