Wednesday, April 6, 2016

National Walking Day and Golden Girls Dolls

National Walking Day

Walking in big cities is a given.  I remember moving to Chicago after undergrad and being so happy that I could walk to major locations in a relatively short time rather than spend lots of time in the car.  If I got tired or lost, there was always a bus, subway, or taxi nearby to take me home.  The lakefront offers miles and miles of beautiful walking trails right alongside the city.  It's also possible to find large residential sections where you can walk and see all sorts of homes, apartments, gardens, and yards.

Recently, Rogers Park was featured in an article by Business Insider listing the healthiest big-city neighborhoods.  Not surprisingly, the list was dominated by the West Coast.  Rogers Park was the only Chicago or Midwest neighborhood mentioned.  Much of the criteria centered around residential street density and amount of parks and other green spaces.  

As you can see in the above photo, I tend to wear my walking shoes to the point of destruction.  When I was ready to replace the blue pair, I had worn a hole in the bottom of the sole.  Now, I'm ready to replace the white pair . . . soles are very worn, but not full of holes yet.  I think I'll go with pink this year.

Golden Girls Dolls

Last Spring, a Facebook entry in one of the groups I follow featured crocheted Golden Girl dolls.  The pattern is adorable and so realistic.  I mentioned that I could crochet these for folks because the pattern designer allows for the sale of items produced by her patterns.  There was tons of interest . . . until I replied with pricing. I did sell the above set to a very nice guy who had them sent to a buddy in Canada for his birthday.

There's been some renewed interest in these dolls, so I'm including the pricing information here.  The dolls are custom made and can be purchased individually or as a complete set.  Individual dolls are $40 and the set is $160.  Shipping/handling is $5 for 1-2 dolls and $10 for 3-4 dolls in the US.  International shipping is based on location.

For those of you who are familiar with fiber arts, you can see how much time, skill, and detail go into each doll.  If you have not knitted/crocheted/embroidered/sewn, it may not be immediately apparent how well-priced these dolls are at this time.  They are truly little works of art that will bring a smile to anyone who receives or purchases them.

New Logo Banner!

Did you notice the new banner at the head of the blog?  I'm so pleased with it.  It's a fresh new look for the blog, my Etsy shop, and Facebook page.  The needlepoint design is an original by me, using yarn on plastic canvas.  I backed the sign with felt, so it's ready to display.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day and Logo Redesign Update

National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

Chocolate covered raisins - a sneaky way to get kids eating dried fruit or a delicious movie treat?  I don't think I've ever purchased a box of Raisinets at the theater or anywhere else, but I do enjoy the occasional chocolate covered raisin.  They're also a great addition to trail mix.

I was surprised to read that they are the third largest selling candy in US History (wfsb).  The fact made a bit more sense when considering Raisinets entered production in 1927.  That gives them close to 90 years to accumulate candy sales.

These little guys are more nutritious than many other candy snacking options, so if you're looking for a bit of sweet today, they're a good option.

Logo Redesign Update

Amid other projects, I continue to work on my logo redesign.  Once all of the colorful flowers were in place, it was time to fill in the border.  For the top and bottom borders, I decided on little clusters of yellow buds and green stems/leaves.  On each side of the logo, I added two yellow flowers with green accents.  

Here's the completed design before I started to fill in the white background.  I really like the way the flowers frame the text as well as the color choices.

Now, on to the tedious part.  White yarn will cover the entire background.  It's interesting to see how the details of each flower pop when the background is added.  

My goal is to have the new logo banner up and running by April 3rd.  To meet that goal, I'll need to work on the background for a couple hours each day, cut the plastic canvas to size, and then line the back with felt.  Since the plastic canvas squares are small, this is a project that I can only work on a few hours at a time because it takes some pushing to get the needle and yarn through each plastic hole.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

National California Strawberry Day and Monogram Dog Blanket

National California Strawberry Day

Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits, so I am always eager for strawberry season to begin.  Unfortunately, this means that I usually jump the gun and buy strawberries before they are really good and ripe.  Right now, I have a carton of strawberries in the fridge that I know will not be great, but I purchased them anyway because they were on sale and I couldn't resist.  Thankfully, I know to slice them and add some sugar before eating them so the taste will improve.  

