Monday, March 25, 2013

More Last Minute Easter Crochet

So, at about this time in 2011, I wrote a post sharing some cute crochet patterns that would make awesome last minute Easter gifts. And for some reason, it got and continues to get a good amount of attention (weird—I’m always kind of surprised when any of the garbage I write here gets attention), so I figured I’d do another one this year with newer pattern ideas!

Now, first things first: I get at least one email a week asking for the pattern to the chick in a bunny suit I made and linked to in the previous Easter post:

The good news: it’s a super cute, super fast little project that will work up in no time, perfect for tucking into an Easter basket.

The bad news: it used to be free, and now it’s not. But it’s only $3, and you can find it right HERE in the Dawnie Dolls etsy shop. (The photo above is my version of the project, which I took some liberties with, so make sure to check out the listing pictures to see how making one exactly as written will turn out!)

Now that’s out of the way, here are my top 5 picks for quick, adorable Easter crochet patterns (all free!) that would be perfect to start and finish in one or two days and add to an Easter basket! (Note: while a few of these are on my to-do list, I haven’t made any of them yet, so I can’t comment on the patterns themselves or finished projects made using them!)

Easter Peeps crochet pattern

If there is a Peeps fan in your house, this Easter Peeps pattern would be so cute and funny to make for them! I have no fondness for Peeps, so the crocheted version looks much better to me than the real deal.

Easter Egg crochet pattern

I love the idea of making a dozen colorful little Easter eggs to use for decorating or filling baskets. Sure beats dyeing eggs every year—not my favorite holiday activity. Get the free Easter egg crochet pattern HERE!

Free Cute Easter Bunny crochet pattern

I love the unique look of these little Easter bunnies! So colorful and cheerful, and the lack of appendages would make them SO quick to work up. Get the pattern HERE.

Easter chick crochet pattern

Doesn’t this little Easter chick look so sweet? It’s hard to tell how big he turns out, but I’m guessing he’s little enough to tuck into an Easter egg. Awwww! Get the pattern HERE.

And last but not least:

I love the Boxy Skirt Bunny! They look cute in every color combo, and look like they’d be a lot of fun to customize and play around with. Get the pattern (a Ravelry download) right HERE.

Have you crocheted anything for Easter this year?

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Monday, March 18, 2013

5 Awesome Dinners

So, I thought I had shared 5 of my favorite dinner recipes, oh, a few weeks ago. Maybe a month or two, max. I thought maybe I’d make it a monthly or every-other-month regular thing.

Turns out, it’s been six months since I wrote that post. Whoops!

So here I am again, 6 months later, with 5 more of our favorite dinner recipes. I mentioned in my previous 5 recipes post that while I enjoy cooking, I get bored repeating recipes and would much rather try something new than repeat something I’ve made before. So a recipe only makes the repeat list of it’s really tasty, quick and simple to make, and a crowd-pleaser. With that criteria in mind, here are 5 recent favorites that are delicious enough to make again and again. (And, in case you are the suspicious type, this post isn’t sponsored or anything, and the people who wrote the recipe don’t know me . . . just dishes I love and think you might like, too.)

1. Chicken Ranch Tacos

Recipe and photo from Do You Smell That?

These tacos are quick and easy to pull together, and really delicious. If you don’t like the taste of Ranch dressing, you might need to keep moving, but these are always a big hit at our house. Even a certain picky someone who refuses to eat meat of any kind unless it comes in a hot dog package gobbles this up. Find the recipe HERE.

2. Classic Chicken and Rice Soup

Photo and recipe from Picky Palate

I know, chicken and rice soup sounds about as boring as it gets. But this recipe is a real keeper, and I’ve probably made it a dozen times this winter alone. I can’t put my finger on what exactly sets it apart from other chicken soups, but something about it is just so perfect and so delicious. Plus, it’s quite healthy, and makes for absolutely divine leftovers the next day. Find the recipe HERE.

