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Remember that crafty update I promised? Well, here it is. My crafting projects have been few this year, if only because I’ve been devoting most of my time to my app, Knitty.  I’ve cast off a pair of socks and started another pair, and I’ve dusted off the sewing machine for a small project. I have a quilt that I started piecing waiting in the wings, and two quilts that need to be planned and shopped for in the next month or so. I’m excited to share those, as they get planned!

My Cup of Tea Socks

Pattern via Ravelry

Colourway: Stroll Tonal in Canopy via KnitPicks

These are the first socks I’ve made for myself. I’m not a great knitter, but looking at this pair of socks vs. the first pair that I ever knitted, I can already see myself improving. My stitches are more even, my tension between DPN’s is consistent. I’ve learned how to use lifelines, which makes frogging so much easier. And socks seem to knit up so quickly! Though I do notice I’m starting to get “One Sock Syndrome”, where once you’re done with one sock you don’t want to do another… These socks were a little tight, but after a good soak in Soak and some blocking they fit well. One of them is slightly tight in the arch, but it’s not terribly noticeable. But now I know for other socks what size DPNs to use to make them fit perfectly!

Sorry for the quality of the photos; they were taken with a potato.

The toilet paper stand started as a little laugh after seeing an image on the internet; my MIL got it for my birthday and it's actually incredibly useful! Especially considering I already use empty TP rolls to wind my yarn. The toilet paper stand started as a little laugh after seeing an image on the internet; my MIL got it for my birthday and it’s actually incredibly useful! Especially considering I already use empty TP rolls to wind my yarn.

I must be the greatest foot model that ever lived. Comfy PJs and all! I must be the greatest foot model that ever lived. Comfy PJs and all!

The pattern gets lost a little bit in the colourway, but I think they came out fantastic anyway. The pattern gets lost a little bit in the colourway, but I think they came out fantastic anyway.

Business Socks

Pattern via Ravelry

Colourway: Springtime in Canopy via KnitPicks

I’ve only just started this pattern, but holy cow I already love it. They’re knitting up so fast and quick, and it’s such a simple pattern. This is probably about an hour’s worth of knitting here, and I’ve already made more progress (but I have no photos). These will be finished before I know it and then I’ll have TWO love pairs of handmade socks! The hubbs loves the pattern too, and he’s asked I make him a pair when I’m finished with these. Somehow, I don’t think that will be a problem… :)

Such a pretty pattern and such a pretty color! Such a pretty pattern and such a pretty color!

Knitting Needle & Crochet Hook Roll-Up

This was a project of necessity. My crochet hooks and knitting needles would be kept in a bundle in one of my ‘current project’ bags (yes, I have multiple… I should probably see to that, huh?), and was generally just a mess. So I whipped up this cute little needle/hook keeper. It only took me an evening, and I’m super happy with the way it turned out. I have room to grow with it, and it takes care of my immediate needs — what more can a girl ask for? And it helped bust my fabric stash, which is always a good thing. I’m contemplating adding a tie to keep it closed, but if it never happens no big deal.

The inside. Sock needles in front, crochet hooks and scissors in the middle, circular needles up top, and large/long needles on the left. The top anchors the needles in place so they don't fall out. The inside. Sock needles in front, crochet hooks and scissors in the middle, circular needles up top, and large/long needles on the left. The top anchors the needles in place so they don’t fall out. The purple lines on the left are the guidelines I used to stitch.

IMG_20140310_195934 (1)

Folded into quarters. A bit wide & flat. With scissors. Folded into quarters. A bit wide & flat. With scissors.

Folded & rolled, without scissors. Folded & rolled, without scissors.


And here’s a bonus kitty shot! Having Sash (the black & white one) in my lap like this is a rare occurrence… so I cherish them when they do happen.

Sash & Locke Sash & Locke



Friday, 28 February 2014 10:04 pm
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Hello out there! What, you thought I was dead? That’s okay, I don’t blame you. After all, its been nearly two months since I’ve posted anything. But I have a good reason for that…

It’s my first-ever published android app called Knitty! It is a simple row-tracker that helps you keep your place in your knitting patterns. I know, I know. There are many like it already out on the play store. But this one is mine. I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now: publish an app. I’ve held off for so long because I never thought I had a good idea. I used a lot of the tracking apps on the Play store, but I found them either too cluttered or buggy, or overly complicated.

So I’ve been slaving away, writing and testing code. Really. I would come home from work at 12:30, spend some time with the hubbs, and then write code from maybe 3 PM until at least midnight. There were quite a few nights that I stayed up until 4 or 5 AM because I had a brilliant idea, or because I was bashing a square peg into a round hole. But after nearly three weeks and 150 hours later… I have something that isn’t a hot mess. Right now it is free and ad-supported, but I’d like to eventually have a paid version and a free version, and possibly a more advanced version with a bunch of extra features. Maybe Ravelry integration? I’d like to have a version that is simple and a version that is complex — that way, people that don’t want the complex version still have a simple one to use. I don’t know — maybe that, in itself, is overly complicated. (Hah.)

I have great plans for this app. Even if it never makes me any money, I have great plans…

And don’t worry. I’ll have a crafty update for you soon. I promise. In the meantime, try out my app, and be sure to tell me whatever problems you run into!

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The Midori Traveler’s Notebook is a fantastic thing. It’s essentially a leather jacket with some metal rods that allow you to slip in various notebooks, planners, envelopes, pouches — whatever you can dream up. It also comes with a pretty pricetag — roughly $50 here in the states. $50 for a piece of leather with some metal rods. Now, you can vouch for all the refills and trinkets to customise your MTN all you want, but that’s a little too much for my pocketbook.

There’s a ton of tutorials online to make a MTN, and they usually start with “purchase a nice piece of leather”. Well, I have no local leather shops (that I know of anyway) and I’m too impatient to order something online. So yesterday evening I took a trip down to my local Barnes & Noble to check out their leather journal section. They have a number of lovely handmade Italian leather journals that would be perfect for my MTN.

