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Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Own Little Mermaid

I'm not to the point where I think this is perfected enough to share the pattern (the sizing is a bit weird, for one thing), but I thought I'd post some pictures of the progress I've made on my Mermaid Tail project. It's going to be Claire's trick or treat outfit.

As you can see it's a little bit loose on her. I'm thinking that, rather than remake the whole piece, I'm going to add on a "belt" like band at the top that tightens it up because I do want the body of the piece to allow her legs as much movement as possible. There is even a slit up the back so that her legs can completely pop out of the outfit, allowing for a diaper change or just a break if she wants to kick (or crawl. I expect she will be crawling by Halloween). I don't want to do this part just yet because she's probably also going to grow a bit over the next few months. 

Here she is again. She didn't seem to mind wearing it which is a good sign.

The tail on it's own. The pattern is (like all my patterns) really simple. Let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions or questions. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bodycology Pinboard Contest and My Ideal Fragrance Line!!!

I found out today about a "Design Your Dream Fragrance" contest from Bodycology (pin here) and "stole" their image so I could give you the full details:

I love pinboard contests. I won a cookbook through one earlier this year, and since then, when I see one, I get excited! I try to go above and beyond, actually creating a board that I enjoy rather than just meets the requirements for the contest, and with this "Pinspire" contest, I got a little bit carried away.

My first thought was to write down a list of things that inspire me or make me happy or that are images I would like to associate with my bath and beauty products. I came up with: Kittens, Audrey Hepburn, and Fresh Paper. I admit I don't know exactly what a kitten inspired fragrance would smell like, but I like kittens, so I wanted them to be a part of it. . .

I started searching for pins in those categories and then I thought, you know, this would be cool if it had a geek theme. . .what about a fragrance about reading a good book. . .and so I came up with my first Geek Chic Fragrance. . .and before I knew it I had "designed" (dreamed up, imagined, thrown together) four different scent ideas which I wish so much were in production.

Here they are:

Reading the Hobbit:
This would be the smell of leather bound books and fresh paper with hints of black tea, everything a girl needs for her escape into Middle Earth.

Self-Rescuing Princess:
A princess is sweet and feminine so there is the obvious floral notes of rose and lavender, however, since she can handle herself we would throw in some zesty lemon.

Gamer Girl:
This fragrance would be based on the fuel a Gamer Girl needs to survive and would smell strongly of chocolate and coffee (I guess some Gamer Girls would smell of energy drinks and corn chips, but I think my idea is more appealing) but there would also be a kick of unexpected red pepper because Gamer Girls are hot.

On a Quest:
I think this might be my favorite because I want to go on a quest so badly! It would smell of pine forests and sandalwood with a hint of fresh, misty ocean air. 

I like this line slightly more than my other idea: New Mom, which would smell of baby powder and milk. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Action Hero Training Camp

My daughter loves a specific episode of the Backyardigans called Breakout where the two girls play princesses who have to escape from a tower using action hero skills including a trip through a "hall of lasers" where they have to do a special dance to avoid touching a laser and setting off an alarm.

It's an action movie staple. One of my favorite takes on it was on my all time favorite TV show Psych  where Shawn tries to talk Gus through a similar laser grid saying, "It's just like Entrapment. Dude, you are way more limber than C. Zeta Jones."

Coryn has a great imagination on her own, even without inspiration like this (last night she told me after a reading of The Cat in the Hat, "Mommy, I wish this book were magic and I could jump into it," for instance), and yesterday evening she found some "t-shirt yarn" I had made out of a shirt she'd ruined.

"Mommy, what is this for?" she asked. I didn't really have any plans for it. I had just tried to make it as an experiment and there wasn't really enough to do anything with, so I told her she could have it. The next thing I knew, there was a string of it going from the door knob to her sister's bouncy saucer to the back of my chair and she was jumping over and climbing under it over and over again. To say I was impressed would be a major understatement. This was awesome. . .

So the next day I told her to wait on the couch until I was done prepping a "surprise." She sat down stairs yelling up guesses.

"Is it a party? Is it something to color?"

The laser grid before I made some necessary additions.

Coryn's initial reaction to the laser grid.

Her first trip through. 

A close up.

Coryn photographs me adding on to the laser grid. 

