Merry PAXmas!

Greetings, PAX-goers!

I’m looking forward to a weekend full of amazing games and tens of thousands of fellow game-type-people!

I’ll be there all weekend, knitting my way through the crowds. If you see me, please say hello. I’ll have some Cunning Hats and Dice/Gaming Bags on hand if you want to pick up an order at the show. Order from the shop just like normal, using coupon code PICKUP at checkout to waive the shipping fee. We’ll make arrangements to meet up so you can pick up your order. Please note this applies ONLY to dice bags and cunning hats. All other orders will have to be shipped to you. I need to save room in my bag for games!

See you there!

 

Leave a comment!

Running with Sticks: one down, five to go.

It’s finished! Well, the first pair are done, anyway. I started them mid February and just wove in the ends yesterday. Considering I took two weeks off in March, that’s not too shabby. Each legwarmer took 10 knitting gym sessions to complete. I started at a knitting rate of 12 rows per mile and have increased to 17 rows per mile. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty impressed with myself.

That said, while being impressed with my knitting and walking prowess yesterday I got cocky, lost focus, and didn’t notice when the last remnants of the last ball of yarn pulled out of the knitting bag, tumbled to my feet and got swept behind me on the treadmill. I didn’t trip, but I did utter a few profane oaths and turn several shades of red not related to the physical exertion at hand. Way to keep me grounded, Universe.

On to the next pair! These ones will be shades of green and yellow. Everyone else chose more shades of blue, grey, and black. I just can’t with those colors right now, so green and yellow it is.

Leave a comment!

Bags for all!

A customer recently told me she uses her lunch bag as a knitting bag for socks on the go. How clever is that? I was so focused on food, I never even thought of using the lunch bags for anything else. Thanks to her genius, I’m now using one of my old lunch bags (v 1.0) to bring my leg warmer knitting with me to the gym. Thanks, Candice! It really was a great idea.

What about dice bags? Do you like my dice bags but have no dice to call your own? As sad as your paucity of dice makes my wee, game-loving heart, I sympathize with your predicament. You don’t have to use the dice bags for dice, though. Did you know I first made those dice bags to accompany the lunch bags? Yes! Their original purpose was as receptacles for snacks. They’re still quite useful for that purpose, so you might as well grab a couple for yourself. One for your snacks, one for your dice. Just don’t mix up the two. I shall not be responsible for your dentist bills.

Got any clever ideas of your own? Do let me know! I’d love to hear how you’re making use of these bags.

Leave a comment!

Down the Rabbit Hole

The lovely gals at Chifferobe, a dance and entertainment company in Providence, RI, asked me to team up with Tropigal Melissa Freitas to design some Alice in Wonderland themed accessories for an upcoming event. You may already be aware of my fondness for tea, cake, parties, and miniatures, so the combination of all those things in this project probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I just couldn’t resist those tiny cakes. Tiny cakes!

Please see their blog for the Alice band tutorial as well as Melissa’s curiously wonderful (see what I did there?) designs for playing card and painted rose fascinators. They’re darling!

 

Leave a comment!

Hello, Anime Boston.

If you’re popping over here from the panel on bento culture, hello and welcome!

I started making draw string lunch bags and coordinating napkins specifically to wrap and carry standard, rectangular bento boxes. I now make them a bit larger to accommodate a wider variety of lunch box shapes. All of the lunch bags I offer are handmade by me, reversible, flat-bottomed, and machine washable. I’m also happy to take custom orders. Please visit the lunchtime section of my Etsy shop (use coupon code ANIME2014 for 10% off anything in the shop) or the lunchtime gallery on flickr to see what I have to offer. I also carry Cuppow BNTO mason jar adapters that turn your canning jar into a two-compartment lunch container. Since I don’t make those myself, they are only available in my Storenvy shop.

Thanks for visiting, and happy lunching!

Leave a comment!

Runs with Sticks Update

Things are moving along nicely in the Runs with Sticks department. I’m nearly done with the first legwarmer. I think I’m going to buy another set of circulars, though. I’m getting nervous I’ll run out of yarn before I make the second in this pair. I don’t mind that they won’t have identical stripes, but they should at least be the same length. My plan is to cast on for the second one the next time I go walk/running, then I’ll work until they’re even. After that I’ll just go back and forth between them until I run out of yarn.

