Washcloths and Dishcloths and a Great Little Gift Idea

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The first project I ever did was a dishcloth I made when I was 5.  My mom taught me to crochet.  It was a wonky piece, with uneven stitches, a few holes and was definitely NOT square.  She loved it and was so proud!  She used it for years.  Nowadays, I’m better at making those functional crocheted squares.  I have made all sorts of patterns, and the only types of dishcloths I use are hand crocheted or knit ones.  They last a long time, can be made in so many great colors and can be bleached and washed and dried ad infinitum (color fades…obviously…but the things hold up!).  They are a great first project for a newbie and a great gift item.  Think housewarming, wedding shower, and gifts for teachers, piano instructors, neighbors, friends, etc for Christmas!

Here’s how I made a couple of different dishcloths using common stitches.


 

Basketweave Dishcloth:

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Using a size G hook*, Ch 25.

Row 1: dc in 4th ch from hook,  dc across,  ch 2, turn.

Row 2: *bpdc in next 3 st, fpdc in next 3 stitches*, repeat from * to * 2 times, bpdc in next 3 stitches, dc in turning ch, ch 2, turn.

Row 3: Repeat row 2

Row 4: *fpdc in next 3 st, bpdc in next 3 stitches*, repeat from * to * 2 times, fpdc in next 3 stitches, dc in turning ch, ch 2, turn.

Row 5:  Repeat Row 4.

Continue repeating rows 2 – 5 until piece is square.  Dc around the whole thing.  Finish off and weave in ends.

*A note about hook size.  Some of you might have a way smaller square than me if using a G hook.  I am a very loose crocheter and often go down one or two hook sizes when using a published pattern.  If you are a tighter crocheter, try a size H or even I.


Diagonal Stitch Dishcloth

With size G hook (see note about about hook size), ch 25

Row 1: sc in 2nd chain from hook and in each ch across, ch 2, turn

Row 2: Skip one stitch, dc in next 3 stitches, work elongated sc: insert hook into skipped stitch, yo and draw up a big loop, yo and pull through both loops on hook, skip next stitch, dc in next 3 stitches, elongated sc, and repeat pattern across, dc in last ch, ch 1, turn.

Row 3: sc in each stitch across, ch 2, turn.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until piece is square.  DC around the whole thing. Weave in end.

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For a great little gift idea, try tying up a cute washcloth with a handmade bar of soap or a specialty bottle of dish soap.  Could be cute housewarming gifts, teacher gifts, or anytime gifts!  For handmade soap, I really like Windrift Hill out of Montana.  Or locally try the Soap Opera in Madison for a large variety of soaps!

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There are so many different washcloth patterns out there.  Another favorite pattern I use is here.  Or I also like these blossom stitch cloths.

Bulky and Soft Crocheted Infinity Scarf

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I have discovered some amazing yarn.  Okay, I know there are TONS of amazing yarns out there, but this one is one of my new favorites.  It is bulky and works up quickly and the colors are, well, AMAZING.  Ha.  I try not to use that word lightly, but I love this yarn!  The yarn is Malabrigo Rasta.   Do a Google search and you will come up with SO many gorgeous projects using this yarn.  However, most of them are knit.  I decided to try a simple crochet scarf and was very pleased with how it turned out.  I put these scarves together quickly (under two hours each).    I’ve included my methods below.  Enjoy!  Make a bunch for Christmas gifts!!!

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With a size N hook, ch 9 LOOSELY (I can’t stress this enough…stay loose with this project.  The overall feel of the scarf will be even softer and will give you a bit more length).  Turn.

Row 1:  (sc, dc, dc) in 3rd ch from hook.  Skip next 2 ch.  (sc, dc, dc) in next ch.  Skip next 2 ch.  sc in last ch.   ch 1, turn.