The best strawberries come right from the garden.  Although I have a small garden plot in the city, I don't plant strawberries because there isn't enough space to produce a meaningful yield.  I'll rely on Farmer's Markets later this spring for the quality strawberries.

Monogram Dog Blanket - Now on Etsy!!

After the blanket panels were blocked and dried, I was ready to assemble Archie's new blanket.  I attached the panels using a single crochet stitch and also added a single crochet stitch border around the entire piece.  I've found that this attaching method is sturdier than many of the other standard methods and it produces a nice edge to each panel.

The size is nice and large for a dog blanket -- 32x44 -- and it's a warm, soft blanket.  It would be a great gift for any size dog.  Since it is fully customizable, it's a unique item that would be a treasured keepsake.

Archie is right at home on his new blanket.  Now, maybe he will stay off my blankets!  (Not a chance of that happening.)  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Won't You Be My Neighbor? Day and Fun with Logo Redesign

Won't You Be My Neighbor? Day

Today is Fred Rogers' (Mr. Rogers) birthday, so The Fred Rogers Company celebrates annually with the Won't You Be My Neighbor? Day.  It's still chilly in Chicago, so I happily wore a cardigan in his honor.  

Rogers Park, the Chicago neighborhood I call home, is a pretty friendly neighborhood.  Each morning, Archie and I say good morning to numerous people and pets on the first walk of the day.  If it's nice enough to spend time in the park, Lake Michigan is just a few blocks away.  Rogers Park is far enough away from downtown Chicago that the beach is busy, but not overcrowded.  

My condo is located in a two-building structure that has 12 condos.  The neighbors are all friendly and diverse in background and occupation.  There are quite a few dogs and several small children, so the front yard is active in the spring and summer.  We've had our share of drama and craziness over the years, especially when the housing market collapsed, but, in the end, it's a great place to live.

Tonight was Archie's lucky night.  As we entered the back stairwell, the back door of the first floor condo opened.  My neighbor was cooking dinner and needed to let out some hot air (delicious Chinese food aromas make me want to invite myself in for a meal).  Archie is 100% obsessed with this family because there is a little girl and a little dog.  He loves both of them and always checks on the door to see if it will open when he's outside.  He's been invited in once and "broke" in twice.  If he ever goes missing, this will be the first place I check.  

Fun with Logo Redesign

Etsy is unveiling a new look and feel for all shops on April 5th, so I was inspired to revisit my banner and logo.  When I first opened Occasions by sonjabegonia, I needed something that showcased some of what could be found in the shop.  The resulting banner is a combination of an embroidered tea towel and various crocheted flowers.

It's way past time for a revamp, but I'm not yet ready to go the graphic art route yet.  

This weekend, I decided that needlepoint with yarn on plastic canvas would be a good medium, so I started working on a design.  Everything I'm using I had on hand, so if I end up not using the new logo, I'll only be out time.  

I knew that I wanted to keep OCCASIONS in all caps and by sonjabegonia in lower case.  It's difficult to create a good cursive script on needlepoint, so I decided to use print letters for both lines of text.

I really like the way the lettering turned out and was so pleased to be able to make a balanced center.

Now that the most important part was completed, it was time to embellish.  Of course, flowers needed to be one of the border components.  

Through a bit of trial and error, I now have 12 flowers bordering my shop title.  This week, I plan to complete the border with some smaller yellow flowers and a traveling green vines and stems.  Once the border is finished, I'll figure out if any other colors or designs are desired, then start on the white background.  

