What I’m Making

I had some ideas and goals for creative projects at the beginning of the year, but COVID changed those goals somewhat. Let’s face it, COVID changed everything for many of us this year. While I was able to continue working through the shutdown, I couldn’t do my normal job for several weeks, and my schedule looked much different than previous years. I’ve done a lot more crocheting this year thanks to those changes.

One of my goals earlier this year was to expand my crochet skills. I’ve been stretching myself more with patterns. I’m specifically focused on trying to learn colorwork and make some more difficult wearable projects right now.

For colorwork, I’m learning intarsia crochet to make these adorable pumpkin coasters. Let me just say, my little coaster does not do this pattern justice. The pattern is adorable, but this was my first ever attempt at intarsia and my coaster came out a bit rough. I did add a single crochet border, because I stink at making a nice, smooth crochet edge any other way. This is a great beginner pattern, though, and I plan to make more to continue practicing.

I’ve dabbled a bit with C2C and colorwork, but not nearly enough to be comfortable with it. Megan at Left in Knots has a great series of patterns for a seasonal truck C2C blanket. The fall one is my favorite so far! I’m still a little too intimidated to try those, but I may add them to my project list for next year.

I’m also working on my first pair of socks with a great pattern from Ashlea at Heart Hook Home. My swap partner in the last round of Fibreshare sent me this gorgeous worsted weight superwash wool that’s perfect for this sock! I finished the first sock this weekend and it went really quickly. It was much easier than I expected, and my sock fits perfectly. I started the next one and will have it finished soon.

I started pattern testing this year. It’s a great way to help crochet designers while learning new skills. First I tested a really pretty cowl, the Stella Cowl from Me ‘n My Hook. It’s available now on Ravelry. I used Lion Brand Mandela yarn and I really like the result. It’s perfect for this cowl. Bernadine has some really beautiful designs in her shop!

The Stella Cowl from Me ‘N My Hook

I also tested this really cute cup cozy from Pont Neuf Studio. I learned a new finishing stitch in the process. It was a little tricky but I got it, and it gives this cozy a really cool edge. Christen has some cute accessories in her shop, so take your time and check out her other patterns.

An unexpected change for me this year was how much crochet I sold. I had never sold anything until last year, when someone approached me about dishcloths for Christmas. This year I’ve sold a lot of dishcloths and potholders, plus a few other special request items. Christmas will be here again soon, and I’m trying to get ready early this year.

This dishcloth set was inspired by Pioneer Woman colors.

I’m also working on orders for crochet cowls. I made myself one a few months ago, and while I don’t normally offer them for sale, I had a couple of special requests from friends and family. I couldn’t get the same yarn, so I’m using Lion Brand Touch of Alpaca and I’ve been really happy with the results.

The cowl I made for myself, using yarn and a pattern from November 2019’s KnitCrate.

Up next, I hope to start my first sweater. I downloaded the pattern for the Sawgrass Sweater quite a while back and have been sitting on it until I felt comfortable with more complex patterns. I think I’m ready for it. I’m using Lion Brand Comfy Cotton Blend I’m Whipped Cream.

What are you making this year? Have you found yourself with more or less time to create? I’d love to hear about your projects!

A Weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Earlier this month, my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. It’s a huge milestone for any couple, but this one was extra special to me because it marks the year I’ve been married half my life. I was twenty years old when I stood at the front of a little church in south Arkansas and promised forever to the love of my life. He’s given me the best twenty years of my life, and I’m thankful for every day we share.

September 9, 2000

My husband planned the best weekend getaway to celebrate our anniversary! We spent part of our honeymoon in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, so we went back for our anniversary. While we couldn’t stay in the cabins we went to back in 2000, Robby found a historic bed and breakfast for our trip. It was our first B&B experience and it won’t be our last. We loved it!

We spent two nights at the 5 Ojo B&B. It’s such a beautiful place to stay!

The breakfast each morning was absolutely incredible!