3. German Pancakes

Photo and recipe from Allrecipes

You probably don’t need one specific recipe for this favorite—almost every recipe I’ve seen for German Pancakes is nearly identical—but this is the perfect last minute “the fridge is completely empty!” meal. It’s quick, it hardly requires any ingredients, and it tastes great. We like it best topped with butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. Toss together a fruit salad for a side dish, and you’ve got dinner on the table in like 20 minutes, tops. Perfect.

4. BBQ Chicken Pizza

Photo and Recipe from Two Twenty One

Another no-brainer here: quick and simple, you probably have all the ingredients in your fridge right now, and everyone always loves it. We rarely ever have leftovers of BBQ Chicken Pizza. If you’re feeling ambitious and have a little more time on your hands, you can step it up by making homemade pizza crust, but even on store bought dough/crust, this one is a favorite. Find the recipe HERE.

5. Chicken Tortilla Soup

Photo and recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything

I can’t say enough good things about this soup. It is absolute perfection. Smooth and creamy and savory and just a tad spicy—delicious. The soup itself is delicious, but top it with some sour cream, avocado, lime juice, and cilantro, and you’ll be in heaven. It makes a lot, which I didn’t mind at all—I was perfectly happy to eat it for lunch every day all week before it finally ran out. This one will be getting repeated very often. Find the recipe HERE.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

How to Get Rid of Extra Chains from Foundation Chain (Crochet)

That’s a wordy title, isn’t it? Can’t think of a more succinct way to put it, though, so it’s staying. I thought I’d cover a nifty crochet trick I learned recently. Maybe it’s common knowledge and not worth doing a full-blown tutorial on, but I figured that if I didn’t realize this was an  easy option for hiding foundation chain screwups, surely someone else doesn’t know and could benefit from learning it as well.

If you’re anything like me, you probably lose track of how many chains you’re making when starting in on bigger projects . . . if you’re making a blanket, for instance, and you’re starting with a whopping foundation chain of 100 chains or 200 or even more, you’re bound to lose count at some point and either have to go back and tally them up, or just hope for the best and move on. And if you’re really like me, you’ll get the number of starting chains wrong anyway, even if you’ve counted and recounted, and you won’t realize the count is off until you’ve finished your first row and have extra chains dangling at the end.

I never knew there was a quick and simple fix for this. All along, I’ve been either ripping my work apart and starting over when I ended up with too many chains, or forging onward and trying to find a way to hide those extra chains by sewing them into the project (which makes for a bulky, awkward finish that probably no one but you will notice, but still—it’ll bug you). There is a better way. A MUCH better way. And if this is news to you, like it was to me, you’ll be kicking yourself for never realizing how easy it could be to get rid of those extra chains.

How to get rid of extra chains when crocheting

So you’ve reached the end of your first row. You have the correct stitch count, you’ve followed your pattern carefully, but curses! Extra chains! You don’t want to mess with the pattern to include them, but you don’t want to just leave them hanging there as a reminder that you miscounted your foundation chain. Here’s what you need to do.

How to get rid of extra chains without tearing your crochet apart!

1. Find your extra chains. You’ll have a knot on the far left, then however many chains you overshot your foundation row by. I have two extra chains here. Dangnabbit!

Getting rid of extra chains without frogging your crochet!

2. Grab a blunt needle and use it to loosen up the knot. Maybe you’ll be able to do this with your fingers . . . I can’t. Just pull that  knot loose with the needle or your fingers, and undo it.

Getting rid of too many chains in foundation row of crochet

3. Now just carefully unravel those extra chains. They won’t just rip loose, like you’re used to when you have to pull your work out. Since you’re kind of working backwards here—from the bottom end instead of the top--you’ll have to manually unravel each individual chain.

