Next : Childhood round 1!

First off, I have to admit just how lucky I am to be able to write this review. It's not as easy as just calling for a reservation at Next restaurant. Seats are sold as tickets, like a sports or performance event... And boy, is it a show! Tickets are on the pricey side, especially if you add alcohol pairings. Also, there's no ordering your separate entree and appetizers; everyone eats the same thing there. (Except those lucky enough to snag a kitchen table seat, it overlooks a giant glass wall that functions more as a window to the entire kitchen, as well as offering a few more courses for the slightly higher price per ticket.) I'll admit, I was skeptical at first.

There's a "too cool for school" feel going on here, and if you're not in on it - it sucks. I know, I stalked ticket sales for Tour of Thailand and was super disappointed the day they were promised - and then not released. But if you are lucky enough and/or persistent enough, you too can enjoy a meal at Next. They also offer same night tickets on their facebook page, but you have to be both quick and persistent... and not too disappointed if it doesn't happen the first time (or few. Not joking.)

I can see how some diners might have initial reservations about the wait staff; they are irreverent and funny both in presentation of the food, and interaction with the diners. It threw me for a bit of a loop the first time I ate there. But, when you sit back and realize it's a fun, high quality environment with people who don't take themselves too seriously... All of the sudden, you're free to relax and not take yourself too seriously. Awesome sauce!

Mid 80's to 90's music waxed & waned in the background; diners even sang along with and snapped their fingers to "The Addams Family," although my personal favorite was the theme to Jurrassic Park. When the movie came out, I saw it so many times that I used the score to erase any other song that happened to be repeating in my head. I hated it a little then, and now I have such fond nostalgia for it. I get a hint of it whenever I hear the music from any of the three JP movies, and it makes me smile.

Life is funny that way, how our experiences influence our perspective, and how later experiences have a way of changing that whole perspective we might've thought we held so strongly. And somehow, making the acceptance of it both tolerable and terribly life changing - all at the same time...

The atmosphere there really lent itself to a wonderful transportation back to my own childhood. (Only in the best, most warmly nostalgic way.) A server actually replied "That was awesome!" to my giant burp towards the end of the meal. And then, we talked about why coca cola makes the best, loudest burps. I was virtually transported back to my high school lunch room, scarfing fries and guzzling soda before my next class. So much fun, both then and now.

It didn't hurt that there was a northern Michigan feel going on, and I vacationed in a cabin on the south shore of Crystal lake many summers as a child - and have lazy, lakeside Indian summer memories and sometimes, dreams of picking wild raspberries surrounded by nothing but trees and a quiet breeze, blue sky and sunshine. Pure bliss.

Libations are poured before almost every course, changing with the feel and kind of food being served. The really interesting part is that they somehow encapsulate the same irreverent sense of fun into the cocktails and wine as the staff and food - which I continue to be super impressed by. It's an undefinable quality, that warm, sharp witty fun they inject into everything surrounding the whole experience- the staff, the food, the presentations, drinks, and music, even the obtaining of those-most-elusive tickets! Side note - they do pour a bit on the heavy side though, and also leave it tableside - so watch out you over-indulgers! You do want to be able to remember your Next dinner experience, trust me...

Even the journey to dinner was a whimsical one. In the middle of one random evening, just before bed, my husband's jaw dropped in shock. He's not an easily awed person so I was a little perturbed, until he explained why. Next restaurant had just released ticket sales for their newest menu, Childhood. Mind you, these were tickets he and I had been anticipating the release of since our very first trip to Next, for their Tour of Thailand menu. We quickly snapped up a table for my 31st birthday in late December. And then, my husband asked if I had the patience to wait that long... and, I admitted absolutely not. So like thieves in the night, we snagged another table for the week before Halloween. I went to bed almost feeling guilty for all the poor souls who would wake up the next morning and check their facebook streams, only to find their night-owl-foodie friends had bought out the round of tickets in mere hours. Yeah, I said almost...

So the food, you ask? How was the food? In one word, perfect. Seriously, sublime. It was everything I was expecting, having cheated and googled the menu beforehand; and yet SO much more, as an entire experience. Each course was both expected and surprising on so many levels, that even that was a surprise. The flavors were homey and comforting, but daring and explosive somehow too. I'm not going to write the course by course review today, but you can find my photos on facebook and flicker (and on Google+ now too!) 


