Thursday, February 27

Beer + Bacon Party: A Manly 30th Birthday

YOU GUYS, my boyfriend turned the big 3-0 this past Tuesday. THE BIG 3-0! Now, I'm nowhere near 30 myself, but I mean, it's a pretty big deal right? Quite the milestone. I haven't talked about my boyfriend too much on the blog here, but he's definitely the introvert to my extrovert. I wasn't positive that he'd be stoked about a surprise party thrown in his honor, but I dig birthdays. Your birthday is the one day a year where the people who love you get to celebrate the fact that you were born, the very fact that you exist. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but that's how I've always felt about birthdays. And a surprise party thrown for you is like the epitome of saying, "Hey, we love you a ton and are super glad you're on the planet!" I think that everyone should be celebrated with a surprise party at some point in their lives... So after a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to throw one together with a mere three weeks to plan. Classic me. 

After finally deciding to actually throw a party, I had to come up with the first pieces: a location and a theme. I landed on my mom's house because it's nearby, free, and I could decorate in secret to my heart's content. I did some searching for things like "dude party," "manly 30th birthday," etc. before settling on a Beer + Bacon theme! At the beginning of the year, boyfriend made it his new year's resolution to try more beer (way more fun than "lose 10 pounds," right?) so I thought that a beer tasting would be perfect! And like, name a manlier food that goes better with beer than bacon.

Overall the party was certainly a success. Not all of our friends were able to attend, of course, but all who did spent hours laughing and drinking with us; what more can you ask for? We had a photo booth, goodie bags, tons of food, boatloads of beer, and most importantly, boyfriend was completely surprised! Though his tendency to avoid the spotlight had him overwhelmed at first, he really enjoyed himself and has been filled with appreciation ever since. He's the sweetest.

I'm hoping to follow this post with a short series on the party prep (food, decor, photo booth, etc.) so stay tuned for that. What are you most interested in hearing about?

A teaser: I baked, fried, and candied 7 pounds of bacon for the big event, and had wayyy more than enough food. I've been trying to pawn off bacon goodies on friends, family, and coworkers ever since. Maple bacon donuts, anyone? 

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Tuesday, February 18

Julep Maven Box: A Review + Link for a FREE box!

Right before Christmas, one of my cousins sent me an invitation to the Julep Maven subscription box. At first I thought, "A nail polish and beauty box? I never paint my nails and rarely bother with more than some powder and mascara. Nexxxxt!" Buttt, the first box was free and the website hooked me with their cute "which style are you" quiz, so I signed up to get a box thinking that I'd cancel after that free one. As you can probably tell by that first photo, I didn't cancel. Since the end of December, I have amassed a collection of 20 polishes.

I am seriously addicted, girls. If you follow me on Instagram, a.k.a. the only social media I actually use, you are well aware that in addition to my crochet projects, I now post a bunch of manicure photos. I can't get enough. I have gone from a plain jane girl with naked nails to a polish princess desperate to perfect the ombre mani. I blame my post-grad lifestyle of free evenings on the couch uninfringed by homework and research papers. I also blame all the pretty polishes, amazing deals, and fun contests that Julep keeps dangling in front of me. Seriously, this start-up rules. 

I should note that this review is 100% unsolicited. I have purchased all my own products, and Julep probably has no idea who I am (though the first Julep mani pic I posted did end up in one of their banner ads, hayy-ayyy!). That said: Dear Julep, If y'all want to send me some swag to gush over, be my guest. ;) But really readers, I just wanted to tell you girls how kick ass this box is. 

So Julep itself is a start-up beauty company based in Seattle, Washington. From what I understand, they started out with nail parlors featuring their own polish line and have since expanded to makeup and skincare products as well. Read more about their history and philosophy (that beauty is about connection, not competition) on their about page. You can purchase their products on their website without joining the Maven program I keep talking about, but lemme tell ya, the Maven program is where all the fun is. 

By joining Julep Maven, you can buy all their products at discounted rates plus free shipping, you get monthly boxes filled with polishes and/or beauty products for $20/month, you get exclusive early access to the new products in those boxes, and you can rack up points for those monthly Maven boxes that you later cash in for future boxes!

If you haven't heard of Julep Maven (I hadn't), you have probably at least heard of BirchBox or the Ipsy Bag, right? Both are beauty subscription boxes that ship out monthly and feature an assortment of makeup, beauty, and/or lifestyle items for stylish gals. I've never been all that interested in those boxes personally, because for one, you don't know what's coming before hand, and for two, I don't really need or want little samples of lotion or blush in a random shade. 

