Monday, December 15, 2014

'Tis a Gift to Be Simple

Simple gifts.

Oftentimes, it is the simple gifts I remember most.

The knitting magazine an anonymous coworker left on my desk.

The card in the mail thanking us for our hard work and dedication, letting us know we're appreciated in spite of what others may say. 

A cup of coffee on a dreary, slow Friday at work.

A helpful and encouraging friend during a major life transition. 

The plate of cookies and candle brought over by a neighbor to welcome us to the neighborhood. 

For some, this kind of simple gift giving comes naturally. For others, we have to work at it. Like me.

I love gift giving. I love going overboard, spending hours looking for that one, perfect gift. And in the process, something is lost. It can be easy to forget why we're giving the gifts, and instead focus on the gifts themselves. 

Christmas 2014 was a time for me to slow down and put the simple, hand-made, and thoughtful aspects back into my gift-giving. And you know what? I don't regret it one bit. It was relaxing and freeing. 

So this year, I'm challenging myself. To keep the mindset of simplicity in gift giving. There are lots of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays coming up I this year. May we once again find joy in the simple gifts.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Handmade Fall

Continuing in my quest to produce handmade gifts for my loved ones this fall and winter, I tried out a few new recipes this weekend. I hope others love these as much as I do!

Homemade, all-natural sugar scrubs! Two different recipes: vanilla chai and pumpkin spice. They both smell amazing, and my hands felt great after using a little bit while I filled the jars. 

This was also my first time using coconut oil. I'll admit, it intimidated me a bit, but the lady at our local health foods store was super helpful in making sure I bought the right kind for what I needed. My one little 7 ounce jar of oil was enough for both recipes! I was worried there wouldn't be enough, but it worked out perfectly. 

The vanilla chai recipe made 3 (4oz) jars of scrub, and the pumpkin spice recipe made 8 (4oz) jars. Some of these jars will be donated to the Harvest Festival at church, the rest will be given as gifts.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kitchens and Christmas Plans

This weekend I've got a case of peaches to process. Two years ago when we bought these peaches, I only froze them. This year, I'm venturing into the canning world and making some crockpot peach butter. I've got a great family recipe that calls for peach butter, so I can't wait to try this out! Andrew's especially excited for this adventure, haha!

I'm also planning on making some of this year's Christmas presents over the weekend. Every year, I strive to give as many homemade gifts as possible, for a few reasons.

One, I believe that handmade gifts are even more special than store bought gifts. There is thought, planning, time, energy, and love that goes into handmade gifts. In a way, I think they're more expensive than even the most sought after gifts of the commercial season.

Two, I love using my gifts and talents to let others know I'm thinking about them. Sentimentality is a huge deal to me, even if it may not be to all the recipients.

Three, there's something so nice about seeing all my visions, plans, and hard work turn into something tangible and useful. I'm all about the useful Christmas gifts!

Can't wait to see how successful these items are! Should be a fun and busy weekend!

Friday, August 1, 2014

versatile patriotic bunting

About a week ago, I posted this photo on my facebook page:

Well, those 80 some triangles were trimmed with pinking shears and exposed to spray starch for durability.

Hung on twine, they got lots of compliments at our Red, White, and BOOM! Summer Celebration at work (because, you know.... we can't have birthday parties anymore).. I forgot to take a picture of them hanging at the party, but they're now decorating my cubicle at work. I love it when things are festive and colorful!

And 80? That was waaaaaayyy too many for what I needed. Only a couple dozen were hung on the wall and a few more decorated the table under the cupcakes. (I even left about 20 un-starched.) But the best part? Because they're not sewn and just threaded onto the twine instead (I had good intentions to sew them up... I just ran out of time during the Weekend of All the Events), I can use them for lots of other holidays. Wouldn't those red and white polka dot ones be so adorable for Valentine's Day?

What crafty projects have you been working on this summer? Are you breaking out of your crafting comfort zones?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

birthday cake

buttermilk pound cake with cherries and a powdered sugar glaze. sometimes the simple, non-traditional birthday cakes are the best.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Caffeinated Sheep: Etsy Update and SALE!

Take a few minutes to browse all the new stitch marker varieties I've listed in my Etsy shop. Everything is 10% off until July 28 in honor of my birthday!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

summer bounty

all from generous friends who shared the abundance of their summer gardens. yes, that is a sink full of green beans. good thing andrew likes green bean casserole!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I'm sensing a theme here...

Apparently this blog has become a catalog of craft projects, at least for now... I'm ok with that! It helps keep me accountable, and gives me that extra push I need to work on projects after work in the evenings (honestly, I'd rather sit on the couch and do nothing sometimes. Good thing knitting is portable!).

