Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Give Yarn

 If you read my blog, I think it is a pretty safe bet that you or someone you know is into fiber. And I don't mean the dietary stuff. You like yarn. You like it a lot! You like to use it, you like to buy it. But even better: you like to get it as a gift. Or maybe you don't! Maybe you stumbled upon this post in search of tips on how to give yarn to a crafty friend. Regardless of the details, if you are looking to do some yarn-gifting/receiving this year, you are in the right place.

For all of you lovelies looking to give nice gifts of yarn this year (and we crafty folk thank you in advance for trying to do something better than stop at Walmart for some Red Heart), read on for some fun tips. For all you sneaky-snakes who want to receive some nice yarn this year, just leave this post opened on your browser until your significant other/mom/cousin/dog/whoever sees it and takes the hint. Or, the less passive aggressive route, just straight up tell your friends and family you want some yarn and send them here for a few tips.

Let's get rolling! Feel free to add your yarn-gifting tips in the comments section! I love hearing creative ideas. Gifting is my love-language, so I am all about gifting tips.

First up: Jimmy Beans
Jimmy Beans is the self-proclaimed "local yarn store online" for all yarn folks. I am personally a HUGE fan of their amazing gifting options. They have all sorts of gift sets at all sorts of different price ranges. A lot of their sets come with patterns or correspond to very popular free patterns. Check out their gift ideas page to see all the options. Here are two of my favorites:

I am kind of an alpaca junkie, so this is naturally something that would attract me. With these gift boxes, you get to choose from a variety of color themes and prices. Most of them are $110, which would certainly make the casual buyer (aka me) balk. There are some (like the one pictured above) that are $75. Keep in mind, you are purchasing a luxury yarn. There is enough yarn in each box to complete a lovely shawl that is available on the website as a free download.

These are MUCH more affordably priced and still oh-so-cute. The yarn bouquets on Jimmy Beans' site come in a wide range of colors. Most of them come with a pattern as well. They range from $40-225 (Yikes! I know). In all honesty, this is a yarn-gifting idea that you could take into your own hands if you are slightly intrepid and have a working knowledge of what the recipient would like in terms of fiber content. These yarn bouquets would be easy enough to make up yourself for that special someone. I won't tell if you get the yarn on sale and make your own arrangement!! Plus, I think they'd be kind of fun to make.

Next: Knit Picks
 Another big-name in the online yarn world, Knit Picks has quite a few giving options that just might suit the lucky yarner in your life. They have tons of patterns on their site, and always offer yarn suggestions to help you pick out the perfect amount for the project at hand. Plus, they have tons of great tools. Here are my top pick from KP:

This pattern is actually six patterns in one. You can use their on-site kit builder to customize the type and colors of yarn that come in the kit. How cool?? A lot of their patterns have the option to build your own kit. If you can't find a kit building option for the pattern you want to buy, they have great customer support to help you choose a suitable yarn. Aren't these mitts too cute??

This set is actually going bye bye from Knit Pick soon, which makes me really sad. Whether you knit or crochet, you have to admit these rainbow-wood hooks are stunning. They also sell knitting needles of the same wood. A luxurious set is a wonderful gift. You can never have too many hooks or needles! Right? Right. That's what I keep telling myself.

And Finally: DIY ideas
I can't stand just posting pricey options for gifts. The Do-it-yourself spirit in me will not allow it!! So I've come up with some fun ideas on how to give yarn that are a little more DIY friendly.

1. Yarn Bouquet
You saw the picture above of how Jimmy Beans does it, so why not adapt it to be your own? All you need are some nice skeins of yarn, some skewers or knitting needles, a vase, and pretty ribbons. You could even scour Ravelry for some nice free patterns to go with the yarn you chose and print them out on pretty cardstock. Fancy!

2. Gift Card Snowglobe
Some people think gift cards are a cop-out. I disagree! If buying nice yarn for a friend makes you nervous (Will they like it? Will it be the right color?), go for a gift card and make it cute by presenting it in a snowglobe. There's a great tutorial here by The Creative Mama on how to make one.

