Friday, September 14, 2018

A crocheted poncho

Miss GB turned ten last week and I had been thinking about making her a wearable gift for a while. She has a plethora of crocheted hats; I've made cardigans, dresses and skirts over the years. At ten, I don't think she's too interested in most of my amateur creations anymore (I'm not hurt or bitter, either; my skills are adequate for clothing the younger child, less so for older ones). I do know that she likes to snuggle up in an old woven wool poncho belonging to the Bear, so a poncho just for her seemed like a fun idea. I had a great time making one for her over a few mornings in mid-August, right after school started - when I finally had some time to crochet in solitude (and daylight - not an easy combination to achieve).

I searched online for patterns and came across a simple one on the Yarnspirations website (you can download it for free here or order a kit with yarn from that same page). The suggested yarn is Bernat Pop! gradient cake yarn, which is a worsted-weight acrylic yarn. I bought my yarn from Jo-Ann in a sale and found that two of my three balls had the pattern printed on the ball band. For some reason, that gave me a little thrill. It's like this poncho was just dying to be made. I chose the yarn colorway called Blue Blaze - a combination of minty green, teal, periwinkle, purple and dark blue. Miss GB's current favorite color is "seafoam green," she tells me, so this seemed like a good way to work in that approximate shade, with some other complementary ones for interest.

The pattern is so simple and it works up fast. I really enjoyed it. After the initial round of single-crochet worked into a ring of chains, it's all granny clusters, with increases at the center to create the pointed front and back. The pattern is designed to fit a girl of eight to ten years old. I knew this would work well for Miss GB, even though she's at the top of the age range, because she is very small for her age. If anything, I was concerned that it might be too large for her, but I wouldn't feel confident trying to alter the pattern, so I crocheted it just as written.

The Bernat Pop! yarn was really nice and a lot of fun to work with! It's soft and light, especially for a worsted-weight acrylic. I loved watching the colors pool as I crocheted. At first, the colors changed after every three rows, but as the poncho grew, the pooling became a little random, which I found to be really fun, just trying to anticipate how long a color might last before changing to the next one. The pattern called for three cakes, but I only used about two and a half cakes. Two of my cakes were wound exactly the same way, with the colors going in the same exact order, while one started with a different color in the center and worked outward through the color pattern ending on a different shade. I thought this was really cool, actually, and it gave a bit more interest to the rounds.

You just keep crocheting until the work reaches 16 inches from the neckline to the bottom edge, with no additional edging. I wasn't sure how this would look, but it turned out fine; granny clusters are a sturdy pattern and the work develops a nice weight. For the neckline, you crochet a long chain and thread it through the granny clusters to make a drawstring that can be tied in a bow. I ended up making my chain much longer than the pattern said to make it, simply because I could see that my poncho was going to be a little large for my girl; at least we could tighten it down if we needed a closer fit.

She loves her poncho! I was so glad when she opened her gift, then put it on right away. That's such a good feeling, isn't it? She was happy to model her new poncho for me a few days later on our back porch (pardon the unsightly chain-link gate; I needed to have her in a shaded place for decent photos). The poncho is a bit too large for her; I would have liked to see it come down to upper-thigh length, not the knees, but she's a bitty one and I look at it this way - she'll be able to wear her poncho forever. She might even get married in it.

I tightened the drawstring down as much as I could to make it snug enough to stay on her shoulders. I tightened it further at first and it just looked wrinkly and weird, so we'll keep it like this for now. Again, all the better to grow into.

I'm really happy with the drape. It's light and fluid, but should still be plenty warm and snuggly for chilly weather; she can wear it around the house or as a warm outer layer when she's outdoors. I think this yarn would make a fantastic blanket, especially a striped pattern. I've had my eye on a blanket pattern for a little while that I think would work great with this yarn, the Trio Blanket by Susan Carlson (Ravelry link), which uses Scheepjes Whirl cotton/acrylic gradient cake yarns. I loooove the blanket design, but the yarn is slightly pricey; this Pop! yarn could be a good substitute, but it's a much heavier weight so I'd have to account for that. I like working with this yarn, and it's rugged enough for the kind of heavy use my blankets invariably get, so I'll be keeping it in mind.

