Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Can I get a re-play?

Yesterday was such a stellar day all around, what with the medicines doing what they get paid to do, and the children exiting the pad right on schedule, and the not getting out of my flabby yoga pants, nor even having to leave the pad once all day.

Adding to all that heady excitement was the culinary fascination brought about by the discovery that confectioner's sugar stored in old (clean) pickle jars causes the sugar to take on the very essence of pickle, and it can then be added to virtually anything without the pickle essence ever fading. I used it to make lemon-vanilla frosting the other day, which for the sake of full disclosure really had to be re-named lemon-vanilla-pickle-essence frosting. 

The frosting went on top of a lemon cake and a gingerbread cake, and there was enough 
left over to use it as the butter for cookies. I thought for sure that the addition of peanut butter, eggs, oatmeal, raisins, and whole wheat flour must cancel out or mask the pickle-essence, 
but I thought wrong. 
The daughter, having been off at school all day, grabbed one when she got home ~ "Mom, what kind of cookies are these?..(strange look of recognition on her face)... Is that pickle-jar frosting I'm tasting?" Ah, these are the moments when I have my revenge that make mothering all worthwhile. 

And so this morning, filled to the breaking point with high hopes, I bounded out of bed (okay, that's not exactly accurate -- to be honest I'm not even sure I would know how to "bound," even if that's what I was getting paid to do). What really happened was that I sat up in a wobbly fashion and groped around in the dark for the infernal cellphone alarm, to smash it to bits for doing what it gets paid to do. But anyway, there I was, in my naive and groggy yet hopeful state, truly believing that everyone else would also be emerging from their peaceful slumbers similarly stoked for an unprecedented two-day-in-a-row streak of morning excellence. 

I approached the sleeping child in my usual sing-song-y, cheerful, "first try" waking-up voice. "Hey Sweetieeeee ~ it's time to wake uuu-uuuup!" (As opposed to my usual "fifth-or-sixth try" IT'S TIME TO GET OUT OF BED RIGHT NOW, PERIOD not-altogether-sing-song-y voice). Well, not only did Sweetie not bound up filled with determination to repeat the smooth efficiency of yesterday morning, Sweetie did not bound at all or even budge or even so much as twitch. I guess Sweetie's medicine was working overtime, hoping for a pay increase. 

An hour past wake-up time, he still didn't appear to be experiencing any undue stress 
about being late for school. 
This was most likely because he had awoken in the wee hours of the morning, walked out to the living room, and eventually fallen back to sleep on the couch. The couch is imbued with very powerful sleep-inducing vibrations, so combined with the hard-working medicine, I can only imagine how comatose a sleep he was in.

The daughter, as well, failed to emerge from her crypt at the appointed dusky hour, which left me alone with naught but these people with whom to share a sigh and an eye roll or two, mainly at myself for daring to think there could be two such beautiful days of perfect attendance and yoga-pants-wearing cookie revenge in a row.

Speaking of yesterday, if you've had the time or the inkling to look at my photo-tutorial on learning the crocheted star (or daisy) stitch, you may have noticed, as I had, that there were a few futsy and potentially confusing spots...

for which I apologize! I went back over it this morning and tried to make it more understandable ~ but if you have any trouble, feel free to let me know in the comments, and I'll do my best to help you get it right. It's such a fun and pretty stitch that I think it's worth getting the hang of.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


The dishes are piling up in the sink, every inch of the pad needs some seriously Teutonic cleaning action, there are mountains of everything to be done by me and only me, so you may well ask why I chose to title this post "Giddy!"?  I'm giddy, my sweet blog-reading friends, because the new medicine seems to be working (you may consider that a euphemism for everything going my way or as an actual fact, the choice is yours) (either way, you'll be correct) or it's at least not not working to the point of disaster (I don't want to tempt the ghost of Hippocrates by falling into ecstasies over it too soon). ALSO both children are off to their respective schools on time, with only the most minimal help from me, AND (here's where I nearly lose all bladder control) I find myself with a sizable swathe of solitude, the likes of which are mighty rare. 

Quite understandably, I have taken this veritable miracle as a sure sign from on high that I am being guided to ignore all of the looming drudgery (with on high's blessing) and to instead sit myself down at the blog and make a photo-tutorial of my unofficial "variation" of the crocheted star (or daisy) stitch, just as I said I would. Not that I've ever done this before, and not that I even know whether there are any particular rules to making photo-tutorials, or tutorials in general, and therefore whether or not I am breaking any of them, but the giddiness is not currently allowing me to fret over technicalities.

