November 21, 2014

Kiva Update - Andres in Mexico

I received another update from Kiva on one of my loan investments - I'm really loving this feature and being able to keep updated on the progress of lenders.

Andres in Mexico received a loan to start his own cucumber plantation business and he's well under way.  Here's his update:

Reposted email from Kiva:
With the loan Andrés got from Kiva, he rented a 3,000 meter greenhouse in Yecapixtla, Morelos and planted 8,000 organic cucumber seeds.

Andrés can herefrom become a partner of Truequio’s cooperative and sell his cucumber production for exportation at a better price.

He is very enthousiastic about his work and the influence that young producers like him can have within his…

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Want to get involved with Kiva, too?  Join Kiva today!

November 19, 2014

WIP Wednesday

Hello, hello!

Just a short post to share with you today my most recent progress on my Nice People, Nice Things embroidery quilt.  I really like the simple elegance of this block.


Linking up to Freshly Pieced:


Until next time...

November 17, 2014

Celebration Tea Bag Pinwheel

Welcome back!

Recently I decided to try a new technique.  I was reading through a back-logged issue of Papercraft Inspirations and came across a Masterclass article for tea bag folding and thought I'd give it a whirl - if you like origami (and I do), then tea bag folding is just the thing for you, too.

Celebrate Pinwheel

As with origami, using a thin paper is helpful with the folding and obtaining crisp edges so I dug out some of the free 6x6" paper gifts from Papercraft Inspirations (as these are always thin quality paper) and got started making my pinwheel.  It was super quick and easy, although it turned out larger than I had anticipated.  I decided to mount it on a regular A6 card blank anyway, rather than a square, to give it some interest and really make it the focus of the card.  Similarly, I used a layer of vellum to diffuse the background pattern so it wasn't so overwhelming.


I dressed up the center of the pinwheel with a swirl of twine and two layered buttons, then sprinkled some pink/purple sequins around like a sparkling fireworks display, ran another length of twine along the fold and stamped a very simple sentiment onto the pinwheel itself.

This little message of cheer will be going to a colleague who is celebrating her 25th birthday and I hope it will put a sparkle in her eye.

November 15, 2014

A Cowl for Granny

Hello, hello!

Recently I made this cowl and really loved the whole crocheting process and how the final project turned out - quick, easy and a beautiful result.  I mean, what could be better?  So I decided I should make a few for Christmas gifts.

There's this wool shop near my work that I've always been meaning to go into and look around.  Unfortunately, as I work ridiculously late into the evening most nights, they're never open when I pass by.  However, I finally found some time to pop in and I found this super yummy wool calling out to me:


I don't know what it is with variegated anything but I love it!  And this pink/orange/purple combination was just too gorgeous to not go home with me.  And they even sell those chunky plastic buttons I adore so I scooped up a paisley-shaped purple one to go with it.

A weekend later and this was the result:


OMG, I'm totally in love!  I'm definitely going to need to go back and buy more of that same wool because I seriously need a second cowl like this just for myself.


And this time I made sure the wool was a uniform consistency, which really helped with the ease of crocheting and knowing I was using the correct loops and counting accurately.  I also like how you can see the stitch pattern with this one; it adds to the visual interest.

So there's a little Christmas gift for Granny done.  Hope she likes it (or I just may roll her for it - ha!)

November 10, 2014

Kiva Update - Carlos & Alonso in Mexico

Another lender update from Kiva!  This time on Carlos and Alonso's recycling initiative.  See how they're doing:

Reposted email from Kiva:

Carlos and Alonso, the popular firemen from Chiapas, have successfully started their community recycling program. They have gathered some of the families in their community to launch the plastic recollection and they are talking to local schools too!

With their project they are reactivating engagement between the members of their community as well as obtaining an extra income for…

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Want to get involved with Kiva and helping inspiring people around the world?  Join Kiva today!

November 07, 2014

Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox

Every year I try to set myself a goal to read 10 books.  A while back I started reading Michael J. Fox's autobiography.  It took me a bit of time to get through - not because the book wasn't good, just a busy life.  However, I'm pleased to say that I finished it off and it was a really interesting read.

You have to understand, as a child growing up in the '80s, I loved watching Michael J. Fox - Family Ties, all the Back to the Future movies and then later Spin City were all great favourites of mine.  The news of his Parkinsons diagnosis was shocking and saddening to the world over and so I was curious to learn more about the lesser known aspects of Fox's life.

So here's my short overview of the book.

You might be concerned that the focus of this autobiography would center too much on the Parkinson's diagnosis and aftermath but this is not the case.  Of course Parkinson's is sprinkled throughout the book but there is so much more to Fox's self-told story than merely his medical condition.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his life growing up in Alberta as an army brat, his struggles through school and his unlikely rise to fame.

The strategies he devised to cope with his new-found fame and fortune - from becoming a 'yes'-man to his fans and the tabloids to his unfortunate spiral into alcoholism - were completely unknown to me.  Similarly, the length of time he spent living with and the struggles of working with Parkinson's while keeping this information to himself and his family was amazing to learn.

For me, however, the most memorable part of the book was the opening chapter when Fox describes his first conscious recognition of his Parkinson's - the dancing baby finger on his left hand.  There is something in how he describes this moment that really stuck with me.

Overall, if you're also a fan of Michael J. Fox, you might want to give this one a read; it's a good autobiography, full of humour and warmth.

Book count 2014: 7/10

November 05, 2014

All Star Dad Card

Hello, hello!

