Archive for February, 2013

Warm Hands, Warm Heart

Complete 2In a previous article I wrote about using baskets of non-perishable food items as centerpieces at a holiday banquet.  It didn’t take that much effort and we were able to donate over 410 pounds of food to a local food bank.  When we solicited feedback on the banquet, someone mentioned how great it would’ve been if we could have included some cold weather accessories; after all, this is Minnesota.  Accessories?  How did we not think of that before?  Brilliant!

I set off to peruse my “stash”.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a borderline hoarding issue with things that I think could be upcycled into something else.  I blame it all on Pinterest.  Thankfully I have an extremely understanding husband and a lot of Rubbermaid storage containers.  I set aside a bunch of yarn that I bought dirt cheap at estate sales.  That would be good for hats and scarves, maybe even some socks or slippers; we’ll see how creative I can get.

Then I hit the Mother Lode, the sweater bin.  If you go to yard sales in the warmer weather, people forget how cold it gets in the winter.  They sell wool sweaters for a buck or two, yes, WOOL!  I don’t care if they have a hole or not, they’re like gold to me.  I wash them in hot water and dry them before cutting them apart; first the sleeves and then the front and back.  I can get three pairs of mittens from one sweater.  I also keep scraps of quilt lining around and clearance fleece blankets that I pick up at discount stores to take care of the other two layers.

After a couple hours, I had figured out roughly how much I had in supplies, and a guess-timate of what I hoped to find to finish the project.  We will probably have about 30 baskets again for centerpieces this year.  I would like to put 3-5 items in each basket to include with our food donation.  I know that might sound like a lot, but it’s a totally doable number.  What better way to use up odds and ends?  People who desperately need winter wear get it, we have more colorful centerpieces, and my husband will delight at my shrinking stash!  If you would like to make your own upcycled mittens from old sweaters, here is a quick tutorial.  Click here for the free PRINTABLE PATTERN.  And remember, anyone who receives these items, whether you know them or not, will definitely appreciate them.  Happy re-crafting!

Wool Sweater

Start with a clean sweater.  Cut the sleeves off at the shoulder seams,

then separate the front from the back.

Layout Pieces

Lay out your pattern pieces and make sure everything will fit!

Quilt Lining

Cut out the quilting and fleece liner pieces.

Match Thumbs

Sew together the palms by matching the thumbs.  Then sew the palm to the top.

Ready for Liner

Slide the fleece layer inside the wool and quilting layers.

Note the seams for the liner…keep the finished side for your hand!

  Complete Inside View

The finished project…quilts for your hands.  The warmest mittens I’ve ever owned.


A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Social Responsibility

Couple DiningLast night on the way to dinner my husband and I were discussing today’s blog.  We were talking about several topics such as Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to eliminate Styrofoam, what we gave up for Lent, and a couple other things.  We had it mostly locked-down, and I’m sure it would have been witty, extremely pertinent, heck, maybe even award-winning!  And then we got to the restaurant.

As we stood along the wall in the bar waiting for a spot to open up, a twenty-something brushed past us and took his place at the front of the group of us waiting.  When two stools opened up, I made my way over and proceeded to hang my coat on the back of the chair.  All of a sudden Mr. Twenty-something barged up to us and announced he had been waiting longer and these were his stools.  What?  I didn’t know what to say!  Several people sitting nearby were watching us as our faces reddened with embarrassment.  Not wanting to prolong this scene, I removed my coat from the chair, took my husband by the arm, and went back to the wall.  His girlfriend was mortified.

The couple next to them (about the same age) got up from their stools and came over to us and told us to take their place.  We sat and had a glass of wine, occasionally observing the poor girl next to us.  Mr. Twenty-something, in all his chivalrous glory, ate a meal-for-two as fast as he could; using his spoon to shovel the noodles onto his fork.  He never looked up or said a word to her.  When the bartender brought over their pizza, she just continued to anxiously nibble at her salad while the petulant child persisted in gorging himself.

Luckily our wait next to them didn’t go on much after this.  However, our conversation about it did.  Have we gotten so used to short bursts of communication through social media that we’ve forgotten how to show courtesy and good manners?  Individual social responsibility involves looking at your environment and working to make it better.  That means treating others with compassion, whether it’s random acts of kindness or just acting with common sense.  It means being held accountable for your actions.  And sometimes it just means giving up your seat, especially if it wasn’t yours to begin with.

