Monday, February 27, 2017

Watering My Green Thumb

My babies last year.


After falling into a batch of cactus when I was little and having to sit on a sore bum all the way home, I swore to hate the prickly beasts for the rest of my life.

And yet, much more recently, I discovered the delectable method of preparing nopales to eat and was surprisingly hooked. I have a recipe I shared four years ago for a good example of how we liked them. Check it out here!

But even so, my relationship with cactus is best described as love/hate. My brother was given a tiny cactus clipping a few years ago from a neighbor and has been growing it in our kitchen window ever since. He named it Taco, actually. Don't ask. I can't help admitting that the little thing looked cute and unique, and I even bought him a special pot for it for his birthday.

And yet a plant that you can't touch still remains a bit of a letdown to me.

Only last year I discovered the name of a type of plants I have always liked. You know, the ones that look kind of rubbery. I'm sure you know the name: succulents. I've always seen them and been attracted to them but I didn't know what they were until last year when I saw them in the garden area of Lowes. I fell in love. I talked about how cute they were and how much I wanted them until my brother (my other brother) ended up buying me three when he bought himself some. I got a special pot and researched special soil and top dressing. My little babies got planted and looked so cute. I discovered however that they are related to cactus and have to be taken care of very similarly.

Here was my middle ground. The alternative to those prickly, hateful, cute little plants. My brother can have his "Taco" and I'll have my succulents. (Sadly, they are the fad right now and I have a natural derision to following fads for the fads sake. But after the fad is all over, I will still have my succulents.)

In my research I ran across this wonderful blog called Succulents & Sunshine by Cassidy Tuttle, which has a wealth of information. I have learned so much from her posts and definitely recommend budding succulent growers (no pun intended) take a look at what she has to say.

I soon learned of the "art" of propagating succulents and was very intrigued. If you are not familiar with the term, it means growing new plants with cuttings from the parent. Tuttle gives good advice and how-to's for this process and today, I followed them to start propagating my own!

Our home lacks good windows to provide sunlight, especially in the winter, so my poor succulents stretched a great deal over the last few months. There really isn't anything I can do for this problem, but the fact that I can clip them back down to size, start over, plus have more plants because of it, helps a great deal to appease the unavoidable problem of continual stretching. I do, however, intend to do more this year in giving them appropriate light. Although placing them in the vicinity of my cats is out of the question. (Cat = broken succulents!)

So here are my pictures of how it turned out.

Before murdering!

All of my clippings! They are so beautiful!

These are clippings from my Sedum adolphii "Firestorm".

These are clippings from my Crassula "Moonglow" (left) and my Graptoveria "Moonglow" (right).

And here are the original plants that will (I hope) grow once more into flourishing beauties.

I must say I am a little nervous. They say not all of them will turn out, but with my luck I fear none of them will. I couldn't help feeling murderous while I was pulling the leaves off. After all, when you pluck the petals from flowers you're killing them, or maybe torturing them since you started the dying process when you picked them. But as many specimens as I have, surely some of them will turn out.

I will leave these for a few days so that they will scab over, as experts suggest, and then I have a pot I plan to fill with succulent soil where I will lay them to grow. I can't wait to see the tiny new buds!

While these babies grow, and I continue to learn more about them, I have secret hopes of getting ahold of some Hens and Chicks this year. There are so many succulents out there and they are all so amazing! Where I will put them I have no idea. Maybe I'll start hanging them from the roof...

I intend to post a follow up to this as things progress. Keep your fingers crossed!

Are you a veteran succulent grower or are you new to the game as well? Click on the post to leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cinder - Book One of the Lunar Chronicles | Book Review

(Because I abhor spoilers myself, I will try to keep the details and bulk of the story a secret!)

Being a cyborg may have its advantages, like good mechanical skills and the ability to digitally analyze what she sees, but for Cinder they separate her from love, relationships, dreams, and in general, being normal.

Cinder is a sci-fi retelling of the fairy-tale Cinderella. The story is set in futuristic Beijing where Cinder works at a booth in the square fixing mechanics at her Stepmother's command. Her skills in this area bring her to the attention of Prince Kai, the Emperor's son, who needs her to repair his old android. As Cinder unexpectedly runs into him more she begins to discover more about the kingdom and an impending danger from the evil Lunar's. At the same time a lethal disease is picking off random people on the planet, leaving the Emperor's research team racing to find a cure. As Cinder becomes involved in these situations she soon discovers there is more to her than meets the eye. Having resigned herself long ago to her insignificant status, what she learns will change everything about her.

My Thoughts
I received this book for Christmas from a friend who had read it and knew how much I adored the original Cinderella story. In fact, I am the ultimate Cinderella expert. Okay, self-made expert anyway. I had seen this series here and there for a little while but hadn't had a chance to read what they were about. You see, I don't visit libraries or book stores anymore. Sad, I know. What is sadder is how I rarely read anymore.

The fact of the matter is, I probably never would have picked it for myself to read anyway. Although the story may sound intriguing, I normally do not go for the modern sci-fi/fantasy fad fiction. I usually find them lacking some really important depth and ultimately leaving me feeling less entertained and more embarrassed for the person who thought they could write.

