Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Holiday Stitching Fun - Vintage Santa

If you've followed my blog for very long, you know that I absolutely love hand stitching. While most of my experience has been with cross stitch, I've begun to branch out into different kinds of hand embroidery as well. To that end, I had planned to work on several different kinds of stitching projects for the holidays. I still have some stitched pendants in the works as gifts and maybe as items to sell, and I'm also working on some ornaments right now as well. This embellished stitch vintage Santa is a little bit too big to be an ornament, but I think he would be adorable as decoration on my mantel or on a shelf/table.

Here's the finished piece. I haven't decided if I'll attach a thin ribbon to the screw at the top of the piece to hang it or if I'll add a loop to the back of the piece. I think either option would work just fine.

 I wanted to photograph a couple of detail shots for you too. I used French knots on the holly berries and on Santa's eyes.
 The rest of the stitched are mostly just backstitch or a couching stitch. There's a small wrinkle on the bottom left of the hoop where I didn't pull it tightly enough through the hoop or where the fabric puckered a bit as I worked the stitches around the ball of fur on the hat. I think that's something I'll get better at managing as I continue to work with this weight of fabric and these stitches.
 That metallic thread was a bear to work with, but I think the effect of it is really cool. I've read a few tips/tutorials about working with it, so I'm hopeful that the next project won't be fraught with such difficulty. That metallic thread is definitely challenging.
 And here's a shot of the piece propped up against a frame on my mantel. I think this one is in a 6" or 7" hoop, to give you an idea of the finished size.

If you're interested in making your own version of a hoop like this, here's where I bought my supplies --
     Michael's craft store: silver tassel ribbon roll, wood embroidery hoop, metallic silver dmc floss, hot glue sticks
     Hobby Lobby craft store: printed Santa fabric, regular DMC floss (black, red, green), white felt for the backing
     Supplies on hand: glue gun, scissors
     Total materials investment - approximately $5 (This is an estimate because I have extras of all the supplies left over and could make other projects out of the initial items I purchased.)
     Total time investment - approximately three hours

If you decide to make one of your own, I hope you'll share it with me, so I can see your work. I'm considering doing something similar with ornament sizes of hoops that are about 3" or 4" to hang on a Christmas tree. Would anyone be interested in purchasing that kind of thing? I'm not sure if I'll have time to make these to sell, but I'm open to the idea. I'd love to hear what you think about that.

Don't mind me, I'll just be over in the corner stitching. I have to say, this whole stitching thing makes me happy, and this little vintage Santa makes me giddy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Kroger's ClickList - a Review

Another review - that's like two in just a few days. I can't help myself; when something works well, I want to tell people about it.  Read on!

Have we talked about how much I hate grocery shopping? I think I've mentioned in the podcast a few times that I even get road rage INSIDE the grocery store with my cart. I mean, I dread going to the grocery for lots of reasons, but the human interaction factor is really the biggest problem. I also get distracted easily and spend too much money and hate the way it smells and don't want to make small talk and resent the time it takes and... Well, you get the picture. 

Given all of my anti-grocery shopping sentiment, it's probably no surprise to you that I FINALLY tried Kroger's new ClickList service. (Okay, maybe it's not new to anyone but me; it's definitely a new thing in my book.) Anywho, I tried it a week ago this past Saturday, and I'm definitely SOLD on this option. I also just placed my order for this week yesterday and plan to pick it up on my way home from the gym today. I'm loving this grocery service option!

The process is actually pretty simple. To create your shopping list and place your order, follow these steps. Seriously, all of these steps took me like 15 or 20 minutes on my phone. I made my list for this week while wearing my pjs and enjoying an adult beverage. ;)
Step 1: Login to your Kroger app on your phone (I guess it prob works on a desktop too)
Step 2: Choose the ClickList option and your store (not all stores in my area offer this yet)
Step 3: Create your grocery list using the info already stored in your Kroger plus account for what you've recently bought
Step 4: Check the sale items for that week and add to your shopping list as desired
Step 5: Search for any non-recently purchased items that you need and add to your shopping list as desired
Step 6: Review your number of items and leave any special instructions (ie: only green bananas please)
Step 7: Enter your payment information (which can then be stored for future reference if you wish)
Step 8: Choose a day and time for pickup (these are listed in one hour increments and are available roughly 4-5 hours after you place your order)