It kept growing.

I took my scrap yarn and some scotch tape and about five minutes later (and after telling her if she came up and peaked the surprise would "disappear.") the laser grid was set up. I ended up having to add on over the next half hour or so because the first version was simply too easy but eventually we found  a way to perfect it and it was just plain awesome. Eventually it had to come down because I had to vacuum in that area and it was making it so we couldn't open any of the doors in the hall way, but for the amount of time it took to set up, I'd recommend this for a rainy day activity for anyone. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Separation Anxiety

My current crochet-attention is divided between an infant mermaid costume I'm designing for Claire (Inspired by this pin but I'm making it up as I go rather than following a pattern) and a basket I'm constructing to hold the ridiculous amount of chargers and cords that I have around the house. The mermaid tail I haven't quite figured out yet, but when I do I'll post it. The basket, I've made a lot of them and I might post the pattern to that someday. It's very simplistic, though, and I have faith that most of you could figure it out.

Anyway, while that has been occupying my hands, my brain has been elsewhere. Since we moved here, I have been in search of playmates for Coryn, and it has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. In Iwakuni there weren't a lot of day care options and there were more stay-at-home moms than working moms (probably because there weren't a lot of day care options). Here I just don't run into a lot of kids. I'm assuming this is because moms are working and kids are wherever kids go when moms are working. Coryn's only four, so I'm not looking for school-aged friends for her so I figured if I found some stay-at-home moms I'd find stay-at-home kids. Apparently, I was mistaken.

I finally found a group of SAHMs (look at me, I'm using acronyms!) who were meeting for regular play dates and took Coryn to one, but was again disappointed by the lack of other four-year-olds. Luckily, Coryn is pretty open minded and plays well with three-year-olds, but I know since she is tall for her age other kids find her a little intimidating and assuming she is a lot rather than a little older than them.  So she played with the three-year-olds and I talked up the mommies. . .and I was blown away with how many of them are already talking about school for their three-year-olds. One was worried because her daughter would turn five a week after the school cut off and "six was so old to start kindergarten." Others talked about preschools they send their three-year-olds to a few times a week.

Now, in full disclosure, I don't trust schools. I was home schooled. I liked it, and everything I've ever heard about public school or private school or any sort of organized, formal education to me sounds . . .stifling. . .unnatural. . . inefficient. I can't imagine being trapped in a school for five days a week for almost all the good day light hours, 8 to 3? I think that's how it works, though I admittedly have limited experience. Then there is homework. I read about kids doing hours of home work every night. With all that in their way, how do they have time to read (books for fun, not for school), write poetry or bad fan fiction, create art (outside of art class, just for the sake of creating), start a beading hobby they can take to craft fairs and make extra money with. . .all the things I did when I was a kid.

To me childhood should be a productive time full of unscheduled sections where the child is responsible for entertaining himself. Homeschooling can be very efficient (this depends a lot on the parent's style of teaching, of course), but when I was young, if I was still doing school at 1pm it was considered a bad day, and this is in high school. And yeah, I scored in the high 90's on state tests (which we were required to take every year up until I was in middle school and then state law changed and it became every three years); I got into community college at 17 and aced every class. . .except I was so bored with it.

That's the one problem I have with homeschooling. It makes formal education seem so boring and pointless than it is really hard to muscle through unless you have a firm goal (which at that point in my life I didn't, so I dropped out of college after one year), it is easy to write it off as useless. I have other friends who just responded by taking extremely heavy class loads and powering through in record time or who just grit their teeth and did it, but for me, I couldn't see any benefit to pretending I wanted to be there any longer and I started working, first at a restaurant and then at a bank. . . and then marriage and babies and that's where I am now, and honestly, this is where I wanted to be all along.

Matt worries about homeschooling, even though he himself was homeschooled. He doesn't want Coryn and Claire to think their only options is to be housewives. He says he's fine if that is their choice, but he sees that myself and my sister both ended up in that role, and I think he thinks that's all it will prepare them to be. I can point out three or four girls I grew up with who became something else and are doing well at it (engineer, banker, nurse), but Matt is impossible to argue with so we generally just butt heads until I get annoyed with him and give up.

