Monthly Archives: November 2012

10 Things Every Whale Lover Must Have

On November 14, 1851, Moby Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, was published by Harper & Brothers in New York. Although Moby Dick is now considered to be one of the greatest classics in American literature, when it initially made its debut, Moby Dick was a wet flop.

First published in London in October of 1851, the story of Moby Dick was told in a 3 volume set titled The Whale. Although he had enjoyed success with his previous adventure style novels, Melville’s first tragic epic tale didn’t impress readers.

As is the case with many literary successes, Moby Dick was rediscovered in the 1940’s, and has since become a staple on school reading lists all over the country.

Relived in a variety of mediums, including books, movies, TV shows, and songs, the tale of the White Whale remains a haunting one to literary fans the world over. Fans of Moby Dick might also want to check out In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, a true account of a whaling ship that succumbed to the evil plotting of one peeved off whale. Many believe this was the story that motivated Melville to compose Moby Dick.

To celebrate the 161st anniversary of this epic survival story, here are a collection of some of my favorite whale-themed projects, photos, and yes, even cupcakes!

  1. What Lies Below from Lisel Jane Ashlock
  2. Whale of a Project from Full Plate Living
  3. Spouts the Baby Whale Earrings from marmar
  4. Fabric Whale from Heartmade
  5. Wooden Whale Plaques from By the Sea Decor
  6. Handpainted Fabric Gift Wrap from The Hot Glue Hangover
  7. Whale of a Cupcake from Dozen Flours
  8. Wool Whale from Kaboodle (Crate and Barrel)
  9. Man and Whale from National Geographic
  10. Spotty Whale from kirstyelson

Main image courtesy of Terry Fan

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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Crocheted Owl Hat

I love owls.  I also love things with abnormally large eyes.  Therefore this crochet hat pattern is maybe the best thing of my life.

As I watched Barack Obama win the election a few days ago (yay!), I took all my nervousness out on this adorable, yet ridiculous, owl hat.  If there’s not an election going on and you find yourself crafting in a stress-free environment, this hat can easily be worked up in a weekend.

I also have no shame in saying that this was originally a child’s hat…a newborn’s hat to be more specific…but I’m proud to wear the adult version for the rest of the winter!  If you’d like to make a pattern for a baby or toddler, you can find alternate sizes at http://www.crazysockscrochet.com.

 Crazy Crochet Owl Hat

Supplies:

  • Worsted weight yarn in 5 different colors (CA for top stripe, CB for bottom stripe, CC for eye color, white for eyes, and orange for beak)
  • 5mm (US H-8) and 5.5mm (US I-9) crochet hooks
  • Yarn needle
  • Stitch markers
  • Buttons (optional)

Gauge: 14 sc and 15 rows = 4” (10 cm) with larger hook

This pattern is for an adult. Visit http://www.crazysockscrochet.com for more sizes.
Directions:

Hat

  1. With CA and larger hook, ch 33
  2. Round 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch across, turn and continue sc in each st on other side of starting chain, do not join. Place marker to denote beginning of round and move marker as you complete the following rounds. 64 sc.
  3. Rounds 2-15: Work even in sc. 64 sc.
  4. Change to CB.
  5. Rounds 16-29: With CB, work in even sc. At the end of the last round, sl st in next st to join.
  6. Fasten off.

Earflaps

  1. Lay hat flat in front of you. Count 3 stitches in from each side and mark them.
  2. Count 12 stitches toward back of hat, from each marker, and mark again. You have just marked the spaces where earflaps will go.
  3. With larger hook and CB, join yarn with sc at the right front stitch marker.
  4. Row 1: Sc across to 2nd stitch marker.
  5. Row 2: Ch 1, turn. Sk first sc, sc in each sc across.
  6. Repeat row 2 until 1 stitch remains. Fasten off.
  7. Make 2nd earflap in the same manner as the first.

Edging

  1. Join CA on back of hat and sc evenly around edge and earflaps, working 2 sc at the tip of each earflap. Join, fasten off, and weave in ends.

