Things I Loved in 2020

**Remember, my blog is not sponsored or monetized in any way. No link in my posts is an affiliate link, and these ideas are all my own. None of these companies know who I am, and all of this is crap I buy with my own dang money. I’m just not that cool, y’all**

The husband has recovered (mostly) from the ‘Rona, and through careful quarantining, the kids and I did not contract the virus. He has pretty sick there for a while, and is dealing with a lingering cough and fatigue, but we got lucky. Thanks for the well wishes.

So, as I have been shopping for the holidays and planning for the new year, I thought I pass along some of the things that I really enjoyed this year (other than the endless warmth of the 2020 dumpster fire).

I really love Knife Aid. It’s like the Netflix of knife sharpening. You pick how many you want sharpened and they send you the materials to pack up your knives and mail them in. Then, they send them back to you perfectly sharpened. It’s only about a week in turnaround time and very convenient. I have used them twice, including last month.

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I love OXO containers. My pantry is out of control, and these are helping me tame the chaos. I still want more.

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A bluetooth meat thermometer was game changer. Yes, I use it when smoking meat, but I also use it for so much more. For example. I used this on Thanksgiving for the turkey, which meant I could watch the temp in real time, and also not lose heat from constantly opening and closing the oven to check on the bird. I also use it for cooking roasts, prime rib, chicken and more. You can go about your day without worrying that you are going to overcook an expensive piece of meat or undercook the poultry.

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I am totally OBSESSED with this one. So, it’s basically a murder-mystery subscription box you get each month, but think of it like a limited tv series with episodes. One “season” lasts a few months, or you can purchase past “seasons”/mysteries in their entirety. You get all kinds of clues and documents to investigate, but they also have cool online components to enrich the experience. We are currently working our way though the Blair Witch season and the Cadence Theater season. If you are stuck in quarantine, pouring over clues in order to catch a killer is a great way to pass the time.

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I am in love with Hue-It Hand Dyed Fibers. This local-to-me Louisiana artist specializes in small-batch dying, and has an incredible portfolio of colorways. Most of her stuff sells out fast but she takes preorders if you missed out on a colorway. I recently snatched up a couple of skeins that are just waiting for the right pattern to come along.

The New Pie by Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin

My neighbors gifted me this book after we had a mini-Thanksgiving this summer (they are in our “pod/quarantine bubble”). This book is LEGIT cool. These recipes are not for those looking for basic pies. These guys compete around the country and their ideas are complete bananas. Favorites so far are the Strawberry Margarita Pie and the Caramel Popcorn Pie.

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This cookbook was written by the founder of the Mosquito Supper Club restaurant in New Orleans. It’s beautifully shot and showcases Louisiana food traditions that are slowing being lost. If you have any interest an authentic Louisiana cuisine, this needs to be in your library.

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So, my go-to recipe software, Living Cookbook quietly went out of business and has basically ghosted it’s customers. So, I spent part of the year test-driving Cook’n, MasterCook, and Paprika, which came out the clear winner. I think it was the easiest to learn/use out of the three, and with a more intuitive interface. I was able to import my Living Cookbook files, though I will say that some things did get lost in translation. I had to go back and check each recipe to correct some things that got garbled in the transfer, but the same thing happened with the other two as well. Otherwise, I’m happy using it, and very grateful for the cloud sharing ability.

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This herb stripper was featured on Food Network’s The Kitchen, and host Sunny Anderson loved it so much she immediately said she was taking it home with her. I LOVE this. It strips those pesky thyme and rosemary leaves off of their stems in two seconds flat.

Other Favorites

Knitting Podcasts

Knitmore Girls, Down Cellar Studio, Yarniacs, Two Ewes

Food Podcasts

The Sporkful (hands down one of the best), The Splendid Table, Gravy, Milk Street, Good Food.

Food Websites/Blogs

Damn Delicious, Half-Baked Harvest, Foodie with Family

Shows I’ve Binge-watched

Lucifer, Virgin River, The Chef Show, Castle Rock, The Umbrella Academy, Westworld, Anne with an E, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Netflix), His Dark Materials, The Outsider, Perry Mason.

