Crochet Crazy: My new tote

Armed with my new crochet hooks and dark blue chunky yarn I set out to make a tote/purse/handbag and started looking for patterns I could actually follow.  I am a beginner and I wanted something easy.  After a bit of digging and googling I came accross futuregirl’s starling tote and fell in love with it.  You can even check out the awesome gallery on Flickr if you are interested.  I love how everyone came up with a totally different look for it.Which is why it was perfect, exactly what I had in mind and easy.  The pattern includes 3 sizes and is basically an empty canvas for your creativity.  And boy was I on a creativity kick.  This isn’t my first time making handbags, a couple of years back I used to make macrame bags and they were awesome.   My sister and I spent a summer making and selling them.  Macramé is much easier than crochet.  First macrame is basically just knotting so you don’t have a fear of unraveling your piece by mistake (happened to me twice while making this)  and macramé ropes are thicker and chunkier so the bag is done faster and is sturdier.  I should ask my sister to send me a picture because the very original prototype is still at my mom’s house.

I lined it with white fabric with red leaves and decided to add a red felt leaf outside.  Smart idea, bad execution.  My stitching needs to go visit a stitch doctor but who cares, I have a wonderful new bag that for a prototype is just great.

Crochet is so relaxing, really it is meditative.  Well, most of the time it is, there are other times like when I can’t get the instructions or when Lulu decides she wants to run away with my yarn (yes she has done that more than once).  After a while my fingers just start crocheting on their own and my mind wanders.  I sit doing row after row after my daughter has gone to sleep and just think about everything and nothing.  If I crochet enough I will have the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything else.  An answer which is not 42.

Now excuse me, I have to go make something else.

Friday's Five: Skills Every Mother Needs

I am making up for all the missed “Friday’s Five” posts.  Another Kolena Laila post.  Motherhood is awesome, exhausting, bewildering, fun, crazy, exciting and did I mention exhausting.

Becoming a mother comes with lots of new skills like changing diapers, burping and juggling.

Stain Removal

Stains are a part of motherhood.  Did you know that bananas stain terribly?  So does milk and it stinks too.  Children are like super stain makers.  They color your carpet with crayons and think its hilarious and will call you to show you their new masterpeice.  Learn to smile, tell them that crayons should only be used on paper, hide the crayons and google how to remove that stain.  A pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure.   Try and keep things that stain out of reach and act fast when something does get stained.  Just keep in mind that children are children and that their development and happiness is worth more than your favorite duvet cover.

Find your parenting style

This is probably one of the hardest skills.  Finding a parenting style that suits  you and being consistent.  Do something you can stick to not something you think you should do.

Read nutrition labels

A healthy child needs to eat healthy foods.  Learn to read the nutritional information labels.  While most of us will check the labels for calorie or fat content you should also be checking products for sodium content, additives, sugar and vitamins to make sure you are getting more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff.  Children need different nutrients in different amounts depending on their age so make sure you know what they need so you can give it to them.

Tell a story

Most kids love stories.  Make up crazy stories, read stories from a book or tell a fable.  Whatever you decide to do try go crazy, make sound effects, change your voice with every character and they will love story time even more.

Smile

Just that.  Remember to smile even when you are exhausted.  Monkey see, monkey do.  You don’t want a grumpy child now do you?

About the juggling, I was serious every mother can carry a baby, talk on the phone and cook lunch all at the same time.  Juggling has nothing on this.

Kolena Laila will be running until the 31st of December.  Join the conversation.

Friday's Five: Things Every Wife Should Know

It’s not Friday but another Kolena Laila post.  Marriage is tricky business.  Even the most compatible couples have their issues but smart couples know how to deal with them.

You will fight

You probably fought before you got married right?  If you didn’t then consider yourself extremely lucky.  Your first fight as a married couple is usually freaky.  You are shocked and hurt not just because you had a fight but because you had a fight even after you went through all of the hassle of getting married.  Take a deep breath and get over yourself.  Disagreeing is normal.  We all fight with our siblings and parents and these are the people who have known you your whole life.  It is normal, just remember to stay civilized and learn when to compromise and let go.  Unless of course the fight includes abuse of any kind you should learn to let go and once you have made up forget about it.

