Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Humble Guide To A Summer Writing Journey.

Writing endeavours are a lot like long road trips.

At first, you're so excited and full of energy, you can't even comprehend being bogged down by things like writer's block (the writer's equivalent to getting stuck behind a slow old lady only 20 minutes outside of the next state line).

Usually the start of road trips start with clean cars, coolers full of fruit punch, iced coffee, and all the beef jerky and gummi worms a human being could want. By the end, it's water bottle full of 80 degree water you found under the seat, a persistent sunburn peeling away, a case full of CDs you've heard 20 times, and so many fast food and candy wrappers in the backseat, you can't actually be sure if your luggage is back there or not.

Writing is the same way. The key to succeeding at both road trips and writing is to be prepared. The key is to have realistic expectations about how things are going to happen.

I think summer is the best time for writing. A lot of people prefer to go outside for picnics and walks, but there are bugs and bears out there, and I'll stay here in my air conditioning, please.

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If you're going to spend the hot (or rainy) summer days taking on some writing you've been putting off, here are some tips to stay inspired, cool, and energized.

1. Munchies (Not pictured, as they are hidden in my desk drawer. This also prevents me from eating ALL THE GUMMI WORMS in 2 seconds).

If you've ever taken a roadtrip, you know how boring it can get  with your hands on 10 and 2 for 16 hours. Sometimes you might see a deer, or a tornado, but eventually your travelling companion falls asleep and you're left to listen to the one Beatles CD you haven't gotten sick of yet, and you need something to do.

Enter: munchies.

Maybe eating isn't the best way to deal with boredom, but everything is good in moderation. I'm not suggesting you open a bag of chips and eat the whole thing before you get to chapter two. All you need is a little something to keep your hands busy for a minute so you can look up at your ceiling and decide whether or not your main character is going to lose a pinky finger or not.

Sometimes just something to do with your hands for a minute to look away from the screen will help get you through the next half hour (or more) of writing.

A glass of water is also a nice thing to have nearby, since there is no chance of overdoing it, and drinking a lot of water forces you to get up every so often in order to force yourself to stretch your legs and contemplate character quirks and motivations.

2. Coffee!

Coffee is essential to every roadtrip, and writing endeavour. Coffee needs no explanation. I think a lucky mug is also a bonus. As you can see, my lucky mug is my extra big Monogrammed mug.

My boyfriend once told me that coffee with a little bit of Bailey's in it is awesome for any kind of artwork, since the coffee ups your energy, and the little bit of alcohol lowers any tendency to criticize yourself too harshly, and you can write/draw in peace without feeling worried that you are doing it 'wrong'. This is not recommended for road trips, though.

3. A notebook.

Notebooks are freeing, because they are not your word document. They can have silly things in there, quotes you like, fragments of sentences, random ideas, or writing exercises. They can be snippets like "What if Miranda was a fire juggler in college?" or "Maybe Eric should have a moustache." No one will see these notes unless you want them to, and they never even have to make it into the Sacred Word Document. They are an opportunity to 'get off the road' for a minute to look at your map to see if there is another way to go, and to just take a breath of fresh air.

4. Books.

Reference books, dictionaries, thesauruses, vocabulary books, or even books your character might be reading at the time are awesome things to have on hand. These are the License Plate Games of writing. They are a way to continue writing, while doing something fun. It's essential to keep your eyes open, and it can be extremely refreshing to learn about chinchilla bathing habits, tarantula anatomy, a thing or two about your character's favorite physicist, or find out if the tarot card spread the fortune teller in your story is doing it right or not.

And personally, finding out that I used a big word correctly, and it sounds natural, is comparable only to punching your older sister in the arm as hard as you can at the sight of a bright red punch buggy.

5. The right music.

This seems like a no brainer, and it kind of is. Just be careful to not set your music on your Norwegian Black Metal playlist for your fight scene, and then forget to switch it over to your Indie Folk Playlist for the 'First Kiss' scene. It happens to the best of us, and sometimes switching to a new CD can make or break the next hour of your drive through Bumblefuck, Nowhere.


1. A fan.

Do I need an explanation? Summer is hot, and fans are refreshing. I have a small one that plugs right into my USB drive so I'm set for my entire summer writing adventure.

