Meow, meow

Catnip sproutI’ve been talking to my herb garden as often as I can remember, but things are have been pretty busy. Have no fear, it has been getting plenty of water and sunshine. I had basically given up on the rosemary and catnip, but was still feeling satisfied with my other three lovely herb companions. And then, “Surprise!” All of sudden there are THREE catnip sprouts! THREE! I’m so tickled! Of all the seeds I planted, the catnip was the one I had the most doubts about, but there they are. I tried to explain to Chloe why I was so excited and why she should be excited too, but I was met with a questioning look. Hopefully she gives the catnip sprouts some encouraging meows during the day.

Trick or treat goodness (part 2)

Halloween spider wreath

This post could be alternately titled “Fun with plastic spiders & a hot glue gun”. There were a couple more decorations that I made up last Halloween that I’d like to share with you. My absolute favourite decoration was by far our wreath. It was super simple to make and also fairly inexpensive. You will need a black wreath (which I picked up on sale at Michaels), a bag of plastic Halloween rings (most dollar stores have them), a small pair of wire cutters, hot glue gun, and some wide Halloween wired ribbon. Here’s all you need to do to make a creepy, fun wreath:

Plastic rings, wire cutters, hot glue gunCutting plastic spider ring

1. Sort your plastic rings (I only used the spiders and mainly used the orange ones)
2. Using small wire cutters, snip off the band of each ring
3. Apply a small amount of hot glue on the back of the spider
4. Squeeze the spider onto the wreath (be careful not to burn yourself on the glue)
5. Repeat until you have covered your wreath in as many spiders as you like
6. Using the wired ribbon make a pretty bow (I’m really not very good at this, so any instructions Gluing plastic spiderPlastic spider ribbonyou can find online about making a bow, will be better than anything I can tell you)
7. Once you’re satisfied with your bow, glue some spiders on it
8. Attach the bow on the bottom of your wreath either by hot gluing it or tying it on with thread (depends on how big or what style of bow you make)

While you have the glue gun warmed up and those plastic rings handy, you can also make up some simple clothespin decorations, which I found inspiration for on Martha’s site:

1. Last year I ran out of time (I started making these about an hour before guests began arriving at our Halloween party), but I would suggest either painting or spray painting the clothespins black before you start and let dry
2. Take some plastic rings and snip the band off of each, as done above with the wreath project
3. Apply a dab of hot glue to the back of each ring
4. Squeeze onto the “front” of the clothespin (again be cautious of getting hot glue on your fingers when you do this)

Now you have some creepy decorations to clip onto the edge of bowls or where ever you can think to clip them. I like they way they dress up the treat table at a party and you can’t beat how simple they are to make.

Clothespins and plastic ringsHalloween clothespin decorationHalloween clothespin decoration

Trick or treat goodness (part 1)

Paper cat cutoutLast October was the first time that we got to celebrate Halloween in our very own home . So of course, I delved into making a variety of decorations, which I was able to re-use this year, with the addition of my spooky crochet spiders.

For decorating inspiration I turned to the one and only Martha, queen of Halloween. I don’t subscribe to her magazine, but the two issues each year that I buy are October and December, and there are generally packed with beautiful and fun ideas, some of which I feel like I can even do myself! Then there is the website, which is packed with even more ideas. So when I needed to start from scratch with Halloween decorations, I turned to good ‘ol Martha.

The first thing I was drawn to was a childhood classic. I knew I wanted to cut out some construction paper silhouettes to tape to our front window, which we always did to decorate at my parent’s house. Martha has lots of handy templates to download for free. I used these flying bat and spitting cat templates, although I increased the size of the bat. Buy some black construction paper, trace the templates, cut out, and voila! Pretty simple, eh?

Glitter, spray paint, and white glueThe next thing I tackled was slightly more complicated, but I was thrilled with the results. I found the inspiration for it on The Long Thread. I used the following materials: cardboard, utility knife, black spray paint, white glue, paint brush, black glitter, string, and a big branch. I used the same template from Martha as above, but used both the original and enlarged versions, so there would be two different sizes. Here’s the basics:

1. Cut the bats out of cardboard (I cut out seven total, a few small and a few large)
2. Spray paint the fronts and backs black, let dry
3. Brush one side with basic white glue and sprinkle with black glitter, let dry
4. Use a ball point pen to punch a hole through each bat in the middle of their heads
5. Cut varying lengths of string and thread each bat with one
6. Hang a branch wherever you will be displaying your bats (I put ours outside)
7. Tie each bat onto the branch
8. Stand back and watch them flutter

Cardboard batsCardboard batsOutdoor Halloween decorations

One giant leap

Well, I did it. I submitted an application to my first craft show and have been accepted. Fees have been paid. Confirmation has been sent. It looks like this is it! The beginning of a big ‘ol adventure! My friend and I are actually going to share a table since neither of us have done this before. There’s so much to do in preparation. I’ve been reading tons online about selling at craft shows and setting up your booth/table. Every spare hour in the evening is spent making items. Lists are being compiled of what I need to prepare, buy, design, etc. I hope to share my experience through the whole process here, so I guess you’re in for a crafty ride! Thanks in advance for reading and learning alongside with me! Oh, and by the way, the show I am participating in is the Market Collective, December 11-12, in Calgary.

