Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP On the Go

Meetings (at least 1 a week for something), doctors' & dentists' appointments (there's a lot when you have 4 kids), waiting on kids after practice of some sort, sports activities (games, meets, races, matches - whatever you want to call them). Like any busy mom, I'm always on the go. And so is my yarn. 90% of the time, I have a skein of yarn and hooks and needles in my bag. The other 10% of the time when I'm yarnless, it probably means I did not finish my coffee and did not fully think my day through and I'm probably sitting, twiddling my thumbs like someone going through withdrawal.
 
Along with my yarn, I also keep my supplies on hand - because what's a ball of alpaca without a hook or needle to stitch it?  Here's a peek at my supplies kit.
 
There are plenty of specialty knitting needle /crochet hook carrying cases on the market, at every price point. Mine is none of those. Instead, I have re-purposed a travel jewelry bag (which was a gift from a friend because it's pink.) It has zippered, clear plastic sections, folds up to the size of a large wallet, and fits easily in any of my bags.
     
What's in it? I don't / can't carry every hook and notion that I own. Here, I have just the basics for a project on the go.
 
Hooks & Needles - an assortment of the sizes I use the most and any others I anticipate needing
 
Notions
- small sewing scissors
- yarn needle
- teeny crochet hook 
- stitch markers 
 
Misc. Stuff  
- teeny Post-It notes - good for making notes on patterns or just when I need to write something down
- safety pins - they make good stitch markers and are useful for holding a stitch in case the hook falls out when I put the project away
- a pencil 
 
Do you carry a crochet/knitting kit? What's in it that I've forgotten? 
 
 
Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Break is for Doing Nothing

Ahh... Spring break! The official official end to winter. The last big break for school children to gear up for the last lap of the school year. One more quarter, that's really like a crazy mix of really hard (finals) and really easy (outdoor recess) and all the excitement of only 30-some days 'til the end of school. That countdown starts with spring break.

So how are you spending spring break? We parents feel like we have to make big plans for spring break because someone warned us we only get 18 springs with our children before they go off to their adult life, never to spend a sunny day with us again. So its gotta be grand and wonderful and memorable and scrapbook-worthy and Facebook-postable. The pressure!

For the past few years, our plans have consisted of packing up the car with basketballs, books, yarn, games & bathing suits and heading to the beach, which is really too cold for swimming and on some days, even too cold for sitting in the sand enjoying the sun, but it doesn't matter. What do they say, "a cold day at the beach is better than a cold day at home"? Or something like that.

We don't really "do" anything for spring break and I like it that way. Half the fun is just the change of scenery. Getting up in the morning for a run and heading down a different path than the one we usually take. Not checking the schedule for the next place we have to rush off to. Not even driving anywhere, but walking to dinner and to Rita's for dessert. Staying up and watching movies and bad TV because we have nowhere to go in the morning. Falling asleep on the couch or in the floor in the middle of the day or late at night. Having a conversation face-to-face, not looking at each other in the rearview mirror. My kids the other day were excitedly jabbering about whether a new SweetFrogs would be opening for the break. I think they're planning on eating frozen yogurt for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and dessert. And yeah, I think I'll have a cup or two, also.

What are you doing for spring break? I hope you get a chance to do nothing, too.


If you're traveling, check out our tips for roadtrips, resort vacations, and family vacations. And if just the kids are going away? Wow. Our sleepaway camp tips may come in handy. Enjoy!

Join the conversation on Facebook: Just Piddlin' with Frances

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

7 Reasons Why I Stay Married

Are you married?  Then there have surely been days that you sat back, looked at your spouse and thought, “Now, why did I get married?”  Perhaps, it was when a single girlfriend told you about how she picked out big, flowery curtains that no man would ever have hanging in his house. Or maybe it was your divorced friend’s solo trip across Europe, going to, or not going to, any museum or church or store or restaurant they wished.  But on the other hand, think about how your single friends have to do everything on their own – from taking out the trash to putting up their own Christmas tree to trying to hang a picture level.


I’m married, been married for a long time. Long enough not to even remember being single.  And here’s a few of the reasons that I remind myself, why I enjoy being married.  (Apologies to any offended feminists.)

I don’t have to buy any electronic things or know how they exactly work.  This frees me from having to pay attention to whatever the latest gizmo is because my husband updates our e-stuff and i-inventory.  But there are some drawbacks. There have been times when my husband is traveling and the kids have gone to bed, that I read or clean the house. Not because I necessarily want to do these things, but because I don’t know how to work the TV. We’ve got so many video games and satellite boxes and computers and about five different remote controls, that one push of the wrong button, and I’m looking at a black screen.

I don’t kill bugs or spiders or collect the bewildered birds that smash into my front window.  Instead, I call my husband. If he’s not around, I call the other male in my house, my son, in preparation for his days years from now when he’s a husband.  Stinkbug or tarantula, it doesn’t matter.  I scream like there’s a giant octopus about to attack and wait for someone with a Y-chromosome to show up and save me.