2. Outlines and edits.

I have a really awesome group of friends I meet with twice a month who tell me what I'm doing wrong (and right, of course). These friends give me edits and suggestions, and I like to keep them out as reminders to not make the same mistakes. It's also a way to have rough drafts of previous chapters available to me so I can look down and go "If she reacted poorly to that situation, then how would she react to this situation?" or "Oh yeah- I forgot that I gave her a pet fish in chapter 2...maybe I should mention that again?".

I also have (Not Pictured) Ready, Set, Novel! Which gives me awesome ideas about where I could go with my plot or my characters in case I get stuck, or wanna introduce someone new. These are like your travel brochures, maybe they're not completely necessary, but your trip will be a lot more enjoyable and well rounded if you have something to tell you where the cool places to go are.

3. Rain

Because, in my opinion, thinking, writing, and driving are all the most interesting and thought-provoking with the pitter-patter of rain to keep you company.

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4. A Day Off.

On your day off, gather all the necessary things, and hide in your room or your favorite coffee shop to lose yourself in your own world.

Always remember while driving and writing, that life is about the journey, and not the destination. Sometimes, what it all boils down to is rolling down your window, and laughing at the sky.

Friday, May 31, 2013

What I've Been Up To: Hair, Feet, Pancakes, and Other Junk.

It's been a strange month or two since I posted. I got a new job as a caregiver (it's awesome). While I've been the happiest I've EVER been, it's left me very little time or energy to do the things I like to do, especially with the 50 hours weeks I've been pulling for almost the entirety of May. However, in that time, I've done a few things that I wanted to share with you all.

1. Hair!

My job is pretty fast paced, and the ponytail I've been wearing for the last 10 years just hasn't been able to keep up with me. My hair is a few feet long, and doesn't feel too great sticking to my neck while I'm spending most of my time in an overly-heated building to accommodate all my newly-acquired, but very old, friends. I found a couple things that keep my hair up without actually having to put any work into it.

This is an "Up Zing" by Scunci. It's beads strung on elastic, with two combs on each side. I braid my hair, then put it in an elongated bun, then put this over it. I look snazzy, and it's yet to fall out! I got the medium, though, and with all the hair I've got I think a large might work better, since after a couple weeks it started to kind of start pushing into the back of my head (Ouchie.)

I'm kinda dumb, and forgot what this thing is called, but it's basically a wire spiral. You put your hair in a bun, then spiral this thing onto it, so it makes a neat and twisty looking bun. I haven't worn this one to work yet, because it's not as sturdy as the Up Zing, however, it works well enough for days off during summer, to keep the hair off my neck while I'm doing things outside.

2. Feet!

I've always liked the idea of barefoot sandals, but I'm really not the 'barefoot type'. My Dad's Girlfriend, Tracy, is though- and with her birthday coming up on the 8th, I figured a few pairs of these would be the perfect, quick gift for her. They are, of course, a great warm weather project, too, since the materials for it are so light, and the project is really small. They look great, and I think after making these for her, I might just take a little time to make a pair for myself!

The first pair I made were the Barefoot Sandal by Lion Brand Yarn.

These are just a small mesh triangle with a small band that closes with a button behind the ankle. I think these are kind of cool, but not my favorite. I think they're kind of plain, and fastening a button behind your ankle sounds a lot easier than it actually is. If I made these again, I would instead make the strap about 4 feet longer so that they can be wrapped and tied multiple times around the ankle instead of buttoned. As far as barefoot sandals, and gifts, go- these took about an hour (maybe less), and are a perfect super quick last minute gift. They might also work with flats!

The second Pair I made were the Crocheted Barefoot Sandals, a Free Ravelry Download. 

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 Despite how they look, these sandals are only 2 separate pieces, not 8 motifs. Working all as mostly one piece made them a lot easier than they look, and I think these might be my favorite. I love the color I chose, they remind me of cherry blossoms! I think these are prefect for spending a day in the backyard reading and gardening.

The last pair I made for Tracy were the Goddess Barefoot Sandals, from Gleeful Things.

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I love finding small projects to make with thread, and I think this one turned out beautifully. These are another pair that I think could work nicely with a pair of flats. I love how Feminine they are, and the Indian influences on the motif make them very elegant. The size 10 thread makes them the lightest of all 3 pairs, and with only 6 rounds, they came together a lot faster than you would think.