What I love about the Julep Maven program is that you can not only see what is coming in your box, you can also switch to a different set of products and colors, add products at a major discount, or skip the month altogether if you'd like. It's much more custom and you don't end up paying for things you don't want or need. 

All that said, I am not addicted simply because it's fun to get things in the mail -- all the products I've received so far have been stellar. The polish is high quality, lasts for days without chipping, peeling, or rubbing off, and the colors, shades, and finishes are all phenomenal. In addition to the polishes, I've also received a skin serum, some moisturizing products, creme eyeshadows, and an ink eyeliner, all of which I have been incredibly pleased with. 

So let's talk nitty-gritty: There are five style profiles (Classic with a Twist, Boho Glam, Bombshell, It Girl, and Modern Beauty). Each style profile has a different set of products each month. During the "Maven Reveal Window," you can see all the products coming out and pick whichever set you'd like. The boxes start at $20 and contain at least $40 worth of product, guaranteed. 

Classic with a Twist, Boho Glam, and Bombshell all contain 2 new full sized polishes and one full sized beauty product; It Girl contains 3 new full sized polishes; and Modern Beauty contains 2 full sized beauty products. Even better, if you want the Modern Beauty box, for example, but love one of the month's new polishes, you can add it to your box on the cheap! And if you're not into the month's products or are trying to save some money, you can just skip the month! Buying the box and adding upgrades earn you points (or "Jules") that you can later redeem for a free Maven box. You also get points for referring friends! You can read the FAQs for more details. 

Have I sold you yet? If you're into free things and pretty products, use this link to get a FREE box and enter code "MAVENBFF" at checkout (you just pay $4 shipping!). If you aren't smitten with the box, you can cancel after that! If you are into it, I'm sorry and you're welcome. ;) 

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Thursday, February 13

Pillow Box Valentine's

I was wandering the aisles of Meijer last night, doing some late night grocery shopping while boyfriend impatiently pushed the cart alongside me, when I spotted the giant display of kiddie Valentine packs. I know I'm not the only one who misses picking out some uber cheesy Valentine kit featuring your favorite Disney character, AM I RIGHT? Of course, weirdo child that I was, I started DIYing Valentine's for my classmates around the sixth grade. Oh, to be twelve and have nothing but time for crafts... 

Now that I'm an adult (and by "adult," I mean that I have to pay bills, do my own laundry, and feed myself somehow, not that I'm like, responsible or that I have life figured out or that I've mastered time management) it seems like I have to scrape precious moments from each week to use for crafting. As a result, I always dream up projects that have inherent deadlines (like holidays) and don't actually make them, ever. Sorry family and friends, but let's be honest: As crafty and adorable as you think I am, you have not received a timely, cutesy gift like a Valentine from me in yearsss... THAT CHANGES NOW. 

As you may know, I made a bunch of these mini crochet hearts while developing a pattern for y'all. Then I remembered these cute pillow boxes I found in the Target dollar section a couple months ago and hatched a plan for some DIY Valentine's. If you, like me, have a handful of crochet hearts laying around now, or if you feel like whipping some up real quick, you can tie them onto some pretty boxes filled with chocolates. If you are more normal than I am and don't have a random stockpile of crochet hearts, you could easily cut some out of some cardstock, punch a hole the heart sides, and tie them on that way! 

I stuffed my pillow boxes with surprisingly tasty Hershey's Raspberry Hugs, tiny crochet hearts (get details in my old Crochet Heart Garland post), and sequins for a touch of pretty. I taped the ends with solid and glitter washi tape, and then wrapped each box with a length of sparkly thread (I used Vana's Choice Glamour yarn). On the final pass of the thread, I used a yarn needle to pass each end of the thread through the heart from side to side, tying the thread ends at the back. 

Are you DIYing any Valentine's this year? Tell me about that, friends. 

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Monday, February 10

Mini Crochet Heart Pattern

Everything's cuter in miniature, right? My crochet heart pillow had me longing for a mini version. It took some playing, as you well know if you follow me on Instagram, but I finally nailed down a pattern for y'all. A number of you mentioned that you had tried to make small hearts but were unsuccessful, so before I get into the pattern, let's talk about the basics of making a crochet heart... 