Stop yourself from nagging

No body likes a nagging wife.  Nagging does not work.  The more you nag the better your husband will learn to resist.  If nagging worked, a wife would nag once and would never need to nag again (convinced right?).  Gretchen Ruben (The Happiness Project) has some really great 14 tips to stop nagging.

Appreciate the little things

Your husband throws his socks on the floor and it is really annoying.  But he also remembers to do little things your love, like call you in the middle of the day just to say hi or buys you flowers for no reason.  Whatever the little things are make sure that you appreciate and enjoy them.

Create habits

Whether it is a Wednesday movie night, Friday barbecue or Saturday bowling find an activity you both love to do and make it a habit.  Some people might argue that this is boring and routine.  I think it just adds some structure to an already hectic life.  It is also couple time when you can do something together as a team.  My husband and I make pizza every (well almost) Thursday.  I make the dough and he makes the sauce and adds the toppings.  I make fun of him because he’s really obsessed about slicing mushrooms as thin as possible and makes sure they are all the same thickness and he makes fun of me because I move around too much in the kitchen and get in his way all the time.  It was originally a healthier alternative to ordering pizza but it turned into a fun activity.  We have learned how to act like a team.  I learned not to interfere with his slicing skills and he has stopped nagging me to make the crust thinner.

Be true to yourself

There are many times when you will have to compromise or do something you don’t really want to but this can’t be a permanent thing.  You have to stay true to yourself or your marriage will not work.  Period.

There are so many other things wives should know but these are just the first five off the top of my head.

Kolena Laila will be running until the 31st of December.  Join the conversation.

Friday's Five: Things Every Woman Should Know

I am a day late and it is Saturday.  I have all of these post ideas written down in notes all over the place but my crochet obsession has taken over my internet obsession which is a good thing in general.

This post is dedicated to all women and is also a Kolena Laila post.

Women should know lots of things, these are just five of the things I think are important.

Handling finances

Every woman should know how to handle her own finances.  A woman who can create a budget and stick to it is a woman who can buy her own Choos ;- ).  Whether you make money, still take an allowance from your parents (if you are young and still at school) or are a housewife you have to understand money.  Knowing where your money goes and how to stretch it is a learned skill that anyone can acquire.

Change a tire

Every woman should know how to change a tire, unclog a drain and do simple fix its around the house.  Just because there is someone else who can do it for you does not mean you shouldn’t learn, you never know when you might need to do it yourself.

Defense

Self defense could save your life.  When I was a child I once watched a public service show on women and safety, the tips were simple; when you are out alone always walk in the middle of the street where there is the most light and keep your bag close to you so no one can snatch it away.  Simple and effective.  Carry pepper spray or even deodorant.  I am not paranoid nor do I believe that we live in a jungle where woman are targets and victims but it is always better to be safe than sorry.  You can find some tips here on safety and self defense.

Choosing friends

Some friends are like diamonds other friends are like broken glass, pretty useless and can hurt you, learn to spot them early one, keep the diamonds and recycle the glass.  Choose friends who are supportive, honest and a positive influence.  If your friends just make you feel bad about yourself it might be time to move and make new ones.

Standing up for your self

Learn to stand up for yourself firmly and intellegently.  Learn to negotiate.  Standing up for yourself doesn’t have to mean being aggressive it just means you are a smart lady who will take no ones crap.  Be assertive, positive and polite and you can do anything in the world.

One final thing, remember to pass it on.  Not just this post, but anything you think is useful for the women around you.  Women have always swapped recipes and these are just recipes for a better life.

Kolena Laila will be running until the 31st of December.  Join the conversation.

Amigurumi, my new obssession

I have a new crafting obsession.

Mr Bear and Mr Hippo

Mr Bear and Mr Hippo

Hehehe there’s something wrong with them, their heads should be round, and I just can’t seem to get them round enough.  Not that it really matters, because I got my hooks, yarn and a total addiction to crocheting little amigurumi creatures.

Friday's Five: Latin Sayings

It has been a couple of weeks since I’ve done a Friday’s Five.

I absolutely adore Latin.  Short, simple sentences with so much meaning.  Here are five of my favorites.