To me, though, with young kids, it is especially pointless to try and push them into a school-shaped-mold. Coryn knows her letters and letter sounds, can write her name, read a few basic words, do some easy addition. . .I don't think there is anything a teacher would teach her at this point that she doesn't already have a grasp on or that I can't teach her in the next year or so.

But I also find a lot of mothers who seem to feel guilty about keeping their kids at home. They seem to think they are holding their kids back, that kids need to learn how to be in a school as early as four, that they are missing socializing skills by not being with other kids their age constantly, that preschool is necessary for their education.

It drives me nuts.

Education, especially early education, should be organic. It should be reading good books, asking questions and getting answers about things you are interested. Yes, test taking is an essential skill, and it is a skill that can be taught, but it is not a practical skill for adulthood. Tests are just one way of looking at data retention.

To me tests help kids exercise rote memory and puzzle solving (trick questions), but there is a lot more that needs to be taught.

I'm a reading learner. Talk at me, I tune you out fairly quickly. Give me a book and I can generally recite passages word for word at the end of it. I can memorize facts. I still know all my capital cities and most of the periodic table of the elements. I once backed a co-worker into a corner with a lecture on the causes and results of the Civil War and it takes a lot of will power for me to not be the person going around correcting grammar and spelling on Facebook. Academically, I learned pretty much everything I need to know. I also learned how to think out of a box, creatively put together words and express myself better than I'd say 75% of my peers, solve puzzles (I would be so happy if life were a Myst game), entertain myself, and consider data with skepticism rather than being spoon fed whatever an "authority figure" tells me.

Other kids are not me. Other kids will learn in a completely different way. I personally didn't really absorb any of my high school math. I memorized it, used it to pass the tests, and forgot about it. For me that was good enough. I never took the time to understand it. I know other people who have had difficulty with reading and writing and can't string words together to form a sentence to save their lives but who seem to translate high level math as if it were their first language. I don't think formal education leaves room for these differences in people. It is so worried about letter grades and credits that it doesn't really leave room for true learning.

I am not ready to throw Coryn out into a world full of desks and teachers attempting to supervise dozens of children at the same time. Even Matt agrees with me that five is just too young for school. I get worried at the thought of forgetting to teach her something, and I worry about finding her friends here when everyone else seems to be shipping their kids off earlier and earlier, but I'm not willing to bend my standards for my daughter's care just because everyone else thinks that the school way is the only way. I want the best for her. Not the expected. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cozy for my New Camera: Pattern!!!

I got my new camera today, two days before the delivery estimate, so I'm happy. It's the same brand and very similar in style to my old camera, but a little bit thinner and sleeker. It's quick and while I haven't gotten used to the settings yet, I think I'm going to love it. I'm not a photography fanatic. I wanted a simple, light weight point and shoot, and that's what I got. This one had good reviews on Amazon, was a decent price, and I had been happy with my old camera for the five years that I had it, so getting the same brand was an easy choice. 

The first thing I did, once I got the battery pack charged, was decide I needed to make it a cozy. Making a cozy is crochet 101. You can make one for just about anything. I've done them for laptops and phones, and making one for whatever you want is just an issue of adjusting the size. 

This also gave me a chance to work with a multi-colored yarn. I love working with this stuff, especially with a simple pattern. It makes it interesting, and when you are working in a continuous round (like with this pattern) it forms a striped pattern without having to switch yarns. Here is a very simple, easily adjusted, set of instructions, specifically for making a cozy for a small camera, but just change a few of the numbers and you can cozy up any item you want!

The almost finished cozy and the multi-colored yarn I used. See the stripes!

The completed cozy. 

I couldn't figure out how to take a picture of my cozy with the camera inside so I decided to include a picture of the phone cozy I made several months ago. I attached this one to lobster claw style hook and attached that to my key ring. My phone is pretty scratched up, huh? I love this thing (the cozy, not the phone. I got the cheapest phone possible. I'm not giving in to the smart phone craze any time soon). My sister looked at it once and said, "Huh, that's very Portlandia." I don't think she meant that as a compliment. 

Start by creating a chain that is the length of the bottom of your object. The most successful cozies (the ones your object is least likely to fall out of) are going to have the open end be the shorter end. This project required the chain to be 11 chains long, You always start the row in the second chain from the hook, so your next row is 10 single crochets long.