I don’t change lightbulbs. That seems like something I should be able to do, but lightbulbs have gotten complicated.  Some of them are really high up, some are in special globe fixture things that require a screwdriver and three hands to dismantle. I’ve been picking out my clothes in the dark for about the past two weeks because the light in my closet blew out.

I don’t fix things.  Whether it’s an electronic glitch or a loose door knob, I leave those mechanical things to my husband.  Now, I will put together a bookcase or something from IKEA, because the directions, parts, and necessary tools are all in the box. But if it requires some kind of assessment of what tools are required and a trip to Home Depot, I’ll come up with some kind of McGyver-ed thing until the Mr. gets around to fixing it.

I don’t negotiate car repairs.  I will handle the emergency stuff, like a flat tire, by calling the highway auto repair folks or my husband. And once, when my car wouldn't go into Park (yes, it got stuck in Drive), I did drive myself to the car repair shop, yell out the window to the mechanic and jump out of the car. But other stuff – I let my husband handle the negotiations and discussions because I know the repair folks are going to think, “Ah ha, we can get over on this lady. She probably doesn’t even know the difference between a gasket and a piston.”  But my husband can use big, technical car words and does at least know where to find the engine, so I leave this in his domain.

I never have to finish the whole pint of ice cream by myself.  Okay, this one could go either way - bad or good, depending on how you look at it.

I don’t have to talk to myself (all the time). Okay, anyone who has a husband, probably feels like they are talking to themselves sometimes, and mine is really good for the “uh, huh, uh-huh, yeah” thing, totally not paying attention while I ramble on about PTA and trying to find a pair of green high heels and how the lightbulb is out in the refrigerator and I can’t set the ringer on my phone.  But when it comes to the important stuff – my hopes, my dreams, our family - he’s right there.  When it comes to the tough stuff - my faults, my mis-steps, the things that hurt my heart - he's right there.  Standing beside me, pushing me along, carrying me forward. He’s right there.  

Are you married? What's a good thing about your marriage? 
 
Join the conversation on Facebook: Just Piddlin' with Frances

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dinner & Mayhem with Friends

-->
We have a book club. We get together for coffee. We’ve done game night, moms’ night out, matinee movies.  For a change of pace, I recently invited my friends for dinner at a winery.  We got all dressed up – casual dresses, floor-length gowns, smart suits – chatted over a pasta dinner and wine.  As dessert was being served, we were told that – oh, my! – someone had been killed and someone in the room had done it.  We looked around suspiciously, wondering which one was capable and had the motive to kill a man in cold blood. You think you know your friends…

Christine's smile looks a bit guilty, doesn't it?
And when you find 11 who say “yes, a murder mystery dinner sounds like it’ll be fun,” you know you’ve got a good group.


With all my crime solving expertise from watching CSI, SVU, Law & Order, Snapped! and Alfred Hitchcock, hosting a mystery dinner was an obvious party option.  With the help of Shot in the Dark Mysteries I planned an evening with the theme “Murder in the Winery” for a dozen guests (myself included).  This online mystery game company personalizes the various aspects of the party for you – co-ed, all girls, all guys, number of guests, theme – Murder in the Spa, roaring 20’s, Mardi Gras, tropical, for instance. For those who like the darker side, they have witches and vampires themes.  Each theme has costuming and decorating suggestions, too.  And it’s not just for the adults – they are planning kid-friendly themed party packages to be revealed in the next couple of months.

Before the party, I downloaded all of my materials from the site and was amazed by all the stuff. There was a hostess guide with everything you’d ever need to know about hosting a murder mystery dinner and character information that I distributed beforehand to all the guests.  Since we were in a winery, wine labels were also included.  All that was left to do was cook the spaghetti and solve the murder.

There was no script or prescribed format of questioning and revealing information; one of my friends thought this was a plus over another mystery party that she went to, making it more spontaneous.  We had to mingle, chat, and figure out who to ask what.  Each character has information they will share willingly and other information that you have to dig for, but like in real life, you don’t know what to ask them to get that information because you don’t know what the information is.  The funny thing about this – the next day, one of my friends said, “I was thinking about it – I should’ve asked this person this question – then I would’ve figured it out!”  20/20 hindsight, right?

This was definitely a unique get-together for us and we had a lot of fun.  Even my family was excited, my kids peeked from the steps, waiting to see which of my friends was guilty.

So the next time you and your friends are trying to come up with a reason to get together, stop by Shot in the Dark Mysteries and then invite them over for a little dinner and mayhem.

So I glad I survived!

Join the conversation on Facebook: Just Piddlin' with Frances


We received a complimentary party package for this blogpost; all opinions are my own; thanks to Leigh for a fun event!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring into Reading Book Giveaway

The best time to read, I find, is when my agenda is empty.  This is usually on vacation.  If you’re like me, a new read is a required part of your vacation packing list. Whether a weekend getaway or a month’s venture, you’ve got a book stashed in your bag or an ebook file stored on your favorite gadget. Moving into spring, I’m sharing some of the books from my pile.