I didn’t think to take photos until I was done, but the process I used was fairly simple: I used an exact-o knife to carefully cut the ligatures out of the notebook (the ligatures are the individual sections of paper that are sewn together. Look closely at any bound book you have — a book is made up of multiple ligatures and you can see them if you try!). There ended up being 12 ligatures in all – I separated these into four sets of three, so I could reuse the paper.

Then, I punched holes in the spine of the leather and ran some clear plastic bead cord; I may eventually swap this out with elastic cord, but the bead cord has some elasticity to it. I added some trinkets for decoration and slipped my notebook in and now I have a pretty nice knockoff MTN.

DSC_0002 This is after I cut the ligatures out of the notebook and split them into sections of three. The one on the left is un-covered, while I covered the ligatures on the right with some scrapbook specialty paper to make a faux-notebook.

DSC_0005 These are the four notebooks I’m putting into my DIY MTN. Two are from the original notebook, one is my Lechtturm 1917 Softcover unlined, and the other is my Field Notes Pitch Black Dot-Grid.

DSC_0009 The inside of the journal after I’ve removed the ligatures and added in the stretchy bead cord. I could have covered the leather that now shows along the spine, but I didn’t really feel a need to. You can also see the eyelets I punched into the leather for the beadcord.

DSC_0010 All four notebooks inside.

DSC_0012 Closed DIY MTN, with some added beading and charms. The charm on the closing tie is attached with tiny metal brads.

DSC_0015 Close-up of beading and eyelets along the top.

My DIY MTN came out to be roughly 15$ cheaper than an actual MTN. I was able to embellish my DIY MTN with little additional cost, since I already had the supplies on hand, whereas I would have bought some if I purchased a real MTN. And my notebook has a design that suits me more than a plain colour. Overall, I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out!

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I can finally share this project with you all! Some of you may recall a post where I started the quilt top for the Blue & Yellow Bargello quilt. After that initial post, I decided to go radio-silent, lest my giftee figured out it was for her — I don’t like to spoil surprises!

So, my mother in law remodeled her kitchen this past year. Nice new granite countertops with yellow and blue flecks; down came the old green wallpaper and up went yellow paint, with blue accents. Her living room (right off the kitchen), has been slate grey-blue with a yellow sofa and blue accent pieces. She really loves yellow and blue, and it looks so classy. When she decided to repaint her kitchen this year, I figured it was the perfect time to make a quilt for her. It’s a twin-size with light batting in between, so it won’t be too bulky for her living room sofa.

Full shot of the front. Full shot of the front.

DSC_0609 Detail of the squares

DSC_0608 Detail of the squares. The color is closer to real life in this photo. 

DSC_0615 The back has only this detailing across the top. I wanted to keep it simple since the front is so busy.

DSC_0612 The patch on the back panel. Leftover scraps were pieced together and then appliqued onto the backing before the entire thing was quilted.

DSC_0616 Back & front

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DSC_0546 Aged brandy balls all nice and pretty!

While doing some Christmas shopping, the hubbs and I came across a cute little 3-tier cake stand for roughly $50. I loved it, but being as frugal as I am… I just couldn’t justify the cost. We do entertain fairly frequently and I wanted something similar, but I put it on the back burner until I could find something cheaper. Well, cheaper ended up being $25 at Goodwill and a glue gun. I was running errands this morning and decided to pop on over to Goodwill since it was along my route. A few cute pieces of dishware, some vases, and some glass candlestick holders later I walked out carrying the basis for five different confectionery stands. Mine aren’t perfect, and most of them have a slight tilt, or aren’t exactly level, but considering the small cost and amount of time to make them, I’m not at all bothered by it. Check out the photos below for a tutorial!

DSC_0500 The goodwill haul

DSC_0510 My fancy shmancy 5$ glue gun

DSC_0512 Glue around the edge

Records Central

Thursday, 19 December 2013 02:03 pm
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So, I saw this post on Lifehacker earlier this week about using a Raspberry Pi and an old LCD to make a central activity center. I don’t have any old LCDs kicking around, nor any Raspberry Pies, but I did have an old Nook Color kicking around. It’s the Nook Color First Generation, so it’s pretty old and set in its ways by now. It’s also been replaced by a combination of an e-ink Nook Glow and an ASUS Transformer Prime. So my Nook Color has sat in a drawer, collecting dust, for about a year.

Now? It’s been ressurected and has new life! A friend of mine tossed on Cyanogenmod, and I automated a schedule with Tasker (which is a FANTASTIC app, by the way. If you don’t have it, I highly recommend getting it. Especially now that the price has dropped — it used to be about $6, now about $2.50) that switches between a weather app and a calendar app. It also plays a notification sound before scheduled events in the calendar between certain hours, and I’m working on a way to use the volume rockers to navigate through a list of apps.

For us, this is incredibly useful. Both the hubby and I keep non-traditional schedules that fluctuate pretty regularly. Instead of asking each other every day “When do you work? What are you doing?” we can take a quick glance at the calendar and already know. It’ll also help both of us keep track of joint events.

I still need to work on some cable management but in the meantime, it seems to be a pretty great solution and a pretty good use of old tech.

We don't need no stinkin' cable management! We don’t need no stinkin’ cable management!

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My inlaws hold a Christmas bash every year. Part of the deal is that in exchange for some great food, you bring some kind of outdoor wearable: gloves, scarves, hats, etc. This year I decided to cast on and work my way through part of my yarn stash.

DSC_0478 Two hats & a cowl

DSC_0480 The cowl, from the back.

DSC_0483 Hat to go with the cowl. I ended up not being a huge fan of the pattern. It’s slightly slouchy and looks more impressive on the head than on the table.