When it's your day/time to pick up your order, follow these steps:
Step 1: Drive to your Kroger location and park in the designated parking area (evidenced in the photo below)
Step 2: Call the number at your parking spot and tell them your name and the number of your spot
Step 3: Wait for the worker to bring out your items
Step 4: The worker will tell you if any items weren't available or if there were any issues/questions with your order
Step 5: Wait for the worker to load your groceries in your trunk
Step 6: Drive home secure in the knowledge that you only have to touch your groceries the one time you bring them into your home and put them away. Cue an angelic choir singing right about now!

Here are some things to know about the ordering and pickup process:
-You can insist on a certain brand/size if you want to do so, but you're more likely to get what you want if you are willing to accept brand/size substitutions. There's a box for each item that indicates whether you'll accept a substitution or not. For me, no subs on cokes or ketchup, but pretty much everything else is fair game.
-Using the items you bought recently as a starting point works really well for me because I have a tendency to make the same kinds of things every couple of weeks. Why reinvent the wheel each week if you don't have to?
-For fresh items like produce or meat, you can be very specific in the instructions. I could request a 4 pound pot roast, for example. Or three soft pears if I wanted.
-Digital coupons and deals are automatically credited to your order total using the Kroger app. I'm not sure how it would work if you use print coupons. Since I don't, that's not really important to me.
-There's supposed to be a $4.95 service fee to use ClickList, but my first order was free. I figured that's to lure you into the fabulousness. I fully expected to pay for this second order, but it was marked out and listed as free as well. Let me tell you, less tress and half the time to take care of grocery shopping is definitely worth the service fee when they make me start paying it.  I wonder if you'll ever be able to pay with your Kroger fuel points...hmm...
-Because of the wait time between ordering and picking up and because of the potential fee involved, this is not a good service to pick up just a few items. For me, this is only worth it for my weekly shopping. If I need just a tiny something, I'll run in to a local Walgreen's or to Meijer's for it.
-My first time using ClickList, I had to wait about seven minutes for my order to be brought to my car because there were two other cars ahead of me. I didn't mind it because I just waited in my comfy, warm car and played on Instagram.
-There is a little pressure to keep my trunk clean because other people are putting stuff in it, but I see that as a good thing. It's one more reason for me to keep my car neat. :) 
-Some cities/stores offer delivery, but my local stores do not.
-Not all stores in smaller cities offer this service; my "corner" Kroger (like two minutes from my house) doesn't have it, but one of the ones "across town" does offer it. (I say that with the full knowledge that "across town" is literally like an eight minute drive at most, even at peak times, in my city.)
-Door to door, this process took me 25 minutes on a Saturday in the late afternoon - about 6 minutes of driving each way + 7 minutes of wait time + 6 minutes to load my car and check my order with the service guy. I call that a pretty good deal considering it would have been at least an hour or maybe an hour and a half if I had gone in to do the shopping. I'll be interested to see what my timing looks like today on a Monday as I head home from work and the gym at prime "rush hour" traffic for my town.

A few other tidbits:
-One of my friends told me that WalMart offers a similar service for free. I'm not familiar with it and wouldn't pursue that because I choose not to support WalMart's business practices, but you should check it out if you shop there regularly and want to try a similar service.
-I know that Amazon pantry works in a similar way and can be great to have grocery items delivered if you're a Prime member like I am. What has stopped me from ordering this way there is getting cold items? How can they be left safely on your doorstep, or are they even offered in that service? If I still had a family at home, I might really be interested in the Amazon service for items I'd buy in bulk like toilet paper or laundry detergent. I'm still open to trying Amazon's service for sure.

This is an amazing time to be alive! What I would have given when my daughter was small to have a service like this for my grocery shopping. Can you imagine how much stress we could have all avoided? And what about needing groceries when you're sick and don't feel like going inside? Or needing groceries when it's 112 degrees or 12 degrees or raining or snowing or whatever? Plus, I really like the idea that this service is likely creating the need for a few more jobs in our town for people who might not be trained in other areas. I think this ClickList service is a win-win for lots of reasons. If you decide to give this service or one like it a try, I'd love to hear about your experiences. Peace out, my friends; I've got some groceries to pick up on my way home tonight!