I actually started reading the first chapter right after my cousin gave it to me. I was immediately intrigued by the cyborg Cinderella twist and as always, eager to see how it measured up to what I love most about the classic tale.

Tell-tale Signs of the Classic
The author, Marissa Meyer, included a few key elements of the Cinderella story that we all know and respect, such as the main characters: the lowly servant girl status, her stepmother and stepsisters, the Prince, and then of course: the ball, the glass slipper, and her ending desperation. While reading there were times when the realization of how these elements fit in was like a puzzle piece sliding into place. It made me smile when Cinderella losing her glass slipper became Cinder losing her cyborg foot. But as unique as it was, I don't think an old, musty automobile was the replacement I would have chosen for the magical pumpkin carriage.

My Favorite Points
What I like most about this adaptation was the Oriental overtones. I suppose like Meyer, I have always been a fan of Asian cultures. Although I never watched anime cartoons or read the comics, I love the differences of the food, the traditions, and the exotic landscapes. Frankly, I love learning about different cultures in general.

One thing that drew me into this story was how relatable the character of Cinder was to myself. No, I am not a tortured servant girl, or a cyborg, or even small and flat-chested. I spent my younger years playing in, and later working some, in a mechanic shop, and even if I am not mechanically inclined, nuts and bolts, grease and grime, are as familiar to me as home. The fact that Cinder wasn't afraid to get dirty made her real, although what she did to her dress was verging on sacrilege.

As for depth, I kind of regard the easy style of the book as popcorn. Fun and enjoyable, but not enough for a steady diet. Which is a shame, because a story like this could really pull people in but give them a lot to chew on or think about. People these days need all the stretching of the mind they can get.

Morality and Worldview
What I didn't like about this book was the use of profanity, however light. I understand that in this era the bounds of what you should say and do have been stripped down and their basis taken away, and that your average teen will say more than this in an average given day. But this doesn't make it right. Foul language doesn't make a story more intense or engaging. The intensity of a moment is neither heightened nor lessened by such and to include it is bad taste. Only after reading it did I discover that it is labeled Young Adult Fiction which makes my opinion even more resolute. Teens get enough trash from our culture, they don't need any more.

There were a few humanistic points to the story, such as how cyborgs are treated, as well as Lunar shells (readers will understand), but this was not how our heroine felt, neither was it portrayed as right, therefore it was not glamorized or promoted. However it did bring up some interesting questions I would like to ask its readers, such as what makes a human worthy of respect? Or what makes a being truly human? Could an android, if it had a unique enough personality, be regarded as human? Addressing these may become a post of their own. What do you think?

There are one or two slightly off-color remarks I personally wouldn't have added but all in all, the book was cleaner than I expected from a modern day read.

In this day and age I am hardly ever worried that the heroine will be too weak. On the contrary, my worry is that she will be too independent so that she will not need anyone. A character in a story that is so self-confident that she doesn't need anyone is hard to feel for because what can anyone do for her? I felt Cinder's self-sufficiency was well-balanced. She was not weak, neither was she too strong.

Future Books
I am hoping to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series soon. I must say I am hooked. I've always been a fairy-tale fan, and I don't know how many times I have tried my own adaptations of them as well. It is fun seeing how others recreate the stories we love. Granted, sometimes I am not so pleased. Cinder's story was fun and enjoyable, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. Having read an excerpt in the back of the book about Scarlet, I am wondering if book two will be darker or contain a more liberal worldview than the first. Meyer has hinted at a lot of mystery in this first book and we'll see just what comes to play in the next one's and whether my review of them will be as positive. I hope so!

Before I can say whether or not I recommend this series, I will have to read the rest.

Come back soon! And let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Does Good Business Mean Compromising Who You Are?


Being your own boss is growing in popularity with the ease the internet provides in running your own cloud-based business. There's also a great deal of advice on how to go about it.

I'm young and new to business for the most part. At least in terms of running my own. I have learned a lot and still have so much to learn since starting my blog in 2012 and my business in October 2016. I'm not naturally business minded and I fear being business ignorant. The struggle to find the happy medium in the advice I receive from the public is very real to me. If you're a blogger or have started your own business I'm sure you know what I mean.


An Information Overload

The internet is both helpful and intimidating with its information. I love the fact that I can find information for all of my business related questions. Without this informative outlet I wouldn't have the business I have today. And yet in my ignorance of the proper way to run a business do I believe everything I read? Sorting through the advice can be a headache.

In my attempts at bettering my blog I've changed a lot and endured much struggle. While doing research on the subject the pressure to do the right thing (i.e. what the public wanted to see) was overwhelming. I constantly heard things like --

"Make sure your blog appearance is visually appealing."

"Your blog should engage readers to stay past the 30 second marker."

"Write interesting content, things people will want to read."

"Take professional pictures."

"Find your particular niche."

"Get involved in blogging communities," and etc.

All of which is very good advice but can easily make you forget your true interest and the reason you started your blog in the first place.

The same goes for starting your own business. Loads of advice that can weigh you down with a feeling of desperation and impossibility. The recurring question I have asked myself over this time has been, "What is good business sense and what is merely public preference?" After reading all of this advice I began questioning myself, concluding that maybe I don't have the commitment necessary to run my own business. Maybe I am not "business" enough for the job.