Chocolate breakfast bread with strawberry sorbet
Southwestern egg dish with salsa and fresh tomatoes with an espresso vinaigrette
Cheese quiche with corn waffles

One of my favorite stops was the historic downtown shopping area. I spent a lot of time browsing the shops. There are so many unique stores. A few favorites:

* Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium: So many bath and body goodies! My favorite find was their Instant Manicure. I’ve used a similar product before and loved it. Because I work in gloves five days a week, my hands get so dry, especially in winter. This works wonders on my hands. Once I use up what I bought, I plan to order more from their online shop.

* Tummy Ticklers Culinary: There’s a really great selection of whole bean coffees here! I love my coffee grinder and French press, and I’m always looking for really great whole bean coffee. They also carry tons of great kitchen gadgets, decor, and more. It was hard to choose but I picked up whole bean chocolate raspberry coffee.

* Gormet Eureka: There are some many good things here: flavored olive oil for dipping bread, coffee, tea, and spices. I got my oldest loose leaf chocolate strawberry tea here.

* Fleece ‘n Flax: This yarn and fiber store is incredible! Crochet, knitting, cross stitch, spinning, weaving – they have it all.

We also ate. A lot. Thai, barbecue, steak, and more. And we didn’t even have a chance to try all the places we wanted. Due to COVID, a lot of restaurants had takeout only, but we were able to eat inside at all but one place we chose – and that was a barbecue place that only has outdoor seating normally. The weather was perfect for eating outdoors during our trip, so that worked out well.

While shopping and trying new restaurants was great, we also rested a lot on this trip. We loved the slow days of just meandering through shops or taking a nap before our dinner reservations. It’s rare that we have a whole weekend to just unwind, and we loved it. Eureka Springs was the perfect place for it. If you’re looking for a fun, unique getaway, it’s a great place to visit.

A Circus Book Flight

The Greatest Showman made me love the circus. I wasn’t a big fan as a kid, mostly thanks to a lifelong fear of clowns. Thanks to the story of P.T. Barnum and some really great songs, though, I became fascinated by the story and the history of the greatest show on earth. When I started searching for books on the subject, I came across some really great ones.

A few years ago, I was introduced to Kristy Cambron’s split time books. I loved The Ringmaster’s Wife. About the book: Rosamond’s life is planned for her, until her father sells her beloved horse to the American entertainer John Ringling. Rosamond leaves everything she knows to follow her beloved horse, her last tie to her brother, and make her own way as a bareback rider for the circus. She meets Mable Ringling, John’s wife, and their lives intertwine. As their stories unfold, you’re transported to the roaring 20’s and the world of the circus as two women’s journeys are changed forever.

A book I heard so many great recommendations for is The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof. I finally picked it up from our local library and am right in the middle of it now. I’m wondering what took me so long. It’s so good! About the book: When lion tamer Charlie Lionheart shows up at the hospital with a very sick little girl, the doctor doesn’t pay much attention, but Ella Beckley is drawn to the girl and takes over her care. As she continues overseeing the girl’s recovery, Ella is drawn deeper into the world of the circus and into Charlie’s life and heart. Ella and Charlie’s broken pasts and broken hearts find healing and hope in a faith far bigger than their painful stories.

Jamie Jo Wright’s newest release, The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus, is another great circus book. With a story that’s just creepy enough to really enjoy and mysteries connected in two time periods, Wright proved once again why she’s one of my favorite authors. About the book: 1928 – When Pippa Riley receives mysterious messages from someone in her past, she’s drawn back into the world of the circus to search for her birth parents. She begins caring for an injured baby elephant, the future hope of her adoptive father’s circus, and finds herself getting closer to a trainer with a broken past. But is the writer the link to her past Pippa hopes for, or is he a dangerous killer? Present – When Chandler Faulk convinces her uncle’s company to buy an old circus train depot for a renovation project, she doesn’t count on it’s mysterious past and unsolved murders. The danger soon proves very much alive as Chandler and her son are caught in the middle of an investigation. As past and present collide, Chandler desperately searches for answers before it’s too late.

What circus book flight would compete without watching The Greatest Showman? Not that you need an excuse to watch it. It’s one of my favorite movies. If you have Disney+ you can stream it for free.

