Tortellini with pesto and roasted veggies is a perfect weeknight supper, and not just because it looks like a rainbow (which is always awesome). It also comes together in under 30 minutes, which is right up my alley. Plus it still tastes amazing when heated up the next day – assuming you have leftovers, that is. Pinterest link is here, and the original recipe can be found here.
What if I told you that there was an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie smoothie recipe that was totally healthy? I know, I probably wouldn’t believe me either, but it’s true. This smoothie tastes amazing and is nothing but healthy ingredients (unless you are like me and refuse to buy the fancy cacao nibs and just add a handful of chocolate chips like a normal person- apparently chocolate chips aren’t healthy, but whatever). If you prefer to drink your breakfasts like I do, and have a sweet tooth (also like I do), then this is for you, friend. Pinterest link is here, and the original recipe for the smoothie is right here.
Have you ever tried to make soap before? I’ve always been really intrigued, and this gradient soap is SO pretty… but I always feel like the coat of making soap involved buying really expensive soap bits in a craft store, which seems weird to me. But I’ve been thinking that this might be a fun craft to try with Lila…. thoughts? Any soap makers have some words of wisdom? Pinterest link is here, and the full DIY is here.
Can you believe it’s actually going to be May next week?! I’m so ready for it, ready to put winter behind me and get a move on some lovely, flower-filled weather. spring always makes me think about starting seeds indoors, or buying little starter plants (far more the way I roll) and making this really pretty indoor herb garden. because nothing is better than using fresh herbs in your cooking. Or in my world, on cheese and crackers. Seriously, fresh herbs on cheese and crackers is pretty much a meal unto itself in my world. Anyway. The pretty gradient planter DIY is so bright and would look amazing on any kitchen counter. Pinterest link is here, and the original DIY is here.
Have a gorgeous weekend, everyone! I hope the sun shines just for you.
I’ so excited to welcome you to the first installment of Knit Stories! Knit Stories will be a regular feature, with a different knitter each time talking about a project that was especially significant for them. If you would like to submit a knit story, you can read all the details here. Submissions are ongoing, feel free to send in a story any time.
“The little sweater in this photograph is worn. It needs a good washing, and maybe some love from a sweater stone, but otherwise, it still has plenty of life and wear left. I love how knitted objects can rekindle feelings and memories of when you knit them and whom you knit them for, and this little sweater is no exception. I knit this little sweater for my son. After a complicated labor with his older sister, I knew that the likelihood of a natural birth was nearly out of the question; my body didn’t cooperate the first time, and the combination of small stature and
large babies is not always a complementary one. I sat through a tedious explanation of why the doctors would not risk a labor and scheduled my surgery. Four weeks later, I dutifully returned to the hospital to have my scheduled c section and to finally meet this little boy who
was so eagerly anticipated.
I cast on stitches for this little sweater as I waited for the surgeon to come, knitted the little collar as they explained the procedure, and chatted with my mother as I switched to a larger needle and placed my stitch markers. I used an earthy green superwash wool, strong but soft, thinking it would be perfect for this late spring baby. My first child had been born in late August of an Indian summer, so hand knits were superfluous for the first few months of her life, indoors or outdoors. As they prepared to take me to surgery, I kissed my mother and husband, knowing that we were all excited but a bit anxious for this to be over. Despite the excitement and anticipation that surrounds a birth, so often we forget about how terrifying it can be, and I had not forgotten how difficult my previous delivery had been, and how thankful I was for a healthy baby with no complications at the end of it.
My beautiful boy came into this world, nine and a half pounds of sturdy little man, with ten perfect fingers and toes. He gazed at my husband as the surgeons began to put me back together, and I cried, wishing I could hold him right there and smell his perfect little head. Within fifteen minutes of that moment, he needed to be moved to the neonatal unit. The kind pediatrician assured me his issues were routine, and that his lungs needed a little help after his less than traditional entrance to the world. I didn’t believe it was as simple as that, because
despite her calm assurances, I could see the concern in her eyes. As I was wheeled back to recovery, my husband went to the neonatal care unit, hoping for more information. My mother shortly followed, and I stayed in recovery, crying onto the beginning of the little sweater I had
knit, seeing nurses and specialists who assured me things were progressing and that I would be moved closer to my son as soon as possible.