Ch 11
Sc in the second chain from the hook and in each chain down the row.

 When you reach the last chain, Single Crochet three times, allowing the piece to turn towards the opposite side of the foundation chain.
 Now single crochet down the remaining stitches in that chain.
And when you reach the last stitch on that side of the chain, SC twice. Now you are going to start working around in a very long oval like shape.  
Single crochet down the length of the piece, when you reach the end, single crochet two times in the two turning stitches, work down the opposite side, single crochet twice in the turning stitches on that side as well. 

This shows the second set of turning stitches. My camera is pretty small, but if you are dealing with a wider object, you will need to do more increase rows. Just continue on, adding two stitches at both ends of the piece, until you have the desired size.

Now we are just going to work evenly, a single crochet in every stitch, and build up the piece to the desired length. Here is a few rows in. 

It should form a pocket within a few rows. This is a good point to stop and evaluate your sizing by squeezing the object into the unfinished cozy and seeing if it actually fits. It should be snug, otherwise the object will slip out too easily but it shouldn't have to stretch too much to get in place. If your sizing is off, start over or your cozy won't work!
So continue crocheting "straight" (I'm not sure if that's the accepted technical term for it, but no increases, no decreases, just going around and around) until your piece swallows up whatever object it is intended to encase. The last row, decrease once on each end. This tightens up the mouth of the cozy and makes it harder for your tech device to take an unexpected tumble.

 Here is another picture of my finished cozy for my phone. To extract the phone/camera/whatever, just give a gentle squeeze to the bottom of the cozy and it should pop out.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Alison Ann, What Happened to the Dinosaurs?

I scribbled out this work of fiction awhile ago, but I'm just now editing and typing it up. Alison Ann is a bit of a know-it-all who may not know as much as she thinks, kind of inspired by how Lucy used to set up her "Doctor's Office" in a lemonade stand and dish out television advice. Here it is:

On Tuesday afternoon, just before three o'clock, Alison Ann Ridley's lemonade stand ran completely out of lemonade. At 3:05 Alison painted over the word "lemonade" and in straight, bold letters brushed in "Ask Alison, 25 cents. . . Satisfaction Guaranteed." She then settled down to wait.

At 3:10pm Jackson Grew, with his red wagon and his plush purple triceratops in tow, saw the sign. He had thirty-five centers in his pocket which hadn't been enough for the ice cream man. He looked at his two dimes and three nickles. He looked at Alison.

"Satisfaction guaranteed?" he asked.

"Satisfaction guaranteed," nodded Alison. Jackson pulled up a lawn chair and counted out exact change. He covered his triceratops' ears.

"Alison, how did the dinosaurs die?" he whispered.

Alison screwed up her nose and twitched her mouth. She counted Jackon's money, twice, just to be sure.

"Volcanoes," she announced. "Volcanoes got them." 

Completely unsatisfied, Jackson put his hand over his dimes and the nickle.

"Well, how come they didn't run?" he said. Alison sighed. This wasn't going to be easy money.

"Well, they would've run, but they were all too busy roasting marshmallows over the lava. By the time they finished doing that it was too late," she said. Jackson's eyes widened.

"They had marshmallows back in dinosaur times?" he asked.

"There have always been marshmallows," Alison said firmly. "They grow on bushes in South America." Jackson thought about this for a moment, took his hand off his change, picked up his triceratops, and walked away.

That night when Alison was reading the encyclopedia, the phone rang.

"Alison Ann," said Mrs. Ridley. "It's Jackson Grew."

"Alison Ann speaking," spoke Alison.

"I'm not satisfied," said Jackson. "My dad says dinosaur fossils are found in rock that used to be mud, not lava. If all dinosaurs died in volcanoes, wouldn't they be fossils in lava?"

"Wellllll. . ." said Alison. "You didn't specify all dinosaurs. With so many different dinosaurs or course they didn't die the exact same ways."

"Some dinosaurs left the marshmallow party early and went to the beach, but since they didn't wait an hour to go swimming after eating their marshmallows, they got cramps and we all know that that is very serious."

"Oh," said Jackson. "And that's how all the dinosaurs died?"

