[boardgames] Jambo

Played a quick game of Jambo this week:

Time for a game of Jambo. I love that losing feeling.

This is one of our favorite 2-player games. I think, though, that we might start a Memoir '44 Grand Campaign soon...


[crochet] Gnome

Crocheted gnome.

Pattern: Simply a Gnome from here

Yarn is just scraps of red, beige and blue. Used two small safety eyes. Sewed down his white beard. Stuffed with polyfill. I filled the toe of one knee-high panty hose with vase filler (little plastic pellets about the size of seed beads, used as a decorative fill for vases) and tied it off. It was like a small, not-too-tight hacky-sack. I added it to the base of the gnome before sewing him shut, to help weight him down. Worked really well. Will probably add this to all future amigurumi to added weight.


[misc] Santana Monday


This weekend was perfect weather. I cleaned out the garage. And I mean: Cleaned. It. Out. I put together a new shelving unit, rearranged things, swept it all out. 

Worked on the firepit more- adding more rocks around the outside. It's... actually starting to look nice! 

While I was at home depot, getting more cement and mortar for the firepit, I bought a 2' x 4' pegboard. I'm trying to come up with a large-scale cross stitch design for it. I think I'm erring more towards an 8-bit Super Mario design. I need to go through all the colors of yarn I have, I really don't want to have to buy new yarn for this project.

I crocheted a cute little gnome. I'm trying to come up with fast knit/crochet projects. I spent most of the month working on one sock. I didn't have enough yarn to finished the toe so I did what I thought would be a good idea- I tried to take it from the cuff, where I cast on and started the sock. Except (and I don't know why I didn't know this) yarn doesn't just unravel easily from that direction. In fact, it doesn't unravel at all. The cuff went from kind of messed-up to really messed-up to OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?! I took a couple bracing shots of whiskey and then unraveled the whole sock. (The whiskey helps prevent tears in situations like this.) I put the yarn away and started looking for smaller/easier projects.


[vermont] Fire Pit

One other DIY project I've been working since Memorial Day is a fire pit for the back yard. It's functional:


But you'd look at it in daylight and say, "Well, clearly the person making this had no idea what they were doing." Which is true. I've read a bit here and there but really, my only goal is to have something that (a) contains a fire, and (b) doesn't explode in people's faces. Which, apparently, is a danger if you use only river rocks or stones that contain water- the rocks heat and split in an explode-y manner.

I put together some bricks with cement (oops, should have used mortar). And I'm adding in larger stones around the outside to make it stronger and prettier. Should have this totally done by... October? 


[cooking] Guinness Ice Cream

Guinness ice cream. #stouttreat #beerfloat

Used this recipe as a guide.

3 cups of Guinness (this is 1.5 cans), reduced to a little more than 1 cup

3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

2 cups heavy cream
2.5 tablespoons molasses

I brought the Guinness to a boil and simmered to reduce it to about 1 cup. The more you reduce the better- my ice cream was still quite soft after I finished making it in the ice cream maker. Not sure if this was residual alcohol inhibiting some of the freezing or just too much liquid, but I wouldn't skimp on reducing the Guinness. 

In my stand mixer, I mixed 3 egg yolks and gradually added the sugar. Then the milk. Then I slowly poured in the Guinness. The Guinness was still a little hot/steamy and I was worried that it would cook the yolks, but adding cold milk kept the temperature of everything in the bowl from rising too much. I just wouldn't add all the Guinness at once if it's still quite hot.

Then I added the heavy cream and molasses. Put it into the fridge for about an hour and then made it in the ice cream maker. The molasses taste of the finished ice cream was very up-front for me, so I think I might only add 2 tablespoons next time I make this.

This ice cream is goooooood. It does taste like Guinness. 


[crafts] DIY Bottlecap Tray

After seeing some pretty awesome bottlecap tables online, I started saving our beer caps. I found a small tray at the craft store in the clearance bin for $8. I liked that it had a lip/edge to hold the epoxy that I would eventually pour over the caps.

