Monday, January 26, 2015

DIY Yarn Balls - Win

I have a lot of yarn. A lot! Well, maybe not a lot to some knitters and crocheters, but for me it's a lot. For Christmas my husband bought me this awesome yarn bag that's big enough for all my yarn AND my projects. Plus it's nice looking too!

So with all my projects over the last few months, I had a lot of remnant yarn sitting around making a mess. So I went to Pinterest and found a way to solve my yarn mess problem.

DIY Yarn Balls!

The method is simple. It suggests using a paper towel roll tube, placing about 6 inches of yarn into the tube, and wrap the yarn around the tube. Now the first time I tried this I did use a paper towel tube and after one yarn ball it was all crushed. Not sure if it was me and I was wrapping to tightly, but it pretty much made it unusable. However, I had conveniently finished a roll of aluminum foil, which has a much smaller but also much stronger tube. That is now my yarn ball tube. I've used it many times and it's still holding up. It's nice too because if you have only a small amount of yarn you can make a tiny yarn ball. So if you're looking to reuse your yarn ball tube, look into something stronger like one from a roll of aluminum foil. Paper towel rolls are great, but you might only get one or two uses out of them. I keep mine in my bag with all my yarn. I did say it was a big bag!

This works up really fast. You can do a large amount of yarn in under 30 minutes. Unless, like me, you have a bunch of yarn at the bottom of your bag that looks like you tried to do cats cradle while on LSD. Then it'll take a couple hours. But it's the perfect mindless activity while watching TV if you're not actually up to crocheting or knitting.

Below is the results of a few nights of work, doing one to two balls a night. As you can see some are large and some are quite small.
To use the ball, you just pull the string from the middle and start away! I've used the some of the yarn I've balled up and it comes out smoothly as you work away on your project. A definite DIY winner here!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Keeping Fruit Fresh - The Vinegar Soak Method - Win!

I love fruit, but I hate fruit. 
I love the freshness, but hate the not-so-freshness after a couple of days. Like fuzzy bits on my 3 day old blueberries, or mushy spots on my strawberries.


I found this idea a while ago, but never put it to practice. I've decided 2015 will be a me year. No more kids, time for me to get my health on track. And the Hubby is on board, I even have a contract :D So that means my fridge is stuffed full of fresh fruits and veggies.
Veggies aren't so much of a problem. We're big salad eaters and most of the vegetables we buy are hardy enough to last out the week or even more. Fruit, not so much. By the time I get to it it's gone bad. So here I am trying to salvage my berries. There are a few different versions of this vinegar soak, varying on amount of vinegar and time to soak. I won't post links, since I honestly looked at a few to get the general idea then just winged it.

Day One - Friday
Blueberries and Strawberries - Day One Date of Purchase
Purchased one container of strawberries and one of blueberries, all of which were in good condition when I got them home. No fuzzy or soft spots. I check my containers religiously before I buy them, because I HATE seeing fuzzy fruit in the store. Yuck. If you find any - pitch the fuzzy offenders in the garbage.
I proceeded to do a soak using 10 cups water and 1 cup white vinegar for 10 minutes. If you're doing a larger amount use more water/vinegar, but the 10:1 ratio seems to work. I left the berries on a paper towel for a good couple hours to make sure they were dry. Moisture is not your friend, so spread them out so the berries don't touch and they can dry completely. I did not rinse them after the vinegar soak.

Day Four - Monday

Day Four
So I'm totally a convert already. We only have a few berries left and they are still in perfect condition, as you can see. No fuzzy or soft spots, still taste great. No vinegar flavour after the soak, even without rinsing. I've even had to set aside a few berries that we are not allowed to eat to see how long we can go, but so far, this is a definite winner!

Day Seven - Thursday

Day Seven
Only on day seven the fruit started to look a little peaked. The strawberries (the two that remained) were looking a little dried out and there were two blueberries with fuzz on them. But both tasted fine and made it a whole week compared to just a couple days.

A note on the soaks. On day five of my Berry Soak Experiment I went out and bought another container of strawberries and blueberries and set them to soak in the vinegar solution. And since I'm a busy mom of two, I completely forgot about them. Oops! So instead of 10 minutes they sat in the soak for over and hour. However they seem to have had no ill effects and have no bad smell or taste.
And after a few days the 'extended soak', the berries seem to be fairing well. So length of soak does not seem to harm the berries, but learn from my mistakes and set a timer.