DSC_0481 Little Red Riding Hood Beret

DSC_0484 Slouchy, with a little bit of texture

The scarf & matching hat were made from 1 skein of Homespun multicolor (which one it was I don’t know… such is the casualty of a yarn stash). I made up the patterns as I went along for both of them. The hat is mostly just double-crochet until the edging.

Looped Scarf Pattern

Row 1: Cast on 17. Turn. Skip first stitch and single crochet (SC) in each stitch (16 stitches.).

Row 2: Chain 4. Counts as first triple crochet (TC). TC in each SC. (16 stitches)

Row 3: Chain 2. Counts as first SC. SC in each TC. (16 stitches)

Row 4: Chain 4. Counts as first triple crochet (TC). TC in each SC. (16 stitches)

Row 5: Chain 2. Counts as first SC. SC in each TC. (16 stitches)

Row 6: Chain 3. Counts as first DC. DC in each SC. (16 stitches)

Row 7 – 8: Chain 3. Counts as first DC. DC in each DC. (16 stitches)

Row 9: Chain 2. Counts as first SC. SC in each DC. (16 stitches).

Repeat rows 2 – 9 two more times. For finishing, fold scarf in half. Match opposite corners (so, the bottom of one side meets the top of the other side). This will give you the twist in the scarf. If you don’t want the twist, simply match corners. Stitch sides together.

Little Red Riding Hood Beret

The second hat is a pattern that I’ve made a few times from Ravelry called the Little Red Riding Hood Beret. It’s such a classy hat!

Silas' quilt

Thursday, 12 December 2013 11:31 pm
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This was one heck of a fun quilt! One of my close friends had a baby earlier this year (who is absolutely adorable!) and asked if I would make a twin-sized quilt for him. We picked a twin size because it seemed “the perfect” size… Both of us are in our mid/late twenties and both of us have a handmade blanket we use on the couch, all wrapped up in the cooler months, and both of those just happen to be twin-size. Let me tell you, getting to make quilts for babies is the best — especially when it’s the larger size quilts. Just think of all the memories they’re going to create with that qult! From blanket forts to wintertime snuggles, comfort when they’re sick or hurt.. the endless possibilities are just so endearing. I’m shipping it out in the mail tomorrow, and I’m so excited for my girlfriend to receive it! I hope it brings Silas many, many years of warmth and cuddles and love.


The first cuts


All the pieces

Making the pieces for the monkey wrench blocks

Making the pieces for the monkey wrench blocks


Fully finished!


100% Sash-recommended!


“Mom, I don’t want to move!”



Free-motion swirls in the blue boarder.



Stitching; this design is done all along the boarder.








The backing is a flannel sheet bordered with brown flannel. I absolutely love how it turned out. Apparently, Sash does too!


The back — aren’t the colors just wonderful?


Embroidery. Easily one of my favourite parts. The embroidery was done on cotton, and then the cotton was fused to the quilt with no-sew fusing; I then stitched around the edges to give it a polished look.


Matching Pillowcases


Matching Pillowcases


All packed up and ready to go~



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I have to say, I’m ridiculously proud of myself. I finished a quilt in a week and a half, start-to-finish. I don’t ever want to undertake that kind of marathon again, but still – I did it! It was a special occasion — a girlfriend asked me to make a quilt for her grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary at the end of October. I said sure! Then, come to find out they moved the date of the celebration to October 20th, effectively reducing the time I had to work on it by a week. She said it wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t ready in time, but damnit — what fin is it if you’re at a party and your gift isn’t ready? So I kicked it into overdrive and forged ahead. I can see a lot of mistakes that I made, and some of the corners I would have ripped out and re-sewn if I had the time, but in the end it came out “good enough” and everyone was thrilled with it. That’s all I can ask for, right? My girlfriend is being sweet and giving me two bottles of wine as extra payment. :)

The pattern is a wedding rings variant called “Diamond Rings”; I found it through Heartland Treasures KS. Originally, the quilt was supposed to be silver, blue, and cream — the theme being that the 60th wedding anniversary is the “Diamond anniversary”. I wanted to evoke the shiny glittery glam of diamonds, but when I headed out to my local quilt shop to pick up fabric I fell in love with the blues and whites. It reminded me of the china you’d get on your wedding day. And the gold accents for the actual entwined wedding rings was a nice touch. The top is quilted with invisible thread, while the backside is done in cream. I didn’t want the quilting to overpower the pattern, or the fabric patterns, so I stitched in the ditch around the oval segments.

The embroidery is my own calligraphy. I’ve been practicing calligraphy lately and it was the perfect excuse to transfer my skills from pen to fabric. The style is a mix between Italic and Spencerian, borrowing elements from both but not being true to either. I sort of just… whimsyed my way through it as I went. I used a water-disappearing marker (like this one) to trace out the calligraphy before I embroidered it; the embroidery itself is just a simple backstitch.


Sewn, quilted, and bound. All that’s left is some embroidery.


True to color; yes, Locke, you can help mommy take pictures. Who’s a good boy?




Embroidery close-up


Backing & quilting

The next few weeks are going to be busy; I have a full-sized baby quilt to make for a girlfriend, a crib-sized baby quilt to make for a different girlfriend, and I have to finish up some Christmas projects. One of the baby quilts can wait until after the Holiday, but the other is a Christmas present. I have my own quilting projects that are still waiting in the wings, as well as the embroidered flower quilt I’m working on. I also started knitting a throw for the living room… I might need a vacation sometime soon!

Kielbasa Soup

Monday, 7 October 2013 02:50 pm
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Kielbasa Soup

Kielbasa Soup

This makes…

  • 16 cups or 8 1-cup servings


  • 20 minutes prep

  • 40 minutes cooking

  • 1 hour total time

You will need…

  • 5 carrots (optional)

  • 3 stalks celery (optional)

  • 1 leek

  • 1.5 lb potatoes

  • 1 lb cabbage

  • 15 oz kielbasa

  • 3.5 qt chicken stock (or 3.5 qt water and 4 TB chicken bullion powder)

  • 1/4 c butter

  • 1/2 tsp marjoram

  • 5 TBSP flour

  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)

In order…

  1. Cut butter in half. Set half aside. Melt other half in deep pan over medium heat. If using carrots and celery, roughly chop and sautee in butter 5 minutes.