So far, I'm excited about the new look!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Earth Hour, Edgy Lasagna and Doggie Blanket Beginnings

Earth Hour

Tonight at 8:30 pm, it's time to participate in Earth Hour and turn off all essential lights for an hour.  This is the 10th year Earth Hour is being celebrated and takes place all over the world.  Started in Sydney, Australia, the primary goal is to showcase our commitment to the planet.  

A complete history and suggestions for celebrating is available on the official blog.

Edgy Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those versatile dishes that can be adapted endlessly and is great for using up ingredients.  Once you learn the basic recipe, it's easy to create variations that are always delicious.

My favorite way to make lasagna (and other casseroles and desserts that have coveted edges) is to use my Edge Pan.  I purchased this years ago and immediately sent ones to my mom and sister.  I checked out the Baker's Edge website this afternoon and see that there are now three products -- lasagna pan, brownie pan, and muffin pan.  My original pan bakes lasagna and brownies equally well, so I'm not tempted to place an order.  

Back to the lasagna -- I made the components separately and at different times.  Yesterday, I knew I needed to use my mushrooms, so I sautéed the mushrooms, along with onions, jalepenos peppers, spinach, and a bit of bacon.  I used some of the sautee for a baked potato topping, then saved the rest for the lasagna.

This morning, I made the sauce with more onions and jalapeños, turkey sausage, tomato sauce, and various herbs and spices.  Before adding the tomato sauce, I stole a bit of the onion/pepper/turkey sausage mixture to scramble with an egg and make an English muffin sandwich for breakfast.  After simmering the sauce for an hour, there was a satisfying depth to the mixture.

All of this plus a cottage cheese/parmesan/egg/parsley/black pepper mixture, lasagna noodles, and mozzarella cheese made a very tasty and photogenic lasagna.

Doggie Blanket Beginnings

Archie loves to sleep on all of my pillows and blankets, so I decided to make him his own blanket celebrating his name, favorite thing, and gotcha date.  I had some soft, chunky yarn on hand (leftovers/supplies for the Shark Attack! Pet Blanket), so I was ready to start knitting.

Above are all of the blanket components in the midst of the blocking process.  They should be dry this evening, so I can join them tomorrow afternoon.  

I started the blanket knowing that I wanted the primary motif to be a large monogram.  This block will be the center of the blanket.  The size was very scientifically decided by figuring out how many stitches fit on my size 11 needles and then adjusting my graphed A. 

Each of the corners will feature a dog bone.  Even though Archie is a little dog, he can handle very large bones - real or Wishbone.  I figured out the block size after graphing the bone and considering how much additional length and width I'd like to add to the blanket.

Once I had the center square and four corner blocks, I was ready to design the remaining four panels.

On each side, there will be a panel with three dog paw prints.  The sizing was easy to determine because it was the length of the A monogram panel and the width of the bone panels.

Finally, the top and bottom panels feature Archie's name and the date I got him from PAWS Chicago.  These panels took a bit of work to design because I needed to figure out the sizing and placement of the text so that it fit on the panels and was a consistent size with the bone motifs.  

I look forward to attaching all of the blocks and then offering custom dog blankets in the shop early next week.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

March Forth and Doggie Leg Warmers

March Forth

I'm not typically a celebrator of punny holidays (May the Fourth Be With You, etc.), but I do like the idea behind March Forth.  A writer/creative coach named Deborah Shouse created the holiday.  It's not well known at the time, so it deserves some attention.

The idea is that this is a day for everyone to commit to marching forth in their lives -- exploring new ideas and celebrating accomplishments.  It's akin to New Year's Day but without all of the pressure of resolutions.  (if you feel like it, you could take out that resolution list and revise/throw away/celebrate/reaffirm.)  The day sounds more hopeful to me too -- perhaps because it comes at a time when Spring is right around the corner, the days are getting longer, and plans are being made for outdoor activities.  

Doggie Leg Warmers

Today, my main project was to knit a pair of leg warmers for Andy the dog.  He's an older, arthritic dog that would appreciate some warmth on his legs, so these should be perfect.  Per the custom order, they are grey and black striped and will be lined with a light fleece.