The lonely tale of Mr. Sage and Mr. Thyme

Sage sproutWell, after letting more and more days pass without seeing any activity in the rosemary, oregano, and catnip pots, I’ve decided to add some fresh seeds to each of these and give them another go. I don’t really have a Plan B for the herb garden, but I have my dirt-covered fingers crossed that at least one of these will join my happy sage and thyme sprouts.

Speaking of which, the sage is looking lovely and healthy if not a bit odd in shape. Since I rotated the pot last week, they have curved completely in the other direction to follow the sunlight. I’m curious to see how they will shape themselves as I continue to turn their pot once a week. Oh, and how lovely, their itty-bitty leaves smell! I am truly enjoying my herb garden, even if only a couple of the plants are growing.

Good day Mr. Sage, hello Mr. Thyme

I have been saying hello to Mr. Sage everyday this week. He has returned the kindness by sprouting a couple more stems! It now appears that both types of sage that I planted have managed to grow. I’m not sure have very different they will be taste-wise, but the last time I had a herb garden, sage was one of the plants I wished I had more of to experiment in my cooking. Well, I’ve certainly got my wish!

Thyme sproutSo many people in the world wish for more thyme or maybe they wish for more “time”. In either case, I am happy to report that the thyme pot is no longer void of greenness. There are bunch of itty-bitty sprouts that have popped up, unfortunately all in one clump. I say “unfortunately” because I’m not sure that it’s such a good thing. I was hoping to have two or three separate thyme plants in the pot, but all the seeds I dropped in one hole seemed to have emerged. For now, I just keep cheering them all on.

There’s been no activity in the rosemary, oregano, or catnip pots. I’m not too sure how long I should wait before I decide re-try those. The catnip feels like it was a bit of a long shot, but I would happily give it another try. I have noticed how much my little sage and thyme sprouts reach towards the window for the sunlight and I’m still trying to decide if they are in the best spot or not. Obviously they are getting sunshine, but they sure do seem to want more. I think I will rotate the pots around, which should help straighten the sprouts up a bit.

This little herb garden of mine

Towards the beginning of September I finally got the gumption to plant an indoor herb garden. I’ve been slowly (oh, so slowly) collecting the seeds and pots. The supplies weren’t the real hang up for finally planting the garden though. Since we moved into our house about a year and half ago, I’d been a bit stumped as to where I should put the herb garden. Sure we get plenty of light, Calgary after all is one of the sunniest cities in Canada. It was more that I had been greatly spoiled by our old apartment in B.C., which had wide windowsills that could happily accommodate potted plants. No such luck in our house though, and so each time I thought about getting out the bag of soil and seed packs, I had to face the “small” issue of where the pots would go once filled.

Sure I could put up a small side table near the front window, but would the cat get into too much mischief with it there, seeing as she has claimed that area as her window to the world? Surely the kitchen would be the most appropriate and convenient spot for the herb garden, but with only one north facing window with a sink below, how would it work in there? Perhaps the office or sewing room could play house to the garden? I nix the sewing room idea as soon as I’ve had it. There’s just too much stuff on the go in there already. The office is not too full, but that’s because we still haven’t finished painting and getting things more permanently set-up in there. It is starting to become the “stuff-it-in-there-for-the-time-being-room” and will surely become full soon. So the herb garden is more likely to become buried behind miscellaneous bits in there. — At this point I’ve made my house sound a mess, but it’s not really. We’ve just managed to ignore a couple of rooms since moving in, as one tends to do once you get caught up in the daily routine. — And so I was back to considering the big front window, with its eastern exposure and beams of morning sunshine.

Pot of thymeI finally wake up one September day and think, “Alight, today I’m planting that darn herb garden that I’ve been thinking about so much, and then let slide off the to-do list too often.” I drag out the soil, the pots, the seeds, and trowel, and that’s when I start to doubt myself. “I’ve never really planted anything from seed before (I know, it’s hard to believe). Do I really know what I’m doing, or should I be reading about planting from seed before I do this?” And so the questions start to flow, but then I think, honestly, what’s the worse thing that could happen? They don’t grow. Fine, then I’d just try again. See, simple. So I grab the trowel and loving scoop and scatter and water, until I’ve got my five things planted: sage (two different kinds actually), rosemary, oregano, thyme, and catnip (yes, must have something for miss kitty in there). Now the defining moment of where should these lovelies live? I grab a folding TV dinner-style table and set it up below the front window. “Below” being the key word here as the table is not nearly tall enough and the plants sit well below the windowsill. Hhmmph. Well. It will just have to do, I tell myself.

