Sunday, May 31, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 34: Weekend Blurbs

I have to admit, nothing super exciting went down this weekend so I don't have anything outrageously cool to share with you. Instead, I thought I'd throw out a tiny glimpse into a typical best friend filled weekend full of ordinary adventures.

On Friday Lauren had a meeting in Center City so we hopped on the bus and headed downtown, leaving early so we would have plenty of time to spare. However, we overshot how much extra time we needed to allow for, so to kill time we grabbed a snack at P.S. & Co. since we had been wanting to try the healthful-looking eatery. They had a wide selection of bottled juices, packaged salads, and "healthy" desserts, many if not all of which were vegan. All of the food looked appetizing and very fresh, but after seeing the prices we decided just to split their take on a cheesecake. I quickly scanned the ingredients to verify that the cheesecake cup was vegan so I don't remember exactly what was in it, but it was pretty tasty. Despite its delicious smoothness and creaminess, I don't think it was worth all that I paid for it. I am however very glad that we tried another restaurant that has been on our virtual "to try list".

While Lauren was at her meeting, I wandered over to Rittenhouse Square Park, found a bench in the shade and knit for an hour. The fancy shops were calling my name and I was so tempted to at least walk by them, but luckily my willpower stopped me. I've never really knit in public before, but I loved knitting in the park. It was so peaceful and relaxing that I must make more time to do this.

The remainder of the day was spent knitting in our air conditioned apartment. Lauren and I knit nonstop for hours while watching House of Cards. We did take a little break for pizza though; can't break that tradition!

Saturday morning I woke up really early so that I could get my long run in before the heat got too unbearable. This was my first time going out for a long run by myself. Lauren re-injured her knee on Wednesday so we thought it was best that she rests instead of risking further injuries. I made it up to Wissahickon and back, while logging 16.5 miles for the day. I wish Lauren would have been able to run with me, but I am proud of myself for not making excuses when I needed to run alone.

This afternoon (Sunday), we walked over to Loop for the weekly Melodia knit along. Being that it's a two mile walk there and it has been really humid, Lauren had the brilliant idea to stop at Starbucks on the way. Lauren got her beloved passion fruit tea lemonade and I tried peach green tea lemonade. Our ice cold drinks were the perfect treats to get us through the hot walk.

Of course we loved every minute of our time at Loop. We both agree that it's fun to knit with other people every once in awhile. And it's even more exciting to look at all of the pretty colorful yarn!

Thunderstorms are expected all day for tomorrow (did I mention I got drenched while walking through a random rainstorm on Wednesday?), so I'm glad I got plenty of sun and time outdoors this past weekend. It's only Sunday evening and I already can't wait for next Friday!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

Whenever I think about strawberry ice cream, I always think about my grandpa. He passed away last year, but I'll always remember how his ice cream preference never faltered. I myself have never been that big on fruit flavored ice cream until I tried Franklin Fountain's version a few weeks ago.

A week after discovering my newfound love for strawberry ice cream, Lauren and I received a massive amount of strawberries in our weekly CSA box. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring out the ice cream machine!
Makes about 6 servings
- 1 3/4 cups raw cashews (soaked overnight)
- 1 15 oz. can coconut milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup soy milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 cups cut up strawberries (1 1/2 cups cooked)

Day Before:
24 hours in advance, freeze your ice cream machine bowl. Place the cashews in a bowl of water, cover, and soak overnight.

Day Of:
Rinse and drain the cashews. Place cashews and coconut milk in the food processor (or blender), and blend until completely smooth.

Add the sugar, soy milk, vanilla extract, and salt to the food processor and blend once more. Taste your mixture and adjust accordingly. This recipe isn't super sweet, so you may need to add extra sweetener if that's your preference. Once you achieve your desired taste, pour the mixture into a large bowl and cover. Refrigerate for an hour.
Wash, core, and cut your strawberries. You'll be mashing the strawberries next, so the smaller you chop your strawberries, the easier it will be.

Put the strawberries in a small sauce pan and place on the stove on medium heat. Mash the strawberries so that it creates a sauce. I like bites of strawberries in my ice cream, so I left my strawberries slightly chunky. It's going to look like you've made strawberry jam at this point. I found a bean/potato masher to be the most efficient mashing tool versus a whisk or fork. Pour the liquified strawberries into a bowl and refrigerate.

Now it's time to actually make ice cream. Pour the ice cream mixture into the machine's bowl and let run for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, slowly pour the now cold strawberry mixture into the bowl while letting the ice cream machine continue to run.
Once your ice cream has reached your desired consistency, turn off the machine, and enjoy! I let my ice cream machine run for 10 minutes after adding the strawberries.
Just to prove that I've always enjoyed the occasional ice cream binge, feast your eyes on my toddler self indulging in the wondrous frozen treat!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WIP Wednesday

It's Wednesday again, which means I'm sharing all of the crafty things I've been working on this past week today. Taking photos of my knit projects in progress is especially rewarding as I've been updating my Ravelry profile to share my projects.

Surprisingly, knitting is quickly becoming one of my favorite hobbies now. Lauren taught me how to knit in 2010, but I never truly appreciated it until recently.
Last Fall I decided to start a garter stitch blanket as a way to use up those random skeins of acrylic yarn. So far my blanket is a mixture of Vanna's Choice and Knit Picks Brava Worsted in a variety of colors. I'm hoping to be able to knit a full size blanket to act as a comforter one day. Currently I'm finishing up my second pink skein, but I know that this is a project that I'll be working on most likely for years.
I came to a standstill last week with my tubular stockinette cowl because I needed to wind another skein of yarn but didn't feel like taking out the swift and ball winder. I realized that if I wanted to finish this cowl by the end of May, then I better get to it. I only have like six inches left to knit until I'm ready to block and stitch my cowl together.
Loop was closed this past Sunday for Memorial Day weekend, so there wasn't a physical meet up for the knit along. But, that didn't stop Lauren and me from knitting our Melodia shawls Sunday evening. This has been a great project for my first shawl. It's a pretty mindless knit with very basic stitches, yet I'm learning the construction of a shawl. I feel like I have to pace myself while knitting my Melodia, otherwise I won't have anything left to knit with everyone else for the next few Sundays.