3. Pancakes!

My favorite restaurant out here in Madison, WI is a place called Monty's Blue Plate Diner. I have completely run it into the ground. Every time someone asks me where I want to go, Monty's is ALWAYS my answer. The funniest part? I only order one thing when I go there: Zucchini Potato Pancakes. I have ordered them every time I've gone since 2010, and I have yet to get sick of them. They are one of my favorite foods in the world, and I usually finish my entire plate in a few minutes.

So, imagine my excitement, when I went to my local library the other day and found the Monty's Blue Plate Diner Cookbook. I'm genuinely surprised I didn't pee my pants when I found the recipe for these pancakes in there.

These pancakes are incredible. Savory, flavorful, indescribable. If you're looking for something different to make for breakfast, lunch or dinner, these went from sliced to served in under an hour, and were absolutely addictive. With a little bit of sour cream, you can't go wrong. My batter looked so strange when I was making it, but I absolutely could not stop eating them, they were so incredible. 

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Green Pancakes! This isn't how they look at Monty's, but they managed to taste the same way.

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I wish this picture was scratch-n-sniff, so you could understand how amazing they smell.
Got an hour, and about $7 for ingredients? Make your own:

Zucchini Potato Pancakes


  • 4 medium zucchinis
  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • 3 TBS vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. Sour cream
  • 8 oz. Apple sauce


  • In a food processor or with a hand grater, grate the zucchinis and potatoes. Mix these with the diced onion in a bowl.
  • Make small handfuls and squeeze out the excess moisture. You may be surprised how much water is squeezed out.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the vegetables with the eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  • Scoop 2- to 3-oz. portions of the pancake mix and flatten with a spatula. In a large non-stick frying pan heated with vegetable oil, fry over low to medium heat for 10 minutes. When one side is browned, flip the pancake and fry the other side. The edges should be golden crisp.
  • Serve immediately with sour cream and applesauce.

Serves 4.

4. Other Junk!

With Father's Day coming up, I got my Dad's present bought and wrapped. I liked the way I did it, so I thought I'd share it here.

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What I did:

- Red gift Bag (Walgreens: $3)
- Houndstooth Tissue Paper (Walgreens: $2)
- Moustache Duct Tape (Got this as a present, but I've seen it at Target, Wal Mart, Walgreens, etc.)

Very manly :)

What I bought him:

- 5 Samples of Berres Brothers Coffee (Highlander Grogg, Caramel Chocolate, French Vanilla, Red Velvet Birthday Cake and Hazelnut Creme). Berres Brothers is a local coffee company out here in Wisconsin, so I suggest you all move to Wisconsin and drink their coffee. Highlander Grogg has become a staple in my house (It's a caramel, butterscotch, hazelnut coffee that smells and tastes like heaven and rainbows).

- Earl Grey Vanilla Rhubarb Jam (My Dad mentioned once that he always sees Strawberry-Rhubarb things, never JUST rhubarb, so when I saw this at a Farmer's Market, I picked it up for him.)

4.5: Other Junk Part 2!

You guys know what's awesome? Sailor Moon. You know what else is awesome? Ebay? So what happens when you combine these two things?

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...You can get 10 Sailor Moon CCG Booster packs for $10.

Anyone wanna play with me? :P

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Orange-Nutella Layered Cheesecake

My Dad and I have birthdays that are exactly two weeks apart (his being March 20th, and mine being April 3rd). Since he lives about an hour away, we usually celebrate our birthdays together, and this year the deal was that he would pay for dinner if I supplied the cake.

He told me this about a week or two ago, and I spent some time looking through recipes on my bookshelf, my Pinterest, on baking blogs, and everything else you can think of. Everything seemed either too expensive, or just not quite right. I pretty much knew I wanted to make a cheesecake, but not much else.

After enough searching, I decided that I wasn't going to find the right thing.

My mind kept, for some reason, going back to a day in December when my boyfriend made us some hazelnut hot cocoa with orange peels boiled in, to make a delicious and rich orange-y, chocolate hazelnut goodness. Something about the combination of these things really stuck with me, so much so that I decided to make a cheesecake that would combine these flavors.