  2. Roughly chop the dark part of the leek, and thinly slice the white part. Roughly chop cabbage. Add both to the pan and sautee until soft.





    Sautee until soft

  3. Add chicken stock to large stock pot. Add in the sauteed vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes.

  4. Melt remaining butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 cups of stock from the pot. It should get thick.



  5. Return this mixture to the stock pot and stir until incorporated.

  6. Dice the potatoes and slice the kielbasa. Add them to the stock pot. Also add the marjoram, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are softened and kielbasa is warm.

    Kielbasa — cut on the diagonal





Slow Crawl

Sunday, 6 October 2013 01:44 pm
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Things have slowed to a crawl here in the Collective household. Things were picking up steam; it was the beginning of the fall semester — which means an influx of students coming to see me, and I picked up two classes of my own — and along with the usual pickup in pace I had started going on a few job interviews to see if I could land a full-time spot anywhere. I love my current job and I don’t want to leave, but they don’t have the budget to bring me on full-time. And I’d really like full-time. I’d like the security and benefits that come with full time. And things were going pretty well — I had a few interviews lined up and I did well, and then as luck would have it I got sick.

Not one of those fall colds that you just muddle through. No. I could handle that.

The flu. And not the “vomit everywhere and then feel better two days later” flu. The kind of flu where you lose two and a half days to fever and chills and barely move off the couch. The kind of flu where you call out from work for three days, except you don’t call — you email, because you barely have the energy to tap out a few lines and then go lay down again.

This thing knocked me on my butt for a week. And I’m still not feeling completely recovered. I can finally move around without feeling exhausted five minutes later, but I’m still falling asleep at 8 or 9 PM. I also no longer have to sleep sitting up, which is a godsend.

So, yeah. My house is a mess, I’m a week behind on classwork and a few days behind on actual work. My house is a mess, my yard is a mess. And forget about any kind of crafting or quilting. That’s on the back burner until at least next week.

On the upside? Little kitten got adopted out! He found a loving family with one of hubby’s friends; They have two daughters and have been putting photos up on Facebook of kitten settling in. His name is Simon! An adorable name for an adorable kitten! Dusty had separation anxiety for a day or two and wandered around the house meowing and turning things over looking for him, but otherwise she’s settled into our house nicely. There’s very little hissing and batting between the boys and her, which is a good step forward. Dusty still wants to dart out of the house every now and again, and we let her, but I’m hoping that as she becomes more comfortable in the house that she feels the need to pop out less and less.

That, and the less she goes out the less she can bring me dead animals. A mouse, two chipmunks, and a blue jay so far. And that blue jay was half the size of her! The two chipmunks were still alive and not harmed to the point of dying so I was able to save them. And I know it’s instinct, but she doesn’t really need to kill things when she’s got plenty of food at home. So the more I can keep her inside the more I can keep her from killing the wildlife. That, and she’s lost both collars we’ve put on her so far. They were breakaways, but if she lost two breakaways I don’t want to put a non-breakaway on her, lest she get herself into some trouble and caught on something where I can’t get to her. I guess I’m off to the store for another breakaway…

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So, mama kitty has a name now: Dusty. And she’s been officially adopted by us! She was given a clean bill of health by the vet and after a round of vaccinations she’s been cleared to interact with the boys. Dusty & baby kitten spent a week quarantined in hubby’s office while we waited for the all-clear from the vet, and after that we slowly started to introduce her to the boys. It’s been going pretty well — there’s still some hissing, and everyone is still adjusting to their new place in the kitty-hierarchy, but they all seem relatively okay with one another. The only real issue that seems to be lingering is when one of the boys decides to roughhouse or hiss at the kitten — Dusty will jump right in and instigate trouble. But once kitten has a new home, that should resolve relatively quickly. That, and if one of the boys races past Dusty, she’ll give chase — and they don’t like that. There’s quite a bit of hissing and growling when that happens.

Speaking of which… baby has gotten his first round of shots and also has been cleared as healthy. And it’s very possible that this upcoming Monday he will be going to his new forever home! Exciting! But I do have to say that I will miss the little guy… he is such a cute, sweet, cuddly little thing! When I took him to the vet to get his vaccinations, he was such a little rockstar — all the vet techs and receptionists wanted to hold him and cuddle with him. I joke that I have a parrot instead of a kitten, because he loves to perch on your shoulder. He definitely will be missed… but I know that he’ll have a fantastic forever home; it’s looking like friends of hubby’s are going to be the ones to adopt him. So it’s looking like this weekend I’m going to have to get my fill — because once it’s over, he’ll be gone!

There's something interesting outside!

There’s something interesting outside!




Om nom toy!

Om nom toy!

Oh look, paper!

Oh look, paper!

It's that sparkly yellow crinkle toy again!

It’s that sparkly yellow crinkle toy again!



What? All the big cats sit in the window!

What? All the big cats sit in the window!

Mama, play with me!

Mama, play with me!

24 Inches

Friday, 23 August 2013 03:28 pm
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Read that title again. Really read that title. 24 inches. Twenty-four. Two feet. That’s as tall as a barstool. As wide as your average countertop. That’s the size of some computer monitors. So take a moment and think about what 24″ inches really is.

And then realise that yesterday morning, at 10:30 AM, I went into the hair salon for the first time in five years for a haircut. And I cut off 24 inches. And then realize that with that haircut, my hair is still “long” by society’s standards — it’s past my shoulders. When I went in for my haircut, my hair was past my fingertips.

Let that sink in, for just a moment. Go on. I’ll wait.

