Baby Yoda

Leave it to pregnant friends to reignite one's knitting bug. "Makers" can't seem to help themselves when it comes to babies. Itty-bitty hats, sweaters, quilts, and more, all scream to be created for the new person entering the world. Perhaps it's because a hand-made gift is truly made with the recipient in mind and is, usually, tailored just to them.

Take, for example, my current knitting project - the one that brought me back from a looong knitting dry spell. A friend is due any day now and we know it's a boy. As Christmas was ramping up, I discovered that her husband is a bit of a Star Wars fiend, as was evidenced by his home-made Star Wars nativity scene. One which his wife was concerned would cause consternation among the neighbors (in fact, it didn't).

Day time (awesome)

Night time (MORE awesome!)
Being a pretty loud-and-proud geek myself, I was thrilled by this turn of events. I provided many suggestions of ways to improve on the nativity scene and was happy to learn that her husband liked some of them. And, of course, my plans for a baby gift were impacted as well.

Off the needles came my original gift idea (a baby balaclava which is slightly weird but super-practical)

Baby balaclava pattern is a free download at

And... on went the new

Seriously. How cute is this??
I love, love, love this pattern. The hat knit up in one night and, while I chose to make a kimono rather than the bunting provided here, the bunting is very original and adorable. The pattern for the set is $3.99 on 

The kimono I'm making is the Miss Sadie Baby Kimono on It's knit in one piece and then seamed.

This is a finished one... my almost-done one is below.
Here's where I'm at with mine:

Note the appropriate linen color

Ears still need to be attached
Welcome to the world, Baby Yoda!

- Alex

Batting My Lashes

There's something about my recent surgeries that has caused me to really need to get girly. I had to buy some new clothes due to inadvertent weight loss (I'm not complaining) so that was "girly thing" number one. I've been compelled to have pedicures and massages (not complaining about this either) and I'm going to an overnight spa in a couple of weeks. But, perhaps the most outrageous thing I've splurged on recently was eyelash extensions.

I usually don't consider pampering myself outrageous. I'm fortunate enough to have an income that allows me to, occasionally, spend some of it on splurgy self-indulgences. But there are some things that just seem silly - like eyelash extensions. 

Cassandra and I have a couple of friends who started getting this done about 18 months ago. One friend did well with them but the other couldn't help herself and would pick them off, causing them to be very expensive to maintain. The way it works is this:

1. You lie down on your back and close your eyes.
2. The aesthetician takes individual itty-bitty fake eyelashes, dips the end in a tiny bit of black adhesive, and attaches each one - one by one - to a real lash, right at the lash-line.
3. Then you hang out for a bit while the adhesive dries.

E voila! You open your eyes and you look like you have on the best-ever application of mascara. And it's like that ALL THE TIME. When you wake up in the morning, your eyes look bright and "done".

As your lashes fall out naturally, the extensions go with them so, at some point (usually 3-4 weeks), you go back in and get your lashes "filled in" with new extensions. It's pretty straight-forward. 

I had this done three days after my last surgery. When I went back to work, nearly every person I interacted with expressed how great I looked. I believe it was because I actually looked like I had make-up on, even though I, literally, had none.

I still think that this is the silliest self-indulgence I've ever self-indulged in. And the feeling of them takes a bit of getting used to. They are false eyelashes after all. But, at this point, I think the good outweighs the bad and I'll probably maintain them for a while. Or not. Maybe I'll find some other girly thing to spend my money on instead. :)

- Alex

Here are MY eyes:

Holiday Distractions

I don't know if it's because Thanksgiving was so late this year, but boy December is moving fast. Barely enough time to get the shopping done...cookies and outside lights have fallen off my to-do list...but the house interior is decorated! Picking my battles. It feels good.

Of course, there was still plenty of making going on this past weekend...because you know, I will sacrifice most things in order to work on a project or two. Along with some knitting, my weekend creativity consisted mostly of...

New pajamas for little boys.
3 batches of Potica. (not my recipe but click the pic for more info)
Home-made pizza...mmmmm.

What is not pictured are the dust bunnies in the corner, baskets of laundry to fold, and the fridge that needs a good cleaning out. Hopefully I'll be getting to those this week, unless...well something distracts me. Something like the gorgeous new colored pencils I got from my Secret Santa last week. I just know they are itching for me to draw with them!