If you've made a heart pillow from my pattern, this will likely sound familiar to you. You are essentially making two "humps" that you will join by completing a continuous round of stitches on both humps as if they were one piece. From there you will start your gradual decreases. That step requires some math... Here is how you can figure out the math ahead of time: the max number of stitches in each hump x 2, then plus 2 will give you the number of stitches in the first joined row. To figure out your decreases, you will need to think about the multiples of that number. For example, if each hump has 12 stitches, your first joined row will be (12x2) + 2 = 26. 26 is an awkward number to start with, with only 2 and 13 as it's divisors. To get down to an easier number (like 24, for example), you'll need to get rid of 2 stitches. To get rid of 2 stitches, you'll need to do 2 single (or double) crochet decreases. To figure out that math, you'll divide the number you want, 24, by the number of decreases you need, 2, for a total of 12. This means that you will do 11 stitches followed by 1 decrease, and 11 more stitches followed by 1 decrease for a total of 24. A number like 24 is easier to work with, because it has plenty of divisors (2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12). You can then decrease gradually by multiples of 4, for example, using the same formula. Each row would have 4 less stitches, meaning each row would contain 4 decreases. 

Okay, okay. I apologize for all that mumbo jumbo if you weren't interested. A good friend once told me that she tried to learn crochet, but it was secretly so mathy... I laughed, but she's totally right. Crochet like this definitely requires a brush-up on your multiplication and addition skills, right? 

All that said, I made up most of the hearts pictured here on the fly, using all those mathy basics. I did, however, write up a concrete pattern for you to follow if you don't feel like calculating your stitches. ;) 

Stuff You'll Need: 
medium weight cotton yarn (I used Sugar & Cream), size H crochet hook, yarn needle, scissors, fiberfill (optional)

*Note, I am using US crochet terms. 

Abbreviations: st = stitch, sc = single crochet, slpst = slip stitch, invdec = invisible decrease

*If you aren't familiar with the invisible decrease, you can easily substitute with a regular decrease/2 single crochets together.

This pattern is worked in continuous rounds without joining or turning. 
Rnd 1 - Make a magic ring, 5 sc in ring, pull ring tight and sew closed = 5 sc
Rnd 2 - 2 sc in each st around = 10 sc
Rnd 3 - 1 sc in each st around = 10 sc
Rnd 4 - *4 sc, 2 sc in next st,* rep from * around = 12 sc

With your first hump, cut your yarn as shown above and thread your yarn needle. Insert your needle through the next st, then back through the current st. Leave the tail for sewing later. 

Make a second hump (rounds 1 - 4), but do not cut the yarn. Instead you will begin round 5 in the first st of round 4 on the first hump. See the photos for details. 

Rnd 5 - sc in first st of rnd 4 on first hump, sc around first hump, sc again in first st of rnd, sc in same st as final st of rnd 4 on second hump, sc around second hump = 26 sc
Rnd 6 - *11 sc, invdec* repeat from * around = 24 sc

Use yarn tail from first hump to sew hole between humps together. Tie off and weave in end.

Rnd 7 - *6 sc, invdec* repeat from * around = 21 sc
Rnd 8 - *5 sc, invdec* repeat from * around = 18 sc
Rnd 9 - *4 sc, invdec* repeat from * around = 15 sc
Rnd 10 - *sc, invdec* repeat from * around = 10 sc
Rnd 11 - invdec around, fasten off without joining = 5 sc

Use yarn tail to sew end closed.

Like I said, I mostly made up these hearts as I went along, and you can easily tweak it to your liking. I went back and forth with the humps, some have 4 rounds while others have 5. For a deeper "v" in the center, add a fifth round with 12 stitches. You can also stuff the hearts if you like, though I personally like how they look unstuffed. If you'd like to stuff them, add fiberfill after round 9 or 10 at the latest. You can also use a G hook instead of an H for tighter stitches -- the white, pink (not purple), and orange heart is worked with a G hook. 

Wouldn't these make the sweetest little Valentine's? Little handmade, crochet hearts with a sweet note attached? What do you think, friends? Will you be hooking up some little hearts this week? 

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Tuesday, February 4

Crochet Heart Pillow: Pattern & Tutorial

If you've been hanging around here for a while, you may be like, "Girrrrl, you already posted your crochet heart pillow -- you cray?!" And you aren't wrong. Since I posted my original pattern a year ago, I have gotten a lot of questions about the pattern specifics and particular steps in the process. I have also tweaked the pattern a bit, and thought I'd put together an updated tutorial for all a y'all. I hope this makes things clearer, and please, let me know if you have any more questions! 