What are your favorite circus books? What’s missing from my list that I should read next?

Note: This post does contain affiliate links. I make a small profit if you choose to purchase a book through one of my links here. I have read and can recommend any books I share links to in this post.

Why I Love My Passion Planner PLUS a Discount Code

It’s been a little over a year since I first tried Passion Planner, and nine months since I switched completely to this brand. It was a big deal when I finally settled on one, because I’m so particular about planners. My life is crazy, sometimes a little unconventional, and not something that fits neatly into your typical calendar.

Now, I’m hooked – so much that I recently applied to be a Passion Planner Ambassador, and I was accepted! Today I want to share why I fell in love with this brand, plus a discount code for 10% off if you’d like to try it for yourself. Now is the perfect time to try it, since all new designs will roll out next week. For now, let me tell you what made me fall in love with Passion Planner.

1. Flexibility

As a former bullet journaler, flexibility was a must for me. I use my Passion Planner as a hybrid bullet journal. It has the structure I need for monthly and weekly planning, but still offers the flexibility to use it like a bullet journal thanks to lots of extra pages. There’s plenty of room to track things like my reading log, crochet orders, Christmas lists, and more.

The basic weekly layout offers lots of space, and the free printables available on the Passion Planner website make this space even more flexible. You can download free habits trackers, calorie and workout trackers, and so much more. You can see all the options on the downloads page.

I love having a structured weekly layout that still offers lots of free space and flexibility.

2. Options

Passion Planner has so many options, and they continue to add more. There are currently three sizes: small, medium, large. You can also choose from four formats: undated, academic, weekly, or daily. And you can choose a Sunday or Monday start date. There are different color options for each line, and they are gorgeous. You’re sure to find one you love.

One huge deciding factor for me was the start date option. A Monday start is a must for my planning. I’ve planned that way for years. My husband is a pastor, so we often have events that span a weekend. Sunday just feels like the ending to a week for our family, so the option of a Monday start was definitely a major factor.

Another big factor was the variety of sizes. I need a planner that’s large enough to hold everything but still small enough to fit in my purse. The medium is the perfect size for me.

3. Quality

My Passion Planner is without a doubt the highest quality planner I’ve ever owned. I am hard on my planners. Mine goes everywhere with me and holds pretty much my entire life within its pages. I need something durable. After nine months of daily use, mine still looks great. There’s a slight bit of wear on the corners, but that’s it. It’s impressive, especially considering I was taping pages back into the last few planners I’d used by the end of the year.

Other than some slight wear on the corners, my planner looks great after nine months of hard use.

I’m a bit of a paper and pen snob, and I love the 120 gsm paper in my planner. My Staedtler Fineliners (my favorite pens) write beautifully on this paper, and my Zebra Mildliners look amazing. Nothing bleeds through.

Interested in trying it for yourself? If you’re not quite ready to switch, print out a few days of the planner style you like (available on the downloads page) and test it out. Last year, before fully committing, I printed out the pages and used them in my bullet journal. Within a few days I knew I was switching to Passion Planner for 2020.

The new undated and academic planners have already released, and on September 17th, the new dated planners for 2021 will release. If you’re ready to try one for yourself, use the code AMANDAH10 on the Passion Planner website for 10% off your purchase. If you decide to try one out, let me know which one you get and how you like it!

Interview and Giveaway with Debut Author Amanda Cox

Discovering new authors is so much fun! I was thrilled to be chosen as part of a brand new author’s launch team a few months ago. When I read Amanda Cox’s debut novel, The Edge of Belonging, I was blown away by her talent. Let me just say, if this is her debut, I can’t wait to see what’s next. Today I’m really excited to share an interview with Amanda and a chance to win a paperback copy of her book. More info on the giveaway is at the end, but first, let me introduce you to Amanda and share my interview with her.

About Amanda:

Amanda Cox is a blogger and a curriculum developer for a national nonprofit youth leadership organization, but her first love is communicating through story. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Bible and theology and a master’s degree in professional counseling. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have allowed her to create multidimensional characters that connect emotionally with readers.