I waited, alternating between knitting a few stitches here and there between checking my phone for updates and allowing the medical staff
to tend to my incision and bring a pump in to try and get colostrum for my baby. In a few hours, I was taken to the postpartum floor, where I was only a corridor away from the neonatal unit. Upon finding out that I had yet to see my son, the sympathetic nurse immediately put me into a wheelchair and slowly wheeled me down the hall, with my husband helping wheel the IV poles and bags along behind. I was frightened of what I would see. As we entered the unit, there was my son, covered in tubes and sensors, connected to machines that beeped and helped him breathe. He was suffering from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) due to a deficiency of surfactant in his lungs. It was almost comical to think my nearly ten pound child was suffering from an issue found in preterm babies; all of the masks and tubes in the unit were too small for him due to his size, and the tubes had to be taped to his face since he kept pulling them off.
Over the next week, I sat by his crib, watching machines breathe for him, jumping with anxiety every time an alarm went off, and holding his little hand when I thought it would calm him. Holding him was difficult due to all the tubes, and less than two days after his birth, his lung
collapsed, necessitating a tube to be placed in his side to help him breathe. As I sat, I added stitches to his little sweater. When I couldn’t knit, I held it on my lap, like a security blanket, or a lovey that a child insists on taking everywhere.
I knit as I watched my mother hold him for the first time, singing the same lullabies she had sung to me as a child, and years later, to my daughter, her first grandchild, smiling as she made up new verses to each song. I knit as I watched my husband snuggle his son, telling him dad jokes and explaining to him how the machines around him worked. I knit as I pumped milk, exhausted by the frequency with which it had to be done, but glad to know that this was something I could do to help, since it felt as though I had failed my child in so many ways at that point.
I held the little sweater in my hands as I cried on the day I was discharged from the hospital but my son had to stay. It came back
and forth with me as I went from home and back to the hospital each day, sometimes multiple times a day to bring milk or to just sit with my son. By the end of our weeklong stay at the hospital, most of the nurses knew I was a knitter, and they usually checked in on my progress
as they came to attend to my son.
My son came home, perfectly happy and healthy one week after his hectic entrance into the world. I finished the sweater much later, although I don’t remember when. By the time he was six months old, it fit perfectly, and I became emotional as I put it over his head and
remembered all the tears, hopes and wishes that had gone into knitting it, and how much I had been comforted by the simple rhythm of knit and purl.
Declan is now almost three years old, a happy and rambunctious little boy full of life, with no long term effects from the eventful first days of his life. His sweater is far too small now, and he has since received many other sweaters, which he wears constantly. I still have his little green sweater, and have set it aside, remembering how it came to be, and what it meant to have it there.”
Knit Stories is written by a different knitter each time, talking about a meaningful project and how it came to be. This one is written by Karina Sweeney, and you can find her on Ravelry, her website, and Instagram.
Mods: Adjusted the yoke and sleeves to be ribbed instead of stockinette, and adjusted yoke increases and sleeves for stitch counts and slightly different gauge. Details can be found on her project page, here.
What Makes This Awesome: This pattern already had a really interesting yoke construction, but swapping the stockinette for ribbing really amplifies the design detail and makes this sweater even more visually interesting. Ribbing is an unsung hero of knitting fabric- sure, we love ribbing on cuffs and hems and necklines, but all over ribbing is actually super simple but so visually impactful. Now I’m craving ribbed details on sweaters, because this is just SO gorgeous.
The next time you are considering a pattern but it has some elements you’d like to change, consider ribbing- would it look really great with ribbing all along the sleeves? At the side seams? ribbed sleeves to the elbows? So many options!