My pace is holding steady at 3.2 mph. I am not ready to go faster yet, so to make the workout harder I’ve increased the incline. I start out flat and work up to 2% for the warmup, then work up to 5% for the most of the hour, then go back to flat for the cool-down. I’ve only done that for a week, but it’s really kicking my butt (in the best possible way). All of my workout days in February (minus one) were knitting days.

You know about my sticker rewards program, right? Basically, I treat myself like a kindergartener and give myself a sticker every time I go to the gym or do a significant home/outside workout. I hung the calendar in a place I walk past constantly so I get to enjoy my sticker collection. I did pretty well last month with 13/28 days. My goal is 3 gym visits per week & the outside stuff is a bonus. I only managed that once last month, so I’ll keep the same goal for March. Behold: my February 2014 sticker collection!

I knit and give myself stickers to stay motivated. What do you do to trick yourself into doing things you don’t really want to do but know you should anyway?

Leave a comment!

Quest: do something silly, avoid disaster

The treadmill is boring, right? I refuse to walk or run outside in the cold where there’s barely enough room on the roads what with the snow banks and all, so the treadmill is what I’ve got to work with until it stops snowing, which will probably be July.

I hate exercise. I love being active, though, and I miss being fit. I just don’t like the hamster wheel-ness of the treadmill, nor do I care for the music or television selection at my gym. Music on my headphones is great, but I still need something to look at and The View isn’t doing it for me. Reading on the treadmill is great, but I can’t listen to music when I read. Last time I tried that I ended up thinking about how awesome it would be if Freddy Mercury fought a bunch of orcs with his microphone stand, which IS awesome but I totally lost my place in the Hobbit and had to go back several pages. What I’m trying to say is that roller derby ruined me for every other fitness activity ever. If it’s not on wheels it is therefore wicked boring and I go out of my tree trying to stay focused.

Then I read this. There’s a world record for the longest scarf knitted while running a marathon, and this guy broke it. You can see where this is going, right? I’ll probably never be a marathoner, but I’m a pretty good knitter, and I’ve already mastered knitting-hats-while-walking-in-a-crowd-to-prevent-panic-attacks-at-large-conventions, so the treadmill should be easy, right?

RIGHT! You thought I was going to say “wrong” didn’t you? Turns out, I’m awesome at knitting and walking on a treadmill! I can knit and walk up to 3.5 mph, though it seems my best pace for walking and knitting is 3.2mph. As I level up I’ll try running, but for now I’ll continue to knit while I warm up and set the knitting aside for my run/walk intervals, then pick up the knitting for the cool down. I’ve only gotten a few funny looks from fellow gym-goers as there really aren’t that many people when I go. I’m sure the first time I have a major yarn disaster there will be a huge audience.

I didn’t want to do a scarf like the guy in that article. I don’t really need any more scarves and the thought of wrapping wool around myself while exercising makes me cringe. There are a few factors to consider when choosing a knitting project for treadmill walking. Small projects are best suited, but nothing fiddly or too small a gauge, especially if it involves tiny double pointed needles (thus ruling out socks). I have to be able to use only one ball of yarn at a time (which can fit in the cup holder) for the duration of a single walking session (thus no color work). I settled on leg warmers because I can knit a 1×1 ribbed tube easily while walking, and I can do them on circulars with a small enough cable.

I plan on bringing a different color of yarn to the gym each time I go, so they’ll end up being a kind of workout tracking system as well. The stripes won’t be of equal size as I’m sure my pace will fluctuate daily, and the pair certainly won’t be identical mates, but I’m fine with fraternal stripes. They’ll be unique and fun, and I’m sure I will love them.

Since I really don’t need more than a couple of pairs of leg warmers, I decided to ask my friends if they’d like to contribute to this ridiculous project. They buy the yarn, and I knit them leg warmers while keeping myself entertained on the treadmill. I figured I’d get a couple of my weirder friends interested, but I didn’t expect five people to sign up in less than an hour. I capped this round at five because I have no idea how long it’ll take me to knit 12 legwarmers (counting one pair for myself) while walking. If all goes smoothly, I’ll open things up for another round since I know there are a few people who are disappointed they missed the first round.

