New Blog Design – Finally Complete!

January 4th, 2013

If you follow in an RSS reader, you probably didn’t see the new design. Here’s a screenshot for reference:

New Blog Design

I’m very happy with it! One of my goals for 2012 was to learn how to write WordPress themes from scratch. It’s not perfect, but I have a pretty good grasp so far. Next challenge: Write one for others to download.

What do you think of the new design? If you notice anything wonky, please let me know. I’ll even take constructive criticism. :)

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Worth Noting: Blog Improvement

January 3rd, 2013


2013 is going to be the Year of the Blog, I can just tell. To set you in the right direction, take a look at what some of these fine bloggers have to say about improving your own.

5 Things to Remember Before You Hit Publish at Hey, it’s Justine

40 Ways to Get Your Blog Off On the Right Foot at Campfire Chic

6 Weeks to a Better Blog at Silly Grrl

Primp your Facebook at Her New Leaf

Should I Get Paid for That? at Home to Heather

Why Every Blogger Should Have a Media Kit at VMac & Cheese

10 Reasons to Blog Ahead at Going Home to Roost

Blueprint for the Perfect Blog Post at Business2Community

The Four Faces of Link Building at Shellshock.UK

58 Ways to get Noticed as a New Blogger at Blog World

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A New Kind of New Year’s Resolution

January 1st, 2013

Penny Street Art in Amsterdam. Image via Sagmeister.


Like most people, I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish in the new year. I’ve never been one for resolutions, as I’m notoriously terrible at sticking to them, and they generally just make me crabby. This time, however, I’ve been thinking about what I can resolve to *not* do.

My mom and I were talking about all the projects we did this past year, and how most of them were for other people. The vast majority of these projects were “commissioned” in some way. Friends or acquaintances would be impressed with our skills/talents/abilities/whatever, that they would ask for one of their own. Often it would be a barter of some kind, or even in exchange for money. Sometimes, and I’m more guilty of this, they would be presenting a problem and I’d jump in to offer a solution – usually one that involved me sewing or knitting or building or designing something.

Now, the problem with these opportunities is that while I like to make gifts and surprises for people, having a commitment usually leads to resentment. It’s not that I don’t want to help – I do! In fact, that’s the problem! I want to help everyone with everything. It obviously becomes a matter of validation. I feel like my friendship is of no use to someone unless I can offer a tangible service. Silly? Definitely.

Unfortunately, I’ve damaged quite a few friendships because of this. I underestimate the time and money I’ll have to invest in a project, and offer it in exchange for something that’s not nearly comparable. For example: a dear friend wanted a cute, Anthropologie style dress. I insisted that it would be quite simple to sew, and we arranged to barter. I would sew the dress and she would color my hair. ¬†We would both pay for our own materials. I’m really not sure what I was thinking – even if the dress had been a simple endeavor, it’s just not the same amount of work that goes into a color appointment. The dress ended up needing multiple fittings and alterations… it was too long, then it was too short; the bust was wonky, I didn’t know how to fix it… I spent so much time and energy stressing about the stupid project that I started to really resent the dress and my friend. ¬†She was frustrated because it was taking so long, and I already “cashed in” on my side of the bargain. It was a mess.¬†Was it her fault? No. I truly believed at the beginning that it would be a relatively simple undertaking.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to determine this isn’t healthy.

So, in 2013, I’ve resolved to not take on a single commissioned project for anyone else. If I make or do something for another person, it will be as a gift. There will be no expectation on their part. If they ask, I will politely turn them down. Maybe I’ll even explain why, though I’m sure it sounds silly.

In the end, I think this will only strengthen my relationships with people. They’ll be based on mutual respect and genuine interest in one another’s personalities. Additionally, I’ll get to focus on things for myself. I have so many unfinished projects!

Are any of you doing a similar thing, or have you done it in the past? I’d love to know what your experiences were.

Here’s to an awesome, productive 2013! Happy New Year, everyone!

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Ridiculously Easy Recipe: Beer Cheese Dip

December 30th, 2012

I’m sure you need a last-minute dish to bring to a New Year’s party (oh wait, most people are more prepared than I am??) so I present you with one of my favorite ridiculously easy recipes: beer cheese dip:




2 8-oz. packages cream cheese
2c. shredded cheddar cheese (sharp is better!)
1c. beer
1 package ranch dressing mix




That is seriously all. It’s like heaven on a cracker.

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Finished Knit: Neon Ski Bonnet

December 29th, 2012

I worked furiously for a few days while at my mom’s house over the holidays, and finished my lovely ski bonnet!

Neon Ski Bonnet - Finished

I really needed a hat, but I wanted something that wasn’t a beanie. Knitting hats has always been frustrating, because my head is too big and I always have to modify the pattern quite a bit. I figured this style would allow for some flexibility, and I was right!

Neon Ski Bonnet - Finished


Neon Ski Bonnet - Finished

More photos, etc on Ravelry.