Braids

  1. Cut 12 long lengths of yarn per side. Thread them through the tip of earflap. Braid and knot the ends.

Beak

  1. With smaller hook and orange yarn, ch 7.
  2. Row 1: Sc in 2nd chain from hook and each st across. Ch 1, turn (6 sc)
  3. Row 2: Sk first sc, sc in each sc across. Ch 1, turn (5 sc)
  4. Rows 3-5: Rep row 2, decreasing by 1 sc each row.
  5. Row 6: Sk first sc, sc in last sc.
  6. Row 7: Ch 1, sc continuously around edges of triangle, working (sc, ch 1, sc) in the top 2 corners. Sl st into first st at the tip of beak.
  7. Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing. Sew beak in place.

Eyes (make 2)

  1. With larger hook and white yarn, make adjustable ring (or ch 4, join to create ring).
  2. Round 1: Ch 2, 12 dc into ring. Join by inserting hook into first dc and drawing a lp of CC through.
  3. Round 2: With CC, ch 2, 2 dc in each dc around, join. (24 dc)
  4. Round 3: Ch 1, sc in each dc around.
  5. Join and fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing. Sew eyes in place. Sew buttons (optional) to center of eyes.

Top Tufts

  1. Cut a 6-8” length of each of the colors of yarn used. Insert hook through top corner of hat and pull up loop. Draw ends of yarn through the loops you pulled up and pull yarn tightly into a slip knot. Repeat for other corner. Trim ends evenly.

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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Big, Blonde, and Beautiful!

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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Cheese Tortellini Soup with Chicken and Kale

In my apartment, Sunday means 1 thing…sports.  More specifically, Bears.  My boyfriend is a huge sports fan and Sunday is his day to watch men pummel and pound each other while enjoying the simple thrill of throwing a ball around 😉

I kid, but I know how important sports are to him…and to the general population of Chicago.  I grew up in a household where Sunday was football day and we’d all gather around the TV with a bowl of hot chili or soup.  I cherish those memories so much that I often crave chili or soup every Sunday afternoon.

This is my favorite go-to soup recipe.  It’s hearty, but light…filled with veggies and garlic.  Like many soups, you can add or omit to your taste, but I highly suggest you try this soup as is.  It’s delicious and nutritious, and perfect for an afternoon of football.

This recipe originally calls for spinach rather than kale, but I love kale so much in this soup!  It goes perfectly with all the other flavors.  If you’d rather add spinach, add it right before serving…as you don’t want it to wilt too much.  The kale has a similar taste, but holds up better to the heat (meaning temperature) of the soup.  And if you’d rather use meat tortellini, go right ahead!  Try adding Italian sausage instead of chicken and using meat tortellini rather than cheese.  This is a great soup for mixing and matching…so be creative and have fun!  Oh, and GO BEARS!

Cheese Tortellini Soup with Chicken and Kale

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breast fillets (or 2 full chicken breasts)
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 14-oz cans of chicken broth
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bunch kale
  • Water
  • 2 medium carrots, cut up into matchsticks
  • 12-19 oz cheese filled tortellini

Directions:

  1.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, if desired.  Cut into bite sized pieces.
  2. Cook chicken in oil in soup pot.  When chicken has slightly browned, add garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in broth and add equal parts water (if you add 2 cans broth, fill both cans with water and add that as well).  Bring to a simmer, then add mushrooms and carrots.
  4. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes.  Add tortellini and let simmer 5-6 minutes.  Reduce heat and add kale.  Let cook 2 minutes.  Serve.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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9 Inspirational Quotes from Abraham Lincoln

I’m totally geeking out right now.

Every kid can remember their first celebrity obsession. Leonardio DiCaprio, JTT, the crew of NSYNC or The Backstreet Boys might ring a bell…or maybe it was Madonna, Topanga Lawerence, or J-Lo (pre American Idol, of course).

For me, it was Abraham Lincoln.

Well, I should say it was Bug Hall (remember that little guy who played Alfalfa in the Little Rascals movie? He was also in The Big Green and a few other movies that went straight to DVD). I would have to say that he was my first “crush”.

In 1995, Bug Hall starred in a made for TV movie called Tad. It also starred Kris Kristofferson as Abe Lincoln and Jean Louisa Kelly, among a slew of other has beens. The film was about Lincoln’s relationships with his sons, one of which died during his presidency. I didn’t know anything about Lincoln before watching this film, but afterwards, my life changed completely.

