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Thursday, March 9, 2017

NatCroMo 2017

It's really hard to believe that another National Crochet Month has rolled around!  I'm so honored to be part of the Crochetville Designer Blog Tour again this year in celebration of the enduring life skill and art that we all love so much. 

In anticipation of NatCroMo, I started offering my Pollie the Octopus pattern for free, hoping that each reader will feel inspired to make at least one to give to her local hospital to help premature babies!  More details on why octopuses are so comforting are in this post.


Also, I'm going to be having a little crochet mystery giveaway near the end of March through my Facebook page, but you have to "like" and follow my page to be in on it (a winner will be chosen from among the page's likes and privately messaged for shipping information).  I'm closing in on 500 likes, so please help me get over the top!  I'll be dropping hints about the goodies included, so check back here on the blog and on Facebook often!

This year's blog tour theme is Glamping.  Now, I am not at all the camping type, but I'm really enjoying the virtual trips we're taking this month through Crochetville's NatCroMo Facebook page, and be sure to click on Vedetta Lodges in Tuscany, Italy -- bellissima!

But still, my post is indirectly related to the theme of loving crochet and being inspired by exotic getaways and everyday locations.  This month (and throughout the year), we are going to be motivated to visit some of these amazing yarn stores that are participating in the tour and start a number of the beautiful patterns that this month's featured designers generously have posted.  But, March has 31 days in it, and, at some point, the abundant offerings of NatCroMo are going to be overwhelming -- I'm here to say that it's ok to give yourself permission to NOT crochet (only you can let yourself off the hook so to speak). 

Treasonous talk for the month in which we celebrate all things crochet?!  Hear me out.  I'm not advocating giving it up totally or taking a break if you don't feel like it; but, there are times when NOT crocheting will actually deepen your love and appreciation of crochet and help you see it all with fresh eyes (and hands!).  Frankly, I've gone through a few periods like this recently and wanted to share my experiences:

1.  Do NOT crochet when doing so gives you more angst and stress than it takes away.  Whether it's a project that's on a very tight deadline (real or imagined) or a new technique that's giving you fits, if crocheting is causing stress, you need to step away.  Life is already full of enough stress, something you love should not be adding to it.  Sometimes just a few hours away will do the trick; sometimes you'll need more time to decompress and center again.  The point is, trying to power through is going to set you back more than stepping away for the time you need to love crocheting again.

2.  Do NOT crochet when it's adversely affecting your physical health.  Whether it's the fact that you've been sitting on the couch not moving (except for your hands) for hours or that you're giving yourself carpal tunnel, it's time to put down the hook and get active!  Sometimes I try to justify watching TV by telling myself that, hey, I'm also crocheting, I'm doing something productive and meaningful.  That's true, but when hours have gone by, I realize that I feel stiff and sluggish, my eyes and neck hurt, and that I should have been pacing myself.  As they say, moderation is key.  Now, I keep an eye on the clock; I don't crochet for more than an hour at a time -- once I get to a natural stopping point, I put my project down and go for a walk.  Even if it's only for 10 minutes and just around the apartment, I get up and move!  It's usually all I need to feel better, plus this approach makes for a better crochet project in the end because I then take the time to look over the crocheting I've done and assess.


3.  Do NOT crochet when it feels like a burden.  Usually, I love making all different types of crocheted gifts for relatives and friends, and I love designing and posting new patterns, but sometimes the whole process just feels like one more thing that you have to do rather than something that you love to do.  Now, for my sister designers who are thinking to themselves, well, I'm not going to be able to make a living if I don't stay on top of all my projects, I'm especially going to encourage you to take a break.  Stepping away, even for just a day, to regroup, rethink, RELAX, can make all the difference in approaching your work with a fresh eye and renewed spirit.  Inspiration for a new crochet project is all around us, but we won't see it if we don't stop to take it all in.

So, to end on a high note, it's amazing how the love of crochet is spreading far and wide, with such variety in techniques and designs.  It's obvious that the fiber arts for many is not a short-lived fad but a lasting lifetime endeavor.  Enjoy the journey and please stop by to visit me on my blog or Facebook page during your travels.  Here's to many, many more NatCroMos!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  It's not too late to whip up some beautiful crocheted hearts to sprinkle among your favorite peeps, so go to my Ravelry page for the free pattern!  Please post your hearts, I love seeing the projects that crocheters have come up with using this pattern (making two and filling with potpourri has been a fave).