I am a person who's been fortunate enough to be exposed to some very fine art in her lifetime. Museums, years of art history classes, and world traveling have worked together to shape the artist that I am today. However, I have to admit something sort of shocking. My biggest creative influences have come from TV.

I know...I know...many folks think TV is a fine-art wasteland. But the thrill I get when I see oddly creepy but beautiful vintage stop-motion animation sets me back on my heels. At this time of year when the Rankin/Bass classics such as Rudolph or the Year Without a Santa Claus seem to run on a loop in our home, you will find me looking at the screen very closely. Examining how every tree or character was made. As much as I love the Rankin/Bass films, what really captures my imagination is the older stuff. The stunning beauty of Suzy Snowflake or Hardrock, Coco, and Joe are a rich soil for my creative ideas.

It's no secret that I love classic films. But I don't think I've ever shared the fact that you can catch me pausing the TV on hand drawn title cards, and maybe even taking a photo so I can look at it again later! (I found this great resource recently.) I will even take photos of interesting props. Below is a photo I snapped while watching the silent film The Thief of Baghdad a couple months ago. I was swooning over the patterns in the background.

It's blurry...but I still look at it all the time.
When I was in college, I remember a teacher telling us about an article they read in Art in America that was analyzing the emerging artists of the late 80's color palettes against Hannah Barbara cartoons. Apparently what we watched as kids had an impact. This should not surprise us in the least. I actually remember watching Tom and Jerry as a small child and spending more time admiring the background art than the cat and mouse action. Somehow knowing in my gut they were special. Watch this...check out the amazing background art:

You know what all of these influences have in common? The human can see the hand in the work. I love that it's not highbrow fine-art hand...but rather art that is created for the people. (If that makes any sense?) Beautiful because of, rather than in spite of, it's flaws. This type of art has soul that computer-aided creations will never have. Sure, computerized fonts, animation, or color-pickers give you a faster and more perfect result. And yes, I do make my living creating at a computer. But it can never match the artistry of hand-done work.


Stocking Stuffers

Need some fun and inexpensive stocking stuffers this season? How about crafting something unique for your friends and family? A quick trip to the craft store and a little bit of quiet time can yield special gifts made just for them.

In the spirit of the season and in support of "making", I'm pulling some easy tutorials from our archives in hopes of inspiring you to create something special for the ones you love. Pick up your materials this week and set aside a little time this weekend to focus your holiday love into these fun projects. The end-result is sure to be appreciated. :)

- Alex

What the Kids Are Wearing - Easy-peasy pop-tab bracelets for girls, boys, and even grown-ups (depending on the lacing materials you choose). Check on YouTube for variations and put your own spin on it to ensure that your gift fits the receiver's personality.

Making Your Own Hand Lotion Bars - An awesome and easy idea, hand lotion bars can be taken anywhere and are great for dry, cracked winter skin. Personalize with the receiver's favorite scent - or make it "unscented" and enjoy the pure smell of the oils.

Bread Baking Without Fear - Seriously, who doesn't love a loaf of homemade bread? And you can personalize it by adding the receiver's
favorite flavors - garlic, herbs (rosemary, thyme), cheese, etc. This easy, easy recipe will have them all believing you're the next Top Chef. :)

Rainy Day Crafts - Two simple, but impressive, crafts that will bring a smile to even the Grinchiest of faces. Make t-shirts with a stencil and a bleach-pen or paint your own mugs (or plates or any other white,
ceramics). These are the ultimate in personalized gifts and are super-inexpensive and fun to do.

Handmade Holidays - A list of links to various resources for holiday craft tutorials. There's some great stuff in here - especially for making holiday ornaments!

Friday Finds: SoKind Registry

Keeping on the holiday trend we seem to have this week, I want to share with you a great tool for keeping your gift giving simple and sweet this season. It is an online gift registry called SoKind.

In their own words:

Want to plan a joyful and meaningful event that reflects your lifestyle and values? SoKind is a registry service that encourages the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods, experiences, time, day-of-event help, and more. Here's to more fun and less stuff!