So those are a few things that I really loved this year, and made this insanity a little bit better. We’ve been through a lot of changes, but we also had a lot of fun.

Here’s to 2021 not being a trainwreck.

Finished Knits Round-Up

I’ve been knitting up a storm lately, so here’s what’s off the needles.

Pattern: Fantastitch by Stephen West (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: WalkCollection Bliss in the Stone, Volcanic Sand, Artic Wolf, Limestone, Dutch Sky, and Birch Tree Colorways

Needles: US 4

Notes: No mods on this one. It is one of my favorite projects, even if it took me FOREVER. But that’s because this thing is huge! It’s about 9 feet from point to point, hence my need for G-Man to model it for me. As always with Stephen’s patterns, it was clear and easy to understand, and though I did not need them, he usually has tutorial videos on certain techniques. Overall, thumbs up on this project.

Pattern: Round and Round Cowl by Crazy Sock Lady Designs (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Lorna’s Laces String Quintet in the Blueberry Cobbler colorway set

Needles: US 4

Notes: I’ve had this yarn languishing in my stash for years. It came from the now-defunct YarnBox, and I could never figure out what to do with it. When I saw this pattern, I knew it would be perfect for this yarn. The pattern is very easy and well-written. I think my only complaint is the nylon content and high twist of the yarn did not produce as smooth of a fabric as I prefer. Bean loves it so I am forseeing her “borrowing” it quite a bit.

Pattern: Baa-ble Hat by Donna Smith

Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in the Highland Fleece, Earth Ivy, Spring Ice, and Midnight Sea colorways

Needles: US 6 and US 7

Notes: This has been a popular pattern for years and I finally decided to work it up. It’s my first attempt at stranded colorwork, and a good starting project to learn the techniques. (If you are hesitant about colorwork, it’s easier than you think. I avoided it for years, and now feel silly). This yarn is an excellent choice for colorwork because the fibers really encourage the stitches to “stick” together. Easy pattern as well.

Pattern: Swing Left Socks by Just Run Knit Designs

Yarn: Little Skein the the Big Wool’s House Sock in the Swing Left colorway

Needles: US 1

Notes: I bought the Sock the Vote kit from Little Skein in the Big Wool (Anne) back in 2016. I saved it for this year and worked on them when we travelled a couple of times. Forgive the pic. It’s not easy to take a picture of a sock on your own foot. I wasn’t a big fan of the German short row heel technique, but that’s because I don’t think I was grasping it with the way it was worded. If you already have a sock heel construction you prefer, it would be easy to sub it in. I enjoyed finally knitting myself some socks, much to my husband’s complaint. He loves handknit socks, but his giant Neanderthal feet make me feel like I am in a sock knitter’s hell.

So there’s the update on the knitting front. I am taking a break from some current projects/plans in order to knock out a few knits for Christmas gifts. My son’s girlfriend is definitely knit-worthy, so I’m hoping to knock out some mittens and a hat for her. I may or may not whip up some gifts for neighbors, but I do know I need a break from fingering-weight projects. I could go for some more instant-gratification projects. Time for some cozy movies and cozy projects.

My Workbox 3.0 Review–What I Like, What I Learned, and Whether I Would Buy It Again

Sooooooooo, after lusting after the Workbox 3.0 from the Original Scrapbox, we finally bit the bullet and ordered one. Considering the hefty price tag on this item, it really is an investment that you need to feel confident about, and that you are making for the right reasons. Here are the contributing factors that tipped the decision to purchase this into the “yes” category.

  1. I am a big crafter. I knit, I sew a bit, I embroider, I recently fell down the Cricut rabbit hole, and I make candles.
  2. My yarn stash and craft supplies overtook my closet, under my bed, parts of the garage, the laundry room, and more. I spent far too much time digging through these areas to find stuff, which made projects take longer than necessary. It also sucked the fun out of the process
  3. I do not have a craft room or space for one in my house, nor do I have a desk or office.
  4. Any crafting required me to drag out sometimes heavy stuff to the kitchen table, which made the prospect of working on a project seem burdensome.
  5. I wanted my closet back and you will pry my yarn stash from me at risk to your own life, so don’t even suggest downsizing.