How to get rid of extra chains from foundation chain

4. Once your extra chains are pulled loose and you’ve reached the first real stitch of the row, just pull the yarn tail tight, and you’re all done! When you get a few more rows out of the way, you can go ahead and weave that tail in, and no one will ever know you messed up your foundation chain.

Simple, right? I can’t believe I’ve ripped out so much work in the past because I didn’t realize I could just undo the knot and unravel the chains. Totally kicking myself for all that wasted time, but hey, at least I’ve figured out a better way. And now that I know how easy it is to fix, I purposely add extra chains when making blankets just to make sure I don’t make the even more annoying mistake of having too few chains in the starting row. I’d rather go back and undo too many chains than try to make up for too few.

Is this concept news to you like it was to me, or is this Crochet 101 that you can’t believe I haven’t heard of before?

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Intel Science Talent Search in Washington DC!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Intel for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Well, I just got home from quite a weekend . . . I took a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the Intel Science Talent Search! In case you're not familiar with this, it's the nation's most prestigious and elite pre-college science competition. Out of nearly 2,000 appliants, 40 finalists are chosen to travel to DC to show off their hard work and research projects, meet with hot shot scientists, and compete for over $600,000 in scholarship prizes. The cool thing about this event is that the contestants are selected and awarded for not just one specific science project, but for their overall creativity, personality, work, and potential in the scientific fields. It is truly a talent search, not just a science fair.

First things first, I've got to ask it: do you ever look at teenagers today and just feel kind of concerned? I mean, between constant texting and ridiculous outfits and awful language and atrocious facebook misspellings, do you worry that these are the leaders of tomorrow? I did  . . . and hopefully won't ever have reason to worry about that again after this weekend. The kids competing at the Intel Science Talent Search were all top-tier, impressive, amazing youth--driven, ambitious, talented, articulate, creative . . . I will gladly submit to their rule when they have conquered the world someday. Our future is in good hands.

The event was held at the National Geographic Society in downtown DC--such a cool place to visit and wander through. I wish I'd had a little more time to spend sightseeing in the city . . . there's so much to check out!


The place was absolutely packed with reporters, contestants, and just the general public visiting to, you know, meet our future world leaders, nobel prize-winning scientists of the future, etc. No biggie.

Once we were in, we had the chance to talk with and get to know the contestants, and have them explain their projects to us. Each one had conducted a high-level, in-depth research project, and it was incredible to hear about the work that had gone into them, the originality and creativity in their thinking and research methods, and even just learn about them as individuals. I don't think there was a single student there who didn't impress me with how well-rounded and mature they seemed. They aren't just science kids or math kids--they were all so talented and bright across the board, from science to music to athletics to community service. Really awesome kids.

So, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite projects from the Intel Science Talent Search:
This is Naomi . . . she did years of study on indoor air quality and lung funtion measurements, and even came up with a mathematical model and software application to quantify the impact of harmful pollutants found in indoor air.

She told me she was inspired to research this topic after watching family members suffer from year-round allergy symptoms that just didn't line up with traditional allergy seasons; she knew there must be something else going on, causing their symptoms and discomfort, apparent from the constant diagnosis of, 'it's just allergies.' Maybe someday, if we're breathing cleaner, better indoor air, we'll have her to thank!

I was also really intrigued by Raja Selvakumar's work . . . you're probably familiar with surgical robots that are used for stomach/intestinal surgeries, correct? Well, they run on lithium batteries, which can be a huge problem if they get loose in the body.

Never fear, Raja's got us covered. He's developing a fuel cell that can be used in these surgical nanorobots that is powered by your very own stomach bacteria. No battery required--just your own natural stomach acids and bacterias, powering a flipping robot. Amazing, right? (And talking with Raja was such a delight--he is so charming and funny. When he's not innovating fuel sources for nanorobots (!) he told me he is a black belt in martial arts and a major Jackie Chan fan. Amen, kid!)

And I can't leave out Sara Volz . . . she kind of laughed at me for wanting to take this picture, but can you see her earrings?

