Monday, October 31, 2011

Knitting: Success!

Well, I don't know why it took me so long, but I finally taught myself to knit. I did it with the help of a kit called "I Taught Myself Knitting" (book and supplies included in kit), which I got at Michaels with a 50% off coupon, so it only cost me about $7. Online videos were also extremely helpful, since I didn't know anyone who could show me. This site is very helpful.

Once I figured out the knit stitch (aka garter stitch), I made a swatch.

Then I figured out how to purl, so I made some more swatches.

Stockinette Stitch

1x1 Rib Stitch

2x2 Rib Stitch
Then I was ready to take on my first project. I made a scarf for Ed in garter stitch. It's a nice neutral gray yarn. The scarf is about 60" long, so I folded it up for the photos.

gray garter stitch scarf
Garter (knit) Stitch Scarf (my first project!)

Once it gets cold enough (which should be soon), I'll get an action shot of Ed wearing it.

Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to try increasing and decreasing so I can make something other than squares and rectangles! I've been keeping busy knitting, though. I'll post more projects later. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Love Cards, Part 2

Here's the second card I came up with for the heart punch. I used the same red, shiny paper and punched two small hearts for this one.

I adhered the hearts to the inside of the card so they could show through the circle cutout. I really like this color combination, which is what gave me the idea to make this card. This was so quick and easy to make that I made several of them. I've actually already sent one as an anniversary card (I just added a sentiment).

  • packaged cards and envelopes with pre-cut 1.75" circle (Studio G brand from Michaels $1 bin)
  • red foil paper (Martha Steward punch pad)
  • Creative Memories Sweet Heart Maker punch
  • Aleene's Tacky Glue (to adhere hearts to card)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Love Cards, Part 1

I like to make cards, but I like to keep them simple. I just like the clean look of a simple design.

I sort of got on a card-making kick this summer. In fact, I made about 100 Christmas cards (will post closer to Christmas), and I actually contemplated starting an online shop of handmade cards/stationery, but I talked myself out of that (for now).

Anyway, I challenged myself to make different cards with the same heart punch (Creative Memories Sweet Heart Maker punch). The punch actually makes two hearts at once by using the negative space in the larger heart shape to make the smaller one:

This is one of a few I came up with. I'll post the others separately.

I got the idea to make this card after seeing a book cover that had the same color scheme. It's a little hard to tell, but the letters are glittered alphabet stickers. It was a pain in the butt to put those on straight and centered (they're still a little off-center), by the way. I've got to come up with a better technique for that if I'm going to use the rest of the alphabet stickers I have.

This could be used for a wedding, anniversary, Valentine's Day, or just as a love note.

And because I always want to know when I see other people's cards, here are the details:
  • red cardstock (Stampin' Up Bold Brights), 8.5" x 5.5" (scored and folded in half to make A2 size card)
  • white cardstock (Recollections brand from Michaels), 5.25" x 4"
  • sparkle alphabet stickers (White Blossom brand from Michaels)
  • red foil paper (Martha Stewart punch pad from Michaels)
  • Creative Memories Sweet Heart Maker punch
  • Scotch brand double-sided tape (to adhere white cardstock to red cardstock)
  • Aleene's Tacky Glue (to adhere heart to paper)
  • white copy paper liner (for inside, not pictured)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tinker Swiss Cottage

We visited the Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford this summer. Robert Hall Tinker (1836-1924), a Rockford businessman and mayor (1875), built this Swiss-style "cottage" on a limestone bluff overlooking Kent Creek in Rockford in 1865 after an 1862 tour of Europe. Tinker's family were the only occupants of the house (75 years), and they left it to the Rockford Park District, of which Tinker was a founding member. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1943.

We went on a Saturday afternoon in June and got a guided tour of the house. Admission was $6/person. We took lots of photos, but here are some highlights. 

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford
View of the house from the front

In the sunroom

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford
A bench made of tree roots

Several pieces of furniture in the house were made from tree roots.

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford
Dining Room
Most of the walls and ceilings are covered in wood panels (real wood, not veneer), with hand-painted or burned designs and mini-murals (you can see an example on the wall in the photo above and the hand-painted border near the ceiling in the photo below). There are also several pieces of art. Tinker was also an artist, so he did a lot of the artwork in the house.

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford
Spiral staircase in the library
We really liked the library. It was kind of small and octagonal-shaped, with two stories of books and other artifacts. Jennifer's favorite part (besides the books, of course) was the spiral staircase.

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford
Master Bedroom entry
There are also several other rooms and a basement, which includes a study, pantry, and laundry facility.

Wrap-around Porch

The porch goes almost all the way around the house. Our moms would love it.

Ed & Jennifer standing on the suspension bridge over Kent Creek
We crossed the suspension bridge over Kent Creek to take some photos from the back side of the house. There were also some flower gardens on the other side.