After a lot of hemming and hawing, as well as review research, I ordered one. I decided on the black beadboard model and added the crown accessory (which is the crown molding on top with an included light kit.)

The first thing you need to know is that it’s at least a six to eight week turnaround time from order to delivery, so you could be waiting two months to get the product. Secondly, this ships in a large crate which has to be delivered by a professional freight service, and they will only put it in your driveway. You have to be home for delivery, and it better not be on a rainy day, because you will need to crowbar open the crate, and then you must carry about 30 boxes and container stacks into your house asap. I highly encourage you to talk to the freight company when they call if you have any concerns about a giant truck being able to get to your location and offload a large crate without incident.

Also, while the assembly instructions are pretty good, you will still need several hours and you really can’t do this without two people, so plan ahead for that. We ran into problems with damaged pieces (which I will get into in a minute), but had we not, this still would have taken the Hubs and me about two days to assemble, working in 3-4 hour increments.

Let’s get into the concerning aspects of my experience. When I opened the crate, none of the plastic bins were broken, but most had scuff marks on them. They were not packaged separately in the crate, and were only protected by paper between them to prevent sticking in their stacks (though some still stuck together and had to be finessed apart). I am still amazed I managed to separate them without breakage. Most of the cabinet pieces appeared intact, but Scrapbox provides a jar of touch-up paint, so they clearly anticipate items getting damaged in shipping. Given the price-point, that was kind of a raised eyebrow moment for me.

With so many boxes and pieces, it was impossible for me to open and inspect every item immediately. The boxes alone overtook my entire dining room, so we just started with assembly. If you have a small home or space, this process will overtake much more area than you think, because you will have boxes and pieces everywhere.

The boxes are labeled very well with numbers, as are almost all of the pieces, so Scrapbox has put in a lot of effort to make assembly as easy as possible for a piece of this size. That was a plus. However, we got about 1/4 through the assembly when the first problem cropped up:

These two pieces of the center component were broken when we opened it’s box. I emailed customer service, and they sent replacements. However, this took a little over a week, so I had a 1/4 finished Workbox with parts spread across my house, making my dining room unusable and my bedroom a maze. When the pieces finally came in, we resumed assembly and made it almost to the finish line. I wish that they offered expedited shipping for these issues, because, as you will read, it only got worse.

Then, we unboxed the crown addition, and it was cracked and unusable. I emailed customer service again, and again, they sent a replacement (another week+ delay and house in chaos), and guess what?

That’s what I saw as soon as I opened the box. So, we are now nearly a month in of trying to assemble this thing (after waiting nearly two months for it), two broken crown units later, and I am not happy. My husband is VERY not happy. In addition to this, I will say that generally, my customer service experience was good, but I did have to prod for follow ups or answers as this dragged on, which did not help my frustration level.

The next crown unit came, and praise Jeebus, it was intact! We finally finished assembly and I could actually see the conclusion of the project that would never end. Now, let’s take a look at my Workbox 3.0:

Above is the unit fully open, with desk extended, and the light on. A quick note on the plastic bins–every single bin has optional inserts or dividers that are included. So, you can divide the taller bins into sections for even more storage options, and the inserts for the larger, flatter drawers are perfect for notions. I am very happy with the level of optional customization without additional purchases. I can constantly re-work the bins and shelves to adjust to my needs. The light in the crown kit is nice and bright, and I like the finished look of the crown molding. However, it’s up to you on whether that is enough reason to spend that much extra. After the drama of the crown kit, I am still getting over my frustration. However, I definitely needed the light in my darker room. Now, lets look into the specifics:

Before I open the cabinet fully, there’s space on the backside for my Cricut mats, which is handy. You can hang anything on these that is fairly flat. I used small Command hooks. I will also hang up my fabric rulers on the other door at a later date.

The right door has a panel of Velcro zipper pockets, and a series of larger and smaller shelves/bins. I am using them for yarn, and am still working on loading up the smaller bins.

This is the top of the center panel. I have my bins stuffed with my Cricut vinyl, embroidery supplies, fabric, glue guns, paper, and more. The drawers host miscellaneous stuff.