They're elements from the periodic table! I loved that the kids' creative sides shone through, even in picking their outfits. So many kids picked an accessory to represent their work, from a crayfish tie (worn by a young man who researched--and disproved--long-held ideas on crayfish habits) to star jewelry (worn by a young lady I'll get to in a minute here). Sara found ways to improve biofuel production made from . . . ready? . . . algae. I didn't even know that was a thing! Although algae can be used to create fuel, it hasn't been cost-effective in the past, and she figured out ways to increase the harvesting of algaes with high oil content and increase overall growth. So if a few years from now, you're filling up your car with fuel made from algae . . . think of Sara here!

Undoubtedly, a huge highlight of the event was running into a contestant from my own high school! Samantha Scibelli is a senior at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, where I graduated from however many years ago.

And let me tell you, we are not talking about a big high school in a high-population city here. Small-town, rural New York with a relatively small high school. So it was really exciting to see someone there from BH-BL! Go Samantha! (She's the one who wore star earrings . . . to match her study and classification of thousands of previously miscategorized stars!)

And even more exciting was running into this lady here . . .

My own high school chemistry teacher from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake high school! I'm glad she finally got a stellar student in Samantha who could show off her teaching skills in a large scale like the talent search . . . because she certainly didn't get that with me. It was so fun to run into her there with Samantha and catch up. I tell ya, I think the only reason I loved (and passed!) chemistry that year was because Mrs. Reals was such a fun teacher, not because I have any deep love for chemistry.

All in all, it was such a fun event to attend. I loved seeing all the kids' ingenuity and creativity--from biological studies to researching and improving cancer diagnosis/treatment to more everyday concerns like air quality and chemicals used in dry cleaning, they tackled a huge variety of topics and, I have no doubt, will make a huge impact on the scientific world someday. The winners of the Intel Science Talent Search will be announced on Tuesday, and I can't wait to see who will be winning those huge awards! I think our future is in great hands . . . no more worrying about Bieber fanatics and, ahem, creative spelling choices from today's teens--I'm just trusting these very talented Intel Science Talent Search kids to be the frontrunners of the future.
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 2013 Goals

Since sharing my February goals seemed to keep me at least partially motivated, here we go for March!

march goals

I didn’t even come close to finishing my 1 big project from February, so I’m just going for multiple littler projects this time around. I desperately need to figure out some sort of jewelry storage solution (my current method is tossing everything on a shelf in my closet until they all transmogrify into an amorphous blob of tangled chains and lone earrings), and my family room walls have been very bare for a very long time, so it’s probably time I addressed that. Forrest’s room has had about a dozen tiny touch-up needs that I’ve ignored for, oh, 6 months, but would probably only take about 10 minutes each to complete. And it’s been such a while since I sewed . . . I don’t even have a particular project picked out, I just think I need to sew something this month.

So there we go! My goals for March. I’ll be back at the end of the month with a recap.

Do you have goals this month? Hit me.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

New Spring Items + Sale!

I mentioned the other day that I’ve been adding some new items recently to my Etsy shop for spring. I’ve had a lot of fun finding/writing new patterns that I think will carry your typically wintry crochet over into cooler weather. So here’s what I’ve got!

Spring Headbands by Maybe Matilda

I always have fun crocheting headbands—so quick and adorable and fun to wear—so I added a few new headband styles for spring. Shop the Wavy Crown Headband, Big Leaf Headband, and Flower Headband (which technically isn’t a new product, but the cute pictures of my nieces wearing them are, so I’m counting it).

Chelsea suggested bow headbands, which sure seemed like a good idea. And in 3 bow sizes, to boot!

Bow Headbands by Maybe Matilda

Shop Little Bow Headband (shown in pink), Medium Bow Headband (shown in blue), and Big Bow Headband (shown in cream).

