Thursday, June 30, 2016

Creatives Box Swap Reveal

I recently signed up for the Creatives Box Swap hosted by Bev from Linkouture and Dean from Mrs AOK.  The whole idea of the swap is to encourage creativity by sending your partner something to encourage them to try a new craft they've been wanting to try or spur on more creativity in a field they already like.

 I was partnered with Echo from The Mad Mommy.  Echo is a Midwestern girl too who blogs with a great voice and blogs about parenting, travel, health, cooking and more.  We both love Caribou Coffee and coffee in general.  Echo loves adult coloring books and I mentioned that I love office supplies and wanted to learn crochet.

Well, here's what she sent.

CreativeBoxSwap Reveal
Awesomeness from Echo
My heart skipped a bit when I opened this up!  It was so me, so perfect!  I can't wait to use it all!  First off, we have a teach yourself crochet kit.  I can do a chain stitch, but that's about it.  This will help me learn to make rows and do crochet in the round which is essential for Granny Squares.  I love the look of Granny Squares, and told Echo this, and she sent me a guide to do those as well twelve projects you can make with them.  I love this cowl and think it will look great in some strong colors.  I think I may have to try it, once I figure out how this whole crocheting thing goes.

Granny Square Cowl

She also sent me some spunky pencils that say things like "DON'T FORGET" and "TO DO LATER".  Love writing utensils!  The cute little notebook has a dot grid inside and says "WAKE UP AND BE AWESOME" on the outside.  AND... she sent a gift card for Caribou Coffee!  I love Caribou.  Every time I go to the city I have to stop in and get a dark chocolate mocha.  Yum!

So, I pretty much got totally spoiled by Echo and you should really check her out to see how awesome she is.  And if you want to see what I sent her, or what everyone swapped, check out the link up here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery" Class Review

I enrolled in Craftsy's Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery(affiliate link) class in January as part of my goal to learn how to hand embroider.  I grew up doing counted cross stitch so I knew it wouldn't be that hard, but I wanted tog get a good foundation instead of just winging it.  I jumped in with both feet, with a trip to Hobby Lobby o get embroidery floss and patterns and I started the lessons.

Jessica Marquez from Miniature Rhino is the host.  She's young, cool, and makes you feel like you can create all sorts of cool things that you'll actually want to make with embroidery.   There's eight lessons, and within these she goes through more than two dozen different embroidery stitches.  She also shows different methods to do the same stitch.

The first six lessons focus all on stitches.  Jessica and Craftsy give you a sampler pattern that you can make to practice all your stitches and then assemble it into a cute little quilt, but I wanted to makes something more practical, so I just used an iron on pattern I found at Hobby Lobby and embroidered a dish towel.  I love embellished dish towels.  (If sewing is more your thing, check out this tutorial for freshening up your dish towels.)  I didn't try out all the stitches like I would have if I had made the sampler, but I managed to squeeze the stem stitch, lazy daisy, satin stitch, french knots, fern stitch, and a few others into my little project.

Embroidered Dish Towel
Finished Project- Embroidered Towel

The last two lessons are about embroidery on knits and designing your own patterns.  It was pretty interesting and I really learned a lot.  So why did I wait so long to tell you guys about it, if it was so awesome?  Well, because I'm a constant unfinisher.  I was nearly done with this towel.  All that was left was a few lessons to watch and about half an hour of embroidery.  And it sat on my desk. Languishing away.  Thank goodness Craftsy access never expires! 

I'm not sure why it sat for so long, other than it got warm and I was spending more time outside.  But, since I made June my "Month of Finishing", I decided to get it done. So, today, I did.  And now I'm all amped up to make more, but  think I'm going to make myself finish up a few more of the unfinished projects before starting another.

Love the fern stitch on the purple flowers on the right, and the French knots on the right.
Have you tried hand embroidery before?  If you have, what's your favorite stitch?  And if you haven't but would like to, check out Jessica's class on Craftsy.  (Craftsy links are affialiate links, but all thoughts are my own.)  It's on sale right now for only $19.99.  And like I said, access never expires, and you can watch the videos whenever you want, at your own pace or even skip around if you like.  It's totally up to you. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Road Trip

I just got back from a little summer road trip!  My masterminds group and I went on a little getaway about two hours northwest of home and rented an awesome Airbnb place for a couple days.  (By the way, if you're thinking about trying Airbnb, use this link to get $25 off your first booking, and I'll get a credit too!)

Do you ever picture something going one way and then it turns out completely different.  I guess that's how life pretty much goes, isn't it?  But really, I was looking forward to this trip as a chance to just relax, unwind, recenter my goals, and plan out the rest of 2016, and while it was relaxing, it really didn't happen like I imagined.  I had brought three books I wanted to read while I was there (two to finish and one to start) and didn't finish any of them.  I brought along my prayer cards to work on, but didn't even get them out of my bag.  But, I think sometimes God is trying to show you something else.  And I'm still figuring out what all that was.  Maybe I'll let you know when I do.

