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Hoist By My Own Petard

Rings for a basic amamani puzzle ball

I’ve been searching for things to make to stock my Etsy store, small things that work up quickly while I’m still creating larger items, so that I have an inventory ready to go. And I decided to give a look-see at one of my affiliate ads, the one for amamani puzzle balls. These things are adorable!!! So I ordered the pattern book. Yup, snagged by my own ad, thus the title of this post. But I couldn’t help it.

I found a free pattern for the basic ball on the author’s blog, Look What I Made, and gave it a shot. The crochet part is fairly easy, especially if you’re familiar with making amigurumi figures. Assembling and stuffing it was a little bit more difficult, but not enough to put anyone really off the idea. It took me two days to create the ball, pretty much non-stop crocheting. And for my first effort, I think it came out pretty well. There were a couple of mistakes that I found after the whole project was done and assembled, but overall I like it and enjoyed making it, and the time frame is pretty much in line with what it takes me to make spa cloths, so not bad at all.

This particular ball is going to my friend’s son, who is two. I figure that’s a good age for this type of puzzle, so we’ll see if he likes it. I’ve already started another tester ball for another two-year-old boy. Yes, I enjoyed making it that much. Amigurumi patterns challenge me and keep my brain engaged, but not so much of a challenge that they make me want to give up, which is key for me. I occasionally run across things that intrigue me and I want to try them, then discover that the challenge level is beyond my abilities, try it anyway, and get irritated and never touch them again. I haven’t yet had that problem with amigurumi. They’re just challenging enough.

The completed amamani ball

The biggest issue I run into with amigurumi type patterns is matching the crochet hook to the yarn I’m using. With amigurumi, you use a hook one size smaller than the one recommended on the yarn label, so that the holes are tighter and the stuffing doesn’t show. I used the hook and yarn sizes recommended on the amamani pattern, but I’m trying a smaller hook on the second ball. I just want to see if that will work better for me.

I’ve pulled out all of my amigurumi books to start making things, and my kids are already after me to make little toys for them! I guess I can’t complain…it’s nice that they appreciate the things I make. Bryony dragged around the receiving blankets I made when I was pregnant with Aneira for years, until they fell apart. She wouldn’t be parted from them. She was like Linus in the Peanuts comics, except she had two security blankets. She wouldn’t sleep without them, and would have a fit anytime they had to be washed. Nine times out of ten, they went through a quick wash cycle and never made it into the dryer before they were back in her hands. They finally disintegrated from all the love last year. By then, they were twelve years old, so they held up pretty well! When we moved into the new house, we found two more blankets I’d crocheted at the same time, one of which was incomplete. Guess whose bed they’re in now.

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Recommendations?

I have a problem on which I could use some help: I’ve noticed that my hands get very dried out from working with yarn/thread. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been landlocked in either desert or high desert for the last twenty-some years, where there is considerably less humidity than in coastal areas, or if it’s working with fiber in and of itself. Or both. Whatever the reason, my skin is very dry. And under normal circumstances, I’d automatically use lotion, but I’ve found that to be a bad idea unless there’s going to be an hour or so between application and working again. Without that, the lotion seems to transfer very easily to the yarn, which makes it both look and feel dirty.

I’m curious if others have this problem, and if you do, what do you use to correct it?

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New Shuttles!

Bunny!!!

It’s been awhile since I added new tatting shuttles to the herd! Four arrived within the last two days, and I had nearly forgotten about them entirely. One was another bone shuttle from SergKostyukovDesign. This one is an adorable bunny, and brings my collection of his shuttles to ten. I’ve done practice runs with all of them and found them to be very nice to tat with.

The other three come from The Knotted Vine, another shop from which I’ve bought plenty of shuttles. These came about because she had made a beautiful purple shuttle, my favorite color, and I ordered it back in January. For some reason, PayPal presented her with my old address rather than my new one, so it was shipped there. Naturally, when confronted, the people at my old address claimed not to have it and that they returned it. Needless to say, that shuttle has never been seen again. I never received it, and it was never returned to her. I’d like to say I was surprised, but I’m not.

All gorgeous, but I LOVE the butterfly!

So I received a new shuttle design she had been working on, in the shape of a butterfly that is gorgeous and tats very well, and two others of a type I’ve bought before. I can’t say I’m unhappy! But I’m hoping she makes another purple chandelier shuttle soon!

The practice run with the butterfly

I really need to sit down with my shuttle collection and organize them according to where I bought them so I can keep groups together. Maybe I’ll be able to do that while the kids are out for summer break. Wait, who am I kidding? I’ll have two kids home arguing, day in and day out. I’ll be hard-pressed to maintain some level of sanity in this house lol!