I couldn’t leave hats out, plus a twist on an old favorite. My personal favorite? The ribbon hat. I love the idea of switching the ribbon out to match different outfits. I’ve worn it a lot so far . . . a whole lot.

Hats and Headwrap by Maybe Matilda

Shop Butterfly Headwrap, Ribbon Newsboy, and Textured Newsboy.

My favorite spring item by a long shot, though, is this one:

Lacy Spring Wrap by Maybe Matilda

A soft, romantic springtime wrap. I love that dusty rose color, I love the feminine ripple pattern, and I love that it can be worn in so many ways—a wide scarf, a shoulder wrap, or even belted to give it a drapey sweater look. I love it. I love it a lot. Find it HERE.

I have some ideas for more kids’ items, but an unwilling model makes me less than enthused about kids’ crochet at the moment. If I can recruit an adequately adorable neighbor child, or bribe the one I already have into modeling, I’ll see if any of those plans come to fruition.

In the meantime, I want you to celebrate my new spring designs with me with a sale! Use coupon code SPRINGFEVER for 20% off your purchase through March 15th! Click HERE to visit my shop and put it to good use!

Maybe Matilda on etsy

What do you think of my new spring items? Anything you’d like to see added to the shop?

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Friday, March 1, 2013

This week . . .

(Photos from my Instagram.)

1. Lately, this little psycho has been about 1000% more pleasant than he was, say, 2 months ago.

I’m sure I have never, ever, in all my typing, ever given the impression that he is not the sweetest most perfect little angel nugget in the universe, because that would be shirking my most sacred and holy blogger responsibility of pretending he is the sweetest most perfect little angel nugget in the universe. Here’s the well-kept never-before-heard secret: he is not a very easy child. And although I’m not nearly optimistic enough to cross my fingers and wish upon a star that we might be nearing the end of the terrible twos, I’m enjoying the (possibly temporary) reprieve from the tantrums. Boy, can he sure be sweet and charming and kissable when he isn’t shouting. Such a little lovebug. If he could just cool his over-emotional toddler PMS jets a little more often . . .

2. Have I mentioned that I got bangs? The media must indeed be failing us if you haven’t already been alerted of this gripping, heartwarming, timely information on your local nightly news.

My hair has felt a little boring lately—not short enough to be a sassy fun short cut, but not long enough to be a pretty princess long look, and heaven knows I’m scared to death of dyeing it and can’t add anything interesting via the color highway. So I went with bangs instead. I’ve loved them. They add a little interest without being a huge commitment in terms of cut or color. Just a little sumpin to spice things up.

3. I spent a few hours (hooouuuuurrrrrsssss) last Sunday photographing all my most commonly used yarn colors and updating each of my Etsy shop listings with color options.

In days of yore (yore = before last Sunday), I hadn’t taken advantage of Etsy’s new-ish feature of adding drop-down menus to select options like size, color, etc. on each listing. So I finally took the time to update everything, and it should hopefully make ordering smoother and faster from here on out.

4. Speaking of crocheting and my shop, I’ve really been enjoying coming up with new items for spring. I was worried my shop’s gotten boring—I haven’t added anything new in ages, and although I enjoy making all my items, a little variety sure wouldn’t hurt. Once I get everything modeled and photographed, I’ll write a post about my new spring items, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peak of one new goodie I’m particularly excited about.

I don’t know which I like more—the awesome wavy pattern or the dusty rose color. Both are winners.

5. I know I’ve mentioned this recipe before—probably more than once, if my real-life habit of repeating tidbits of information dozens of times before people finally tell me to shut it carries over to blogging—but I really, really, really can’t get enough homemade Happy Joe’s Taco Pizza.

And I know what you’re thinking: “Be tacos or be pizza, don’t try to be both.” I’m usually annoyed by these conjoined Siamese twins food combos. But this is delicious, and the perfect fusion of 2 favorites. Try it. I love NewlyWoodwards’ recipe, which you can find right HERE.

Have a great weekend!

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