"Mostly. . .some were running with scissors and the carnivores wouldn't eat vegetables so a lot of them just got sick," Alison continued. "Oh and some people think they drowned in floods or got hit by rocks falling from the sky, but if you ask me, it was mostly the marshmallows that did them in."

"Wow," said Jackson, "I didn't know marshmallows could be so dangerous."

"Yes," said Alison. "That is why you should never roast marshmallows without grown-up supervision or eat them before dinner."

There was silence on the other end of the line.

"Are you satisfied now, Jackson?" Alison finally asked.

"Yes, Alison, I am satisfied," said Jackson.

"Good-bye, Jackson."

"Good-bye, Alison."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


It's hard to get into writing new posts while I'm camera-less. I ordered a new one yesterday, so I'm hoping it will be here sometime early next week. I spent some time reading reviews, wanting just a nice, light, point and shoot camera, and finally ended up with what is basically a slightly newer version of the camera that I had been using. The last one lasted about five years. This one I plan to not knock around so much and hopefully keep for longer.

In the mean time, my projects have been a toy ninja who my husband says looks like a monkey. Here is a picture I took with my web cam which is fuzzy but you can see the basic features:

It's a ninja! Right?

My daughter, who doesn't really care about Ninjas, asked me for a police man so I'm making that now. In the meantime, I'd love any suggestions for patterns you'd like to see. When my camera gets here I'll be eager to create and post anything you'd like. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Very Own Dragon

I normally don't share my work unless it is original but I'm really proud of this one. I found a pattern (linked here) for a crochet dragon several months ago, but every time I started it something seemed to go wrong, I'd get off count, and he'd end up lopsided. Finally, though, this week I sat down and concentrated and I ended up with a beautiful purple dragon. Of course, Coryn has already claimed him as her own dragon. I had considered donating him to the Purple Stitch Projects which is giving homemade toys to children who suffer from epilepsy, but I'll just have to make a different project for that.

Sorry the pictures aren't clear. I'm using my camcorder because my camera is still broken. 

I still think he's charming. 

So cute.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Coryn's Art

Like many other moms out there, I'm drowning in artwork that is too precious to throw away but too plentiful to reasonably keep. Coryn cranks out art work faster than Andy Warhol could've ever imagined and she expects every piece to be treated with reverence. The fridge is full. I put some of it in a plastic bin. That's about full. I send a little bit to grandma. If it is big enough we wrap presents with it. I've even glued some to the jars we use to store her art supplies, but it just keeps piling up.

So I decided to look into a technological solution.

My first instinct was to put it on my blog but since blogger is a free platform I ended up just starting another one. Here is the link, if you are curious.

I wasn't completely satisfied with that lay out so I decided to try Tumblr. That looks a little better (the images are somewhat larger), but I'm still not sure this is the platform I'll settle on. I'm open to suggestions.

Coryn is getting better and better at making recognizable forms. She's also getting the hang of her letters, and I'm always impressed when she writes her name on something (she's been doing it for awhile, but it still impresses me every time). I want to save every image she creates, but I know that simply isn't going to be possible. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Library Line Up

Yesterday's post was about my favorite book from the library run we made that day. However, I haven't done a library run down post in awhile (where I list every single book we got and give a little blurb about what I like or don't like about it), so I thought I'd take the time to do that today for the other six books we brought home. 

I give Coryn most of the decision making power when picking out picture books. Sometimes I'll veto a choice (if I think elements in it are too scary or if it is one of those books that just retells the stories in her cartoons, I hate that. I also reserve the right to turn down books for questionably moral material, but fortunately that hasn't come up yet. Screen before you read aloud, folks. Book companies make questionable decisions and librarians aren't there to raise your children for you.) but mostly she'll bring me books, I'll glance them over and put whatever she wants in the "take home pile."

I link back to amazon for these books in case you are intrigued enough that you want to buy or wishlist them. 