The problem is, they are right.

Writing merely to please yourself may be exactly what you need to relax and unwind but if you want a prosperous blog with a growing following you will need to write about things that interest the general public or at least a large percentage.

Go With The Flow

I'm not normally one to follow the fads or go with the flow. Right now a great majority of the public are obsessed with fantasy and sci-fi, and though I have an occasional interest in the genre myself, I will not change my writing style to please the public, even if I know it would be more socially acceptable.

On Etsy some of the most popular stores are the one's that sell copyright branded products. They are literally disrespecting the owners copyright and selling products with a name and elements that do not belong to them. (For example, Disney and Marvel themed products). These stores make 1,000's of sales at the cost of others, but until the corporation decides to crack down on this these businesses flourish. It's what the public wants, regardless of who suffers.

What The Public Wants

When you witness the prosperity of these people doing what the public wants to see, read, or buy you can only surmise that pleasing the public is good business sense. So the question is, can I be me, with my standards and my interests, and still have a prosperous business and blog? Do I adjust my interests and write on topics that are currently in vogue? Do I avoid those topics I am passionate about because "no one" wants to read them? Although others may do it, I will not infringe on the copyright's of others not matter how long they have been getting by with it. Breaking the law is harmful to the public and, more importantly, dishonoring to God.

But aside from obviously breaking the law, would it be good business for me to sell fad products because that is what people want? Or am I right in only selling what I want to sell?

Do I lose my identity for the sake of "good business" or do I risk never making it in the business world by following my dreams? Is this a question of "conform or lose out?"

Coming to a Point

The fact of the matter is, people will always encourage you to conform to the fads. They chant, "Be yourself," and yet define for you what "Being yourself" looks like. This is what makes it hard for people like me to sift out the truth from popular belief.

Whether it is good business or not, I still cannot say. I am still new to business and have a lot to figure out. But when it is a question of compromising who you are or who God wants you to be, there really is no doubt as to the answer.

I still don't know what business moves would be best for my shop, or whether my writing really interests anyone, and that is disheartening. But the beautiful thing is, God knows my future and He gave me my passions. He holds my future in His hands and because He loves me, I know I can expect something great beyond what I could ever choose for myself. I have to wait and see what His idea of prosperous means for me.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -- Romans 12:2 NIV

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Little Bit of a Slump

Since the beginning of this year I have had a long to-do list in nearly every area of my business life -- crocheting, mixed media, store work, blog work, affiliate work, etc.

I wrapped up my crochet list with Valentine's and finished my latest mixed media idea and now I find myself kind of wondering, what now? Oh, I can think of a hundred things to do and projects to finish, but for some reason I find myself in a slump. Maybe I need a break.


I have 21 items in my shop, crochet patterns, crochet products, and mixed media products alike. I have a handful of patterns to add and a few products to add as well, and yet, in my slump of an attitude, I wonder if I'm getting anywhere. These days I am wondering if the public really wants to see a shop full of all kinds of things to choose from or would I catch their attention more with a few new things in a confined category. I realize on Etsy I have a lot of competition. Still thinking on this matter but would welcome anyone's advice.


So, in my slump I also wondered what to write about today. Can you believe I made a list of at least nine post ideas and didn't want to do any? So instead I sit here rambling on. Maybe it's for the better. Sometimes I don't think I am personal enough here on my blog. Like maybe I am trying to be too professional and not personal. I see others saying this too, in an effort to have their work and business recognized they heap on the anxiety and restrictions. It's a fragile balance, one that I run into every few months. I can't tell you how much a blessing it is to know that God is in control of my future. It's way to harried for me.

One of my favorite movies, State Fair (1945). Read my review here!

But one happy thought resides, my birthday is tomorrow! Can I talk about my birthday for a minute? Hearing me talk people would think we gave huge parties for birthdays, but we don't. I realize, compared to some people, we do very little for birthdays around here. But what we do is special and tradition, and that's what matters. What do we do? Well, the day is for the birthday person. I choose my meal and dessert, which is always something like lasagna or Asian food and chocolate pudding cake. Someone in my family makes a personalized banner and drapes it over the china cabinet while someone else will hang streamers, colors that I have chosen. I get to pick the music or people pick what they know I like, I get to choose the movie we watch, and basically that's it. I guess I love a chance to celebrate, however simply.

Now my hardest decision is what will I choose to watch this birthday? Oh yes, this is a hard one. I have so many favorites!! The top three are (a version of) Persuasion, The Count of Monte Cristo, or The Scarlet Pimpernel. See what I mean?! I may just choose a good ol' black and white suspense like Night Train to Munich with Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison.

But anyway... Maybe by the time Monday arrives I will be out of my slump and ready to get to work. Although I could play jacks... read Tintin comics... or play around on my new tablet. But no, seriously.

Before Christmas I was working on two projects, a baby blanket and a Steampunk Top Hat. I will pick those back up and hopefully have a pattern to post by the end of next week. Also, before too long I will share with you my latest pattern I made for Crochet Spot. You want a hint? All green!! If you follow me on Instagram you will have a good idea of what it is.