First up, another soap sack, by request. This yarn isn't my favorite to knit with, but it works great for the finished product!
Pattern: His 'n' Hers Shower Soap Holders by Cathy Carron
Yarn: Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Cotton Hemp, Picnic Green colorway
Ravelry project page here

An adorable little hat. The construction was really unique, using short rows to knit it flat instead of in the round:
Pattern: Poppy by Justine Turner
Yarn: CEY's Liberty Wool Light, in the Sonic Lavender colorway
Ravelry project page here

Then there's another Honey Cowl, this time for my dear friend Sarah. She lives in Chicago and needs something to keep her warm during the winter. This ├╝ber squishy, wool cowl should do the trick! I love the color she picked out... it's got autumn written all over it.

Pattern: Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Tonal, in the Harvest Tonal colorway (2 hanks)
Ravelry project page here
I had a bit of leftover yarn from Sarah's cowl, so I made these Honey Cowl-inspired coffee cozies. They were super quick to knit up, I got them done in the car on our epic Chicago weekend adventure. I personally prefer the ones with the ribbed edge, instead of the rolled one.
Pattern: Honey Coffee Cozies (mine, based on Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland)
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Tonal, Harvest Tonal colorway
Ravelry project page here

In my never-ending quest to use up the stash (hey, I think it's working!!), I dug out some cotton I've had for a few years. This color reminded me of Valentine's Day, and I wanted to make something sweet with it. Trusty dishcloths are always near-instant gratification projects, but I needed a bit of a challenge. I found this round dishcloth pattern and absolutely love the way it's striping! (And scones. YUM.)
Pattern: Round Dishcloth by Amy Carpenter
Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream in the Damask Ombre colorway
Ravelry project page here

Noticing a pattern here?? That fabric (along with a few others) became these over the weekend. Love both of them, apparently I'm in the mood for green and polka dots:
Pattern : (No Guts!) Boxie Pouch
SoChick! Handbags & Embroidery {Melissa Strong} (looks like she took down the link to the pattern. sorry, folks.)

More crafting in the works... no surprises there!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pleated Clutch in an Evening

I pinned this project over a year ago, and tonight I figured it was time to try it out! This pleated clutch is simple and fairly quick to sew in an evening. It only took me about 2.5 hours, but that included ironing the fabric, cutting it out, mods, and a separate load of laundry. Less than two fat quarters and a 7" zipper later...

It turned out bigger than I expected, next time I think I would make it just a bit smaller. It could function as its own purse at this rate, but it is perfect for corralling items you don't want floating around your purse, like makeup or medications.

- I added interfacing to the outer fabric for stability. This worked out great, until I wrinkled my fabric while ironing it onto the interfacing. Ooooops.
- I also did some top stitching along the zipper to help it the layers lie flat. In retrospect, this may be why it's pulling and curving a bit at the top, but it looks more finished.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

taking stock

Making : cowls, scarves, and hats.
Drinking : water. lots and lots of water. it's summer.
Reading : blogs. knitting patterns. my to-read list.
Wanting : johnnie's italian beef. soon.
Looking : forward to vacation. 
Playing : with fiber. and board games with friends.
Deciding : what to wear to work tomorrow.
Wishing : there were more hours in the day to craft.
Enjoying : spending time with my husband. we're less busy these days, and it's lovely.
Waiting : for season 3 of call the midwife on netflix. hurry up, already!
Liking : pinterest, etsy, and craft blogs. my muses.
Loving : my husband. my friends. my family.
Pondering : my options.
Watching : burn notice. yum.
Needing : girlfriend time. 
Smelling : yankee candle's under the palms
Wearing : lots of purple lately.
Feeling : loved.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Banners Galore

Lots of banners around here lately... different kinds, but all turned out really well if I do say so myself!

A bunting banner made out of old books to welcome a new coworker:

And this set of banners for our six confirmands this year. Because there were so many this year, I chose one design for all of them. During the banner making party, we talked about the symbolism behind the design. Each confirmand was responsible for putting their own banner together. They did such a great job!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

one fish, two fish...

A few months ago, we had a baby shower for my friend. Her nursery theme is Dr. Seuss.

From this fabric:

 To this adorable burp cloth set:

Custom-made burp cloths in a wide variety of designs are available for purchase on Etsy from The Caffeinated Sheep. Just send me a message and I'll set up a reserved listing for you.

Set of 3 for $12; Set of 5 for $20; Set of 9 for $30.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remembering Blessings

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. -- Job 8:21 (NIV)

On my desk at work is one of those verse-a-day calendars that you can reuse from year to year. I bought it when I started working because I wanted to have something to help re-center my thoughts and meditate on throughout the day, especially working in a secular environment. Up until a few years ago, working in Christian businesses was all I knew, and this transition into secular employment has been both exciting and challenging.

The past two and a half years haven't been the easiest transition for me. Struggling to fit in and find my place in a new town and congregation has been very challenging, and not without tears of frustration many times. Moving to a community that, for the most part, has a very small-town, closed community mindset often leaves me feeling like I'm on the outside looking in. Of the friends I've been blessed with here, most of them are transplants themselves, which provides a great community of shared experiences and companionship. I cherish each and every friendship, and the richness they bring to my own life.

