About Me

I'm a 30 year-old living in Minneapolis. Recently finished my Master's in Library Science, working in a health sciences library. Am always happiest when I have something artsy/craftsy to work on!

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Dino Cat Hat & Other Knitting Projects

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It's been ages since I last wrote a blog post!  And to break the ice, I'm going to share some of the knitting projects I've done in the past year.

First, one of my major achievements was knitting a blanket for my nephew who was born in late January of LAST year.  I was honored that my sister and her husband laid him on this blanket for his newborn photos.


My nephew, born in January, 2015, with the blanket and hat that I knit for him!

He's also wearing one of the hats I made him. :)  This little guy is almost 2 now and has a really stinkin' cute baby sister...

My sweet little niece, born June, 2016.

As you can see, her head is bare... So she's next on the list to knit for!!

The blanket pattern itself was pretty easy.  I know I made a lot of mistakes, and there was a lot of cursing coming from me during lazy Sundays on the couch that had nothing to do with the football games on TV.


The best part was when the blanket got big enough to keep me warm as I was knitting!

I've also made a few scarves since then:


The first one I made last fall, a beautiful cabled scarf using a purple yarn with some blue tints.  I wore it most of the winter when I did venture outside!  If I could change anything, I'd make it wider.  After it stretched out, it became kind of thin.  I made it pretty long though so I could wrap it around my neck a couple of times, so that helps a bit.

I also made a turban headband to match this scarf:

Waiting for the bus -- BRRR!

It's maybe a little bit big, I may have knitted just a tiny bit past the recommended 10 1/2" in the pattern.  Oh well, I still like it!

The next scarf I made was a simple black infinity scarf using a seed stitch.  That scarf sat in my knitting basket all summer though... All I had to do was bind it off to finish, but it sat there unfinished until recently.  And then I got on another knitting kick and made the scarf at the front of the photo on the right.  Love this cowl!  It's made with a thick blue, green, and purple yarn that's very soft!  The pattern was very easy and this photo doesn't do justice to how pretty it is.  The only complaint I have about this one is that the yarn doesn't stay very rigid, and the scarf rolls up, so you can't see how pretty the pattern is when I wear it!

I just finished up the navy scarf in the middle, which used a super easy pattern that went really fast.  I could probably do that again with my eyes closed!  And I might.  I didn't have another skein of this yarn, or I probably would have done a few more rows.  But I still really like it and foresee a lot of use with this one!



And now... I must confess that I've reached a new level of cat lady craziness.

I recently went to a library conference, and at the silent auction, there was a basket with knitting supplies and this book:

Cats in Hats by Sarah Thomas

I promptly checked this out from my local public library and went to work!

Knitting the dinosaur hat!


The spikes.
MAGESTIC!!!
Completed project: Knit dinosaur hat.

Only took a couple of hours to make!  I made one for Pinky too, but he gets very angry when I put it on him and don't have any photos. :)




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Canning and Other Fall Adventures

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Fall last year was very different than it has been this year.  Last fall, I was finishing up my master's degree, and I hardly had time to do much other than work on my e-portfolio.  It already seems like a long time ago, and homework is now a distant memory.  And I know that my past self of just a year ago would be jealous of the wonderful fall I had this year.

Most importantly, this year I've had time to run.  Last year, I had signed up for the Monster Dash half marathon, but because I was so focused on my e-portfolio I didn't take enough time to train for the race.  Sadly, I decided to sell my race bib since I knew I wouldn't be able to run 13.1 miles without hurting myself.  Not the case this year!  Although, this year I ran the 10 mile race rather than the half marathon since I only signed up a couple weeks before the race.  And I maybe didn't train as much as I could have, but I'm still happy to say that I finished with a decent time for only having trained for two weeks!  I've since done two 5k's as well.

But I also did a bit of canning earlier this fall, which is something I had never done before.  And considering how time-consuming it was, this was something I definitely wouldn't have been able to do a year ago!

I canned bruschetta using vegetables from our garden and also canned some tomato sauce using tomatoes from the farmers market.  As I said, these were pretty time-consuming activities, but well worth the effort!

I used this recipe for the bruschetta, with the exception that I used Roma tomatoes from our garden, and fresh basil and a couple small peppers all from the garden as well. 

Canning bruschetta.



Not too complicated -- chopping tomatoes definitely took a lot of time though!

And since I'd never done any canning before, the recipe I used for tomato sauce was very helpful.  I bought the tomatoes from the farmers market.  I didn't make any modifications to the recipe, but it did take quite a long time to simmer the tomatoes and get them to a thick enough consistency.  I also didn't add any spices either, because I wanted to be able to modify it for whatever I end up using it for.