Row 2:  (sc, dc, dc) in first sc (first stitch).  Skip 2 st.  (sc, dc, dc) in next sc (you’ll see that you are working in the “valleys” between little hills…if that makes sense!).  Skip 2 st.  sc in last st.  ch 1, turn.

Repeat row 2 until you reach desired length.  I made the above scarves with one full skein.  Finish off, leaving a long length for sewing.  Whipstitch the ends together to form the infinity ring.  You could also just leave as a regular scarf!

 

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Easy Project: Burlap Valentine Banner

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I see a lot of cute burlap ideas when scanning Pinterest, and I’ve recently seen lots of photos of burlap banners with cute hearts on them for Valentine’s Day.  Type in “burlap heart banner” and you’ll get a multitude of hits with ideas.  So this is nothing new.  BUT, since I had all of the items I needed, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

First off, I gathered supplies.  Since I have tons of fabric scraps from all my daughter’s dress projects, I had plenty of red and pink fabrics.

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Then I needed burlap.  Now, the nice thing about being the family craft guru is….people collect stuff for you that they think you might want for your crafts. So this Christmas, I was given a bag of random burlap bags. I had no idea what I might do with said burlap bags, but I took it.  And bam-o….now I’ve got a project for that burlap!  Wahoo!

The next steps were simple.  I made templates for a heart and a pennant out of scrap cardstock and traced out my designs on the fabrics.

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Then I just sewed them together.  Since it’s a shabby chic style, there’s really no need to measure things perfectly or even sew perfectly.  That is my kind of project!

I added a simple 1 inch-ish "hem" to the top through which to string the yarn.

I added a simple 1 inch-ish “hem” to the top through which to string the yarn.

I enlisted the help of my kids to finish the last few parts of the banner (they like to help me sew sometimes).  Then, with further help from my kiddos, we strung the pieces onto pink yarn and hung it up over my transom window.  Valentine’s Day decor!  Done!  I love how it turned out!

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My SAHM-iversary

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It has been one year since I worked my last shift outside the home.  I’ve been a full time Stay at Home Mom for one year. Time flies, as usual, but today when I thought about that little fact, I felt reflective.  I feel like I’m a different person than I was when I worked.  I was only working VERY part time at the end, but I still was a different person.  I do miss it sometimes.  My job outside the home was a break from the kids, a chance to talk to adults and a chance to shine in something I was good at.  I mean, I WAS good at it (for real…you definitely wanted ME to take care of you!).  And I got paid for it (nicely!).  And people NEEDED me (my patients!).  Those things are all still true.  People NEED me (my kids).  I’m good at this job: (Mom, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, organizational guru, counselor, volunteer, event planner, etc etc etc….Domestic Engineer I guess).  Oh but wait!!!  I don’t get paid for it!  And even though my kids need me, it’s different than getting paid or getting a good annual review or people just plain saying, “Oh good, we are SO glad to see you, we could really use your help!”  or “I don’t know what to do…what should I do?”….and then totally having the answer.

So I feel a little sad I don’t have that anymore.  But then I sit and think about what’s different now that I am a SAHM, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m around EVERY weekend to spend time with my family and my husband.  I used to work weekends.  For awhile, I’d work every Friday night, and every other Saturday and Sunday.  My husband works every Saturday during some parts of the year and travels, so there were times when we only spent time with each other and as a whole family once or twice a month.  Family meals didn’t really happen.  Ever.  Now, when there is an event on a weekend day, I can just say yay or nay….no trying to figure out a year in advance what weekends I would have off.  I worked until 10pm sometimes and finding a sitter for that time frame was impossible.  I don’t need to worry about that anymore.  If a kid gets sick, I can be there the whole time.  No scrambling to find someone to work for me.  Weekends are RELAXING for us now.  We can have our “Taco Tuesday on a Friday” and our weekend movie nights.  My husband can make his french toast for us on Saturdays, and I don’t have to rush off for work.  On Sundays, after church, I get to enjoy the family traditions that my husband started with the kids while I worked.  It often involves downtown Madison, the terrace, coffee and lunch.  Or sometimes a trip to museum.  Or a Packer game.  Sundays are all about the 4 of us.