I wish I could say that I did it for a good cause. I wish I could say that I was able to donate my hair to Wigs for Kids. Unfortunately, my hair three years ago was in a terrible state. It was processed and bleached and dyed every color imaginable. Over the past few years I’ve learned some awesome tips and tricks to keeping your hair healthy and in great condition thanks to the wonderful folks over at The Long Hair Community. They’ve been really great! But I couldn’t undo the damage I had done years ago, so when I went in for my haircut yesterday morning, it just had to go. Hair that’s been bleached, dyed, or colored using non-natural products can’t be accepted by any wig-making organisation out there.

On the upside, now all the damaged hair is gone. And my hair grows fast, so in another three years? I should be able to have another 24″ of donate-able hair. In reality, you can donate hair at shorter lengths (10″ – 12″, depending on the program), but they’re really lacking in longer lengths. And I don’t mind growing mine out. It’s been long for so long that you almost forget what it’s like to have it short!  And I really can’t see myself NOT letting it grow out again. I may leave it short for a few months or so, but I’ll get bored with it and just let it grow.

But for now?

I’ll just enjoy being able to sit down without sitting on my hair. :)


01 January 2013


One of my favourite hairstyles! Won’t be able to do this for awhile…


22 August 2013 – Just hours before the big chop. Self-shots are apparently not on my list of “things I do well”.


And after! It’s definitely going to take some getting used to…

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In my neighbourhood, there are a lot of stray, abandoned, and feral cats wandering around. I also live on a street that has many people that adore cats. My next-door neighbour (we’ll call him Jim) has quite a few cats, most of them rescued from the neighbourhood. For example, take last summer: there was a sweet newcomer stray that my neighbour and I nicknamed “Cali” (she was a Calico cat — we’re so creative, aren’t we?). She had a litter of kittens in my woodpile mid-summer last year, so we made sure Cali was well-fed so she could feed the babies, and then Jim and I found homes for the babies. A friend of his took two of the kittens, and a woman up the street from us took the other two. Then, my neighbour adopted Cali. Next door to the woman up the street is another family that has adopted some of the neighbourhood cats, and the same can be said of a family down the street too. We try and take care of the popluation as best we can: we frequently trap-spay/neuter-release new cats we see in the neighbourhood to keep the population down, but that doesn’t account for the abandoned cats we see all the time.

And there’s a lot of abandoned cats. People get foreclosed on, can’t take their pets with them, and just leave them behind hoping that they’ll “make their way”. Cali was one of those abandoned cats.

So, earlier this summer a new kittyface showed up. She was sweet; she just wanted to be petted, and if you gave her some food that didn’t hurt. At first we thought she was someone’s housecat that had just gotten out, but she never disappeared. I scoped out ads, looking for someone saying “lost cat”, but never came across this sweet little girl. Now, my house has a screen door, with a glass bottom (top is screen, bottom is glass). My boys like to sit in front of the door and look out, since that’s the closest they ever get to the great outdoors. One day, this new kittyface comes up to the glass door and just sits there, staring in. Locke sat on the other side, staring out. He put up his paw, she put up her paw, and BAM! She earned the nickname “Locke’s girlfriend”. Over the course of a month, maybe a little longer, every day she’d come up onto the porch and lay on one side of the glass, and Locke would lay on the other. If she didn’t come by, Locke would get pacy and bounce from window to window, looking for her approach. At the same time, if you had to go in or out of the front door, she’d try her best to slip inside if you weren’t careful.

Locke & Locke's Girlfriend

Locke & Locke’s Girlfriend

So after about four months of her hanging around the house, I went to go talk to Jim and see if he’d been able to find if she belonged to anyone, since my search had come up empty. He hadn’t. Now, my husband has said time and again: no more cats. We have two cats, two geckos, and a fishtank. We’re a zoo already. No more animals. And honestly, I tend to agree with him. So if anything, if we were to adopt this sweet kittyface, she’d be an indoor/outdoor cat. If she wanted to go outside and run around, fine. If someone else decided they wanted to keep her, fine. We would take care of her inasmuch as that meant getting her some vaccinations, getting her fixed (if she wasn’t already), and letting her do her thing. And I agreed. So I packed her up in a kitty crate and called the vet to make an appointment… only to find that they’re booked solid until next Friday. So I made the appointment for next Friday, let her outside, and went about my day.

Early afternoon, my husband had to run some errands. Since I was parked behind him in the driveway, we had to swap cars. When we were done, and I was walking back toward the porch I saw Locke’s Girlfriend in the flowerbed. Aw, how cute. And then… could it be… does she…? It was! Locke’s Girlfriend had a little kitten with her! I waved my husband over and we snagged the little tyke, and hunted around for more. We found where Mama and baby had been nesting, but there was no sign of any other kittens. So we took the two inside and I sequestered them in my husband’s office (it’s being used as storage right now anyway).

Mama & baby

Mama & baby

The kitten is probably about 6 – 8 weeks, at best guess. Her eyes are open, and she’s walking, using the litter box, drinking formula, and attempting to eat food. So now these two will remain here for the next week, until their vet appointment. Both of them need to be cleared of anything they could give to my boys (like FeLV) before we introduce them to the rest of the house. We will definitely be finding a home for the little kitten, as I don’t want a house with four cats. Hopefully once they’re cleared health-wise we can convince a friend, or our friends can convince their friends, to take the little one home with them. I mean, I don’t want to sound like a bad guy, but I don’t want a house with four cats. I don’t even really want a house with three cats, but Locke’s Girlfriend seems to have chosen us, for better or worse. If she spent most of her time outdoors and came in to eat and sleep I would be okay with that. But it’s enough trouble to keep my house clean as it is! (And anyone that knows me knows I clean religiously… the last thing I want is someone dropping by and having my house smell like cat!).