I’ve started a Ravelry project page for this endeavor where you can check out all the specifics like the yarn and needles used, etc., should that sort of thing interest you. What do you think? Have you taken on a particularly silly project lately? What weird/fun/inspiring challenges have you attempted?

Leave a comment!

This, that, and the otter thing

Winter will be leaving us soon, though the snow is coming down as I type this, and I begin to emerge from a months-long hibernation (speaking both personally and business-ly).  Plans have been sketched, supplies have been ordered, production for the spring and summer has finally begun.

The first product line to get attention this year will be the dice bags. See that cute otter bag up there? I’m very happy to have been asked to provide bags for a game called Otters! by Clay Crucible Games. This fabric, y’all. I can’t even take it. I love otters to begin with, and the art for this game is super fun. There’s still time to snag yourself a copy of the game and one of those cute otter bags. I’ve also got a bunch of fabric cut and ready to be sewn into dice/gaming bags for the shop. My weekend plans? So many bags! Expect an update next week.

The next set of bags will be lunch-sized ones. I’ve got some pretty great plans in mind for the lunch and picnic product lines. I am really quite excited about them, but I don’t want to say too much right now, as the designs are still in flux. I will say this, though: insulated liners. (You’re excited now, right?)

The rest of my spring and summer plans include craft and farmer’s markets in the Boston and South Shore area, and hopefully I’ll be productive enough early in the year to make enough stock to carry me through the holiday market season. (Fall becomes far too busy for anything but special orders.) Keep an eye on the schedule – I’ll be adding events as they’re confirmed.

My main objective for the year is to focus on stock and keeping the shop updated. I’m only going to be doing a couple more events than I did last year, but if I get even a little bit ahead of the game now I don’t think it’ll be too overwhelming.

I’ve got big plans for 2014, and I am thrilled I get to keep doing this for my job. Thank you so much for your support. I couldn’t do it without you. Really.

Leave a comment!

Not quite a Time Lord, but close enough

Ellie mitts for Alison

I have a crafty backlog seven miles long. I’ve finally begun to work on it, though, and I’ve already filled three crafty debts this year! (Pictured above: a pair of fingerless mitts I made for a friend who asked me to make them for her two years ago.) I can’t keep that pace for the rest of the year, but it’s a great feeling to finally have momentum. I don’t often make things for myself, since my job takes up so much of my creative energy, but I hope to change that with a bit of planning.

I’m not one for making sweeping changes to routines all in one go, because they never stick. Instead, I like to add one or two tiny things to my routines every year. Last year I decided I wanted to make the bed every day. That’s it. Just make the bed. I added it into my usual routine, and bob’s your uncle, now I’m the kind of person who makes their bed every day. Or nearly every day. This year my plan is to do the same with knitting and reading.

My routine til now has been to focus all my energy on work, burn myself out, then spend too much time aimlessly scrolling through Twitter and Facebook or whatever to decompress. Every day. It’s not a very good way for me to live, so I tried to think of a small thing I could change that would make me less likely to fall into that pattern. Instead of tooling around on the internet on my breaks, I now have a knitting project or a book nearby. When I need a break, I simply switch to either of those for a little while. A chapter of a book or a few rounds on a sock make me feel so much more refreshed than the same amount of time scrolling through blog feeds.

Bit by bit, I’m gaining time lost, or at least not losing any more time, which is just as good. It’s not quite like being a Time Lord, but it’s close.

Next up: socks are on the needles right now and mittens will soon follow, as well as continuing to work on my Doctor Who scarf . If you’re on Ravelry, be sure to add me as a friend. I’m also back at the gym after a very long time away. It feels great, but I had to find a way to make the treadmill feel less like a hamster wheel. After reading this article  about a knitting marathoner I just had to try knitting and treadmill walking. Turns out I’m pretty good at it. Well, I haven’t tripped or dropped my knitting yet. I may graduate to running while knitting, but for now I’ll keep it to a walking pace. Expect more on this in the upcoming weeks.

What about you all? What are you making for yourself? How are you making more time for your own craft projects?