Family chill time on New Year's Eve.....another night that I would have worked in the past.

Family chill time on New Year’s Eve…..another night that I would have worked in the past.

So what did I do today for my SAHM-iversary?  Well here’s the randomness that is a day in the life of ME:

  • Up at 5:30, got ready for my day, made bed, etc.
  • Got kids ready, lunches made, and kids to school
  • A brisk 4 mile walk at the Conservancy through the snow with a great friend
  • Stopped at the Co-op for a couple of things and tried kombucha for the first time
  • Worked on laundry
  • Vacuumed
  • Emptied dishwasher, picked up living room and kitchen
  • Went through some kitchen cupboards as part of a “minimizing my stuff” plan
  • Ate some lunch
  • Crafted in my craft room…my sanctuary

    Ahhhhh...my happy place.

    Ahhhhh…my happy place.

  • Picked up the kids from school
  • Made Pioneer Woman’s Tres Leches cake
  • Agreed to my husband’s last minute idea to take the kids out for dinner and to see Paddington
  • Hauled sleeping children in from the car and put them to bed
  • Putz on the computer!

Well that’s it.  I did nothing special today, but I was Mom and I was happy.  I’ve been happier this year than ever before, so I think I made the right decision when I quit my job. I think I’m due for another “day in the life” photo shoot.  I did that once when the kids were really tiny and made a fantastic scrapbook spread out of it.  I need to document these days now.  I’m a proud SAHM.

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Indian Lake Park

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At some point, I will need to do a post about the Dane County Parks.  There are some great ones in this county.  But as for now, let me tell you about my favorite, year-round gem….Indian Lake Park.  Until last winter, I had only been to this park in the summer.  It is GORGEOUS in the summer with well-marked and groomed trails and beautiful views.  I like to pack a lunch with G and O and head over there for the afternoon.  We picnic, run around, and then hike the trail up to the overlook.  Along the way is a small, yet very interesting, old chapel.   This particular trail is good for kids my age (6 and 5) since it is not overly long, has steps, a couple old, interesting trees, and a rewarding overlook at the top.  It is easily hiked by my crew.

Hiking up the steps to the chapel and overlook

Hiking up the steps to the chapel and overlook

Ahhh the reward.  Check out the gorgeous view.

Ahhh the reward. Check out the gorgeous view.

 

That’s all well and good but it’s DECEMBER right now.   Not gonna look like that.  Last winter, I discovered there is a sled hill here.  Okay so I know we don’t have snow right now, but we WILL.  So I highly suggest you plan a sledding excursion here.  The sled hill is a short hike from the parking lot through the snowy and beautiful woods.  At the top of the sled hill there is a large fire pit and a small warming house.  On the particular Saturday that we were there, there was a bonfire going, and the woodburner in the warming house was going strong.  G and I had a blast sledding here.  It’s a pretty setting and a perfectly sized hill.

Sitting near the fire pit at the top of the hill.

Sitting near the fire pit at the top of the hill.

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We saw many people cross country skiing here as well.  This is a sport I hope to try out again this winter.  I tried once as a teenager, and well, it didn’t go so great.  I enjoy the outdoors in winter though, so these trails look inviting!

When we get some substantial snow, head out to Indian Lake to sled.  And my kids would want to me to remind you that you MUST get hot cocoa after.  Winter activities must always be followed by cocoa, they say.

Movie Under the Stars

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Every summer we try to catch a movie as a family at an outdoor drive-in movie theater.  It’s always a fun time!  We started the tradition when our kids were wee babies, simply because our habit of seeing movies in theaters was interuppted by….babies!  So J and I brainstormed and thought , “how can we see a movie WITH a baby?” (we don’t have family nearby for babysitting and sitters were hard to find for awhile!).  The answer J came up with….let’s go to the outdoor.