I just love it,


The Meal That Keeps on Giving

I'm on meal number 285 of leftover Thanksgiving food. Okay, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration. BUT... come on. The leftovers just go on and on. I guess it's good that I really like my own cooking. LOL

Is this enough food for three people??
So, in the spirit of awesome food, today I'm going to share a few recipes that always make it to my Thanksgiving table. These are tried and true crowd-pleasers - maybe because there's booze in them. (No worries, the alcohol cooks off and is only there for flavor). 

I hope you try and enjoy them. Happy Thanksgiving leftovers!

- Alex

Warm Cranberry Compote
serves 6

2 T butter
1 small bunch of green onions
1/4 C cognac
2 C of fresh cranberries (you can also use frozen whole cranberries)
1/2 C water
1/2 C sugar
a pinch of salt

Dice the green onions including a lot of the green bit. Saute the green onion in the butter over medium heat until the onion is soft. Deglaze the pan with cognac. Add the cranberries, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil until the berries pop and the compote thickens. Add a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and keep warm. This dish can be made up to three days ahead of your meal and stored, tightly covered, in the fridge. Just warm gently before serving.

Bourbon Sweet Potatoes with Buttered Pecans
serves 8

6 large sweet potatoes
3 T (or more) bourbon
1 stick of butter (softened)
2 C pecan halves
1 t Kosher salt
2 T packed dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake in the middle of the oven until tender, about 1 hour. (use a baking pan or they'll drip sugary stuff all over your oven) When just cool enough to handle, peel and mash until smooth. Add bourbon (I use more than the three T's the recipe calls for...) and 6 tablespoons of the soft butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to a 2 quart gratin dish or similar shallow baking dish. The mash can be made up to two days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Bring the potatoes up to room temperature before proceeding. 

Reduce oven temperature to 325. In a shallow baking pan, spread the pecans in a single layer and bake until fragrant - about 10 minutes. Toss the hot pecans with the remaining 2 T of butter and the course salt. Arrange pecans on top of the mashed sweet potatoes and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake the potatoes until heated through and pecans are slightly browned - about 30 mins. 

Green Bean Casserole

2 cans of Del Monte French-cut green beans
1 can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup
Black pepper

Heat oven to 325. The actual recipe on the back of the onion container also calls for milk. I find that makes the casserole too soupy. So, just mix the beans and the soup together in a casserole dish. Mix in some black pepper and some of the french fried onions. Put a layer of onions on top of the casserole and bake, uncovered, until warmed through and the onions are a bit browned - about 30 mins. 


Every year I play the same mind game with myself. About a week or so before Thanksgiving I imagine what the my ideal holiday season looks like. The food cooked to perfection, handmade gift items finished without rush, time for volunteer opportunities, etc. You get the picture. When I eventually fall short of being the Martha Stewart (note: no dig intended on Martha here) I aspire to be, I can beat myself up pretty badly. But not this year, I am changing my ways.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this madness. I blame TV and movies for making us think this time of year has to be "magical" or we are somehow failures. I mean come on, the Hallmark channel has movie after movie about some kind of Christmas miracle right now. Enough already. Sometimes our holidays are just what they are. There are some that we remember fondly for a special reason, but mostly they are a harried frenzy to the finish line. Things have to fall off our plate. And guess what, that's okay. The world will not stop spinning if you didn't get around to your holiday cards.

Sometimes littles will not cooperate for the perfect holiday photo.
With less unrealistic expectations on this season, we are open to seeing the goodness we have been letting go by unnoticed. Maybe I won't get around to making sugar cookies, but I will take a few minutes to share stories with the kids about some of our holiday family heirlooms. And maybe the shopping will be stressful and rushed, but I'm going to sing along with Judy Garland and Bing Crosby on the radio in the car.

This little drum ornament was made by my Great-Grandmother.
This season I plan on paying attention to the little things, and taking more opportunities to "pay it forward" to strangers. That is what I will consider a success. And I think I can manage it. 

Knitting by the tree with a slice of pie is one of the simple joys.
You know, I'm a really big believer in creating your own reality. What goes on in my life has been created by me...the good and the bad. And what I don't like I can change. No excuses, no pointing fingers outward, it's all on me. So why let the holidays be any different?