I would have to say that Tad was the reason I became so obsessed with Abe Lincoln. It was also the reason I took up playing trumpet in 4th grade (my goal was to eventually play “Hail to the Cheif” when I inevitably met the President). Ever since I have been mystified by this man of so few words.

I read several books, saw tons of documentaries and even traveled to Springfield to see his place of birth. I was such a nerd that I even dressed up as Lincoln for Halloween…twice. I had a board game of Lincoln trivia and even turned my 3rd grade final project into an illustrated mini biography of good ol’ honest Abe.

As the years have gone on, I’ve still loved learning about Abe Lincoln…and as luck would have it, Steven Speilberg’s movie, Lincoln, just happens to come out on my birthday! It’s fate.

So to help celebrate and honor our 16th President, here’s a selection of some of his most beloved quotes.

1. Courtesy of Life Change Quotes
2. Courtesy of All Proud Americans
3. Courtesy of mlquotes.com
4. Courtesy of Little Loveables
5. Courtesy of KushandWizdom
6. Courtesy of Natural Curiosities
7. Courtesy of KushandWizdom
8. Courtesy of NKFU
9. Courtesy of Quote Coyote

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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How to Decorate an Old Tin Can

I’m all about reusing and recycling.  I love thinking of new ways to use old materials and using things like jars and cans to better organize my crazy life.

If you ask me, an aluminum can is just too valuable to toss into recycling.  There are about a billion ways that you can use it to organize everything from your craft room to your bathroom.  For this project, I used an aluminum can to make a nifty container for all my crochet hooks and knitting needles.  I also attached a piece of elastic band around the can to hold smaller items, like tapestry needles.

This is an easy project that anyone can do!  You could even gather a group of cans together to create one heck of a desk organizer.

Needle and Crochet Hook Can

Materials:

  • 1 aluminum can, washed with label removed
  • White paint, or paint color of choice
  • Mod Podge
  • Elastic band
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Large paper embellishment or embellishment of choice

Directions:

  1. Paint your can the color of your choice. Once paint is dry, cover with 1 layer of Mod Podge. Let dry overnight.
  2. Add a dab of hot glue on the back of the can and secure one end of the elastic band. Wrap the band around the can and secure the other end with hot glue over the previous end. Pull band a little tight when you wrap it around so the needles will stay secure against the can.
  3. Embellish with a paper flower or embellishment of your choice. Fill with your crochet hooks and knitting needles and you’re good to go!

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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Sticking to the Path

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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Easy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

There’s nothing better than the smell of freshly baked cookies on a blustery Saturday afternoon.  This past Saturday was perfect for staying inside, cozying up with some thick socks and baking a batch of warm, delicious oatmeal cookies.

So, as a slew of Modern Family episodes played in the background, I decided to browse through the ingredients I had in the apartment to see what I could whip up without having to leave my warm, cozy apartment.

I came upon a bag of coconut palm sugar, which is similar to brown sugar, but it’s made with coconuts.  You can use it as a brown sugar replacement, and is delicious in tropical desserts, like pineapple upside down cake.  It was the only form of brown sugar I had in the house, so I decided to use that to make my oatmeal cookies.

This recipe for oatmeal cookies is not specifically designed for coconut palm sugar, so if you have light or dark brown sugar, you can use that.  In fact, I would recommend it.  While I do love the coconut sugar, it doesn’t have that dark, molasses taste I love about regular brown sugar and, as a result, my cookies ended up being a tad bit bland…but they still satisfied the craving!

These delicious morsels cook up to be thick and soft, almost like cake cookies.  Don’t like oats?  Omit them for a delicious spiced cookie that would go great with chi tea.  This is a wonderful recipe that’s perfect for those who like to experiment with flavors.  Add some ginger or chi spice to the batter and drizzle them with a sweet lemon glaze when they’re done.  Ohh, the wheels are turning now…

Easy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar (or packed brown sugar)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins

Directions:

  1.  In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.  Add flour and mix until combined.  Stir in oats and raisins.
  3. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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The Forgotten Garden Book Review

I am a sucker for a good fairy tale.  The words of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm speckle my childhood and influence me even today.  I believe it was Friedrich Schiller who said, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life”, and I couldn’t agree more.

