a graduation card

Did you know that 5th graders have graduations from Elementary School into Middle School? I don't remember having a big graduation ceremony for kindergarten or elementary school or even middle school.  Though I do like to brag that my high school graduation was at Red Rocks...

Why do I know about 5th grade graduation? For the last two years, I've spent an hour per week volunteering at a public school in Denver. The teacher of the class is a good friend of mine. I started tutoring the kids in math when they were in 4th grade, helped run a reading club last summer and went back to math tutoring this school year.

Most of the kids are Mexican and some are recent immigrants who don't speak English well. Some of them are bilingual and translate for their parents who don't speak English well (or at all). After two years, they still don't remember that I can understand them when they speak their secret language (Spanish). I always loved responding to them in Spanish when they didn't think I understood what they said.

Going in to see them was often the highlight of my week. Whenever I enter the classroom, they eagerly greet me. When their teacher says he's going to send a group back to work with me, they all raise their hands wanting to be included in my group.

The kids are awesome and it's been so exciting to see their progress over the last two years. They've gone from apathetic to interested, behind to caught up (even ahead!), discouraged about learning to excited about what they can accomplish. They're taller, more mature and don't seem much like kids anymore. I'll definitely miss seeing them every week when they move on to different middle schools.

I thought about getting them gifts to celebrate, but what do you buy for 27 5th graders that's affordable and useful? Instead of buying something, I decided to design a card with my newly acquired Adobe Illustrator skills (I'm still a beginner...) The card I made is below...next step is to write 27 notes to the kids! 

Graduation CArd

recent happenings + fun friday links

I've been making very slow progress on my knitting and other projects lately. Going out of town every other weekend for 2 months will do that to you, though!

I spent a weekend in Estes Park in mid-April. It snowed, but that was pretty much the norm in Denver every week from April through mid-May.

I celebrated my 30th birthday with some friends in NYC. It was really fun to go back to the city where I used to live. We had amazing spring weather, shopped and ate and drank a lot. I stopped by Purl Soho, the shop that inspired me to learn to knit 8 years ago where I bought some fun fabric and thread for a summer sewing project. The photo below is our hotel room at the W Downtown

Last weekend I went on an epic road trip with some friends to Zion National Park and Bryce National Park. It was a 10ish hour drive from Denver so we spent a lot of time driving for a 3 day weekend. The parks were absolutely amazing, though.

Zion National Park
Bryce National Park

I'm headed to San Diego next weekend to visit my brother and sister-in-law. And then I'm staying put for a little while!

Since it's Friday, here are some fun links for you:

Spring rolls in a bowl look like a perfect summery meal

I made these grilled carrots with dill last night. They're super easy and delicious!

I've been taking some fun classes on Skillshare lately. They're cheap, super useful and you can go through them at your own pace. Currently, I'm learning more techniques for digital illustration using Adobe Illustrator. I'm working on a redesigned logo and design for the site here!

My latest obsession is green smoothies. I make one every day for breakfast. My coworkers make fun of me, but these are seriously tasty and healthy!

Have a great weekend!

hot toddy

It's starting to feel like winter in Denver. There's just a little bit of snow on the ground. I finally had to close my windows. My car is covered in frost each morning. I'm using gloves and hats and winter coats on a regular basis. And to make the transition complete, I now have my first (and hopefully last) winter sinus infection. I'm currently sitting on the couch, waiting for my Mom to bring over some soup (yes, your Mom can still bring you soup when you're sick, live alone and are almost 30 years old). And the only thing better than soup when you're sick is a Hot Toddy. These delicious winter drinks will help you feel better if you're fighting off a cold or if you're just plain cold from the winter weather.

There are so many different ways to make the Hot Toddy, making it a very versatile drink.

Here are a few Hot Toddy Recipes to keep you warm! (PS. Are you wondering whether it's wise to drink Bourbon when you're sick? I like to tell myself that the honey and vitamin C from the citrus more than compensates for the alcohol...)

