February 28, 2015

Kiva - February 2015

Hello, there!

This month I got a bit of a head start on my Kiva loan, which is probably good considering how short February is...  The moment I saw this loan, I knew I had to get behind it.

Najuma (Uganda)

A loan of $1,750 helps Najuma to buy construction materials for expanding the drug shop.

Najuma is a 29-year-old mother of one, aged three years, from Kambuzi, Kigoma, Bushenyi district. She is a drug shop operator who works 12 hours a day. She started this business on July 15, 2013 to generate an income and treat the local population which was in need in her area. She was referred to UGAFODE by one of the institution’s clients and so this is her first loan from UGAFODE.

She has applied for a loan of UGX 5,000,000 to purchase construction materials for her building which is under construction, where she will transform the drug shop to enlarge it into a bigger clinic. She hopes to have a good and standard medical facility around the Kambuzi area to treat the sick who are mostly her clients. She faces the challenge of most clients coming to buy drugs and not having enough money plus poor government policies that are ever against the operation of a drug shop. Also, without forgetting the lack of enough income to buy in bulk which would give her leverage on price thus availing herself of cheaper drugs for the local population. She describes herself as an honest lady and thanks UGAFODE as a whole very much for the support rendered to her in the business.

 At the time of this writing, Najuma's loan is 37% funded - why not help her out and get involved today?

February 26, 2015

Christmas Cards 2014

Okay, try not to panic at the mentioning of 'Christmas' already.  The truth is, I'm a wee bit backlogged in posting so despite the fact that it's nearly March, I still wanted to share my 2014 Christmas cards with you, for inspiration purposes if nothing else.  And let's be honest, I know there are a few of you out there already working on this year's Christmas cards and presents (you know who you are).

Now, having started a job at a new school this academic year, I was feeling slightly more swamped than usual coming up to the holiday season and I was having a hard time coming up with card ideas.  Luckily there's always Pinterest for just such occasions!  I've always loved this card since first seeing it and so used it for my inspiration:

So I set about planning how I could recreate it.  For the circles, I invested in a Martha Steward circle cutter, which (personal feelings concerning Martha Steward aside) is pretty darn awesome and much better than my old and crude circle cutter tool.  I have plenty of ribbon so the scarf wouldn't present a problem but the die cut arms would, as I don't have a die cutter to hand...  And finally, while I could certainly use paint and the circular tip of a paintbrush to stamp out the charcoal bits, I really wanted to ideally use some sort of black rhinestones for dimension but that would require a lot of rhinestones and where would I find those in quantity for a good price?

Happily, it all worked out:

My version

I would have liked to have made them square like in the inspiration card but I make 40-50 cards each year and so I need to buy envelopes in bulk and unfortunately, the dollar store equivalent over here doesn't stock square envelopes in bulk so I went with the traditional A6 sized format instead, which admittedly isn't as nicely balanced but there you go.  Sometimes you just have to think practically.

You can see how nicely the circles turned out using the new circle cutter.  I also decided to ink my circles in a light blue tinge instead of the grey of the inspiration card (which I felt looked a bit dirty and I like my snow pristine looking).  For the background, I stamped a variety of snowflakes and then heat embossed them with a 'snowflake' powder, which is essentially a white with silver flecks mixed in.  I also popped a few clear rhinestones on for a bit of sparkle.

Detail view

A nice bright red ribbon made this little fellow's scarf but I had about five different ribbons that I used so there was a little variety to the set.  For the arms, I decided some dark brown twine would look suitably like branches and add another textural element, which I liked.  And I totally lucked out at the dollar store when I stumbled over massive sheets of colour self-adhering rhinestones, including black!  They were like perfect little chunks of charcoal just waiting for a snowman to adorn!  Serendipity, I tell you.

February 24, 2015


Of the 10 books I read in 2014, Moloka'i was by far the most riveting of them all.  I've been waiting to write this review, for fear that it wouldn't live up to the book (and it won't) but I'm finally biting the bullet and posting about it because it's just such a beautifully written piece that it simply must be shared.

Initially it was the stunning cover photo that caught my eye when browsing potential new books to add to my reading list.  The delicate hibiscus flowers of a tropical setting layered against the hint of an attractive young woman contradicts a complex and potentially gruesome story of a Hawaiian girl who contracts leprosy near the turn of the century.

Leprosy, I dare say, is one of those little known and understood diseases among the general public - or so I was about to discover.  I think most of us associate leprosy with Biblical stories of Jesus healing lepers, who are typically described as grotesque beings wrapped in reeking rags and featuring oozing open flesh wounds and limbs that could rot and fall off.  Similarly, the disease has always been portrayed as extremely infectious.  It turns out that neither of these assumptions is exactly true.  Also, the modern day term for leprosy is Hanson's disease.

What I loved the most about this book, however, was Brennert's amazing skill at bringing to life the story's characters.  Dear little Rachel, the story's heroine, had me wrapped around her six-year-old baby finger half way through the first chapter.  I was completely emotionally invested in the characters from the very beginning and I stayed invested in them throughout the book; through every roller coaster plot twist right to the very end.  This is one of those books where as much as you loved experiencing the story, you mourn finishing the book because the characters feel like old and familiar friends that you enjoy visiting regularly.

And if you're the squeamish type who might be concerned about how gory the details may get, this too is handled skillfully, with an approach that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities but isn't going for shock value.

This is a book that I felt changed me.  Add it to your reading list today.

