30 October, 2012

31 Days Series: Another hat.

Alright, I know, I've made a lot of hats already. BUT! This one is different. And by different I mostly just mean more complicated. Part of this stems from the fact that it was made from the arms, and didn't have a nice, snug, trim around the bottom like the other hats I've made so far did. (Told you I wasn't going to let a single piece of that sweater go to waste!) This meant I had to come up with a way for it to fit my head without flying off into the wind. Because I started this late last night with no real objective, and without really knowing if it was going to work, I didn't take pictures. I did, however, draw an amazingly accurate picture to show you how to start off if you want to recreate this. (Which I only recommend doing if you have random sweater arms laying around and no other way to use them. Otherwise, just cut your hat pattern from the bottom; it's much easier.)

Like I said, this is constructed from sleeves. Two of them. If you're using a shirt with short sleeves you may be able to skip the second half of this, but in my case I was using the top half of sweater sleeves, so I had to pick my brain and figure out how to finish it off. But we'll get to that in a sec.

Eh, you like that? ...ok, sorry. I tried. Follow the diagram, if you can. First you want to cut the sleeves off, and then open up the seam that closes the arm together. You'll have two pieces that are shaped like the third picture. Cut about an inch off the top (keep in mind; my sleeve pieces were about 8 inches long before I cut that off, so if yours are shorter you may need to cut less. If they're longer, cut some off the bottom too.) Put them right sides together and sew up both sides. Then finish off the top the same way we've done before.

Now you should be left with something like this:

Alright. Here's where it gets hairy.

We're going to add elastic! If you've ever made a skirt with an exposed elastic waistband, then you know where I'm going with this. If not, good luck! (Just kidding. It's not hard, but it's definitely going to test your patience if this is your first go at it.)

Start by cutting a piece of elastic that will fit comfortably around your head; tight enough to stay on, but loose enough to wear for long periods of time without getting a headache. Once you have the elastic cut, measure it, and mark the quarter, half, and three-quarter points on it. Then, sew those points to the corresponding points inside your hat. (Fold the edge over about ¼ inch, and just sew a zig-zag line across the width to keep the elastic in place; see the top picture.)

Now you finish it up by sewing the elastic all the way around the inside of the hat. Use a large zig-zag, and sew the ¼ inch piece of the hat that folded over to the edge of the elastic. It's a little easier if you work in fourths, going from one of the points you already sewed to the next, while keeping the elastic stretched all the way out. (This is the hardest part, and it may take some trial and error, so if you're not comfortable with the process, practice on some scrap fabric first.)

And now you are the proud owner of a scrap hat, that can be worn pulled down over your ears on cold days, and pushed back like a head band inside. :) Woo!



Remember how I mentioned that I'm not eating out? For six whole weeks?! Well, so far I've made it a week and two days! That may not seem like much to someone who is used to cooking at home, or people who don't have the luxury of eating out every other day (because that's what it had come to for us) but for me, it's a huge accomplishment! I think the week before I quit we'd had Red Lobster, Chili's, IHOP, Razorback Pizza, and Mcdonalds. Yes, in one week. That's kind of really embarrassing to admit (mostly because of the Mcdonalds. It's not our normal choice, but we always eat there during Monopoly time) but I think a nice slap of truth is necessary to remind me why I'm doing this.

Not that it's hard or anything. So far, in fact, I've felt better, have more energy to get up and do things, and more time since I'm not spending an hour or two a day out, and, we're saving money. Which means more money to spend on clothes and shoes. How is that not a win?!?!! Oh, that reminds me, I should have a package from Gilt coming this week! (I love that site! Are you a member? Do you love their deals? If not, join up!! It's so fun to wake up every day and wonder what amazing deals are going on.)

Anyway, this is more of just a note-to-self kind of thing, a way to keep myself accountable and on-track than it is a real post, but I think that these sort of life cleanses are good for the soul every once in a while. Taking a step back, breaking out of the rut, and looking at life with a new perspective.