The Traditional Hot Toddy

hot toddy

For me, this is a traditional hot toddy. It has cinnamon, cloves, lemon, honey and bourbon. Simply add hot water. It's warm, delicious and I'm not ashamed to admit I drank two of these last night...

See all the details from The Boulder Locavore

hot toddy

The Intensi-Toddy

This hot toddy calls for spiced rum, tea bags and cayenne pepper in addition to the traditional ingredients. It sounds (as it's name would imply), intense. I'm not sure it's best for curing a cold, but it sounds like a fun little twist on the traditional version.

Find all the details for this hot toddy from Joylicious

Grapefruit Toddy

grapefruit hot toddy

I love love love grapefruit. Since a hot toddy works well with all citrus fruits, why not swap out lemon for grapefruit? I think I'm going to try this version tonight. Grapefruit + bourbon? How can you go wrong?

Edible Finger Lakes has all the specs for this drink

Gin Hot Toddy

Gin or Tequila Hot Toddy

Traditionally, hot toddys are made with bourbon or rum. But if you're up for something a little more adventurous, check out these recipes from Shoot to Cook. One uses bitters, another gin and the last tequila. A tequila toddy doesn't sound too appealing to my sick body right now...but the gin and tequila options would be perfect as a fun holiday drink.

Blood Orange Toddy

One final hot toddy option uses Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges. I love the color of this toddy. It has the look of a tropical drink, but the taste of winter.

You can find out more about this hot toddy from food52

Do you have a favorite version of the hot toddy?

Excuse me while I go blow my nose, eat my soup and boil some water for one of these...

an italian feast

I'm currently in week two of a brand new job. It's going well so far, but I've been feeling a little overwhelmed as I settle into a new routine, new job, new situation.

Before I started the job, I threw a big dinner party for 9 of my friends in my little apartment. I moved a few tables into the living room for a banquet style table. I borrowed chairs from neighbors. For some reason, I only have sets of 9. Nine chairs, nine wine glasses, nine plates. My neighbors (who also came to the dinner party) let me borrow one extra set of everything.

I decided to make an Italian feast to celebrate.

 

On the menu:

Red wine (lots of it)

Garlic rosemary flatbread (plus a gluten free variety)

Roasted pepper salad with capers, kalamata olives, and garlic

Pasta e Fagioli (my grandmother's recipe)

New York Cheese Cake with Cherry Topping (from Smitten Kitchen)

The recipe for pasta e fagioli (or pasta and beans) is a "recipe". My Mom just knows how to make it. She learned by watching her Italian grandmother and her Mother while growing up. When I asked her for the recipe a few years ago, she sent me a 3 page email describing how to make it. So I have a "recipe", but not in the traditional sense.

The pasta takes a long time to make, but it's worth every minute. It's a lot of work and I don't make it that often--definitely a special occasion treat. And apparently it was so good that I forgot to snap a picture of it. But believe me, it was enjoyed by all.

Someday, I'll sit down and turn my 3 page email into an actual recipe and post it here. But that day is not today. I need to get to bed early...it's supposed to snow tonight and I might need a little extra time to scrape the snow off my car and commute.

My dinner party was a success...in fact, it was so successful that my downstairs neighbor complained about the noise. I guess that's the true definition of a loud Italian feast!

8 Yarns for Your Next Knitting or Crochet Project

Do you ever wonder how days are declared official holidays or celebrations? Who decided to create Social Media Day or Flag Day or Bring Your Teddy Bear to School or Work Day? There's a whole website devoted to these special days...some are fairly well known, like Earth Day. But then you have Morse Code Day, Hug a Plumber Day, No Housework Day, Vitamin C Day. Today happens to be I Love Yarn Day. Even though I think all of these special days are fairly ridiculous, I do love yarn so I thought I'd post a list of some of my favorites here to commemorate the very special day (sarcasm implied).

