6 Ideas for Upcycling Your Old Sweaters

Less than a month until spring and we’re ready for the new season — even if the cold weather isn’t ready to go quite yet. Spring cleaning is underway and the first things to go — as soon as the weather permits — is that big bag of sweaters. But before you decide to give send them off to the thrift store, consider getting a little more use out of them in another form. Here are 6 ideas for upcycling your old sweaters.

sweater-blanketBlanket While your sweaters may be taking up too much closet space, you can never have too many blankets! Right now is the perfect time to get started on projects to get ready for next winter. Seamstress Erin has an excellent, detailed tutorial on how you can spin your old sweaters into a new throw!

sweater-bootsLeg Warmers Here’s an easy-peasy way to make use of that sweater you desperately want to replace: leg warmers! The Farmer’s Nest has a super-cute, super-easy, fashion-forward tutorial to take the sleeves of your sweater to add flair to your boots. With the weather ahead, you might be able to use these now for your rain boots! And, as a bonus, she has a quick how-to on using the rest of the sweater to make a throw pillow cover.

sweater-mittensMittens Here’s a favorite for LTD — because we’re in Chicago, our winters are brutal and there are never enough mittens or gloves to keep up with the cold weather. The Renegade Seamstress gives stitch-by-stitch instructions on making super-snug mittens out of that favorite sweater you don’t want to let go of… but have to give up. Armed with this pattern, you will never run out of mittens!

sweater-bagShoulder Bag Get ready to start crossing off people on your Christmas list now! With an old sweater, you can make a stylish shoulder bag that costs little to nothing to make with an old sweater. Sweet Grace takes you through the steps to create a one-of-a-kind bag that so awesome you’ll want to keep it for yourself, but it’s a secret you’ll want to share. The trick to what makes this idea so fashionable is that it’s felted. That means, if you want to make this exact bag, the sweater you use has to be made of 100% wool (this one is alpaca wool).

sweater-heartsSweethearts Of course your upcycled sweaters don’t necessarily have to be wearable. Jess from If Only They Would Nap made her old sweaters into adorable felted hearts. She hangs them from a branch, but there are other ways you can use them: wedding shower or party favors, stocking or Easter basket stuffers, bunting for Valentine’s Day, or everyday decor.

sweater-slippersSlippers Here’s another idea to get started on for next winter: slippers! Kat at We Can Re-Do It put together an easy, step-by-step tutorial magically transform a striped sweater into adorable striped slippers. Comfy and cozy for cold nights — these will come in handy especially if next winter is anything like this winter or last winter!

Upcycling sweaters is just one of the things we’re thinking about here at LTD! Keep checking back on our blog and the website for more products and ideas to get your home projects started.

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts to Get You Through February

Winter is winding down and we’re warming up thinking about spring and all of the fun holidays that come with it. While we’re stuck indoors for a few more weeks, we’re all about crafting for spring! With St. Patrick’s Day and spring on their way, we’re thinking green… here are a few of the crafts we’re using for inspiration.

shamrock-braceletPlayful Pipe Cleaners When life hands you green pipe cleaners, make shamrocks! Lacy from Catholic Icing twists and shapes pipe cleaners to make adorable favors to hand out on St. Patrick’s Day. To take it a step further, turn the shamrocks into something wearable! Beinglds.blogspot.com has a sweet step-by-step on how to make shamrock bracelets with those pipe cleaners. With these awesome accessories, no one will get pinched on St. Patrick’s Day.

3-d-shamrock3-D Magic If you got a lot of practice cutting out hearts for Valentine’s Day, you’re primed for a fun and easy shamrock craft! Crafty Morning came up with a simple way for children to craft paper into a piece of 3-D art! All you need are green construction paper, glue, scissors and a paper mount for your masterpiece.

shamrock-menShamrock Whimsy If the idea of spring has you feeling a little whimsical, help your little ones change toilet paper rolls into little shamrock men! This will keep their hands and brains concentrated on carving shamrocks out of green construction paper to dress up the cardboard tubes for playful decor on St. Patrick’s day. Follow Sweet and Lovely Crafts detailed instructions for a craft-filled afternoon.

pot-o-gold-hatPot-O-Gold This is probably the most fun craft-turned-party-favor you’ll find for St. Patrick’s Day! It’s a leprechaun hat that doubles as a pot of gold! A few plastic food containers, paint, construction paper, and a bag of chocolate gold coins will make you look like a crafting hero and entertainer extraordinaire. For a tutorial, check out Paper Plate and Plane’s blog.

