Friday Finds: Happy New Year!

Wow! What an amazing 2011!! We can't possibly express how much fun we've had this year, getting to know you and expressing our creativity here at Mighty Distractible. It's been an incredible ride.

We are looking forward to a fantastic new year full of "making". We hope you'll stay with us as we grow and learn and, hopefully, entertain.

And to you - our lovely, loyal, creative, amazing friends - we wish only the very the best in 2012!

xoxo - Alex and Cassandra

Auld Lang Syne
(original Scots verse by Robert Burns)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne* ?
For auld lang syne, my jo (or my dear), for auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie's a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

An Embarassment of Riches

Hi everyone! We're back in action here after days and days of holiday celebration. I hope you all had as much fun and good food as we did.

I am so lucky to have family who know the way to my heart is through the craft room. The bulk of my gifts this year were for making. Yeah!

I have yarn for 2 sweaters:

The red will be used for Coraline by Ysolda Teague and the green is TBD. As soon as I finish my portion of the knitting pattern design for our entry in What Would Madame DeFarge Knit II, I am casting on for me. Me, me, me, me, me!

But, oh, new knitting isn't the only thing I can wait to start. I got some books that have me excited for new projects. Particularly the "Cozy Wool Jacket" in Sew Serendipity by Kay Whitt. I've never sewn outerwear before, but this is making my want to give it a shot!

And then, there is the best gift I have ever received in my life. No lie. I have the most generous husband ever. He enables this crafty obsession of mine in spades. Meet my new baby:

This sucker weighs 50 lbs.
I will have more to share about my new Bernina in the future I'm sure. The learning curve I have with new technology is both sad and amusing. But nothing is going to happen in my crafty world until this post-holiday mess is up and out of the house:

I should buy stock in the Rubbermaid Corporation.
I better scat and get going on my cleaning. Talk to you soon everyone!


Friday Finds: REPRINT "Against Gift Giving"

For this week's Friday Finds, I'm offering up a reprint of a particularly eloquent article about seasonal gift giving. The reason I'm sharing this with you is because the author, Dave Bry, has captured EXACTLY how I feel about the whole tradition of giving and receiving gifts.

Of course, as a crafty person, I enjoy making gifts at the holiday - preferably consumable because I hate giving people stuff that just adds to their burden - and I expect nothing in return. As a matter of fact I would PREFER nothing in return, unless it's consumable.

When it's all said and done, I think that the spontaneous gift, given thoughtfully at some random time during the year, is more valued than a gift given because tradition dictates that you're supposed to give a gift. I'm just sayin'.

REPRINT: Against Gift Giving
by Dave Bry, December 16, 2011

I would like to make a proposal: Let’s all stop giving presents to anyone over the age of 12.

We can consider this a new front in the laughably famous and obviously fictitious “war against Christmas” that people like Glenn Beck and Rick Perry always talk about. Because I’m really only proposing this for the holiday season. (So the following all goes for Chanukah, too. Oh, and birthdays. No presents on birthdays, either.) Presents at other times of the year, random days on the calendar, are fine. Like, if you’re going over to someone’s house, you should bring a bottle of wine. Or if you’re browsing in a bookstore and you find a book you think a friend would like, by all means, buy it for her or him.

But not on Christmas! Jesus, please! Enough with the gifts at Christmas, already. This time of year is hard enough to get through as it is.

I won’t be the first person you’ve heard say that the holiday season sucks. Because it does. Suicide statistics and the smoked salmon inside Dan Akroyd’s Santa costume and the music being piped into the fluorescent-bright aisles of Rite Aids all around the nation at this very moment say it better than words ever could anyway. It’s definitely the least wonderful time of year for a lot of people, full of all sorts of pressure and accounting and reminders of how we’re not doing as well at the job of being a human being as we’d like to be doing. The last thing any of us need is the added stress and extra shopping that this barbaric ritual entails. Let’s give ourselves a break.