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My 2nd inspiration for this cake was a cheesecake recipe on I used the recipe for their rainbow cheesecake a little over a year ago for my friend's birthday. I loves combining colors and making layers, and it seemed like orange and brown would go really well together (although, there was no dye in this cheesecake, so it's actually a brown and off-white, but a girl can dream.

I made this cheesecake, and it went over SPLENDIDLY.It's very rich and creamy, and the layers look beautiful stacked on top of each other. The orange compliments the subtle hazelnut flavor perfectly, and it's just right for a spring birthday.

Most of the credit for this cake comes from this recipe at, I pretty much just added the orange and nutella flavors. The guys over there really know what their doing, because this cheesecake is seriously gigantic and delicious.

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  • 2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (13 oz.) container of Nutella
  • 3 TBS orange juice concentrate (thawed)
  • Zest from one orange


  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Before you get started with the crust, make sure your 9 inch springform pan is water tight. I do this by carefully wrapping a few layers of foil on the outside of the pan, so water cannot get into the pan. Be careful not to rip the foil or water will get into your cake and ruin it!

  2. Mix crushed crackers, 2 tablespoons sugar, the cinnamon and salt together in a bowl. Then mix in butter with your clean fingers, until crumbs are pea sized. 

  3. Press all of the graham cracker mixture into the prepared springform pan. Press it down firmly in the pan.
  1. Bake the crust for 10 minutes on a low oven rack. Remove from the oven, and cool completely before continuing. Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees.
  1. To make filling, cut cream cheese into pieces and add to a mixing bowl. Whip until smooth, maybe 4 minutes. Then add 1-1/3 cups sugar, and continue to beat until smooth again, another 4-5 minutes. Next, add vanilla, salt, sour cream and heavy cream; beat until smooth. Add in 1 egg at a time, beating briefly between each egg.
  1. Once the mixture is well combined and very smooth, divide evenly into 2 bowls. In one bowl, add the orange zest and orange juice concentrate and mix well, set aside. In the 2nd bowl, add the nutella and mix well.
  2. Starting with whichever flavored batter, pour some directly into the center of the cooled crust, then a little more of the opposite flavor. Continue alternating batters by pouring them directly in the center, this will create layers so each slice has equal(ish) amounts of both flavors. Then, to make my design I just ran a butter knife across the top a few times to give it the 'spiderweb' effect
  3. Place cheesecake into a baking dish on oven rack, and fill baking dish (or a deep frying pan!) with boiling water about 1 inch up the side of the springform pan.
  4. Bake at 325 degrees in the water bath for 1 hour and 40 minutes to 1 hour 50 minutes or until set but still jiggles slightly 2 inches from the edge. If cheesecake begins to brown on top, cover loosely with foil during last 5 minutes of baking.
  5. Turn off the oven, open the oven door a crack, and let the cake cool in the oven for 1 hour. The slow cooling will help it not crack.
  6. Loosely wrap the dish in foil so the foil isn't touching the top of the cake and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  7. When ready to remove cake, run a clean narrow knife around the edge of the dish, remove the foil, unlock the spring, and carefully lift off the outer ring.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Two Hundred Fifty-Two - A Poem

Last year, I was a part of a writer's group that had a writing challenge. The challenge was, in 250 words or less, write anything involving a wish.

My wish was to have more than 250 words, and I wrote a sonnet, where technically, that wish was granted (although maybe I should write a 3rd sonnet about how that wish was not granted as much as it was earned).

I spent the last hour re-writing, rewording, and putting the finishing touches on it. I liked it enough to share it, and since it's the first sonnet I've written since high school, I thought maybe making it public would give me more incentive to write more of them. I know it needs work but it's been - Oh Dear God - 10 years since I have written one.

(Also please note that this rough draft was written last July, when Scott Walker had just shrugged off a recall election, and we were in the middle of a terrible, terrible drought up here in Wisconsin, to explain the few lines that aren't synced up with current events.)

Two Hundred Fifty Two
Pam Gabriel

Before me lies a toil, one so daunting
To search the depths of my own weary heart
To solve one thing in this world that's haunting
Only two hundred fifty words, to start

And in those few words, find my greatest wish
Something grand, and above all else, perfect
Bring back a loved one I so dearly miss?
Or help a suff'ring friend I'm desperate to protect?