Plus, it forces me to cook more, things like The Most Amazing Chili in the World. (What? I'm a good cook, and I have no shame.) And since there's only two of us, that's like a weeks worth of chili.

29 October, 2012

31 Days Series: Angora sweater accessories

I finished my sweater accessories!! One $3 thrifted angora sweater turned out a hat, a set of leg-warmers, and a pair of gloves! Ready for the breakdown?


Again, this is a fairly simple project, but if you need some guidance, Kirsten has an easy to follow step-by-step here.

I was also inspired by her post here to make a few other things and not let a single piece of this gorgeous sweater go to waste! But I did want to change it up a bit. Instead of simple hand warmers, I went all out on gloves. But first, I made leg-warmers! (Which are even easier than the hat!)

For these I simply cut the sleeves off from about half-way down and then sewed the tiniest of hems (about ¼ inch) since it won't be seen anyway. The bottom part will be tucked into boots. :)

And last but certainly not least, the gloves! I really wanted them to be comfortable and easy to wear, but also to look nice. I chose to use my alpaca gloves as a pattern. I half traced/half free-handed a simple two-piece pattern based on those gloves.

I cut the thumb part out from the bottom of the sweater (next to wear the hat came from) and the hand piece from the top to cut down on the amount of seams I would have to sew. (I didn't take a picture of how I cut the hand part, so I used my super-professional photo-shop skills to draw it out for you.)

To make the gloves you put the pieces together right sides in, and sew the side that will be on the outside of your hand closed. Then, you sew the thumb part to the other side, starting about an inch below the top edge. Sew half of the thumb piece to one side, and the other half to the other side. Then, sew the rest of the front and back together. (You should have approximately one inch on top, which will be between your pointer finger and thumb when you wear these, and two to three inches below the thumb part, depending on how long your gloves are going to be.)

Repeat for the other glove and you're done! Cute matching accessories, all from one cheap sweater!

Personally I still have a little bit of sweater left so I might make something else...just not too sure what yet. :)
And if you have any trouble understanding anything, let me know and I'll try to clear it up! I'm not the best at explaining things in detail. I would make a horrible teacher.


28 October, 2012

31 Days Series: Chili

I actually woke up in a really productive mood today and made chili, which I'll be sharing my recipe for today, and also started working on my angora sweater accessories. I finished the hat and leg warmers, but am still working on making gloves so I'm going to hold off and share that tomorrow. I may not have won the 31 day challenge (I know it wasn't a challenge, and I know there is no winner; I'm just talking about my own desire to actually do it) but I started strong, and I plan on finishing strong, so I think not giving up counts for something, right?!

Anyway. My chili. It's based on a recipe I found online a few years ago (I don't remember where) and have tweaked and messed with until I perfected it. It's been eaten by a pretty good number of people, and I've never had anyone not like it. I have had people not be able to finish it because of the heat (it's hot. like, HOT.) but even then, they tried. (I'm not bragging. Just sayin' if you make it, they will come.) So here's the recipe + the process, and if you try it, let me know how you like it!

(Fair warning: it really is hot. So if you're not tolerant, or will be serving it to children or weaklings, tone it down by eliminating the serranos or cutting back on the overall number of peppers.)

Part I: The ingredients.

You'll need the following:
1 lb of beef stew meat
1 lb of ground sirloin
*3 slices of bacon
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
4-5 jalapenos
*2-3 serranos (or habaneros, or eliminate these altogether; this is where the real heat comes from.)
1 can diced (or stewed) tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
2 cans black beans
1 can beef stock/broth
1 cup strong coffee
1 bottle dark beer
3.5 tbsp chili powder (I use half regular chili powder and half chipotle chili powder.)
½ cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp corriander
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt


Also: A crock-pot to cook it in.

Part II: The Preparation.

