Happy Blending: Original Perfume Oil

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Of all the five (or six) senses, I’m most fascinated with the sense of smell at the moment. It used to be taste, of course, but now, olfaction brings me lots of satisfaction!

My first encounter with real perfume was in Paris back in 2004.  Prior to this, it was all about more age- and budget-appropriate body splashes and scented lotions from The Body Shop and Bath and Body Works.  My friend who accompanied me on the trip went on a mission to find the perfect pair of shoes at the City of Light, while I went on a hunt for the perfect bottle of perfume.  (Paris just does that to girls.)  She ended up finding quite a few “sole” mates (would have been more if she had a bigger suite case) and I found the one in Stella, which I ended up wearing for the next 10 years.

The other day, while my husband, our bebe and I went window shopping at South Coast Plaza, I went into a perfume specialty store on a whim. I wasn’t planning on purchasing anything but walked away with a large bottle of this floral-scented fragrance that I fell head over heels the moment I strayed it on a sample strip. I don’t think we were in a store for more than five minutes before I decided that this would be my new signature scent for the next decade.

I think my serendipitous meeting with my new signature scent, coupled with this wonderful post from Sweet Tea Apothecary, opened up my eyes to the world of perfumery, and became interested in learning how to create a one-of-a-kind fragrance that cannot be purchased at a department store. There’s something very special about knowing that I’m wearing something that’s truly, truly original, where there’s no other concoction in the world exactly like it.

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I recently made two blends using the Essential Oils that I already had from my soap-making inventory, and a few that I picked up from a local Whole Foods. And may I say – I’m in love.

Something amazing happens when you mix your favorite Essential Oils and let them sit for a month total in a bottle quietly in the dark (yes, it takes that long, but the wait is worth it). The scent changes literally every day. I already loved the way everything smelled when I initially blended the oil but it smells 100 times better now that the time has worked its magic. Imagine Audrey Hepburn. She was already beautiful in her younger days but she was even more stunning later in her life, like a finely aged wine.

It’s very ladylike to keep her signature scent a secret but I will share the Essential Oils that I used on the one that I shall call “The Original Blend.”  (I’ll come up with a more fitting name later).  It’s very floral with a subtle hint of citrus and mint.  I will keep the other one a secret because it’s a gift for my friend and I want her to keep her air of mystery.
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The Original Blend

Base Note (lasts the longest): Grapefruit, Chamomile Roman

Heart Note: Rosewood, Ylang Ylang II, Bergamot, Frankincense, Palmarosa, Citronella Java

Head Note (explosive at fist then evaporates quickly): Peppermint

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If you’re interested in making your own perfume oil, here’s what you’ll need to get started:

    • Read this article, “How to Make Your Own Perfume Oil” by Sweet Tea Apothecary.  It’s well written and it has verything you need to know to begin.
    • Purchase several bottles of roll-on reusable perfume bottle for 1/3 oz.  I purchased mine at Amazon.com.
    • If you don’t already have Essential Oil(s), go to your local Whole Foods, Sprout Farmer’s Market or any health food stores that sell good Essential Oils.  I don’t recommend purchasing them online unless you know what each oil smells like.  For instance, if you want a lavender EO and you already know what it smells like, do purchase it at an online store like Bramble Berry, Rose Mountain Herbs, From Nature with Love (just a few of my favorite online venders), etc.
    • I used a cotton pad to blend the scent first before committing in a bottle.  I put a few drops of EOs on a cotton ball and smelled it as I layered.  It’s amazing how the amount and order in which you put the oil changes the personality of the entire blend.
    • You’ll need a bottle of Jojoba Oil to use as a carrier oil.

Happy blending! 🙂

What Can I say … I’m Addicted

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I knit up a bunch of seed-stitch cowls using Blue Sky Worsted Cotton yarns while binge-watching “Scandal” last two weeks. The show makes me want to dress up in smart pant suites and carry Prada bags around town like Olivia Pope, although the only scandal these days around the house is figuring out who drank the last Whole Foods ginger ale in the fridge, or who didn’t fill up Brita. (I’m guilty of both, but please don’t tell my husband.)