FO - Coo & Coy Test Knit

Whenever I get the chance to test knit for Anna of Mochimochiland I jump at it, and this time was no exception! Her patterns are not only simple and easy to knit, but so adorable!!! I just cannot resist the cuteness, what can I say?

Coo and Coy Test Knit
I really enjoy using leftover yarn for most of my Mochimochiland toys. Both of these yarns were from projects I made my niece, and I'm glad to finally use them again! The lavender is Lorna's Laces Shepard Worsted, and the grey is Berroco something or other, hehe. I went down to size 4 needles (pattern calls for US sz5,) one because I couldn't find my 5's and two because I tend to stuff the crap out of my toys, and tighter stitches are better for that.

The bodies knitted up super quickly, but I found the smaller pieces were much tougher on my fingers (could've been the tiny 4" wood needles I was using, too!) Also, I didn't use safety eyes, but I just don't love them on all toys. For my eyes, I used black yarn and simply embroidered them on. I rather like the effect, what do you think?

They were a bit difficult to pose, but I was expecting that. Aren't they cute together though? I really enjoyed knitting this pattern, and I love my finished lovebirds! Hahaha!

Project Specs... see them on Ravelry!
  • Pattern: Coo & Coy by Anna Hrachovic of Mochimochiland
  • Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepard Worsted in Lilac for MC, Berroco mystery yarn for CC
  • Needles: Us sz 5 3.5mm Knit Picks Harmony wood 4" DPN's
  • Cast on: January 5th, 2011
  • Cast off: January 15th, 2011
  • Completed: January 16th, 2011


Some More Cupcake Pops! (and Poops! Ack, can I say poop in a title?)

Cupcake Pops - Closeup Detail
I decided to make these cute cupcake pops for myself and Dear Sis, and I just happened to find the cutest pastel confetti candy melts for the tops! Aren't they so much fun?

Cupcake Pops

This particular batch of cake pops started as a devious idea in my head for these - cake poops! 

Cake Poops

My DH is going through a rough patch, and my grandmother recently passed away... so it kinda went from just a tongue in cheek joke, to a "I may have to laugh at these or I may cry..." kind of moment... 

At least they're cute, or funny - depending on your sense of humor...


FO Fri - Plucky Mushrooms

When I made Anna's test list, I was so excited. And then, I realized just how fast you have to be, to become one of her testers! LOL So, I was very excited when I made it as an alternate tester of these cute Plucky Mushrooms. Aren't they adorable?

Tiny Mushrooms - in Alpaca!
They work up super fast, too. (Even though I had to wait to post about them! Hahaha!) Just leftover fingering weight yarn in your color choices, stuffing and seaming. It was a little tough to get used to size 1 needles, though - as I'm used to working a little bigger scale than this. (It's alright though, these were SO much fun!)

I used yarn I received in a Swap themed for women named Kari; the aqua and purple alpaca actually came from Norway! How cool is that?!? (It's where my family's from originally.) So, those two are both Tynn Alpakka, and the grey "grass" is Knit Picks Gloss (leftovers from June's Dolphin Shorty Shrug!)

Project Specs: see it on Ravelry!

Pattern: Plucky Mushrooms, Knitting Mochimochi by Anna Hrachovic
Yarn: Tynn Alpakka in aqua and purple; Knit Picks Gloss in Dolphin
Needles: Knit Picks Metal DPN's size 1 (2.25mm)
Cast on: Monday, June 8th, 09
Cast off: Tuesday, June 9th, 09
Completed: Wednesday, June 10, 09


FO Fri - Lagoon Hemlock Ring Blanket

Lagoon Hemlock Ring Blanket
I can hardly believe how fast this project finished up (that is, except for the blocking part!) I was complaining last time, saying it would take forever, and then the edges sucked up all that end yarn! Hehe.

Oh, and then it took me forever to block it, because I'm a lazy procrastinator! I wish I'd added the garter ridge on this blanket, but I started it before the other one. Ah well, just another reason to knit one more for myself! :)

Lagoon Hemlock Ring Blanket - Closeup

Specs - see this blanket on Ravelry!

Lagoon Hemlock Ring Blanket


Back from Italy!

I'm back from from my whirlwind trip to Italy, and I must admit it was amazing! My DH and I did some fun tours, and a few ports on our own - which was good because all the power was out in Gibralter when we were there! Talk about bad luck! 