A successful project and an appreciated gift. Work it, girl!

Girl Bear's Poncho
Yarn: Bernat Pop! worsted-weight acrylic cake yarn in Blue Blaze
Hook: Clover Amour, size H/8 (5.00mm)
Size: made to pattern, girls 8-10 years old
Made: August 2018 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Slide into fall

Hello! It's good to be back here after a hectic few weeks. The beginning of this school year has taken it out of me, I have to tell you. There are some changes at school - most of them really good! - which have been a bit of an adjustment, and all the extracurricular activities started up in the past two weeks as well, so I've been getting back into the routines and adding some new things to them as well. This year, both kids are involved in math clubs, including MathCounts National Math Club for the LB, in addition to guitar lessons for both, ballet for the GB and computer coding club for the LB. Also, I was again locked in battle with the LB's medical providers, insurance and pharmacy regarding his medication, but that's nothing new - just a time-consuming frazzle. I just needed a little break, but I'm glad to be making time for my blog again.

So what's new here...Miss GB turned ten last week! I can hardly believe it. This sweet, brilliant and talented girl. She wanted to have ice cream sundaes instead of cake, and she picked all the fixings herself. We celebrated on her actual birthday here at home, with presents and ice cream, and the next night we went out for dinner at Red Robin (her choice; she picks it every year) and she got more ice cream from the waiters, who also sang to her. I made one of her presents myself, a crocheted poncho made with gradient cake yarn, which was fun to work with. I really like the way the poncho came out and I'll share it soon.

I've also been working on a small crochet home-decor project. It's been a real blast, I've enjoyed it so much and I'm looking forward to showing you that soon too. I'm also starting to think about another stash-buster project, probably a blanket for the family room (because there will never, ever be enough blankets in this house, apparently), but I haven't settled on anything for sure yet. I do know that I want to have a cold-weather project on the go and I'd like to start soon, to enhance the nascent fall feelings I've begun to enjoy.

Speaking of the season, it does feel like fall is beginning to creep in around here. The days still get very warm but the mornings have begun to feel crisp and it's pitch-dark outside before 8 pm, so we'll definitely well on our way. I'm so glad. Fall is my favorite season and I welcome the change every year. We're starting to do some fall things now, which has been delightful. We made a Dutch oven bread in the backyard last week, with hot coals under the Dutch oven and on top of the lid, and we roasted some green chiles on hot coals alongside the Dutch oven. I'm baking again; yesterday, I made an apple crisp and we all collaborated on apple fruit leather and dried apple rings, all of which utilized apples from our own backyard tree, which was prolific this year. I don't have many concrete plans for the fall, but I do plan to spend more time outdoors now that it's not so hot, and I want to get back into making soups, stews and baked things. I miss them so much in the summer.

How are you doing? Do you have plans for the new season? I hope all is well with you. Back soon. 💛

Thursday, August 30, 2018

TTC Kit winner!

Hello friends! I'm having a crazy-busy week and haven't had time to sit down and blog, but I hope to be back soon. It's our third week back at school and all the extracurricular activities are back in session now too, so it's just run-run-run all the time. It's all good stuff, though. I like to be busy and I'll soon get used to it, but in the meantime, life is a little hectic. I hope you're having a good week, and that if you're back to school, or soon to return, that everything goes smoothly.

I'm announcing the winner of my Conceiveeasy TTC Kit giveaway today. Using a random number generator Mari has been selected as the winner! Mari, please look for an email from me.

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Loving the journey + a giveaway

I don't think I've ever shared this photo on my blog, but it's always been one of my favorite photos of my two small Bears, taken when they were about five and two years old. We had taken them up to the foothills for a little hike, and they were running back down the trailhead toward the car. I don't think we put green shirts on both of them intentionally, it just worked out that way, though I've always liked the way they match. They're a lot alike anyway. When I was expecting my daughter, people kept telling me that I would now have a "pigeon pair," - a boy and a girl, a matched set - which I thought was cute, but we'd have been happy no matter who joined the family.

