New job, new projects, new creativity!

I’m in the middle of the 3rd week of my new job. So far it’s been a lot of things: exciting, overwhelming, stimulating, intimidating, freeing, and most of all, scariest of all, most exhilarating of all, NEW. Besides planning to teach courses, almost every other aspect of this new job is completely different from my old ones. Phew! At least I can never say my job is boring or routine or not challenging me – I don’t think I will ever will have a “typical day.” I like that a lot.

What is this? A piano for ants?

1. Baby grand piano I made to learn CAD software. 2. How the piano looked fresh off the printer. 3. After support plastic was removed: semi-finished product.

An incredibly wonderful upside of my job is the new things I’ve been learning. I’m now laser cutting, 3-dimensional printing, designing (in the engineering sense of the word), and accidentally attending lunches with safety goggles on her head. (I blame my husband for not noticing.) Soon I’ll be delving into the world of mills, lathes, welding, mold making, and more. I’ve been learning a lot about CAD software, machine shop equipment, and the engineering design process. These are all things that, 3 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known much about at all.

Maow.

Good Kitty helping me move stacks of physics and math textbooks. With an entire office to fill, I can finally clean out my apartment of this stuff!

The ending of two old jobs was hard. My heart still hurts a little when I visit my other university home or the old labs where I used to teach. I got teary when I cleared out my old desks and moved into my first ever office. I usually take things like this pretty hard: big changes, separations from an old way of life. So, I continually remind myself this is my chance to make a bigger difference, to grow, and to learn. Already in these first few fly-by weeks, all three of these things have been happening. Worth it? Yes!

It will never be this organized again.

My new office. Office warming gifts from family and friends made it feel much more like home – keep this in mind!

My current big task is to design three project based courses, roughly described: 1. An introduction to the design process and basic building/prototyping skills, paired with visual and graphic design skills to attractively promote and communicate designs.  2. More advanced design. We will be designing and, ideally, implementing sustainable energy projects on campus. 3. Intro honors physics lab focusing on circuits and optics. I think we will build solar powered light fixtures. I am pumped, I am nervous, I am working long days. Loving it!

 

Busy Times

Well, I’m sitting on the verge of some potentially big professional life changes. This process has definitely been keeping me busy on top of my teaching jobs and friends & family stuff! So, no crafty updates as of the last month or so, unfortunately. But…

I’ve been interviewing for jobs (sorry for the crumby photo quality and the dirty bathroom mirror)…

We’ve been trying out new and delicious meals (pineapple chicken with peanut sauce)…

And the four of us have been enjoying the new warmer weather out on our balcony.

Hopefully things will cool down a bit in the next several weeks as the semester wraps up and then I can get back to some crochet-y sew-y goodness!

My First Sewing Project: A New Purse

For Christmas, my husband got me one of the most thoughtful and wonderful gifts ever; something I had wanted for a very long time. A sewing machine! I had never sewn before in my life, so I was sooo excited to start using it but so terrified of messing something up (mainly the sewing machine itself). After playing around with it a bit on some scraps of fabric, I decided my first project would be a new purse. First, a little story about my old rainbow purse:

I bought rainbow purse at Target for a bank breaking $9 in 2003, so I’ve had this thing for 10 years! This is the one purse I’ve had for these many years, so parting with it was a big decision. It’s just a purse, you say? Yes, a normal person would probably say so. But I have a small attachment problem… heh heh. Anyhow, this old purse will sit in my closet until I decide what to do with it.

After I decided I wanted to make a purse (but before I found a pattern I liked… maybe not the best decision, but it worked out), I picked out some fabric at Hobby Lobby. As I mentioned before, I looove grey. I especially love grey paired up with yellow. Surprisingly, Hobby Lobby had lots of grey & yellow fabric and I ended up deciding on the pattern above with some plain grey for the purse’s lining.

I looked around at (free) purse patterns for quite awhile before I decided on one – Rae’s Buttercup Bag. The pattern is so cute – I love the pleats! It’s also simple enough for somebody who’s never sewn something before.

I did decide on-the-go to make a few adjustments to Rae’s pattern: I added some metal rings where the straps attach to the body, an inner pocket, and some extra fabric around the edges to add some depth to the purse’s body.

You can see that this new purse has already gotten a little worn – the strap is wrinkled and folded. I’m not sure how to avoid this (any tips?), but it happened with rainbow purse too. Soon I’m going to try tackling a matching billfold, but right now it’s down the list a bit in terms of projects. Regardless, we’ll see if I hold onto this purse for 10 years, hehe!

