A Better Mug Cover

Hey,

I’ve been churning out mug covers for teacher and family Christmas gifts this month trying to get ahead of the holiday curve. Check it out, it’s Simplicity pattern 2450.

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As I made them, I was completely baffled by the pleats on the bottom of the mug. I wasn’t sure I was doing them right because how could that smushiness be the end product. Doesn’t it look wonky? See:

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But now I think that’s what the pattern intended. So I came up with a pattern hack to make better pleats. I’ll take you through my process to make nice, puffy, useful pleats like so:

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Doesn’t that look 100 times better?

Here’s what you do. Follow the pattern directions through step 6 and stop. Here’s my new step 7:

7.  On outside, pin pocket (the blue part) to base front (the cream part) at sides having raw edges even. (Never mind my messy basement – I have three kids after all.)

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Now, this next part is tricky to explain but let’s soldier on. You will line up the solid lines of the pocket with the solid lines of the base front. Pin.

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Next, stitch along solid stitching lines through all thicknesses.

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After stitching all your lines, here’s what you’ll have:IMG_2707

Notice that the sides and bottom have not been basted onto the base front piece yet.

Still with me? Great. Now you will form your pleats by pressing down with your finger. You’ll have to futz with it a little to get the right shape but it’s not bad. Pin down your pleat.

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8. Look, you’ve made it through step 7! Step 8 is easy by comparison. Baste 1/4″ from raw edges. Easy peasey.

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Whew! Now you can go back to the original pattern instructions and start at step 9 – attaching the hook and loop tape.

Here’s what you get in the end:

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Beautiful!

Here’s a side by side comparison. The green is the pattern instruction and the blue is my instruction. I like it so much better and I hope you do, too!

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St. Patrick’s Day Garland

Shamrock Banner

Shamrock Garland

Last Friday, I hosted a BYOC Night. That’s Bring Your Own Craft Night. I invited my friends to come over to work on some of their WIPs (works in progress) while we sat around and ate snacks and drank wine. It was a fun night!

I worked on this pretty shamrock garland. It took me all night, but I finished it. I found the pattern here:  http://sarahndipities.indiemade.com/blog/things-make-crochet-shamrock-garland-pattern. Thank you sarahndipities for the pattern; it was quick and easy and well written.

My son’s name is Patrick so St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal for him. He calls it “his” holiday and says we should all give him presents. As if! 🙂 He’ll have to settle for some nice decorations and maybe some green milk in his cereal.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

If you remember, I put together a cranberry cookbook for Christmas gifts last year. Here’s another recipe from that cookbook. Introducing Cranberry Orange Muffins. They’re very delicious and can be made any time of year. They were one of my favorites from the book.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 ½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter or spray the muffin cups you will be using.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Using a food processor, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg, orange zest, and orange juice and stir by hand until evenly moisturized. Fold in the cranberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tins and bake until done, approximately 20 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

I got a Liebster Award!

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This is so great. Blanketsforlinus.wordpress.com nominated me for a Liebster Award. How awesome is that?! I’m so new at blogging that it’s exciting to know anyone is reading my stuff. Blanketsforlinus.wordpress.com crochets blankets for Project Linus. I applaud her skill and charitable giving. I’m sure the recipients of her beautiful blankets are so appreciative.

There are rules to this award, they are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog (thank you again Blanketsforlinus.wordpress.com)
  2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.
  3. Nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
  4. Come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

Here are Blanketsforlinus.wordpress.com’s questions:

  1. What inspired you to start a blog? (I had been thinking about starting one for a long time. I feel that I have knowledge to share.)
  2. If you could have just one wish what would it be? (Good health for life for my family.)
  3. What is your favorite website, and why. (I really love Pinterest for all the great ideas.)
  4. What is your  favorite charity, if you have one? (The March of Dimes. We do the March for Babies every year.)
  5. What is your next project? (A multi-colored granny square crochet blanket. I’m also thinking of crocheting a clover banner for St. Pat’s Day.)
  6. What is your favorite song? (Yikes this is a tough one. I don’t know that I have one favorite song. Stuck in my head right now is Say Something (I’m Giving Up On You).)
  7. Who is your favorite comedian? (Jon Stewart)
  8. Can you speak another language? (Spanish)
  9. What is your favorite meal ? (Pizza!)
  10. Do you think the Liebster Award is fun? (It certainly is.)