Much more to follow, as it stands I'm getting over something buggy (I refuse to believe I'm sick, so please don't even mention it!) and I have a crap-load of pictures to slog through. Over 1500 photos and videos, to be more precise!


Surprise Vacation to Italy!

I had a great craft post planned for today, but the last 36 hours have been quite a whirlwind for me! My DH found a wonderful repositioning cruise to Italy, that leaves in less than two weeks! So, craft plans must be put on the back-burner as I try and get all of my pre-vacation planning packed into a super short amount of time!

We're heading to the Mediterranean on a cruise ship, my favorite way to get to Europe. Everyone flies these days, but I actually revel in the 6 short days it takes to get from Florida to Madeira, Portugal. I wonder what it must have been like for my own family, who came to America from Norway about a hundred years ago or so (I think, Jenn - do you know any more???) Their voyage would've been much longer, on the order of weeks or months at sea; but the open oceans hold such a wondrous majesty to me. To see the night sky from the middle of the ocean is a thing of beauty. 

So I ask a favor of all my international readers! I'm headed to Funchal (Madeira,) Gibralter, Cagliari (Sardinia,) Rome!, Livorno, Genoa and Monte Carlo (Monaco!) just before the tourist season starts, in about 2 weeks. Is there anything I shouldn't miss? How about craft supply shopping, is there fabric or yarn shops? I'm also looking forward to shopping for leather in Italy, where's the best places to go?

Also food recommendations are totally appreciated! I usually have trouble figuring out what to eat when abroad, more because I'm not familiar with the local cuisine. Thanks so much!


FO - Cliff Diving @ La Push Cowl

Cliff Diving Cowl - Finished!After I'd finished my Solitude scarf, I wanted to work with another single ball of Malabrigo Lace yarn. It's so yummy soft, and very enjoyable to work with - but I wanted to design something for myself, not follow a set pattern.

So, I went to my stitch dictionaries and found this pretty Fishtail Lace pattern; and knew instantly that it would be perfect with the yarn colorway I chose, Whale's Road. Blues and indigo with hints of green and purple, this particular colorway really captured my attention - even over the internet! (I love Eat.Sleep.Knit for Malabrigo Lace.) The color is more accurate in the first photo, but I wanted to post a closeup of the lace pattern, too.

I picked a cowl shape because really, they're all the rage right now, and I've knit a butt-load of scarves with ends already and I wanted something new! I started with a provisional cast on, so I could use Kitchener stitch  to graft the ends together when I (almost) ran out of yarn. That meant I could make a long cowl, capable of doubling or tripling to a warm, cuddly neck-warmer. God knows, we still need them here in Chicago - it's cold again this week!

Cliff Diving Cowl - Closeup


Soft Chains - Cashmere I-cord Chain Link Bracelet

I-cord Chain Bracelet

I've been thinking of using super soft materials for chains well, for a while... I guess basically since the spring fashion shows. I die for these Chanel's temporary tatoo chains, but they're also 75$ - so you know, I have to be content to covet and not own these, I fear. I wish I had the cash, though!

I-cord Chain Bracelet

So anyhoosals - my brain was kicking around the thought of using soft and otherwise relatively unsuitable materials to create a series of chains this month. Leather, suede and even cashmere, I find the textures delectable, and because I used some leftover Handmaiden 4-ply Cashmere for this one - even the colors are yummy! Yeay!

I-cord Chain Bracelet - side

This is just a basic I-cord chain link*, but I've got designs in the works for much more complex pieces. I just have to get working, and find out what actually works for me (and what fails miserably, as any good artist knows!) If anyone's interested, I'm toying with the thought of making this into a pdf. Please let me know if you'd like that, and thanks for stopping by! *Here's a link to the Ravelry page for it!

I-cord Chain Bracelet - back


Malabrigo March Wrap Up

I didn't do a kick off post, which I'd wanted to but couldn't find the time for amongst all the knitting! But, I decided I still wanted to do a wrap up post anyway, so here it is!

I love Malabrigo yarn. My favorites are Silky Merino and their Lace yarns, although I also have some Worsted in my stash. I love how soft they are, and how vibrant the colors are. 

Finished projects include my Caribenos Clapotis, another Montego Bay Scarf and my Cliff Diving @ La Push Cowl (expect the FO post very soon!)

Not quite finished projects include my Lagoon Hemlock Ring Blanket, a surprise gift lace cowl I barely cast on for and my Purple Mystery Hanami Stole - that I didn't even get the time to add one stinking repeat to! Which is crappy, because I cast on for it way back in 08! Damn, time flies! Hehehe...