I've been sewing this Tiny Pocket Tank in small spurts for the past week. I just finished it and I'm in love. The fit is perfect and the fabric drapes wonderfully. It's getting really hot and humid in Philadelphia so I know this top will be getting worn a lot.  

Also, Lauren introduced me to Ginny's Yarn Along, so I'm linking up to her post today as well! Want to see more works in progress? Check out Lauren's!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sparkly Knit Socks

I kind of-sort of recently went through my list of blog posts that I've typed up on my Blogger Dashboard and noticed that this little post has been sitting there for almost two years, unpublished. Not okay. It's not like I'm an awesome knitter and knit socks all the time like Lauren (nothing wrong with that, props to you!), so I just had to share this amazing feat of mine despite the huge time delay. Just FYI, this was actually written way back in the early Summer of 2013.
I finally finished knitting my first pair of socks. Go me!

It only took me 4 months to knit them. I started these socks back in early February, originally intending to give them to my mom for her birthday. But about half way through I tried them on, and they fit my feet perfectly. I have pretty narrow feet, so I knew that these socks weren't going to fit my mom comfortably. So...I was knitting myself socks instead!
This was the first time I knit two socks at once using the magic loop method. I attempted the cast on at least twenty times until I realized I was making the same mistake each time. When I fixed this problem, the rest of the socks were pretty simple. Except for the heel. I hate picking up stitches. Once I got to this step, I stopped knitting for about a month and almost gave up entirely. Luckily my best friend is the best knitter I know; Lauren spent an entire evening showing me the correct way to pick up stitches so I could finish the heel. Thanks Lauren :)
Once I finished the heel, I wanted to add a pattern for the leg of my sock. I decided on pattern number 50: Float Stitch Rib from the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary- Volume 1 Knit & Purl book. I wish I had started the pattern back at the foot at my sock. When I start knitting my next pair of socks, I'll definitely do that. Being my first pair of knit socks, I really didn't care about matching the blocks of color amongst the two socks.
I finished my socks with 13 rows of 1 x 1 ribbing. I thought 2 x 2 ribbing would look funny with the pattern I chose, but I like the texture of the ribbing, so knit 1, purl 1 it was.

Overall I am happy with my finished socks. I love the yarn I chose, especially the sparkles! I have to struggle a little to pull the socks over my heels, but Lauren says that knit socks are supposed to be pretty snug. The looser the socks are, the quicker they will wear out.

I've bought tons of yarn since this first pair of finished socks. I've already picked out which skein I'm going to use for my next pair (hint: it's from Stitches West 2013!), but I still haven't started them yet. I need to work up the patience and courage to cast on again. 
Thanks for letting me share a relatively old handmade item of mine. I promise to blog about more recent items from here on out. It's been two whole years since I've finished and wrote about these socks, yet I still haven't started my second pair. I plan to start my next pair of socks this summer though; I think they'll make for the best travel knitting project when I'm back home in California for a month.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 33: Manakeesh

Today is Leti's birthday, Happy Birthday! Unfortunately, Lauren and I aren't able to physically be in Sacramento to celebrate her mom's special day, but that didn't stop us from partaking in the festivities. Leti really wanted us to celebrate for her, so Lauren made the executive decision to make that happen this past Saturday evening.

Every Saturday Lauren and I go on a long run. This weekend that long run consisted of 18 grueling miles. We always make sure to calculate our route so that once we finish our run, we still have a good distance to walk back to our apartment. On our walk back we were talking about we wanted for dinner that night and the next few days. Out of nowhere Lauren kept saying that she "made the executive decision", but she never said exactly what for. I finally questioned her and she surprised me by saying that we could go somewhere for dinner in honor of her mom's upcoming birthday. To say I was excited is a complete understatement. We don't go out to eat often, and so whenever we do it feels like a huge treat.

There are many places to find a delicious vegan meal in Philadelphia that we had to narrow down our options. We decided that we wanted to be able to walk to the restaurant. Even with that limitation, there are still a handful of places to eat that we love. Together we came up with a list of four restaurants, all of which I would've been more than satisfied to dine at. Ultimately though, I wanted to try somewhere new. We've had the Manakeesh menu on our refrigerator for quite some time because they specify which items are vegan. So, we decided to try it out!
Photo by Lauren
Manakeesh is a good sized restaurant/cafe with plenty of seating which we really appreciated. The place is essentially separated into two parts: the restaurant/bakery and a smoothie bar. We just stayed on the restaurant side though since we were there for dinner. There were plenty of different vegan options, many of which sounded good, so I had pretty high hopes. I ordered the falafel wrap, Lauren chose the falafel platter, and we split the grape leaves and fool (fava bean dip) appetizers. 
I love falafel. I've never had falafel that I didn't like. That being said though, some falafel are a lot better than others. The falafel at Manakeesh was okay. It wasn't the best I've ever had, but it wasn't the worst either. I felt like my wrap needed more than just the falafel, tahini, and tomatoes (I asked for no pickles). Luckily the grape leaves were sitting on top of a bed of lettuce, so I threw those greens into my wrap. The grape leaves were really good, not too oily, yet not dry either. Lauren didn't particularly care for the tangy-ness of the fava bean dip, so I ended up eating most of it. I think it needed more flavor, but it tasted fine as a dip with pita bread.