So, we’ll enjoy the kitten while she’s here, and take lots of cute little cat videos to remember her by, and then hopefully find a forever home for her. In the meantime, enjoy some of the kitten videos we’ve already taken!

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So, I’ve been quiet lately. Not because anything’s gone terribly wrong, but more because things have been going spectacularly right. All the equipment from the fire has been repaired and replaced, so things are getting back to normal. The days have been incredibly hot here, and we’re in the middle of another heatwave. So the days have been rather slow and lazy…

Which also means I haven’t been very productive.

The blue & yellow bargello has been put on hold for the moment: The only thing remaining is stitching on the binding. I also have a small lap-quilt that needs to be quilted (by hand!) that is on hold. The hubby and I are taking a trip in a few weeks, and I wanted to make sure I had some projects to keep my hands busy while in the car or during the evenings when there’s not much else to do. Since these both are in the hand-stitching phase, I figured they’d both be good candidates. That being said, I have no current quilting projects to work on… But not for lack of trying!

You know how, when you’re reading a wikipedia article, you just start clicking links and getting deeper and deeper and deeper into wikipedia? Wikisurfing? That happened to me over the weekend, but with quilting blogs. I was feeling rather uninspired, and through many links and hours of clicking, I came to Sister’s Choice. And there? I found my inspiration. Earlier this year, Nicole finished her Message in a Bottle quilt, and I thought it was absolutely gorgeous. She worked from a pattern, so I tracked it down online (for only $10!); it has instructions for working with fat quarters. Now, I’ve never done that before — I’ve always bought my fabric from the bolt, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to purchase some Moda fat quarters… And why, the stars just seemed to align! Funny, how that happens… :) So, right now, right this instant, I have one Adobe Stonehenge and two Spring Meadow Stonehenge fat quarter bundles headed my way. The Spring Meadow will be for the Message in a Bottle quilt, and the Adobe? Well. I just thought it was so nice, and since I was already placing an order… I’ll find something to do with it. 

In non-quilting news, I finished building a fire pit in the backyard. Just in time for a heatwave — isn’t my timing great? At least I can console myself with the fact that I’ll be able to enjoy it when the weather cools.

Fire! Fire! Sparks!

Friday, 28 June 2013 10:52 pm
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About a year ago, I started a project to make a multi-touch table. It used a short-throw projector and some mirrors, IR LEDs, modified cameras, and specialised software. Once I made the proof-of-concept, it sat in our living room for four months while I was in school. Since we weren’t doing anything with it, I tore it down and stowed the pieces.

A few months after that, my husband and I decided to create a very nice entertainment setup. We cribbed the short-throw projector from the touch-table project, purchased a ceiling mount, and a 100-inch ceiling-mounted projection screen. We also decided to purchase a low-end home theatre system.

So, let me take a moment to explain our home theatre system. We have three devices: A PS3, an XBOX 360, and a cable box. We also occasionally connect a computer or laptop into the system so that we can play games via Steam on the projector. What I wanted to do (eventually), was mount a small television in the kitchen, so that while I’m preparing dinner I could stream Netflix or watch the news without having to turn the living room television volume up to insane levels. I also wanted a setup where my husband could play video games in the living room while I’m in the kitchen watching the news. So it was a key point that we couldn’t just use a splitter: a splitter duplicates the signal across both outputs of the device. We needed something that would take multiple inputs and output two different signals. We also decided that the living room TV and the projector would duplicate displays, since chances were that if we had the projector on, we wouldn’t be watching the living room television.

So, in the end, we settled on a Kinivo 4×2 matrix. It’s a pretty nifty device. It can take up to four inputs and output two different signals. So, for example, if the cable box is connected to port 1 on the matrix, and the PS3 is connected to port two, we could output the PS3 to the living room TV and the cable to the kitchen TV (or vice-versa) at the same time. It’s pretty much exactly what we needed. We called an electrician to install an outlet in the ceiling, and I got started wiring my system together.

Entertainment System Diagram

Entertainment System Diagram

The only thing that we outsourced was the electrician — I don’t know nearly enough about mains power to be safe. So the electrician ran an outlet, and I ran an HDMI cable through the attic and down the wall according to code; I also ran the speaker wires, and wired all the components together. The setup was pretty perfect… we could play games on the Projector or the living room TV, the surround sound worked fine. Every once in awhile, when I would connect my laptop into the system there’d be tiny little white sparks, but I chalked that up to static cling discharging…

… Until last Saturday. Last Saturday was a trip and a half. Last Saturday, I was in the process of connecting my PC into the system so that I could play some games while waiting for guests to arrive (it just so happened that last Saturday was also our monthly ‘Saturday Night Game Night’). A few guests had already shown up and we were chatting away while I hooked the HDMI cable from the matrix into my PC.

The next thing I know, someone is screaming “Fire! Fire! Sparks!”. I immediately yanked the HDMI cable out of my PC and shut it down. I then shut off the power to the entertainment system and it’s various components, while a friend put out the fire. As it turns out, the HDMI cable that ran from the projector to the splitter caught on fire! There were sparks coming from the HDMI devices that were connected to the matrix, so that was our first culprit. We also suspected the splitter, based on the multimeter readings. Any HDMI port that was connected to the system was completely toasted (except, interestingly, the home theatre receiver — that’s the only device that escaped unscathed). Over the course of the week,  I’ve spent hours talking to customer service about appropriate multimeter readings, ordering replacement parts, getting equipment repair quotes, and setting up RMA orders. In the course of talking to a tech from Kinivo, he recommended we get the outlet checked. So I called up our electrician and had him come out.

So he comes out. A quick test, and come to find out we have a hot/neutral reverse in our junction box in the attic that is connected to the outlet. Why he didn’t catch the issue when he first installed the outlet, I have no idea. This means we’ve had an improperly wired outlet for the past half a year, and every time a device has been plugged in, the neutral has been hot! So it’s very likely that the outlet is our culprit. Considering that it was the HDMI cable that was connected to the projector that caught on fire, and the projector was connected to the outlet that was connected to the improperly wired junction box… (The toe bone’s connected to the heel bone; the heel bone’s connected to the foot bone; the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone…). If the HDMI ports in the projector are connected to the neutral, that makes it even more likely.