Canning tomato sauce.




We tested out one small can of the bruschetta on a Sunday while watching football and then tried a can of the marinara with eggplant Parmesan.  Happy to say that I didn't poison us and everything was delightfully tasty!

Eggplant Parmesan.
 It's amazing all the things I'm able to do this year that were not even a possibility last year at this time.  I'm so happy that I can spend as much time as I want going to the farmers market on chilly fall mornings, canning tomatoes, sitting in front of the TV knitting, cooking savory meals, going for long runs around Lake Harriet, reading for FUN, and spending time with friends, among other things.  My past self of one year ago would be jealous that I am no longer a slave to a laptop, but I think she'd happily relieved that such nice things are in her future.  It definitely makes all the hard work I did last fall seem so much more worth it!




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Sand Cast Leaf Bird Bath

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When my friend Brooke and I were much younger, we played the game MASH a lot.  MASH stands for "Mansion, Apartment, Shack, and House," and it's basically a game where one person lists options for their "future" life, like where they'll live, who they'll be married to, what kind of house they'll live in, what kind of car they'll have etc.  For Brooke and I, this pretty much always included the number of horses we'd have too.  And then, once the list is made, the second person starts to draw a swirl on the page.  Once the first person says "Stop," the lines on the swirl are counted.  Let's say there are five lines in the swirl.  They then cross off every fifth answer in the list until there is only one answer from each category left.  The remaining items then become the story of the first person's life.

Yes, I played MASH by myself for the sake of getting a picture.
Back then, a lot of our interests were different than they are now, and we most likely would have never guessed that we'd be where we are now.  But even back then, we knew one certainty about our futures: that we'd always be friends. :)

After about 24 years of being friends, Brooke and I are still close friends.  It's been so nice having her back in Minnesota the past year, and it's so fun to have a friend to do creative/artsy things with!

Here is one of our recent adventures:

For Brooke's birthday, her husband gave her gift certificates for her and and friend to attend a class on making a sand cast bird bath.  She graciously invited me to come with her, and I gladly accepted the offer.  Having seen pictures of these online, I was really excited!  So on a Thursday evening earlier in July, we drove to Zumbrota in Southeast Minnesota where the class was held.  (We grew up in a small town nearby, it was odd to be there and not go visit our parents!)

It was a great class, and it was a lot of fun!  But of course, I was trying to get a sense of how everything was done so that I could do this again if I wanted to.  When I asked questions and heard answers like, "Well, you'll have to wait and see," and "You just have to guess," and "There is no way of telling until it's dry," I was a little frustrated.  I need to know particulars! ;)

Anyway, here are the steps we followed to create our bird baths:

First, we picked out a leaf that would be a suitable size for a bird bath.  We chose a couple of burdock leaves.  While mine was a good size, Brooke's was a bit on the large side...

The burdock leaves we chose to make our bird baths with.
Then, we shaped a mound of fine sand so that it would fit underneath the leaves.  The higher you mounded your sand, the deeper your bird bath basin would be.

Heaps of sand to shape the basin of the bird bath.
Once the sand was shaped, we put the leaf on top.

Brooke's leaf, shaped over the mound of sand.
Then, the stem of the leaf and some of the veins on the backside had to be trimmed so that the leaf would lay flat.  The instructor for the class did this for us using a box cutter.

One of the class instructors trimming the stem of the leaf.
Because the leaves aren't perfectly round, there was a gap near the stem where there wasn't enough leaf to cover the sand.  So we were provided with pieces with other leaves to tear up and use as patches.

Leaf patches over the exposed sand at the bottom part of the leaf.
Then, we mixed up some cement mix with water.

If you aren't going to need a lot of cement, a smaller container to mix the cement in will work too.
And the cement was then applied over the top of the leaves.



We had to pat the sand down A LOT and make sure that it was really packed in and that there were no cracks.  Pat it down until you think you've hit it enough.  And then pat it some more.

And then...


Me and Brooke with our lovely bird baths!
We got to relax and have a glass of wine and feel awesome that we'd done something so cool. :)

Oh yeah, and our bird baths had to sit and dry.  Because we couldn't take them home right away, my mom picked them up for us and brought them to me the following weekend.

Our bird baths were wrapped in a tarp to protect them from the elements. 
If you do this in a garage or somewhere indoors, they wouldn't need to be covered.
Once I had my bird bath at home, I was pretty excited, but there was still work to be done.