The kids, we should still buy gifts for. If only because they’d complain so loudly if they came out into the living room and found nothing under the tree except the pine needles that will have to be vacuumed up later. (I actually think it’d be better for everybody if we broke them of the gift-getting habit, too. But it would be too hard to explain to the 8-year-olds the first two or three years to be worth it.) And, to be honest, it’s nice to see the expressions on the faces of children when they open their presents. Lovable little materialistic swine that children are.

But teenagers? Nothing’s going to relieve their misery except getting to have sex, and that’s nothing that anyone can buy for them. (Or, well, nothing that anyone should buy for them. Not for Christmas, anyway.) Teenagers might as well spend every family holiday alone in their rooms, masturbating and listening to Skrillex or playing World of Warcraft or whatever. The best gift we can give them is to not make them be around us. They don’t want us to see their braces.

And other adults? Why do we buy each other gifts? Why do we go to the trouble? So everyone can have to fake more excitement and gratitude than they actually feel upon opening them? “Oh, thanks for this book I told you I wanted that I could have just as easily bought for myself! Thanks for these gloves, this blouse, this bottle of wine. I’m so glad to have this pile of stuff to pack into the car or check at the baggage claim when I could have just bought it on my own time nearer to my own home, or even had it delivered directly to my door. Here, I got you something, too.” It’s like we’ve all entered into this mutual pact that makes everybody's lives a little bit worse. All anybody really wants is money anyway. And since there is a quid pro quo element to the stupid gift-giving tradition, we should all be getting back pretty much what we’d pay out. So let’s just skip it. Or establish a credit system. My gift to you is relieving you of the obligation of getting a gift for me. The gift of relaxation. The money you would have spent on me? Go buy yourself something you want with it. There. We’re even and happier. Bosses? Give a cash holiday bonus. Or better yet, don’t—and put it into raised yearly salaries and health benefits.

It’s not even just the giving. Receiving gifts stinks, too. People ask you what you want, and it’s hard to think of anything. (A yacht or a beach house or a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer being unrealistic.) I mean, a bottle of nice something, sure, always. But again, then you’re stuck carting it home and the difficulty of not breaking it on the way. Generally, I think adults get the things they need or want when they need or want them. That’s one of the joys of being an adult. And in shopping for ourselves, we’re more likely to get exactly what we want; there’s less risk of mistakes.

A few years ago, back when CDs still seemed like things that were worth owning, I told someone who asked me what I wanted that I wanted a certain Townes Van Zandt CD that had been recommended to me by a friend. The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt, I think it was. But come Christmas, when I unwrapped one of my CD-shaped gifts, I saw a different Townes Van Zandt album—a compilation album. Of course, since the person who had bought it for me was sitting in the room, I did my best to hide my disappointment that this was not the CD I had asked for. I mean, it was a minor disappointment. And I certainly wasn’t, like, angry at the person for buying the wrong CD. I’m sure the person just couldn’t find the exact album I’d asked for. Maybe it was out of print? I don’t know. And, y’know, I don’t think this person should have been in the position of having to buy me a CD anyway. I blame society. But now I had this wrong Townes Van Zandt album. And the real problem was (and I know this probably has more to do my personal neurosis and human defects than anything else), this compilation had on it some, but not all, of the songs from the album I had in fact asked for, and I knew that owning it would in fact now make it harder for me to go and try to buy myself the original one. For the same reason that you always get off the subway one stop short of a destination that lies in between two subway stations, and not one stop past it. Nature abhors backtracking and redundancy and vacuuming up the pine needles that fall off of the Christmas tree.

See how gifts ruin everything?! At least for awful, unlovable neurotics devoid of the capacity for love or joy?! See?!!!