**Disclaimer: this review is not sponsored in any way. Kroger only knows me as the lady with the shopping cart aisle rage who buys way too many cokes and peanut butter based products. :) :) :)  Seriously, I'm just a random customer of Kroger who isn't being compensated for my review.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

HP Sprocket - A Review

For my birthday a few weeks ago, the fella surprised me with an HP Sprocket mini-printer. I had casually added a few of those tiny printers to my Amazon wishlist with the plan of watching which one might be majorly on sale for Black Friday shopping. I didn't expect anyone to actually get one for me for my birthday. Needless to say, I was thrilled.  Since I've had a bit of time to play with it now, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts about the printer in case you have one in mind for yourself. 

Side note: HP doesn't know I'm alive and has not sponsored this review in any way.

The good:
-The size is perfect; it's just a tiny bit wider and heavier than my iPhone 7+
-I like that the printer and the cable are black; I think other colors are available, but I like the sleek look of the black
-It seems sturdy enough to carry around in your purse without worrying about breaking it. I bought a little canvas bag for mine and its supplies - see photo above. (I bought that canvas bag on clearance at Michael's for like $4 last week, just FYI.)
-I LOVE that the prints are stickers and find the backing very easy to peel off while I'm working on a layout.
-The prints fits the Big Happy Planner large planners pretty perfectly.
-Printing from your iPhone is pretty simple once you download the free app.
-The print sizes (2" X 3") are great for smaller forms of memory-keeping and just incredibly cute. (Almost everything is better in miniature...)
-The usb charging device is small and easy to use with your laptop or iPhone charger; it also doesn't take very long to charge up the device.
-Printing is pretty quick, maybe 30 seconds per photo although I didn't officially time it.
-It is possible to edit your photos in the Sprocket app. I haven't really used that option, but I think it's nice to have in case you want to tweak your pics a bit more than in the separate photo apps you already have. You can even do things like add fun borders to your photos in their editing software.
-I love being able to sit down with my phone at my desk and make a two page memory planner spread in much less than an hour including printing my pics.
-There are some cool options like mosaic tile printing and photobooth printing available in the app, but I haven't tried them yet personally.
-It's easy to update the app and the device via wifi.
-I love that there's no ink to replace! This printer works kind of like the old Polaroids did in that the photo is "printed" via a chemical reaction rather than with ink.

The bad:
-The price is still a bit steep at $129.95 right now on Amazon
-I haven't found any stores locally that carry the paper, so ordering it online is my only option.
-The paper packs are reasonable but not a bargain at $24.99 for a package of 50 or about 50 cents each.
-The print quality is really good but still not as good as a professional printer or my Canon MG7720.
-The prints have a tendency to look just a bit washed out, but I prefer that to the very dark and oversaturation that seemed to be common in my Instax camera prints.
-Once you print 3 or 4 photos, I get the message that my Sprocket needs to cool down before it continues printing. This is kind of a hassle when you want to print a week's worth of pics at once. Now that I know it, I can work around it; I guess it overheats easily because it's so small.
-I notice a little bit of vertical lines show up in some of the light areas of the photos, but you'd have to be looking at them pretty closely to see them. For the projects I'm using these photos in, that doesn't really bother me.
-I'm not sure about the archival nature of the prints and whether they will stand the test of time. I prob wouldn't print my most important pics with this device for that reason.

The ugly:
-One pack of my prints won't work in my Sprocket for some reason. After reading about troubleshooting issues, I can only infer that they must have somehow gotten too hot or too cold or too damp or something. Basically, the machine can't "read" that the paper is inserted because the edges have curled a bit. I plan to call HP to see if they will replace that pack for me.
-My Sprocket "loses" the connection to my phone kind of frequently. Then, I have to kind of turn flips or something until it magically begins to work again. Chances are this is user error of some sort, but I've been a bit frustrated on occasion.
-The top of my Sprocket doesn't really pop up for paper insertion like the picture shows it should. I kind of have to slide it all the way off and then pop it back into place. That's probably a user error issue too, but it worries me that I'll jack it up somehow and it won't fit properly the next time.