Bring them back to where I feel they belong
Let them wake up, without hunger or pain
Though something so farfetched feels so wrong
I sudd'nly won't awake with powers gained

Instead of taking Godlike leaps and bounds
Perhaps I should keep my feet on the ground

So many problems I could write about
In less than a page I must express them all
Wish for some rain to end this scorching drought
Or for another chance to get Scott recalled

With ideas so vast, and words so few
To say it all would be fiercely tough
What I would like the most is more words to use
Even a second page would be good enough

Then I could say it all, express my plight
Tell you my woes, 'til my voice disappears
Stand upon my soap box, all day and night
A thousand more words, I'll be rid your fears

Desperately I wish a miracle to bring
It will sweep through and solve every little thing

Even if I could, it would not come true
But this one did, with two hundred fifty two!

I'm a clever gal, ain't I?

(You don't have to answer that)

In other writing news, It's Camp NaNoWriMo, and I'm hoping to write more poetry (maybe something less structured), as well as maybe some short stories or screenplays. We'll see if they actually end up here or not. April started almost a week ago, and this is the first thing that resembles writing that I've done, so we'll see.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What I've been up to: Spyro, and something new!

A bout of unemployment has sent me into a creative hurricane. I've been making loads of stuff solely to put up on my Etsy shop, but a few things were made for me, and me alone.

First up, a blast from the past: A Spyro plushie!

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There were a few years of my life where my memories are the most vivid. I was 9 - 11 years old or so, and I spent my days doing things like drawing my own sailor scouts, writing Gundam Wing fanfiction, playing Dragonball Z with my best friend, and of course, eating giant jawbreakers while playing Spyro.

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When I say giant jawbreakers, I mean GIANT jawbreakers. They were about the size of a baseball, and took me a few days to finish (even for a candy-obsessed 10-year-old). I would often times break it with something, so I could fit rock-sized pieces in my mouth in order to hold my Playstation controller with both hands to fight gnorcs and save dragons. I have a grey 'video game chair' that I sat in, mere feet from the TV. It was a very small chair that rocked back and forth and sat right on the ground. These glorious days can be summed up with Jawbreakers, Spyro, and leaning back in this chair like I didn't give a care in the world.

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When I came across this pattern, my heart leapt for joy. To be able to have a tangible thing to not only hold, but to make! To be able to look at and taste the sugar of the giant jawbreakers, and remember the Virginia air wafting into my room as I wasted my day trying as hard as I could to beat Metalhead.

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This pattern can be found here (along with a pattern for Ember from "A Hero's Tail", though I haven't made her), and I have to say that it is absolutely worth the money. It's written very well, and looks amazing. It is time-consuming, but doesn't actually use up that much yarn. I didn't have to change a single thing, and Spyro looks amazing, and stands up nicely. There is some use of wire (to make his wings and tail poseable), and a lot of attaching of limbs. If you're up for a challenge, and need something comforting, then this is definitely the project.

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My next project....IS NOT A CROCHET PROJECT!!

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Yes, after months of longingly looking at overpriced ribbon bracelets being sold in stores, I finally decided to give into the ribbon jewelry craze.

Despite these bracelets having all the qualities I look for in jewelry (which is ribbon, and anything else that makes me feel like a mermaid and/or princess) I've held off on buying any, because I always felt like I could make it myself. As it turns out- I was right!

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After crocheting in all of my free time (which is...all of my time), for the last two weeks, I knew I needed to find something different to do before I became completely and utterly burnt out on crocheting. Luckily, I had seen this tutorial on Pinterest awhile back, and had even bought the supplies for it. Unfortunately, the tutorial had kind of overwhelmed me, and the beads and ribbon didn't do much more than collect dust for awhile.

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However, after a particularly yarn-heavy day, I decided to give it a shot. I was so pleasantly surprised! These bracelets were the perfect combination of simple and repetitive, while also being challenging and engaging. The result was absolutely gorgeous, and the use of elastic makes putting them on and taking them off very easy. 