First, the dried burdock leaf was still stuck to the inside of the bird bath.  To remove it, I found that re-wetting the leaf worked the best to remove it.  I just used a paper towel to wipe the wet leaf off, but you could also use a sponge.
Water in the basin to remove the dried leaf.
Once my bird bath was dry, I used a clear, water-based concrete sealer to weather- and water-proof it.
Clear concrete sealer.
In the background are spoilers for my next blog post!
Brooke and I found this sealer at the local hardware store for about $15.  We put it in a spray bottle to make it easier to apply.  After spraying it on, we also used a paint brush to make sure that it was spread evenly.

And then, finally, it was ready to be displayed!
Post leaf removal and sealing.
My bird bath settled in the wood chips along the front walk.
I'm still pretty amazed that I was able to make something so cool!  I love it so much!!  I am sure that the Past Me who played MASH and wondered where I would end up would be more surprised by the fact that I'm a librarian living in Minneapolis (with her awesome, super smart boyfriend!) than by the fact that Brooke and I did this super fun activity together.  While there were so many uncertainties back then, there was never any doubt that we'd stay friends.



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Glass Garden Totem

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When I was a senior in high school, just before my graduation in 2002, my mom bought a gazing ball for her garden.  If you're not familiar with gazing balls, they're basically a shiny, reflective ball that sits on bird bath-like stand.  And right away, my sister and I caught on to what they really look like: bowling balls.  We didn't hesitate to let our mom know this, and even though she really didn't appreciate our comments, we were able to convince her to take this picture of us "gazing" at her gazing ball:

My sister and me in 2002 gazing at the gazing ball.
This was just before I graduated from high school.
I'd also just gotten my hair cut.  Uhh... Not my best look.
 That same year, we also bought her this amazing toad for her garden:

Trevor.  My all-time favorite garden decoration.
Very appropriately for the time, my sister and I named him Trevor, after Neville's pet toad in the Harry Potter series (still big fans!).

As such, my opinion of garden decorations was based on the few that my mom had in her garden.  While I thought Trevor was pretty cool, as you can probably surmise, I thought the gazing ball was pretty tacky.

But this year, after Mike and I did so much gardening and landscaping, I decided I needed something to accent all our flowers.  And I decided it wouldn't be so tacky if I made a decoration rather than buy one.  I'll admit still am not a huge fan of gazing balls, but  I'd been wanting to make a garden totem out of old glassware for a while, so I finally got to work and made one.

The first time I saw a garden totem was when I was living at home with my mom after graduating from college.  She had asked me to go to a garden party at a local nursery.  In their shop, there they were, the coolest looking garden decorations I'd ever seen.  After looking at them for a few minutes, I said, "I could make these."  And really, it's quite possible for anyone.  Here's how I made mine.

First, I gathered an assortment of plates and vases and old milk jars that I'd gotten from my grandma.  Then I stacked them in an arrangement that I liked.  I didn't want mine to be very tall, so I used a total of seven pieces: four plates, two vases, and one milk jar.

If you don't want rain water to collect in the top of your totem, you might want to top it off with something flat, or turn a glass or vase upside down.  I'm okay with my totem catching a bit of water, and I also wanted it to have a flower-like shape, so I placed a pretty golden vase with a ridged edge on the top.

Second, I used a clear outdoor epoxy to glue the pieces together.  You can use a level to be sure that they're straight when you're stacking them and so they aren't leaning once they're glued.

5-minute Epoxy.  Works very well, but I wouldn't say it dries within 5 minutes...
Gluing pieces together!
I actually stacked and glued two parts of it and then gluing those two bigger pieces together.

I purposely chose a larger vase as the base of my totem --read on to find out why!
I let the glue dry for a couple of days.  Not because it really needed to, just because that's the rate I was working at. :)

Then, I was ready to put my totem in the ground.  Rather than glue my totem to a metal rod, which I don't have or want to try to buy somewhere, I purposely used a large vase for the bottom portion of the totem so that it could sit over a garden stake.  The stake was about 18", and I pushed it several inches into the ground until it was in far enough that the totem would fit over it. 

Garden stake pushed into the ground.  Please be careful during this process, I admittedly hurt my hand pushing this sucker into the dirt.
I also dug out some soil around the base.  Then I set the totem on top of the stake and buried the bottom lip of the vase.  After it was stable in the ground, I pushed the wood chips back around the base.

The vase sitting on top of the stake.  The lip of the vase is buried into the ground.

Garden totem set up and ready to add some beauty to my garden!
A few weeks later, it's still standing strong!