As the days continue to past and I wait expectantly for something to sprout forth, we experience the rainiest and darkest September in recorded history (that’s not an official statistic, but I can’t remember a September like this before). I start to worry about the success of those little seeds, but one random morning, as I sit crocheting on the couch (still recovering from surgery) a patch of sunshine peaks through the window. I sit and watch it move across the living room and see all the spots that it reaches, and watch as it sadly, misses my herb garden that is perched just in the shade of the window. I put my crochet hook down and scoot some things around in the living room (just a rocking chair and big potted plant, in case you’re worried that I’m lifting couches when I shouldn’t be). I take all the pots off the side table, re-position the table near the television, and place the pots back on. Viola! A sunny spot for the herb garden.

Sage sproutA couple weeks still pass before I see any activity in the pots, but I don’t give up hope. The sun comes out more and more towards the end of September and by the beginning of October, we are finally having a lovely “summer” (yes, our actual summer months were truly crappy). And then it happens. I come home from work and plunk myself down on the couch for a few quiet minutes, when I glance over at the herb garden. There, a speck of green is peeking out. I jump up and peer into the pot. Mr. Sage has decided to make an appearance! Thank you lovely sunshine for finally coaxing them out of their dirt home.

Perhaps Mr. Sage will be able to convince some of his companions to join him. Until then, I wait patiently knowing that at least I managed to grow one thing from seed and many, many weeks from now I will be using fresh sage in my cooking. Oh, how I have missed having an herb garden!

Nancy and I (part 3)

Felt starfishI had all sorts of grand plans of crafting that I wanted to do while I recovered, but I started out with reading. I had stocked up on some new paperbacks (working my way through some Charlaine Harris books) and also pulled the entire Harry Potter series out to re-read. Sipping ginger ale and cranberry juice while reclining with a book became my new routine. Eventually I gained a bit more mental and physical energy and eased myself back into crafting. I started out simple with just some hand sewing. I’d been working on these starfish decorations in between other random projects for a while. It was very relaxing just sorting button and thread colors.

I then moved onto a fairly simple crochet project (“simple” because I didn’t have the patience and energy to worry about counting stitches or working row patterns). My friend at work is expecting her first baby towards the end of October and I was really keen to make her a baby blanket. I already had a bunch of granny squares made-up and it turned out to be the perfect number for a baby-sized blanket. Prior to my surgery, I had the forethought to organize the layout of the squares and number each one, so that when it came to assembling them, it wouldn’t take much mental power. I sat watching an assortment of borrowed dvds (the likes of “The Lakehouse”, “Calendar Girls”, “In Good Company”, “Waking Ned Devine”, etc) and attached granny square to granny square and row to row until I had completed a sweet little autumn baby blanket. More details on this particular project to follow.

Crochet nappy pantsWhen I finally started to feel like I had the energy to try out a new crochet pattern, I turned to Tina Barrett’s Natural Crochet for Babies & Toddlers. It was love at first sight with this book! For a super avid crafter, I don’t buy a ton of craft books, not because I don’t want to. Seriously, I would go crazy ordering craft books till every shelf in our house was filled and then some, if I could. Being on a tight budget though, I’m often inclined to spend my crafty funds on supplies rather than inspiration. However, Tina Barrett’s crochet book was just too lovely to pass up. I borrowed it from the library originally just to flip through and when I realized I wanted to make every single pattern in the book, I ordered it. The first project I attempted from that book was the nappy pants. So very adorable! Although I wasn’t able to make them out of fancy natural soya or cotton called for in the pattern, since I had to make do with my stash, I think they turned out pretty cute.

After finishing my first pair of nappy pants I started thinking about Christmas. I haven’t a clue why, but I just started thinking about what to make people for Christmas and that led to thinking about how last year I never got a chance to try making crochet snowflake ornaments for our tree. I mentioned this to my mom and on one of her post-surgery visits she brought all of her old snowflake patterns gathered from magazines from the 80s, white crochet thread and the smallest crochet hook I’d ever seen. Between all of her patterns and ones I tracked down online, I kept busy working up snowflakes. I actually got pretty frustrated trying to make them and I had a hard time reading the patterns, but before I decided that maybe snowflake making was too advanced for me, I tried a pattern posted on Attic 24. Although the Lucy’s pattern uses a DK weight yarn, and I used crochet thread, I loved the shape of the snowflake AND I was finally able to understand how these darn things worked up. So I simply added some more rounds and with my usual improvisation ended up with a nice little snowflake.