The desk folds out easily, though the legs can be tough to fold up if they are feeling sticky. There is plenty of room in the desk cubby for my Cricut Maker and my Cricut Easy Press. If you do Cricut or similar devices, this is a big bonus for accessibility.

Below the desk, I store my sewing machine, ball winder and swift, my knitting needle binder, and pattern magazines.

On the left door, I store more yarn, more needles, some works in progress, Cricut tools, paints, and still have plenty of room for more. There are optional rods for easy ribbon dispensing, but I don’t need those at this time. I am still working on organization, but I have plenty of room to grow and adjust.

**Note** I did not put my candle supplies in here. Between the scents, dyes, and waxes, these materials can cause a lot of damage if they co-mingle with other stuff, so I keep those in the laundry room and isolated.

I’ve spent a lot of time crafting the past couple of weeks, and here’s what I think.

Sooooo….Lets Review:

Pros

  • It’s basically a craft room in an armoire, because it looks nice and offers a functional workspace in smaller environments. This really was a perfect solution for me.
  • It solved almost all of my craft storage and workspace challenges.
  • Endless customization means this can change and evolve with my needs.
  • All the bins and dividers come with it, as well as the Velcro zipper pouches, so you are not just buying the cabinet, you are getting all of the components as well, which factors into the price value.
  • I can start and stop projects quickly and easily because my materials are within arms’ reach.
  • I get an incredible sense of satisfaction being able to see and access my materials in an instant, rather than dig storage bins from underneath my bed or risk a concussion pulling down my sewing machine from the closet shelf. I get a certain mental boost being surrounded by a perfectly organized craft room I can tuck away in seconds.
  • It makes me happy,

Cons

  • You could be looking at weeks/months from order to final assembly.
  • Scrapbox still needs to work on their quality control, especially when it comes to shipping. The jar of touch-up paint demonstrates that they know you will likely encounter damage. At this price point and time investment, I think they could do better, especially when it’s particle board and not solid wood.
  • Customer service starts great but may need prodding if your issue lasts longer than the initial encounter. Despite small delays, I believe the service is still good and my perceptions need to be taken in context of my extended experience and frustrations. Additionally, I wish they expedited shipping after my assembly dragged out so long due to damaged goods.
  • Delivery offers potential challenges to people who live in apartments, small homes, rural areas, and more. If delivery seems expensive, it’s because an actual freight company is delivering a giant crate on a forklift. You have to factor this in when considering your purchase.

My Advice

  • Pay attention to the dimensions and measure your space. This may be as wide and tall as many armoires, but it’s also twice as deep, not to mention the room needed to open the doors to full extension. If you need to, cut ribbon or paper strips to help you layout a visual example of the dimensions. It’s bigger than you think.
  • Take pictures of any and all damage, from the crate upon delivery to any damaged pieces you encounter. After the second crown was delivered, I had my camera ready and took numerous pictures of the box on my porch and it’s condition, the damage observed as soon as I opened the box, and the open and broken light kit within the box. This not only helped resolve the issue with Scrapbox, but they thanked me because it could help them with shipping insurance issues.
  • Do not assume you can assemble this by yourself or quickly. It’s a project, though it’s not difficult. Manage your assembly expectations and you will be ok.
  • Be honest about why you are buying this and the cost. For me, the cost really was worth the utility it brings, the solutions it offers, and I use it every day. I was lacking in storage and hating spending 10-15 minutes dragging out my equipment and materials across the house before even starting a project. If you have a viable solution for a craft space outside of this, I encourage you to explore that first (unless you have the expendable income to buy this at will). Don’t buy it because it looks cool. Buy it because the you are honest about the cost-benefit analysis. The cost for most people means that it needs to be a true solution, and not just a whim.

So, there ya have it. I bought the thing, I hated the process of finishing the thing, but I now love the thing. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help!

**just a reminder. My blog is not sponsored or monetized. This my own review of an item I paid for myself at full price. Original Scrapbox doesn’t know me other than the headache I brought to their customer service. My review is mine alone. If you see any ad on my blog, that’s from WordPress, and I have no control over whether or not you see an ad or its content. That’s free blogging, yo. **