About the book:

When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.

Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he’s ever loved. 

In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth–both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others–takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.

The Edge of Belonging is your debut novel. What has it been like seeing your first book come to life?

It has been so surreal. After spending years writing and rewriting, submitting, getting rejections, signing my first contract, it has been so fun watching everything unfold. Holding the finished copy was definitely a highlight of my writing life. This long time dream is really happening!

What inspired you to write The Edge of Belonging?

The idea for this story began in a somewhat odd way. I was on a road trip. The car was quiet, giving my mind some room to roam and explore new story ideas, and in the median, a baby bouncer was sitting there like it was waiting for me.

I daydreamed while I drove, trading the abandoned baby bouncer for an abandoned baby. The next question that begged to be answered was who would have been there to stumble upon this child. And that is how one of my main characters, Harvey, was born. A man who lived a hermit’s existence—squatting on public land along the highway, living off only what other people carelessly lost or discarded. Trusting no one. Finding the baby shakes up the world he has become so comfortable in.

When I sat down to write the story that had been unfolding in my mind on that car trip, The Edge of Belonging quickly became a tribute to adoption and families who come together in unexpected ways.

What is it like writing two stories in two timelines? Do you write the stories separately and then work them together, or you write them simultaneously?

When I wrote the very first draft of The Edge of Belonging, it was a single timeline story. I submitted it in its original version and had some interest from agents and editors, but the feedback they gave me was that they didn’t quite know how to classify the story. Feeling like I had come to a bit of a dead end with it I experimented with adding a new timeline. I had to make drastic cuts to the original story to make that happen. That was tough work, but in the end exactly what this story needed.

I’ve written two dual timelines in this same way, writing each timeline separately. My latest book, releasing in 2021, I approached in a completely different way and wrote the two timelines simultaneously. The way the stories flow together, it just felt natural to write it that way.

Which character or characters do you identify with the most?

Hmm…this is a tough one. I identify with each of the characters in different ways. I identify with Harvey’s desire to withdraw and be independent as a method of self-preservation. I aspire to be like Pearl with her openness to let others into her life and her desire to help others. I’ve definitely had seasons where I could identify with Ivy in which I was trying to figure out who God created me to be.

Tell us about your writing journey. When did you start writing? Is this the first book you’ve ever written?

I’ve been dabbling in storytelling for as long as I can remember, whether in written word or narratives I daydreamed about inside my head. About ten years ago, I decided to try writing my first novel length project. I worked on it slowly over many years and used it as a training ground for crafting stories. The Edge of Belonging is my second novel, although it feels like my third, since that original version was written into a whole new thing!

Who has influenced you most as a writer?

When I was in third grade, my teacher read us Where the Red Fern Grows everyday after lunch. Listening to this story of determination, hard work, and loss, my eight-year-old self decided that I wanted to write stories like that someday, stories that caused people to feel something. 

I am also  indebted to my parents who happily funded my book obsession, filling my world with stories I loved. Then there are my awesome critique partners who give me amazing feedback on my writing that sharpens my work and sparks fresh thoughts.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just turned in my yet-to-be-titled novel, releasing in the fall of 2021 to my editor. Like The Edge of Belonging, it is a multi-timeline story. This book centers around a family owned corner grocery in a small southern town and the three generations of women whose lives are tangled in its inner workings. It reveals the way family dynamics—the good and the not so good—can shape a family’s history. Lots of layers and family secrets big and small to explore in this one!

You can follow Amanda’s writing on the following social media:

Website: www.amandacoxwrites.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/amandacoxwrites
Instagram: www.instagram.com/amandacoxwrites
Twitter: www.twitter.com/amandacoxwrites

Now for the giveaway! Entering is easy – just leave a comment below. Please be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win. Make sure to follow Amanda on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to do date on her latest books. You don’t want to miss this beautiful story! The giveaway will open for one week and the winner will be announced next Tuesday, September 8th. Open to U.S. residents only.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