I don't think that Past Me who thinks gazing balls are tacky would disapprove. :)  It was really a simple project and doesn't take too long either!

As I also mentioned, Mike and I have done a lot of landscaping this year.  Rather than pack a ton of photos into this post, I've put them here.

Happy Summer! :)
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Gold Crate Bookshelf

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If you happened to check out my blog at all in the past few weeks, you'd have noticed that I was going through a bit of a blog identity crisis.  I've finally decided on a new look, and I think I'm done tinkering with it. Apologies for the craziness.

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Because I read ALL the time when I was younger and then majored in creative writing in undergrad, I had amassed a considerable number of books.  So when I found a tutorial for a gold and black crate bookshelf back in 2007, I knew I had to make it.  It was so cool and different and somehow a little edgy.  Surprisingly, I was able to find the tutorial online again, seven years later!


My bookshelf, shortly after completion in 2007.
This was one of the first DIY projects I ever made.  And I pretty much followed the directions from the tutorial.  It's not that complex.

First, I bought 14 crates at Michael's and/or JoAnn Fabrics for about $9-$11 a piece.  They're not exactly cheap, and you could probably buy a cheap bookshelf for less money.  Or, if you can, buy the crates while they're on sale or see if you can find a coupon to use.  The best part is bringing a shopping cart full of crates up to the checkout line. ;)  Just kidding.  I know I made more than one trip to the store to buy the amount I needed, especially since they also wouldn't all fit in the tiny 2-door Dodge Neon I had at the time.

I purchased my spray paint at Walmart, although I can't remember what brand I bought.  I think in all, I needed at least four or five cans of gold spray paint and less than two cans of black spray paint.  

I spray painted just the sides of the crates that would show (so not the backs/bottoms) first with the gold paint.  (You could definitely spray paint after assembling the crates though, it might save you some paint.)

Once the gold paint was dry, I used Gorilla Glue (conservatively, you don't want it to leak out the sides, it has a puffy appearance) and hammered in a few nails to hold the crates together.  These days, I would probably use screws instead of nails, but back then I didn't have easy access to power tools.  Liquid Nails, as opposed to Gorilla Glue, would also be a good alternative.   

I ended up assembling two separate pieces for the bookshelf so that it would be easier to move.  One piece has 8 crates joined together, and the other piece has 6 crates joined together.  

Once the shelves were assembled, I very lightly went over the outsides of the crates with a little bit of black spray paint.  I left the insides of the crates just gold.  Although, if you look at the tutorial, she used black on the insides of her crates and applied it more liberally than I did.  I think I was worried about the crates ending up being too black, because I wanted to have more gold showing through.

The insides of the shelves are spray-painted gold, with no black.
The outside edges of the crates are lightly dusted with black spray paint.


Originally, the separate bookshelf pieces were stacked one on top of the other in my bedroom, as shown in the picture above.  The smaller 6 crate piece was on top, with fewer books so that it wouldn't be too top-heavy and tip over.  When I moved to my apartment in Minneapolis, the floor was a little more uneven, and I placed the two pieces adjacent to one another in the corner.


This was also the case in my second apartment.

Messy apartment.  I believe this was taken around the time I was packing up to move.
And is now also the case in Mike's house.

Sadly, my bookshelf is now somewhat overshadowed by the giant puzzle.
One thing to be aware of when you have the bookshelf on its side like this is that when 6 crates are joined together, three of them will only be joined to one other crate.  Since some of the crates originally vertically positioned are now horizontal, and they may need some extra support. Without it, the horizontal crates may start to bend since they are only secured to the shelf on one side.

Top arrow shows the shelf starting to sag as a result of the spaces noted by the lower two arrows.
To solve this, I simply put enough books in between the two crates to hold the top one up and prevent it from bending or sagging too much.

 


It's been a long time since I've made bookshelf, but I still remember very clearly the days that I spent making it.  I remember laughing at myself pushing a shopping cart stacked full of crates through Michael's and then laughing again as I somehow managed to shove all those crates into my tiny car.  I remember driving back to Walmart to get more spray paint and listening to The Receiving End of Sirens (still one of my favorite bands), looking up at the sun peering out from heavy rain clouds, and then painting out in the humid garage.  I felt so accomplished once my bookshelf was up and holding all my treasured books.

Past Me who made the bookshelf would be pretty impressed that seven years later it's still holding up well after moving to Minneapolis and moving around the city a couple of times.  Present Me is still pretty impressed and loving my life in Minneapolis!

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