One Yard Wonder Deadline Extended!

I was very excited to read this morning the deadline has been extended til April 11th, 2010 for One Yard Wonder's latest book. I do occasionally still sew, and I'm totally interested! I hope to submit this round, but we'll see if I can get my lazy butt into gear! Hehe.

I'm especially excited because I'm toying with the thought of using one yard of my own fabric design - yeay!

From the authors -
Our focus continues to be on unique, fantastic, and original one yard projects. While we are showcasing fabric choices and options, the book itself is really all about 101 great, diverse, and unique projects, which we know you have up your sleeve! Please keep in mind that your project should use nearly the full yard of fabric (no quarter yard projects please, unless they are part of a group project which takes up a full yard).

You are certainly welcome to submit more than one project.

On the Road to Spring - Week 4 - postponed!

This was the most intimidating part for me, as I'm kind of obsessive about keeping the lines all straight and together. I kept telling myself that I'd have to accept some mistakes, as they can't all be perfect; but I still procrastinated this step for days! Consequently, I have to take a week and postpone this one's update! I hope you'll all stay tuned with me, ans I try and work through my fears and finish my quilt!


Quick Craft - Suede "Chain" Bracelet

Another cute project on Craft:'s blog, I knew I had to make one for myself. The only question was, leather or suede? And then, what color??? I have bunches of scraps in some very delicious colors, so the choices were tough.

After it was all said and done, the magenta pig suede was the winner. I had a bunch of small pieces of it, and in suede - it was an experiment to see if this would even work! The real issue is, that the original links in the pattern are 3" long, but I knew I wanted something smaller; I wanted to make a bracelet, and I have freakishly tiny wrists. So, I re-sized the links to 2" long total (meaning they'd be 1" after folding.)

Suede Chain Magenta

At first, they seemed much too floppy to hold up. Not nearly enough structure for this project, I thought. So, I put it down for a few weeks. And then, I had the thought that after folding they should have more structure than they seem to! And I was right! A few links later I was finished, and that makes this one of the easiest jewelry pieces I've made in a long time! I used a doll-sized belt buckle to anchor the top, and it finished much prettier looking than the bottom (with no anchor.)

Suede Chain Magenta - Back

It was mentioned one can finish this project in one evening, but I'll give you this caveat; if you're using really sharp shears, like Gingher's - that I did - you'll probably want to space this one out a little more. I have a death grip on mine for some strange reason, and so I can only cut so much before my right thumb gets a dent in it from the scissor handle, and hurts - alot!

I love easy and quick projects, so I'm going to try and showcase more of the ones that inspire me the most! I'm also planning on more leather chain projects, this was so fun & easy I couldn't stop at one! Haha! Stay tuned in April for more of this same project, as well as a few of my own twists on it!

What are your favorite easy projects? They can be just fun or functional, and if they're both, I'll swoon. I love when form marries function!

*Fancy lettering from Daily Drop Cap - so fun & addictive!


Aurora is on FIRE!

Fire 1You know when one of these is parked outside your house, it's not good...

But, as you can see, from the view outside my backyard...

It's ON FIRE!!!

Holy Crappers, I hope my local Fire Department can handle this, it's the worst fire I've ever seen

The entire grass land has ignited, and it licks ever closer to houses!  

Fire 4

Fire 3I have many thanks and gratitude for this guy, the fire fighter closest to my house! 

I can hardly believe it's come so close to not just my house, but so many others, as well. 

You should see the crowds gathering to watch the prairie burn behind my house.

Frakking unbelievable... please wish us well! 

ETA: Looks like the Aurora Fire Dept. has it under control, but wowsers! that was scarey!

Fire 2


FO Friday - Yet Another Hemlock Ring Blanket

I can't believe I've got another Hemlock Ring to show off this week, as I wasn't planning on posting this one til next week, but such is life!

Hemlock Ring Blanket w/ garter ridges!

I really, really enjoyed knitting this blanket, both because I added the traditional garter ridge found in the feather & fan pattern (not found on the original Hemlock pattern,) and because this yarn was like butter to knit with! So soft, and just the right amount of stretch to it. I almost wish I'd made it bigger, but I hate blocking these buggers when they're done - it's always such a chore!

Hemlock Ring - Closeup


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