So, in the end, the damages are:

Kinivo 4×2 matrix – Replaced free (under warranty)

Splitter          - $25 (works, but I didn’t like the multimeter readings, so I replaced)

PS3               – $99 RMA repair

Cable box         – Replaced free by AT&T

Projector         – $30 RMA repair (under warranty), self-paid shipping

ASUS Monitor      - Repaired free (under warranty)

New HDMI cables   – $40 (CL3-certified in-wall was $30, shorter generic cables were $10)


- $194 total cost

So, tomorrow I’ll head down to the UPS center and drop off all the equipment that needs to be RMA’d or repaired. All in all, it hasn’t been a fun week, and it looks to be another week or two before we’re back up and running completely. I’m just thankful no one was hurt, but holy shnikies this is an adventure I don’t want to have ever again… At least it made game night a little more interesting?

Scrap Quilt I

Monday, 10 June 2013 06:41 pm
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Just a quick scrap quilt to work through all the leftover fabric I have from other quilts. It’s a small lap quilt, meant for slightly chill spring and summer nights. It might end up as a kitty blanket if the cats like it enough (then again, doesn’t every blanket become a kitty blanket at some point in time?). I actually really like this design… I might do it again with smaller blocks eventually. Still needs to be run through the laundry, but I don’t think it’s going to ‘pucker up’ like most quilting does since the stitching is wide and just around the diamonds/triangles.


Front! All fabric left over from other quilts. Stitch-in-the-ditch around the diamonds and triangles on the edges.


Back; you can tell where I had folded it — don’t worry, it was flat when I stitched it! Stitch-in-the-ditch around the diamonds and triangles on the edges.


Subtle patterning on the white fabric; white thread

DIY Hodge-podge

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 10:09 pm
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IKEA Craft Table


The finished product

So, I started this craft table awhile ago. It’s a mashup of IKEA’s Vika Furuskog table top and two Expedit 2×2 shelves. I needed a large workspace where I could cut my quilting fabric without wrecking my back (a known problem — the living room coffee table, where I’ve been cutting my fabric for the past five years, is definitely too low; our kitchen counters are too high). It turns out that if you put the Furuskog on top of the Expedit unit, it’s almost the perfect height. I’d say it’s about an inch too short — but that’s just being picky. It gave me a bunch of storage, and there’s just enough room in the center for a chair. The Furuskog is unfinished pine, so I treated it with two coats of Minwax Ipswitch Pine and about five coats of satin poly. I used four L-brackets to secure the top to the Expedits. The only thing left to do is to cut a hole and build a platform into the top, so that the sewing machine bed is level with the top of the table; it should make quilting a LOT easier. I’ve also put a little nail in one of the Expedits to hang my mats and rulers; there’s about a one inch lip, because the Expedits are wider than the table… I’m still figuring out what to do about that. I’m thinking that maybe I could build little utility pockets and use the lip to attach them, so that while I’m sewing the things I use most often are within reach. And perhaps on the other side, build something that will hold a little trash bag for all my trash scrap.

Gecko Cages

So, I have two leopard geckos: Mr. Gecko and Ember/Little Gecko. Before we adopted Locke & Sash into our homes, I had modified two 29g long aquarium tanks as their homes; using aquarium tanks is common with reptiles — they’re the perfect size and super cheap if you can get one on sale. What I did was stack them one on top of the other, and affix sliding window screens so that the geckos couldn’t get out. This was great, until the kittens were old enough/big enough to jump up and bat at the geckos — they’d get their little kitty claws into the screen and slide down, effectively ripping the screen and endangering the geckos. So for almost six months we’ve kept the geckos in the office, and kept the office closed so the kittens couldn’t get to them. Meanwhile, I’m racking my brain trying to come up with a solution. I have a decent one for now. Basically, I took four panes of window replacement glass, cut a scant 1/4 inch off the long edge, used clear packing tape along the edges, and fit two panes per tank into the ‘lip’ (where an aquarium top would usually rest). I then took some 1″ moulding, spray painted it black, and glued the moulding in place with some E6000 over the panes so that they wouldn’t fall forward. In the end, I have two sliding glass ‘doors’ on the front of each gecko tank. The only thing I’m concerned about is airflow — while there’s no way this is airtight, I have noticed on a morning or two that there’s condensation on the inside of the glass, so there’s obviously not enough of an air exchange to keep this from happening. This isn’t good, since leopard geckos are not a high-humidity lizard. They don’t like things wet and soppy. I’ve also noticed that the paper towel I have in their tanks for them to mess on often feel damp (whereas they didn’t previously). I’m not sure how to solve this, other than to open the cages and let them air out for a little bit each day.

Old cage with screens

Old cage with screens


New cage with glass; the right side is open by about 1″

New cage with glass

New cage with glass

Little Free Library

So, this is on my todo list… I really like the concept of a Little Free Library. We have a ton of kids in our neighbourhood, and I say the more you can do to get kids to read the better! I’m a voracious reader. I love reading. I love curling up on the couch with a book (be it paper or ebook), maybe a cup of tea, and just losing myself for a few hours in the depths of a great story. I’d have a little bit of everything… books for the young kids, scifi, mystery… remember Goosebumps? I’m sure I could find some of those books at goodwill or a second hand store! And we have the perfect spot out front, a little flower island right at the end of the driveway, next to the street (we have no sidewalks here). It’d be perfect!

*Please note that any products linked to in this post are because I like/use them, and I’m not getting paid to link to them. 