Practice run with the bunny

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Recipe Time!

Toss Together Chicken Pasta, before the noodles are added

I don’t think I’ve ever posted a recipe before. It’s not that I can’t cook. I’m what I term “fluffy”. The words “fat” and “obese” aren’t allowed in my house. I’m not grossly overweight, but let’s just say the loss of a few pounds would not be a bad thing. Anyway, I became fluffy because I love good food, and I love to cook it myself because eating out all the time would be prohibitively expensive. The reason I don’t post recipes of my own is because I’m an “eyeball” cook. You know, you keep adding oregano, or whatever, until it looks right to you, or tastes right. I don’t always cook that way, especially when following someone else’s recipe, but with my own, yeah, it works that way.

So I call this the Toss Together Chicken Pasta, and I actually tried to take notes since it came out so well last night. So here goes.

Ingredient list

3 large boneless chicken breasts, cubed

1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

Parsley to taste

Oregano to taste

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Flour to thicken the sauce

1 16 oz box rotini noodles

In a large, deep pan, heat the olive oil and butter together. Add the garlic and saute until golden. Add the bell pepper and onion, continue to saute until it begins to soften. Add the chicken, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the pan. Cover and simmer on medium low heat until cooked through. In a separate pot, cook the noodles according to the box instructions and set aside.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove it and the vegetables from the pan. There should be a good amount of cooking liquid left in the pan from the veggies. Whisk in flour a little bit at a time to thicken the sauce to your satisfaction, and return the chicken and veggies to the pan. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer about ten minutes. Add the cooked pasta noodles, mix well, and serve.

You can add other things to it as well. I’ve made this with chopped Portobello mushrooms too, because mushrooms!

I paired this with Guacamole Egg Salad. That recipe can be found at a blog called Nutritious Eats; it isn’t mine. I love egg salad, and I’d been craving it, but I didn’t want the same old, same old, so I went looking for something different and found this recipe. It looked so delicious, I had to try it. I love eggs. I love avocado. I love lime. And fresh cilantro. And bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon? Admittedly, I did not use the jalapeno called for in the recipe, but I used everything else, including replacing mayo with plain Greek yogurt, something that never would have occurred to me as a suitable replacement. But it worked.

OMG, was this delicious. It’s even better the second day. This was so good, even my kids liked it. Aneira doesn’t like cilantro at all, and Bryony is not a huge fan of bacon (I know. It’s a real failing.). Both of them scarfed this meal like they were never going to see food again.

Guacamole egg salad is a bit more time consuming to make than run-of-the-mill egg salad, I will say that. Average egg salad is cook and chop the eggs, add mayo and mustard, mix, and voila. This definitely took longer, but every bite is so worth it. Bon appetit!!

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Too Much

I haven’t done any crafting, of any kind, in days. It’s been too insane around here. Way too much stress. There’s so much going on, and I’m feeling more than a little edgy. We’ve finally had people coming in to fix things on the house warranty, which is good. The PIP has finally gotten to his car so he can get it ready for a show, which means at long last it will be done…or at least it had better be. If he finds one more thing he wants to add to it, I may just blow the thing up. It’s been his only topic of conversation for the last year: what’s wrong with it, what needs to be done to it, what he’s already done to it, what he wants to do to it…I’m very much over this car, and this is coming from someone who loves old hot rods.

Then the kids have been fighting nonstop for at least a week. Housetraining the puppy. PIP not feeling well. A ridiculous tax debt owed to the IRS due to what we spent building the house and staying in hotels until it was done. Trading in my beautiful truck for an equally beautiful older one because registration on the Sierra was way too high. Trying to cut out unnecessary bills or lower necessary ones in order to make ends meet. Aneira’s problems and therapy. The PIP’s schizo-affective disorder. My own bipolar disorder. The discovery that I’m diabetic. Fighting with the PIP. A visit from the police because that fight got a bit too loud. School nearing its end for the girls. Trying to get the housework under some type of control. Trying to get the girls to do chores. Finding out there is structural damage to one of the vehicles that wasn’t disclosed to us on purchase. The replaced hip giving me trouble. The knee on that side joining the party. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten to add to this list.

Sometimes you just have those days where you’re totally overwhelmed and you don’t even know where to start trying to unravel the knot of stress you’re carrying with you. There are a billion ends in this ball, and if you pull the wrong one, you tighten the knot further, and it makes you nervous about trying another end to see if maybe that one will loosen things up enough for you to breathe for just a couple of minutes.