Leave a comment!

Winter Holiday Stuffing

I’ve been adjusting my stuffing recipe for 10 years, and I think I’ve finally got it just right. Maybe. I’ll probably come up with a few more ideas to try out, but for now it’s pretty good. For dishes such as this, I don’t have a recipe of specific quantities as such, so my directions may seem frustratingly nebulous if you need that kind of detail. If you’re a “little of this, little of that” kind of cook, this should suit you just fine. Please feel free to leave a comment with your success stories, or disaster stories if they’re especially hilarious.

I use home made white bread for this recipe, but a store bought bakery loaf will do just fine. If your bread is a few days old and a bit stale, you can jump right in. If you’re using fresh baked bread, you’ll want to follow the “prepare your bread” instructions first.

Prepare Your Bread

Fresh baked bread is soft and moist and delicious. Soft and moist bread is the enemy. We need to dry that stuff out a bit and make it fake stale. If the bread is hot out of the oven, let it cool to room temperature first. Hot bread is difficult to work with, and it’ll save your fingers if you let it cool.

Once cool, cut the bread into 1(ish) inch cubes. Spread the cubes on as many baking sheets as your oven will accommodate. Set the oven temp to 200 degrees (F) and let the bread cubes dry out. You don’t want the cubes to become toasted, just dry on the outside and still a bit soft on the inside. We’re not making croutons here. This process may take a half hour or more, and you’ll want to flip the cubes periodically so they dry out evenly. (I usually just toss them with a spatula, but if you want to be more methodical, go for it.) Set your cubes aside in the biggest, widest bowl you have while you prepare the broth.

Ingredients:
One or more loaves of bread, cut into 1(ish) inch cubes
Olive oil
Onion
Celery
Baby bella mushrooms
Garlic
Parsley
Sage
Rosemary
Thyme
Water (3+ cups)
Vegetable bouillon paste
(Note: I use Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base. I like the paste because I can control the concentration. If you can’t find bouillon paste and have to use prepared stock, cook it down until it’s quite a bit more concentrated. Omit the water if using prepared stock.)

Set the bread cubes aside in the biggest, widest bowl you have. Chop the onion, celery, and mushrooms into small pieces. Press the garlic (or chop into tiny pieces if you don’t have a garlic press). Grind the herbs a bit with a mortar and pestle. They don’t need to be reduced to a powder or pulp, but you’ll want to process them enough so they release their fragrant oils. Since we’re working with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, it helps if you sing a bit of Scarborough Fair while you’re grinding up the herbs. Science.

Sautee the onion and celery in olive oil until they’re a bit softened and starting to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms. Cook until all are soft. Add the garlic and sautee with the rest for about a minute. It’s important to not burn the garlic or it’ll become bitter. Add the herbs, stirring to coat the vegetables in the herb mixture and cook for another minute or so.

Add water and a blob of the bouillon paste. Once the bouillon paste is dissolved in the water, taste the broth. It should be fairly concentrated – we’re adding it to plain bread after all. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or longer. This is where the flavor melding happens.

Preheat the oven to 350(F). Once the oven is heated, ladle some the broth over the bread cubes in that giant bowl. Using a spatula or large wooden spoon, work the cubes around gently until they begin to absorb the liquid. Some of the cubes will begin to break up, which is fine. Try to not let it become one big pile of mush, though. Continue adding broth a little at a time until the cubes are soaked through, but there isn’t a pool of broth at the bottom of the bowl. If they still seem too dry, mix a bit of bouillon with warm water and pour over the cubes until you reach the desired saturation. If you end up with extra broth, use it in your next batch of soup. (Make sure to get all the veggies into the cube mixture regardless of how much of the liquid you end up using.)

Dump the cube mess into a baking dish and cover. Bake at 350(F) for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Test a bit from the middle. If it seems way soggier than you’d like, continue to bake uncovered for another 5 or so minutes. Let the stuffing rest for 10 minutes before serving. If it’s too dry, make some gravy and make note to either add more broth or bake it less next time. Also make note of the seasoning blend you used. Do you want to use more rosemary next time? Less sage? This recipe is great for experimenting.

Good luck and happy stuffing!

Leave a comment!