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford
View from the back (limestone bluff and creek below house)

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford

Tinker Swiss Cottage Rockford
(Ed takes the best photos!)
Well, that was just a brief description of our visit. There's much more to see. So, whenever you're in town, if they're open and the weather's nice, maybe we can take you there.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicago: Food

Since there are tons of places to eat, we did a little research to narrow our options based on where we would be going. We didn't hit all of the places we planned for, but we did make it to a few. Sorry, but for some reason, we didn't take any photos while we were eating. So I've thrown a few other random photos in from this trip to Chicago for those who are more visual.

Downtown: Tulips were abundant
We ate Chicago-style hot dogs ("The Dog") with fries at Hot Doug's (they have a wide variety of options, though; check out their menu). Apparently, this place is really popular. Despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon, rainy, chilly, and the restaurant is sort of away from the main attractions, the line weaved around the block (and there wasn't much shelter for those outside). It was good, though. And Doug, the owner, was very nice. They closed at 4pm that day (it was a Friday), but they still served those who were standing in line before closing time.

The next day, we ate deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati's. Both the food and service were good, but we also want to try other pizza places in the future, since there are so many in Chicago.

View from Shedd Aquarium

Alexis and I ate lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at the Navy Pier on the day we had to go home (Ed left early for work), since I had never eaten there. I got the "Bucket of Boat Trash", which was really good. We also split a dessert of cinnamon bread pudding (a la mode), to celebrate our birthdays. We highly recommend it! I'm going to try to make the bread pudding some time, though. And we totally passed the pop quiz our waiter gave us on Forrest Gump trivia.

Navy Pier
We also gave grubhub a try (a food delivery web site) one night for dinner at the hotel. It worked really well for us. They even delivered to our room door. We ordered Chinese and they didn't skimp on the portion sizes! We also ordered smoothies (from the Chinese place) because they had odd flavors (we tried cantaloupe).
So, Ed and I have officially checked off "eat pizza and hot dogs in Chicago" from our 2011 goals. Okay, so that was more of a sub-goal ("Do" Chicago), but whatever. It counts as part of the "doing Chicago" experience. And that officially wraps up the series of Chicago posts for this trip!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chicago: Courtyard Marriott O'Hare

So, remember how we went into Chicago back in May when Alexis was visiting? Well, this and one other post about that trip didn't get published for some reason. I'll post the other one next (hint: food). Like I said, we're catching up.

Anyway, here's our review of the hotel we stayed at while we were on our weekend trip to Chicago: The Courtyard Marriott O'Hare.

Courtyard Marriott O'Hare
  • We got a really good rate for the three nights we stayed (about $85/night), considering it's the Chicago area. And it was way cheaper than anything in town.
  • They gave us a room when we showed up a couple of hours earlier than check-in time, so we didn't have to wait.
  • Breakfast came with our stay, and the options were anything from a la carte items (e.g., container of yogurt, fruit) to a hot, cooked meal, for no extra charge.
  • There was free shuttle service to O'Hare, which we used each day so we could get to and from the train station (which is at O'Hare). It ran every half hour to and from O'Hare.
  • They held our bags (for free) after checking out so we didn't have to lug them around town until it was time to go to the airport (Alexis flew and Jennifer took the bus home).
  • It's a little far from attractions, so the train ride is pretty long (took us 45 min. to an hour-ish, then a bus or two).
  • The roads surrounding the hotel were under construction and virtually unwalkable (no sidewalks, lots of construction fences) and we didn't want to drive and pay for parking (which is why we used the shuttle).
  • Our room didn't have a refrigerator, but it would've been nice to have one so we didn't have to eat out for every meal except breakfast.

The Verdict

We recommend it and would stay there again. If we were going to stay longer, we'd get a room with a refrigerator and/or microwave. We do live close enough that we could've driven to and from each day, but it is much more convenient to stay nearby and not have to drive as much or try to find downtown parking.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review: A Short History of Christianity

(Note: This is Ed's first post!)

Earlier this year, we both read A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins.

This book is exactly what the title suggests – a short history of Christianity. Tomkins covers Christianity from the early church to today. And he does it in a way that keeps your interest. This book is a quick read at about 250 pages. For those of you proficient in mathematics, that works out to a century of history every 12 pages or so. This may seem like a fast pace, but his purpose is to hit the highlights of Christian history, not dive into every decree, faction, sect, or martyr.

I think Tomkins does a good job at covering the years between the early church and the Reformation. He covers the spread of Christianity and how the Catholic church eventually came to its authority. He covers the political and religious actions and influences of the various popes. I particularly like that he doesn’t play favorites – he tells the good with the bad. Tomkins’ sarcasm comes out at times, making it somewhat difficult to discern what exactly was happening, but that same sarcasm makes the book easier to read.

Overall, the book is very enlightening. I was surprised that the cover has recommendations by both Terry Jones (of Monty Python) and J. I. Packer (a contemporary theologian). Tomkins gives a briefer history than a seminary textbook but still covers the highlights.