I love pasta soooooo much, but I feel like the only pasta I eat lately is spaghetti bolognese, since I can make it quickly and the kids love it. But when I want something more grown up, I love the simplicity of this, which is a basic Cacio e Pepe (which literally means cheese and pepper), but with bright bits of lemon and big handfuls of arugula. I really love arugula. Pinterest link is here, and the full recipe is here.
Okay, they look really delicious right? So don’t get weird when I tell you that there are pureed black beans and avocado hiding in the recipe. They taste chocolaty and fudgey, you can’t taste the veggies, and the beans and avocado add loads of fiber, protein and vitamins, which mean you should totally have another brownie. And that peanut butter just adds even more protein and deliciousness. Healthy brownies, who knew? Pinterest link is here, and the original recipe is here.
I’m regularly asked about my switch from working in an office to working freelance, and once I started writing this I realized I have SO MUCH to say on this subject! I already have drafts for other posts about it, so if you ever wanted to know more about my work life, you are in luck. I have only worked in retail (my first job when I was 16!) and in various offices, so if your day job is not like this at all- and there are many, many professions that are not- please take my description of working in an office with a huge pillar of salt.
I worked in an office for many years, convinced I was working hard. Now I realize that I was being paid to breathe the air and drink coffee between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and work sometimes while breathing the office air. A lot of this has to do with many of the tasks that are assigned in offices- projects that go on for ages and require many different people to handle different parts, and output looks very different in those situations.
Switching to freelance, no matter what sort of work you do as a freelancer, means you only get paid when the output is complete. Maybe for some larger scale projects a percentage is paid upfront, but most of the money only comes in after you’ve sent the invoice, which is after you’ve done the work you said you were going to do.
When I say you only get paid based on output, I mean work that you can actually see. So if it took me twice as long to ghost write a blog post for a company, or I was taking photos and it took me longer than I quoted for because I was really in the zone, that time is time I’m not getting paid. I also now work at least a little bit almost every single day, including the weekends. It’s a combination of ‘if you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work’ and ‘must work faster, I only get paid if I finish this!’
What I Wish I Had Known Before The Switch
So. Much. Accounting. Freelance work is for people who are committed to diligently tracking their hours, expenses, invoices, and bottom lines, otherwise you are almost definitely going to be losing money.
You Need to Establish a Routine, or you will not get as much work done. While it’s fun to feel like your days are free-form for a little while, you eventually need to get down to to work. It is a million times easier if you have a set schedule- maybe certain days where you batch a particular set of tasks, a couple hours in the morning for particular projects, weekly admin time to handle the aforementioned accounting.
Figure Out If You Can Afford the Lean Months. It’s worth taking a very honest look at how much money you spend each month, and then make a conservative estimate on how much money you will be bringing in each month. If you aren’t quite there yet, think about if that is because you aren’t yet making enough money on your side hustle (give it time, you’ll get there!), or if you have potential business opportunities in the wings waiting for you, and just need more time to pursue them.
Living with a SO? Then They MUST be on Board. If you are married or living with significant other and don’t mind having your entire financial future knotted together, then you have more wiggle room and can factor in their income. But that also means if you make the leap to freelance, it’s a decision you have to make together. I generally think that being financially dependent on your partner is a massive disadvantage for so many reasons, so if you are making the leap and counting on your partner, make sure that they are all in on your decision too. And be prepared to occasionally have to justify how you spend not only your day, but your money, too.
So. Much. Alone. Time. I’m an introvert by nature, and even I sometimes find it a bit much. Especially on a day when I’m dragging my tail and it’s hard to focus, it’s very easy to just get distracted by the internet or dance around to some music or decide that this is time to try out navy blue eyeliner and unearth EVERYTHING in my yarn stash. Which is why I am happy to go work in a cafe, and chat with the barristas. Keeps me on task.