These two squabble like any siblings, but they're also very close and loving. I'm glad they get along so well. It makes me so happy, I can't even tell you. Kind of bewildered too, but I always feel a little bewildered about my little family - it's everything I'd hoped for. I feel so fortunate to have the three of them, and this time of year really brings it home for me as I celebrate all three of their birthdays in the span of just over a month. This time of year reminds me of the last stages of my pregnancies and my babies' births, and the early weeks at home with new babies, which were filled with joys and challenges, new experiences and beginnings.

I always knew that what I wanted to be a mom. Early on, we had reason to think that we might have a difficult journey to parenthood, and we were lucky to learn about fertility charting, which helped us greatly (I'll always be a proponent of it - even now that my family is complete!). I've been very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mother, which has been a true blessing in my life. Some days are better than others, of course, and there are some days when I feel a little bit batty with it all, but that's any life. No matter what, I'm really glad this one is mine.


I'm partnering today with for a special trying-to-conceive (TTC) giveaway!  If you're hoping to start or expand your family, I hope you will read on to see the special TTC Kit that Conceiveeasy would like to send to one of my readers. Conceiveeasy's TTC Kit includes helpful tests, supplements, equipment and materials to assist you. You can win the kit to keep for yourself, or to give to a friend or family member.

The TTC Kit - The product is for the exclusive new TTC Kit ™ (a $152 value). The TTC Kit is an all-in-one, natural, proven solution for helping mommies-to-be conceive sooner & easier than ever before. You will receive Conceive Easy's Months 1&2 Starter Pack, a BBT thermometer and Getting Started Guide to Charting, and can also choose to customize your new TTC Kit with one of the following exclusive bonus gifts:
Bonus gift #1: 20 Early Result Pregnancy Tests
Bonus gift #2: 20 One-Step Ovulation Tests
Bonus gift #3: 10 Pregnancy & 10 Ovulation Tests

For more information, please see the product website at

The giveaway is now CLOSED.

This giveaway is open to US residents only, 18 years of age or older. 

To win this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post, stating that you wish to be entered in the giveaway drawing. Please also consider becoming a follower of my blog, through the method of your choice (Bloglovin', Feedburner, and email subscription options are in my sidebar). The winner will be chosen at random from the comments. The giveaway will close on August 29.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Guitars and gelato

This weekend, we've been celebrating the Bear's birthday. We had a nice time! His birthday kicks off our "birthday season" here, with both kids' birthdays coming in September and my own in November. We have all the birthdays packed into just over three months' time, which is fun and just a little bit crazy.

We started celebrating on his actual birthday, Thursday, with little chocolate cakes baked in ramekins (the recipe is from a blog called Dessert For Two, which I love!). I've made these chocolate cakes several times already and they always come out delicious. I doubled the recipe to make four ramekin cakes. We have made some recent dietary changes in our household, so to account for that, I substitute Eggbeaters for the eggs (I used 1/3 cup because that's what the carton recommends for baking, and it seemed like a good equivalency for the two egg yolks that doubling the recipe would require), and I substitute almond milk for dairy milk in both the cake and the icing. I haven't noted any difference to the flavor or structure with these changes, so I'd call them a success. We had our cakes, then he opened his presents, which included an Epiphone electric guitar and a small amplifier. He's wanted one for a long time and we decided this was the year for it, especially since both small Bears are becoming quite accomplished players themselves (the LB is in his eighth year of lessons, the GB is in her fifth). All three of them have spent the weekend trying out the new gear. In fact, right now, I can hear the distant strains of "Iron Man" from the living room.

Our celebrations continued on Friday night with a trip to PF Chang's (his choice) for a birthday dinner out. Later, we went to Uptown, a local upscale outdoor "lifestyle center" to walk around, look in store windows, and eat gelato. I had my favorite flavor, gianduia (chocolate hazelnut). We only go out for gelato a couple of times a year, and I pretty much always have the same flavor, but it's such a wonderful treat, perfect for a birthday celebration. We're so glad he had a nice birthday.