This order highlights one of the great things about Etsy and the ability to create custom orders.  I would not have thought to line leg warmers with fleece -- it was all the client's idea.  Now that I think about it, it's a great variation that I will consider adding in the future.  

The above shot shows the first completed leg warmer beside one of my model leg warmers.  As you can see, Andy has much longer legs than Archie (9.5" vs 4" leg warmers).  When I took this picture, I was in fear that I would not have enough grey yarn to complete the second leg warmer.  

I had already scoured my yarn stash and determined that I didn't have any more of this particular yarn.  I realized that one of the hats I'd made for myself in January was made of this yarn and internally debated whether or not is was a good idea to unravel some of the hat for the sake of the project.  

Oh, the drama!!!

In the end, I had sufficient grey yarn to finish the second leg warmer - hooray!  Look at how close I came to running out.  It's very satisfying when something like this works out.

Before the leg warmers can be put in the mail, they need to be lined.  A trip to JoAnn's is on the errand list for the weekend.  I had forgotten that there was a JoAnn's in the city and was very relieved that there was one in an area that wasn't too difficult to visit with public transportation and there were a couple other stores of interest.  

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Academy Awards Tonight and Crochet/Hekel Mandala

Academy Awards is Tonight!

The Oscars is the only award show I make a point to watch each year.  I used to watch multiple shows, but grew tired of the long shows.  I prefer to see the summaries and highlights following the shows.

I make an exception for the Oscars because I really enjoy seeing different films and the best of the best seem to appear on this night.

Each year, my goal is to see all of the Best Picture Nominees before the Oscars, but that's proven to be difficult now that they allow up to 10 films to be nominated.  I'm going into tonight not seeing two of the Best Picture noms and I'm okay with it.  One I will never see (no interest in Mad Max) and the other I'll try to catch this week.

The Red Carpet has begun, so the countdown to the show begins . . . 

(and I'll be watching Downton Abbey over breakfast tomorrow, thanks to xfinity on demand)

Crochet/Hekel Mandala CAL

I need to stop finding fun projects and groups on Facebook.  I couldn't resist joining in on the Crochet/Hekel Queen Mandala fun when I found the group of crocheters.  This is a mandala designed by a crocheter in South Africa and the group of people who are working on this mandala are from all offer the world.  Many of the posts are from Europe.  It's especially interesting to see the yarn choices made by everyone because there is so much represented from the various countries.

I started when the group was working on week 7, so I'll be behind for a few weeks.  This week, I finished weeks 1-5 and the mandala is looking great.  I decided to use stash yarn because I shouldn't buy any yarn for personal projects for the next several months.  I'm working with one of my favorite yarns -- Palette by KnitPicks.  It's a fingering weight wool yarn that I use for many of the items I sell in my shop.  Thanks to a big sale a couple years ago, I have a large selection in a wide variety of colors.  

Week 1

Quick and easy with no new stitches.  A good start to the mandala.  

Week 2

The next few rounds also went quickly.  I especially like the off-white V stitches at the end of this section.  

Week 3

The flowers for this section are joined as you go, so there is a ring when it's finished.  This flower ring is going to be joined to the original mandala in week 4.

Since I have experience knitting and crocheting multiples, I knew that an assembly-line method would be best utilized this week.  I crocheted the flowers in sections, working all of the centers first, then adding the flower petals.  When I started the leaves, the flowers were ready for quick attachment to the ring.

Using this method, it's easy to memorize the pattern for each row.  It is also much less cumbersome crocheting because you are only working with the string of flowers during the final row of leaves.

Week 4

 The flowers get attached to the mandala, then it's a few rows of granny stripes to end the section.  I'm not following the color palette described in the original pattern, so before I start on a section, I review my colors and decide what will come next.

Week 5

This is the last week's worth of mandala I'll be able to complete this week.  This section was full of interesting pattern, including bobbles and shells.  In person, the colors pop much better.  I'll have to capture the next section in better light and on a white background.