It seems like the staff don't communicate too well with each other. I wasn't the only customer confused as to whether or not I was supposed to go up to the counter to pick up my food; I heard two different things from two people. Everyone was respectful, but it seemed like they lacked a little professionalism. While I don't have plans to come back soon, it's nice to know of another place in my neighborhood that has plenty of vegan offerings. Most of all though, I'm really glad that Lauren and I chose to go to Manakeesh because it's good to try new things, and right now I'm all into the "experiences" outlook. You won't know whether you like it or not until you try it!

Lauren and I decided to stop at a grocery store on our way back home as well. We found exactly what we were looking for: S'mores Oreos! Of course we had to try a few that night, and they did not disappoint!

I had an awesome weekend with my best friend! Thank you for letting us celebrate your birthday with you, Leti!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Log Cabin Quilt

The weather has been pretty gloomy here today in Philadelphia. It's cold, the sky is overcast, and there has been on-and-off rain. So, I figured today was the perfect day to share the quilt I finally finished for Lauren about a month ago.
Way back in the Summer of 2010 I believe, I started sewing a log cabin quilt top. I was really into cute tiny floral fabric at the time, so that was the starting point for this quilt. Lauren had a bunch of different florals and she let me use whatever fabric she owned since I was letting her store her craft stuff at my house. I really wanted to use the floral fabrics in all of their fun, pretty colors, but I also didn't want to take away so many hoarded fabrics from Lauren, so I decided to make the quilt for Lauren. I still got to play with the fabric, but she still got to keep the fabric in a way. Lauren also wanted to make a quilt, so we just decided to sew quilts for each other.

Prior to this quilt, I've had a little bit of experience in the quilting realm. In 2008 I sewed my first quilt top from a pattern in a random quilting book I found in my mom's crafting stuff. I tried basting the quilt top to the batting and backing, but it was too frustrating and I gave up. A year later in 2009 I actually completed a mini quilt, also for Lauren. I knew that if I wanted to finish it, I needed to start smaller to make the project seem more doable. Even though the quilting isn't even close to perfect, and the seams and binding are starting to come apart six years later, I'm just proud of myself for finishing it.
My sewing skills have improved a lot since then. I figured that it'd be a challenge, but that sewing a full size quilt from start to finish was a realistic goal for me. I knew that the quilting step would be the hardest hurdle to overcome, but I'd cross that bridge when I got to that point. It probably took me about the entire summer to completely finish the quilt top. I'm a pretty patient person when it comes to menial tasks, and so I actually really enjoyed cutting the fabric out to the precise measurements. I kept seven separate zip-loc bags, each holding a different size cut fabric piece for the log cabin squares. When all of the pieces were cut out and it was time to actually assemble the squares, I literally picked a piece of each size randomly for each square, so long as there weren't two of the same fabrics per one log cabin. As weird as it may seem, this was probably my favorite part of the entire process. I love the randomization of it and how many different squares I could create.
For the quilt back, I decided to go with the solid gray fabric that I used on the front to break up the log cabin squares. Due to the huge size of the quilt, I would've had to use several separate pieces of fabric just to create a back large enough. I figured that since I already needed to macgyver the back, mind as well make it into a larger puzzle. I used some leftover floral fabric to make one two horizontal rows (one not going fully across), intercepted by one vertical column.
Then it was time for the actual quilting, the step I had been dreading from the start. I had enough trouble quilting the mini quilt on my machine, and I knew there was no way I'd be able to quilt a full size quilt without a longer arm. Thank goodness Lauren's aunt Natalie is much more talented than me when it comes to sewing. She has made probably dozens of quilts before and has even taken several classes at a local quilt shop and learned to use their huge quilting machine. Because she mastered those classes, she was able to rent the machine by the hour for personal use. I'm so grateful to Lauren's aunt for this. While Lauren and I tagged along, we weren't allowed to actually use the machine since we weren't "certified", but we were still able to choose the quilting design (we both chose for Natalie to freehand random swirls), and best of all we got to admire the entire process. I was and still am in awe of her talent. I finished the quilt top towards the end of the Summer of 2010, but didn't have the quilting done until December of 2012. Talk about a work in progress! I'm the queen of leaving projects in limbo.
Then the quilt sat quilted without binding for a very long time. Again daunted by the next and final step, I hesitated starting the hand stitching. Machine sewing the binding onto the quilt was an easy, non-stressful task. I did that shortly after having the quilt quilted. But because I wanted this quilt to look as perfect and finished as possible, I knew that I needed to hand sew the back side of the binding on. This last task wasn't started until April of 2015. I don't have a lot of practice with impeccable hand stitching, but after watching Lauren bind my quilt, I quickly picked up the technique. It took a few tries, but I managed to finish binding the entire quilt in less than a week. I really don't know what I was so afraid of. Binding is now one of my favorite things to do while watching TV. I want to make more quilts just so I can hand sew the binding now. After securing the binding, I promptly tossed the quilt in the washer and dryer, soaking up all of its wrinkled squishy-ness.