We aren't promised days, months, or years without struggles and heartbreak. Yet God promises to work all things for good (Romans 8:28) for those who trust in Him. What comfort this provides during seasons where everything seems upside down and "normal" is no longer peaceful.

In spite of all these stresses and frustrations (sometimes on a daily basis), we are blessed. This verse from Job reminds me that in the midst of all the stress, frustration, worry, heartbreak, and yes, even hopelessness, the Lord still fills our mouths with laughter, still blesses us daily and provides reasons to shout for joy. They may not be blessings we see immediately; we may not even realize them for years to come. But still our Lord daily and richly cares for us, providing everything we need to support this body and life.

Sing praise to God, the highest good,
The author of creation,
The God of love who understood
Our need for His salvation.
With healing balm our souls He fills
And ev'ry faithless murmur stills: 
To God all praise and glory!
(LSB 819:1)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

midweek crafting update

The sock is coming along nicely. I've turned the heel and am now working the gusset. Knitting socks is not nearly as intimidating or challenging as I previously thought, although it does take some time. I'm glad I've challenged myself to try something new, though.

Slowly but surely I'm getting myself out of the creative rut known as Deep Winter. I've been buying quite a bit of fabric (much to my husband's chagrin), and making plans for a quilt in addition to working on the Boxy Bags. Now, this quilt will take a while. It's a baby quilt for a friend who is not yet expecting, but I've got the perfect idea for it, so I obviously need to plan it out NOW. I've got a few other baby-related projects for a different friend in the works, too.

My darling niece turns one in just a few short weeks. {insert typical comment about how time flies here} She's so adorable, and living so far away is hard. Thank goodness for photos! I've got some exciting things ready for her birthday package, just need to get them all wrapped up and put in the mail. I hope she enjoys them, although I'm sure she'll enjoy the wrapping paper more at this point. :)

Meanwhile, I've added some adorable little girl headbands to my Etsy shop, The Caffeinated Sheep. Check them out! Also available in black/white, purple/black, and brown/white (with a blue headband!).

Monday, February 17, 2014

an adventure in sock knitting

Our knitting group is doing a sock knit-a-long during February. We're having lots of fun with this adventure, and are excited to see how they all turn out. From a knitting perspective, socks have intimidated me for a long time, but they're not as challenging as I thought! Tonight I got through turning the heel. We'll see if I'm feeling adventurous enough to conquer the gusset this week, or if I'll just wait until next week's gathering.

In other (non-shocking) news, I am so done with winter and ready for spring. The weather today was sunny and in the 40s... it was glorious. I almost didn't need a coat when I left knit night. They're predicting 60s later this week... yippee!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A New Year, and Some New Goals...

Hard to believe January is almost over. Every year I always seem optimistic that things will magically become new, and we can start over with a clean slate on January 1. Problems, stresses, issues, and drama from 2013 will magically disappear when the clock strikes midnight, right?? Oh, how I wish this was true!

I am, and always have been, a very emotional person. I rejoice with others, I mourn with them. When life throws my friends challenges, I empathize and sympathize with them. I pray for them.

But I'm not always such a great friend to myself. And that's a pretty hard truth to swallow. I would rather blame myself for what goes wrong, and beat myself up about it. I always have. Not an easy habit to break, is it?

2013 was a year full of new beginnings, challenges, leaps of faith, disappointments, and intense stress. Trust me when I say I'm not sorry to leave it behind.

Yet 2014 has started out with its fair share of problems. Lingering drama and stress from the previous year has carried over, health issues have manifested (no doubt in part from the lingering drama and stress), and I'm not sure how much longer I can tread water like this.

Let's be realistic. There is no such thing as a perfect year. I may not have a "good" year this year, but that doesn't mean I can't try. Now, I'm not one to normally make New Years Resolutions. But in light of how much the drama and stress has begun to affect me in negative ways, I'm making a few goals this year. Fairly open-ended and broad, I'm not going to tell myself I have to reach them in any specific way. They're just things I'm going to focus on and keep in mind as we take the bull by the horns.

- Destress (Kind of speaks for itself, don't you think?)
- Declutter (living in a tiny apartment means clutter is a constant. ugh)
- Organize (this goes along with decluttering. whether it's re-organizing my kitchen cabinets or a new method for filing paperwork, little things count.)
- Focus on the positives (THIS. Perhaps it's the hardest for me to do, especially when things are very stressful and uncertain. How often do the negatives waaay overshadow the positives? Looking for the positives is so important.)

This year, I also want to challenge myself outside my comfort zone a little more. I've got a few ideas already, and I'm currently pursuing some of them.

Of course, I'm sure crafting will play a significant role in many of these goals, and potentially contribute to the roots of their problems (craft rooms, or lack thereof, can get so disorganized, can't they?). Here's to a better, healthier, new year!