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I am, in fact, so happy with the results of these bracelets that I went out to Michael's yesterday, and bought more strands of glass pearls, as well as another spool of ribbon. Michael's sells the glass pearls in 7" strands for only 99 cents, and longer strands of smaller beads for the same price (a ribbon necklace would be amazing, too!). They also have nicer stone strands, but my wallet was just feeling a bit too light for that.

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The tutorial can be found here. I did the "wave" and "pleat" patterns, since I was a bit too chicken (and short on supplies) to make the "fold". I'm not too keen on that design, though, so I wonder what other designs I could come up with...?

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Fun fact: The bigger the bow, the more you feel like a princess.

Next time I come around I'll talk about chocolate, perler beads (SO MANY PERLER BEADS), fingerless gloves, how I can't stop making them, and why it's a problem.

Friday, March 1, 2013

One Skein Weekend: Drawstrings and Dragons Edition

This "edition" of One Skein Weekend is one I'm pretty excited about. I made a purse using crocodile stitch, and a small drawstring bag intended for Tarot cards (although it can be used for just about anything).

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Anyone who knows me, or has been to my house, knows how I feel about dragons. The crocodile stitch is irresistible to me because it reminds me so much of dragon scales, and using crocheting to be able to flaunt and express my love for them makes me smile every time.

I have also been a Tarot card enthusiast for a long time, having acquired my first deck of Tarot cards when I was about 12. I really enjoy having such a beautiful bag that I made myself, and can store my favorite deck of Tarot cards in (which, you guessed it, is the Celtic Dragon Deck).

These two projects, while both being bags, serve different purposes, and are both so magical, that they somehow feel as though they go together.

Let's get started.

First, let's talk about the yarn:

Yarn: Bernat Satin
Color: Teal
Yardage: 200 Yards
Weight: Worsted
Price: (Not sure, it was a gift)
Extra stuff: A couple feet of ribbon, A few yards of scrap yarn in a contrasting color (I used Caron Simply Soft in Gray.)

First up is the Crocodile Stitch Clutch (The pattern can be found here.)

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I made a few changes to Sara's pattern. First up, I added 4 more rows, to equal two more rows of crocodile stitch. I also made the handle out of 9 fsc instead of 9 ch (to add some extra width without doing a fifth row of CC). And for the back, I did a total of 29 ch to start, instead of 33.

I love the combination of sapphire and silver, so when this purse was finished I couldn't help but to think about how much it reminded me of treasure lost in the ocean. I have always had an affinity for the ocean, and the "scales" simultaneously reminded me of waves, and dragon scales.

I also love her version of the crocodile stitch, where she uses hdcs instead of dcs, so the stitches are tighter to prevent any smaller items from falling out. This pattern is beautiful, elegant, and the shimmery teal color makes it perfect for the midwesterner who still misses the ocean.

And, although this looks like it took a long time, it went really quick. Only doing 6 or 7 scales per row makes it go very quick, and the hdcs of the back work up quickly. Had it finished in a few hours.

Next up is the StarGazer Tarot Bag (which can be found here.)

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I made this bag for the first time back in January of 2012, and at that time I used a very expensive yarn I bought with a gift card (because I'm too cheap to spend my own money on nice things). After I made the Crocodile Stitch Clutch, this project felt like it was the right amount of yarn to use up the rest of my skein. So, without thinking, I found the pattern again, and started to stitch it up, when I was hit with a very odd sense of deja vu. Looking towards my Tarot cards, I realized that this is the same color I used for the other one! While my expensive yarn drapes a little differently, using Bernat Satin has the same shimmer, and works up even quicker.

I only did 22 rows before the beaded row, and 5 instead of 7 rows AFTER the beaded row. If my gauge was smaller, I probably could have gotten away with doing all the rows, and still coming to the end of my skein, but using an H hook and omitting 5 rows, It worked out nicely that I had only a yard or two of yarn left. In fact, because of my large gauge, I probably could have made the foundation chain even shorter, since I can fit a deck of tarot cards in there with a lot of walking room left. If you ARE using one skein of yarn for both of these projects, and want to make this one true to pattern, you can always make the Crocodile Stitch Clutch true to pattern instead of adding two rows, and you will definitely have enough leeway.

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As I said, though, this can make a nice drawstring bag in general, and can work as a dice bag, or a small drawstring bag for whatever trinkets needs you may have, so gauge isn't the most important.