The whole problem is the obligation—that we’re expected to give gifts this time of year, and expected to want to receive gifts this time of year, and then expected to express gratitude, even if we’d rather just beg out of the whole deal. Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of gifts—even those given to one adult by another—are given in the spirit of generosity and love. I like generosity and love. And other human beings. And chestnuts and roast goose and a big meal with lots of people. And even the smell of those pine needles making such a mess on the floor. And gratitude is a very good thing. But it’s easier to come to honestly in instances that aren’t so laden with all this heavy obligation, the feeling that we’re all taking part in an antiquated tradition that we’d actually rather not be taking part in.

When I dip, you dip, we dip.

We had some holiday fun at Company X yesterday. The creative and marketing groups decided to have "Dip Day". A whole bunch of folks brought in different dips and we just sort of grazed (exactly like cattle) from 8-4:30. Yes, this is the sort of stuff we have to cling to...please don't judge the corporate drones.

Anyway, in my opinion, the best dip of the day was brought in by my friend Amy. She found it on and it was called "Festive Cracker Spread". Oh my! Cream Cheese, mayo, green olives, onions, red is like a festive party in your mouth! Here is a link to the delightful dip.

Festive Cracker Spread photo courtesy of
So simple and easy. Great to bring along to parties this season.

On a side note, you know what is awesome about You can put in the amount of people you need to feed and it will recalculate the ingredients so you can make the perfect amount. Lazy people like me love that.

I'm off to do some frantic last-minute holiday knitting of my own! Later!


Panic! At the Holiday!

So...yeah. Remember a couple of months ago when I talked about starting my Christmas knitting?

The thing I learned this holiday season is that, it's not about when you start a project, it's about when you finish. My (rather severe) lack of time management skills have left me, six days before Christmas, frantically knitting the last bits of my niece's present.

if the scarf ever gets done...
As a refresher, I'd let my niece and nephew each pick out their own scarf pattern from the fabulous Morehouse Farm Critter Collection. My nephew picked a green and gray gecko and my niece chose a pink poodle. I started the gecko first because I figured it would be better to knock out the two-color pattern first. Again... it's really a moot point which scarf goes first if one doesn't plan one's time well.

The gecko is done - and it came out pretty good. I ran out of the green yarn as I was finishing the third foot so he'll be going to my nephew as Greyfoot the Lizard. If my brain clears enough before I put it in the mail, there will be a story included about why he has one different colored foot.

one of these things is not like the others
Fortunately, I had Friday and today off from work so I've been a knitting fool all weekend (with a break on Saturday night for a really awesome Christmas party!) I feel a little guilty spending my entire long weekend on the sofa but it's nice to have an excuse to be supremely lazy. I'll take it as my Christmas gift to myself. :)

As of this moment, the poodle has 1.5 ears, no eyes, no feet, no tail, and no pom poms. Needless to say, I need to get back at it so this will be the shortest blog post I've ever written. I'll be sure to take pics of the finished project (I need them for Ravelry anyway) and let you all know if I actually made it in time to get this sucker in the mail. If not, there's going to be a frantic, last-minute shopping trip for my niece. LOL

where I am today...

Talk to y'all on Friday - hopefully with good news!!

- Alex

Friday Finds: Rit Dyed Buttons

Check this sh*t out! You can dye white plastic buttons with Rit Dye. Who would have thunk? I can't wait to try this.

These bright buttons were dyed with Rit.
Easy tutorial over here.

And if you are what they have diagnosed as a "visual learner" is a video tutorial I found on YouTube:

Have a great weekend!


Give It Away

Just when we're all feeling the money pinch, we’re bombarded with stories about people less fortunate than us. From the radio, the tv, and the web, we hear story after story of people who simply have a lot less.

Unfortunately, for most of us, our pockets aren’t as full as our hearts are and, as much as we'd love to be extra-charitable, there isn't much left over, after taking care of ourselves, to take care of others.

Years ago, I had a mentor who used to say that giving was about “time, talent, and treasure”. You could be charitable without having to empty your wallet. He believed that each of these ways of giving had equal value and that none of them should be considered less of a gift.