Benny & Beautiful Baby Delilah: I've read this book before. . .not this particular book, but books so like it that it might as well be this book. The "new sibling" story is a classic. The plot always goes something like this: kid is blindsided by new baby, new baby disrupts everything so kid does not like the new baby, then new baby does something (usually smile or laugh at the kid when no one else can get the baby to be happy) that endears the baby to the kid and all is happy with the world. Some of these stories have something particularly endearing about them or original, but for the most part, they are a basic staple of kids literature sort of like how buttered noodles are a part of most toddler diets. This one has high points of bright and fun illustrations and a believable child (though he can be a little bratty at times) but unless this is the only "new baby" book you can find at your library, there is nothing to make it extraordinary. Here is a post in which I list some similar books that I actually like better: Baby Homework

In the Rain with Baby Duck is actually one I might choose to get again. It is a story of a sulky little duck (there were a lot of somewhat bratty characters in our books this week, but all kids have their moments, I guess) and how she learns to like the rain due to some gentle urging by her beloved grandfather. I found it fun to read because of the "pit-a-pat" rain sounds and the way that Baby herself talks. She had a voice that was fun to narrate. The illustrations are nice, but Coryn insists that baby ducks parents are, in fact, geese. I'm not sure what she thinks the difference is between a duck and a goose, though.

 The next book Puppy Lost is maybe out of print because I couldn't find a copy on amazon with the same cover as the copy we picked up. It's another basic story about a puppy who gets separated from his mommy in a grocery store. I wouldn't call it an instructional book, it doesn't give a ton of good advice for lost kids (at least none that the puppy actually follows) but it is something kids might experience and can relate to and the puppy illustrations are cute.

There are a lot of versions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We actually own two of them already, which is why I was surprised when Coryn brought me this one by James Marshall. However, it is a Caldecott Honor book and the pictures are fun, so we brought it home. However, I still like the Paul Galdone version better (nice illustrations and the telling is more the classic, repetitive style I associate with good fairy tales).

Lizette's Green Sock was another nice find. It has simple illustrations and a cute story about a young duck who is happy to have found a single, green sock and how she chooses to share rather than have a full pair. It is creative and cute and the characters are good examples except for the bad "bully cats" who try to ruin Lizette's day and be little her find.

And finally, Woodpecker Forest, a nature story with beautiful wood cut illustrations, I wasn't sure Coryn would actually like this book because it is slow paced and the colors aren't as bright as she usually prefers, but we've read it twice now and it seems to keep her attention. Also, it is a nature story and somewhat informative, telling how woodpeckers live and how their young leave the nest when they get older.

New books are always fun to read. I like to try and find something new every time we hit the library. I hope you do as well. Kids need to grow up surrounded by books. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Recommendation: Bear Wants More

Today we made our way to the library, and other than my gps regularly attempting to get me lost (it has some issues with streets that it claims are through streets which I can clearly see are not), it went really well. When we got there it even turned out to be story time day so we now know when to show up for that if we chose to make it part of our week (hopefully I'll eventually learn to get there without having to back track and turn around over and over again). We actually found a good new book, which is rare, or at least had been in our old library where it seemed that if it was worth reading, we'd checked it out at least a dozen times. Today's find was Bear Wants More  by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman.

It's a clever, rhyming story about a bear who wakes up from his winter nap and can't seem to get full. His friends guide him to a variety of food sources (though I couldn't help thinking that in real life he'd probably eat said friends) and even throw him a party in an attempt to appease his hunger. The illustrations are cute but not cartoonish and the repeated line of "the bear wants more. . . " is fun for kids to repeat. I'm planning to  put it on my amazon wish list for Coryn as well as read it over and over again until we have to take it back.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Social Hour

So here I am, doing a social link up challenge I read about on another blog. Natasha in Oz challenged her readers to write a post detailing all the ways that they are social. . .and I thought, great, now I have to confess how much time I waste on Facebook every week.

When I started doing my crochet "business" awhile back, I, of course, set up an Etsy account (Critters for Coryn, some of the postings are detailed in this blog post.), but I also set up a Facebook account to share my work so that my non-crocheting friends wouldn't be constantly bombarded with photos of yarn. I swiftly found out that, while I wasn't very good at Etsy marketing, word on a small base travels quickly, and pretty soon I was using Critters for Coryn on Facebook to accept special orders and show off products that people would snatch up just on the strength of seeing the photos. That's one thing I really miss about not being in Iwakuni. I haven't really been able to network and I can't see stocking hats being a particular hot item in Florida. 

