chal-lenge: noun a calling to account or into question

Follow along as I challenge the tricks, tips, clever craft and decorating ideas and "simple" recipes that we clip, bookmark, and "pin" for trial at a later date.

Are they really worth the effort? Time (and I) will tell!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I don’t understand my obsession with knitting patterns. I am such a basic knitter that there really aren’t many projects I can attempt with any hope of success. Reading the directions is like trying to interpret a foreign language. Can you make sense of the following? Honestly, I just don’t have the patience.

PATTERN STITCH: (Multiple of 4 sts plus 3) With Color 1 cast on sts. Row 1 - With Color 2 K. Row 2 - With Color 2 P. Row 3 - With Color 1 * K 3, with yarn in front sl 1 as if to P, repeat from * across, ending K 3. Row 4 - With Color 1 * P 3, with yarn in front of work sl 1 as if to P, repeat from * across, ending P 3. Row 5 - With Color 2 K 1, * sl next 2 sts onto cable needle and hold in back of work, K 1 (sl st), then K the 2 sts from cable needle, K 1, repeat from * across, ending K 2. Row 6 - With Color 2 P. Rows 7 and 8 - Repeat Rows 3 and 4. Row 9 - With Color 2 K 3, * sl next st (sl st) onto cable needle and hold in front of work, K 2, then K the sl st from cable needle, K 1, repeat from * across row. Row 10 - With Color 2 P. Repeat from Row 3 for pattern.

Besides interpreting the pattern, you need to know about such things as gauge and various types of yarn. If you are off on either of these two things your project will not resemble the beautiful picture that enticed you to take on the project in the first place. You may remember my attempt to knit a scarf last year. I could not find the yarn called out in the pattern and used what knitting needles I already had even though the size was off. The result? An afghan-sized scarf that is more appropriate for use as a lap rug than a scarf.

Undaunted, I keep searching for simple patterns that will both satisfy my desire to knit and have some useful purpose. Enter Miss Guinea Pig. This adorable little pattern was delivered to my email (yes, I torture myself with a pattern-a-day delivered straight to my email!). I like this pattern because it says things like “Gauge is not important” and “If your stitch count is off it is really no problem”. How can I go wrong? True to form, I started with yarn I already had that was close to the required material. Big mistake! The result was a brown blob of ugly yarn. But the pattern was easy to follow and the project quick to create so I decided to find the right yarn and try again.

I have to admit that I am pretty pleased with the end product. This little animal is soft and fuzzy and has a friendly face. I know a little girl who has been feeling a little under-the-weather and thought my creation might cheer her up for a little bit. It looks like Miss Guinea Pig is just the right size for a little girl to cuddle and love. I have already received a request for another guinea pig. Maybe I have finally found a knitting project with a future. I’d better get started!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Staying Close to Home

Wow! What a week-end. My challenge? To entertain myself for an entire week-end within a 30 mile radius of home. As those of you who live in my area know, that isn’t really much of a challenge. There is so much to do here that it is just a matter of getting yourself up off the couch or in my case, stepping away from work for a few days. I often feel guilty for not “getting enough done” over the week-end. Maybe the real challenge is how not to work all week-end!

Anyway, here’s how it goes. I started my day on Saturday with a hearty breakfast on
the deck. It’s so nice to get outside early on these hot summer days. While I thought about the day ahead, I enjoyed watching this butterfly take nectar from my flowers. There were lots of honey bees getting their fill, too. I’m part of something called the Sunflower Project where we count and report on the number of honey bees we attract. I don’t have sunflowers this year but will make a report anyway. After my report, it was time to hit the road.

My first stop was to a new gift shop in downtown Clifton Springs called Off the Beaten Path. It’s kind of a new age shop that reminds me of Woodstock, New York. You get the idea. I’ve been looking for new pillows and found this one.
I don’t have an African or even animal d├ęcor but liked the colors in this one. It’s a nice mother/child image. Isn’t it amazing how such a small purchase can bring new life to your home and make you happy?

I had received a post card earlier in the week from the Phelps Arts Center alerting me to an exhibit called Temples & Towers from Toothpick City II. What? Toothpicks you say? The Phelps Arts Center is less than 5 miles from my house so off I go. I have to admit to being a bit cynical about this exhibit. Well shame on me. It was crazy amazing. The exhibit includes 55 toothpick replicas of towers and religious buildings around the world from the Stratosphere in Las Vegas to St. Peter’s Basilica & Square in Rome. The detail was incredible. The more I looked, the more I discovered. A definite “thumbs up” on that one.