Trees along the shore of the Amnicon River

But, there was a lot of nature to observe.  We saw half grown bunnies, full grown gophers, deer, tons of dragonflies, bees, and of course mosquitoes, and found all sorts of wildflowers.  My favorite part was Saturday when we visited two state parks.  Amnicon State Park and Pattison State park are both pretty close to each other, and provide lots of waterfalls to see and nature trails to hike.

Foot bridge over Amnicon River

 We also found the cutest little coffee/fabric/gift shop!  Talk about heaven.  A place that sells fabric and coffee!  I need such a shop closer by. 

Also, am I the only one who gets like post vacation blues?  Monday was okay, because there was laundry to do, stuff to put away, and work, but yesterday I just felt kind of blah all day.  I just wanted to stay in bed and nap and by the time I had to go to work in the afternoon, I just wanted to go to sleep for the night.  I think it's all the anticipation and then it's all over, in a few short days.

Anyhow, are you planning any summer trips or fun days?  Shoot me some ideas.


Monday, June 13, 2016

June Goals

I feel like I'm constantly running behind on here! My June goals were all made over a week ago, but I seem to have a hard time getting around to blogging them the last few months.

First, a quick recap of May.  For some reason, May was an abysmal month for me.  Here's what I hoped to accomplish:
  • Spend half an hour writing, three times a week. Fail.  I wrote a handful of blog posts and a few times throughout the month, but not close to this.
  • Walk 10,000 steps three times a week.  Sorta...I came close on this one, but can't be sure because the last week in May, my cellphone died.  Also, in the weeks prior my battery was draining hardcore.  (Probably not a coincidence.) So there'd be times I would take my phone out of my pocket to check my progress only to find it was dead.  
  • Continue to exercise 30 minutes a day, five times a week.  Success!  It's getting harder now that it is hotter, but I try to walk on my lunches and/or in the morning when I get up, and/or with friends, so some days I walk a couple times a day.
  • Memorize ten Bible verses.  I made good progress, but don't have them solidified yet.
  • Finish my prayer cards.  Ah, no.  Not done yet.
  • Increase veggies and decrease grains.  Nope.  I didn't realize how much grains I really eat though, so it was eye opening.
  • Read four books.  Only got two done, which is really putting me behind on my Goodreads goal for the year!
  • Daily devotions and prayer time.  Was doing good, but falling back off the wagon.  I really need to get back in the habit!  Ha!  Typing that totally gave me a visual of Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.  Cracks me up.

And here are the new goals for June, or as I'm taking to call it, "The Month of Finishes":
  • Finish two of the Craftsy classes I'm currently taking.
  • Finish sewing half of the things I've started.  Which, seems very overwhelming now that I've looked through all the half finished projects I have.
  • Finish the five books I've started- or at least decide to not finish them if I'm not interested in them any longer.
  • Finish cleaning my office, which will be easier if I clear out some of the projects.
  • Finish memorizing my ten vereses.
  • Finish my prayer cards.
  • Read four books.
  • Daily devotions.
  • Exercise 5 times a week.
  • Work our a plan for the second half of 2016.
There's a lot on here, but I know clearing up some of this will make more space in my life for new projects.  After awhile, stuff hanging over your head gets suffocating.

And you can follow the link up for The Monthly Goals, or join and share you June Goals.  It's not too late!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Unfinished Business... or Things I Should Have Finished Months Ago

Am I the only one that puts off things that has to be done, but then feels really good when I finally do it?  There's some things I just hate doing, so I let them hang around like a rain cloud, always waiting for me.  So, a couple Wednesdays ago I decided to tackle all this stuff that was hanging over my head- financial paperwork for my home loan, made appointments to get my car realigned (something I was supposed to do after I got new tires at Christmas time), get the oil changed, and set up with a new provider (mine moved) for my yearly physical.  And to cross all this stuff off felt great!  Afterwards I decided to reward myself with a trip to the greenhouse to buy some flowers and herbs, and I planted them that very evening, and then mowed the lawn.  It was a super productive day of crossing stuff off. 

But, it got me thinking, how much stuff do I have hanging over my head in other areas, weighing me down.  I decided to focus on my hobbies. 

And that dear friends, is what brought about this picture:

This is most of my unfinished sewing projects, and all the books I've started but not finished.  I'm guessing there's three quilts, a shirt, a dress (that showed up in very near the same state in a similar post nearly three years ago!), several tote bags, and an apron.  There's five books that I'm reading.  Some haven't been picked up for months. 

And... there's Craftsy.  I love Craftsy.  I've learned how to make homemade bread, how to cook hearty vegetarian, and how make fettuccine from scratch, but I have a tendency to sign up for classes and be all gung-ho, but then not finish them.  So, I have a handful of Craftsy classes I would really like to finish too.