I worked this up in a little over an hour, so it makes a great last minute gift, or a good way to get out of a crochet rut. The pattern is just single and double crochets, so it's really easy, too.

If you're looking for other things to do with a skein of yarn, here's my other One Skein Weekend Post:

-First Edition (AKA Radioactive Hobo Pirate Edition)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Before & After: The Tale of The Sparkly Pineapple Shirt

It all started in Kohl's. I had just gotten paid, and eager to spend all my money, went out to buy some (much needed) clothes. Mostly for work, I picked up jeans, looked at button up shirts, and even bought my first pair of leggings, but when I ended up in the clothing section to buy shirts I felt lost and confused. It had been so long since I bought clothes in an actual store (Thank you, TeeFury). From section to section I wandered. Some clothes seemed to be for 14-year-olds, and all the other clothes seemed to be for 40-year-olds. Annoyed, infuriated, and worst of all, holding an armful of nothing but work clothes, I made a declaration to "Just crochet all of my own shirts."

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Everything looked awkward. Everything felt awkward. Even the models in the pictures, and the clothing on the mannequins didn't look appealing to me. Nothing was making sense. I was going to make my own clothes. 

I was half joking, but by the time I got home, and ended up alone on Ravelry for a good hour or two, I had looked through all kinds of shirt patterns. I was so excited, the very next day I went out and bought some cotton yarn, then started on a simple-looking shirt, Light and Lacy by Doris Chan.

I had finished it in an astounding 3 days. It worked up so fast, I was suddenly even more excited by my decision to make all of my clothes. The only problem? It fit about as well as an oversized grocery bag.

I told myself it was okay, that I had never made a form-sitting shirt before. At my size, I've never been a Small before, but it turns out that maybe I should have made a small for this shirt (I made the Medium). It was so baggy on me, that as I wore it, I swore it made me look 30 pounds heavier. I told myself it was okay, but I didn't even have the motivation to tie in the ends. I set it on my dresser, and feeling defeated, went to bed.

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The "Before"

The next morning, I don't know if I had a dream, or if the answer was really just that simple all along, but I woke up so enthused, I knew I had figured out a way to fix my shirt to make it look better.

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After much debating, and cringing, I (painfully) ripped out about 75% of my work, then made a band by decreasing the chain mesh.I was really happy that this had been a fast project, because even after ripping out most of my work, it still only took another 3 days to completely finish it. I could make two of these a week if I really wanted to supplement my wardrobe.

By making a band in the middle significantly smaller than the rest of the piece, this pulled it in a bit, then I increased it enough to have it bellow out again. It went from Potato sack to flattering A-Line piece.

(If you are looking for the technical things I did, and how to do this yourself to this shirt, you can look at the notes on my Ravelry Page.)

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Ta da! New shirt!

I love it so much now, I can't wait to wear it! Although, with it being made of cotton, and in such sparkly and bright colors, I can't imagine wearing it any other time of year besides late spring and summer.

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This was also nice, because now instead of just "dealing" with the style of a shirt (the way I would ahve if I had just bought a shirt the other day), I'm now actually looking forward to something. On top of that, I had so much fun working with the colors. The white, although you can't see it, is actually a "Holiday" yarn, so it has metallic tinsel throughout, and the blue-green stripes are Lily Sugar N' Cream "Country Stripes", a yarn I've had in my stash forever, but didn't know the perfect thing to use it on. The sparkles and the stripes give it an awesomely light oceany feel to it that I am so excited to wear around when the weather is warmer.

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I have a lot of plans to make more clothes, of course. I even picked up a book from the library today, and without even noticing the author, I got it home, only to realize the patterns were from none other than Doris Chan herself. After finding Light and Lacy, I went through all her patterns to find that I love her style! I guess I can officially consider myself a fangirl, and I look forward to expanding my wardrobe over the next few months. With such a great start, how could I not be excited?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I've been up to: New Years Edition

The first three weeks of 2013 have gone by mostly uneventfully. I've been listening to, and even reading, a lot of books, and I still have my crochet hooks stuck into many projects. I've been trying to challenge myself, as well as finish things I started awhile back and never managed to finish. Here are a few things I've done since the new year came around.