I’ve enjoyed answering these questions and sharing more about myself. Time for me to find 10 small blogs to nominate.

Holiday Burlap Banner

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now, but I kept waiting for a clean living room. Since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, here it is – cropped so you can’t see all the toys on the floor! 🙂  A Valentine’s Day burlap banner from Cuter Than Words. http://www.etsy.com/shop/CuterThanWords

Valentine Banner

Valentine Burlap Banner from Cuter Than Words

I won it on a giveaway on the Madison Moms Blog. http://citymomsblog.com/madison/ I was thrilled! Isn’t it awesome?!

It can be hard to find tasteful holiday decorations, so I’m excited to see what other holiday banners Cuter Than Words makes. Now that it’s time to pack away my Valentine’s banner until next year, I may have to get a St. Patrick’s Day or Easter burlap banner. The possibilities are endless.

How to Speak Minecraft with Your Kid

Has Minecraft ensnared your child’s total attention? If so, you’re not alone. The game is hugely popular with sales of more than 14 million copies on PC and over 35 million copies across all platforms.1 That’s a lot of people playing the game, and my 8-year-old son is one of them. He’s obsessed with Minecraft, and if I want to have a conversation with him it will usually revolve around his Minecraft world. I had to learn how to talk Minecraft and this article will teach you, too, so you can connect with your child’s passion.

To speak Minecraft, you first must know what it is. Minecraft is a video game in which players build and break apart various kinds of blocks in a 3D world. The blocks represent different materials, such as dirt, stone, various ores, water and wood. The game has two main modes of play. In Survival, players start with nothing and must gather resources to help them stay alive despite attacks by monsters, such as creepers, zombies, spiders and skeletons. In Creative, players have an unlimited supply of resources, can’t die or get hungry, and can fly. The goal of the game is simply to build and explore while staying alive. There is no story to follow, and there are no points or levels to earn.

Minecraft has its own vocabulary, and knowing it will go a long way toward being able to speak Minecraft with your child. Knowing these words will help you understand what your child is talking about and not sound like such a noob (someone who is a new player just learning the ropes).

Animals – Animals are not hostile and include pigs, cows, chickens and sheep. Animals can be used for different purposes. For instance, a sheep can have wool removed using shears and cows and pigs can be harvested for their meat.

Biomes – regions in a Minecraft world with varying geographical features, flora, heights, temperatures, humidity, and sky and leaf colors, as well as different types of blocks present. Biomes are separated into 5 categories based on their temperature: snow-covered, cold, medium, dry/warm, and neutral. There are 61 distinct Biomes such as forest, jungle, desert and ice plains.

Blocks – Everything that can be mined, picked up or used to make other things in the game is called a block, e.g., dirt, wood, sand, cobblestone, grass, various ores, lava, wool, pumpkins. More than 150 different types of blocks exist, and each one has a unique color and/or pattern to make identification easy. While most blocks are cube shaped, there are many that aren’t, such as ladders, fences and torches.

Chest – A special block that stores all your stuff. Players might have lots of these.

Crafting table – A special block that you use to combine resources to make tools, food and other useful items. Each thing you craft has a specific recipe of raw materials that you need.

Crafting – Putting together resources to make useful items such as tools and food.

Creeper – A bad guy that sneaks up on players and then explodes, causing damage. They’re very quiet except for the hissing sound they make just before they’re about to blow up.

Diamond – A rare ore that can be used to make very strong tools and armor. Exciting to find because there’s a not a lot of it and you have to dig for a long time to get to it.

Enderman – A tall, thin creature who becomes a bad guy if you look at or attack it. Hard to kill and makes a horrible noise, but has stuff that you need if you want to get to The End and fight the Ender Dragon.

Griefing – Intentionally attacking other players or destroying/stealing another player’s property on a multiplayer server. Generally frowned upon or banned.