There you have it. That's my review of the HP Sprocket printer. I'm super glad I have it, but you have to be prepared for a few glitches and/or drawbacks with a small device like this. I'd recommend it for people who want to be able to print easily on the go, people who scrapbook in traveler's notebooks or planners, and people who love electronic gadgets. I also think it would make a great gift for teens because they could print and stick their photos immediately by using their phones to pair with the printer. I'm really glad I have the printer because I think it will make my memory planning go much more smoothly than if I had to print on my home printer and then cut down the photos. Plus, I do love a fun gadget. :)

If you're interested in purchasing your own HP Sprocket for yourself or a loved one, here's my Amazon affiliate link for the printer and the photo paper. Purchasing through this link gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Holiday Jewelry for Sale

You might recall that I offered some holiday necklaces for sale last year on my blog. I like to dabble in jewelry making, and my friends have been really complimentary of what I've made the last couple of years. Well, I'm offering handmade jewelry for sale again this year for anyone who might be interested. Right  now, I have three different kinds of chains/lengths to offer in a couple of different pendant sizes. All of the pendants feature a deer of some sort; I liked this because I think they fit with the season but are not overtly holiday in nature. That means that you would probably be able to wear them through the holidays and into January and even February if you wished. Please read and view below for more information

This first necklace style that I'm sporting is on an approximately 16" metal chain and features the smaller size pendant that I'm offering. I think it's a great choice for tweens and teens or for anyone who is smaller framed. As you can see in my photo, it's not a great length for me.

Here are a few pics of my daughter modeling the shorter necklaces. I think it's apparent in this photograph that these fit more nicely on someone who is petite or of a small frame. I also think it'd be a great size for the tweens or teens in your life.

And here are some closeups of the shorter necklaces with a quarter next to them for size reference.

#1 Old gold metal chain with turquoise deer pair and tassel - $12 shipped in USA

#2 Old gold metal chain with sunburst deer and white tassel - $12 shipped in USA

#3 Silver metal chain with turquoise deer pair and feather - $12 shipped in USA

#4 Silver metal chain with turquoise deer pair and arrow - $12 shipped in USA

Here I am sporting a slightly longer necklace style featuring a faux leather cording. I think these necklaces measure about 18" in length and are much more comfortable to me than the shorter style. The pendant on this one is the same size as the smaller necklaces on chains.

#5 Peach woodland deer on gray faux leather cording with peach feather -$12 shipped in USA SOLD

#6 Black moonlit deer on gray faux leather cording with rhinestone arrow - $12 shipped in USA SOLD

#7 Turquoise girl with antlers on light brown faux leather cording with turquoise tassel - $12 shipped in USA

#8 Deer on psychedelic background on dark gray/black faux leather cording with turquoise feather - $12 shipped in USA SOLD

The last style is my personal favorite and features a long chain, approximately 24" in length, that I think hangs nicely with most styles of blouse. These pendants are a step up in size from the ones that are on the shorter necklaces; I think you can see the difference with the close-up photos.

#9 Old gold ball metal chain with deer wearing glasses and taupe tassel - $14 shipped in USA  SOLD

#10 Old gold ball metal chain with moonlit deer and black tassel - $14 shipped in USA SOLD

#11 Old gold ball metal chain with peach serious deer and a peach feather - $14 shipped in USA

#12 Old gold ball metal chain with moonlit deer and white tassel - $14 shipped in USA SOLD

I have listed the necklace prices next to each one, and those prices include shipping costs within the USA. If you are international and would like one, then I'd need to add actual shipping charges to your purchase. (Message me for info, so we can work on that.)

Please leave a comment here or message me at alowderlife@gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing a necklace. I'll update the listings here as different pieces are spoken for by readers. Please let me know if you have any questions. :)

**I'm working on a few other holiday goodies that include necklaces and ornaments that feature my hand-stitching, but I wanted to go ahead and put these out as available for anyone who is interested. If you're like me, you like to wear your seasonal stuff as much as possible.