Soon I plan to start my Carousel mixed media piece. I had an idea for it many months ago but got sidetracked with the holidays and a lack of supplies. I now have the supplies and am ready to work! If you want to see the idea I had, check out my Instagram post a few months back.

And how is that for a rambling post? Actually, talking helps a person get their thoughts realigned. I don't know about you, but this has been good for me.

Thanks for bearing with me while I talk. Come back soon for some creative treats!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Be My Love Valentine's Plaque | A Mixed Media Project


Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! And I mean everyone. For Valentine's Day can be celebrated whether you have a significant other or not.

This is the third plaque I have decorated and I'm loving it!

Moving from flat, scrapbook pages to 3D plaques has been an exciting transition. Because of how I would store my scrapbook pages (in plastic page protectors), I would try to keep my designs from having too many 3D elements. But with plaques I have practically no restrictions.

Here are my recommended supplies for this project, the Be My Love Valentine's Plaque.

  • heart plaque from Jillibean Soup
  • two sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 scrapbook paper
  • two sheets of 5 x 7 scrapbook paper
  • ribbon
  • lace ribbon
  • buttons
  • paper flowers
  • Mod-Podge and stiff brush - I used three different kinds (Paper, All Surface, and Fabric) but you can use whatever you want.
  • ruler
  • scissors (a Fiskars Fingertip Control Craft Knife comes in handy with the letters)


Here are the things that I selected as possible materials when I began. I didn't use the ribbon at the bottom because I didn't feel the colors melded with what I had.



I wanted the heart front to be covered in scrapbook paper, leaving a quarter of an inch of wood showing. So the first thing I did was trace one half of the heart onto a piece of printer paper and trim off a quarter of an inch all the way around. This is where the ruler came in handy.

I work at my projects a little at a time and only glue at the last moment so that I am sure I will know what it looks like and can make adjustments if necessary. I don't always use a table but instead make a work space out of boxes on the ground. Usually boxes from the supplies I just ordered. It works for me.


I chose to use two complementing patterns for my heart plaque. Plus, I was dying to use the blue and pink floral there.


This was the first idea with the flowers. I used lace ribbon about 2 inches wide that I got from Hobby Lobby. In fact, nearly everything you see there I bought from Hobby Lobby.


Here was my second idea with the flowers, mixing them up. Notice that I also have added pale yellow buttons. Years ago my family bought me a Bag O'Buttons and from there I pulled out every yellow button in a similar size range. Do you see the heart button? That was the only one in the bunch and I love that added touch.


This and the next two pictures are center ribbon examples. By this time I had cut out the words I wanted to use from the 5 x 7 scrapbook paper. I pulled two different shades of green from the So-So Sweet book from The Paper Studio. I really love how the green words bring out the touches of green in the floral paper behind it.

To get the words, I measured just how much space I would have on my heart after adding the flowers and buttons. Then I chose the two fonts I wanted to use (making sure they were free fonts) and arranged them in Gimp first and then an Open Office document, being sure the sizing would match up. I printed the page and cut out the separate fonts (not the separate letters). On the back of the 5 x 7 pages, I laid the printed fonts and used the opposite end of an ink pen to rub over the printed font from the backside of the page (really, any blunt end object would work). The fonts transferred nicely to the back of the scrapbook page and I cut them out from there. Ingenious, right? Saves so much time for people like me who do not have a special machine to do it for you.



I decided on using the gold but I think the yellow up there would have worked well too. I don't like the purple and am now glad I didn't use it.


Then it was time to glue! I was disappointed in how yellow the paper Mod-Podge left my lace. But it held nicely and looks good anyway. I draped the lace down the sides of the plaque and underneath.

After the lace, I glued the buttons with Mod-Podge All Surface, a dot at a time, and let that dry. Then the wording and last the flowers.


Here is the plaque from the side. I think the lace going all the way to the back of the piece kind of solidifies the look.


A closeup of the words. Don't you just love the font?! I took a while trying to decide what words to put on this piece. I recalled a favorite song of mine from Mario Lanza, one I used to sing to tame my savage beastie, Ella the part Bobcat. Be My Love just fit.



This is the first time I have used paper flowers like this and I am impressed by how well they have held up during the designing process. When I wasn't using them, I would put them in a small plastic bag and blow it full of air so that they wouldn't get crunched.


And that is my latest piece! What do you think? Do you like it? I've actually given some thought to organizing a PDF with the templates I used and full instructions. But I'm not decided. Let me know if you are interested in a PDF version!

I will be putting this in my Etsy store very soon, Ginger Peachy Store, if you want to order yours!!

Thanks for reading, and come back soon!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cupcake Delight Mini Pillow | New Crochet Pattern


(See updated version here! When purchasing a PDF copy of this pattern you will receive the updated pattern!)

After continual coaxing and suggestions, my sister finally convinced me to make a cupcake themed project. The fact of the matter is not that I never wanted to, only that I just didn't have the inspiration or the time for one. Well, she has won out. And I must say, I am pleased with the results. Of course, I think she is more pleased.