1. Butterfly Stitch Fingerless Gloves.

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I spent literally 9 hours straining my eyes on January 1st making these. Having no real New Years resolutions, I was feeling kind of insecure and all I could think was about how I felt like I should at least greet the new year with a challenge. I had the pattern for these in my Ravelry queue for awhile, but had been too intimidated to make them- so they seemed like the perfect challenge for a new year.

A challenge they were indeed. It certainly took a lot of patience and focus, but I managed to finish both of them before bedtime. They look really awesome, and add a nice antique/vintage touch to my outfits. The "Dusty Blue" was the perfect color for them, too. It almost feels like a faded blue in an old picture.

The butterfly stitch was easy enough, it was just fiddling with things such as the size and the thumbhole that gave me a real challenge. Lots of improvising happened, but they both fit and look nice, and isn't that what really matters?

2. Senorita Skirt

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I found this pattern in the May/June 2012 Issue of Crochet Today, and I did in fact start it back in June. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to get bored really easily with repetitive patterns. Despite the fact that the shells in this pattern changed from row to row, I still found myself exhausted by shells 75% of the way through. Long story short, I put this down for nearly six months before deciding to dedicate a day to finishing it up.

After I finished it, I was pretty mad at myself. I LOVE THIS SKIRT. I love how it fits, I love how I managed to make it the perfect size, and I love how it flares out. The day after I finished it, I went out to buy some faux-cabled sweater tights so I wouldn't have to wait until summer to wear this. If only I hadn't put it down for 6 months to do 2 hours worth of work, I could have been wearing this all along! What an awesome (and seasonably versatile) addition to my wardrobe.


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Here's the doozy, guys. I knitted something. I was so proud of myself when I finished this last night at 1 AM, that instead of folding it up and putting it somewhere safe, I squished it against myself like a security blanket to sleep beside.

For months I have been trying to knit, only for my stitches to slide off of my needles and my day to end in a frustrating yell-a-thon. This time, though, instead of trying the same thing I've tried and failed with 100 times, I switched it up a bit. I got some GIGANTIC yarn (To be exact, Lion Brand's Hometown USA in Oklahoma Green), and then I dug out my Size 19 needles and went to town!

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With the giant yarn and dangerously big plastic needles, I only had a couple stitches drop off, which I managed to slip back on. The experienced knitter could certainly find my mistakes, but all in all, I'm really happy that I manged to cast on, bind off, and everything in between to make a soft, fluffy, functional cowl. I used a garter stitch, because I liked the texture it gave to an otherwise plain cowl, but hopefully I will find something I want to make with Stockinette stitch next.

I was so happy to not have my stitches fall off, and get an idea for the tension the yarn should be at, that I genuinely can't wait to knit again. I kept thinking about getting glasses. I remember thinking about how hard I thought school used to be, how all school equalled to me was headaches and squinting, then how much glasses improved my experience. I feel like using metal needles made me think that knitting was this impossible thing that only really talented and smart people could accomplish, at least until I got the right tools, and now everything is so much clearer.

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What else have I been up to? Mostly just buying stuff I want to show off.

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I used to have a "Crochet Dude" crochet hook case, but last week when the pockets for my tapestry needles ripped, and I opened it one day to find ALL OF MY TAPESTRY NEEDLES GONE, I decided I needed to fix this problem. At Michaels' I found a little Avengers Coin Purse that was Tapestry Needle Sized, along with a matching Avengers Pencil Pouch that was Crochet Hook sized. Best solution, or best solution?

As you can see, I also bought some bamboo knitting needles. I'm hoping these will solve the issue of dropping stitches once I graduate from gigantic needles to more normal sized needles.

As you may also be able to see, I bought the (LAST!!) Rosewood crochet hook at Michael's. They were on sale for $6 (as opposed to $13), and while I'm not entirely sure what the benefits of a rosewood hook are, I do know that I like wasting money on nice things, and this seemed right up my alley.

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So what's in store? Well, I can tell you that one of my biggest projects is still consistently being picked up everyday, and I still have about 25 hours left on it (I can't waaaaaaaait to show that one off!), and considering how warm and fuzzy I feel when I think about my knitting needles, I can definitely tell you that there will be a lot more of that. Not to mention, my bamboo needles still need to be put to use!