**Access the original pattern post here. I also have it posted to Ravelry here.**

Stuff You'll Need: size N crochet hook, 1 skein bulky weight yarn, 2 colors worsted weight yarn, scissors, large yarn needle, stuffing/fiberfill

Here is the basic pattern (I'll follow with details and photos below): 
*Note, I am using US crochet terms

Abbreviations: ch = chain, st = stitch, dc = double crochet, slpst = slip stitch, dc2tog = double crochet 2 together/double crochet decrease

Rnd 1 - Using all three yarn strands at once, make a magic ring. Ch 2 (does not count as st throughout), 7 dc in ring. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 7 dc
Rnd 2 - Ch 2, 2dc in each st around. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 14 dc
Rnd 3 - Ch 2, *dc, 2dc in next st,* repeat around. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 21 dc
Rnd 4 - Ch 2, dc in each st around. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 21 dc
Rnd 5 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 6 sts, 2dc in next st,* repeat from * twice. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 24 dc

Fasten off, cut yarn leaving a tail of about 6", and set aside. Begin at round 1 again to make a second "hump." When you finish your second hump, do not fasten off. Instead, you will slip stitch into one of the Rnd5 stitches on your first hump, and start at round 6:

Rnd 6 - Ch 2, (working in first hump) dc in each of next 23 sts, 2dc in next st, (move to second hump) dc in each of next 23 sts, 2 dc in final st. Slpst to top of first dc (on first hump) to join. = 50 dc
Rnd 7 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 8 sts, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 45 dc
Using your yarn needle and yarn tail from first hump, sew together hole formed between humps.
Rnd 8 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 7 sts, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 40 dc 
Rnd 9 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 6 sts, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 35 dc 
Rnd 10 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 5 sts, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 30 dc 
Rnd 11 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 4 sts, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 25 dc 
Rnd 12 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 3 sts, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 20 dc 
Begin stuffing heart at this point. 
Rnd 13 - Ch 2, *dc in each of next 2 sts, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 15 dc 
Rnd 14 - Ch 2, *dc in next st, dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 10 dc 
Add rest of stuffing so that pillow is firm, but crochet is not stretching. 
Rnd 15 - Ch 2, *dc2tog over next 2 sts,* repeat from * four times. Slpst to top of first dc to join. = 5 dc 

Cut yarn, leaving a long tail for sewing. Sew base of heart closed and weave in ends. 

Now for some notes about the pattern... 

The 2 chains at the beginning of each round are there to fill in the space formed by joining two double crochet stitches at the end and do not count as a stitch. You will basically work each round like those stitches aren't there, skipping over them when you join at the end. You can see this join more clearly in the photos above. Also important, the first double crochet of each round is worked in the SAME STITCH as the chains. You can see this above as well. (click the photos to enlarge if necessary)

These are some detail photos of the "hump joining" (HAAA). The joining of the humps... HAAA... Okay, anyway, the first photo shows the slip stitch from the second hump into the first hump. The second shows the beginning of round 6, working in the first hump. I always slip stitch into the first stitch of round 5 on the first hump, so that my yarn tail is in the middle for sewing (shown in the following photos). 

When you finish round 6, you will notice a hole between the two humps. If you don't notice it by then, you will certainly notice it soon. I instructed you to sew it together sooner than shown here -- I wanted the hole to be really obvious in photos, so I stuffed my heart first but it will be easier if you sew it while the heart is unstuffed and the base is still pretty open. All you're going to do is thread your yarn needle with the yarn tail from the first hump, sew together the hole, tie off, and weave in the end. I try to sew on the underside of the stitches so it's less obvious when the heart is finished. 

So there you have it, my updated heart pattern! I switched the decreases to all multiples of 5 because it's easier for me to keep it all straight. Crochet can be so math-y, am I right?? This ends up making the heart a bit narrower than the original, but I actually like it better. 

My favorite thing about this project is the marbled effect you get from using multiple yarns. Nope, I lied. It's actually how quickly this works up because you're using multiple yarns. But the marbled look is good too. ;) What do you think? Do these photos help those of you who've attempted the pattern before? Do you have any more questions? 

If you've made a heart pillow, please, email me at monmakesthings[at]gmail[dot]com, leave a link in the comments, or show me on Facebook/Instagram! 

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