shamrock-votiveSt. Patrick’s Day Glow Extra jars or upcycled glass candle holders can be the object of a delightful St. Patrick’s Day craft! With craft glue and green tissue paper, your shamrocks will give your St. Patrick’s Day decor a warm glow! Mess for Less takes you through each step to make these simple yet classy crafts that children will love to make.

felt-shamrockPinch Protection For easy pinch-protection, a felt shamrock is the go-to embellishment for any outfit! This is another craft that will make use of your heart-making skills. Splendid Amy guides you through a few snips, a couple of stitches and the tiniest bit of hot glue to make the sweetest shamrock to put on a hat, a headband or to wear as a pin! This craft will have you counting down the days to March 17!

shamrock-cardShamrock Salutations For faraway Irish friends, send some shamrock salutations with homemade cards! A heart rubber stamp, glue, glitter, and paint turns a simple piece of paper into a St. Patrick’s Day keepsake for loved ones you want to reach out to on March 17. Child Made Tutorials lays out all of the instructions on how to make a heart into shamrock as well as shows you the sparkling finished product.

Love Your Pet Day

dog-loveFebruary 20 is National Love Your Pet Day! Whether you share your life with a cat, dog, hamster, or another critter, it is a perfect time to express your affection for them. Go for a long walk, spend some extra time playing, or give them a lot of cuddles today. To help inspire you, here are 20 fantastic quotes that will make you want to hug your pet.

  1. “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”—Anatole France
  2. “Time spent with cats is never wasted.”—Sigmund Freud
  3. “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”—Groucho Marx
  4. Pet-love“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”—Winston Churchill
  5. “Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.”—George Eliot
  6. “I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.”—Neil Gaiman
  7. “Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.”—Colette
  8. “Happiness is a warm puppy.”—Charles Schultz
  9. “If you don’t have a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you. But there may be something wrong with your life.”—Vincent Van Gogh
  10. “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.”—Mark Twain
  11. “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”—Mark Twain
  12. “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”—Jean Cocteau
  13. “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”—James Herriot
  14. “Perhaps the greatest gift an animal has to offer is a permanent reminder of who we really are.”—Nick Trout
  15. Kitten“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”—Leonardo da Vinci
  16. “The dog was created especially for children. He is the god of frolic.”—Henry Ward Beecher
  17. “I can’t imagine God not allowing my dog into heaven.”—Rick Warren
  18. “I’ve met many thinkers and many cats, but the wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.”—Hippolyte Taine
  19. “I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.”—Gilda Radner
  20. “A dog is one of the few things in life that is as it seems.”—Mark J. Asher

Chinese New Year: Year of the Goat

baby-goat February 19 marks the Chinese New Year. 2015 is the year of the goat — what that means might be a mystery to you, but we’ll break it down for you. Here is what the year of the goat means:

Aside from 2015, according to the Chinese zodiac, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, and 2003 are all years of the goat. That means if you were born in one of those years, you share certain characteristics similar to other people in that sign.

People born under the sign of the goat are considered to be calm, gentle and humble. They are comfortable being alone and are introspective. Though they don’t like to lead, they are good workers and fast learners with a strong sense of creativity.

Because of their calm demeanor, goats don’t have many health problems. However, their health is determined by a content state of mind and heart. Their health can quickly decline when they are unhappy. For 2015, goats should take extra precaution as goats are accident-prone this year.

Though goats like high-quality goods, they are not extravagant. However, for goats, 2015 will be a bumpy year financially. Goats should be careful with spending and investing as there will be unexpected expenses.

The year’s outlook isn’t spectacular for goats except in romance where there may be changes — finding love or ending a relationship will keep things interesting and test your emotions, but it won’t last for long.

According to China Highlights, goats can manage 2015 with a little luck:

  • 78776644Lucky colors: brown, red and purple
  • Lucky flowers: carnations, primroses
  • Lucky numbers: 2, 7
  • Lucky days: the 7th and 30th of any month

And what goats need to steer clear of are:

  • Unlucky colors: green, blue and black
  • Unlucky numbers: 6, 8

The Chinese zodiac isn’t something we all believe in and, in case you’re a non-believer, there’s one thing we can convince you of: goats are cute. Just click on the link and the year of the goat might get a little brighter for your.