Well, one can knit up a whole lot when she’s spending four hours a night after the baby and the husband are asleep watching television. But now that my Scandal fever has subsided (it got pretty stupid after the whole B613 plot line), I regret for being so unproductive and shaving off precious sleep time while indulging in guilty pleasure, but I’m glad I at least have a rainbow of cozy cowls to show for!

I think I become equally obsessed with knitting these cozy neck warmers as I got with watching the show. I just couldn’t put down the knitting needles.  They knit incredibly quick just like the show’s plot, and the pattern is timeless like all the chic wardrobe worn by stunning Live, Abby, Quinn and Mellie, my absolute fave.  I think Blue Sky Worsted cotton is my favorite yarn at the moment.  And I love the fact that you can toss them in a washer because it’s 100% cotton.

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Because I didn’t know what to do with all these cowls, I decided to extend them to my friends. I was going to sell them on Etsy but wanted to reach out them first to see if any of them was willing to support my knitting addiction. I’m so happy to report that many contacted me immediately after posting the photo on Facebook and these cowls are almost sold out! (Updated on 12/4/14:  All the cowls have been sold! Insert happy dance here!)  Yipee!  That totally made my day!  I get so excited when things I make find a new, loving home.  I hope they enjoy the cowls as much as I enjoyed knitting them.

For more information about the cowls, including the pattern, please see here and here.

More Seed Stitch Cowls

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These are the Blue Sky Worsted Cotton yarns I purchased, with an intention to knit a baby blanket for a friend. The combination looked so lovely at first but it didn’t work for me when I actually knit them together. I think it’s because some of the colors are so similar (too similar, in fact) and the dark green skein stood out like a sore thumb. Whatever the reason, this combination just wasn’t meant to be.

Individually, however, they are stunning! It’s worsted cotton so it’s nice and slippery which makes knitting – especially with Turbo Addi needles – such ease. I’m so glad I decided to turn some of them into simple seed stitch cowl (others were knit into a pair of fingerless gloves). Of the three I knit so far (here’s the first one I knit and the pattern), the lavender one is probably my favorite.

I purchased a few more skeins of the same Blue Sky Worsted Cotton yarn to turn them into more cowls.  There goes my plan to reduce the yarn stash but it’s just too much fun to knit with them!  Maybe I’ll sell a few to justify the impulse purchase!

Let the holiday knitting commence!

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Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Lavender (644)

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Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Azul (628)

PATTERN: Seed Stitch Cowl

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Cats might have nine lives but this skein of yarn lived just about 10. I initially purchased this cozy Blue Sky Worsted Cotton (in Bone) yarn from Purl Soho, along with several other pastel colors, to knit a baby blanket for a friend who’s expecting her first baby in December. I actually finished the blanket but I didn’t like how it turned out (it was too narrow) so I frogged it and tried again with some necessary tweaks. But even after knitting six skeins of yarn twice (and blocking the blanket twice — eek), I still didn’t like it. I took that as a sign that these yarns were meant to become something else.

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I got the idea to knit a cowl after reading this post from Knit and Bake. It’s a very straightforward seed-stitch but its simplicity is so lovely it made me swoon. I love a seed stitch – it creates such wonderful texture and warmth. I can’t wait for the temperature to drop so I can adorn my neck with this cozy cowl. And a great part is that this knits up in no time.  I finished mine in about 4 hours, while watching the old Sex and the City episodes when the baby was a sleep at night.

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Seed Stitch Cowl
(This pattern was inspired by a cowl by Knit and Bake. I changed the needle size and the number of cast ons.)

Supplies:

Circular needle (20 inches or shorter) or four double-pointed needles in US size 10.5 mm
1 Skein of yarn (100 g).  I used Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Bone (80).

Instruction:

Cast on 77 stitches. Knit in the round, while trying not to twist. K1, P1 all the way across the row, until you have just enough yarn to bind off. Bind off loosely.