Unfortunately, my sweetie is out of town this year, so I'll be doing the next best thing:  crocheting and watching trashy tv :-).  I hope everyone's day is filled with fun and love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Make a Crochet Octopus for a Premature Baby Today!!

A couple of friends have posted this UK article on Facebook about crocheters making octopuses for premature babies because the tentacles remind them of their umbilical cords and make them feel safe and breathe better!  Of course not only am I ready to go into action to make some, but I want to do more -- the article links to a lovely octopus crochet pattern, but I've had one for Pollie the Octopus for sale on my Ravelry page forever, and I'm making it FREE!  I think, if I do say so myself, that this pattern will be easier to make for a beginner crocheter, and it meets all the requirements mentioned in the article (all cotton, tentacles not longer than 22 cms/8.5 in.).  So, PLEASE, make one today!!




Thursday, January 19, 2017

Purl Soho in NYC

I just got back from a quick trip to New York City and was fortunate to see my friend Charlene who lives there.  We hopped the W train to Canal Street and visited Purl Soho, which is on Broome.




This yarn store in known as being one of the 10 best yarn stores in the country, and it's obvious why as soon as you walk in the door.  Not only do they have beautiful yarns, but Liberty of London fabric and all sorts of notions and accessories.






I of course couldn't help myself and bought some of the fabric (yes, that's $19.00 for a 1/2 yard!), a Purl Soho drawstring bag, and a weird little gizmo that came in a pouch with the cutest pompom on it (that will be figured out and revealed in its own post).  Surprisingly, I managed to not grab any yarn, but I figured it would be easier to call them or order yarn online in the future than it would these items.


Haven't decided yet what to do with the fabric -- maybe a little scarf for myself in anticipation of spring!  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Curation Consternation"

So, I've been thinking a lot about the blog content that I want to create for the upcoming months and for 2017.  I've been putting together individual posts for the general post that I did for the 5 Must-Have Crochet or Knit Baby Shower Gifts.   And I was thinking about my tagline "be thoughtful" and how it is intended to evoke in the gift giver thoughtfulness towards the gift recipient but also thoughtfulness towards oneself because, as we all have experienced, you often have as much pleasure in giving as you do in receiving.  But, as I move towards putting together collections of crocheted and knit items to make, I was thinking about another tagline to sum up why it's different and unique.  One of the new taglines I was thinking about was "Curation + Convenience" or "Convenient + Curated".

But, this morning while watching CBS Sunday Morning, Faith Salie had a whole segment on curation and her irritation with the word!!  She thoroughly explains the origins of the word and how it's evolved as well as why she believes it's become overused and meaningless. 

Suffice to say, the segment has given me pause about whether I want to use that word to describe what it is I'm trying to do.  I'm in search of a new, descriptive, catchy way to encompass my desire to inform you about, in my opinion, the best choices and resources that you have available when planning and creating your crochet and knit baby gift giving!  Back to the drawing board...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TGI 2017!

I am really glad that 2016 is over.  Although good things happened, too many unsettling things happened as well.  It's time to start fresh, and January is the best time to do that.

I don't like referring to a list of "resolutions" because I feel like it then becomes doomed to fail.  So, based on my guiding principal of simplicity, here are my goals and aspirations for the new year:

1)  Simplify Yet Bolster My Social Media Presence

Many Creative Gifts has a Face Book page (please come "like" the page ;-), a Twitter feed (of course come follow us too!), Instagram photos, etc., etc., but I post and tweet and whatever quite randomly.  This year, I'm going to methodically spruce up my page on each media platform and then try to utilize it effectively.  I've come across some great checklists and tips on Pinterest (oh, we are there as well) and posted them to my "Small Business Tips" board.  Well it's time to go old school, print some of those babies out, and get cracking!