***The finishes on these items are not real gold or silver.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Big Happy Memory Planner - It Begins

About a month and a half ago, I caved to what can only be described as scrappy peer pressure and snagged a Big Happy Memory Planner boxed kit at Michael's. With a coupon and my teacher discount, I think I paid about $17 for it total. I totally blame it on the cute video that Tracie Claiborne made on her YouTube channel and on the fabulous inspiration that Stephanie Howell has been sharing on Instagram. I'm not really a planner girl per se, but I like the idea of using a planner as a kind of Project Life style memory album.I did something similar in 2015 with a Heidi Swapp creative planner but fizzled out after a while. I also did sort of the same kind of memory-keeping in another Heidi Swapp planner album for my 2015 solo trip to Paris, and my monthly TNs from Cocoa Daisy throughout 2016 could arguably fit the same kind of category. When I saw all of the darling planners out there and the inspiration that began to filter into my IG feed, I just couldn't hold back any longer. I resisted buying any of the little sticker books at first, but in the past six weeks, I managed to buy two older ones on clearance and one new one. I also received one of the new sticker packs for my birthday.

Here's the album that I scored a few weeks ago:
I mean, how fabulous is that giant floral cover? And the hand lettered title? And the quote on the front? It pretty much called to me from its place on the bottom shelf of an endcap at Michael's in my hometown.

Of course, I couldn't wait until January 2018 to start playing with it! Waiting for three months to start this fun project didn't sound like anything I cared to do, so I thought long and hard about how I could justify beginning a memory planner (in an annual format) at any point other than the beginning of the year. Sure enough, I found a way to rationalize it. Since my birthday is the first week of October, I thought it might be perfect to make this planner memory album about the year I am 46. (Just typing the number hurts a little, but this lovely floral memory planner seems to assuage some of the pain...) And there I had my rationale for starting an annual project in October rather than January. That's Lowder Logic right there, my friends.

As a happy coincidence, the fella surprised me with the fabulous HP Sprocket printer for my birthday the first week of October. I had put it on my Amazon wishlist because I thought it looked cool, but I had no idea it printed photos the right size for the memory planner I'd just bought. Plus, I didn't really think anybody would buy me that high-ticket item for my birthday. I'd put it on my Amazon list thinking that I might want to watch the price for after-Thanksgiving sales and treat myself to it then. How perfect that the fella bought it for me, right? Smart man that he is, he also bought a 50 pack of the photo paper so I could play with my new toy to my heart's content.

I took my new planner and my new printer to the ScrapGals retreat in Nashville that first weekend in October thinking that I might have a chance to work in it. Well, I did print out  a handful of pics to use in it while I was at the retreat, but I had zero chance to feel crafty in any way. I was too busy visiting with scrapbookers and teaching my class and helping make sure the event went smoothly. I mostly just thumbed through it a few times and imagined how I might fill up the pages.

It wasn't until this week that I sat down to actually make the first spread in my Happy Memory Planner, and I have to say that I'm smitten. It was so much fun to cut up pieces of paper I loved and adhere them into the planner. Printing tiny pics that turn into stickers is also pretty awesome. And getting to embellish my weekly spread with a few stickers from those books was really fun too. I enjoyed getting to write out a few stories from my week without a bunch of pressure to tell super meaningful stories; the whole tidbit aspect of this project really appeals to me.  Here's my first spread:

I'm already a few weeks behind since October is now over, but the ease of printing pics from my phone and working on this book a week at a time means that I'm not even feeling stressed about that. I hope to get on a schedule where I'm working just a couple of weeks behind and where I update my planner every weekend. Doesn't that sound like fun? Hopefully, you'll check back on my progress and maybe even feel inspired to try a similar project yourself. Happy memory planning!

Monday, October 30, 2017

"Lowder" Chili Recipe

As I've mentioned on Instagram and a few other places, my chili definitely has its fans. I once dated a guy briefly who kept getting in contact with me randomly - for years - because he wanted to recreate my chili recipe. (Not even kidding!) This is my dad's recipe that I've tweaked a bit to totally be my own, and you're welcome to make it if you're so inclined.