It was a green tray with a rooster design in the middle. I brought it home and spray painted it black:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

When I was buying it, the woman ringing up my purchases saw it and said, "Oh, this is so nice. How pretty." I didn't have the heart to say, "Yeeeaahhh, I'm just going to spray paint it black once I get home." She went on, "Let me wrap this up in paper, so the paint doesn't get scratched. Right? It's so nice..."

"Uh... okay. Thank you."

I brought it home, showed Dollar and said I was going to spray paint it. He said, "Really? I... kind of like the design." 

What. Ever. I'm just going to buy and ruin whatever I want in the name of DIY.

I dumped out all the bottlecaps that we've been saving for a couple years:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

Sorted them by brand/color:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

That big bowl on the left, partially out of sight, is JUST Long Trail caps. We are a Long Trail household all the way.

I laid out a design. Penny inspects my work.

DIY Bottlecap Tray

Time to hot-glue-gun-it:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

I started in the center and worked my way out. I didn't fill up the entire bottlecaps with glue- that would have used a ridiculous amount of glue sticks. I applied the glue to the inside pleats of the cap. In the end, the caps stuck to the bottom but you couldn't see any excess glue leaking out, looking messy.

DIY Bottlecap Tray

Because the caps were spaced a bit further apart after glueing them down, fewer Long Trail caps fit along the outer-most ring.

Here's where things started to suck. I ended up grouting the caps:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

I feel like this was an unnecessary and difficult step. I decided to do it because I really liked the way grouted bottlecaps looked in the pictures I had seen online. I think my grout mixture was too dry, which made it more difficult to work with. It was hard to apply the grout evenly- the caps are quite close together and it was hard to get it in everywhere, especially along the edge. In the end, I had to sit with a small paintbrush and dish of water and paint a bit of water around every cap to try and smooth things out.

The next day, after the grout dried to a slightly lighter gray color:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

Time for epoxy resin. I got it at Home Depot (in the paint section) and it was the most expensive purchase for this whole project at $25. I only needed to mix up half of a pint, though, so I still have plenty left over. It's two bottles and you mix equal portions of Part A and Part B. Dollar and I just started watching Breaking Bad and I'm in the back room, mixing Part A into Part B, thinking, "Look at me, I'm a scientist. I'll be making meth in no time." Just kidding. Seriously, just kidding, DEA. Mixing one thing into another is as much chemistry as I can handle.

So, I mixed it as evenly as I could and poured it into the tray:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

Blew on the surface to pop any air bubbles (if you don't, they will dry to be micro craters). Then I needed to fetch a toothpick to pick up random strands of cat fur that had stuck to surface. I kept it shut up in the back room while the resin cured so that the cats wouldn't bother it and more dust/fur wouldn't blow onto the surface.

And... 24 hours later:

DIY Bottlecap Tray

A little DIY bottle cap drink tray.

I would like to do this again, sans grout. The hot glue applied to the caps didn't leave a messy/goopy bottom that needed to be covered with grout.

Also? The epoxy surface is ever so slightly tacky. If I put a flat bottomed glass onto the tray and then pick the glass up, it sticks a bit, like a glass sticking a bit to a sticky table. This is because my epoxy mixture probably wasn't super-exactly Part A and Part B. I'm hoping more time will sort this out. Or, I can mix up more epoxy and pour another layer.


[crafts] Deco Mesh Wreath

I've been a bit wreath-obsessed lately. While searching and pinning various wreaths that I found online, I saw a style of wreath that I had never seen before: deco mesh wreaths. If you google "deco mesh wreath" or search Etsy for it, you'll see that it's a 'thing'. People making them, selling them for >$100. Some are really big and busy. I wanted to try making a simple one at home. I saw big spools of deco mesh at Joanne's in the fall decor section. I had to try it.

Deco Mesh Wreath

Supplies: wire wreath frame, 21" deco mesh, smaller spools of sheer fabric, fake flowers, pipe cleaners, wire cutter, scissors. The supplies cost about $20 from Joanne's craft store.