Start by making sure you have everything you're going to need clean and easily accessible. Once you get started you don't want to have to be stopping every few minutes. Now, I start off with the bacon. I cut it up into tiny pieces with my kitchen scissors and let it cook low and slow. While that's going I chop up my onion. I have a handy dandy little chopper thing ($4.00 at the flea market, and worth it's weight in gold) that makes this easy and keeps me from getting the onion cries. Toss the onion in a separate, larger pan and start it cooking (low) too. Add the three cloves of garlic. Once the onions are clear, add the meat and turn the heat up a little. You just want to brown the meat. Meanwhile, check on your bacon, it's probably done. Let it rest on a paper towel while you chop up the peppers. Once the meat has browned properly, you're ready to move on...

Part III: Bringing it all together.

Now that everything is ready to go, you just have to toss it in the crock-pot and let it work it's magic! This is my favorite part though, I love adding things one at a time and watching it all come together.

Personally, I start with the meat and bacon, then add the black beans, coffee, beer, tomatoes, and peppers. Give it a good hefty stir, then start adding your spices. I always save the beef broth for last because sometimes I don't have room for the whole can, and I like to make sure I get all the important stuff in first! :)

Now for the hard part; the waiting! You can cook it one of two ways: 4 - 6 hours on high, or 8 - 10 hours on low. I've tried it both ways, and I've even done it 4 hours on high, then another 4 hours on low. It's one of those things that isn't an exact science so don't worry too much. The longer you leave it the thicker and better it will get.

And that's it. Let it cook up real good, making sure you stir it often especially if you cook it on high, and then ENJOY.

P.S. Linking to:


27 October, 2012

Costumes! (and a fairy tale...)

Well apparently I was wrong and there was nothing going on downtown today. Fortunately I realized this before we got dressed up and went downtown. Then I would have really looked crazy.

But since I promised pictures, I fully intend to keep that promise! Here's a little story for you...

Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood went out to the edge of the woods on her property to take some pictures. She did not have a basket of cookies for granny because then granny would have gotten distracted and not cooperated for a single picture.

Upon reaching granny's storage shed house, Red repeated those famous lines "Why granny, what big eyes you have..." but granny just sat there wagging his tale and not saying his lines on cue.

After luring granny out of the house, Red called upon her woodsman lover to evaluate the situation. It seemed there was something different about granny, but since she'd been a rotten old thing anyway, it was decided that the new, quieter granny was actually an improvement.

They decided to keep him around.

And they all lived happily ever after. :)

26 October, 2012

31 Days Series: Halloween costumes

Halloween costumes!!

As much as I looove Halloween, I've really been slacking the past few years. Two years ago I threw a pumpkin carving party a couple of weeks before Halloween, and was still recovering from that on Halloween. Last year we had just moved here two weeks before Halloween, and were still in the process of unpacking, getting settled, and we really didn't have any idea of what to do. But this year I am determined to do something, even if it's just dressing up so that I don't look crazy (or creepy) when I go walk around downtown and take pictures of everyone else in their costumes.

I chose my fairy tale (Little Red Riding Hood) and assigned parts. Obviously I was going to be Little Red Riding Hood, and it was easiest to give Josh the part of the huntsman who saves me (and granny), which left Orion to play the part of the wolf dressed as granny.

At Re-store I collected the pieces for our various costumes: a plaid flannel shirt for Josh, a night gown, scarf, and granny glasses for Orion, and a red circle skirt (to be converted to a cape) for me. I didn't really want to make everything from scratch, so I bought basic stuff that could be easily altered to fit our needs. I think Orion's costume ended up needed the most alteration (Duh, I guess, I did buy people clothes to dress a dog as a wolf dressing as a granny.)

(As usual, these photos were taken over the span of like 24 hours, so the lighting is pretty random. Sorry!)

Ok. Here's the breakdown. For our wolfy-granny I started with a long pink nightgown. I tried it on him, then cut off approximately ten inches. Then, I cut a huge, upside down V out of the front (don't want him peeing on it!) I didn't want to hem anything up so I just stitched a piece of pink lace across the bottom. (I just happened to have a piece the perfect length. It was fate!) Next I had to work on the neck. It was a little tight across his back so I cut another V out of the top. Then I pulled out so that it was straight across, and used a piece of fabric from the bottom to make a matching ruffle to fill in the gap.

His accessories were much easier. For the glasses I simply attached a cheap pearl necklace to them, then put a dot of hot glue on each end to keep the chain from sliding around. I made 'wolf ears' out of some black furry fabric and brown suede. I stuck a few pieces of jewelry wire inside them (after sewing them) to keep them standing up, then I hot glued them to the top of his scarf. Easy peasy.
Here's his whole outfit.

Mine was actually much more simple. I took a circle skirt I'd found at Re-store, and cut off the elastic waistband. Next, I cut it open, right up the middle. (I guess. I didn't measure.) I folded the top down and stitched it closed. (For whatever reason, I apparently took no pictures during any of this.) Then, I took a red t-shirt (same color, same fabric) and cut a hood out of it. (I cut it out of the bottom and the side so I only had to sew one seam.) Then I attached that to the inside of the cape. I strung a piece of ribbon through the top of the cape, but I kind of like it better with a broach instead.

I'm like 90% sure of what I'm going to wear under my cape tomorrow, but I am really going to have to wait and see what the weather is going to be like. Anyway, we'll be heading downtown to walk around and gawk at other people, and take pictures so hopefully I can get someone to take one of us at some point and then you can see a (well lit!!) picture of us all in costume. :)

25 October, 2012

31 Days Series: Sweater hats

Today, I made hats. Two of them so far, one more in the works. They're pretty basic and easy to make if you have a sweater or two that don't fit, and depending on the size of the sweater, you can not only make multiples, but you can use the rest of it for other re-purposing purposes! (Pretty sure that's some kind of grammatical blasphemy, but I'm making it work.)

Anyway, here's a link to a tutorial if you need one.

My process came about after getting distracted while trying to finish up our Halloween costumes. (More on that tomorrow.) I was desperately searching for a skirt that I'd bought at Re-store before Joshs birthday party, and then packed away when I got to cleaning. I emptied my entire bin of fabric before remembering that I'd put it with the rest of the costume supplies, in a box on the shelf in the closet. Anyway, long story short, I needed something to do while the skirt (and other costume bits and pieces) washed since they had gotten that 'been in a box in the closet' smell to them, and after coming across two pieces of what used to be sweaters in my fabric bin, I decided to make us a couple of winter hats.

Sorry for the poor lighting, a storm rolled in on me and it got dark earlier than I expected. Brown one is mine, the patchwork one is Joshs.

Our attempts at taking a picture together with the hats were...a failure, I think is the best way to put it. I offer this as proof:

I'm going to make one more hat, considering that I managed to find a gorgeous grey angora sweater at Re-Store today. It's too small for me to wear, but I want to find a way to utilize as much of it as possible, then I'm going to work on making some soft, gorgeous matching accessories. :)

Here it is, in all it's soft, fluffy, grey glory:

(Yes, I did take that in the car immediately after buying it. I WAS EXCITED! And the light was great.)

Here's a close-up of the detailing.

This is taken back at home, obviously, but check out the buttons on the top; you could open it up for a more 'off-the-shoulder' look! I almost feel bad about cutting it up, but it only cost me $3.

That's all for now. Our Halloween costumes coming tomorrow! All three of them, including Orion. He's going to look hilariously adorable! So excited!!

24 October, 2012

31 Days Series: Skull vase

So after a giant break full of road trips, and doctor visits, and general laziness, I made something today! Woo!

Has anyone else seen those Pottery Barn skull vases? They're nice, and I've seen a few different DIY versions of them, but I went in a slightly different direction. Still a skull vase, but more obviously so. And, most importantly, an easy, 5 - 10 minute project.

First I cut a skull out of another scrap of leather.
(Forgive the funky shaped eye sockets. :P)

Then I hot glued a few rhinestones onto the head. (Obviously this is optional; I wanted mine to look kind of classy.) And then I hot glued the whole skull onto an empty and clean Elijah Craig bottle.

Insert a gorgeous, delicious smelling rose and you're done!

Easy, unique, and perfect for Halloween. You could even gift one to the host of a Halloween party! :)