February 22, 2015

My First Amigurumi

Hi, there, welcome back!

If you follow my blog at all, you may vaguely recall that back in September 2014 I learned to crochet.  From those first simple crocheted squares, I made several mug cosies, cowls (mine and Granny's) and some simple dish clothes for stocking stuffers.  I also had a go at crocheting a wine bottle tote but found it a bit too challenging at the time so decided to revisit that pattern at a later date once I'd had a little more experience under my belt.

However, if you want to do any of the really, really cool and cute stuff with crochet, you really have to learn to master crocheting in the round.  I mean, seriously, you have to.  And that's a bit daunting when you first start out, because it takes a lot of counting and a different level of spatial orientation ability.

Anyway, one weekend I was completely bored out of my gourd and I decided it was high time I tackled this crocheting in the round.  Primarily because I wanted to learn how to make those adorable amigurumi toys.  I mean, be honest, how could anyone not want to make these?  So I searched through my Pinterest crochet pins and found what I felt would be the absolute basics to get me started: baby monsters.

OMG, need to make these!

Now, my original pin took me to a very nice photo-assisted tutorial, but I still found it tricky to fully understand what I was doing and more importantly (especially as I'm a visual learner), to see where I should be hooking.  So, back to YouTube I went and to my great joy, I stumbled upon a video tutorial version of these exact baby monsters - yeah!  Want to make these yourself?  Here's the video I used:

The video is half an hour long and goes through making the monsters from start to finish, including adding the faces (safety eyes, stitching features), stuffing and closing.  I felt it was well explained throughout and the one or two times something wasn't directly shown, I was able to figure it out with minimal trial and error.  And after an afternoon of excited stitching, I had this little fellow completed:

My Squishie!

Isn't it adorable?  Squee!  I just can't help but squish it every time I see it.  I didn't have any safety eyes so I used small buttons, which incidentally were originally white and I coloured them black with a Sharpie marker.

Once you get the basic process down, these whip up super quickly and easily.  In fact, I thought they would be the perfect little end of school year treat for my students so now I'm busily crocheting 23 of them!  I'm also thinking I'll make a few extras for my classroom as fidgets for students that need to move while listening.

February 19, 2015

Kiva - January 2015

Hello, hello!

So having finished my goal of funding a Kiva loan every month for 2014, I'm happily continuing into 2015.  This year my portfolio begins with Nastasha...

Natasha (Albania)

A loan of $2,050 helps Natasha to repair the roofing of her family house, as they live in the coldest region of the country where the snow and the cold damages the roofs of villagers very often.

Natasha is seeking your financial help to repair the roofing of her family house. Kindly note that she lives in the coldest region of Albania with lots of snow and rain. Due to the climate factors, house roofs destroy easily and fast as well. With about 10 percent of the loan, she will buy a cheap couch type of thing.

Natasha does agriculture/livestock, and she does not sell any of her products, whether dairy or fresh produce. All in all, she owns about 18 dynyms of agricultural land where she plants wheat in 8 dynym and gives the wheat to the bread factory in return for the bread she needs for the year. In 7 dynym, she plants rye, and in the other two, she plants beets. Both of these go for food for her animals that she has, in total 10 goats and six sheep. The cheese she makes from the animals is for family use.

In addition to this, she makes about $200/month retirement pension. Her husband receives a pension as well of about $144/month in addition to other pay as a night man in a nearby scrap-collecting yard.

At the time of this writing, Nastasha's loan request is only 46% funded.  Why not look her up yourself and get involved today!

February 17, 2015

Kiva - December 2014

Hi, there! Last month I finished catching myself up on my 2014 Kiva loans and here is the last one!  I can never seem to keep myself up-to-date posting these...where do the months go?

Christy (Philippines)

A loan of $675 helps Christy to buy new fishing nets, lead weights, floaters and fuel.

Christy lives in Carles, Iloilo. She is in the fishing business, since her husband is a fisherman. They have been in this business for 16 years. Christy does her best to help and support her husband in meeting their needs, especially in raising their five children, aged five to 14.

Christy is requesting a loan to buy new fishing nets, lead weights, floaters and fuel. This investment would be a great help in increasing her husband's catch.

Christy dreams of expanding the business to earn more for the family. She also wants to give her children a better education, and this loan would be a great help toward making her dreams real.

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

And on that note, my I say that I have now officially completed my 2014 resolution to fund a Kiva loan each month for the year!  It's an amazing feeling knowing that I'm helping to empower people around the world to reach their dreams and better still knowing that the returns on my investments will go toward future loans, thereby continuing the cycle.  Thanks, Kiva!

February 15, 2015

Little Feet Leave Big Imprints on Our Heats

Welcome back!

I mentioned in a recent post that the majority of people I know have been having baby girls so I have another baby card to share with you and yes, this time it's a little girl card.

For this card I decided to use more of the Simple Stories baby girl collection I have on hand.  And since it's a girl, I also decided I might as well use up some of that pink but I didn't want it to be a complete pink explosion so I paired it with some green and black/grey neutrals.

When I came across the 4x6 card with the phrase 'Little feet leave big imprints on our hearts', I knew it would be perfect paired with my baby footprint stamp (which, incidentally, has been a very useful investment, just FYI).  I stamped the little feetsies onto a 3x4 card and layered it on top of another 3x4 card.

Finally, I created two visual triangles layered over each other - one of flowers and one of hearts.  The hearts are layered up over top of hearts that already existed on the cards below them.  Easy, peasy, done!