Even though it took me five years to complete just one quilt, I learned so much in the process. I need someone to sit down with me and walk me through the steps to fully comprehend how to do something. Luckily my best friend is the opposite and can teach herself by watching online videos and reading tutorials, then she repeats the steps to me so that I learn how to do something new. It's also really important and rewarding to do something the correct way the first time around. The first quilt I made for Lauren, while I did put a lot of effort into it, I didn't do any research. I neglected to iron all of the seams which has caused parts of the quilt to begin to tear. I used clear plastic thread for the entire quilt which is now starting to break, also causing the seams to rip; the ends of the thread are also really pokey. I didn't baste the quilt properly and the backside is super wonky because of that. I quickly machine stitched the entire binding on and didn't attempt the corners correctly. Basically my first finished quilt isn't nearly as good looking as this last one. Luckily Lauren still likes it, but I know she appreciates the time and research this latest log cabin quilt received. Five years is still an awfully long time and I hope to finish my next quilt in a fraction of that time. I can't wait to get started cutting out and piecing all of the little bits of fabric, but this next quilt won't be happening for a while!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WIP Wednesday

Last Wednesday I shared a little glimpse into what I'd been doing craft-wise that week. I enjoyed taking better quality photos of my works in progress and reflecting on what I've actually been able to accomplish, so I decided to make this a weekly thing.

Although it was almost finished weeks ago, I finally completed my first Linden. I hope to share some more photos of it next week.
I also cut out fabric to make three more tops, and I even started sewing one this morning!

I've still been diligently working on the same tubular stockinette cowl. It's such a simple knit that I finished an entire skein this past week. Just one more skein to go!
Lauren and I decided to participate in a knit along hosted by our LYS, Loop. We're knitting the Melodia shawl (my first shawl ever!), and so far it's going pretty well. I learned how to do the garter tab cast on, which made me feel on top of the world. We went to Loop on Sunday and joined several other local knitters to cast on together. We'll be meeting up at Loop the next few Sundays to continue knitting Melodia which I'm excited about. Besides Lauren, I've never knit with anyone else before. Surprisingly, I liked it and really enjoyed myself! However, meeting inside a yarn store on a weekly basis may not be the best thing for my strict yarn diet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May Randomness

This photo is from two years ago, but I can't stop thinking about that shade of pink and the beauty of camellias. 

Spring is finally truly here. The warmer weather automatically makes my days infinitely happier and more enjoyable. I've been wearing shorts nonstop all month long, so there's not much to complain about over here! So far this month I've been...

- getting pumped for Lauren's birthday present (although not till this Fall).
- still wanting to knit everything.
- rekindling my love for sewing for myself and using up fabric whenever I can.
- loving vegan ice cream from Franklin Fountain.
- watching "Friends" on the weekends and late in the evening. I'm already on season 9 of 10.
- realizing how important experiences are over material items.
- wishing I could build my dream house, starting with the kitchen.
- running a crazy amount of miles per week with big goals for the upcoming San Francisco Marathon.
- looking through old photos and literally seeing how much everyone has grown up and matured.
- excited to participate in a knit along and going to Loop on a weekly basis for a KAL meetup.
- craving Indian food like no other, especially veggie pakora.
- appreciating nicely made letterpress greeting cards.
- so thankful for my Project 365. It's awesome to compare photos from the same day, but different years.
- preferring to take the bus over the subway. There's something about being underground that I really don't like. Although, I much rather walk to my destination to be honest.
- planning all the fun things we're going to do in November when Marissa, Heather, and Leti visit.
- thinking about what I want for my birthday.
- getting lots of mosquito bites.
- buying dried beans and cooking them myself, instead of canned. 
- making breakfast rituals. Steel cut oats Tuesday through Thursday; "healthy" pancakes the rest of the mornings. This actually helps me look forward to waking up.
- feeling like I need to take a break from reading novels for a little bit. I need to leave more time in between each one to truly absorb them and appreciate them to their full capacity.
- remembering I need to go to Trader Joe's next week. Almond butter isn't going to replenish itself! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Striped Knit Scout Tee

As I've mentioned at least a dozen times before, I've been terribly afraid of sewing with knits. I don't own a serger and I don't plan on purchasing one anytime soon, so it was up to my standard sewing machine to get the job done. This meant researching various knit tricks and practicing every single one multiple times before starting on my actual garment.

For the seams I debated between using a regular straight stitch or a zig-zag stitch. I ended up going with the straight stitch for all of the seams and the neck binding because zig-zagging made the fabric way too wavy, even when I adjusted the tension and used a jersey fabric needle. For my first attempt at finishing the sleeve hems, I folded the edge of the fabric twice and then used a straight stitch to secure it. While I didn't have any issues with it being too wavy, this method was way too bulky and just didn't look right. Instead of seam ripping the hems, I simply cut the binding completely off since the sleeves had plenty of length to them.
After abandoning the original sleeve hems, I realized that I needed to go back to my scrap fabric and practice different hemming techniques. I thought using a twin needle would be the best option, but I was definitely wrong. Because my machine wasn't built to hold two spools of thread at one time, the tension was messed up and I always ended up with huge knots of thread. Using a straight stitch for hemming created way too many ripples. So, as a last resort I switched to the zig-zag stitched expecting to be disappointed again. However, zig-zagging the hems followed by ironing them worked perfectly. I did this for both the body and sleeve hems, and will probably stick to this technique in the future. The sleeve hems are still a tiny bit wavy which I'm content with for it being my first time sewing with knits, but I'll try sewing on top of tissue paper next time to see if that helps.

For the neck binding, I used the same instructions that were given for the Linden pattern. This worked out really well. The only change I made was shortening the neck binding piece by about 1.5 inches since I was working with super stretchy fabric.