Photo (c) thecreativemama.com

Where to get a gift card from besides Michael's and Hob-Lob? How about:
-Ravelry (for patterns!)
-Etsy (for hand-dyed options!)
-A Local Yarn Store (for supporting your local economy!)
-KnitPicks (for stuff and things!)
-Their Fave Yarn Company (for yarn!)
-Amazon (for books!)
(Some of these retailers might not have the "card" gift cards required to make the snowglobe)

3. Soap Gift
I know I'm on a soap kick, but why not give your fave yarn-lover a nice, handmade soap like the ones from Besem Natural Scents on Etsy along with a luscious cotton yarn and a cute washcloth pattern? A small, fun, clean gift.
Photo (c) Besem Natural Scents
Some free washcloth patterns from Ravelry (don't forget to print it on colorful cardstock to make it supah fahahahancy):
Washcloth Quartet (knitting)
Washcloth that Holds Soap (knitting)
Shell Stitch Washcloth (crochet)

4. Mug of Yarn
Got a coffee or tea lover? How about scoring a cute mug from the thrift store and popping a ball of wool in it along with some instant coffee/hot cocoa/tea bags? For mega cute points, include a decorative spoon and a pattern for a mug-cozy from Ravelry.

Mug Cozy by Bubble Girl Knit & Crochet (crochet)
Mug Cosy by threebeansinapod (crochet)
Fancy Mug Cozy by Kristen Hipsky (knitting)

5. Baby Yarn
I have a lot of friends who are expecting in the spring. If you know a crafty lady who has a bun in the oven, why not give her something crafty and practical? Pick out some nice baby cotton (or anything soft and washable!) and put it in a sweet little basket. Include Babies R Us giftcards, some little baby toys, and a pattern for an easy baby blanket. Maybe whip up some washcloths from the patterns above and tuck them in there too. I go through washcloths like crazy here.

These patterns are easy, but cute. Great for whiling away the last trimester. Or even working on during early labor! I totally knitted in the delivery room when we first got there.

Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket (crochet)
Chevron Baby Blanket (knitting)



Friday, November 14, 2014

Gluten Free on the Go: A Celiac Guide to Quick Eats (Gluten Free Friday)

 I was recently in a store when I overheard a woman talking to her friend. They were debating where they should stop to eat real fast before going on to their next venture. It was a tricky situation: they needed to be someplace soon so fast food was what they were looking for. They were hungry. Very hungry. And (dramatic music) one of the ladies was gluten free.

Because I am not a creep who hears "gluten free" and doesn't do anything, I politely asked if the lady was Celiac. No. She did, however, have Rheumatoid Arthritis and eating gf had helped her symptoms greatly. I was very glad she didn't think I was a creep for asking about her life. I told her I have Celiac, and gave her a few suggestions that also happened to be very close by. She was surprised that I knew of so many gf fast food options!

There is nothing more terrifying to me than visiting an unfamiliar town or heading out on a roadtrip and not knowing where I can eat. Just because you are gluten free does not mean you can't snag a bite at fast food joints. While it is far healthier to eat at home regardless of whether you eat gluten or not, there are just times when you crave fries. Or are in a rush and need to snack fast. Or, like I mentioned above, maybe you are traveling! I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of my very favorite fast food options that are gluten free, and relatively "findable" in most cities.

Disclaimer: Though I have Celiac disease and may have not had reactions at any of these restaurants, cross contamination practices may not be up to par at every single restaurant you visit. Please proceed with caution and use your best judgement. If you see blatant gluten dangers, don't just trust that because I was okay you will be too.

This was the suggestion I gave the lady in the store that she ended up going with. Five Guys is awesome. Their regular fries are gluten free and, since they don't fry anything breaded, they get their very own fryer. I am obsessed with them. Though I am sad I can't drown the fries in malt vinegar like I used to, the fries are still very yum-o on their own.

Another awesome thing? Their burgers. They cook them on a totally separate grill from their buns. When you go in to order, ask for your burger without a bun and tell them it is an allergy. The cook who preps your food will change their gloves when they see that on the ticket. I normally do not get toppings on my burger, but I am pretty sure all of them are GF. Ask though, to be safe. You can have your burger lettuce wrapped or just in a bowl. Either way, it's meaty-delicious.

Warning: Their Cajun seasoning for fries isn't GF.

Right before we moved, Chick-Fil-A came to my hometown finally. This is a great, fairly healthy GF option for eating out. Get their grilled chicken anything sans bun. Their fries are cooked in a totally separate fryer from the chicken, so they are safe too!! I have not gotten sick from any of their sauces, but someone mentioned to me that their Chick-Fil-A sauce caused them gastric upset in a gluten-y way. I have never had issues, but you never know. Proceed with caution. Another nice thing about Chick-Fil-A is that you can get ice cream in a cup for dessert!! Or a fruit cup. Your call.

Warning: Their shakes are not GF as far as I know. Only their soft serve is.

