Friday, January 27, 2012

Betta Think of a Name...

A few days after I returned from my Christmas holidays, I was sad to see that my poor little betta fish Sue passed away.  (Click here to read why he, yes he, was named Sue.)  Sue was the first little pet I had here in Hawaii so I was sad to see him go.  However, he was an old man in the betta fish world at more than two years old.

I waited a bit to replace him, but I finally decided yesterday would be the day.  I went to the pet store down the road and found another vibrant and beautiful betta to live in Sue's old home.  

When I got in the car with him, I started thinking about what I would name him.  Since my "boy named Sue" approach seemed to work before, as Sue lived to a ripe old age, I thought I'd stick this guy with another traditionally girly name.  For some reason I thought of Nancy, but then I kept thinking about how beautiful his blue coloring was, and I thought I might want to use it somehow.  I decided to take him home, get him settled, and think about it.

He's a very curious fellow, and took all afternoon investigating every nook and cranny of his tank.  Then it dawned on me.  I knew what his name would be.

Meet Nancy Blue, my new dishwashing buddy (since his tank is near my sink).  Somehow, in a weird way, his new name suits him.

What do you guys think? :)  Am I the only crazy person who names their fish?  If I'm not, what do you call your fish?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday I shared a few things that have made me smile this week.  One of those things was a nice, warm, fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies made from scratch.

Several people asked me if I would share the recipe, so that's what I'll do today.  We'll keep it short and sweet so you can go bake some of your own!

First, I should tell you that although I love to bake, and can make even really difficult cakes, I've had a hard time finding a really good chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Often, they would have too much butter, and that butter would melt immediately in the oven turning my cookies into thin, too crispy, flatter than a pancake thingies.  I found this recipe on the back of the package of flour I bought, so I decided to give it a try.  After all, I didn't have anything to lose.  

This time I got lucky, and they turned out pretty great.  Okay... enough babbling.  Here's the recipe from the back of a Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour bag.  (Just to re-emphasize... it's not my original recipe.  You could find it online or on the back of the flour package.)

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened (I love real Land O'Lakes butter)
1 egg
2 1/4 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I leave these out)
1 bag (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix sugars, butter, and egg.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt (Dough will be stiff).  Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
2.  On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown (centers will be soft).  Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Hope you guys give these a try and get to enjoy the wonderful smell of them cooking in your oven! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Little Things

In an effort to keep my own spirits up and appreciate the good things around me, I've decided to once again start posting the little things for which I'm thankful.  In the future, I'll probably do this post on Fridays, but this week, I thought it should be today.

Since I've been alone for the month of January, I've had lots of time to work on crochet and knitting projects.  Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of about half a dozen time-consuming projects, so I'm making progress but not getting finished products to share just yet.  However, I am enjoying myself.

I've been knitting away...

Currently, I'm working on a scarf that is a combination of knit and crochet.  I started it back in Georgia, but it's super duper slow progress since the yarn is so thin.  I'm excited to see the finished product though.

I've also been spending some time with my favorite furry guys.  Murphy and Duke are such sweet company.  My constant companions put a smile on my face daily...

Know what else can put a smile on your face?

A nice fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies made from scratch.  Yum yum. :)  

Sometimes I just need to remind myself to look around and recognize all the little blessings I have.  All too often, I completely overlook them.  It's the little things that come together to really make you smile.

What little things have helped make your day (or week) lately?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Life Lately

One of the reasons for my blogging absence lately has been the fact that I've felt like I must lead the most boring life in the world.  Yes, I took a trip home to Georgia for the holidays, and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I didn't take as many still photos as I would have liked.  I was preoccupied living in the moment and taking a few videos instead.  When the time came to leave Georgia and come back to Hawaii, I came alone.  Kent had to go to a school for the month, so it was just me and the dogs when I got back.

Me and the dogs.  I love those furry guys, but they don't provide much conversation.

The friends I have here are wonderful, but everyone is usually doing their own thing... work, kids, spending time with their husbands, etc.  It makes it hard to plan things and find times to get together.

With that combination, it's given me a lot of time with my own thoughts.  Sometimes I really enjoy lots of time with my own thoughts, but sometimes it's not so good.  This time has been a little difficult for me.

Usually when the husband is away, I keep myself busy and occupied by getting into a daily routine.  Get up, work out, walk dogs/go to the park, run errands, craft/work, eat, more work/crafts, eat, walk dogs, read, sleep.  In the past, that routine has always worked well, and I usually really enjoy it.  However, this time has been a little different.

Perhaps it is the sadness left over from leaving family, the stress of coming back to the island alone, knowing my Grandfather is going to have a major surgery soon and I can't be there, or worrying about an upcoming and fast approaching deployment, but something has brought back my unwelcome guest.... anxiety, and sometimes his fellow, equally unwelcome companion, panic.