I'm not sure what happened while I was cutting out my pattern pieces, but the back bodice piece ended up being a lot shorter than the front when sewn together. I should've waited till the very end to trim the front piece because I haphazardly cut too much fabric off. Luckily I have a short torso so this wasn't a huge setback. It's a little shorter in the front than I would've liked, but I doubt this will deter me from tossing on this top often.
For my first adventure in sewing with knits, I'm pretty stoked with what I was able to make. Thankfully I have plenty more knit fabric to practice with, and hope to have a bundle of ultra comfortable knit tops to wear daily. The Scout Tee ended up being a great pattern to sew with knits. It's a loose fitting top to begin with, add in knit fabric, and it becomes even more drape-y. For my next knit Scout I'll go a size down for a more fitted tee to see which version I like better.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 32: Handmade Photo Shoot

This past Friday on May 15, Lauren and I ventured out to take some photos of our recent handmade items. We had been meaning to do this for a while, but obstacles kept holding us back. Whether it was the weather or the fact that we didn't have anywhere semi-private to hide in our awkwardness, we always found reason after reason to put this off.

Earlier in the week Lauren and I were running around our neighborhood, just focusing on finishing a random midweek training run. I let Lauren pick our route and she accidentally led us to the cemetery (she was trying to get to the park). I had gone running there once before, but this was Lauren's first time. Surprisingly, there's a nice little one mile-ish "trail" around the perimeter of the cemetery that serves as a fantastic course to run on. While I completely feel the need to respect the deceased, there were a handful of other runners there as well, so I didn't feel this was inappropriate. When I was running there with Lauren, she suggested that we come back later on in the week and take photos of our handmade items. The location was ideal; there was plenty of greenery and there weren't tons of people to gawk at us. So, we decided to venture back here on Best Friend Friday.

Friday early afternoon, we bagged up all of our finished projects we wanted photographed, along with our cameras. Lauren had more items than me which worked out well since I preferred playing photographer anyway. I don't want to ruin all of the fun, so I'll just say that I managed to have three items photographed, ready to share. I already blogged about two of them: a Tova Top and a Three Color Cowl, but I'll leave the third one as a surprise, unless of course you've already seen it on Instagram!

Both Lauren and I also planned to take pictures of knit socks we each made. We wanted to wear our socks in some of the photos, but didn't want the soles to get dirty. We found a brick walkway, thinking this would be a good option. Lauren put on her first pair of socks and I started taking pictures when we noticed that the area was swarmed with hairy caterpillars. Let's just say I'm not an animal person, and neither of us is a true nature enthusiast, so we decided to get out of there. I figured I'd settle for just standing on plain, boring cement. But, when I knelt down to put my socks on, I saw tiny red ants everywhere. Although much smaller than the caterpillars, I'm not a fan of ants either. So, we decided to call it a day and finish our sock photos another time.

I'm super happy that we managed to take some good quality photos (versus iPhone photos) of our finished sewn and knit items. Being photographed in a staged manner in public was a little terrifying and slightly embarrassing initially. With time though, we both let go of our insecurities and started feeling more comfortable, which also made for better photos. Now, I'm actually looking forward to finishing projects and having them photographed! Thanks for having a mini photo shoot with me, Lauren

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lauren's Three Color Cowl

This post should really be titled, "Lauren Finally gets her Very Belated Birthday Cowl". And when I say belated, I mean like three and a half years late. But, better late than never? Right Lauren? Although at times, I'm sure we both thought that a birthday cowl would never get made.

Way back in the Fall of 2011 I came up with the plan to knit Lauren a cowl for her 21st birthday. I was just starting to gain a little confidence in knitting, although looking back now, I was still a huge novice. A month earlier I knit (and finished) a cowl for Marissa's birthday out of yarn that I had stashed from Tuesday Morning. Again, this was way before I understood the true value of local yarn stores. I was really impressed that I was able to follow online directions and successfully completed a mobius cowl. I think Lauren was also surprised that I didn't need her help at all for this project, hence my new found confidence. I was on a knitting high when Lauren asked me to knit her a cowl for her birthday too, so I quickly obliged. Thanks to my current state of pride, I wanted to make something "complicated" to show off my knitting skills.

Even though I thought I was pretty hot stuff in the knitting realm at the time, I still knew that Lauren's knitting skills were superior to mine. That being said, I needed Lauren's approval and advice when choosing yarn and a pattern for her cowl. Lauren really liked the way Marissa's cowl turned out, so she decided she wanted the same yarn for hers. I had plenty leftover so this was an easy task. However, picking out which pattern to knit wasn't as easy. It turns out that many of the patterns Lauren and I both like happen to be knit with fingering weight yarn versus sport weight, which is what the chosen yarn was. I tried various simple patterns (just knit and purl stitches) which I didn't really fancy. I even tried cables, and while the cables didn't look so bad in the yarn, I'm (still) not a superb cable knitter. It's something about the tension; I wind up with huge holes which isn't attractive. After starting and later frogging a handful of times, I finally came to terms with the fact that I needed to pick different yarn for Lauren's project.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2015 (almost 4 years later), and I still hadn't made Lauren her birthday cowl. One of my goals for the year has been to become debt free in terms of owing people presents. This was something I needed and wanted to get done. Even though I have a huge box full of stashed yarn, I knew that buying and selecting new yarn based on a particular pattern was what I needed to do. I told Lauren to pick out a few cowl patterns on Ravelry that she might like me to knit for her, and based off of that I ultimately picked the long-awaited birthday cowl.
Together, we decided on the Three Color Cashmere Cowl, although not in cashmere. I read over the pattern and realized this was something I could actually do, with minimal help. We had also been wanting to go to Loop again, so this seemed like the perfect excuse to buy more yarn. We headed out one Friday and I gave Lauren free reign, letting her select whatever yarn she wanted her cowl knit out of, while adhering to a budget. She selected two skeins of Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Antler and Charcoal, and Dream Jilly in Bitter.