Recently, after the purchase of my domain name, I decided to set up a separate Facebook page devoted to my blog. All the other bloggers seemed to be doing it. You can find that here under Typative Mama Cat, but I haven't exactly excelled at making it a go to spot. It seems that everything I want to post ends up on my personal Facebook for my friends so basically, I'm just using the Mama Cat Facebook to link blog posts. 

Twitter isn't my thing either, but it seemed to be more and more necessary for networking so I joined, again with the Typativemamacat handle.

Pinterest I use and use well. 

Follow Me on Pinterest

I've blogged about it before (in this post) .

So, those are my social links.

Poofy Cheeks

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What's inside my Etsy shop?

I don't mention my Etsy shop every post, but every so often I like to plug it so here it is: Critters for Coryn in all its glory.

What can you buy through Critters for Coryn?

This magnificent hat

 but if you'd rather just make it than you can follow the pattern here in this post.

You can also get a Rocktopus!
This design is original, but I haven't written the pattern down (it's in my little head. . .). If you'd like to see a pattern for my rocktopus, comment on this blog post. 

Another original but unwritten pattern. I'm not exactly sure how to describe the dorsal fin process. It's kind of unusual. 

Todd the Turtle will not be left out of this discussion. 

I have a few more postings up, but I'm curious, of all the things you've seen posted (here or maybe on the Critters for Coryn Facebook page), is there anything you'd like to see or would be tempted to buy if I posted it to Etsy? Let me know. 

Mommy Plans: Homemade Baby Food.

The second baby is different from the first. There is less, "What the heck do I do now?" shock. I'm more confident. Less afraid that I'm missing something important, and less overwhelmed and so more willing to try new things. With the first baby, I got carried away and wanted to buy all sorts of new things. With Claire, there were so many more things that I realized I didn't really need and I wanted as much as possible to be used, not because it was less important for Claire to have nice things than it was for Coryn to but because I realized how temporary all these baby things are.

I also decided I was going to make my own baby food.

At first making my own baby food seemed adventurous, the stuff of Supermom-hood, but after a few weeks of doing it, I realized that it is so easy that I don't really deserve all the self-back-patting I had been doing. First off, here are two awesome sources, one video and one a site with "recipes" (quotation marks because these instructions are way too simple to merit the word "recipes." They are more like preparation instructions as to the best way to get food baby ready).

Baby Center "Make Your Own Baby Food" video.
Site with Baby Food Recipes.

I started off my food experiments by squashing up a ripe avocado with a fork. I eventually found out that it needed some water added for her to get it down easily. She wasn't choking on it, but she kept spitting it out and really didn't seem to understand how to swallow. . .actually I stumbled upon the water addition trick by accident. I was thawing some avocado I had frozen in a warm water bath and my freezer bag sprung a leak. At first I thought, "great, that's ruined" but decided to give her some anyway and she loved it. With avocado I include a squirt of lemon juice to make sure it doesn't brown right away.

My next step was when her sister got a banana, stealing about an inch of it, mashing it up with a fork (again, no cooking or prep) and giving her that. This was her favorite and she finally started getting into eating. Next I decided to try carrots. I figured I'd need to blend them, but after doing some reading, I found that steaming them until soft was enough to get them to be fork-mashable, so again I fell back on my fork mashing routine.

Today I bought a bag of sweet potatoes and they are roasting in the over right now. Some sites suggest adding butter to baby food to help them absorb the nutrients. I haven't tried this yet, but it makes sense to me. I am introducing one new food a week so that I can observe for adverse reactions (food allergies, burning poo, etc) and remove foods that give her trouble. I want to do pears, apples, peas, and green beans, not necessarily in that order.

This whole process involves minimal effort and from what I've seen it is giving Claire a much fresher, more palatable product than the baby foods that come in a can and sit there on shelves for ages. It also gives me more control over what she is eating as far as I know she's not going to fall victim to food tampering or product contamination. I'm not saying jarred baby food is bad. I'm just saying that the home made version is so easy that there is no reason not to try it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Simple Scrap Yarn Cat Toys

So my camera bit the dust. It keeps telling me there is a problem with my memory card, so I might try buying a new one in a last ditch effort, but I'm pretty sure that the card isn't the problem but rather my camera's ability to read the card. It wasn't an expensive camera. My husband got it for me at Costco right after we got married so that I could take pictures of myself and eventually our baby (he left for a 9 month tour when I was 2 months pregnant) while he was in Iraq to share with him. That makes it five years ago almost to the day.