PS - This Friday (Dec 6) is St. Nicholas day. There are some great links on this old post to find out more about this tradition.

Friday Finds: Stolen Post

I stumbled on this short, impactful post from Seth Godin the other day and I felt a strong need to share it with you guys today. It says so much in so few words - as is often the case with Seth.*

I hop you enjoy it. 

- Alex

Not a gift

posted on 11/15

Here are attributes many of us value in co-workers, bosses, employees, friends and vendors:
  • Honest
  • Punctual
  • Curious
  • Proactive
  • Flexible
  • Thoughtful
  • Generous
  • Fun
  • Committed
  • Respectful
  • Organized
  • Interested
  • Creative
  • Likable
  • Positive
you get the idea. These are things that turn someone from ordinary into a star. They are even attributes we now assign to our favorite brands, treating them like trusted or respected friends.
Someone who is likable, honest, curious and thoughtful is easy to think of as gifted. This natural charisma and care is worth seeking out in the people we choose to work with.
The thing is, it's a cop out to call these things gifts. You might be born with a head start in one area or another, you might be raised in a culture or with parents that reinforce some of these things, but these are attitudes, and attitudes can be taught, and they can be learned.
The question, then, is do you care enough to take them on? It's not fair to say, "I'm not respectful" or "I'm not creative." It is honest and clear to say, "I choose not to be honest," or "I don't want to do the work to be organized."
We can own these things. What a privilege.

*If you're unfamiliar with Seth Godin, I highly recommend you put him on your reading list - even if you just visit his blog occasionally. He is one of the great minds of our generation and always has something interesting to say.

Baby Quilt

One of my daughter Cammy's close friends recently had a gorgeous baby girl. She was so excited about her first friend ever to have a baby that she wanted to give her a gift that was really special.

We decided that we would make her a scrappy baby quilt with some hand quilting...together. You know, a mother-daughter bonding experience for us.

We joyfully started out at the fabric store. I let Cammy pick out the fat quarters (with a little guidance from me on how to choose your fabrics to get the scrappy look we wanted). It was fun to let her choose the fabrics because she picked patterns I wouldn't have chosen, and yet I loved how they worked together in the end. The teacher was the student!

The fabric was washed and pressed and we started cutting our strips. As I hovered over her cutting it was really becoming clear that my control freak tendencies were rearing their ugly head. I know cutting quilt fabric can be tricky, and I mean well...but I'm pretty sure my daughter wasn't having a good time.

After I came up with a simple design, we moved on to piecing the blocks. 1/4" seams are pretty exacting work for someone who never touched a sewing machine before. Bless her heart, the one block I let her piece looked great but came out about an inch too small. I set it in the pile of "soon to be potholders" and she looked really, really, sad. And I felt like some kind of quilting bully.

When school started up again (she's a college senior this year!), she was too busy to work together on this anymore. I pressed on and finished it in time for the baby shower. As disappointing of an experience this may have been for Cammy, she ended up adoring the quilt. And I did too. For a week before it was gifted, it rested on the back of a chair in the living room. Both of us had to pick it up and admire it every time we walked by. I hope this means there is still a little inspiration to be a sewist in her...somewhere. Maybe we can try again with a simpler project? Let's hope!

Every quilt has a story, doesn't it?


Let Me Entertain You

As you may have noticed, I haven't been particularly crafty lately. I've been cooking (some) and have been trying to knit again now that I'm on the mend. Sewing projects seem to be taking up a lot of my crafty daydreaming but none have come to fruition yet. I'm just not really in the swing of it, unfortunately.

So, what am I doing with my copious non-crafting time? Passive entertainment... Books, TV, games, and social media have been my constant companions for the last few months. Some of it has had some value - books where I've actually LEARNED something, for example - but most of it has just been diversion. Regardless, I thought you might like some recommendations... just in case you need some diversions as well. :)

- Alex

Disclaimer: Obviously, entertainment is a very subjective thing. Just because I like it, doesn't necessarily mean you will. I'll try to be as descriptive as possible and not steer you wrong. 

  • Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, young love, and the secret to eternal life — mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore. The Great Recession shuffles Clay Jannon from his web-design drone job to night shift at Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Curiously, few customers come in repeatedly and never buy. Analysis reveals astonishing secrets that take the reader from the birth of printing to Google and back. 
  • The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
A social critique of our obsession with choice, and how it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret. Whether we’re buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions--both big and small--have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.
In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice--the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish--becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice--from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs--has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. 
  • Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. 
Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.
  • The Returned by Jason Mott
All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. As chaos erupts around the globe, Harold and Lucille Hargrave, newly reunited with their 8 year old son who died 40 years earlier, find themselves at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.
With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

  • Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
After the Battle of New York, the world has changed. It now knows about the Avengers and also about the powerful menaces that require those superheroes to face them. In response, Agent Phil Coulson of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division (SHIELD) assembles an elite, covert team to find and deal with these threats whenever (and wherever) they're found. 

  • The Goldbergs
The Goldbergs is set in the 1980s and follows the Goldberg family. Starring Jeff Garlin as husband Murray, Wendi McLendon-Covey as wife Beverly, and three children. Youngest son, Adam, documents their lives with his video camera. The series is based on creator Adam F. Goldberg's real-life family, in which he actually video-taped events when he was growing up, which are re-enacted throughout the program. 

  • The Blacklist
Raymond "Red" Reddington, one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, surrenders at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He claims the FBI and he have similar interests in getting rid of dangerous criminals and terrorists. Reddington will cooperate only with Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler. Keen questions Reddington's sudden interest in her, but Reddington will only reveal that she is very special. After the FBI uses Reddington's information to locate a terrorist, Reddington reveals that this terrorist is only the first of many criminals that he will help them neutralize. Over the course of his own criminal career, he has made a list of global criminals who he believes are truly dangerous to society, most of whom are unknown to the FBI. Reddington calls it "The Blacklist".

  •  Dancing on the Edge
This six episode mini-series from the BBC follows a black jazz band's experiences in London in the 1930s. Made up of talented musicians and managed by the compassionate yet short-tempered Wesley Holt, the band gets a gig at the Imperial Hotel, by the way of the cunning journalist, Stanley Mitchell. They prove to be a hit, and become a success at the hotel. Countless aristocrats - and the Royal Family - ask the band to play at parties. The media rush to interview and photograph the band - including the ambitious American businessman, Walter Masterson and his enthusiastic employee, Julian. The band's success spirals, being offered record deals. But tragedy strikes, setting off a chain of events that may wreck the band's career.

  •  Dixit  (a great game for ALL ages - even kids)

Each player starts the game with 6 random cards. Players then take turns being the storyteller. The player whose turn it is to be storyteller looks at the 6 images in his hand. From one of these, he makes up a sentence or phrase and says it out loud (without showing the card to the other players).
The other players then select among their 6 images the one that best matches the sentence made up by the storyteller.Then, each of them gives their selected card to the storyteller, without showing it to the others.
The storyteller shuffles his chosen card with all the cards he received from the other players. All pictures are then shown face up, randomly, and every player has to bet upon what picture was the storyteller's.
If nobody or everybody finds the correct picture, the storyteller scores 0, and each of the other players scores 2. Otherwise the storyteller and all players who found the correct answer score 3. Players other than the storyteller score 1 point for each vote their own pictures receive.
The game ends when the card deck is empty. The player with the highest point total wins the game.

  • Cards Against Humanity  (XXX rated. Do not let your children anywhere near this deck of cards. But it's hilarious, if you can stand how offensive it is)
Game play is nearly identical to Apples-To-Apples. To start the game, each player draws 10 white "answer" cards. One randomly chosen player begins as the Card Czar, and plays a black "question" card. The Card Czar reads the question out to the group. Each player answers the question by passing one white "answer" card, face down, to the Card Czar. The Card Czar shuffles all the answer, reads them out loud in a humorous fashion, and picks their favorite. Whoever played that "answer" card gets to keep the black card as one point. After each round, a new player becomes Card Czar, and every player draws back up to 10 cards.