This project knit up fairly fast as far as my previous knitting endeavors have gone. I started on February 20 and finished March 23, with a week break when my family was visiting. Honestly, I'm surprised that I finished the entire project without setting it aside out of frustration. I think Lauren is a little surprised too to say the least. This was a pretty simple pattern to follow; I already knew how to do all of the different stitches (I did have to look up one, but it was easy to learn). While the pattern itself didn't give me any difficulties, I did encounter some troubles along the way, as per usual.
The one error that's sadly noticeable is that my stripes don't match up. I did everything I could think of to get the joins to line up correctly, but it just wasn't happening. I also had to restart the lace pattern twice (thanks Lauren for your help), but doing this step correctly was so worth it. This was my second time knitting lace and even though I get tripped up every time, I'm always so glad I kept at it because it turns out so beautiful. Even though it's just a small section of the entire cowl, it's probably my favorite.

If my memory serves me well, this is also the first time I paid for a pattern on Ravelry. Usually I filter the patterns to see only the "free" ones because I feel like I'm too much of a novice to be worthy of using a "fancier" pattern. I really liked how the cowl looked in all of the examples I saw, so I went for it and clicked the "purchase" button. Even though it's not perfect, I think it turned out pretty well. I love the style and as long as it's worn every now and then, I'll call it a win! Knitting this cowl also made me realize how important quality yarn is. I never completely understood why people spend so much money on yarn. I can definitely feel the difference between craft store yarn and yarn purchased at specialty yarn shops. But, even within that local yarn store there are different qualities/prices of yarn. When I first started going to local yarn stores, Lauren would tend to buy the higher priced items whereas I'd gravitate towards the lower priced skeins. Although I know that the priciest item isn't always the best quality, this rule loosely holds true. This was actually my first time knitting with Madeline Tosh, and after knitting the majority of a project with it, I can totally see why people are obsessed with it. I don't need to buy any yarn for a while, but when the time comes I'll definitely come in with an open mind and not base my purchase on the price tag. It's little lessons like this that make hobbies even more enjoyable.

While I could easily and quickly knit up a plain knit scarf (nothing wrong with that!), I like the experiences of learning new techniques. Even though it's a pain to have to look up how to do certain things, I like this enrichment.
Here's one more item I can cross off of my virtual list of presents I owe people. Happy super belated birthday, Lauren!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Patriotic Plaid Tova Top

A few years ago Lauren and I really got into the idea of sewing our own clothes, so much so that we quickly purchased several indie pdf patterns. Although we loved the concept, we never really jumped at the actual producing anything.

Lauren received a new sewing machine for Christmas and our desire to sew was soon rekindled. I have bins full of fabric that I bought a while ago, many with the intention of making specific garments. So, I decided to pull out the red, white, and blue woven plaid and get started with a Wiksten Tova Top for myself. The patriotic-ness of the fabric didn't occur to me when I bought it, I just thought it was the perfect weight with plenty of softness for this specific pattern.
It took me about a week to sew up this top for several reasons. I do have a lot of patience when it comes to sewing which is a blessing, but also a curse. I know I need to stop sewing when I get too tired because I'll just keeping making mistakes which will take even longer to fix. I tell myself I should put off the next step till tomorrow when I have a fresher mind, but then I end up doing this every night instead of just pushing through. I'm grateful that this prevents me from making as many mistakes as I normally would, but this also means that it takes me easily twice as long to finish a project. I actually finished sewing this Tova Top several months ago, but it's taken a while to get blogged since being photographed like this in public can be a little intimidating to say the least.
I would love to own a serger someday, but right now it's not in my budget. Maybe if I get a lot better at sewing and I start sewing a lot more of my daily clothing, I'll find more a need for one. But right now, I'm all about the French seams. I love stitching 1/4 inch seams thanks to the ease of lining up my fabric against the foot of my machine. So when I do French seams, the total seam ends up needing a 1/2 inch seam allowance. This pattern though was designed with a 3/8 inch seams allowance. I did take these facts into account, but I decided to just cut my fabric with the existing pattern pieces and hope for the best. I figured it's a pretty loose fitting top, and mostly I honestly didn't want to have to do any extra work.

The biggest difficulty I encountered was sewing in the placket. It wouldn't have been an issue at all had I not chosen to use French seams. After a little frustration and a lot of seam ripping, I managed to make my placket look decent and I'm perfectly okay with its finished look. I had some issues understanding how to sew the sleeve cuffs on, but after some Google searching and stumbling upon a Sew Along, I finally figured it out! I also realized that I need to practice top stitching a lot more. This technique required a lot more seemingly endless seam ripping to achieve my desired finished look.

I sewed up a size small in the top length versus the tunic (and still needed to take an additional several inches off in length). Besides the length, the only other adjustment I made to the pattern was increasing the overall seam allowance from 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch, as mentioned above. Luckily, the finished garment fits perfectly even with this slight variation! And hey, now I have the perfect top to wear on the Fourth of July!
Even though they were a little annoying to sew, I love the details of the top. The adorable collar, sleeve cuffs, and placket completely make the piece and I'm sure I'll be using this pattern again. I want to make a tunic now! How cute would that be with some leggings/tights and boots for the Fall?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WIP Wednesday