So to top off this mini pillow rampage of mine, let me proudly present to you my Cupcake Delight Mini Pillow! Read on for free crochet pattern. 

(Note that I will have a PDF version of the pattern available for purchase at Ravelry and Etsy very soon! And in case you are interested in purchasing the actual pillow, I will have a listing up on Etsy for that as well.)

So far I have made four mini pillows, three with cotton yarn and one with acrylic. I chose cotton because I wanted a sturdy pillow that wouldn't fray, pill, or stretch out of shape. I love using natural fibers so much more than acrylic, but sometimes you have to take affordability into account. Actually, people like me always have to take affordability into account. 

The first pillow I made was with cotton yarn and I have had it for many years now. I am very happy to say that it still looks great, no stretching or pilling, even though it has seen much use. Granted, the brand of cotton yarn will have something to say about this matter, but I definitely recommend cotton for pillows. And yet there is one thing to keep in mind. My family all agreed that the acrylic pillow was softer and thus more appealing to snuggle while the cotton ones are less so, but they quickly added the fact that the cotton will most likely last longer and look good as well. Just something to keep in mind.

Now for the pattern!


Cupcake Delight Mini Pillow


Skill Level easy

Finished Size 10” (25.5 cm) square

Materials
Medium Weight Yarn (I used Peaches N' Cream)
  Yardage: 200 yards of color A (white)(I bought a cone, which meant 700 yards!), 15 yard of color B   (light pink), 15 yards of color C (light green), 1 yard of color D (red), and scraps of extra for french     knots
Crochet Hook 7 (4.50 mm)
Yarn Needle for french knots
Polyester Fiberfill 
Fabric glue

Gauge
7 hdc = 2’’
5 rows = 2’’
Gauge Swatch: 2’’w x 2’’h (5 cm x 5 cm) ch 9.
Row 1: hdc in third ch from hook and in each ch across: 7 sc
Row 2 – 5: ch 2, turn, hdc in each hdc across: 4 sc
Finish off.

Frankly, I never give much mind to gauge since what I normally do doesn't matter too much whether the sizing is the same as the designers. But I realize that some people prefer to check their gauge, and maybe that is the professional thing to do. I'm good with it.

You will start by making the pillow panels. But do not join the panels together until the very end. You will need to work the french knot embellishments into the top panel and if the two panels are joined, well, I just don't see that working out for you.


PILLOW PANEL (make 2)
Round 1: with color A, make an adjustable ring, ch 2, 16 hdc in ring, sl st in first hdc: 16 hdc
Round 2: ch 2, turn, (hdc in next 3 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, sl st in first hdc: 24 hdc
Round 3: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 2 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 5 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 3 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 32 hdc
Round 4: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 5 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 7 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 2 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 40 hdc
Round 5: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 4 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 9 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 5 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 48 hdc
Round 6: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 7 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 11 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 4 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 56 hdc
Round 7: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 6 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 13 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 7 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 64 hdc
Round 8: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 9 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 15 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 6 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 72 hdc
Round 9: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 8 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 17 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 9 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 80 hdc
Round 10: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 11 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 19 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 8 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 88 hdc
Round 11: ch 2, turn, hdc in next 10 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc, (hdc in next 21 hdc, 3 hdc in next hdc) repeat around, hdc in last 11 hdc, sl st in first hdc: 96 hdc
Finish off.

Note that I changed the frosting pattern from what you see in the picture.

Set the panels aside and take your colored yarn to make the cupcake applique. I had a lot of fun mixed with trepidation over this applique. My first thoughts on how to make it, I am surprised to say, worked out as I had hoped.

I wanted the cupcake applique to look like a cupcake. To me, the most notable things about cupcakes, visually that is, is the ribbing on the cup and the swirl to the frosting. I wanted to design both aspects with these notable distinctions in mind. 

For the bottom, I chose to work in certain loops only, at times the back and when turning, the front, to create the ribbing. I will admit right now that I guessed at what stitches to use, with the thought of merely increasing and decreasing in height. It worked the first time! Don't you just love when that happens?


For the top, the idea on how to achieve the swirl eventually worked as I had hoped but I was not as lucky as I was with the bottom and had to rip and try again too many times to count. I crocheted a long chain and worked a single row which was turned back on itself again and again and overlapped to create a haphazard-kind of swirl. Ingenious, right?! The first try turned out too long. Heavy on the frosting, huh. On a real cupcake, maybe, but not for this design. I subtracted a layer of stitches and was happy with the shorter frosting.

The cherry was simple, of course, but I debated on whether or not to add a stem. I think distraction made my mind up for me, because I didn't add one.

CUPCAKE APPLIQUE
Cup
Row 1: with color B, ch 12, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next 3 ch, hdc in next 3 ch, dc in last 4 ch: 11sts
Row 2: ch 3 (counts as dc), turn, in flo, dc in next 2 sts, hdc in next 4 sts, sc in last 4 sts: 11 sts
Row 3: ch 1, turn, in blo, sc in next 4 sts, hdc in next 4 sts, dc in last 3 sts: 11 sts
Row 4: ch 2, turn, hdc in each st across: 11 hdc
Row 5: ch 1, turn, in blo, sc in next 4 sts, hdc in next 4 sts, dc in last 3 sts: 11 sts
Row 6: ch 1, turn, in blo, sc in next 4 sts, hdc in next 4 sts, dc in last 3 sts: 11 sts
Row 7: ch 1, turn, sl st in next st, sc in next 3 sts, hdc in next 3 sts, dc in last 4 sts: 11sts
Sl st around evenly. Finish off.