One month of buttface

Saturday, 18 May 2013 02:57 pm
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Buttface being buttface

Buttface being buttface

It’s been one month of attempting to curb buttface’s butty behaviour (har, har). I don’t know if we’re winning or losing. Some days it seems like a gain (he’ll start crying at 6:30 AM), and other days it’s a loss (he’ll start crying at 4:30 AM). We still haven’t pinned down exactly what he wants. Some mornings, he wants food. Other mornings, you give him food and he just stares at you… and then starts meowing again. Other times, he’ll sit in the window, staring out at the birds, and just meow his little head off as if his life depended on it. But what am I supposed to do? Put him on his little leash and harness at 5 AM to let him go outside and play? I don’t think so. I did buy a ThunderShirt — he doesn’t seem to mind it for short periods of time, but he’s a little monster of an escape artist and on more than one occasion he’s figured out how to wiggle out of it. He also does the “kitty flop”, and just lays there with the most pathetic look on his face. If I were capable of feeling pity for this cat at 5 AM, I might, but I’m not, so he’s just going to have to live with it. We’ve also started putting him in a crate when he cries with some toys; this works with some success some mornings, and no success on others.

As for the kitty pheromones .. Well, I don’t know if they’ve helped Locke calm down, but I’ve definitely noticed a change in Sash. We do something called “Saturday Night Game Night” once a month; a bunch of friends come over for some pizza, beer, and board games (or card games). Now, Sash used to run in the bedroom, dart under the bed, and hide the entire evening. But about a week after we started the pheromones we had a game night, and Sash stayed out of the bedroom! He wasn’t running around and getting close to people, but he didn’t feel the need to run and hide away, either — which is good. We have another game night tonight, so we’ll see if we can get a repeat performance out of him.

So, that’s where things stand. Not a huge improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. I’ll take whatever small wins I can get.

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Locke, cuddled up under the blanket and sleeping next to me.

Locke, cuddled up under the blanket and sleeping next to me.

It started innocently enough about four months ago. Locke, our large and fluffy grey and white, would meow at the bedroom door around 7 AM. Cute, right? He knows we get up around 7, and he just wants his cuddle time and food. In the morning, when my first alarm would go off, I’d get out of bed and open the door; both cats would rush in and jump on the bed and cuddle with the humans. Then, when my second alarm would go off, I’d get up and give them their food, and go about my morning.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Locke started meowing earlier and earlier. And he’s not a cat with a feeble, pathetic meow. He’d sit outside the bedroom door, bellycrying, sticking his paws under the door. So I’d get up earlier and earlier, and let him in. Eventually, that wasn’t good enough! He’d continue to meow, even though we’d let him in the room. So I’d get up and feed him. Nope, that’s not what he wanted. Water? Nope. Playtime? Nope. Cuddles? Nope. Petting? Nope! Nothing I could do would appease this cat. We even put him on a leash to take him outside (which he loves, by the way. We just can’t let him outside on his own because the wildlife and other stray cats would tear him to pieces. Not to mention, we’re not exactly suburban. I don’t want him getting hit by cars.)

The past month or so has been pretty unbearable in the early hours in our house. 5:30 AM Locke starts meowing, won’t be consoled. Sometimes, it seems like getting out of bed and sitting on the couch is enough to appease him — oftentimes, it’s not. Sometimes, we thought the birds were enticing him, or a stray cat (or some other animal in the backyard). But there wasn’t enough consistency in what set him off and what consoled him that we had any definitive clue. And we checked the typical things: He’s had the same cat litter since he was a kitten. Had the same cat litter pan, in the same place. His food is the same brand (both dry and wet). He hasn’t been getting any less food in recent months. He has a ton of toys laying around, we make sure to play with him every day. He has “smart” toys (like a little ball that he rolls around to get dry food). He didn’t have anything tragic or startling happen to him recently (or even not-so recently).

Yesterday, he did me in. He cried from 5:30 AM until he cried himself to sleep at 11 AM. Around 8:30 I called the vet and made an appointment for that afternoon because he really just would. not. stop. I mean, there has to be a medical reason, right?

…Apparently not. Apparently, my cat just likes to annoy his human overlords. He has an entirely clean bill of health, and a note that says “exceptionally curious”… mostly due to him jumping around the vet’s examination room like he owned the place. He also “may just be exceptionally sensitive to things going on outside — like birds and animals — and want to play outside, too.” Well, sorry bub, I’m not getting up at 5:30 AM to put you on a leash to take you outside and play for an hour. We need a different solution. The vet recommended kitty pheromones.

Well, it can’t hurt to try, right? So after my second trip to PetSmart in just as many days, Locke now has a kitty pheromone spray and a pheromone diffuser thingy. It’s like a Glade air-freshener, but for kitties. So we’re going to test this stuff out for a month and see what happens. Hopefully it turns my little monster back into the sweet little kitty he was five months ago. While I was at PetSmart, though, I saw something called a ThunderShirt and it (supposedly) works on the same deep-pressure therapy principle that they use for autistic kids. I didn’t pick one up (that’s a pricey $40 right there!) but when I got home I made up one out of some scrap fabric I had lying around the house. I figure it can’t hurt to try it, at the very least. Mine is a clumsy approximation of what they sell in the stores, but if it works I can always either revise my version, or buy an actual ThunderShirt.

And even though I it’s only Day 1, I have to say… today was the first day that I wasn’t woken up at 5 AM by a little meowing buttface kitty! It was almost as if he’d reverted to his old routine… meowing at 7 AM, coming in, and cuddling up right next to me and falling asleep! I actually got 7 hours of unbroken, constant sleep! Now, I’m realistic. It’s Day 1. There’s many more days to come. And if it really is the pheromones that are working, I’d like to get at the root cause of Locke’s issues rather than using the pheromone stuff all the time. Not only is it pricey, but it can’t be good to use it all the time, right? But man, I have to admit… being able to sleep felt really good.

Locke and Sash, laying in bed first thing in the morning.

Locke and Sash, laying in bed first thing in the morning.