Once you start looking at your giving in this way - that it's not just about cash - you begin to realize how rich you are and how much you can do for others.

Before I had any income that wasn’t already earmarked for bills and daily survival, the one thing I had an abundance of was time and some talents that I thought might be useful. So I started my giving there.

I’m sure many of you think (as I used to) that you don’t have any time available to volunteer for anything – what with running the kids to sports and having to complete your honey-do list - but I’m going to challenge that thinking. I'll bet that there is one hour a week that you could take away from chores or watching television. Or, how about one hour a month? Remember, it’s not the AMOUNT you give, it’s the giving that matters. Your community center could certainly use someone one hour a month to help with cleaning or arranging the food pantry. You could take an hour and spend it sorting donations at the local charity. Or how about one hour a week to help a child learn to read? The possibilities are endless.

Once I realized that my time had some charitable value, I got a little addicted to giving back. I would get excited about a particular opportunity to help and pledge a lot of my time – only to discover that I hadn’t left any time relax and recharge. So, just remember to balance.

Now, donating talent is a bit trickier because it also comes with the donation of time. However, you’d be amazed at how much your talents are appreciated when they’re volunteered. Your skills can make a difference in someone’s life or for a worthy organization – whether it’s something you do as a hobby or a job.  Let me give you some examples of how my talents have been donated over the years.
  • I wrote the web site for a non-profit organization.
  • I’ve done marketing consultation for my local community center.
  • I MC’d a variety of charity auctions.
  • I’ve used my crafting skills to create items to donate to various charities.
Donating talent is particularly rewarding because you’re providing a skill or service that the organization may not be able to get for free otherwise.

If I had my choice, I'd give away a lot of money. But it’s hard to part with hard-earned cash – especially when there are bills to pay and (even adult) kids to support. Every year, when I do my taxes, I’m pretty proud of how much I’ve given away and then my tax guy gives me a reality check. According to him, I’m giving away about half of what I should be for my income level.  Yikes! But then I consider that my time and talent are as important as my treasure and I figure it all balances out to a pretty well-rounded year of giving. 

So... back to treasure. You know how National Public Radio always says “give as much as you can, every penny counts”? Well, they mean it!  Think of it this way, if every listener gave $5 annually, they would have $135 million dollars each year.  I’m sure that would put a big dent in their budget. So, what are you willing to part with to donate a little cash to a worthy organization? One fancy coffee a week? Here's the coffee-math: $5 a week = $20 a month = $240 a year. That’s a nice donation to a small non-profit or an individual that needs to pay bills or buy food..  I’m sure that there’s something that you indiscriminately spend money on…  coffee, lunches out, impulse purchases at the checkout line, magazines, etc. All you have to do is find a few dollars a week or a few dollars a month and commit them to a charitable organization and you'll have joined the ranks of treasure givers.

Finally, if you absolutely can’t find a way to donate time, talent, or treasure, you should go out of your way to look for other options. There are a million ways that you can make a difference from donating your hair to Locks of Love to adding the URL to a charity’s donation page to your email signature. You could donate old bikes to The Bicycle Project or train a service dog. How about cleaning out your pantry and taking all those non-perishable foods you haven’t eaten to the food pantry – making sure that they haven’t passed the expiration date, of course!  Be a pen-pal for an elderly person or donate your old holiday decorations to a local charity organization. Just find something that constitutes helping someone who has less than you.

Regardless of how you decide to give, remember to give yourself credit for whatever you do. You made a difference in someone’s life. Like the old tale about the flap of the butterfly wings causing a tidal wave on the other side of the earth, every action counts - no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

- Santa Alex

Art Directed by an 8th Grader

Yes, the title is true.