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The finished cowl measured 24 in (circumference) x 8 in (length).

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Just a quick note: I like my cowl really loose. If you like yours a bit more snug around the neck, reduce the number of cast on stitches. As long as the cast on ends in an odd number, you’re good to go!

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Is it fall yet?

Another Lunch Bag from Pink Penguin

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I admit it – I’m cheap. I refuse to trade in my money for junk that are neither practical nor useful.

Gifts are the worst. It’s a death trap for our wallet because we’re usually confused and often pressed for time when selecting them. If we’re not very careful, we’ll end up throwing away our precious money on stupid tchotchkes that are usually overpriced, cheaply made, and overall lame. I know this because I was once a victim of it all. I would make a mad dash into a store on the way to a party and pay a pretty penny just so that I don’t show up empty handed. The gifts usually screamed out “I put absolutely no thought into your want or need” inside a colorful tissue paper. Where’s the spirit of gift giving in that?

Now, I make stuff. Sure, it takes more time and effort, but it’s more personal.  And it saves me money. And since I’m a cheapo, that’s what matters. And it satisfies my crafting addiction so it’s a triple-win. So no, no store-bought gift for you!

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This is Pink Penguin’s Lunch Bag I made for a lovely three-year-old on her birthday (I’ve made the same bag before, here). Her mother and I often discuss that we want our daughters to grow up smart and sassy, so I purposely avoided bubblegum pink and used two bold colors in orange and turquoise. I love these two color combinations.

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Project: Lunch Bag
Pattern: Pink Penguin’s Lunch Bag
Recipient: Scarlet for her 3rd birthday
Materials:
All fabrics purchased at Fabricworm.com

(Click to view the fabrics used on the project)

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PATTERN: Easy Fingerless Fair Isle Mittens

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We’re still a good few months away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season (and it’s still over 90-plus degrees outside — eek mad ), but I suppose it’s never too early to start getting ready for it!

Well, I’m not actually getting ready to make holiday gifts or anything just yet.  But I am getting ready for a major holiday / year-end cleanup I’m planning to do in the coming month. My plan is to further reduce the things that are taking up the precious real estate in our apartment (and wipe down every nook and cranny of the place), in an attempt to begin the new year with a fresh, minimalist mindset.

My immediate goal – use up the yarn stash (or at least assign a project to them) or donate them to charity. Since my inventory consists mostly of single skein, I decided to knit up some hats and gloves / mittens to reduce the load!

Enter — a pair of super easy fair isle fingerless mittens!

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Supplies:

A pair of knitting needles in size US 7
1/2 skein of yarn (Color A) — I used Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Jasper
1/2 skein of yarn (Color B) — I used Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Honeydew
Tapestry Needle

Instruction:

Note:  The measurements below are for relatively small hands.  Make sure to take a measurement of your wrist and hand circumferences to ensure that the mittens fit comfortably.  

Also, you can adjust the length of the mittens if you want something longer to cover your entire arms! 

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1. Cast on 44 stitches. Rib stitch (k1, p1), using Color A, until the panel measures about 2.5 inches.

2. Stockinette stitch (Row 1 k, Row 2 p, repeat), alternating between Colors A and B, until the panel measures about 4 inches.

Note:  Remember that when you’re doing a 1 x 1 fair isle, you pick up a stitch from the opposite color yarn.  So for example, if Color A is on your left needle ready to be knit or purl, make sure to pick up Color B from the strands.  I had to think about this for a moment because it’s the opposite of when you’re knitting fair isle in the round.

3. Cut Color B, leaving enough yarn to weave in the end. Rib stitch, using Color A, until the panel measures about an inch. Bind off loosely.

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4. Fold the panel into two, facing wrong sides together.  Using a tapestry needle, stitch two sides together until it reaches 3.5 inches.  Cut the yarn and weave in loose end.

5. Leave a 2-inch opening for the thumb.  Stitch two sides together, until you reach the end.  Cut the yarn and weave in loose end.  You’re done!