I watched a couple tutorial videos online. I cut the pipe cleaners in half with the wire cutters and twisted them onto the frame; at every cross bar along the outside ring and between every cross bar along the inside ring:

Deco Mesh Wreath

The pipe cleaners were just barely long enough for all the fabric I added. Next time I'll probably add the  full-length pipe cleaners and then snip away any extra once I'm all done.

I put down one round of mesh around the outside ring:

Deco Mesh Wreath

What surprised me the most is that the mesh feels stiff- like plastic bristles on a broom. I realized that it needs to be that way, to maintain the... floofiness of the bunches. It's not quite like wrestling an alligator to pinch together the material and tack it in place with the pipe cleaners, all the way around the frame... but it's close. 

After another round of mesh along the inside ring:

Deco Mesh Wreath

Some people go around the ring three times. I've seen pictures of other people that went around the ring twice and it looked thin and see-through. I thought it was enough, though, so I cut the mesh. 

I added the burgundy accent organza in a zig-zag fashion (inside ring, outside ring, inside ring, outside ring, etc) and then one final round around the inside ring only:

Deco Mesh Wreath

Then I snipped flowers from the bundles to add around the wreath. The flowers have wire inside the stems, so it was easy to wrap the wire around the wreath frame. And I tucked in the larger leaves here and there behind the flowers.

Deco Mesh Wreath

That's it. Only took about an hour to make. Dollar was having a Sunday afternoon nap after mowing the lawn and I had to wake the poor guy up to show him this wreath. I was all, "Look, sweetie. I made this. I made this wreath... just now..." He said it was nice but he obviously wasn't as excited as me.

I love it. The materials are very forgiving- the mesh doesn't have to be added with much precision for it to look good. I hung the wreath on the hallway closet door. This shows the colors more accurately:

Deco Mesh Wreath


[misc] Murderface Monday

I've been trying to grow catnip all summer. I put some seeds into a long planter and set it up on the rock wall. A couple weeks later during a storm, strong wind blow the whole thing over, dumping all the potting soil into the level below. I had another packet and spread the seeds right into a a corner of a mulched area out front. Happily, some seeds have started to grow! I picked a few leaves to give to the cats. Murderface was still in bed: 

Murderface had fresh catnip for breakfast in bed. Then passed out.  #wakeandbake

He ate the leaves, licked my fingers, rub rub rubbed his head all over my hands and then... passed out. Passed. Out. Zzzzz. 


[cooking] Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Homemade blueberry frozen yogurt. Tastes like summer! #blueberryyumyum


2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar

2 cups vanilla greek yogurt

Simmer blueberries and sugar on stove top until sugar is dissolved, mashing the blueberries a bit as they cook down. Let cool to room temp; chill in fridge overnight.

In a blender, puree blueberry mixture and yogurt. Pour into ice cream maker and make as normal.

Cooking the blueberries first and pureeing them makes for a nice, smooth fro-yo. This wasn't chunky at all, which I liked. I used Cabot Vanilla Greek Yogurt- it has vanilla bean seeds you can see in it. This was an easy, three ingredient, low fat recipe. I will probably try this again with strawberries.


[vermont] Peacock Monday

Totally random to see in Vermont but a farm on my hill has a few peacocks. Here's one on a morning walk by the side of the road:

Peacock drag racing this morning.

Perfect weather this past weekend. Went to the craft store for craft stuff. Went to the hardware store for new plants. Spend both days planting some new perennials and dividing/transplanting irises to a new location. 


[misc] Penny Friday

Well, Penny's had an exciting week. Someone notified me that they saw Penny's sharkbed picture on Facebook, posted by World's Best Cat Litter:


Over 2000 likes! 

Then someone on Ravelry told me that E! News was posting pictures from Twitter tagged #myownshark this week in honor of Shark Week. I tweeted Penny's picture... and it was on air that night! She even sent me this video of it (I don't have cable tv). The volume on the video below is low- you might have to turn your speakers way up to hear.

Penny was on TV!! That's crazy!! Once she gets more internet-famous, maybe I can arrange a marriage between her and Maru. I'll need to start gathering stuff for her dowery: empty cardboard boxes... milk jug rings... crumpled up balls of paper... plastic soda bottle caps... Jeeze, I'm not made out of money. I hope I can swing all this.