  • Ad astra per aspera – To the stars through difficulty
  • Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered.
  • Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero – Seize the day, trust as little as possible in tomorrow.
  • Nullius in verba – (Rely) on the words of no one.
  • Intelligenti pauca – Few words suffice for he who understands

And Bonus phrase:

Helluo librorum – A glutton for books. (bookworm)

Women, Ads and Stereotypes

When will advertising people get that not all women fall the same segment.  I get annoyed when I see advertising which targets the woman who only cooks, shops or gets her hair done.  Like these two ads for example.

StereotypicalAds
StereotypicalAds2

The first one was for a Kuwaiti Women forum, it just talks to the Kuwaiti woman who just wants to change her look, loose weight, find a recipe or shop.  It there are so many successful, intelligent and amazing Kuwaiti women out there.  Politicians, artists, scientists and so much more.  I didn’t click because I was so annoyed and they might have other topics that might be interesting but they marketed themselves a little on the shallow side.  Even the picture they chose was not very expressive of your average Kuwaiti woman, unless she’s shopping crazy.  The second one is for mobile internet connection.  There’s a billboard by my house that has this ad and every time I pass by it it aggravates me.  Yes, i do look for recipes online and yes I window shop online.  But there is so much more that I do on the internet.  Why isn’t there an ad that targets professional working women, who use their internet connections to do research or business. University students use the internet to study, that too might be a healthier more positive image.  Even friends connecting would be a better image even though it might touch another stereotype of women being too talkative.  How about a mother and her children looking at educating websites or looking for childcare articles.  I sometimes wonder about the effectiveness of these ads.  Has anyone every studied ads, women and the middle east.  Do women even care or is it just me?  Is anyone else offended from this kind of sexist/stereotypical advertising?

That Year

A couple of years back I got a job in Cairo. I am originally from Alex and had to move to Cairo. My mom wasn’t very happy with the move and didn’t want me moving out. To make a very long story short, I eventually moved and thought I was doing the best thing for my career and my life in general. I was in one of the best companies in the industry, making more money than most people my age and general grabbing on to the chance of a lifetime. I stayed for one year and one month. Looking back, I realize that I did learn lots of things during that year.

I realized that sometimes the things you want really bad and fight for the most are not really worth it. During that year I was almost always broke even though I was making more money, my car would break down all the time for no reason, I had to move a couple of times, working hours were extreme and I was always exhausted, not to mention lots of other messed up personal issues. Eventually I went back to Alex, took a pay cut and joined a smaller company. At first I thought I had taken a step back career wise and was unhappy with that too. Today I can look back and realize it doesn’t matter. I am a stay at home mom at the moment but instead of looking at it as a backward move I can now look at it as a temporary pause in my career path.

That was one of the best lessons I learned from that year, is that even though somethings don’t make sense when they happen at the time, they will eventually become decipherable later on in life.  Just like Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backwards.  That year taught me independence, financial smarts, doing the laundry and a little bit of time management.  I also learned a very useful skill which has come in very handy after I became a mother, the skill of sleeping on a moving train while standing up.  There were so many weeks that I’d catch the train while it was leaving the platform and I’d just hop on and pay for my ticket once on the train and many times I wouldn’t find an empty seat so I’d just stand and from the exhaustion of a very busy week I’d fall asleep standing.

One of the other things I learned was dealing with a roommate, which was a good thing because its a lot like marriage.  You assume because you love someone living with them will be great and everything will just fall in place just perfectly.  That is not always true, you see, love does not make you 100% compatible in things like messiness vs neatness or how loud you want the TV on or even who has remote control rights.  Having a roommate teaches you that good communication skills, the art of compromise and a sense of humor are all vital skills while living with someone.

I learned that instant noodles make a great substitute for a home cooked meal when you are really hungry.  Actually if you are really hungry anything tastes good.  I learned that you have to do your own laundry and learn how a washing machine works if you want clean socks.  I learned that you have to take your clothes out of the washing machine and hang them to dry or they will smell musty and you will have to wash them all over again.  I learned that you need to clean the refrigerator and disinfect it every once in a while if you want it smelling nice and fresh.  I learned that if you don’t hang your clothes when you get home, they will get crumpled and you will have to iron them (just for a fact I don’t own an iron in my home, just a steam iron and I am keeping it that way).  I learned that when you move to a new place you need to find out the number of the nearest home delivering grocery store (because you never know when you will run out of milk),  towing service, mechanic, plumber and the building doorman (because you never know when something will go wrong).