 

Random Act of Kindness Day

February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day — it’s a day set aside for people to be kind to strangers. According to an article published in Psychology Today, when someone does a kind deed it for someone else it makes both people feel good. It’s a great idea in theory, but you have to do it right. Paying for someone’s latte may only push that person to buy someone else a latte and the act of kindness loses its meaning. We’ve come up with a few random acts of kindness you’ll feel good performing — and you don’t need to spend a lot (or any) money.

  1. garbageTake your neighbor’s garbage to the curb while you’re taking yours. It’s an easy task that no one wants to do — your neighbors will appreciate the gesture.
  2. Offer to go to the grocery store for an elderly neighbor. Going to the grocery store is just a chore for the young and strong — as an elderly person, it can be a struggle. What takes you 20 minutes could take them an hour. Not only are you doing a difficult chore for that person, you’re also giving them time to do other activities.
  3. Help a parent struggling with a stroller. Whether it’s single dad or a mom out on her own for the day, taking care of kids alone can be tough. Even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference in that person’s day.
  4. Help someone who looks lost with directions. The gratitude they’ll feel is immeasurable.
  5. waitressBe a generous tipper. The service industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Waiting tables is a tough job — it’s physical labor and also requires someone to be sharp. And with all that work, they don’t get health insurance, paid vacation, sick days or bonuses. A big tip could mean a lot more than just getting their bills paid.
  6. Send a thank-you note to someone who has improved your life. Take a few minutes to write out how much someone means to you — for someone to hear that you’re grateful that you know him or her is priceless.
  7. Take an hour of your week to spend time with the elderly at a nursing home. Taking time to talk to elderly people could make their day, week or month.
  8. Leave a kind note for your mail carrier or garbage collector. They’re part of what makes our community run — they deserve a little gratitude.
  9. Send a care package to soldiers. Whether they’re on a tour or they’ve just returned, a gift from a stranger to thank them for their service isn’t something they get from every American.
  10. dog-poundTake a bag of pet food, toys or pet beds to your local animal shelter. Homeless dogs and cats need food and comfort. Every little bit of kindness helps keep them from going hungry. If you have extra time, stop in to give a few pets some love.

Being kind isn’t hard — if someone’s having a bad day or a bad year a kind deed from a stranger may be a small action that has a big impact. Start looking out for ways to be kind every day, not just Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Valentine’s Day: The Candy Connection

chocolate-heartsCandy — especially chocolate! — is one of our favorite things to eat so it’s no surprise that Valentine’s Day is an exciting day for candy and chocolate lovers. It’s one day we throw our resolutions for disciplined diets out the window and we can indulge in our favorite treats. The tradition of candy and chocolates on Valentine’s Day had to start somewhere, so we did a little bit of digging to figure out why we give our sweethearts sweets on Valentine’s Day.

Romance We know St. Valentine as the Roman bishop who, in the third century, performed secret marriages for soldiers when it was forbidden. St. Valentine was jailed for this and wrote his jailer’s daughter a letter and signed it “Your Valentine.” This where it is believed the Valentine as we know it was born, but it was hundreds of years before candy became part of the tradition.

Sweets to the Sweet The idea of Valentine’s was preserved through word of mouth and tradition for the next few hundred years — and then literature set the word in stone. Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century poem “Parliament of Fowls” was the first literary reference to Valentine’s Day, but it was Shakespeare who made the reference “sweets to the sweet” in Hamlet in the early 1600s.

chocolate-heartsFood of Love Chocolate has a chemical in it called phenylethylamine. It’s a stimulant that’s released in the brain when people fall in love. The Aztecs, who discovered the cocoa bean, recognized this quality early on. In the early 15th century, Aztec leader Montezuma allegedly indulged in cocoa beans for his romantic  rendezvous. Aztecs also used it as gifts and served it at weddings.

Chocolates for Boxes After chocolate was introduced to Europe, it was initially only consumed as a beverage until the 1840s when manufacturers figured out how to make it into solid candies. Many credit chocolatier Richard Cadbury for Valentine’s Day chocolates. It’s a popular theory that he was the person behind the heart-shaped boxes when his father’s chocolate recipe evolved from drinking chocolate to eating chocolate in the late 1800s. While Richard Cadbury did design elaborate boxes for fancy chocolates, the company doesn’t claim he was the person who popularized Valentine’s Day boxes of chocolate. However, according to the New York Times, confectioners started selling Valentine’s Day chocolates in heart-shaped boxes in the 1890s.

conversation-heartsCandy Chat About the same time Cadbury was perfecting chocolate, a Massachusetts company was innovating other types of sweets. New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) designed the first candy machine in 1847. In 1866, they started producing “Conversation Candies,” a precursor to conversation hearts. It was around 1902 Sweetheart conversation hearts began production. Those conversation candies are still made today with updated phrases. This year’s new phrases include “BFF” (Best Friends Forever), “TE AMO” (I love you in Spanish), “JE T’AIME” (I love you in French), and “Pugs and Kittens” (for animal lovers).