It’s times like this that adulting really sucks. You don’t know what to do, you don’t know where to start, you want someone to tell you what to do, but you’re it. You’re the boss here. And you’re so overwhelmed you’re standing still because it’s the only thing you know to do to keep things from spiraling even further out of control.

That’s where I’ve been the last few days. Falling apart when no one is looking, like in the shower, so no one can tell I’ve been crying. I don’t want to worry the kids, and telling the PIP what my headspace is like right now is something that might set him off, and that would circle right back around to me as another item I’d have to handle, and I just don’t think I can.

And the worst of it is, is that there’s no running away from it. Where do you go? I know that there are people who escape into drugs and drinking, but that’s not my style. I’ve never been a big drinker, I don’t like drugs, and, let’s face it, those things are far more likely to make things worse rather than better. So at this point I’m fighting my own depression and anxiety, as well as everything else. I’m one of those people who would rather worry something to death and have it turn out that I didn’t need to, than be that person who doesn’t worry and then finds out they should have. Of course, the downside to that is that you’re always stressed.

Sigh. I’ve pulled out both yarn and weaving thread several times over the last few days, but just can’t find the creativity to do anything but stare at the thread. If I had the money right now, I’d go on vacation. I don’t even need to leave town, just hole up somewhere that no one can find me!

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Pup, Pup, Puppy!

The Three Musketeers: Vanir, Valkyrie, and Thor

It is unreal, the amount of trouble a puppy can get into, even when supervised. To say that Valkyrie keeps us on our toes–constantly–is to vastly understate the situation.  I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to have an Arctic breed puppy, but Val is by far the most mischievous one I’ve ever been owned by. Vanir was shy when he first joined the family, which may explain why he wasn’t ridiculously difficult to train, and Thor was already three and an adult when he arrived. But Valkyrie is something else!! There is nothing sacred. She’s just barely tall enough to see over the counters when standing on her hind legs, but that doesn’t stop her. We have to police everything: floors, counters, closets, and even then, she will find what you miss, no matter how small! In the house, she is either on a leash attached to one of us, or she is in the crate when she can’t be watched. Crate training has begun in earnest!! She hates it, of course, because the boys don’t have to be crated at all, and she absolutely does, no question. On those rare occasions when she sleeps with us, she’s on the leash, and the wrist strap is around my ankle all night.

It’s hard, because she’s utterly adorable, and it breaks your heart when she cries because it’s bedtime or you’re going out and she has to go in the crate, but the house would be a disaster if we didn’t do it. The one night we allowed her to sleep with Aneira, she got loose and tore up the main floor. Garbage everywhere, papers shredded into tiny pieces, a dish broken…which is how she was caught. Bryony heard the crash at 3 am and came to get us after catching the little turdbrain. After that, the strict rule is crate at bedtime.

She definitely has a mind of her own, like all of her breed, and the ability to make you love her no matter what devilry she gets up to. She loves to kiss your face when she hasn’t seen you all day, her whole body wagging. Annoyingly, though she was my birthday present, she has a definite affinity for the PIP. She’s starting to include the rest of us, though, so it could be worse!

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Decisions, Decisions

Beautiful interchangeable crochet hooks

The PIP and I have decided to put some focus on my Etsy store, which has been empty for years now. So we’re going to build up inventory, starting with crocheted items by me, and woodwork items that he makes–and he’s very good. We won’t get the store going until we have more than one or two items to put in it, so it’ll be awhile!

That being said, I do have to rave about these crochet hooks I bought from Toplyfiberarts  not too long ago. Yep, same place I got the dragon loom. This set is gorgeous, and easy on the hands. I’ve had them for a little while now, and hadn’t used them because, well, weaving. But I already had a C2C blanket started a few months back, and if I’m going to get the store running, well, it’s time to get back to that project, yeah? So as hard as it is not to weave right now, I steeled myself and went back to the blanket, using these hooks, and wow. Changing the hooks out is easy as pie. As you can see, the set comes with six hooks, sizes C through H, with five stored in the case, and one stored in the handle itself. The box is very sturdy cardboard, I think, and the flap is magnetized to keep it closed.

I’m a little weird, in that I’ve always crocheted with my fingers right up on the hook, so I’m teaching myself to work with my hands farther back, where they should be and never are. Breaking long-time habits is difficult, to say the least. But there would be no point to the handle if I crochet the way I normally do! I only wish more sizes were available!

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