It was like a light bulb went on (or I guess in this case a glowing snowflake) and I eventually made these guys too.

Crochet snowflakeCrochet snowflakesCrochet snowflakes

From Christmas, my thoughts turned to Halloween. I know, that was sort of in the wrong order, but who can control one’s crafty thoughts? After my adventures in snowflake making, I started thinking about decorations for Halloween. What could I crochet for Halloween? I liked the idea of making something similar to the snowflakes, that I could starch and hang, but with a Halloween theme. I poked around briefly online, but didn’t find what I had in mind. So I figured I could make it up, after all I had just completed six snowflakes, how hard could it be? After some experimenting, it turned out to be a bit difficult, but not impossible and I managed to created these creepy little friends.

Crochet spidersCrochet spidersCrochet spider

Phew! Well, I managed to complete quite a bit during my weeks of recovery. Definitely didn’t waste the time off and all the lovely crafting kept my sanity!

Nancy and I (part 2)

Three months passed quickly with not much changed and we found ourselves back in the doctor’s office discussing the state of my fibroid. We arranged to have tests done on my husband to ensure that he wasn’t “shooting blanks” as so many like to folks say. I had a bunch of blood work done and another ultrasound. The ultra sound indicated that the fibroid had now grown to the size of a cantaloupe, which was about a two-inch increase. This started to worry me more. Waiting around for me to get pregnant was giving Nancy, the fibroid, time to grow and further complicate things. My symptoms had been getting worse. Heavy bleeding two weeks of the month is not fun. Missing work because of heavy bleeding and painfully crippling cramps is not fun. Having to pee every half hour to hour is just plain annoying. And being able to feel and see a strange lump on your lower abdomen, that you know is not a fetus, is very disconcerting.

This is when Plan B was formed. We would go ahead with surgery to remove the fibroid and hope and pray that all the worse-case scenarios of hysterectomy and infertility would be avoided. My surgical date was set for August, a mere four month wait. It had already been a year since it was first discovered, and at first the thought of waiting four months to have the surgery didn’t bother me much. We had a lot of family events to fit in during that time (my brother was getting married in Poland and we would be travelling there for it), but as the months went by and I was in increasing discomfort, I got anxious to get the whole thing over with. Two months before the surgery, I was actually starting to look pregnant. In fact, I was mistaken as such a couple of times on our trip to Europe. It was pretty devastating and frustrating to think that all I was growing in there was a big ugly tumor. The fact that I looked so much bigger, had me quite worried about how much it was actually growing. Oh, how I started to really hate Nancy.

By August 4th 2010, my surgical date, I was nervous and simply exhausted. Heavy bleeding, constant soreness, worrying, bloating, all of it, was taking its toll. Not to mention the extreme emotional rollercoaster that had been our lives since June. We had managed to fit in the marriage of my middle brother, the death of my father-in-law, the marriage of my husband’s niece, and the near death of my oldest brother. I was ready to check into the hospital and focus on myself for a time. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous, because I truly was. I’d never had to stay in the hospital as a patient and as they rolled me through the doors to surgery and away from my husband, I started to tear-up.

The procedure was very invasive. The size of the fibroid required an abdominal myomectomy, which is open surgery with a large incision and a long recovery period. I found out later that the surgery itself went quite a bit longer than anticipated because they were having difficulty removing the entire fibroid through the horizontal incision that was made. A vertical incision would have given the doctors more room, but would have been even more difficult to heal. In then end, the fibroid turned out to measure about 12x12x10 inches, close to double the size since the last ultrasound. It weighed just shy of 5 pounds! I had almost forgotten what my mostly flat tummy looked like!

I will save you the details of my “fun” at the hospital. I stayed there for four days and was then able to go home. My hubby worked from home the first week, so that he could be on hand if I needed any help with food and such. I had already arranged with work to be off for the seven weeks that my doctor and surgeon had determined I would need to recover. It was slow going. Sleeping was incredibly difficult. It was weeks before I could even lay down flat without the support of every pillow in the house. I slept a lot. The first two weeks were literally just getting up to take pills, eat, shuffle a little loop around the house and then back to bed. Repeat several times a day. My constant companion was our cat Chloe. She loved the hours spent dozing in bed, but became frustrated when she found out that she couldn’t sleep on my tummy or crawl on me. I had to resort to keeping a pillow on my lower abdomen to keep her from causing a painful shock as I slept. Oh, but I wouldn’t have dared denied her companionship during the many weeks at home. There really isn’t too much photo-wise to share in regards to my journey with Nancy, the fibroid, so here is a photo of Miss Chloe instead.

Chloe in the sun