While there may not be an actual connection between sweets and sweethearts, Valentine’s Day is an excuse to eat chocolate and candy guilt-free. Whether you use the day to feed your sweet tooth or you take the day to honor your sweetheart, the tradition of sending Valentine’s Day candy will live on.

10 Things to Brighten Your February

As Punxsutawney Phil informed us, there will be six more weeks of winter. But we don’t need a groundhog to tell us that — in most parts of the country right now, we can see outside our winter that we are in the depths of winter. When it’s this cold and snowy, it’s hard to believe we’ll ever see sunshine again. But we can take action to brighten our winter days. Here are 10 things to brighten your February.

Image and video hosting by HilariousGIFs.com1. That’s a face that is only made when someone smaller and fiercer than you takes your favorite warm spot. Dogs can understand about 250 words and gestures, and this kitty’s gesture is one this pup gets. That kitty needs a cozy pet bed of his own!

 

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2. It’s the only place the snow won’t get to him. Cats love enclosed spaces — it’s because they spend most of the day sleeping and, in the wild, it’s a way to shield themselves from predators. But, surely there’s a more comfortable way to stay protected than a tiny waste basket!

 

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2. You ask for attention from baby goats…. you get attention! They’re certainly lively! They’re the reason we get our morning pep — coffee was discovered when goat herders noticed the goats had a lot of energy after munching on coffee beans.

 

Image and video hosting by HilariousGIFs.com4.It’s not the Easter Bunny, but we’ll take him! Did you know that half of the world’s rabbits live in North America?

 

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5. Wait for it… a big bowl of adorable! Fun fact about African elephants: according to the Smithsonian, their pregnancies last 22 months!

 

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6. If only it were that fun for humans to run around an 8’x12′ room! It’s actually not hard to find pigs with this much enthusiasm — according to biologist Lyall Watson, pigs are born optimists.

 

 

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7. It must be Guinea pig feeding time! Do you know how you can tell a Guinea pig is happy? They purr just like cats!

 

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8. This is what happens when two feet of snow is blocking them from getting outside! These guys are so adorable, it’s no wonder more than a million dogs are named as primary beneficiaries in their owners’ wills.

 

Image and video hosting by HilariousGIFs.com9. This is one sneaky kitten! Cats are clever hunters — while stalking prey, to cut down on noise and to minimize their tracks, their back paws step almost directly in the spot where their front paws stepped.

 

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10. Have you ever seen so much joy from being sprayed with water? This isn’t too much of a surprise — raccoons love water. They almost never build their homes more than 1200 feet from a water source.

We’re counting down the days until we can have that much fun in water — but we have a few months. Until then, we have plenty of indoor time to plan our summer fun… and entertain our precious pets!

 

Origins of Groundhog Day

Groundhog-DayIt’s February 2 — it’s the day we look to a hibernating rodent to determine whether we’ll have six more weeks of winter or we’ll get an early spring. Unfortunately, this year, winter gets another stretch, but this is a tradition we’ve clung to since 1887 when the groundhog we rely on was crowned chief prognosticator. But the tradition goes back further in time and farther afield than Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Here’s a brief history of the origins of Groundhog Day.

Referring to a hibernating animal to predict the weather is a German tradition to mark half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox called Murmeltiertag (it’s also associated with the religious holiday Candlemas). In the 1800s there were quite a few German settlers in Pennsylvania and they adapted the tradition for their new home. In Germany, they use a hedgehog which is not related to the groundhog, but they both hibernate. It was 1886 when some of the Pennsylvania Germans (a club that now calls itself The Groundhog Club) went into the woods to find a hibernating animal similar to the hedgehog (the hedgehog is not native to North America). What they found is the groundhog they now call Punxsutawney Phil. The club claims the same Phil still makes the prediction every year and stays alive thanks to a special “groundhog punch” he drinks in the summer.