We've spent the rest of the weekend doing things around the house, including delivery of a new mattress set for us. Our old one was pretty much a pancake with springs sticking out of it. We bought a memory foam mattress this time around, and though we still have 29 more nights of our 30-night trial, I think it will be a keeper. Before the delivery men came, we took the old mattress and box spring off the frame and vacuumed and dusted our room. Then the vacuum cleaner started making a horrible sound and we found that the beater-bar belt was shredded. Yay! No more vacuuming! Ha. We ordered a set of two new ones for like, five dollars, and have no fear, I'll be back to vacuuming by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest. This morning, I helped the Bear go through his closet and weed out old clothes. I offered helpful insights until he told me to stop. In particular, I pointed out that his wardrobe made him look exactly like Chandler Bing. The good news is that we don't need to buy much of anything new; the black hole of that closet yielded plenty of options.

I hope you're having a good weekend and that you'll have a good week ahead! Here, we'll have our second week back at school (the first went very well, thank you for the well-wishes!), and some of our extracurricular activities will start up again. I'm looking forward to some more quiet mornings at home and I'm also planning to get back to regular walking now that I have a little more time to myself. I'm glad to be back in the swing of things.

I just had to share these two photos of faint rainbows that we saw when we were out and about on Friday night for the Bear's birthday meal and gelato. A storm was starting up just as we went into the restaurant for dinner and by the time we came out, the rain was letting up and there was a rainbow across the whole sky, but broken up into small sections. I didn't have my big camera with me, just my phone, and I took these photos from inside the car, but you get the idea. The Bear has had rainbows on his birthday most years; I know it's really a function of his birthday falling during the monsoon season, when we have lots of storms and plenty of chances for a rainbow, but I like to think it's a little more special than just the weather.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Back to school

Hello! How are you? Today was the first day of the new school year! We were so ready. It was a good summer, but sort of a long one (they always are; summer break goes on for close to three months here), and I think everyone was ready to get back to the daily routines of the school year. This year, I sent back a fourth-grader and a seventh-grader, which is really kind of staggering when I think about it. I mean, seventh grade? Wasn't I just in seventh grade myself? It feels like yesterday. He will be thirteen next month, it's hard to believe. And my little GB will be ten, also next month, which is also amazing. They're growing up fast, which is bittersweet but mostly really good. I love having big kids. They get to do so many cool things, including - as of this summer - occasionally staying home together without a parent for very brief periods. I can't believe we've reached that milestone! They were ready. I was a nervous wreck the first time, but it's all good now.

I hadn't had any time alone all summer. I'm not even exaggerating. We were together literally all the time, the three of us. This is mostly a really good thing, don't get me wrong. But I don't think I had more than about an hour by myself since school ended in May, and I was more than ready to spend some quiet time alone in the house. I did a bunch of housework right away, to get it over with. I started a load of towels, cleaned up the kitchen, made my bed, folded and put away some laundry. Then I went outside and watered my barrel of geraniums (which have become massive) and took a look around the backyard. I noticed that the pyracantha berries are well on their way to changing over to their autumnal orange hue.

I came inside and showered, then I ate breakfast. Just raisin bran and tea, consumed in blissful silence.

Then I got my supplies together for a project I've been waiting to start. It's a birthday gift for the GB, and I can't very well crochet it while she's around and watching me, so I held off until they were back to school. I'm using Bernat Pop! self-striping cake yarn for this project. It's my first time using cake yarn, which I'd been wanting to do for a while. This colorway is called Blue Blaze, which I chose because she tells me her favorite color as of right now is seafoam green. This seems to come close, I think, and I know she likes periwinkles and teals as well.

This is what I'm making for her. She would really enjoy wearing a poncho, and the pattern is sized just right for her (though I think it could easily be scaled up or down). The pattern is printed on the ball band, but I first came across it here, as a free download, on the Yarnspirations site.