Frosting
Row 1: with color C, ch 56, 2 dc in 3rd ch from hook, dc in next 11 ch, dc2tog 3 times, dc in next 10 ch, 2 dc in next 3 ch, dc in next 9 ch, dc2tog 3 times, dc in next 6 ch, dc2tog: 52 sts
Finish off.

Take the frosting you just crocheted and overlap it at each bend (i.e. each decrease or increase). I secured mine where I wanted it with stitch markers and began sewing each layer. Although I am fond of gluing my appliques, for reasons I will divulge later, in this situation I think it was better sewn.

Cherry
Round 1: make an adjustable ring, ch 1, 8 sc in ring, sl st in first sc: 8 sc
Finish off.

Once all the cupcake elements are made, sew or glue them together, then attach your finished cupcake applique to the panel you consider the front. 


Here is where I made my first mistake. I sometimes think my tendency toward fabric glue is really just another excuse for cutting corners, and this time I wanted to do it the original way and sew the applique on. So I did. (Or "sew, I did", get it? Okay, never mind.) I continued with the rest of the pattern and guess what, I wasn't happy with it. In fact, I wanted to cry. The applique looked smooshed onto the pillow, the pillow lacked pizzazz, and I even thought it wasn't entirely centered. I tossed the abhorrence away for the remainder of the night and tried to forget about all the hard work I had done for nothing.

This morning, however, I was able to look upon the pillow with fresh eyes. Sewing the applique on may be the original method but I realized that by gluing the applique, you have a more clean cut looking piece, do you know what I mean? The stitches used to sew the applique on tended to meld the two layers together whereas the glue kept them as separate but joined elements. Am I describing this well?


Sprinkle Embellishments
Anyhow, now for the sprinkle embellishments. After attaching the applique, start adding french knots of all different colors to the area surrounding the applique. I used at least four different colors, but I can really go crazy with french knots. Do you know how to make a french knot? Don't despair if you do not, it really is quite easy. Watch this video by Mary Corbet on how to make a french knot. If you are like me, you will quickly become addicted. And not to mention the art they create with this simple stitch!

Finishing the Pillow
Now that you have the front panel all decorated, you can join the two panels and add the stuffing. Another mistake I made was to join the panels with the same color yarn as they were made with. This gave it no border and was the next thing I changed this morning. I recommend using a contrasting yarn and single crocheting the panels together. But don't forget to leave a gap open at the end for adding the fiberfill.


When it comes to stuffing, I always say, "If it looks full enough, then add some more." This is a lesson I learned years ago when I sewed some pillows and later had flat, lifeless things. It may seem like enough, but by the time it gets hugged a little or laid on, it can become a little flatter than you expected. There's always room for more! Once you have stuffed it sufficiently, finish single crocheting it shut. Weave in the ends and stand back to survey your handiwork.

What do you think? Is it a lovely cupcake pillow, or what? I'm sure my sister already has an inkling that this pillow is for her. But I wanted to be completely satisfied with it before giving it to her. It doesn't pay to be hasty. At least, that's what I keep reminding myself. Oh and hey! The good pictures on here were taken by her, Alissa Yarbrough! She does such beautiful work at product photography, don't you agree?!

Come back soon to see my new mixed media project, a Valentine's plaque!

This is an original pattern created and designed by Amy Yarbrough of Ginger Peachy. You are welcome to copy the pattern for personal use but do not sell the pattern, distribute, or reprint it. Feel free to share a link to the pattern. You can sell products made from this pattern but please credit me, Amy Yarbrough of Ginger Peachy. Do not mass produce or factory manufacture using my pattern. Thanks for respecting the wishes of the designer, and be sure to ask me if you have any questions regarding this copyright.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Confessions of a Writer that Won't Write


I've always accused myself of having too many interests and viewed it as a bad thing. Even today I tell myself that maybe I would be better at some things if I had fewer interests. But the fact of the matter is that God has given me these interests for a reason. I just have to figure out how He wants me to use them.

It is obvious that one of my interests is writing. Actually, I think it would have to be my major interest because every other thing can be included in it, such as writing about crafts, about science, about fashion and history, etc. But before I wrote on these subjects, and before I was a blogger, my main focus was fiction.

I don't know when I first decided I could write fiction. I was probably 8 or 10 when I wrote my first short story. I laugh when I think of it. It was about a bad bunny who had a sort of "A Christmas Carol" experience before discovering how important it was to be kind. I think my little bio just glamorized it more than it deserves. After that I wrote Barbie-inspired adventures (I was a Barbie fan, you see) and some others. But as I got older I somehow began to have ideas of what writing professionally looked like. Somewhere along the way I began putting more impossible standards on my writing so that nothing was good enough. Time and again I would have a story all worked out and be halfway done with it before deciding on a plot change, taking me back to the blackboard where I would start all over again.