I truly hope that on high will be pleased that in lieu of humbly carrying out my many thankless tasks, I am at least keeping my word to my faithful blog-reading pals, and that karma or some such doesn't come by later to wallop me with payback. But never mind! Let's not waste another moment of our short lives worrying about moldy things coming to life and taking over the kitchen the unknown future! 

Moving right along, then. So you wanna learn how to crochet the star stitch, eh? Well then, I do hope my little photo-tutorial (which, if you don't look too closely, actually kind of looks like I might know what I'm talking about) will help you not only figure it out, but go on to make various lovely star-stitched creations to your heart's content. So here we go:

First, make a chain of a multiple of 5, plus 2 more chains. (Please don't count the chains in my picture, because they didn't follow the above math rules) (but it all works out okay in the end, due to the magic of trick photography). 

OK, so unlike me, you've made your "multiple of 5 plus 2" starting chain. 
(Please just pretend that this one has 22 chain stitches.) (Thank you!)

Now, we will begin to make our way down the first row. This is the row where the bottom "half" of your stars (or daisies, if you like) will be formed. 
Insert your hook into the second chain from the hook, yarn over...

and pull up a loop. Two loops on hook.

 Insert your hook into the next chain, and pull up a loop, and then insert your hook into the next three chains, pulling up a loop each time, so that you now have six loops on your hook.

 It's very important to keep things very loose - pull the last loop that you made up just a little bit more than the others (you'll find out why in a second)... 
then yarn over..
(Wooops! I just noticed that in the above picture, there is a large loop of yarn showing, kind of behind the hook... ignore that! That's not what I mean by making your last loop loose... that's just a piece of my working yarn apparently thinking it would be hilarious to photo-bomb this picture, just to confuse you. So just kind of mentally erase that big sticking-out loop in the picture, and keep your loops on your hook just slightly more loose than normal, with the sixth one being a tad more loose.) 

...and pull through all six of the loops, LOOSELY. Be gentle. Think of starlight and daisies,
as opposed to reigning in wild horses. 

Yarn over and slip stitch. The little cluster of "petals" will look closed up.

Now you are going to insert your hook right into the hole in the "center" of the cluster of petals,
the one you just created by slip stitching it "closed." 

Yarn over, and pull up a loop. Two loops on hook.

Now, here is why you were keeping it so loose, baby! The next stitch that you are going to insert the hook into is the BACK LOOP of the sixth (i.e. the last) loop of the cluster of petals...(Gosh that does sound confusing, but if you take a deep breath and envision what you've done thus far, I think you'll see what I mean.)
 It is very small (see where the metal sewing needle is poking through it?) If you had whipped those little petals shut with a vengeance and pulled them tight, it would now be very hard to poke your hook through that back loop of the last petal. I'm sure you were dreaming of wafting through a field of daisies in the starlight while wearing a gauzy kaftan ('cuz that's the kind of folks my blog readers are) while you were pulling through your six loops ever so loosely, so you should have no trouble at all. However, if you should happen to find that wee back loop just a smidge too tiny, there is no shame at all in using your fingers or fingernails to pry it open while grunting and swearing (that you'll be much looser when you make the next one).

It will be easier to see and maneuver here if you look straight down on the top edge of your work, or twist it toward yourself a little bit. Forgive me for going on and on about this one small part, but it's worth keeping in mind, as this will greatly speed things up as you go along making stars and spare your fingers and the delicate ears of innocent bystanders from many unpleasantries. I promise that this is the only really tricky part, and once you see how loose to keep things, it will cease to be tricky.
I will now shut up so that you can yarn over ...

...and pull up a loop. Three loops on hook.

The next stitch you insert your hook into is actually the first chain stitch, but it looks a little bit pulled out of shape. Yarn over, insert your hook into the unshapely chain stitch, and pull up a loop - 
now you have four loops on your hook.

Insert your hook into the next two chains, pulling up a loop each time, so that you now have six loops on your hook. (Six loops is what you will keep making and pulling through, LOOSELY, to make the bottom half of your stars ((or daisies)) all the way down the row).

Yarn over, and just like you did last time, LOOSELY (I can't seem to stop screaming that, it must be the overall giddiness) slip stitch to close up the petals.