I settled in to watch The Staircase on Netflix (I'd wanted to watch it all summer, but like I said, I was never alone during the day and it's not for kids, plus the Bear doesn't share my enthusiasm for true crime, so I didn't have the chance to watch it at night either; it's good, by the way, strange but good). By the time I'd watched three episodes, I had a pretty good start to my poncho. It's a really easy pattern and it works up quickly; I should be able to finish it well before the GB's birthday in early September. I like working with the yarn too. And it's always fun to see what a self-striping yarn is going to do. I had a great morning! And they came home from school happy and excited, with talk of scavenger hunts and teachers in costume as historical figures (and books and tests, but not just yet - right now we're still floating on games and reunions with friends).

Here are the two scholars, by the way. He's taller than I am now. And she wanted to wear one of her summery dresses to school, which is fine with me because she's growing fast too. These huge, happy people. The first day was a success and I think it's going to be a great year.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Granite scarf

What types of things do you find yourself making most often? This is something I've been thinking about lately. As a crafter, I usually find myself making things for my home, my daughter, friends or relatives, and myself, in that order. As a crocheter, I gravitate toward big projects - blankets, mainly - and I tend to think of myself as mostly a blanket-maker, though I enjoy branching out into home decor and wearable items, especially for gift-giving. I've been thinking that most wearable things I've made have been for girls and women, but there are plenty of things to crochet for male people when you look around. I've been doing that lately, as I'd like to make more things for the people in my life.

I went looking recently for ideas to make something for my dad, who has a birthday coming up. He's a man who has many different kinds of interests, a few of which really border on passions, so I've often tried to find books, games or music media to help with his collections on the topics he likes. I seem to have exhausted a couple of them lately through birthday and Father's Day presents; he's read all the books or owns all the CD's, you know how it is. So I decided to make him something instead. I thought about a scarf; he lives in a place with long, cold winters, and a scarf would be useful. And I owe him a scarf anyway. When I was still in college and living at home, I started crocheting a scarf for him and ran out of yarn before it was nearly long enough; I wasn't much of a crafter yet, but I liked the idea. That was about eighteen years ago, and it seemed like time to make it up to him. A do-over, if you will.

I searched Ravelry for something a little different, that would be nice for a man without being too bulky (I don't love crocheting with thick yarn, and he doesn't like bulky things). I came across The Granite Scarf from a blog called The Caped Crocheter (also found as a free Ravelry pattern here). It's categorized as a "men's scarf," but it would work for anyone. I loved the look of it and decided it was just what I wanted.

I really enjoyed making this scarf! I used yarn from my stash, a basic worsted acrylic yarn for softness and ease of care, and I just kept crocheting until it was gone (I had about two feet left when I stopped). The pattern utilizes a stitch I'd never tried before - the extended single crochet. Have you tried this? It makes such an interesting design. I hope you can see about how the stitches sort of reach down into the row beneath them, almost like the Larksfoot stitch pattern I used in a blanket I named Hensfoot a couple of years ago. Another interesting thing about this stitch is that it almost makes a double-layered fabric, sort of like a thermal weave. I think it will be warm, soft and comfortable to wear.

I considering adding fringes, after seeing some nice examples in the pattern projects, but I don't think he's really a fringes kind of guy, so I just did the ends as the pattern suggested. I like the neatness of them, just a row of regular SC with an additional row of slip stitches to finish off, just simple and clean.

Even though it feels a little thicker due to the stitch pattern, it's still flexible, with a nice drape. It's not necessarily "manly" (whatever that would even mean), which I appreciate. It's just simple and tailored, anyone could wear it. If you look through the projects on Ravelry for this scarf, you'll see that people have made it with all kinds of yarns, both masculine and feminine in style, and it looks great no matter what they've used.

I'm really glad I found this pattern. I've long had a go-to scarf for women in my life - the fantastic One-Skein Chevron Scarf, of which I've made about nine. But I haven't made very many scarves for men, so this beautiful, easy Granite Scarf will definitely become another go-to pattern in my library. I hope he likes his scarf and that he will be glad I finally followed through!

Granite Scarf
Yarn: I Love This Yarn worsted-weight acrylic in Navy
Hook: Clover Amour J/10 (6.00mm)
Size: 64 inches long by 6 inches wide
Made: August 2018
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