And what fun it is!  The kids always play on the jungle gyms up by the big screen early while waiting for the sun to set.  We often dress them in their jammies before we get there, so when they fall asleep later, it’s easy to just put them in bed when we get home.  Other parents have the same idea, and it’s cute to see lots of kids running around before the movie starts, playing in their jammies outside.

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Playing around on the jungle gyms below the BIG screen....in jammies!

Playing around on the jungle gyms below the BIG screen….in jammies!

We take our van and park backwards and pop open the back to make a snuggly area for the kids to lounge.  We put nap mats or an inflatable matress, blankets and pillows in there and the kids have a great place to watch the movie (and fall asleep).  One time, my son only made it about 10 minutes before he fell asleep.  Whoops!  Too comfortable!

Sometimes, if the kids both fall asleep, we stay for the second movie (it’s often a more “adult” or older kid oriented movie).  Then, when the movie’s done, we load the kids (asleep) into their car seats for the ride home.

When the kids were babies, we brought a pack-n-play for them to fall asleep in.  Put a bug net over the top….done!  Worked like a charm.

Some things to remember to bring:  chairs for the parents, bug spray, blankets, and sweatshirts.  It has almost always been colder than I expect it will be to sit out under the stars and watch a movie.

Our usual place is the Highway 18 outdoor.  But check this website too for others in Wisconsin.

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Blooming Butterflies

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We are big butterfly fans here.  Well, G and I are.  O probably doesn’t care as much, although he enjoys them when we study them, search for them or see them in our yard.  It’s been a few years since we’ve been to Olbrich’s Blooming Butterflies.  The first time we went, we saw very few butterflies, and because of that, I decided to skip it for a couple of years.  This year, I decided we had to try again.  Boy am I glad we did.  We either hit a perfect day, or it was just better this year.  I HIGHLY suggest going with your kids!

The docents told us that it’s always better to be there on a sunny day.  The butterflies were extremely active while we there, repeatedly fluttering past us closely, landing on nearby flowers, and even landing on US.  They have an identification guide available which is very helpful for determining what kind of butterflies we are seeing.  I think we saw 7 or 8 different types of butterflies.  At one point, near a sugar water station, there were 5-6 butterflies just flitting around our hands.  G always makes it a mission to have one land on her.  She stayed perfectly still, and butterflies landed on her repeatedly!  I don’t recommend this for all children.  We have to remember not to touch their wings and to be VERY gentle.  But it worked out okay for G!

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After the butterflies in the conservatory, their is an easy scavenger hunt to complete in the outside gardens.  There are 5 stations set up to emboss a butterfly in your “Butterfly Passport”  set up throughout the garden.  G and O and I had a lot of fun completing this.  Each station has a yes/no question to think about which was usually an observation (“Do you see some large, flat leaves that a butterfly could perch on?”).  Once the entire passport is complete, the child gets a coupon to use for an ice cream at Michael’s Frozen Custard.  We found the scavenger hunt to be easy and not too much for small kids to complete.  But we are also very familiar with the gardens and don’t really even need a map.  Even so, I think  most kids would like it!

Exploring Olbrich during the "Butterfly Passport" scavenger hunt.

Exploring Olbrich during the “Butterfly Passport” scavenger hunt.

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Other things to consider:  We tried Crema Cafe for lunch and found it to be delicious!  And sometimes we stop at the Monona dream park located within Winnequah Park on the way home.  Always a hit.

We’ve done some other butterfly exhibits.  The one at the Milwaukee Public Museum is small but had a TON of butterflies.  The one at the Chicago Botanic Garden was also small but had a lot of butterflies as well…and it’s part of the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is a big plus and one of our favorite places (a topic for another post!).

Lastly, there is a great printable butterfly lapbook to complete here.  The kids have used this lapbook that they completed more than once!  See my post on lapbooks in general here.