Turning Valentine’s Day Green

Green ValentineWell, it’s less than a week until Valentine’s Day. Wait, don’t panic! This doesn’t have to strike fear into the unprepared. There are plenty of things you can do in just a little time. This year, how about greening up the holiday? I’ve come up with some ways you can have a more socially responsible Valentine’s Day.

• Make your own card or gift. You don’t have to be a craft wizard! There are plenty of examples on the internet for crafting or upcycling a great gift. And what could be more heart-felt than a card that speaks of personal feelings or mentions private things between the two of you?

• How about a list? It may sound hokey at first, but you could make a list of 101 things you love about your mate. No matter how in love you are, this is not as easy as you may think! But it can be fun, romantic, or playful. And best of all, it’s your own.

• Think back to when you were a child and make a coupon book. It could be elaborate things like a weekend away at their location of choice or simple things like a massage or home-cooked meal. What has your mate enjoyed in the past and not done for a while?

• Honey-do list getting a little long? Why not make that into a gift? Just make sure that those things actually get done!

• Don’t forget the quickest way to someone’s heart—through their stomach. Cook a romantic dinner, use the good dishes, and light some candles. Going out is great, but if you do it right, an intimate dinner for two at home can be a relaxing gift.

• Not known for your culinary skills? Don’t fret, take out is a great alternative. You could pick up the meal and serve it at home. Although that may be a great time to go out on a limb with an easy recipe and really surprise your mate!

• What if you don’t have the time or energy for making your own gift? Shop local. Buy a nice basket or gift box and fill it with items for your loved one. Not sure what to put in? Think about what they like; candles, certain food delicacies that they normally wouldn’t purchase for themselves, lotions, etc. If you go to a smaller local store you’ll likely find unique things that will really be special.

There you have it, green up your holiday by creating, fixing, and shopping small. And best of all, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of green to have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Deadlines Amuse Me

DeadlineI don’t know about anyone else out there, but being the right brain that I am, I frequently find myself scrambling to finish things.  In fact, I saw a sign that sums up my life; it read “Deadlines Amuse Me”.  Yep, that’s me in a nutshell.  So I have embarked on a time management journey to regain control.

I started by evaluating the different areas of my life and breaking them into groups.  For me, the four biggies were home, family, work, and hobbies/activities.  Then I broke each one down into subgroups, assessing where my time is mostly spent.  This is where you need to be brutally honest!  For example, I am involved in a couple of groups where many of the participants don’t get out much.  This means our meetings are their big social event of the month.  Trying to keep them on task is like herding cats!  I find the best way to remedy this situation is to give myself a block of time for that meeting, and make sure I stick to it.

The subgroup I have under work obligations is pretty full.  So I divided it up into things that have to be done, things that should be done, and things I can delegate.  Then I break the lists into smaller tasks and prioritize them.  I know some people will tell you to do the big tasks first, but I like to do some of the smaller things first to get myself going. The delegating list gets a little tricky for me, being the Type A person that I am.  But a very wise person once told me not to micro-manage; train your people and let them go.  That is in the top ten of great advice I’ve received.

When it comes to the activity group, one thing I have listed that frequently gets overlooked is exercise.  My brother told me that on his weight loss journey he started doing push-ups against the sink every time he went to the bathroom.  I thought he invented a break-through time saver!  Then I saw on Twitter that other people are doing lunges when they visit the loo and someone else does ballet moves while drying her hair.  What?  Brilliant!  So even on days when I can’t fit in a full work-out, I get some exercise in.  When I work from home, which is most of the time, I do push-ups and triceps dips every time I run upstairs.  I should be set for summer, if it ever comes back to northern Minnesota.

Overall I have figured out that there are lots of little blocks of time in my days that were being wasted.  By budgeting my time, making lists, and following through, I have eased up on the stress in my life.  The crafts that I like to do or “recreational” social media activity can be done while watching TV or spending time with my family.  Children can help in the upkeep of the house and meal preparation.  Group involvement can be fun and effective if everyone knows up front how much time is available for getting the work done.  And most of all leave the cat herding to someone else.