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This is probably the simplest way to make the fingerless mittens since it requires no shaping, and because there’s no shaping, it lacks a little bit of the sophistication that comes with a more complex pattern. I might try knitting the same pattern in the round next time to avoid sewing together the seams, and make a decrease from the top of the thumb hole so there will be a nice shape on top. But I’m very happy with the pair!

Half of two skeins down.  452,952,241 more to go (okay, I’m just kidding there — I don’t have that big of a stash)! lol

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RECIPE: Homemade Kitchen Soap

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I love the Honest Company Dish Soap we use at home but it’s still a luxury. It’s concentrated and little goes a long way, but I like the squeaky clean finish so much that I end up using more liquid soap than I really should. This results in an empty bottle every week or so, which is way too much, especially at about $6 for 16 fl. oz.

I didn’t want to walk away from my Dish Soap – I love it way too much – so I needed to come up with a creative way to stretch the cost. I tried diluting the liquid soap by adding water but I ended up using double the amount. I thought about alternating it with a less expensive kind but I don’t like the heavy artificial scent and the filmy residue that many supermarket brands leave behind.

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I never entertained the idea of making homemade kitchen soaps but after doing some research online, I found that it’s a pretty common thing. I found lots of great ideas for which oils to use, particularly from this cute Japanese soap-making blog. Necessity is the mother of all invention, that’s for sure!

I created a recipe that used mostly Palm Oil (to create firm bars) and Coconut Oil (to provide a nice lather), and threw in some Olive and Castor Oils as a good measure, to provide a little bit of moisture for the hands.

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Homemade Kitchen Soap
1200 gram batch — makes about 14 bars, at 4 oz each.

kitchen soap ingredients

I’m only sharing the recipe / ingredients and not the instruction. Please refer to soap making books or online resources for a proper and safe soap-making process.

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I’ve been using these soaps for a week and I love it! Here are some thoughts:

  • The bar holds its shape well, thanks to Palm Oil.  I put the soap in a little bowl and the water doesn’t drain completely after each use but it’s still nice and firm. 
  • The lather is perfect!  I’m not into big bubbles so the finer suds this soap produce are just right. 
  • The scent is refreshing without being too artificial. I’m happy with the Cucumber Melon Fragrance Oil from Bramble Berry, especially because I got it as a free sample! 
  • I feel like the dishes don’t get as squeaky as Honest Company’s, but you still get the nice clean feel. You can definitely hear the squeak when you rub the dish after a nice wash.
  • The suds wash off the sponge faster than the liquid kind so you might need to reapply more frequently. 
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see that the soap doesn’t leave a streak on glass and stainless steel pots! 

I’m so satisfied with the homemade version, I may not need to go back to the Dish Soap for a while! 

Enjoy! smile

Easy Bolero

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I often preface my knitting projects by calling them “easy.” The reason is because I usually select patterns that are truly simple to make. They usually require no intricate stitches and I seldom use patterns with complicated charts to read. If you know the knitting basics, any beginner knitter will agree with me. This goes for items I create on my own, like these baby hats and these lace ponchos.

I think my latest project earns the title of the easiest garment I’ve ever knit. It’s a bolero. And a cute and wearable one at that!

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I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a bigger “AHA” than when I figured out the construction for a bolero. What? All I do is knit one long piece, sew together the arms, and pick up the sides? That’s it? No seaming together pieces? How can something so cute be so simple?!?

Yep, that’s exactly how I knit this bolero: I knit a panel (that looks like a shorter but wider scarf) using a simple stockinette stitch; create sleeves by sewing two sides of the panel together; and pick up stitches around inside the panel using a rib stitch and knit 2 purl 2 all the way around.

It’s a little difficult to explain it without any visual aids but I’m sure I’ll knit another one of these little shrugs soon and I’ll post a tutorial then, for anyone interested.

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Boleros are so awesome because it’s light and perfect for breezy summer nights, just like ponchos. It’s also a great remedy for someone like me who loves summer dresses but don’t feel comfortable showing bare shoulders and arms.

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I used one skein of Cascade 220 Sport in Doeskin Heather.