2)  Simplify Yet Enhance My Product Offerings

I've always just created what I've felt like making, then posted the pattern on Ravelry and sometimes the actual sample on Etsy.  But I haven't paid attention to sales analytics, etc., like I really should.  I want to offer items that people want to buy or make themselves!  I still think it's a good idea for me to concentrate right now on crocheted and knitted baby wear and build out my Classic and Colorful Collections (but I'm sure I'll get distracted by other projects as well); I just need to be sure I'm offering what buyers are wanting.  That's why I participated in two holiday bazaars this year, so that I could do some market research.  Unfortunately, the turnout was very low at both due to very rainy and icy weather both days, so I'm not sure I really took away much insight from the experiences (except how to set up and break down a display table efficiently, which is a good lesson to have come away with).  I think I'll have another chance in February for a special Valentine's pop-up shop.  I anticipate that online sales will continue to be my focus and hopefully concentrating on #1 above will help as well.

3)  Simplify Yet Enrich Each Day

It's amazing how easy it is to fritter away time in unproductive and ultimately unsatisfying ways!  There's plenty of time in a day to do the things that you want to do IF you are willing to give up the game apps, email scrolling, and all the other time-sucking activities that we all do.  Now, I'm a firm believer in mindless activities, we all need to take some down time, but it all needs to be managed.  And, I know what you're thinking: "But it's just 5 or 10 minutes, what else could I do with that time?" The answer is plenty.  Ten minutes of exercising your abs is better than 10 minutes of exercising your finger!  Or, more importantly for me, 10 minutes of activities that help me achieve #1 and #2 above is what I need to be doing.  As painful as it is, I think the only way I'm going to be able to direct my attention to worthwhile apps (like a book app or an educational coding one) is to delete the others (taking comfort in knowing that they remain in the App Store for future downloading again if I get desperate).  But unplugging might be the best way to simplify:  truly making use of the "power of an hour" concept by exercising for 20 minutes, meditating for 20 minutes, and learning for 20 minutes.  Back to basics!

I hope my yearly process of closing out one year and getting ready for the next has been helpful to you as well in contemplating your courses of action.  There's no right or wrong way to do any of this, just be sure you're making conscious decisions, not passively following habits you no longer need or want :-)  Here's to an amazing 2017!




Friday, December 30, 2016

3 Simple Steps to the Best Banana Bread Ever!

I love banana bread -- it's filling, relatively healthy, and not so hard to make if you follow these simple tips and steps:

1)  Be willing to substitute and experiment!

One Sunday morning, desperate for homemade baked goods, I found this basic banana bread recipe through a Google search but discovered I didn't have all of the ingredients.  Not to be denied, I started experimenting and substituting and came up with my own recipe (and, don't tell everybody because they will NOT know, it's gluten free!!):

1 1/2 c. Gluten Free Mama's Almond Flour (www.glutenfreemama.com)**
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 bananas (or 3 bananas and half an apple)
2 eggs
1/4 c. sesame oil
scant 2/3 c. sugar (I use the minimally processed turbinado sugar)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

** I have no affiliation with Gluten Free Mama, I just think they have excellent flours.

You can also add a handful of chopped walnuts and/or chocolate chips.  I find most regular recipes for baked items have too much sugar in them for my taste, so I always cut back (plus, in this recipe, the bananas and almond flour add enough of their own sweetness).

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ones in another bowl; add one bowl to the other (I've found it doesn't matter in which direction you go) and mix well; add walnuts and/or chocolate chips; pour into bread pan or muffin tin; bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour for bread, 35 minutes for muffins (cooking time will depend on your oven; I'd test with a toothpick after 45 minutes or 30 minutes, respectively; after one or two batches, you'll have an idea of timing).

2)  Have your tools set aside together to cut down on prep time

I have two bowls, a spatula, measuring cups and spoons set aside all together so that, when I want to make a batch, I'm ready to go.  I keep the flour in the freezer but the other dry items pretty close together in the pantry and wet ones in the frig, so it's easy to tell if anything is getting low and easy to grab when I'm ready to bake.  As I use each tool, I immediately dunk it into soapy water in a dishpan to soak; it makes clean up so easy.

3)  Make use of your mini-blender or mixer

I like some chunks of fruit in my muffins or bread, but if you don't want it too chunky or with a smoother consistency, blend some of the fruit in a smoothie maker.  For example, I put half an apple chopped up, one of the bananas sliced up, and one of the eggs in my blender for maybe 10-15 seconds, then poured the mixture into the bowl with the rest of the wet ingredients. Then, it's much easier to stir and blend the ingredients together by hand.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and I'd love to hear what fruit/nut/other ingredient combinations you choose!