The constant feeling of worry-- even over things that I know to be ridiculous-- has really worn me down.  For two weeks, I've walked around feeling exactly the same way I would feel if I were about to give a speech in front of 500 people.  Nervous. Shaky. Scared. A little dizzy.  Needing to take deep calming breaths.  I can't begin to tell you how annoying it has become.

Feeling these things has made me lose interest in some of the things I usually enjoy, and I find myself wanting to read more for a temporary "escape."  With that being said, it's easy to see how I haven't had a whole heck of a lot to say in blog posts lately.  I can't very well tell you how I read all day, worked on a crochet blanket, and didn't cook anything... haha.  It's a little too boring.

I feel a twinge of embarrassment as I write this because anxiety is something that's usually not a topic of conversation.  It's generally kept "hush hush," as people who don't understand it see it as a weakness.  I felt the need to share, though, because it's not a weakness.  It's not something anyone can control, and it's certainly not something anyone chooses.  I wanted to share this in hopes that it might make someone else dealing with the same thing feel less alone.

For me, I'm currently feeling like the worst of this particular "spell" has passed.  I'm feeling much better than I was, I've got more drive to work out and do the things I love, I'm excited to start new projects, and the husband should be back in less than a week... at least for a little while. :)  Hopefully this wasn't a "depressing" post... just one to help explain my absence.

Hope you all are doing well and taking care!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Granny Square Creation

I feel like I should apologize for being such a bad blogger lately.  I took a full month-long hiatus.  During that time, I spend more time with family, visited home in Georgia, and came back to Hawaii attempting to get back into the swing of things.  It was nice to not feel like I had to be on the computer at least once every day spending hours in a virtual world.  Face to face relationships were the priority, and blogs, tweets, editing photos, and the sort all faded into the background.  It was a nice little break, but I found myself missing my outlet to express my creativity and thoughts.  So.... here I am.  I hope you guys didn't completely forget about me.  :)

I thought I would kickstart my return to the blogosphere with a new project that I'm a wee bit excited about.  Last week, I finally decided on something I wanted to get with my Christmas money.  I had been debating back and forth on whether or not I wanted an iPad that bad.  I couldn't stop thinking about it though, and since it had been forever since I'd splurged on something I didn't really need, I decided to go for it.  I brought it home and LOVED it, so I decided it needed a cute, one-of-a-kind, home for safekeeping while it sat around the house.  And since my ongoing obsession with crochet has yet to dwindle, I thought I'd put it to use.

This is what I came up with.

Right now, I'm really loving old fashioned granny squares, but I had never made anything with them, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I Googled and looked at my handy-dandy crochet and knitting buddy for patterns, but I had no luck.  I just had to make one up.

First, I decided my case, sleeve, or whatever you want to call it, should have a thick soft liner.  Since I had some extra tan fleece material laying around, I decided to use it.  I doubled the fleece over, and then folded it smoothly again, then I placed my iPad on top and cut about an inch around the three cut sides. (I left the folded side because it would be less work for sewing later.)

I didn't take photos of every step, so this is more or less a general guide.  If you've never sewn anything like my fleece sleeve, you could research making a pillowcase or pillow, and it would be the same concept. 

To me, the double thickness of the fleece felt perfect.  It will offer a bit more protection from slight bumps.

My next step was the artsy part of it.  I wanted to add a granny square cover to the fleece lining.  I had one failed attempt the first time, as it turned out too big, but I eventually figured it out.  Plus, you'll notice I changed my mind about the colors.) My first granny square photos are from that attempt. :)

I made twelve old American granny squares, six for each side.
For this particular yarn and my gauge, I found that four rounds would make it too large, but three was perfect.

I used the single crochet method to join them.

When I had the face of each side joined, I joined the two sides on one of the shorter ends (two squares).  It created a piece that was two squares by six squares.  When I folded it in half, it wasn't quite wide enough for my fleece sleeve. I added two extra rows on each long side following along with the three double crochet chain one pattern, followed by one row of half-double crochet.  Then I folded the long rectangle right sides together, and joined the edges with single crochet.

This created the "pocket," or sleeve.  I wanted to add a little extra length, so I added one row of single crochet and two rows of half-double crochet around the open edge.  It was then the perfect fit for my fleece sleeve, so I used embroidery thread to sew them together.  (Thanks to the double thickness of the fleece, I couldn't make it work with a yarn needle and yarn.  You could possible do it with a lot of patience and a thimble, though.)  

When the fleece liner and the crochet outside were assembled, I decided I wanted to add a mechanism to keep the iPad from sliding out, so I sewed a button to one side (through the fleece, not just the crochet), and added a crochet loop to the other side.  When it's buttoned, the iPad isn't going anywhere.

Now I'm happy knowing that I have a one-of-a-kind case for my new favorite toy. :)

What do you guys think?

If you would like a similar case, or if you would like one to give as a gift, shoot me an e-mail at TailstoTell [at] Live [dot] com.  I'd love to talk about it with you and make it happen. :)