Next stop was a consignment shop a few miles down the road from the Arts Center. I have passed this shop many times on the way to somewhere else but have never taken the time to stop. That ends today! At Gabriella’s Consignment Shop there is quite an array of interesting “stuff” to be found. It’s the kind of place that you just know holds a treasure that has been waiting just for you. I was casually looking through the used clothing rack when voila! I made a super exciting find! Way back in the day I worked in an upscale clothing store that carried such things as
Pendleton suits. I was just crazy for them but they were way out of my price range. I had come to think of them as just the ultimate luxury. Over the years I have looked at these suits with the thought of treating myself but they either didn’t fit well or were not to my taste. At Gabriella’s I found a navy blue, classic style Pendleton wool blazer that fit just perfectly. It was tagged at $6.25! I grabbed it like I was at a Filene’s basement sale in NYC, sure someone would tear it out of my hands. I rushed to the register to seal the deal only to discover that it was 60% off. The final price was just $2.50! I am so super excited that I almost can’t wait for fall to get here so that I can wear it.

The last stop for the day was at a little shop called Chickadee Lane. This is a cute little shop owned by the woman who used to do all my floral arrangements in Clifton Springs. The shop has dried flower arrangements, antiques, hooked rugs and supplies. She wasn’t in the shop but a friend from another lifetime was. Its sad how you can move through your life without keeping connected to people you really like. Life, kids, work, etc. all seem to conspire against me. Finding an old friend: Priceless!

I’m not religious and don’t attend any religious services but I think of Sunday as a family day or a day of reflection. That being said, I decided to go hang out at the beach. What better way to reflect upon the week than to lie in the sun and watch the water. On my way to the beach, I decided to stop off at the Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum.
I was met at the door by a lovely gentleman who was just so pleased to be there showing people around. He walked me through the first few exhibits with such pride. I climbed to the top of the lighthouse, squeezing myself through the small hatch at the top. What a pretty view.

A band was setting up for their summer concert series so I decided to stay a while. I found a nice bench in the shade overlooking Lake Ontario. I ate my lunch, read my book and gazed out at the sailboats. Several nice people came to sit with me on my bench and I enjoyed some pleasant conversations.
The breeze was so nice and the music so soothing that I never made it to the beach. The thought of sitting out in the sun compared to my idyllic location had lost its appeal.

So I’m home again reflecting on my wonderful week-end. I challenge you to find fun and adventure in your own neighborhood. Enjoy the scenery and the people you meet along the way. Take notice of the things around you and appreciate what they have to offer. Happy wandering!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Box

Hey, everyone, it’s been a while and my projects just keep piling up! It’s time to get moving again.

This is an odd little project that I have been meaning to do for some time. Not because it has any apparent value to anyone but rather that I am intrigued by old books that end up at the $1.00 a bag book sale at my local library. Knowing that these books will only end up in the recycling bin, I don’t have any qualms about giving them a new life. I finally found a reason (translated: excuse) to move forward with this project.

I was helping my mom with her yard sale over the Memorial Day week-end. As I was shopping among all the “stuff” I came across this beautiful book. The book was in good shape and the cover was beautifully illustrated. As I flipped through the book I discovered that it had been a gift to my nephew over 20 years ago. My nephew is getting married this summer. He and his wife-to-be are both elementary school teachers. I had a feeling that this book would help me craft a useful and meaningful gift for them.

The supplies needed for this project are very simple: white glue like Elmer’s (I had Mod Podge so I used that), a paint brush, a metal straight edge, a box cutter and of course a book. What you will do is glue all the pages together and then cut out the center, creating a box out of the book.

Choose a page that you want to be the first one cut out, and save that page to be cut out at the end. Even if you don't want to save any pages at the beginning of the book, you must set one aside for a later step. I saved a few pages. One being the inscription from the original gifter of the book.

To start, mix a solution of white glue and water. Just enough for the glue to be runny and absorbed by the edge of the book's pages. Holding the remaining pages together, brush the edges with the glue solution. I wasn’t sure why I needed to add water but the diluted glue soaked into the pages making it much more effective at keeping the pages together than just applying glue to the edge of the pages.

Close the book up and set it under some weights (like other books) to dry. Once the pages are set, measure in about an inch from all edges and draw a line. Now it’s time to start cutting. Using your straight edge and cutter, gently cut out all the pages. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the spine of the book while you are cutting. I found the corners difficult. Try to keep them straight and clean as you move forward rather than leaving the clean-up until the end.

Once all the pages are cut, apply the water/glue mixture to the exposed cuts, close the book and set under weights. When dry, apply glue to the reserved page. When dry, use the cut pages as a guide for cutting out this last page. This page gives a nice smooth finish to your cut pages. Believe me; it can cover many indiscretions.

I’m really pleased with the finished product. The “box” will serve as a holder for a gift card for the happy couple. I will add a little filler and tie it all up with a ribbon. There are so many different books and titles that could serve as great little gift boxes for a variety of occasions. It takes a little time, but the cost is little and the presentation quite original. I hope they like it!