It had been dying slowly over the last six months or so. First it was a crack in the display screen. The screen still worked, but the crack foretold a grim fate for my little photo taking friend. The flash stopped working a little later and then it just got "sluggish." It had to think before it took a picture, it seemed, and when taking pictures of kids and pets, that just down right stinks. Smiles and cute poses only last so long with kids and kittens.

So because of that my blog pictures will be fewer and of poorer quality for a bit. I still have options. I have a digital camcorder with a still picture option and a built in webcam on my laptop. Both take photos, just not well.

In spite of this, I still want to share an easy crochet pattern (referenced in the post title). You may say, "Well, scrap yarn cat toys are simply scrap yarn. Cats love scrap yarn." And this is true. I can barely get any crocheting done if Carlton Lastercat is awake. He loves to tangle with my projects. However, a little bit of work can turn that yarn that is too long to throw away but too short to use for a major project into a cute little jingle bell ball toy.

For this project you need some extra materials:

Small amounts of yarn in any color
A crochet hook of any size
Some sort of stuffing material
and. . .a jingle bell.

I got the jingle bells I'm currently using at a Japanese Daiso (hundred yen/dollar store), a pack of twenty or so for 108 yen (I'm assuming the 8 is sales tax), but you should be able to pick up something like it at any crafting store or any store that sells art and craft supplies. They're fun to stick into anything that is meant for a baby or a pet. If you wanted to get creative, you could add some catnip into the stuffing as well and drive your furry friends crazy.

I've tried out a lot of different stuffing materials and for this one (because I can't throw anything away) I chose used dryer sheets. I loved these things when I was a kid. I used them for doll blankets and curtains in the shoe box houses I made for my plastic cat figurines (Littlest Pet Shop, any one?). I love them. I used to put them in my garbage cans and imagine they made my garbage smell less garbagey (used ones, I'm too cheap to do this with fresh ones), but lately, I've been hording them again. It takes roughly two sheets to stuff one of these balls. If you were leaving out the jingle bell and wanted a firmer stuffing, you might fit in three or four. Other stuffing materials I've used before include plastic bags, dried beans, and shredded rags. You could also purchase a conventional stuffing material, but what's the fun in that?

I made these with my cat in mind, but the pet that has gone craziest for them is actually Caen, our German Shepherd puppy. He took possession of two of them. I've made this pattern five times so far and it is really easy and quick. Let me know what you think or if you have any alterations to suggest.

Ch 2,
R1: 6 sc in the second chain from the hook
R2: 2sc in each stitch around-12 stitches
R3: 2sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the next stitch, around-18 stitches
R4: 2sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the next two stitches, around-24 stitches
R5: Working in the back loops of the stitches, sc around, -24 stitches
R6-7: Working in both loops, sc around-24 stitches per round
R8: Working in back loops of the stitches, sc around-24 stitches
R9: Working In both loops, scd, sc in the next two stitches, around-18 stitches
R10-scd, sc in the next stitch, around-12 stitches
This is a good place to stop and stuff the piece, making sure to include the jingle bell
R11-scd, around-6

Fasten off leaving a long tail. Use the tail to sew any hole shut so that the stuffing and bell stay inside. Weave under the ends.

Your piece is finished!

What you need: bells, small amounts of yarn, a crochet hook, and a yarn needle.

The jingle bells

 Two of my finished jingle balls. The yellow one is slightly off color because Caen had been chewing on it earlier.
 My stuffing material of choice.
Pink a color any color (I chose purple but I had to use another color for the last two rows because I didn't have quite enough.).

 The first few rows, working in a circle. We've done this before.
 Working in one loop only. This helps to turn the piece.
 The piece becomes "bowl" shaped.

 Starting to close up the ball.
 The stuffing is now in place. You don't want it too tight because the bell won't jingle if it can't move around a little bit.
 Fastening off the last row, like I said I was just a tiny bit short on yarn.
 Sew it closed tight.
And here we have it. Perfect for playing with your pets.