Groundhog-DayWhat might be confusing about the groundhog tradition is how seeing his shadow is a prediction of weather. If it’s sunny enough to create a shadow, you’d think spring is coming, however, according to the German tradition, sunshine and clear skies means storms are brewing. If it’s cloudy with no way for the groundhog to cast a shadow, that means the winter storms are moving out to make way for spring temperatures.

It’s also similar to the Gaelic festival celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and Isle of Man called Imbolc which, over time, sort of fused with the Christian tradition of Candlemas. They had a rhyme for the coming weather:

Groundhog-Day If Candlemas be fair and bright

Come, winter, have another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Go, winter, and come not again.

Though the origins of Groundhog Day are a patchwork of other traditions, it’s a tradition we love to celebrate. Whether it’s to give us hope for warmer weather to avoid cabin fever or we need a midwinter holiday to get through the following six weeks, it’s something to look forward to every year. And for those of us who are snowed in, it gives us a reason to re-visit the movie Groundhog Day.

National Puzzle Day: Benefits of Puzzles

PuzzleJanuary 29 is National Puzzle Day — we’ve been celebrating the day since 1995, but puzzles of all types have been tickling our brains for hundreds of years. Experts say we love puzzles because we like to pick out patterns and build knowledge. The satisfaction we get from that knowledge is only one of the benefits of working through puzzles. Here are 5 benefits of puzzles for National Puzzle Day.

The Whole Brain The left side of the brain is where we work through tasks logically. The right side of the brain houses our intuition. We have to use both logic and intuition to piece puzzles together.

PuzzleBrain Fitness Puzzles give your brain a workout — while it makes you happy to solve a puzzle, it may also keep your brain fit. Just like running and aerobics help keep your heart healthy and prevent disease, so may brain exercises.  Some scientists believe intellectual challenges can slow down the deterioration of the brain we experience with old age — some studies even show a correlation between puzzles and staving off Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain-Building For kids, puzzles aren’t just brain boosters, they’re brain builders. Through puzzles, they develop hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills. Start them off with puzzles with large pieces and have them improve their skills when they graduate to puzzles with smaller pieces.

PuzzleCognitive Skills For adults, puzzles don’t build cognitive skills, but children’s brains are like sponges with puzzles. It helps them learn shape recognition, helps strengthen memory and develops critical thinking skills.

Social & Emotional Skills Puzzles help people of all ages with social and emotional skills. They give us a goal to work toward as well as an exercise in perseverance — setting out a box of pieces can seem insurmountable, but if you want to meet your goal it’s will take work!

Celebrate National Puzzle Day by fitting a few pieces together, solving crossword clues or getting your number in the right spot. Anyway way you celebrate National Puzzle Day, you’re celebrating your brain!

National Corn Chip Day: Our Favorite Corn Chip Recipe to Serve at Your Big Game Party

Chicken-Casserole January 29 is National Corn Chip Day! We’re also just days away from the NFL’s biggest game when the Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots. So, while we’re celebrating the corn chip, we thought we’d also give you some ideas for your Big Game Party!

We love the crunch and salty goodness of a corn chip — it’s an amazing way to add a little texture to a casserole for a tasty game day snack. Here’s our favorite corn chip recipe to serve at your Big Game party:

Chicken-CasseroleCheesy, Crunchy Chicken Casserole

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2-10.5 oz cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1-10.5 oz can diced tomatoes with chilis
  • 2 chicken breasts cooked and cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 1-12oz bag of corn chips
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (you can be generous with the cheese)

(if you like it spicy, you can add 1-4 oz can diced green chilis)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until they are slightly soft and a little translucent. Add cream of chicken soup, diced tomatoes and chicken. Mix well and heat until the mixture is just bubbling.

Chicken-Casserole

Prepare a medium casserole dish (11”x7”) with cooking spray. Make a layer of corn chips on the bottom of the dish. Spoon the chicken mixture over the layer of chips followed by a layer of cheese. Continue layering until you run out of ingredients. There should be three layers with cheese on top.

Chicken-Casserole

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly. Let cool on a cooling rack. This recipe makes 4 cups.

Once you starting eating this dish, you won’t be able to stop — and neither will your game day guests! However, if you can’t eat it all by the time your favorite team is celebrating its victory, it makes great leftovers. This casserole is even better the next day or even two days later.

We have more ideas for your Big Game party — check out our Pinterest page for more inspiration to get your party started!

Chicken-Casserole