2-3 pounds lean ground beef, browned and drained well
1 large can Brook's mild chili beans (yes, I think the brand matters)
1 small can Brook's hot chili beans
1 can seasoned black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 bag frozen miraproix mix (onions, celery, and green pepper mix)
1/2 bag frozen corn
1 large can of tomato juice or spicy V8
1 large can of whole tomatoes
1 bottle of beer (usually something mild, whatever ipa I have lying around)
chili powder and red pepper flakes to taste

Brown ground beef and miraproix mix together in a large stock pot until beef is fully cooked. Drain grease thoroughly. Reduce heat to low. Add in chili beans and stir well. Drain and rinse black beans and kidney beans, then add to the pot. Add chili powder and red pepper flakes to taste; I add so much chili powder that the entire surface is darkened with it. Allow mixture to heat through before adding other ingredients. Add a can of whole tomatoes, a bottle of beer, and enough tomato juice to fill up the pot. Add in the corn. Turn up heat to medium; allow mixture to heat through again. Add more chili powder and red pepper flakes to taste. Turn down to low and let simmer at least 45 minutes for the flavors to meld and the alcohol to cook off. Before serving, use a large spoon to break up some of the whole tomatoes.

Honestly, I don't think there's anything earth-shattering about my chili recipe, but I do think it's pretty tasty. :) It's good topped with shredded cheese, avocado, and sour cream, and it's also good served over tortilla chips the next day.

And I like it best served with a crispy, grilled, pimiento cheese sandwich. Delish on a cold day!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Currently List - October 2017

Since I haven't shared a currently list in a while, I thought this might be the perfect time to check in with an update.

Reading - The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett - I'm only 50 pages in, but I'm enjoying it so far. It's been so long since I've read something wonderful that I have pretty high hopes for this one.

Watching - Mindhunter on Netflix and The Voice on network TV (a BGHS student is on Jennifer Hudson's team)

Struggling with -  a nasty sinus infection that I'm ready to just go away :(

Listening to - Ed Sheeran's Deluxe

Avoiding - putting away clean laundry, thus the mountain of it grows. At least I'm predictable, right?

Stitching - some small ornament and necklace pieces, partly for fun and partly because I might sell a few for the upcoming holidays

Anticipating - some much-needed time off for the holidays. I know we just had fall break a few weeks ago, but things at my job are pretty stressful right now in light of the pension crisis in KY.

Scrapbooking - honestly, not much right now, but I have lots of projects in mind for the last part of this year. Since the Nashville retreat, I just haven't had much mojo for scrapbooking; I've been stitching instead. I am still excited about working in my Big Happy Memory Planner for the coming year though.

Cooking - crockpot soups and easy dinners to match my rather hectic schedule. Recent favorites include: zuppa toscana, chicken noodle, avocado toast, and frozen pizza. Hahaha!

Photographing - selfies and outfits and random crafty projects

Dreading - all of the extra work and extra spending that the holidays seem to spell out for me. I really need to do a better job of managing my expectations and my budget. :0

Learning - how to incorporate Google forms in my classroom instruction to facilitate more efficient grading/feedback.

Reminding - myself that I have to let go of what I cannot control. I really wish that came more easily to me, but I'm apparently still a work in progress in that regard.

Planning - upcoming crafty projects for the holidays since I'd like to make some goodies for my loved ones.

Creating - my third online scrapbook class; it's called Selfies 101.

Attending - football games, local play productions, and small, local concerts whenever I can.

Savoring - time alone when I can relax with no pressure to do or to go or to buy, time with loved ones just hanging out without an agenda of any kind, and the time of changing seasons where I long to spend more time indoors kind of hibernating.

Planning - my calendar through the end of the year to fit in time for family and friends and work and fun and podcasting and crafting and all of the things.

Sharing - more small photos on Instagram and more topics for discussion on Facebook in the ScrapGals group; I'm trying to have a more consistent, purposeful presence on social media.

Evaluating - the way I spend my time at work and my free time too. What habits and practices are adding to my life and making the most of my time? Which habits and behaviors are time sucks that I need to do less? Those are the big questions for me.

So that's like 20 things that are going on in my life right now - none of it is terribly exciting, but I'm still glad to record it here and maybe reference it for some future memory-keeping project. What's going on with you, huh?