  • Plants vs Zombies 2: It's About Time
In Plants vs. Zombies, players place different types of plants and fungi, each with their own unique offensive or defensive capabilities, around a house in order to stop a horde of zombies from reaching the house of the residents. The playing field is divided into 5-6 horizontal lanes, and with rare exceptions, a zombie will only move towards the player's house along one lane (the main exception is if it has taken a bite out of a garlic). Planting costs "sun", which can be gathered for free (albeit slowly) during daytime levels and by planting certain plants or fungi. Most plants can only attack or defend against zombies in the lane they are planted in. In later levels, players can purchase upgrades with different offensive and defensive abilities.

Friday Finds: Woodland Knits

Ya'll know that I love love love woodland critters. So you can imagine the squeal of delight I let out when I got a look at Stephanie Dosen's new book Woodland Knits. The patterns are inspiring and gorgeous. I've been a fan of Stephanie's knitting patterns for years and am so glad that she finally was able to put a collection together in book form.

I think my favorite pattern from the book is the Woodland Hoodlet:

To see images of the patterns included in the book and even more cute patterns to purchase, check out Stephanie's website.

Happy weekending everyone!


Winter Is Coming

Well, to be honest, it's pretty much here. 

Living in a four-season climate is a double-edged sword. Southern Wisconsin in the summer is glorious.

No... beyond glorious. The temperature is warm but moderate - usually around 80 degrees. The humidity can be high because there are lots of bodies of water but it's generally not uncomfortably humid. Most older homes don't have central air - just ceiling fans and the occasional window unit to take the edge off when it's necessary. This past summer, I ran my air conditioner for a total of 6 days.

But winter... ugh. Bitter cold and lots of snow. Even in years when the winter is considered mild, it's difficult (for me, anyway) to navigate the cold. A few years after moving here, I learned that winter is only as brutal as how inappropriate your winter wardrobe is. But, even with this piece of wisdom, I'm never, truly, warm. I live my life wrapped in wool, down, and long-johns. There are multiple blankets on my sofa and my dogs are required to act as heating pads. Oh... and the best thing I've ever bought for myself - bar none - is a heated mattress pad. I'd like to point out that it's really, really hard to be truly stylish and truly warm. 

Of course, along with the change of season comes the sniffles. I've already had one bad cold (it's still hanging on a bit) and Cassandra has pneumonia. And it's only November. All winter-season survivors have some routine for when they get sick. This year, I've started making my own Cold Buster Tea that came from a recipe that was originally printed in Bon Appetite Magazine (of all places). I swear it helps - especially when combined with a Neti Pot regime and a lot of sleep. 

Cold Buster Tea

1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (fresh makes a difference - I've tried using bottled and it's not the same)
2 teaspoons of honey (use more if you need it to be sweeter or if your throat hurts)
1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger (fresh is a must. powdered/dried ginger doesn't work)
1/4 teaspoon of echinacea extract (you can find this at natural food stores or online)
A pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a mug with one cup of boiling water. Stir until honey is dissolved. Let steep for a few minutes. You may strain it if you prefer not to ingest the tiny bits of ginger.

Additionally, I like comfort food when I'm sick and my new, favorite crunchy snack is homemade, seasoned hard pretzels. This also makes a GREAT game-day snack for those of you who follow the sportsball.

Seasoned Pretzels

2 lbs of hard pretzels, broken into pieces
1 1/2 cups vegetable or Canola oil
1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

Put broken pretzels in a large roasting pan. Mix all other ingredients and pour over pretzels. Stir well to coat the pretzels. Do not cover the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Beware - these are totally addictive.

Stay healthy everyone!

- Alex


I've returned to the land of the living...still getting both feet back on the merry-go-round...but much, much, better. As part of the process of reacquainting myself with the world (I know I've sort of "checked out" from everything for the last couple weeks) I was perusing my camera roll on my iPhone last night to see what making I've recorded while in my pneumonia haze. I think sharing the randomness of my sickness journey is a nice place to start this Monday morning.

Making strudel with Grandma a couple weeks ago.

Little pumpkin pies for the pre-k class Halloween party.
Too sick for anything but TV and knitting simple hats and mittens.
Little Bear wears his new hat indoors and out.
Super-secret family recipe baking yesterday.
Last night I dove back into the cables. I'm on the mend.
Pretty heavy on the baking and knitting. So curious. But, I've been doing some dreaming and sketching about some bigger sewing projects. We'll see what comes of it now that I'm back in the saddle.