[misc] 2013 Dishcloth Swap

I knit five house dishcloths back in early June and just received my five different cloths from the swap:

2013 Dishcloth Swap

They are wonderful and will surely get used and abused :) I really like being able to touch and feel new yarns that I haven't used before. That purple crocheted cloth in the front with a green center? The green is Sugar 'n Cream cotton, which I use all of the time. The purple is Knit Picks Dishie cotton, which I've never tried before. It's a slightly lighter weight that the Sugar 'n Cream but it's so soft. I would love to order some KP Dishie now. 

Awesome swap- I'll definitely participate again next year!


[crochet] Cotton Coasters

I've made lots of tile coasters to use around the house. But for my iced summer drinks that produce a lot of condensation that pools around the bottom of the glass, the tile coasters don't fare so well. It's too much moisture. I've been digging into my cotton leftovers to make small tunisian crochet coasters:

Tunisian Crochet Coasters

So cute. Bright and colorful, they work up very quickly. The cotton is perfect for absorbing the condensation. Good little stash-busing project :)


[knitting] Tiara-lly Biased

Finished a cowl:

Tiarally Biased

Pattern: Totally Biased (rav link)

Yarn: Fame Trend Paljett by Marks & Kattens

Needles: US 8

The pattern is called "Totally Biased" because you create a biased shape- you increase one stitch at the start of the row and decrease one stitch at the end, to grow the fabric diagonally. This type of fabric doesn't roll at the edges, which is nice.

I was working on this project while waiting for my car to be serviced; when one of the guys came out to talk to me about work that my car needed, he saw me knitting something. As he approached, he joked, "Are you making me a sweater?" Once he got close and saw the project more closely, he blurted out the word "Tiara" for some reason. It was funny. I said, "I hope you like sparkly sweaters!" Anyway. Tiara. It felt so right, I call this cowl Tiara-lly Biased.

So I provisionally cast-on 80 stitches. Worked until nearly all the yarn was gone, then grafted the two ends closed. The grafted row is nearly invisible but you can see where it is- it's the one area between two purl ridges that is wider than all the others:

Tiarally Biased

It's not noticeable when I'm wearing it.

Hey, you remember that feeling of utter frustration when you were a kid, when you'd lay in bed kicking the mattress with your heels and scream-crying to the point to hyperventilating? If you'd ever like to achieve that again, trying grafting closed 80 stitches with yarn strung with sequins. This project was so easy to knit but it was a nightmare to graft. 

Let's think about closing these 80 stitches. There's 80 at either end, so that's 160 stitches. And you're going through each one twice, with a needle threaded with yarn, so that's like working 320 stitches. 

Imagine you have 300 yards of rope and every 30 yards is a tire tied to the rope. That's 10 tires. Imagine pulling that entire length of rope through a manhole. By the way, the tires are only just smaller than the width of the manholes. Now pull all that rope through 320 manholes with every single tire getting stuck at every single manhole opening.

After I closed the first five stitches, I wanted to get up and kick a hole in the wall. I even thought, "I'll just wear it as a scarf. I don't need to close it." It took me HOURS to calmly and carefully and evenly graft this thing closed.

I'm so glad I persevered, I love this cowl. It's light, it's sparkly, it's just my taste. This is definitely a ME-ME-ME project; no way I'm giving it away. I honestly don't mind grafting- I plan on doing this pattern again. But I will NOT be doing it with beaded yarn or sequined yarn or yarn that has anything attached. Ever. Ever again.


[misc] Penny Monday - Shark Bed edition

Saw an adorable pet bed on sale at Think Geek that I had to have. For Penny. Had to have for Penny.

Shark Bed

Dun dun... dun dun... dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun...

Penny ponders shark bed.

Penny!!! Runnnnnnnn!!!

Shark bed is eating her!

Nooo!! Shark bed is eating her!!

Fight back, Penny!

Hm. Penny appears quite content to be inside the belly of a shark.

Jonah and the Whale