This one is new to me!! I was actually super nervous about eating at Jimmy John's for the first time a couple weeks ago. I mean, it's a sandwich place. A bread emporium. I had never heard any reports on the interwebs of it being a GF friendly establishment. But low and behold, I didn't get ill! I had their #5 Unwich (sandwich in a lettuce wrap) and it was amazing. I haven't really had time to explore their menu, but I look forward to it! I was told that all their meat and cheese is GF, but I'm still unsure about other toppings. Like always, ask! People are usually super duper friendly about it.

Warning: Make sure you let them know that your Unwich is a gluten issue, not just for someone watching carbs. They changed their gloves and were extra careful for me.

This is another chain that just arrived in my home town shortly before we moved away. I ate there several times without any contamination, despite the fact that they advise Celiacs NOT to eat their food. It's funny. If you order a gluten free sandwich, it arrives with a disclaimer sticker that says stuff about "there are no guarantees about the safety of your food" and "shared surfaces are used to prep food." The normal schtuff. I took the risk because, really, any food prepared by someone besides me is not guaranteed to GF unless it's essentially cooked in a bubble. Or by someone else who has Celiac. Apparently, at Jason's deli they are careful enough that I have yet to get sick from their food. They have an separate GF menu, which makes choosing and knowing what is "safe" even easier. I always get the roast beef sandwich. YUM. Just, like always, be sure to tell them it's an 'allergy.' The bread they serve your GF sammy on is Udi's, I'm fairly certain.

Bonus: They also have free soft serve which is GF!!

My husband makes fun of me for this one. He laughs so much that "Gluten & Company" actually has GF offerings. Their Pad Thai is GF naturally, and they also offer GF pasta for some of their other dishes. As much as I love Noodz&Co I hesitate to advise Celiacs to eat here, just because I got sick the last time. BUT. I think it was more because a) I was pregnant b) I ordered chicken and c) there might have been a tiny bit of cross contam. I really think it was more my prego-aversion to chicken than anything. But take it under advisement, this place is "Gluten & Company," after all.

Warning: There's a pretty hefty upcharge for GF pasta. Just be ready for that. I kind of freaked when I saw the price the first time I tried to go GF there. It's not a billion dollars, but it's more than your average fast food place.

Okay, because dessert is the most important meal of the day, I have included Culver's on this list. I know this chain hasn't made its way nationwide yet, but I'm a midwest girl to the core. I had to add it in here.

Since most fast food chains don't offer GF shakes, Culver's is a good option if you need a sweet pick me up. Their custard, shakes, and concrete mixers are all GF, depending on what you mix with them. They have nice little allergen booklets up near the counter. If you don't find them, ask. The booklet lists out what is safe to add as a topping. My fave? Raspberries and chocolate flakes. My Seasonal fave? Pumpkin Spice. Beware their Salted Carmel Pumpkin shake. So good. So sugary.

Other than dessert, there are 2 soups that are GF: Mushroom Medley and Potato Au Gratin (I think that's what they call it). Your choices for food stuffs are: a side of green beans and/or a side of mashed potatoes with no gravy. Not the most delightful of offerings, but if it's 8:30 PM and you are in rural Wisconsin, a weird meal of beans and taytoes might be a welcome comfort. Besides, if you finish your veggies, you get dessert. ;)


This post is part of a series I am doing. Each Friday, I explore gluten free options at various types of establishments. I'll be reviewing local, regional, and national eateries as well as offering some tips on surviving various gluten-y situations. Welcome to the first installment of Gluten Free Fridays!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Good Clean Fun: Lemon Verbena Soap

Since the success of my Coffee Soap endeavors, I have been itching to try out some more soap additives. Because I have an abundance of herbs, the obvious next step was to figure out how to incorporate them into my easy peasey melt-and-pour soap. Good news! It's simple! Just as simple as using coffee grounds.

Select a good, aromatic herb. Preferably one with some delightful medicinal qualities. I chose Lemon Verbena.  It's cleansing, bright, and is known to help boost the immune system. I don't know if you can get that big of a boost from soap, but hey. This stuff smells nice. If you want to know about other good herbs to use in melt and pour soap, this website has an amazing list. The possibilities are endless!!

Crush your herb while you are melting your soap according to the directions on the package. Once the soap is all nicely melted, give it a good stir to remove air bubbles. Mix your herb into the soap and pour into molds. I was loaned these cute molds from a friend. Love how they say "natural" and "homemade"!!

To get a more in-depth discussion of how to do a simple melt-and-pour soap, read my Coffee Soap tutorial. But seriously, I promise, making this soap really is as easy as melting, mixing, pouring, and waiting. Waiting is the hardest part!!

I was really impressed by the great suspension I got from the lemon verbena. I've read that many people have issues getting herbs and other light weight additives to mix evenly through out the soap. Guess I was lucky!!