This past weekend I did creative production work for my little cousin. He was over for a visit and a couple hours before he had to go, he mentioned that he needed to create a short video on Lewis and Clark for a school project. Of course I started in with a million questions about how he was going to dress his sets and what his script looked like..."offering" my suggestions (aka running completely roughshod over the poor kid). My husband gently reminded me who's project this was and I backed off. But I did tell him I'd love to help him with this project before he went home.

We only had a couple hours to get this done so we had to move fast. He had come with the idea that he wanted to use toys for actors, making it more of an animated film. I loved this. We built a set using part of my Halloween village accessories and part of our Christmas nativity scenery. "Little People" were perfect in proportion to the set so we went with the farmer for Lewis, a random pilgrim for Clark, and the teacher from the school set for Sacagawea. Sir Toppham Hat makes an appearance straight from the Thomas Train set. Use your imagination people, we only had a couple hours to pull this together!

My suggestion of making a silent film was met with enthusiasm and so we set to work. Believe it or not, this entire little film was completely created on my iphone with an app called Silent Film Director. This tool made it so easy. I will admit to having upgraded to "pro" for a few bucks more. They had everything I needed from editing capabilities to effects and music. I have never shot video and edited it before...but oh my, I'm sort of a monster now. It was serious fun.

This film is rough, there was no time for re-shooting anything (I accidentally shot it portrait instead of landscape) and the typography leaves something to be desired...but I think it's sort of cute so I thought I'd share it.

Here is my his film:


Friday Finds

It's the time of the year for clementines - also known "cuties" or Mandarin oranges. Don't know why they're not called Mandarin oranges anymore. Maybe it's not PC enough. And, while I agree that they're pretty cute, I kind of hate how twee the name "cutie" sounds.

Someone told me that more clementine oranges are consumed on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. This is a completely unsubstantiated claim but it wouldn't surprise me.


I found this really cool craft project that employes clementines and I thought I'd share it with you for today's Friday Finds. It's super-easy to do and the end result is really impressive. Clementines aren't just for eating! Woot!

How to Make a Clementine Candle


Magic Mushrooms

As I've mentioned on this blog before, my family is mainly meat-free. This lifestyle is not a problem for our small children who have never enjoyed the flavor sausage brings to pasta sauce or what fat from beef adds to your stew because they have no idea what they are missing. But, for my husband and I (who were both raised omnivorous) there has been some time of "adjustment".

We have researched and experimented until we collected a nice stable of everyday recipes that we recognize as home-cooking. Flavored seitan and TVP have been integral as meat substitutes in this process (as seen in the Sausage & Angel Hair Pasta and Tomato-y Vegetarian Chili we have shared here previously). What also has been a key ingredient in the kitchen is mushrooms.

I will admit, chopping mushrooms is a bore.

Today I want to share with you what we call our "Magic Mushroom Base". So far we have used it in both Italian and Mexican dishes to great success. Here's how it goes:

Magic Mushroom Base
1lb mushrooms of random varieties (we like to mix them up)
1 medium onion
3 cloves pressed garlic
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more, keep the bottle handy)
2 tbsp tomato paste

Dice onion and saute in butter and 1/4 cup olive oil until transparent. Press garlic in and saute for a couple minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it until it starts to caramelize (which means it will start sticking to the pan, so as you stir you scrape the bottom over and over until the paste goes from medium red to a deeper shade of brick red).
The tomato paste getting deeper red.
Then it's time to add the cleaned and chopped mushrooms. Turn them over and over with a wooden spoon, coating them completely. If you feel like it needs more moisture go ahead and splash some more olive oil in at this point. Not too much though, you want to keep this thick.

Turning the mushrooms over and over.
If you would like your mushrooms flavored for a Mexican (we use Penzy's taco seasoning) or Italian dish (we use oregano and basil), this is the time to add your spices. Turn the mushrooms over and over until they are soft and sauteed completely.

