Crochet Carrot Cupcake

I have a whole lot of photos on my computer of projects that I haven’t blogged about. So this is an attempt to remedy that!

Last year my friend had a birthday and I wanted to crochet him a cupcake. I discovered, through some not-so-subtle questioning, that carrot cake is his favorite. So I used my favorite cupcake pattern from Ana Paula Rimoli’s book Amigurumi World, and this is what happened.

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These cupcakes are so fun to make and they don’t take very long. My only modification is to make the last round of the frosting in the front loops only. That leaves a ridge that makes it easier to sew the frosting and cake together.

Before I sewed the frosting on, though, I sewed on sprinkles!

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And a carrot. 🙂 This is obviously not what carrot cake is…you don’t just make a cake and slap a carrot on top. But you gotta have that visual pun, right?

Anyway, my friend was pretty happy with the cupcake. I think this was his first crochet gift, but as long as he’s friends with me, it will not be the last. 🙂

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Itty Bitty Shoes for Mini Free Spirit

Hey guys! Today I have a quick pattern for how to make shoes for the Mini Free Spirit. You’ll probably remember this doll from all the fandom dolls I make. Well, these characters needed shoes, so this is what I came up with.

These are so cute and tiny and VERY easy to lose, haha. If the dolls are for playing with, it might be best to avoid the shoes. But since these ones were for display, the shoes were appropriate. (I wonder how many Barbie shoes my sister and I have lost over the years…)

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Materials

  • G hook
  • 2 yards of worsted weight yarn

Pattern

Round 1: Ch 4. Hdc in 2nd chain from hook. Hdc in next chain. 5 dc in last chain. Turn to work across other side of starting chain, hdc in next ch, 2 dc in last ch. Sl st to first sc.

Round 2: Ch 1, sc in back loops only around. Sl st to first sc.

Round 3: Ch 1, sc 2, (sc2tog) 3 times, sc in remaining stitches. Do not join.

Fasten off, leaving long enough tail so that you can sew that gap together neatly. It’s easiest to slide the shoe onto the doll BEFORE you attempt this. Ask me how I know. Then weave in ends and you’re done! Tip: Crochet over the starting tail as you go to save trying to weave in two ends on this tiny shoe.

Dizzying Heights and Telepathic Trees // The Kingmaker Contest by Troy Clem

Goodness, it’s been a while. I finished my summer college class (English 464), got a job, crocheted almost a whole afghan, and wrote like 10K words of a novel. I can talk more about any of these things if you’re curious, although I highly doubt any of you want to hear about American modernist literature.

Anyway, today we have a book review for a book I finished a month ago but just…didn’t…post. 😛 The author contacted me asking if I was interested in reviewing his book, and of course I said yes because I absolutely love doing that. So let’s get to it!

About the Book

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A brutal contest determines the King. Does a god control the outcome? A thrilling epic fantasy world of magic and war.

Theo’s empathic power lies untapped, but she knows of his abilities. Is she god or something worse? The only thing that’s certain: the rage and terror warring inside Theo can obliterate the Drasque Empire—if war doesn’t first.

Theo couldn’t imagine the consequences when he stowed away. His freedom from Losik wasn’t worth war, but he didn’t know magical forces were waiting for him. In a time when whale oil and muskets replaced torches and swords, an ancient way of thinking still prevails, forcing men to kill other men for a chance to be king, and allowing a god and her blood magic warriors to bend the world to her will.

  • Goodreads | Amazon | $3.99 or free in Kindle Unlimited
  • Ebook, 192 pages
  • Genre: epic fantasy
  • Where I got it: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts

An entertaining, quick read that would be great for fans of Eragon and the Chronicles of Narnia. The plot is fast-paced; the entire thing happens over about two days. But LOTS of stuff happens. We have a brutal contest to decide the next king (to which the book owes its title), a sentient tree that can bring people back from the nearly-dead, and two regions of people who are at war.

The summary doesn’t really tell you that much about the book, honestly. Basically, there are two perspectives: Theo and Tess. Theo stows away and gets into some, uh, trouble, let’s just say. Tess’s brother is competing in the titular contest, and we get that side of things from Tess’s chapters.

The characters are likable. The book passes the Bechdel test, which a shocking amount of fantasy books don’t, so that’s excellent. Theo is my favorite. He’s a 12-year-old boy who’s having a REALLY bad couple of days. Nagima is a really excellent character, too, and I hope to see more of her.

I appreciated how diverse the cast was. There are lots of different races. Theo, the main character, has darker skin and he meets up with a group of pale, blonde-haired warriors who he’s fascinated with. However, the characters aren’t exactly super-nice to the one fat character. Their descriptions of him are not flattering. He’s also not a good guy, so I guess he deserves it from that perspective, but the comments could be about his character instead of his size. The culture of the tribe Theo runs into is really fascinating and well developed. I think it’s the highlight of the book.

I’m also never a fan of accents being written out phonetically. So Tess’s chapters were a little painful in that regard. She drops her “H”s and that was written out. That’s a stylistic choice I’m not a fan of, but other readers might not mind.

I’m having trouble deciding how to classify this book – MG, YA, or Adult! The characters are young – Theo is around 12 – but the story is pretty violent. Game of Thrones has young narrators, too, but it certainly isn’t for kids. I’m going to bridge the gap and stick it in YA. That being said, this would be an appropriate read for teens. Probably 12 and up. The only objectionable content is violence, and nothing is gratuitous. There’s just a lot of fighting and stabbing.

Content Warning: for anybody afraid of heights, honestly! There’s a lot of climbing around on cliffs, and the descriptions were good enough that my stomach kept lurching. Job well done, Mr. Clem. Stabbiness, fighting, and some violence ensue.

Rating

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4

Plotting a new book is perhaps one of the greatest joys in my life. Plotting, outlining, and the early drafts of a new story tend to be my favorite part of the process (even if I do want to burn said outlines and drafts once it’s over.) One of the things that inspire me the […]

via indie and aspiring authors share their WIP’s (pt.1) — lydiaredwine.com

I seldom reblog posts, but I wanted to share this one with you! The lovely Lydia Redwine rounded up some aspiring and indie authors to share their works-in-progress, and I’m honored to be one of them. Click the above link to check out the post and read about my book How to Breathe in Space. And check back for the second part! Thank you so much, Lydia, for including me in this fantastic roundup. ^__^

Queer Girls, Dragons, and Rescue Missions | Shatter the Sky Book Review

YOU GUYS. I have been waiting (im)patiently to post this book review, because it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time! But I wanted to wait until release day, which was on Tuesday. Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells is a must for anyone who likes fantasy, strong female characters, and LGBTQ+ representation.

Also, I’m borrowing an idea from Lydia of Noveltea for this review. She includes a section in all of her book reviews for why she chose the book, and I thought that was a really good idea, so I’m adopting it myself.

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About the Book

Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

  • Goodreads | Amazon | 304 pages (I think my review copy was longer, but maybe the font changed?)
  • Release date July 30, 2019
  • I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I Chose This Book

I basically lost my composure when I saw the mention of a girl stealing a dragon to rescue her girlfriend. UM, SIGN ME UP, PLEASE. I put in that review request faster than you can say “Claire, I think you’re a little too obsessed with dragons,” and then I jumped through the ceiling when I got approved.

My Thoughts

I feel like I’ve been looking for this book my entire life. It was a masterpiece. I can’t stress enough how fantastic it was. It’s Malinda Lo meets The Goose Girl with a little bit of Game of Thrones thrown in.

The world building was incredible. The history and geography of the world was super well planned, and I felt completely immersed. I would love to see a map. Maybe that will appear in the finished book.

That leads in to the main strength of the book, which is the diversity. As you can see from the cover, the main character is non-white. She appears Asian on the cover and that’s how she is described. Her love interest, Kaia, has dark curly hair and darker skin, as do most of the Zefedi. It’s so realistic to have different people in different parts of the world not look all alike. The culture was really well-developed, too. Maren has to figure out how to fit in.

Kaia and Maren. Ah, they really are the sweetest. I can’t describe how happy I am to have a prominent lesbian couple in a fantasy novel. It melts my heart into a puddle of gay butter. And Maren is bisexual! (Or pansexual.) The one thing I was not keen on is that there’s a bit of a love triangle, which I never enjoy. And bi people tend to be stereotyped as promiscuous or more likely to cheat, so the love triangle doesn’t do any wonders to help debunk that stereotype. That knocks half a star off.

The plot is all over the place, and I mean that in the best way – I didn’t predict a single thing. Maren’s goal at the beginning is to rescue Kaia, but it gets amended several times throughout. That’s because of the outstanding characterization. Maren grows SO MUCH throughout the book and I am SO PROUD of her. She goes from being a shadow of her girlfriend to being this amazing, independent, strong-willed, powerful character and it’s truly amazing to read about.

And, dragon bonding? I’m 100% here for it. The Aromatory is an absolutely fascinating concept and plot point, and I’m super impressed with Rebecca Kim Wells’ creativity.

Honestly, this is one of the best books I have read all year, and I can’t recommend it enough. Thank you so much to NetGalley for the ARC. It did not influence my review; I genuinely LOVED this book.

My Rating

4.5 stars, rounded up to 5
★★★★★

Bob Ross Amigurumi

Do you guys like watching Bob Ross? For anybody who doesn’t know, he’s an American artist who did a TV show called “The Joy of Painting,” where he talks to the audience/camera while doing a half-hour painting. You can watch reruns on YouTube. It’s a really relaxing, calming show, which is why many people (including myself) enjoy watching it. He’s just such a positive, happy person and bestows the audience with gems of wisdom as he paints.

Bob Ross was also kind of the instigator of ASMR, which is another story entirely…

Anyway, my dad shares my affinity for Bob Ross, so for Father’s Day I collaborated with my sister to create a crochet version of our favorite painter.

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My sister is skilled in the visual arts, so she did this painting to accompany Bob Ross (who would look quite lonely without a painting, I think). I found this canvas and easel at my college bookstore and picked it up because it was cute. It just happened to work perfectly for this project. She made him a cute little palette, too, which we jury-rigged to his hand with rubber bands and the power of hope.

As for the crochet, I used the same pattern as usual from Beth Weber of By Hook, By Hand. I almost have it memorized after making 10+ dolls from it. But it never gets old. This is how I made the clothes. I wasn’t super happy with how his hair turned out, but you know what Bob Ross says…

There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents.

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I had this box from a crochet kit that we repurposed for the presentation of the gift. My dad was delighted with his gift (he took these pictures, actually). Bob Ross is currently living at his workplace, where I’ve heard he is making coworkers smile.

It’s actually Bob Ross who landed me the commission for Nancy and Sluggo. Pro tip: make your amigurumi do the advertising for you. 😉

Do you like Bob Ross? Have you heard of him before? Let’s spread some Bob Ross positivity in the comments ❤

Book Review: Spirit Followers by Lydia Redwine

Hello lovely people! Remember a few weeks back when the wonderful Lydia Redwine was here for an author interview? I promised you a book review, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do today. But first, check out the interview if you haven’t already: the tagline is “let’s talk epic fantasy, homeschooling, and religion,” so you can tell you’re in for a fun time.

And now, to the review!

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About the Book

When a Royal dies, the realms elect the one to take their place. By reasons Camaria does not know, her realm elects her as the next Royal. Now that she is the new-found sixteenth Royal of the nation of Mirabelle, Cam embarks on a journey with her sisters and a young huntsman to the four realms of the nation to complete training in the four kinds of magic. Once she has completed this training, she will then be permitted to consume her annual amount of magic and possess manifested powers. Her ventures are unexpectedly steeped in precarious events when Cam discovers a secret plan of revolt, a past she never knew, and an ancient people group thought dead who call themselves the Spirit Followers.

  • Goodreads | Amazon | paperback is 332 pages (but the font is pretty small so it reads like a longer book)
  • Book 1 in the Instruments of Sacrifice series

My Thoughts

I had the privilege of copyediting this book, so I may not be entirely unbiased 😉 That being said, I wouldn’t feature a book on my blog if I didn’t genuinely think it was promising.

Spirit Followers is a wonderful example of indie fantasy! The characters are well-developed and diverse. I feel passionately about diverse characters in fiction and was delighted to find characters of all different races and countries (hailing from the fictional world, of course). Cam shows character growth throughout the book, as do her sisters. It may be difficult to keep them all straight at first, because there are quite a few of them, but it’s a rewarding experience because they’re all so sweet and feisty. There are several pairs of characters who I enthusiastically ship and I hope they will end up together in the next book!

The religion in the book seems to be inspired by Christianity but at no times is it overly preachy or overbearing. It was the perfect balance and is exactly what I hope for in books that have religion in them.

Content warning: sexual assault (both off-page and on-page when a character forces a kiss on another), violence, and mild swearing. All is handled respectfully and nothing is gratuitous.

My Rating

Because I was involved with the editing process, I don’t feel that I can actually give an unbiased rating, because I have an emotional investment here now. 🙂 What I can say is that this is a really excellent gem in the world of indie fantasy, and this author is definitely one to watch. I would recommend this book to fans of Shannon Hale in particular. Fans of C. S. Lewis would likely appreciate this series as well.

Thank you to Lydia for allowing me to review her book and feature her on Once Upon a Yarn!

The Pianist and the Photographer | Yeah Write #432

Third week of doing this Yeah Write linkup and I’ve been having such an amazing time. Everybody has been so supportive and kind, and I appreciate every single comment and piece of constructive criticism/advice.

Today’s post has a male character for once, named Russell because I just watched a movie with a character named Russell and I’m abysmal at names. TW for mentions of homophobia.

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The Pianist and the Photographer

The music washes over him like the waves of the ocean, faint at first but growing louder as he walks toward the park. There are always musicians in Ashcreek Square on sunny afternoons, but rarely on overcast days like this one. 

And certainly not a classical pianist.

Russell stops in his tracks at the edge of the park, ignoring the bicyclist who has to swerve around him and the rude hand gesture that follows. Twenty yards away, in the middle of the square, sits a grand piano. Perched on the stool is a young man a few five years his junior. He wears a T-shirt and khaki pants and looks for all the world like an ordinary hipster who wandered out from the nearest Starbucks…if it weren’t for the otherworldly music flowing from his fingers. He plays like the secrets of the universe are captured within him and fighting to get out. 

Russell finally gets enough presence of mind to step out of the bike lane. His fingers are already sliding around his camera, unclasping the lens, adjusting the focus. But even if he had the pianist’s permission, he couldn’t capture this in a photograph. The way the young man leans in to the forte, closes his eyes during the high notes, breathes the piece through his body…it’s like his DNA is woven of the musical clef.

HIs phone buzzes in his pocket. Probably his boss calling to clarify something for the photography assignment he’s on. No doubt he’ll hear an earful later about ignoring his call, but for now Russell doesn’t care. 

He takes a halting step forward but can’t bring himself to go any closer. All around the pianist people are walking past, too busy to stop and witness the performance. A few pause for a moment to nod in appreciation before they continue their fast-paced stride across the square. One woman slips a folded dollar bill into the cavern of the grand piano. The pianist doesn’t look up. As she turns away, the sharp angle of her jawbone and her dark brown hair makes Russell think for a moment that he’s looking at his mother. But no, her hair is cut in a bob, a far cry from his mother’s long curls, and she’s wearing round glasses that his mother never needed. 

When he first left home all those years ago, he saw her everywhere: the bartender who served the beer he drowned his sorrows in, a woman at the gay club in downtown LA, his next-door neighbor in their crappy apartment complex who asked him, brows furrowed in concern, if he was doing okay. It took his boyfriend pouring all his beer down the bathroom sink for him to realize that things had gotten out of control. But it took longer to get his life back on track. Some days, he still doesn’t think he’s there. Because staring at this beautiful man at the piano fills his gut with a hot, sickening guilt that feels all too familiar. Guilt, roiling and churning in his stomach, because of the flutters of excitement dancing through his body at the sight of this musician. 

Didn’t he spend his entire teenage years praying for these feelings to go away? Crying himself to sleep because he just wanted to belong, knowing in his bones that he would never find someone to love him back? He tries not to think of the day he broke down and told his mother, but the thoughts come unbidden just like they always do when he sees an attractive man. The bags of his belongings thrown out the garage door. His key no longer fitting the lock. His mother’s phone going to voicemail when he called. His childhood ended that day. And even though he’s made a life for himself, he’s still alone. 

He drops to one knee, frames the pianist, and snaps a picture. The only way he’ll ever view people is from a distance.

At that very moment, the pianist releases the last note and exhales a long breath. Russell finds himself holding his breath as the young man looks his way, takes in his camera, and meets his eyes. Maybe it’s the way his brown eyes search Russell’s mind, or the way he swipes his hair out of his eyes, but it prompts Russell to take a step closer. 

Just one step. But that’s all he needs to do. The pianist rises from the bench and comes to meet him.

749 words
Photo prompt this week is by gratisography
Emotion to incorporate this week was “shame”

Stretch-Free Crochet Cord

Why hello there, lovely bloglings. How’s your weekend going?

I’m stopping by to share my latest tutorial on Crochet Spot with you all. I’ve been sitting on this one for quite a while and am therefore very excited to tell you about it. See, I’ve been on the quest for a non-stretchy cord for what seems like an eternity. Crochet is, by its nature, very stretchy. But sometimes you want to make something that holds its shape, and that’s hard to do. Introducing the…

Stretch-Free Crochet Cord!

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This cord is easy to make. Much easier than icord, I think. Here are some uses for it, but I’m sure you can think of about a bazillion more!

  • bag strap
  • camera strap (as suggested by a Crochet Spot reader)
  • drawstring (which is what I used it for)
  • to hang bunting
  • yoga bag holder (I’m working on one of these myself, even though I don’t even DO yoga, I’m just intrigued by the idea)
  • lanyard
  • bracelet (especially if made with thinner yarn or thread)
  • great if you need to hang something like a plant hanger
  • belt for finishing crochet garments
  • you can use it anywhere you would use a really long chain with a row of sc

What uses can you think of? I hope you enjoy the tutorial as much as I enjoyed creating it. I do love a good crochet experiment. 🙂

Book Review: Mindfulness for Students

I’ve been fortunate enough to be approved for a variety of titles on NetGalley lately, and I’ve enjoyed so many of them that I wished to start reviewing them here on my blog. For those of you who don’t know, NetGalley is a website that provides advance digital copies of books to readers in exchange for an honest review.

It’s an amazing experience getting early copies of books. It makes me feel like a professional reader, if such a thing exists. I’ve reviewed about 20 so far, and I will start posting the reviews around the publication date for the book.

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About the Book

Mindfulness for Students by Natasha Kaufman

Life can be tough. With so many decisions to make at such a critical time, it’s easy to feel weighed down. What’s more, there is the pressure to gain good grades, to find a good job, to be a good person. Your mind may feel clogged up with no way to filter your circulating thoughts and pressures. From a young age we are taught the significance of a solid education and a fruitful career, yet with such an emphasis on academic and monetary success we often fail to prioritise a healthy mind and body. It is essential to know how to deal with life’s many challenges; Mindfulness for Students will help you.

Through insightful ideas and personal anecdotes, this book will introduce you to the many benefits and applications of mindfulness – from mindful breathing, eating, exercising, sleeping, studying and communicating. There will be opportunities within each chapter to have a go at mindful meditations ranging from three to twenty minutes. There is no right or wrong approach, just what works for you. Mindfulness is a way of being, and this book will help you lay the foundations for a mindful future. Choose to be mindful and live your life in the moment, living fully and wholeheartedly, aware of self and others.

Goodreads | Amazon| Published July 2, 2019
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts

An excellent overview of mindfulness and meditation written especially for college students. This book does a great job introducing readers to the main concepts of being mindful. It has several chapters about different aspects of college and how you can incorporate mindfulness into it.

Every few pages the author offers a quick meditation exercise you can try. I was pleasantly surprised to find a section on using mindfulness to tolerate chronic pain. I tried the meditation that was suggested and found it quite helpful.

The main idea of this book is just to be okay with what’s going on, even if it’s uncomfortable. That’s a really valuable lesson and the book did a good job explaining it. I would really recommend this to any college student who’s struggling with stress, no matter how mild they may say it is. Everybody can benefit from this.

My Rating

4/5 stars
★★★★☆

What books have you been reading lately?