It is ironic because I thought I was going to learn so many software development skills, I ended up learning more life skills than anything else.  I also learned how to apartment hunt.  I needed that when we were looking for our apartment in Egypt.  Before I would have just took my gut feeling about a place.  But now I know that the size of a kitchen is important, air circulation, windows, lighting, sunlight and so many other things are also very significant in any home.  I learned that turning any living space in a home as soon as you set foot in it is not only crucial but it is also very easy.  Just placing your favorite scented candle can create a familiar feeling and make you feel that you have come home.  Any new space can feel cold or uninviting but putting your personal touches transforms the iciest place into a warm and cozy place.  Pictures, books and towels are perfect examples of things that can make you feel at home.  When I moved to Kuwait, I remember taking out my stuff and seeing my books lined on the shelves made it feel like a home, like my home.

That year in Cairo mellowed me down.  It was not the most life defining year in my life, but it was educating.

Looking back I don’t regret it and I am grateful that I had the chance to learn all of these things but maybe if I had to do it all over again I would have done things differently.   Or maybe I wouldn’t have and I would have done the exact same things, because that year is probably why there are so many things I know today that I really needed to know.

Confessions of an Environmentally (not so) Friendly Mom

I care about the environment, I really do.  I try to minimize my consumption of the earth’s recources.  I don’t by products that have CFC in them, turn off the lights when I go out of a room and I remember to use the least amount of water when I brush my teeth.  It all started when I decided to become more environmentally consious and use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers so I would be setting the right example for my daughter.  Mind you, this decision was one of those I took when I was very pregnant.  I thought that it was a good idea at the time, bought the diapers and did the research.  Baby Lulu was born and I did use them but it was so much work and extra laundry that I have up on them a couple of months later.  I took the easy way out and got those evil disposable diapers.  I looked for biodegradable ones, couldn’t find them and gave up on the idea (well I did try).  Now that I am potty training, I keep telling myself I am doing this for the environment too.

Time flies and I find myself the mother of a toddler, a toddler that won’t take a nap easily.  So I schedule my morning outings a couple of hours before she should be napping so she falls asleep in the car.  When that fails I drive around aimlessly until she does.  Sometimes I actually drive around more than I actually drive going to and from the places I actually should be going to.  I think I could cut my fossil fuel consumption in half if she would just sleep on her own.  I tried explaining why she should care about our petrol use, but she doesn’t really seem to care.  She should, she needs the earth more than I do.

I don’t use plastic containers, it is my mother’s fault .  Germs can live in plastic forever no matter how well you wash it, is what she always says.  Which is why I throw away all of those pesky plastic containers.  I should recycle, but I did a search for recycling plastic in Kuwait and didn’t find anything.  We don’t get newspapers so we don’t really generate that much paper waste.  I tried to make a list of things that I should be recycling and came up with aluminum cans, aluminum foil and plastic.  Thankfully my housekeeper collects old milk jugs and I use lots of those, between myself and my daughter we drink lots of milk.  Zip loc bags are probably another item which I abuse.  They are so useful, I just pop Lulu’s snack in them and run along.  I should use a reusable container but I sometimes just forget or find it easier to use them and throw them away when I am done.  Maybe if I had a cute lunchbox or made a cute reusable oilcloth lunch bag I would be more inclined to remember to use them.  Fortunately, Lulu would not touch any kind of artificial milk and was breastfed until recently when she decided to wean herself.  Breastfeeding is very environmentally friendly.  No packaging, extra energy or transportation is used up in the process.  Governments should be promoting breastfeeding just for the impact on the environment.

You know what else is an amazing invention?  Extra absorbent kitchen towels.   Everything from spilled milk (which you should cry over if your carpet is cream colored and it is pink strawberry milk) to greasy little hands call for paper towels.  I try to use soap and water or regular towels, but sometimes I just take the easy route.  If you think about it, using towels and washing them is also bad for environment; detergent, water and electricity.

I guess I should try harder.  Maybe I should make that my 2010 resolution, to be more conscious about my impact on the environment.

3 Reasons I want to learn to crochet

Click on the images for the tutorials

Yoonie at home: Laptop Sleve

Yoonie at home: Laptop Sleve

Paperless Grocery Bag

Paperless Grocery Bag

crochet monkey

Crochet Monkey by Chimuchimu