If you follow my blog, you may recall that I've been behind in my card-making a lot this year, such as when I finally made my mum's Mother's Day card not in May but in July (and confession time - I've only just posted it end of October - eek!).  So, not to disappoint my step-father but his Father's Day card has similarly been enormously delayed but it was totally worth it because I'm thrilled with the design!

All Start Dad

You'll never believe this but the inspiration for this card came to me while I was out for a morning jog.  I'd been struggling with what sort of theme to use for this year's Father's Day card and then remembered that I'd bought some of October Afternoon's gorgeous Apple Cider line and the colours would work nicely for a masculine card.


I also picked up the puffy stickers for the line (which, btw, are absolutely gorgeous) - except that several of them are American football-themed and not something I would ever use.  But they would be perfect for a Father's Day card...  Now if only there was an awesome retro TV set included somewhere in the line and as luck would have it, there was the perfect TV card in the do-dads pack.  Score!  I even used up a bit of scrap OA Woodland Park paper with a retro picture story design on it in the layering.


Finally, I got to the sentiment, which I hadn't thought about at all by this point.  I knew I wanted something sports-themed and eventually landed on the obvious: all star dad.  This mix of Bella Blvd. letter stickers and Amy Tan Thickers layered up worked perfectly.  There are just some cards that come together so easily and are a joy to create and this was without a doubt one of them.

November 02, 2014

Kiva - October 2014

October has come to a close so it's time to make my monthly Kiva loan contribution.  I love it when I stumble across opportunities for big impact, such as a school that is providing improvements for its student body.  As a teacher, that clearly hits close to home but also the fact that this one contribution will positively improve 250+ people's lives, both on an immediate and long-term basis is just plain awesome.  Awesome.

Jinja Central School (Uganda)

A loan of $1,150 helps Jinja Central School to purchase a water filtration system to provide clean drinking water for its students.   

Greetings from Uganda! This is Justus. He is the Head Teacher of Jinja Central Primary School, a mixed school in the urban area of Jinja with 525 students. Jinja Central Primary School has requested a loan to cover the cost of installing and maintaining a UV water filtration system to provide clean drinking water for its students. The school does not currently have access to consistent clean drinking water and therefore has to spend a considerable portion of its budget on firewood, which is used to boil water for the children. Installing a water filtration system will therefore save the school money in the long-term as the cost of firewood will be reduced. The loan will enable the school to purchase a UV water treatment system with a 450 litre tank, which will be big enough to store clean drinking water for the students every day.

Jinja Central Primary School will repay their loan from their school fees, which they collect each term. Justus ultimately hopes that having access to safe drinking water will improve his student’s concentration and attendance by reducing the number of children that fall sick from water-borne diseases as well as increase the number of students coming to the school.

You too can get involved and contribute to a loan today!

October 31, 2014

Crocheted Cowl

Hi, there - welcome back!

So having dipped my toe into the world of crochet, I've been itching for a new project - something still at the easy/beginner level but with a bit more spectacular result than the mug cosy (cute as they are).  Scarves are always a pretty safe project but I found something that took the boring scarf up a notch: the cowl.

During my quilt guild's exhibition, I bought some beautiful blue and turquoise wool from one of the vendors and decided it was destined to become a lovely autumn cowl.  Paired with a chunky hot pink button I'd picked up at my mum's quilt shop before she retired, I sat one Sunday, armed with a 10mm crochet hook and made this:


Squee!

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't as easy as I'd thought - well, the pattern was but the wool was not.  What I hadn't realised when I bought the wool was that it was the type at varies in thickness from chunky strand to thread-like width and back again.  That lack of uniform strand consistency definitely challenged my budding crochet skills but I persevered through and it all worked out in the end.


I went with the hot pink button to pick up the pops of pink scattered throughout the dye process.  It works really well with the natural holes created in the crochet.

Interested in making your own gorgeous autumn cowl?  Check out Fibre Flux's Margaret Button Cowl pattern.  As I said, it's a very easy pattern - you just need to learn two rows of stitches and you're set.  I also loved that she posted a YouTube tutorial at the bottom of the page to show the process; as a beginner and a visual learner, it was just what I needed.

October 27, 2014

Kiva Update - Rosalba in Columbia

I recently received an update on one of my Kiva loans that totally made the start of my day.

Remember Rosalba, the daycare teacher in Columbia?  She received her loan amount and has been putting her money to good use.  Check it out:

Reposted email from Kiva...
Rosalba lives with 2 of her children in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Medellin. Her passion for her daycare has guided her during the 15 years she has been doing this. We felt so welcome in her cozy home that houses the daycare 6 days a week and receives about 15 kids ages 1-5.

She showed off the decorations, partially painted walls, organized nooks, teaching materials and spotless albeit humble kitchen. The loan helped her buy teaching materials, materials and containers to better organize the daycare. Organization and decorations are vital for a 10 x 14 foot room housing toddlers!

Rosalba told us about the hardships she faced and challenges in working long hours in a daycare that is regulated by the government. She says, "I do this out of love and care for the children. I could easily work less and only worry about the little money I make, but I do this with love."

After taking care of her family she states, "Everything I earn I invest in the daycare, for the children." When we asked her how she envisioned her daycare in 5 or 10 years she said she wanted to have a bigger space for the daycare since the current living room is too small for active kids. She understands the context and background in which the children come from and wants to provide a healthy environment for them to be safe, healthy and educated.

Without the help of Kiva credit and Interactuar, she would not have been able to get a loan to improve the conditions of the daycare and continue caring for the children as well as she would like. Hearing her compassion for the children and her passion for the daycare made me proud to be part of the Kiva community who is contributing to impacting not just Rosalba but her community, one child at a time.

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And remember, if you've found Rosalba's story inspiring, join Kiva today!