Overdue Post! Valentine’s Day 2013

I apologize (to you and to myself!) for not posting for awhile! Lately, I’ve had a bunch of extra work to do at the university and so have been trying to keep up with all the normal stuff on the side. Gah! Talk about throwing a wrench into my crochet blanket plans. ;) Needless to say, that got put on hold for a bit. In the meantime, Valentine’s Day came and went! My husband and I decided to hold off celebrating until Friday, but he did surprise me with some beautiful flowers on Thursday…

I didn’t used to be a flower person, but there’s a lot to say about how much having flowers in the apartment brightens and livens up a room! Aren’t they beautiful? Due to owning two Kitties Who Eat Plants, the bouquet had to live in the bathroom (the one room that can be blocked off from kitty access without any inconvenience).

Friday night, my husband surprised me with dinner at one of my favorite places we don’t visit very often – Mai Thai in Omaha. I’m terrible and get the same thing every time we visit: fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce for an appetizer, and garlic chicken with veggies for the entree. Everything is SO delicious! By the end of dinner, it had started snowing some giant sticky snowflakes. So pretty.

All in all, a wonderful Valentine’s Day with a wonderful husband! <3

Starting a New Project: Baby Boy Blanket

A sweet friend of mine is expecting a little boy in May, so I’m starting my next “middle sized” project today, something I’ve never made – a baby blanky! I looked up a bunch of patterns and tutorials, and eventually ended up deciding to design my own. I made a mini version last night which turned out well, so we’ll see how it does on a larger scale!

My friend isn’t planning on decorating baby boy’s nursery any specific colors, but gave me the rough guideline of “we like blues and greens.” So, perfect for me, my two favorite colors! I spent an embarrassingly long time in the yarn aisles at Hobby Lobby, combining blues, teals, greens, and greys. I initially really wanted to find a bright teal and pair it with a charcoal grey, but remembered that perhaps grey isn’t the most babyish of colors. Oops. And besides, not too many brands of yarn available at Hobby Lobby have a medium-dark grey… what’s up with that? All of that aside, I opted for “I Love This Yarn” antique teal, sea blue, and light sage.

Blues and greens (and secondarily, purples and greys) have been my color palette of choice for quite a long, long time. I specifically learning about analogous color schemes in elementary art class and immediately going for either “purple-blue-green” or “blue-green-yellow” combinations. In the last couple of years, grey has sneakily crept into my list of favorite colors. Everything looks fantastic with grey, I think. I’m afraid that my wardrobe is starting to get taken over – the clerk who very occasionally sells me a white chocolate truffle at work made the comment, “You really like grey, don’t you?” So I guess it’s no secret.

Anyhow, on to the blanket making. I’m thinking I should be able to be done within the week if I really stick to it at nighttime. We’ll see – updates to come!

Veggie & Pesto Panini Recipe

One of my favorite homemade meals right now is veggie paninis, which we made for dinner tonight. They’re quick, simple, cheap, and delicious – all good things!

Our recipe for these paninis has morphed from an original recipe suggested by one of my best friends who happens to be vegan. We’re not vegan (or vegetarian) ourselves, but have lately been trying to eat less meat and more veggies & fruit.

Ingredients to Make Paninis for Two:
A couple slices of onion, cut and separated into half rings
A red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into strips (smaller pieces work too)
A tomato, sliced
A zucchini, cut in half and sliced lengthwise
Bread – we use sourdough, but ciabatta and focaccia are really good for this too
Pesto
Olive Oil

To Make:
Wash, cut & prepare all veggies. My husband fries the zucchini slices in a bit of olive oil and adds some Italian spices – really yummy but certainly optional and admittedly less healthy. Take 2 slices of bread and spread on your desired amount of pesto. Pile up the veggies on your sandwich and top with the remaining bread slice. Very important step: squish your panini a little bit by hand to 1) compact your loaded sandwich and 2) fix any spillage¬†before the panini get super hot while toasting. Now get out either a panini press or a wide, flat pan to toast/fry your panini. Brush the bottom of the press (or pan) with olive oil, as well as the top of your top piece of bread. Now toast your sandwich until it’s how you like it – golden brown for me! Panini done!

We typically make some rice to go with our paninis, but a soup or steamed broccoli/asparagus goes great, too. Also you can see in the picture above that I’m the sweeper for any leftover sandwich ingredients that don’t fit. :) So so yummy!

Pattern & Tutorial: Crochet Tulip

We have a cute little vase sitting on a shelf in our bathroom – a cute, but empty vase. I knew I wanted to put something in it someday, but couldn’t put my finger on it yet. Then, it hit me (I don’t know why it didn’t sooner) to try crocheting some flowers. My most favoritest flower of all time is the tulip. It’s so smooth and squat – like a little teacup suspended on a stick! So cute! This past week I’ve been writing (and heavily revising) a tulip pattern, and here it is! Enjoy!