One of my resolutions this year is to do something crafty every day. So far I've only missed a few days of crafty time, thanks to being in the hospital and having family visit. Not only do I want to enjoy my finished items and use a lot of my stashed supplies (fabric and yarn, mainly), but I also want to appreciate the process of getting to the end product. I have quite a few projects sitting unfinished, but I thought it would be fun to do a little show and tell of this week's works in progress.
I'm enjoying always having a project on my needles. Whenever I have a spare moment, I try to knit even if it's just for a little bit, rather than scroll aimlessly through my Instagram feed. Knitting is also the perfect activity to do while watching TV; it makes being lazy feel somewhat productive! Plus, it helps that this project is all stockinette stitch, perfect mindless knitting! I'm over halfway done with my version of the Fino Circle Scarf, and have high hopes for it becoming a staple this Fall.
Although I've been slacking quite a bit on wearing handmade items for Me Made May, I have been spending a fair amount of time working on my handmade wardrobe. I have a ton of stashed garment fabric that has been dying to be sewn into something pretty to wear. However, a lot of it is knit fabric and I haven't been comfortable sewing with it before. It's taken me awhile to complete this knit Scout Tee and I'm almost there, but it's nowhere near perfect. It probably wasn't the best idea to start with the loosest, stretchiest knit I own. Even though I still need to play around with knits more, I've gained so much confidence with knits just in this one project. I have a long ways to go to be able to sew the perfect knit tee with amazing details and finishes, but I feel like I've taken a giant step in the right direction.

My desk and floors may be piled with fabric scraps and countless pieces of thread, but that's okay because making is enjoyable and that's way more important than not being messy (plus tomorrow is vacuuming day).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 31: Art Star Craft Bazaar

Let's be real, I should probably go ahead and rename this little series "Best Friend Weekend" since our most exciting adventures tend to happen on other weekend days, but that just doesn't sound as cool. So, I'm sticking with "Best Friend Friday". Lauren and I had a pretty low key Friday snacking on homemade caramel corn for lunch, and filling the day with lots of knitting.
We ran 16 miles on Saturday and rewarded ourselves by going to a craft fair on Sunday. We hopped on the subway and arrived at Penn's Landing with plenty of time to spare. I don't go into Old City that often, but we stayed in this part of Philadelphia last May while apartment hunting, so it was fun to walk through the area again and reminisce on our previous outings with our moms almost exactly a year later.

Lauren and I tend to approach craft fairs with somewhat of a plan. Usually we walk around and look at all of the booths before buying anything. I like to see everything before making any decisions, I guess that's part of the reason people call me indecisive. Before we finished our first walk through of all the vendors, Lauren purchased a thin brass ring from Asarum Designs. Although I'm usually against impulse buys, I'm glad Lauren went with her gut on this. If she hadn't bought the ring, I probably would have! Besides this ring, we found several other jewelry companies that we ended up loving. I adored several pieces from Anethum Jewelry, and Lauren fell in love with a bangle and earrings from Samantha Skelton Jewelry Design.

As odd as it may sound, I came to the Art Star Craft Bazaar really wanting to buy soap of all things. I'm a sucker for good smelling, fancy soap. So, as we made our way through the vendors, I made sure to stop and admire each place selling handmade soap. After thinking about it over lunch, I made the easy decision to go back to The Post Home and Body, and selected a few bars. Lauren and I each bought a bar of Citrus & Basil; I also selected the Grapefruit scent, and Lauren decided on the Facial bar. As we were paying for our items, we found out the maker actually went to college in Sacramento, how awesome is that?
There were several food vendors at the craft fair as well. It was easy for us to decide where we wanted to eat though. We both ordered a BBQ seitan sandwich and desserts from Soy Cafe. I picked the chocolate chip donut, Lauren got the whoopie pie. The seitan was really good; the flavor was amazing. The bread needed to be toasted or something though. I really enjoyed my donut and the whoopie pie was surprisingly also delicious.
As we were making our way back to the bus stop after leaving the craft fair, we just had to stop off at The Franklin Fountain for some ice cream. They offer several vegan flavors amongst dozens of dairy ice creams, making this an ice cream parlor for anyone to easily enjoy. Their prices seemed a little high at first, but you actually get a lot of ice cream per scoop, so it was definitely worth it. I picked the vanilla coconut, and Lauren selected the strawberry vegan ice creams. We got them in to-go containers which are actually Chinese take-out boxes, and ate every last bite. We'll definitely be coming back, and plan to take Leti, Marissa, and Heather here when they come out in November!

I had an amazing weekend spending time with my best friend doing what we do best: buying things and eating! Coming off such a fun weekend made getting back into our "normal" routines that much harder. I can't wait for what's in store next weekend!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 30: Sewing Weekend

Friday, May 1 marked the first day of the long anticipated bestie sewing marathon. Lauren and I have both been eagerly wanting to participate in Me Made May this year, so we knew we needed to get sewing in order to have enough handmade items to be successful at this challenge.

For months I've had several garments already cut out, just waiting to be sewn. My goal for the weekend was to finish these three items to completion. While I didn't finish everything I would've liked to, I did make a lot of progress. I finished a Pretty Blouse, basically completed a Linden, and got a good start on a knit Scout Tee. This was my first attempt at sewing with knit fabric, and I'm surprised it didn't turn out too horribly. I still have the hem and neck binding to complete, and I should also probably redo the sleeve hems. Hopefully I'll have this top done this week so I can wear it soon! 