Final opinion?
Total winner. Especially in a time of year where berries are out of season, and therefore expensive and arrive at the store not-so-fresh, taking 10 minutes to soak your berries is a definite food and money saver. There is no vinegar flavour at all left over from the soak. This one extra step in you weekly food prep can be a huge saver!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas Crochet Extravaganza - Wins and Fails

As noted last year, I try to do Christmas on the cheap. Buying for so many people can add up. Since I'm a novice / intermediate crocheter, I decided to make as many presents as I could.

#1 - 6 Hr Afghan

A very simple project using bulky/super bulky yarn and a Q hook. Make the blanket as large or small as you like. Using a V stitch makes it a very open blanket, so be aware of pulls and snags. Add tassels if you like. Did NOT take me 6 hrs, more like 2 weeks, but that was with multiple projects on the go and only a few hours in the evening to crochet. If I had 6 hrs of straight free time to do anything, I probably could have finished it in the allotted time. The colour I used was called Peacock (as seen above, it's the blanket at the bottom of the pile), and the blanket when finished covered me from stomach to toes. I'll definitely use this pattern from Ravelry again. 

#2 - Cow Hat


My dear little nephew loves cows. LOVES COWS. So what did his Auntie make him for Christmas? A cow hat. The pattern from Repeat Crafter Me is really cute and easy to follow. I only had trouble with the cow spots, and no matter how many times I tried they looked weird. So I just made something up - little stitch, big, big, little, big, on and on till it looked like a wonky cow spot. I'll definitely use this hat pattern again, and I used it a lot this year, especially since the poster has adjustments for infant to adult sizes.

#3 - Car seat blanket and matching hat

So I'm getting another nephew in January! Excited Auntie right here! So the new addition gets a present too. The blanket was a combination of two patterns/methods. I used the three-strand single-crochet method for the blanket, and left 2 large gaps to accommodate the carseat straps. This way the straps stay right against baby, but baby remains warm. I got the idea for the pattern from here, but I pretty much winged it.
For the hat I used the Cow Hat pattern again, and added a pompom at the end.

#4 - Tiny TARDIS Ornament


The Hubby is a Whovian. Let's just get that out there. And since I couldn't work on some of the gifts in his presence, I got bored in the evenings and decided to make him a TARDIS. Yes, he knew about it but he loves it. Even though our Christmas stuff is all packed away, the TARDIS still sits on the shelf. 
This was my first 3D project and it turned out ok. Not very square, but I think that is just the pattern. I added on the Snowy Top as well, and used felt and black thread for the windows. It was a bit fiddly making something so small, but for a starter project I think it turned out fine! Pattern from Ravelry

#5  - Jayne Cobb Hat x 2

Win and Fail for this one

My Hubby and I are huge Joss Whedon fans. You know that guy who directed The Avengers movie? Him. But we liked him way before the movie came out. Jayne Cobb is a character from one of his shows Firefly. And this hat is from that show. Look it up. It's awesome.
Years ago I remember my Hubby saying he'd love a Jayne hat one day. So this year I decided to make him one. And just for kicks, make one for my son too. Both hats are pictured above, they are the orange and yellow ones.

For the hat for my son I again used the Cow Hat pattern. See? It's my new fave. It worked great, except I made it too small. But that's my own fault since I underestimated the size of my kid's giant head. Seriously, he's 4 and has the head size of a small adult. 
For my Hubby I used this pattern from Crafting Adventures. Now my husband is the only one in my family with a normal head size. The rest of us are blessed with huge heads. And I will fully admit that since I'm a relatively novice crocheter, one of my huge failings is figuring out gage. But I followed the pattern exactly and the hat is TOO SMALL! How disappointed do you think I was to find that on Christmas morning the hat didn't fit! 
So I have to order more yarn and make both hats bigger. So be cautioned and check measurements before diving into this pattern. Other than the size issue, it turned out great. 

I have a lot more crochet projects on the go. Most patterns I don't have an issue with but if I find a really good one I'll post it here.

Have fun!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Quest for the Perfect Soft Boiled Egg - Volume Two

Success! We have success!
After my failed breakfast I was both hesitant and excited to try this again. I found another pin from Pinterest on Soft Boiled Eggs, this one a little different but seemed to produce solid soft results.

And the outcome? 

Perfect soft boiled eggs! Whites were nice and firm, yolks still runny but cooked. Perfect for dipping, or what ever other tasty creations you have for your soft boiled eggs. 

I've tried this recipe a couple times to ensure no-fail status and I am pleased to say the total of 8 eggs I made turned out the same (except for the lone one that exploded).

This is a definite winner for those who have trouble with the perfect soft boiled egg!