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PATTERN: Easy Fair Isle Baby Hat

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My BFF Maya recently requested a custom knit bag with a 1 stitch x 1 stitch Fair Isle pattern, like the beautiful Arctic Wrap from The Purl Bee. She saw and felt the actual wrap on our recent trip to Purl Soho and fell in love with it. I think turning it into a bag is a marvelous idea and I’m delighted to make it for Maya, but I panicked a little because I’ve never knit a Fair Isle pattern before.  cry

Over the weekend, I dusted off a few skeins of leftover Amy Butler yarns and made itty bitty baby hats to practice the pattern. I didn’t want to commit to a large project so I settled on the hat … but I had so much fun with it that I ended up knitting three in two days. I knit as I went, with no pattern, which allowed me to make them very quickly.  I think I’m now ready to knit that custom bag for my BFF!

I’m no expert in pattern writing but if you would like to try making the hat, here it is! It’s a great solution to use up your yarn stash, especially if you have some half-used skeins you didn’t know what to do with!

Happy knitting!

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Supplies:

    • Circular needle in US size 7, in 16 inches (You can omit the circular needle if you’re just using the double pointed needles)
    • 4 double pointed needles in size 7
    • 2 different color yarns (about 25 grams each)
    • A pair of scissors to cut off yarns
    • Tapestry needle to bind off loose ends

Note: The first number in the pattern is for the small size (pink) with a 14 inch circumference; the larger size (gray and yellow ones are the same size), in parenthesis, is for a 16 inch circumference.

Direction:

Using circular needle US size 7 in 16 inches, cast on 80 (88) stitches with Color A (pink).

Knit 2, purl 2 in a round and repeat this rib stitch until it measures about 2 inches.

Now, add Color B (yellow) and knit, alternating colors at each stitch. You might need to M1 at the end of the first row to avoid repeating same color twice. Continue to knit until the entire hat measures around 4.5 (5) inches. Note:  Because you’re knitting in a round, you don’t have to worry about purling the alternate rows.  You can knit all the way around to create a stockinette stitch. 

Cut off Color B. Using Color A only, knit for 1 (2) inches. At this time, the hat should measure around 5.5 (7) inches.

Hat pattern

Begin decrease:

Row 1: k2tog, k2. Repeat this for the entire row.  Change the circular needle to double pointed needles. Note: If you are left with uneven number of stitches, simply stay as close to the pattern as possible. 

Row 2: K2tog, until you are left with one stitch.

Bind off lose ends.  Add a pom pom on top (optional).  I ran out of yarns but I would have loved to put it on the top!

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Amy Butler Rowan belle organic dk in Cilantro (016) and Tomato (012)

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Amy Butler Rowan belle organic dk in Cilantro (016) and Slate (015)

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Same as the hat above, in contrasting colors.

Knit Cable Bag

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One of the main reasons why I’m now a knitter is because I fell in love with Michael’s Fashion Cable Bag I saw on display, while on a non-knitting errand at the local craft store years ago. It was knit in white wool, with round bamboo handles, and had a brown ribbon around it. I had to have it but it was not on sale, so I picked up a pair of knitting needles instead and taught myself to knit. My first attempt was such an epic failure that I never went back to the pattern again (to my defense, the pattern is written very poorly) but my love for cable bags never faded.

Fast forward several years and I finally have my very own knit cable bag!

Many of the patterns I found online were beautiful but too intricate for my taste, so I made an original, super easy version. I made the bag panel using a pattern from The Yarn Girls Cables in Chamoix (see my previous post about the sweater here). The cable bag is virtually a sweater front folded in half, with handles on top.

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Pattern: Inspired by The Yarn Girls’ Cables in Chamoix
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Pacific (I knit with two strands to add durability. It’s sturdy without being bulky.)
Lining: Amy Butler in Belle French Wallpaper Spruce
Handles: 10” full ring bamboo handles, in natural color

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I’m currently contemplating if I should put a little embellishment, like a fabric flower or a bow, on the bag! I’m in love with the bag!