So, I decided it's time to finish what I started and get through some of these projects.  It will clear out space in my craft room, clear out mental space to tackle new projects- because lets me honest, it's no fun to sew in a room full of half finished things staring at you.  It makes me feel like Santa and the Island of Misfit Toys.  And as for books, if they're not that good, I should just get rid of them, and if they are worth my time, finish them.

How about you guys?  I can't be the only one with a crazy amount of works in progress, can I?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

June Reading List

I can't believe we're already a week into June and I haven't put up my June reading list yet.  These books have been sitting on my breakfast island waiting for their write up, so I figured it's best just to do it.

I'm still trudging through We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, and while I'm making daily progress on it, it's not the kind of book you want to sit down and plow through on a Saturday afternoon.  Trying to absorb all the history and horror is hard and exhausting.  So, I read a chapter here and there and then set it down and come back to it.  So, I was looking for some lighter June reading.   Here's what I've chosen.

Still Mine by Amy Stuart was recommended by Diane from Book of Secrets.  I found a copy on Bookmooch so I requested it.  Turns out, it's an Advance Uncorrected Proof, which always kind of bothers me for some reason, but I'm determined to not let it and get this book read.  The book itself is a mystery, about a woman on the run, who shows up in a remote mining town and uncovers another woman's mysterious disappearance.  It sounds like a nice straightfoward mystery, and I think it will make a good vacation read

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is my classic pick for the month.  Someone on Goodreads summed it up as Pride and Prejudice for Socialists.  I'm not sure if that makes it more or less exciting for me to read it, but it does pique my curiosity.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is a novel of epic proportions.  It involves Jesuit priests in space travel to visit alien life with horrific results.  Only one member of the mission makes it back and he refuses to talk about what happened.  Which really just makes me want to know what happens. :)  I received it from A Book Olive in a past swap and while I have some pretty ambitious goals for June, and am not sure I'll get it read, I really hope I do.

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada is a book I selected without really knowing what all it was about.  I thought it was a fictional story of a father who lost his son, who was a Nazi soldier, in World War II, and decides to protest the Nazi regime by posting anti-Nazi postcards around Berlin.  But, it's really based on the true story of Otto and Elsie Hampel, and their grief after their soldier son is killed, and their attempt to stand against Nazi control.  Hans Fallada's story sounds almost as interesting as the Hampels.  He was a writer prior to the start of the Third Reich, and was born Rudolph Ditzen.  (There's even a few mentions of him in Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts.)  He refused to pump out propaganda for the Nazi's and was pretty much blacklisted.  He suffered morphine addiction, was jailed and had kind of a chaotic life, but shortly after the war, he wrote this book.

I'm not sure how light of reading it's going to be and I have even more book goals that I'll tell you about later, but let me know what you're planning on reading this month.  I'm always looking for new titles to check out.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

May Book Recap

So there was not much reading accomplished in May.  The month started out really well.  I finished up my first book only a couple days in, but the next two I picked have been deeper and heavier.  But, let me tel you what I thought of the two I did read.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Morarty was the first of Moriarty's books I've read and I wouldn't be opposed to reading more. I would classify this as a beach read.  There's a little bit of a mystery, a little soul searching, and some reflecting, and a nice resolution at the end.  The premise is that Alice wakes up after falling off her spin bike at the gym and hitting her head only to discover that she doesn't remember the last ten years of her life.  The last thing she recalls is being happily married with a baby on the way, with her and her husband remodeling their dream home.  Now she finds out she's getting a divorce, her sister barely talks to her, her shy, quiet mom is remarried and a salsa dancer, and she has three kids!  It's a good read and it was interesting to find out what happened in the missing chunk of time. I wasn't sure how it would end, but as a lover of happy endings, I enjoyed it.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is taglined as "Some Instructions on Writing and Life" and I'd say that is true.  I feel like Anne Lamott would make a great best friend.  She'd tell you the truth with humor, always be encouraging, and have a fun way at looking at things. This book really inspired me to get back to writing just for the sake of writing and find my voice.  She also gave me new insights and presented a different way of looking at things.  Her sense of humor shines through every page and I found myself laughing out loud more than once, and quoting passages to friends and then listening to them laugh out loud.  I took longer to read this book than I should have, but I really wanted to soak it all in and once I was finished, I felt like I should immediately go back and reread it, highlighting and underlining pertinent parts, but I'm afraid it would be covered in yellow highlighter and notes in the margins.  I highly, highly, recommend it to anyone who wants to write but isn't sure how to begin, as it gives practical advice for writers of all levels without regard to skill.  It's definitely a keeper.

I started a third book, about the Rwandan genocide, and am still trudging through it.  It's hard because it's full of inhumanity and terror and the history of an area I know little about.  It's well written, but definitely not enjoyable or light.  Hopefully, I will finish it in June and can tell you more about it next month.

As for what I acquired- look at that!  Absolutely nothing new!  Feels great to not add more to the to be read pile.

And what about you?  What are you reading or adding to your reading list?  Let me know in the comments below.

2016 Totals:
Read 17

Acquired 20