Now, just as with the first star, you are going to insert your hook:
1. into the hole at the center of the petal cluster that you just made
2. into the back loop of the last of the six loops
3. into the stretched-out-looking next chain stitch
4. into the next two chain stitches
pulling up a loop each time, until there are six loops on your hook.  
Now just as you've done with the other stars, yarn over, and slip stitch the petals closed. Got that?

If you do, and you keep repeating all those steps, you will have star-bottoms all the way down to 
the last chain stitch of the original chain, and you will end the row by closing the last cluster of petals with a slip stitch. This is the "right side" of your work. 

Now, turn the work around. This is the back or reverse side of your work.
IMPORTANT: When you turn your work around, keep the working yarn BEHIND your work, just like in this picture. (Sorry for shouting ((and "behind" of all things)) but if you don't make sure to keep the working yarn in back, you'll run into twisty problems later.)

Chain two.

You're going to make two half-double crochets into the center hole of the next cluster of petals (I stuck the sewing needle in to show you the spot). So, to make your first half-double crochet into the hole, yarn over...

...insert your hook into the center hole, yarn over again, pull the loop through to the front...

...and now yarn over and pull through all three loops on your hook. One half-double crochet made.

Now make another half-double crochet right in the same hole. 
This forms the top "half" of your star/daisy -- you'll see it when you turn the work back around.

Make two half-double crochet stitches into the next "hole" and into each next hole 
all the way down the row.

When you come to the end of the row, yarn over and  insert your hook into the top of the chains there (make sure to poke your hook through two loops of the chain stitch).

And make a double crochet. (Yarn over, insert hook, yarn over, pull loop through to front, yarn over, pull two loops off hook, yarn over again, pull two loops off hook.)

Turn the work around, again making sure to keep your working yarn behind the work.

To begin the next row of stars, chain three...

I turned this so that it's easier to see... insert your hook into the second chain from the hook and pullup a loop, and into the third chain from the hook, and pull up a loop, 
so that there are three loops on your hook.

Next, insert your hook into the BACK LOOP of the next stitch...

...keep inserting and pulling loops up through the back loops of the next three stitches, so that there are six loops on your hook. (Six loops on your hook = you're about to make a petal cluster, just as you've been doing.)

Just as before, softly slip stitch right through all six loops, insert hook into center hole, back loop of last of the previous six loops, stretched-out chain stitch, and next two chains... that there are six loops on the hook...

and slip stitch to close... now maybe you're starting to feel the rhythm of the stitch, and if you've stayed nice and loose, you should be gliding right along through your field of daisies, mama.

When you come to the end of the row, the last two loops of your six petal-loops that you will pull up will be pulled through the two chain stitches right there. (It may look as though you've run out of places to pull loops through, but the two chain stitches will be at the very end.)

I will stop here for now, but you would continue by turning the work around, chaining two, and finishing your stars with a row of half-double crochets in the center holes... and then just keep repeating the first and second rows for as long as you like. 

Alright! Alright? Man, I hope I did that right and that it worked for you!! 

Now what to do with the rest of my free time... 
it's hard to decide, but I'm pretty sure that the couch will be involved.

Monday, March 30, 2015

fabulous free-store finds

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.
We got some fresh green palms, but I left them in my car
so I can bring them up to my Mom later.
We're going to bring our old ones to the church  so they can be added to the Easter sacred fire.
Sometimes I burn some of them at home, like blessing incense.

Before mass, I went to meet with friends for some knitting and crocheting,
so I took my new, free-store-found multi-project bag along for a test run.

She's a lightweight beauty with plenty of pockets, inside and out...

..and three large zippered sections, which each can hold one or two projects,
for a grand total of six projects to tote any- and everywhere, 
without ever getting them messed up or tangled,  
as well as plenty of tools. 

Test score: A+

I also lucked upon this hanging...thingy...
What is its actual intended purpose? I have no idea, but can't you imagine 
a million and one uses for it?  Thanks, whoever was giving it away!

And as if that wasn't enough free fabulousness,
look at this small plastic basket with a handle!

Lately whenever I see something with slats and spaces
I get the urge to weave something into them, and this basket may be my first victim experiment.

Inside the basket are more covered bottles and jars for the fair... add to these and a couple others I've made.

And finally, my favorite free-store score ~ this silk scarf from India, (with the tag still on it).
We here at chez swirling hearts find more great things at the free store 
than we could ever plan to shop for/hope to purchase "in real life."

It works out perfectly, since we long ago decided 
that we really do prefer to let serendipity be our stylist.