Inventory – All of the stuff that the player is currently carrying – food, tools, blocks that they’ve picked up or mined. Usually this will all be lost when a player dies.

Mining – Digging, punching or destroying blocks in order to collect resources, clear land or dig tunnels. Can be done with either bare hands or tools.

Mobs – Short for “mobile.” Creatures, characters and animals that exist in the Minecraft world and interact with players. They can be hostile (creepers and zombies) or passive (animals and villagers).

Ore – A type of block that can be used for mining, and is particularly used for crafting purposes. Most Ore blocks must be smelted to be used, but some can be used right away. Types of ore include coal, iron, gold, diamond, redstone and lapiz lazuli.

Portal – A special door that transports players from one place to another, e.g., between the Overworld and Nether dimensions.

Redstone – An ore that can be extracted and used for circuits, torches and traps.

Skin – The skin is what your character looks like. Everyone starts with the same default look (known as Steve), but this can easily be customized.

Spawn – Being born or created into the game. As a player, the place where you come into being is called your spawn point and this is where you’ll start again if you die and come back into the game. Despawning means to stop existing in the game.

Tools – Items that a player needs to hold in order to do various jobs, like mining or chopping down a tree, e.g., pickaxe, hoe, shovel, axe.

Updates – Regular and highly anticipated re-releases of the game software to fix previous problems and introduce new features. These don’t cost extra money but do require you to download the update to access the new stuff.

World – Every new Minecraft world is randomly generated and will include many different Biomes. Every world is unique.

Zombie – A bad guy that comes out at night and attacks players by touching them. It makes a groaning sound that is distinguishable from all other mobs. In the daytime, it bursts into flames.

Now that you know some of the language of Minecraft, you’ll find it’s easier to talk to your child, and more fun, too. You can actually have an intelligent two-way conversation. To get the conversation ball rolling, ask your child some questions about his Minecraft world. Here are a few to get you started:

1. What have you been working on?
2. Will you show me your house?
3. What is your favorite thing to do?
4. Can you show me your most valuable object?
5. Which do you like better mining or building?
6. Are you in creative or survival play?

As parents, we’re always looking for ways to support our kids’ interests. The child has an interest in music so we sign her up for piano lessons. He wants to play soccer so we get him on a team and cheer for him at every game. Supporting your child’s interest in Minecraft is all about showing enthusiasm for what they’re doing and talking to them about it. As video games go, Minecraft isn’t all that bad. Kids learn some geology, architectural design, geography, geometry and spatial relations. Think of it as a big computer generated Lego world where your child is in control and can make anything happen. Wouldn’t we have loved to have this game when we were kids?

1. Hillier, Brenna (February 3, 2014). “Minecraft prime sales pass 14 million, bringing total to over 35 million”. VG247. Retrieved February 3, 2014.

Glossary found at: http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/175251-minetionary-the-minecraft-dictionary-and-glossary/

and

http://www.snagglebox.com/p/handy-minecraft-tips-for-parents.html

Kids’ Name Artwork

Monday was a holiday (MLK Day) and so I had to come up with ways to entertain my 3 kids since they weren’t going to school. I had this craft all ready to go, and it kept them busy for a good 30 minutes. They enjoyed the process since it involved finger painting and making a mess. 🙂

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Kids’ Name Artwork

You will need acrylic paints of your choice, a canvas, painter’s tape and a child. I bought my canvases at Michaels’. They had 2 to a pack on sale for about $7. You can buy the acrylic paints at Michael’s or Joann Fabrics. I bought mine at Wisconsin Craft Market. They can range between $1-$2.

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The first thing you do is tape your child’s name on the canvas. Do the best you can. Upper case letters are a bit easier than lower case. That’s all the prep you need to do before you let the kids loose. I let each kid pick out 3-4 colors and then I put dollops of paint on paper plates. Tell the child to cover the entire canvas with paint.

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When the child is done painting, let the paint dry.

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Pull off the tape.

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And there you have it! Easy, fun and makes a great decoration for the child’s room.

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