Spring into Reading Book Giveaway!
Get ready for spring break with a new book. Chosen by me, a surprise to you – if chosen, you will receive one book from my shelves.  All are promotional copied from publishers and authors.  Some I’ve read, some I haven’t, I liked this one, but not that one (not my genre of choice, usually.)  No cost to enter.  There will be as many winners as books I pull from the shelves (minimum 6), each person may only win 1 book.

Enter the giveaway, winners will be announced on Thursday, April 10 on my Facebook page. Note, winners will need to provide their mailing address upon notification.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Join the conversation on Facebook: Just Piddlin' with Frances

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Books to Read Pile

They are stacked up on the table in my workroom. Piled on the bookshelves and next to my favorite chair. Sitting on the nightstand. Saved on my iPad as a Kindle, nook, or iBook e-book. I would need to clear everything from my calendar for the remainder of the year to get through this ever-growing pile of books I’m going to read.

Everyone I know who considers themselves a “reader” has a pile of books they intend to get to. Mine never seems to shrink, fed by my compulsive habit of not walking out of a bookstore without at least one book, usually two. And yes, that would be a physical, walk through the doors and pull a book off the real shelf bookstore. Add to that, the books that friends pass along and those I receive as promotional copies from publishers and authors. And there’s the temporary contributions from the local library. There are, for various reasons, even multiple copies of the same book.  On top of the to-read books, there's the read-again pile. Toni Morrison. Old classics from high school - To Kill a Mockingbird and the Great Gatsby.  And books that seem like I'll never finish, like The Bible.

It’s like a well. Whenever I’m thirsty for a new read, I wander over to one of the teetering piles and pick out the next book.  And it doesn’t seem to ever dry up.

What's on your to-read pile?


Join the conversation on Facebook: Just Piddlin' with Frances

Monday, March 31, 2014

Currently...Getting Ready to Party into Spring

March 30 - Can you believe there was wind, rain, hail, and snow yesterday?  The sun looks like it's peeking out today - please stay!  Starting out this sunny week, here's what I'm up to.

Eating... what is destined to become my new favorite omelet, but hardly will be served at the local diner. The site Food52 asks for readers to try and review recipes, breakfast choices were up this go 'round. One of them, a definite "gotta try it" was Kimchi Frittata with Sriracha Drizzle. But let me first say, I could/sometimes do eat kimchi, the fermented cabbage considered to be Korea's "national dish," at every meal every day. And sriracha, well, that's just the firey cherry on top, right? I didn't bother making it over the weekend since my family does not share in the idea that kimchi can be a breakfast food; though, perhaps my son would but he doesn't like omelet/frittata style eggs. Since I get to enjoy it all by myself, I only made half the recipe. The frittata is a simple mix of kimchi (I used Mat kimchi, the Chinese cabbage version that most people think of when they think of kimchi), scallions, soy sauce and eggs, with sriracha and rice vinegar. It reminds me of the steamed eggs my mother used to make when we were kids.  I'm eating it, all by myself, with a bowl of rice (what else?)

  
Plotting murder.  With the help of Shot in the Dark Mysteries, I'll be hosting a murder mystery dinner for a dozen of my friends. They offer a variety of themes, for any number of party-goers, male/female or co-ed. I considered a party with couples, but thought perhaps the spouses may get a little nervous, realizing how sinister and plotting their loved one could be, so I'm keeping it all women.  Keep up with me on Twitter for more on "Murder in the Winery" tomorrow.
 
Reading Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. I admit, I don't know what's going on in this book.  You may know already, if you've read my bookposts before, that I rarely read the back cover. I really do choose a book by it's (front) cover.  And this one glows in the dark, as I surprisingly found out one night on my way to bed.  There is, as the title suggests, a 24-hour bookstore, that doesn't really sell too many books. Instead, the "members" come by at odd hours of the night to exchange books, like a library, but the books are written in some kind of weird code. I'm following along with the bookstore's newest employee Clay Jannon trying to figure out what these members are figuring out. 
 
Purging winter clothes in the kids' closets and drawers. This winter has been so long that they've all grown out of their clothes. Coat sleeves are up their arms, jeans are skimming their ankles, and buttons are stretched tight on their shirts. Time to get rid of winter gear. Hopefully spring will indeed cooperate with my housekeeping.  As I outlined in a previous closet-cleaning post, I've got my piles line up - donate/give away, pass on to a sibling, throw out, recycle.  The task can be overwhelming, so I'll set a timer - an album on the iPod will keep me motivated, happy, and within a time limit.
 
And to welcome in the warmer days of spring, I am stitching a new pink and green shawl/scarf! I started and made good progress this weekend thanks to a rainy day basketball tournament.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustPiddlinBlog