10 Ways/Resources to Learn New Things

Posted by Angela Diaz on April 9, 2016 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

     I'd like to write breifly about learning.  Learning new skills, hobbies, new ways to do things, etc.   Learning should be neverending for us.  The world is so big and there are so many things to learn and do.  Nowadays one doesn't have to commit to going  back to school to learn things.   It's easy to acquire new skills outside of the structure of a classroom.  I am always learning and researching about any new thing that interests me and I pay little to nothing for the education/information/skills I gather in the process.  Recently I took to knitting.  I don't have close family or friends that knit.  I have always wanted to learn to knit beautiful sweaters. I've crocheted since I was a child in elementary school, but some items just look more professional when they're knitted (at least in my mind).  Since my adventures in knitting are very recent, I will use knitting as an example of how I've used various resources to acquire this skill, but these resources can be used for anything from carpentry, learning new languages, learning new instruments, cooking, etc. 

1. Library- FREE- The library is a valuable resource to learning.  I've borrowed books and DVDs on the topic of knitting and used their computers and free internet to look up more information.

2. YouTube-FREE-  YouTube is excellent.  Type in anything you want to learn and you have probably hundreds of results, enough to keep you busy for a very long time.  There are so many How-To videos.  I even used YouTube searches when I struggled with something specific. For example, I didn't know how to hold my string and control tension, so I looked that up specifically.  I didn't know how to put my stitches on a holder, so I looked that up when I was stuck on a project. 

3. Meetups/Groups-FREE (depending on the group)- I joined a free knitting group that meets the first Saturday of every month and is located in a local retirement community.  The schedule works perfectly with mine and not only am I surrounded by women who have been knitting for decades, they even throw in free coffee, tea, and snacks!  The group is open for all ages and I bring my young daughter who recently learned to crochet.  We bring the projects we are working on and share ideas, projects, patterns, and knowledge.  There is also a free knitting group/class that meets every Monday evening in my local library.  When I'm stuck on a project, I don't have to wait a month or 3 weeks until my monthly group meets, I can go on Monday evening and get the help I need, or just for a relaxing evening of knitting and socializing.

4. Workshops- FREE or Registration Fee-  Look in your local Craigslist, newspaper, craft shop, etc to look for classes or workshops that are being offered in your area.

5.  Craftstores-FREE or Cost of Purchases- This pertains to learning new crafts.  Go to a place that specializes in what you are interested in learning.  If it's gardening, hang out in a garden nursery.  Talk to the employees or the customers that look like they know their stuff.  I have gotten into great conversations with people in these places. If I see an old lady near the knitting needles aisle, you bet I'm going to talk to her!

6. People/Mentors-FREE-  Look for people who are skilled at what you want to learn.  I found a coworker that knows how to knit and she helps. If you want to learn Spanish, find someone whose first language was Spanish and hang out with them, practice with them, and maybe see if they can mentor you.

7. Trial and Error- FREE (Sometimes)- You can't forget to actually practice what you want to learn.  Want to learn to play the guitar, try, fail, try and fail again.  Carpentry? Try. Make some crooked cabinets. Try again and hope they don't fall off the walls this time.  Nothing beats the process of hands on learning. 

8. Writing-FREE- Doesn't make much sense now, but write about your new interest or passion.  Keep a log of your progress.  Read what others have written on this topic. Take Notes.  Writing is important because you have a better chance of retaining what  you've learned if you write it down.

9. Blogs-FREE- Subscribe to blogs and read what the professionals are writing.  Blogs are great because they are not just How-To sites.  They are personal.  Bloggers share their struggles, their passion, their projects, new things they've learned, etc.  You really feel like you have a comrade in this field.

10.  Books and Magazine Subscription-Cost- This may seem the same as using the library, but there is a slight difference in how we use our own books, isn't there? If you borrow a library book multiple times and it is a great reference tool that you can use over and over again, buy it. Buy it used if you can (that's the frugalness in me talking).  Highlight important areas of the book, make notes in the margins, put sticky notes or tabs so that you can quickly get to the pages of importance.  Make that book yours. Same with magazines. Rip out the article you want to keep and add it to your notebook.  Make notes and mark pages.  Make it worth the subscription cost.

     I am daily researching new ideas, new skills, new interests. Whether it's traveling, brushing up on a language, learning a new craft, or even just learning how to unclog my bathroom sink.   I never want to stop learning and growing.  I am a better person every day and every year as I learn and grow and become a better, wiser, more interesting, and more skilled person than I was a year ago. 

How to Make a No-Sew Tie Fleece Blanket

Posted by Angela Diaz on July 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

     I was invited to my favorite cousin's baby shower a few weeks ago.  She lives in New Jersey (about a two-hour drive from here).  Her registry was on the invitation, but I wanted to make something myself.  It would be so much more special making something for her first-born.  I decided to go with a large, no-sew fleece blanket.  Here's why:

     When I was pregnant with my first son, the pastor's wife from the church I was attending at the time gave me a large, tied fleece blanket for my son. It was made by one of the women at the church that I didn't even know.  On one side it was blue with teddybears wearing red sweaters all over it. On the other side, it was plain red.  I loved that blanket.  It was large enough that my son didn't grow out of it in a few months like most baby blankets.  It was super thick since it was two layers of fleece tied together.  It was his day-care blanket, it was his pre-k nap time blanket, it was the blanket we took to picnics to sit on because it was so comfy and thick and you couldn't feel grass poking through the blanket.  My son is now 10 years old and we STILL have that blanket and still use it frequently. 

     Sooo....I headed over to the store and purchased 1 1/2 yards of two different patterns of no-sew fleece.  One was a plain lime green color, the other was a pattern with little frogs on it. My cousin in expecting a boy so I thought little froggies would be cute.  I You Tube'd some videos on how to make these and they are so simple to do.  It did take a little time and I had to clear out a little floor space in my room.  But basically here's what I did:

1. Lay the fabric that you would consider the back piece of the blanket on the floor with the right side facing the floor (some fleece patterns don't have a right or wrong side).  In my case, the lime-green piece of fabric I had was the same on both sides so I just laid it out flat on the floor.

2. Lay the front blanket fabric piece on top with the good side facing you and the wrong side of the fabric touching the back piece.  (Both wrong sides of the fabric are facing each other).

3. Smooth out both pieces of fabric. Make sure they are completely open and spread out. Now trim the entire blanket's edges so that all edges are even with both pieces of fabric.

4. Cut a 4" x 4" square in each corner.

5. Cut strips about 1" to 1.25" wide and 4" high all around the blanket.

6. Go around the entire blanket tying a double-knot with the two strips together. Tie them tight, but not so tight that they eat up the blanket. The first time I did this I tied the knots so tight, that the blanket basically shrunk to a very small size. I had to un-do the knots (that was so hard and time-consuming to do). I re-tied them so that they were secure, but not pulling on the body of the blanket. 

The blanket came out beautifully, was appreciated by my cousin, and only cost $11.00 to make.  I would have spent much more had I tried to purchase some things on the registry for sure. I didn't even spend money on wrapping paper.  I made her one of my re-usable cloth bags and put the blanket inside.  Basically the bag was for her, the blanket was for the baby. 

Thrift Store Treasures

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 22, 2014 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

     I like thrift store shopping.  Scratch that. I LOVE thrift store shopping.  I like to go to the Salvation Army on Wednesdays because they have 50% off almost everything except a specified color tag. I am sharing what I got this week for $23.  I went there looking for bed sheets to cut up into strips to make a braided rug for my bedroom (a project I'll share with ya'll as well).  Anyways. Here's what I got:

I found two bundles of new fabric, five sheets for my project, two uniform school pants for my daughter, and six large spools of strong thread that I plan to use for rug-making.

Look at all this fabric! There must be twenty yards of this stuff!

And at least five or six yards of this lovely blue that matches perfectly with the other fabric stash.

My plans for this fabric is to make some of these all-purpse or re-usable grocery bags.  I've made these before and they are awesome! I love them and use them every day.  I want to make a bunch of these to raise money to buy a pressure canner. Pressure canners can cost about a hundred bucks or more for a good one.  I would like to get my hands on one before I end up giving away half my harvest due to lack of proper canning equipment.

I couldn't wait to get out the sewing machine, so I made up a quick apron for my youngest daughter. She always wanted one and always uses mine when she "helps" wash dishes. Now she has her own and she absolutely loves it.

I'm glad that she is showing an interest in the things I do.  I plan to teach her as much as possible the skills that schools don't teach any more. She's only five years old, but she knows what a pressure foot on a sewing machine is, how to turn the machine on, and how to press the pedal to make it go.  Little by little she will learn so that by the time she is a young adult, she will have all the knowledge it me countless hours of library research, internet surfing, and experiments and mistakes to learn.

Keeping Warm With Hot Water Bottles

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 5, 2014 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

     Well it's been a few days since my last post. I've been busy with all the family get-togethers and holiday festivities.  Today I wanted to share something that has to do with the below freezing temps we've been having this week and also the Christmas holiday.

     One of the ways we keep warm during cold winter nights is by using good old-fashioned hot water bottles.  These can be found in most any pharmacy and big chain variety stores.  They are usually less than ten bucks. I paid about five dollars (I think less than that even) at Wal-Mart.  They are the usually plain-old red rubber hot water bottles. If anyone has never had one, here's the thing...these babies stay warm for HOURS!!!!  At night I fill one up with hot TAP water (NEVER heat water on the stove or boil water and put it in a hot water bottle...NEVER!), then I toss it on my bed and cover it up with the blanket where it warms up my sleeping spot while I brush my teeth.  When I get in the bed I can place the bottle any place I feel cold, such as at my feet, on my back, or I can snuggle with it holding it against my belly. It is not uncommon for me to wake up four hours later and the hot water bottle is still warm.  All of my children have one of their own and this Christmas, I made them covers for their hot water bottles using random scraps and extra buttons I had lying around.  We call them hot water bottle monsters. Here they are:

The kids love their covers. This was a practically free gift and it was a hit. Every single one of the kids loved their bottle monsters. These enable us to not have to turn up the heat at night which also saves us money. 

Another use for these hot water bottles is for aches and cramps.  Menstrual cramps that are soothed by heating pads are also soothed by hot water bottles.  If you have an achy back, joints, or arthritis, hot water bottles help that too.  I can't speak highly enough of these perfectly simple, yet highly beneficial objects.   We will never, ever be without hot water bottles in or home. 

DIY Domino Halloween Costume

Posted by Angela Diaz on October 29, 2013 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi there. I just thought I would share my Halloween costume of 2013.  I was invited to a Halloween party, but didn't have a costume and didn't want to spend a lot of money purchasing one so I thought about what I could use to make one.  I happened to have a black tube dress that I hadn't worn in years and got the idea to make a domino costume.  I went to Wal-Mart and got 1/2 yard of white fleece for $1.50 and a sheet of silver sparkly foam for $0.33.  I got my needle and thread out along with a can of corn from the pantry. 


 I used the can to trace out five circles (I had the fabric doubled over so that I actually got 10 circles).  I doubled the fabric because I didn't want the black fabric to show through the thin fleece so I made it double thick.  I also cut a long strip of the fleece to tie around my waist and cut out a small circle from the foam and glued it to the center of the long strip.  Here is my costume after I sewed the circles onto the top and bottom of my tube dress:




Sorry for the crappy picture quality.  The camera on my phone isn't great and the person who was taking these pictures didn't have much of a steady hand, but you get the idea.  The silver circle is of course that little silver button that the dominoes spin on when they are face down and getting shuffled around.  This costume can work with an all black outfit or even an all white outfit (with black dots).  This costume costed me less than two bucks, it was a hit, and I had a good time at the party.  You DO NOT have to spend a lot of money to have a good time.  I saw some great home-made costumes at the party and it stirred up some ideas for next year. Happy Halloween!