Materials You’ll Need
Crochet hook G (4.00 mm)
Worsted weight yarn color #1 for petals
Worsted weight yarn color #2 for pistil and stamen
Worsted weight yarn color #3 for stem and leaves
Scissors
Large eye needle
Floral wire of desired length
Ruler for making measurements
Sewing pins for positioning petals

Specific Materials I Used
Crochet hook G (4.00 mm) from Polymer Clay Shed
“I Love This Cotton” Pale Denim for petals
“I Love This Cotton” Banana for pistil and stamen
“I Love This Cotton” Sage for stem and leaves
Fiskars Scissors
Tapestry needle
18 gauge Hobby Lobby floral wire (not pictured)
Steel & cork ruler for making measurements
Sewing pins for positioning petals

Abbreviations Used (US terminology)
ch: chain
sc: single crochet
sc inc: single crochet increase
sc dec: single crochet decrease
Following each row’s instructions for the petals, the number in (parentheses) indicates how many stitches you should have in that row

Petal Pattern: Make 6
ch 2, ch 1 to turn (2)
sc in each, ch 1 to turn (2)
sc inc in each, ch 1 to turn (4)
sc inc, 2 sc, sc inc, ch 1 to turn (6)
sc inc, 4 sc, sc inc, ch 1 to turn (8)
sc in all, ch 1 to turn (8)
sc inc, 6 sc, sc inc, ch 1 to turn (10)
sc in all, ch 1 to turn (10)
sc dec, 8 sc, ch 1 to turn (9)
sc dec, 7 sc, ch 1 to turn (8)
sc dec, 6 sc, ch 1 to turn (7)
sc dec, 5 sc, ch 1 to turn (6)
sc dec, 4 sc, ch 1 to turn (5)
sc dec, 3 sc, ch 1 to turn (4)
sc dec, 2 sc, ch 1 to turn (3)
sc dec, 1 sc, ch 1 to turn (2)
sc dec, tie off leaving a 25 cm tail
Hide the short starting tail by sewing it in

After you have the six petals made, they should fit together like the above picture. Make sure all of the petals are facing the same way if you are particular about that kind of thing. :) Use one of the long petal tails to sew the very insides of the petals together.

Next, using each petal’s tail, sew the inner edges of each petal together to about 2 cm from the center. This is what will form the bottom of the “cup” shape of the tulip.

Now is the beginning of the tricky part. Decide how the petals will alternate – they need to go top-bottom-top-bottom-top-bottom (in other words, identify which petals will be inner and which will be outer). When you pull the tulip into its cup shape, the “top” petals will be in the inside and the “bottom” petals will be on the outside.

Pull the petals up and toward you and into the desired cup shape (you can determine how “open” you want the tulip to be here). You may have trouble holding everything in place with your hands, so pin the petals together and adjust the spacing as you like. As shown above, the edges of the widest part of my outer petals are about 1.3 cm apart. So if you’d like your tulip to be more “closed” than mine, pin your petals closer to each other. Likewise for a more open tulip, you would pin your petals farther apart from each other. Your tulip cup will look funny and lumpy when you pin it – don’t worry!

Now use all of the tails to sew the petals together. Try not to split any of the yarn of the petals as you do this, and make small stitches so they blend in with the crochet stitches. I sewed the petals up to where the inner and outer petal edges meet up, so the very top could fan out a bit without getting floppy. Now you should have a little tulip cup!

Next are the pistil and stamen. Get out your yarn color #2 and thread it on your needle. Pull the yarn up into the tulip cup in the desired spot, tie 2 or 3 knots in the yarn, cut off any excess, and pull the yarn back down through the bottom of the tulip cup until the pistil/stamen are the desired length. Cut off leaving a small tail. Repeat this for all pistil & stamen.

Now for the base and stem, so get out your yarn color #3. The base is a little disc shape. To make it, first ch 2, then make 6 sc in the first ch stitch. Then sc inc all the way around, so you should have 12 stitches in a little circle. Tie off and leave a 15 cm tail. Pull the starting tail tight, tie off and hide in the disc.

For the stem, decide on the length of stem you’d like and cut that much floral wire. The desired length will depend on personal opinion but also what container/vase you’ll be putting it in (if any). Make a chain approximately the length of the wire you chose. Turn at the end of the chain, sc down the entire row, turn, and sc down the entire row again (you should end up with 2 rows of sc on top of your chain). Tie off and leave a looong tail. Lay the floral wire on top of the strip you just made, and use the long stem tail to sew the strip shut around the wire.

Finally, you’ll use the base and stem tails to put everything together. Use the base tail to sew the base to the bottom of the tulip cup, hiding any color #2 yarn you used for the pistil and stamen. Now stick the floral wire partially through the center of the base/bottom of tulip cup (otherwise, the tulip cup can be floppy on top of stem), and use the stem tail to sew the stem to the base.

And that’s that! You should now have a full tulip! Please let me know if you have any questions about the pattern – I’d be glad to help!