I did add one tiny drop of lemon bergamont oil to enhance the lemony scent.  I really didn't need to! Lemon verbena has such a strong scent on its own. Perfect for soap making!!

I'll be passing these bars along as gifts. I'm having too much fun with this soap-ification not to share!! Have you made soap before?

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 10, 2014

New Pattern: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Last week was very rough. I am quite excited to move forward from all the cold and sickness with a cute fun announcement today: there's a new pattern in the shop!! I'd like to introduce you to the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. They are quite elusive, so you are lucky to be seeing one right here on my blog!

This idea started back when my sis in law was visiting us out here. In all our travels and adventures, she was very bent on seeing a Bighorn. Unfortunately, we did not spot hide nor hair of any type of sheep on our travels. She suggested that I crochet us some Bighorns to soothe the sting of not seeing one in real life. 

Fast forward a few months, and it's her birthday! I decided to actually get to work and make a RMBH and ship it off to my sis in law. Despite the fact that he was a very very late birthday gift, I was quite pleased with the outcome. Innit he ca-uuuuteee??

 I have decided that I ought to make him some cousins. If you are a hunter and you hunt all four of the North American Sheep breeds (Dall sheep, Stone sheep, Bighorn, and Desert Bighorn) it is considered a Grand Slam. Since I don't intend to do any major sheep hunting any time soon, a crocheted Grand Slam is much more in tune with my skill set. I plan to get at it after the craziness of the Christmas season passes.

Until then, you can get started making herds of RMBH sheeps using my pattern. The pattern is available for instant download via Last in Line Shop for $5. The pattern is quite easy, if I do say so myself, which means you've really got yourself an instant sheepification type of deal here. What could be better?

Well, one thing could be better: a grumpy baby to snuggle with your sheep! But hey, you aren't all lucky enough to have the cutest, most bestest little photogenic babu hanging out at home. (Warning: insane amounts a parental bias, here) 

Mr. E was not too pleased that I had to take his new friend from him so soon. But hey! That just means I have to make him one, too.

Happy Monday!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Monster

So, this post is going to be a bit lacking in pretty pictures and whatnot due to the fact that I have spent the last twenty-odd hours battling an evil monster that crept its way into my house. It invaded silently, suddenly, and with horrifying speed. One text tipped me off that something was headed my way:

"Can you make tea?"

A husband who normally does not request tea is now requesting tea? SOMETHING IS AFOOT. My suspicions were confirmed when a sad, sick-looking sweetheart informed me he wasn't hungry.

Oh no. The cold is here.

Now before we all go psycho nuts: no. We don't have Ebola. I checked. WebMD reassured me that we only have brain cancer. What a relief.

Normally, Sailor is the last to succumb to ailments (unless that ailment is poison ivy), so I was quite shocked that he was the one who brought the monster home. Granted, everyone at his work has been getting it, but I really thought we were immuno-fortified and ready to combat this season. Guess not.

I will admit, I had been feeling under the weather all weekend. Had a tiny, quick fever and some puffy red eyes for two days, but nothing like the monster we are currently fighting. I am talking: lack of appetite, chills, aches, sinus pressure, exhaustion, feeling-cold-when-really-you-are-burning-up, type of stuff. My poor husband is much deeper in the throes of it than I am, because as soon as I got that text about tea I started downing vitamin c pills like I was aiming for an overdose. Regardless, I still have a fair few poopy symptoms that have me glued to the couch.

Please don't take anything I am writing as actual medical advice. I'm sleepy and delusional, but there's nobody home to stop me from writing a melodramatic blog post.

I am so worried that my poor, sweet, and (so far) completely unaffected baby Z is going to turn into a mini monster if I am not insanely proactive. I mean, I'm washing all the laundry as it hits the floor, bathing in hand sanitizer, and scrubbing my hands to the bone. Thank goodness this little boy is so chill: all he wants is to be able to see his mom and dad from his bouncy seat most of the time. Which I am completely capable of accommodating. I cannot imagine having a baby who needed to be constantly held to keep from crying.

Though, not holding him unless I have to is hard. He's so darn cute after all. But it's for the best. Sacrifices.

So, my suggestions to all you out in internet land?
-Drink all the water.
-Wash yo' hands, ya nasty.
-Buy vitamin C in all forms NOW before you are sick so you don't have to go to the store when you are sick (trust me).
-Chicken soup. Make it. Eat it. Freeze it. Don't run out of it.
-Keep your tylenol bottle stocked. We didn't have any. Again, going to store when you are sick is ultra poop.
-Get Kleenex. Like I said above.
-Hot baths multiple times a day if you do fall prey to the monster.

I think I need to go take a nap now.