So when one of my dearest friends recommended I read The Forgotten Garden, I was intrigued.  She described it as “a fairy tale for adults” and said that once I started reading it, it’s near impossible to put down.  As is the case with most BFF’s, she was absolutely right.

I read through the first 100 pages without even blinking an eye.  I was instantly connected to the characters, the story, the magic of this tale of self-discovery and awakening.  The Forgotten Garden tugged at all of my emotions, telling three very different tales about three very different women who are all connected in one unbelievable way.

The book begins when a tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913.  She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book…a beautiful volume of fairy tales.  She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own.  On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity.

Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family.  But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled.

The Forgotten Garden is a spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery that will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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10 Clever Uses for an Exercise Ball

I bought an exercise ball a few years ago so I had something more comfortable to sit on at work. Those crappy Office Max chairs are comfy for about a week, but when you’re sitting on them all day for 8 hours, you begin to slouch, your posture falls apart, and they seem to lose all back support. However I love sitting on exercise balls. They’re great for stability and they’re an awesome addition to your home gym.

Since I have about zero creativity when it comes to working out (I like a routine), I spent a good few months looking around and trying out exercises using the exercise ball. Most of them are super simple and can be done with just the ball alone.

I found my exercise ball at Target for about $15. They come in a variety of sizes, each suited for people of different heights. Most boxes contain a chart to tell you what size exercise ball you need, or you can look online for helpful tips in shopping for an exercise ball.

The exercise ball is great for working all parts of your body…plus they’re a blast to work with!

  • Place the exercise ball between your lower back and a wall. Use it as support when you do your wall sits.
  • Lay flat on the floor and place the exercise ball between your feet. Keeping your stomach and lower back on the ground (it’ll feel like you’re sucking in your belly button), lift the ball up into the air while keeping your legs as straight as you can. Then lower back down. Do 3 sets of 8 reps for a killer ab workout.
  • If you want to work more of your core, do the above exercise but instead of lowering your legs, bring the ball up into the air and grab hold of it with your arms. Lower the ball back behind your head while lowering your legs at the same time. Bring the ball up with your arms and grab hold of it with your ankles, then lower your arms and legs at the same time. So basically you’re moving the ball back and forth between your hands and feet. This is a great ab workout, but be sure to keep your lower back on the ground because you could hurt yourself if you’re not careful.
  • You could also use the exercise ball as a bench for doing your arm weight training. Lay on the ball and roll forward until the ball is directly under your shoulders. Try to keep yourself flat like a table while doing a weight press or butterfly curl.
  • Work your triceps by sitting on the floor and lifting and lowering the ball behind your head.
  • Squats are some of the best butt exercises you can do, but we all know how strenuous and annoying they can be…but the exercise ball can help! If you need a little support, place the ball behind you as you do your squats. If you’re a beginner, try sitting on the ball lightly and then standing up. Do 8-10 reps and you’ll feel the burn in the morning!
  • To help with your balance and stability, you can also simply sit on the ball when you work or watch TV. Some offices allow you to have ball chairs, which are great for improving your posture. Any exercise ball will work for these chairs, all you need is the base that allows you to keep the ball steady as you sit. The base also has wheels, so you can easily move around your desk.
  • Here’s another killer ab workout. Lay on your stomach on the ball. Roll out until your feet are on the ball. Keeping your arms as steady as you can, bring your knees up towards your chest, then roll back out. Slow and steady wins the race on this workout.
  • To take your pushups to the next level, lay on your stomach on the ball and roll out until only your feet rest on the ball. Do as many pushups as you can handle.

Bonus!

Here’s a great way to use an exercise ball that has nothing to do with exercise!

With a ball, some string, some Mod Podge (or spray adhesive), and plastic wrap, you can create a beautiful hanging light fixture for a fraction of what it would cost to buy one.

I found this photo tutorial on Pinterest, although the link does not go to the original blog.  If you are the creator of this project, please send me your original link and I’ll be sure to credit you for this fantastic idea!

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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