Lauren kicked off the sewing weekend by cutting out fabric. Her plan was to sew up several Tiny Pocket Tees with the intention of raising the neckline. I think she's still working on perfecting all the tiny details, but nonetheless, we both have grand plans to wear as many handmade items as possible throughout this month. Lauren and I even had our first taste of Me Made May on Monday while wearing handmade tops (Lauren also added a handmade cowl and purse) out and about. I'm not sure what's in store for next Friday, but I definitely wouldn't mind having another mini sewing marathon with my best friend!
I suppose I should also officially state my Me Made May pledge, even though I've already done so on Instagram. I, Courtney, pledge to wear something handmade (sewn, knit, etc.) at least five times each week for the month of May. Even if I don't quite meet this goal, I hope that this month of me-madeness encourages me to sew more often for myself, use a lot of stashed fabric, makes me consider what clothing styles look best on my shape, and consequently motivates me to alter garments I already own to fit me better. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

05.15 Goals

In an effort to be more productive and accomplish my goals during my 24th year of life, I've decided to post a "to-do list" of sorts at the beginning of each month. At the end of the month I'll go back over my list and talk about what I was able to conquer and note the tasks I have yet to tackle. 
1. Read a book.
2. Successfully participate in Me Made May.
3. Swim.
4. Try something new every day, even if it's just something trivial.
5. Keep a journal.
6. Make at least five recipes from cookbooks I already own.
7. Take more meaningful photos for Project 365.
8. Go on a picnic.
9. Finish knitting my cowl.
10. Make something out of clay. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

04.15 Goals Roundup

I've been feeling a little uninspired this past month. In the past, I've constantly looked at my goals list pretty often as a reminder to accomplish as much as possible that I wanted to do. If I had a spare moment, I'd look to the list and see what I could be doing right then to work towards crossing something off that list. I hardly kept tabs on my goals this month though.  Honestly, I just didn't feel like it.
1. Read a book: I read four books this month! I finished "Gone Girl", "This Boy's Life", "If I Stay", and "The Red Book". "Gone Girl" was the best by far; I had a hard time putting this book down even when I was tired. I thought I figured out the plot in the beginning, but I was terribly wrong. "This Boy's Life" was also a good read. It's a memoir about an adolescent boy's early life and how his upbringing and experiences shaped his future. I'd recommend reading both of these books. On the other hand, "If I Stay" was kind of a letdown for me. I had high hopes for this book after watching the movie trailer's adaption a year ago. The book is cataloged as "teen", and I think this subset of people would enjoy this read a lot more than I did. I also finished "The Red Book" on the last day of the month. I almost gave up on the book in the beginning as it was a little tricky to follow all of the different characters' complicated lives, but I'm glad I stuck with it. If you're the type of person who enjoys learning about life's real lessons and what's truly important to a person, then I'd suggest reading this book as well.

2. Go to the gym every single day: I guess I should start off by explaining my intention for this goal. I didn't actually feel the need to work out every single day, in fact I think rest days are vitally important. Rather, my gym offered a special promotion in April; every day you go to the gym in April, $1 would be subtracted from next year's membership fee. The catch though, is that you have to go a minimum of 20 days to be eligible. I made it to the gym only 21 days, which is completely fine by me. I reached the minimum amount of required days, but perhaps even more importantly it made me get creative with my workout routine. There were a few days where I just got my membership card swiped, walked around the gym, and then left. The majority of the days I biked or ran. But sometimes I arrived at the gym having just finished a five mile run or so, and really didn't feel like doing anymore cardio. So, I decided to work on my arms and lift weights. I'm still very much a novice when it comes to this, but I have been consistent which is the most important thing. I don't plan on becoming the body builder type in any way, but I could use some upper body strength. I like to joke that I have baby biceps now. Although to be completely honest, if we're sticking with this metaphor, my biceps are still in the conception stage.
3. Photograph my recent handmade items and share them on the blog: I was really hoping to get this done, but unfortunately I didn't. I really wish I had a backyard where I could take beautiful pictures of everything handmade, a tripod would help too. But since I lack in those departments, that means I have to enlist Lauren's help and either wait for the perfect lighting inside our apartment or venture outside and feel awkward during photo shoots. Hence, why this hasn't been done yet.

4. Sew/finish sewing at least three wearable items: I was so close to finishing a Pretty Blouse in April, but I didn't actually get the hem sewed until today. I started it an embarrassingly long time ago, but it's finally done now, just one day late. I didn't even touch any other garment fabric in April though. So much for my big sewing plans.

5. Hit the 10,000 step mark every day for an entire week. Sundays are killer: I'm so mad at myself for not being able to do this. I was so close the third week of the month, I even accomplished my step goal on the dreaded Sunday! Then I slacked off on Friday.

6. Create two new recipes: I came up with an idea to use overnight oats to make a pancake, and I created a delicious recipe for vegan cookies 'n cream ice cream!

7. Blog daily: I got off to a good start and kept up with my daily blog posts. Then about halfway through the month I had a difficult time coming up with interesting/original things to talk about. Instead of just blabbing my way through the month, I decided to let go of this goal because I thought it was better to not post anything at all versus writing a really boring, useless blog entry. I will say though, that I blogged a lot more and thought about blogging more often than I had in the past.

8. Run/walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge into New Jersey: I was really excited to do this, but I never planned out this mini trip. I still hope to do this one day though.

9. Finish all of the planned Easter goodies: Suffice it to say, I finished all of the Easter projects. Albeit some were a tad late, but everything eventually got done! I made a hummingbird pouch for Abby, and a cross stitched pouch and bookmark for Lauren.

10. Figure out a mother's day present for my mom: I've actually been constantly thinking about this task, but I can't seem to come up with anything to get my mom. I've found a lot of stuff I want for myself, but my mom and I aren't exactly like-minded. We tend to like the complete opposite things, which I think is why picking out a present for her is so hard. I better come up with something quick though as mother's day is almost here and I still need to mail her gift!

Score for April: 3 out of 10.

I know I could have done a lot better this month, but my heart wasn't in it this time. Hopefully I'll feel a lot more inspired in May and get a lot more done!