Before we get to the list, let me share with you my yarn bias. I love knitting with real fibers. Once I started knitting with cotton and wool and alpaca, the synthetic yarns just couldn't compare. The problem is that real fiber yarn is more expensive than synthetics. In an attempt to be practical, the yarns below are listed in two categories: (1) Yarns That Won't Send You Into Debt and (2) Yarns to Buy When You Want to Splurge

Yarns That Won't Send You Into Debt

1. KnitPicks Shine

yarn

KnitPicks is a great place to find affordable yarn made from real fibers. They have a great color selection, too. One of my favorite yarns from KnitPicks is Shine. If you've ever felt the softness of Modal, you know why. This yarn is so soft and perfect for making baby items, snuggly blankets and other projects that you want to touch. It's also easy to work and displays patterns well.

Content: 60% Pima Cotton, 40% Modal natural beech wood fiber

Weight: Worsted

Amount: 75 yards / 50 grams per ball

Care: Machine Washable

Sample Projects: Sand Cable Baby Blanket, Modal-ly Baby Blanket, Lace Beanie

2. Cotton-Ease

cottonease yarn

Cotton-Ease is my favorite synthetic blend. The colors are amazing. It's also a perfect yarn to show patterns. This yarn is durable and will work well for projects that need to be washed often. You won't feel like you're using a synthetic blend. This yarn has all the feel of real cotton.

Content: 50% Cotton, 50% Acrylic

Weight: Worsted

Amount: 207 yards per ball

Care: Machine Washable

Sample Projects: Baby Blanket for Quirk, Basketweave Blanket

3. Wool of the Andes Sport

wool of the andes

This yarn is a great go-to for wool. It works well for a variety of projects because it's a really strong fiber. Make accessories like gloves and hats or use it for a durable wool blanket. The yarn drapes really well after blocking.

Content: 100% Peruvian Highland Wool

Weight: Sport

Amount: 137 yards / 50 grams per ball

Care: Hand Wash

Sample Projects: Twin Leaf Baby Blanket, Bias Blanket

sugarncream

If you need a durable yarn made from cotton, this is your solution. It comes in all sorts of colors and is great for household items like dishcloths, potholders, rugs, etc.

Content: 100% Cotton

Weight: Worsted

Amount: 120 yards / 70 grams per ball

Care: Machine Wash

Sample Projects: Ballband Dishcloth, Baby Beanie

Yarns To Buy When You Want To Splurge

1. Shelter

Shelter Yarn

Oh my. I love this yarn. It works perfectly for projects that require color work. It drapes perfectly. It's delightful. Did I mention the colors are beautiful, too? Buy a pattern from Brooklyn Tweed and make it with this yarn. You won't regret it.

Content: 100% Targhee-Columbia Wool

Weight: Worsted

Amount: 140 yards / 50 grams per ball

Care: Hand Wash

Sample Projects: Seasons Hat, Tawny Owl

2. MadelineTosh

yarn

My favorite thing about MadelineTosh yarns is the lovely selection of colors. The yarn comes in all sorts of weights and fibers, but one I really like is Tosh Merino.

Content: 100% Superwash merino wool

Weight: DK

Amount: 225 yards

Care: Machine Wash, Air Dry

3. Malabrigo Yarn

yarn

I made a cowl in this pattern that I never want to take off in the winter. It's soft, cozy and warm. And somehow it's squishy, too. The color selection is extensive and will leave you wanting to by skeins and skeins.

Content: 100% Merino Wool

Weight: Worsted

Amount: 210 yards

Care: Hand Wash

Sample Projects: Linear Cowl

4. Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Cotton

yarn

This is a totally different type of cotton yarn. It's soft and easy to use and has a smooth finish to it. Because it's so smooth and even, the yarn looks perfect for any stitch pattern.

Content: 100% Organic Cotton

Weight: Worsted

Amount: 210 yards

Care: Hand Wash

Sample Projects: Baby Sweater

 

How about you? What's your favorite yarn?