The sad thing is, I still do it. I have realized my misconception that a piece has to be perfect before you can be finished with it, but I still catch myself dragging the draft back to the blackboard for rewriting. Frankly, I envy those young writers (especially those who are younger than me) who have a handful of finished stories under their belt. How do they do it?!


I have at least three short stories (wait, only three? Oh, don't forget the novels) sitting dormant in my notebook where they have been for many years. And I know why I can't finish them. The reasons are multiple.

One is a lack of inspiration.

Have you felt that way? All fired up over an idea, storming ahead with possibilities, brainstorming plot and character development? And then, partway through writing, the fire has died down and you suddenly feel like you are getting nowhere. You pick at the plot and the reasons and ask yourself, "why would so-and-so do such-and-such? That's just plain silly!" and before you know it you've thrown the story aside to work on another day. And that day never comes.

That is me to a tee. Thus the pile of unfinished manuscripts and an overwhelming sense of impossibility.

Another reason is one I have already mentioned -- personal restrictions. 

I am a fact checker by nature. I want the truth and I want to learn. My reading diet during my younger years were classics and historical fiction. Boy, would I pick at some of those historical fictions! Ladies and gentlemen, a 17th century Lady (as in a woman of good breeding and good morals) would not consider becoming a pirate!! (Sorry, Elizabeth Swann). You do not want me to began critiquing contemporary piracy novels.


It is obvious I hold writers to higher standards, thus I am often disappointed. But the expectation works both ways. I must write the way I want others to write, factually accurate and humanly logical. In my case, I expect perfection. (Which is strange, because I am not a perfectionist by nature).

I have since admonished myself for this unrealistic mindset, and have tried to change it. I tell myself, "Just write, nothing else. Don't let your 'logic' interrupt, don't let anything through but the story." It helps, but it is taking a lot of time to brand permanently on my brain. Which brings me to my last reason for why I have so many unfinished works.

Misdirected priorities. 

(In my mind) At my age, a woman should be working hard and making something of herself. Although I grew up believing that a person should do what they love, even if it wasn't the best, money paying job, there's a time when outside pressures makes you think otherwise. Maybe it's an excuse, but either way, right now all I have is my business and it is my main priority. Every other interest must take a back seat. Sadly, my fiction writing has taken the very back seat of a 15-passenger van.

I wish I could say that things are going to change. That's what everyone would like to hear at this point in the story. And so would I. But as I said in a previous article on New Year's resolutions, I don't like making commitments until I am sure I can keep them. And yet, as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. So maybe things are going to change.

Let this be a lesson to others of you who see themselves in me. Write! Write and don't stop. One of my favorite quotes is the one by Agatha Christie (I'm sure you've heard it) which says, "Write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well."


Another of my favorites is by Francena H. Arnold. Her writing tips are priceless. She says,

"1. Be natural. Don't preach! If a witness to Christ is to be made, make it short, to the point, and in harmony with the character.
"2. If you want a touching scene, make it so, don't just say it is. If you want a funny situation, make it so, etc, etc.
"3. Live with the characters until they come alive to you. Then you don't have to worry about what will happen. It just comes as you live with them day by day.
"4. Have something worthwhile to say in writing. (Illustration: The woman who wrote me saying, 'I want to write a book but can't think of anything to say.' My advice: 'Don't Write!')."

However, I am probably being too hard on myself again, so lest you get the wrong idea about me, here are a couple of fiction pieces I have posted here on my blog --

I'll Be Home For Christmas - Christmas Songbook Series

A Beautiful Love Story

I'm actually particularly fond of these pieces. But let me know what you think! In the meantime, keep your hypothetical fingers crossed as I attempt to put fiction writing back into my schedule. Maybe this post will be the thing to hold me accountable for my lack of motivation. We'll see.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post! Leave me a comment telling me what you think, or any advice you might have.

Come back soon for another free crochet pattern, and later, a Valentine's plaque!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Glitzy Heart Mini Pillow | New Crochet Pattern


Well I had planned to blog sooner this week but we had a surprise visit from my sister and her family. My little niece and nephew are just too cute, I simply couldn't hold myself to my normal schedule with them around.

The last time we saw them was about a year ago and they were considerably younger. In fact, my nephew wasn't even standing up last time and this time he was stomping around the room following big sister everywhere. And so opinionated! But I suppose an aunt could go on forever about her sweet niblings! (Bet you didn't know that was the term for nieces and nephews collectively)!

I did however finish my pattern for this week. I had to make some changes to the idea based on design and yarn availability so I haven't decided whether I am pleased or not. I suppose I regard it as a good project but not exactly the one I had in mind. I planned to place the heart on the bottom, right corner and embroider wording along the top and side. The pillow was to be in a deep purple, the heart a real pinky-pink with a soft pink felt patch, while the wording would be in a deep red. I ended up finding the fuchsia yarn and a bright red instead but no pinky-pink. So out went the pink heart and deep red wording, and in came a sparkly heart with silver stitches on the outside of the pillow. Not the same, albeit, but not too bad, right?