Now what you have is a thick mushroom base that is a great filling for enchiladas, lasagna, sub sandwiches, etc. Anywhere you would use ground meat or meatballs. This is why it's magic. :)

Plushies (not Furries... get your mind out of the gutter)

For the uninitiated, in modern parlance stuffed animals are called "plushies". I suppose it's because they are so rarely animals anymore. From UglyDolls to microbes, anything can be a plushie these days.
Jiker - pretty cute UglyDoll

This is a plushie of the herpes virus. I swear to god.

On Friday, our Crafting for Charity group had its fourth quarter meeting. After the debacle with the baby kimonos last quarter, Cassandra and I decided to do something different with our remaining flannel. So, inspired by our friend Emily at Bluestar, Ink. (please go check out her amazing work!) we figured we'd try our hand and some plushies of our own.

Cassandra designed a couple of super-sweet and simple patterns for us to use. One of our members had some fur left over from a Halloween costume so Cassandra decided to make a wolf:

And she made a bunny for me:


I didn't end up making the bunny evil, even though Cassandra left me the option by giving him pointy teeth. Also, she eventually added a 1/2 inch seam allowance to the illustration which was really helpful.

One friend, Erin, did the sock monkey from the book Craft Hope by Jade Sims. That turned out to be a pretty easy pattern - even though she made it difficult by purchasing chenille socks that were a b*tch to work with. LOL

I started my afternoon by finishing up the last baby kimono. I had to fix the hand flaps (I'd sewed them incorrectly) and add the tie closures. While I was doing that, Cassandra and Erin started their plushies. Cassandra did a lot of handwork on hers - embroidering the face and making the furry ears separate from the rest of the doll - and, well, Erin had the aforementioned struggle with the chenille. I kept my doll simple. I cut a front and back from the same flannel fabric then added a coordinating colored "face", paw pads, and inside ears. I machine-sewed the whiskers and the triangle nose, then added a couple of buttons for eyes. We all finished up at about the same time. And here's our final product!

The Usual Suspects

Wolf detail (love the chest hair!)
All in all, these were pretty easy to make. Now that we have the basic pattern down, we'll probably try to knock out a few more at our next meeting. Then they'll be donated to the Children's Hospital here in town.

On a separate note, on Saturday we delivered about 10 fleece pet beds to the Humane Society. We made these by taking the no-sew fleece blanket kits from Joann Fabrics, cutting them in half (to make two smaller "blankets") and stuffing them with a thin layer of polyfill. They seemed really happy to receive them. Also, our knitters are knocking out newborn caps at an alarming rate. At some point soon, those will be delivered to the NICU at one of our local hospitals.

Finally, our group got featured in our company newsletter. Based on the response, the idea is pretty popular so, hopefully, we'll inspire some folks to start their own groups.

- Alex

Friday Finds: LuSa Lotion Bars

Must be read with a 1950's announcer's voice:
Friends, do your hands get dry from office air conditioning or heat? Does wool drag on your skin when knitting? Are you embarrassed of your cracked cuticles? Then you need to try LuSa Organics lotion bars.

LuSa Organics lotion bars are joyfully made in Viroqua, Wisconsin with the finest ingredients available. Each hand-crafted bar is similar in size to a bar of soap. You simply rub the bar between your hands to apply the lotion and then massage into the skin. It's just that simple. Order today!

My favorite LuSa lotion flavor is lavender.
I felt like I needed to write a radio ad for this lotion because I love it so much. At this time of year when I am knitting like a fiend, my hands can get really dry. These lotion bars are my constant companion. I can't recommend them enough for folks who do a lot of work with their hands.

There is something for everyone at the LuSa site. Those with children will love the "Sweetest Dreams" roll on oil. It is part of our night-time ritual.
I am fortunate enough to live in a town where I have lots of retail options to purchase the entire line of LuSa products but for those of you who are not, it's okay, you can order online. LuSa is an example of a small independent company producing quality products at a reasonable cost. There is no excuse not to shop Indy people! :)

Happy Friday!