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Goodbye to my Best Furry Friend

December 13th, 2012

I’m heartbroken to have to tell you that my furry girl, Rory, was put down this past Tuesday. She was a mere three years old; just barely out of her puppy phase (it seemed).

About three weeks ago, I noticed a lump on her back. I know some dogs are prone to fatty lipomas, so I wasn’t terribly concerned, but I thought I’d ask my friend (a PA student) what she thought. She told me that squishy is a good sign, but hard is bad. Rory’s lump was definitely hard. I made an appointment with the vet for the following week.

By the time her vet visit rolled around, a Friday, she was climbing stairs like an old lady, and her one lump had turned into ten. The doctor ran a whole panel of bloodwork, but everything came back negative. The stumped doctor prescribed some antibiotics and we left, frustrated. Since the lumps didn’t seem to be painful, the vet recommended holding off on a biopsy until we determined if the antibiotics had an effect.

Come Monday, poor Rory couldn’t climb the stairs to go in and out of the backyard. She would cry and wail like a baby. I had never heard a dog cry before – it was heartbreaking. We called the vet and she prescribed some painkillers. We started letting Rors into the front yard instead, which has a two step stoop instead of a full staircase. She still whimpered and whined when climbing up and down, then she would press her body into me, shaking and trembling like a leaf.

A few more days passed. By now, Rory was crying constantly when she moved, and just howled and shook violently on the stairs. Attempting to lift her caused the same pain. It was obvious that the pain started about halfway down her back and radiated down her legs and tail. We took her back to the vet.

The vet now believed that it was a ruptured disc, based on how she was holding herself and the location of the pain. She prescribed tramadol and carprofen: just a step under morphine, she explained. The disc would heal on its own (hopefully) in 6-8 weeks. She said we could address her lumps after her back healed, as they still weren’t painful. They were, however, popping up at an alarming rate.

I put her bed in the living room, near the front door, so she wouldn’t have to walk far to go outside.¬† Still, she wailed and cried each time she went out. She started refusing to get up. Normally a ravenous eater, she stopped eating entirely. She would even spit out peanut butter. She wailed horrible, haunting cries all night if I wasn’t near her, so for the last week I slept on the couch, with one hand dangling off and resting on her shoulder.

This past Monday, I knew she had reached her end. I was able to coax her to go outside, and instead of going potty, she just flopped down in the snow and laid her head down.

I called the vet’s office, and was able to speak with a different doctor. She said that her symptoms were consistent with vertebral cancer, and that we could test for it, but even if we decided to treat it, the prognosis wouldn’t be good. She listed the other possible diseases, and explained that none of them were easily treatable, if at all.

We made the decision to give her some peace and put her down. I was devastated, but relieved at the same time. All of the days she cried and looked to me for relief I couldn’t give her were so hard.

On Tuesday, we wrapped all 75 lbs. of her in a blanket and carried her to the car.¬† She didn’t even struggle. Once inside, she pushed herself up and rode with her head out the window one last time. For a few minutes, she seemed happy and carefree.

At the vet’s, we sat on the floor with her and her favorite toys while they injected her with the sedative and the drugs. It was over quicker than I expected. I hugged her and kissed her shaggy face one last time.

Rory was literally an almost perfect dog. She was smart, sweet, and always happy. She didn’t chew, growl, bite, or destroy things. The very worst of her offenses involved catching a few bunnies and occasionally getting into the garbage. She even got out of the back yard once, and sat on our front stoop until I noticed her there. She didn’t have any weird phobias, or get carsick, or pull on her leash. She was a good dog.

I know we’ll be lucky to find another dog even half as good as her. We’ll have to wait awhile, but for now it feels so weird to be alone in the house. Yesterday I even went to the back door and called her inside after I made coffee, out of habit.

In any case, she gave us so much. I know we gave her a good life, and I am so grateful that in her final weeks she didn’t become afraid of me or lash out, despite the pain. She was a good dog.

RIP Rory. We will never forget you.

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Digital Download: Set of 6 Blank Gemstone Notecards

December 10th, 2012

I love gemstones (heck, anything with facets) and designed this set of blank notecards for download.


You can pick them up at my Etsy shop.



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Tutorial: Winter Terrarium

December 6th, 2012

This is a super simple and adorable winter terrarium. You will need:
Glass container
Sisal Trees
Animal  Figurines
Other decorative items

Pour sugar into bowl to desired depth, and top with a thin layer of glitter

Use a pen or pencil to push the glitter down along the sides of the glass. It’s like the sand art you used to do as a kid!

Decoratively arrange your items in the snow.

Step back and admire your work.

Bask in the adorableness.


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Tutorial: Glittery Star Garland

December 4th, 2012

This is a simple project that can be as fancy or simple as you can imagine – and it’s definitely not limited to Christmas, either!

Read the rest of this entry »

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Merry Retro Christmas – Free Download

November 25th, 2012

I designed a retro card and gift tags for Christmas. The tags are a free download, and the card is for sale as a download in my Etsy shop for only $4!




Click to download!

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Hazel & Agnes is the creative blog of Natalie Matz. Click above to learn more!