Aside from straying from the original idea, whatever the reasons, I am so happy to reveal my latest Valentine's piece, the Glitzy Heart Mini Pillow!

This is now my third mini pillow pattern and I have quite fallen in love with them. The first was my Mountain Scenery pillow for Crochet Spot some years ago, and then more recently the Pastel Hearts Mini Pillow (I sell the one pillow in my Etsy store, by the way). I have a couple more in mind, one of which I will be presenting next week if all goes according to plan.

Would you like the pattern to the Glitzy Heart Mini Pillow? Keep reading or purchase my affordable, ad-free pdf of the pattern on Ravelry or Etsy!


Glitzy Heart Mini Pillow


Skill Level easy

Finished Size 10” (25 cm) square

Materials
Medium weight yarn (I used With Love in Boysenberry for color A, and Caron Simply Soft Party in Silver Sparkle for color B) – 100 yards of color A and 30 yards of color B
Crochet hook 7/4.50mm
Fiberfill
Yarn needle
Fabric glue

Gauge
7 hdc = 2’’
4 rows = 2’’
Gauge Swatch: 2’’w x 2’’h (5 cm x 5 cm) ch 9.
Row 1: hdc in third ch from hook and in each ch across: 7 hdc
Row 2 – 4: ch 2, turn, hdc in each hdc across: 7 hdc
Finish off.

Pillow Panel  (make 2)
Row 1: with color A, ch 30, hdc in 3rd ch from hook, and in each ch across: 28 hdc
Row 2 – 23: ch 2, turn, hdc in each hdc across: 28 hdc
Finish off.

Designers Preference: I like to work the beginning chain loosely, or even use a larger hook, to ensure the base of the project isn't tighter than the top. The bottom should be generally indistinguishable from the top.

Assemble Pillow
Hold the two panels together with their right sides facing out. This isn't too important since you turn in the pattern, making it hard to tell which is the right and wrong side. In these situations I judge the right side by the direction of the last row made.

Join color A in any stitch and single crochet both panels together, working 3 single crochets in each corner. Leave a few inches open at the end and stuff the pillow with fiberfill. I like a full, overstuffed kind of pillow but with stretchier crochet fabric this can cause a hole-ier look to your pillow, so use your own judgement on how full to stuff it. Be careful to stuff corners specifically. Once pillow is sufficiently stuffed, continue single crocheting to close pillow.


Heart Applique 
Round 1: with color B, make an adjustable ring, ch 3 (counts as dc here and throughout), 11 dc in ring, sl st in beg ch-3: 12 dc
Round 2: ch 3, turn, dc in same st, 2 dc in each dc around, sl st in beg ch-3: 24 dc
Round 3: ch 3, turn, dc in same st, dc in next dc, * 2 dc in next dc, dc in next dc, repeat from * around, sl st in beg ch-3: 36 dc
Round 4: ch 1, turn, skip next dc, sc in next dc, 2 hdc in next dc, (dc in next dc, 2 dc in next dc) twice, dc in next dc, 2 hdc in next dc, sc in next 6 dc, 3 dc in next dc, sc in next 6 dc, 2 hdc in next dc, dc in next dc, (2 dc in next dc, dc in next dc) twice, 2 hdc in next dc, sc in next dc, skip next dc, sl st in beg ch-1: 47 sts
Round 5: ch 1, turn, skip next st, sl st in next st, sc in next st, hdc in next st, 2 dc in next st, (tr in next 2 sts, 2 tr in next st) twice, dc in next 2 sts, 2 hdc in next st, hdc in next 2 sts, sc in next 8 sts, 3 hdc in next st, sc in next 8 sts, hdc in next 2 sts, 2 hdc in next st, dc in next 2 sts, (2 tr in next st, tr in next 2 sts) twice, 2 dc in next st, hdc in next st, sc in next st, sl st in next st, skip next st, sl st in beg ch-1: 57 sts
Finish off.

Heart Embellishment
Attach the heart applique to the center of the pillow by stitching it on with the same color yarn or by applying fabric glue.

Designers Preference: I prefer using fabric glue since the adhesive is so permanent. I use Dritz Unique Stitch and have found it to bond fabrics very well. Read a full review of this product here.

Stitch Embellishment
With about one yards length of color B, thread your yarn needle and use a running stitch to add stitch embellishments to the pillow border. I worked the stitches just below the round of single crochet, and at one stitch intervals but covering two stitches at a time. If this sounds too involved then just do what looks good to you.

And that does it! Now you can toss that lovely new pillow onto the living room couch every time Valentine's rolls around and watch friends and family admire your handywork!

You can purchase an affordable, ad-free PDF version of this pattern at Ravelry or Etsy!

Come back soon to see what other Valentine's projects I have been working on!

This is an original pattern created and designed by Amy Yarbrough of Ginger Peachy. You are welcome to copy the pattern for personal use but do not sell the pattern, distribute, or reprint it. Feel free to share a link to the pattern. You can sell products made from this pattern but please credit me, Amy Yarbrough of Ginger Peachy. Do not mass produce or factory manufacture using my pattern. Thanks for respecting the wishes of the designer, and be sure to ask me if you have any questions regarding this copyright.