What I Do
I write (poetry, short stories, working on a novel, etc), but it pays next to nothing. So I also do social media and content creation for a variety of craft and yarn companies, both as an account manager for Stitchcraft Marketing and my own clients. This means that I do photos, ghostwrite website content and blog posts, newsletters, work on every single social media channel out there, etc. I also occasionally do sponsored posts here on this blog, but I’m really choosy, so they aren’t happening every month. This means that when I’m budgeting, I’m basing the calculations on the typical number of hours I work for Stitchcraft and my clients every month. Anything else is a bonus, as far as my finances are concerned. I also tell myself ALL THE TIME that I’m going to work on more pattern designing, but it takes me along time, and then anything that pays gets pushed to the front of the queue, and design projects languish. I need to work on that.
Where I Work
Most of the time, I work right here, on my couch:
I don’t have a home office. I don’t even have a desk. Which I’m fine with it’s not like I have a Pinterest board full of home office ideas or anything because I enjoy working at home. And when that gets a bit lonely, I go work in cafes.
Toronto is full of gorgeous cafes, and I love them all. The trick to working in a cafe is determining what your must-have criteria is, and I have a long list: robust wifi, attractive surroundings, comfy room temperature, tasty lattes, assorted sweet and savory food options, other laptop wielding people. Those other laptop people are crucial- they are the ones you will ask to look after your laptop when you go to the washroom.
In January I joined a co-working space, Make Lemonade. I was googling co-working spaces in Toronto, it popped up, and I loved everything I read so I booked a tour. Make Lemonade is an all-female co-working space, and while I have no problem working alongside men, the atmosphere is so completely different without men. Men are allowed in the space, of course- I recently saw what I think was a job interview happening. I couldn’t hear anything they were saying, but he was leaning forward and moving his hands around like he was trying to convince of her something, and she was leaning back in her chair, legs crossed, looking at him with a completely neutral expression on her face (Resting Boss Face, I believe it’s called), and occasionally writing things down.
If I were interviewing someone, I would love to interview them here.
It’s pretty, bright, fun – not trying to be too cool, just a positive space. They run all sorts of workshops and masterclasses and networking events and everything I’ve attended has made me happy that I’m there. And of course, it was especially awesome when this happened:
Forbes.com ran an article on Rachel Kelly, the founder of Make Lemonade, and they featured my photo on the second page which was pretty fun. It highlights something that is sort of magical about finding the right co-working space – when you find other people who are like minded and like-hearted, you feel like you are all in it together. Having other people around you chasing their goals is like jet fuel for chasing mine, too.
Don’t let all those gorgeous photos from Creating Light Studio (they had a photo shoot at Make Lemonade one day, can you tell?) fool you into thinking that is what every day of my work life looks like. I go in a few times a month. Otherwise, it’s either the top photo of this post (hi, couch!), or I’m working in a cafe. Below is a photo I took last week, at a coffee-and-work hang with some friends. At the table: a geneticist, a graphic designer, an account director, and me (the uncool one with the obvious black PC laptop in front of the empty chair). All of us working. No, we didn’t draw the stegosaurus on the table.
The day-to-day is different all the time, and while that sounded exotic when I was still working a 9-5, now I know it means that I have to spend time thinking about the shape of my day, every day, and where I am going to be. Then thinking through the logistics of what I need and what to bring as I change locations. It’s an extra bit of bandwidth that you just don’t need to worry about when you go to the same place and have everything you need at your desk, like you would at a typical office job.
Is it Worth It?
I love working with my clients, I love writing, but I don’t magically have more time in my day like I thought I would. I also work harder and make less money for the privilege (and make no mistake, I am very privileged to be able to take a pay cut to pursue my creative life) of working on amazing projects every day. Some days feel like winning. Other days I wonder who the heck I think I am to try to pursue my goals when it feels like Facebook/Instagram are already filled with people totally crushing not only their goals, but my goals too.
Some days are magic. Some days I feel like a failure.
I recently attended a retirement dinner for my former boss, and I thought I would only know a handful of the people there. Turns out I knew 90% of the room, people I had previously worked with from all across the country. Most of them asked me if I would consider coming back- including the incoming boss, whom I had worked with before from a different branch of the organization. And honestly, it was a good night with a lot of the things that I loved about my old job, and I was full of wine and beef wellington and crème brûlée and nostalgia…. I don’t know. Not having to work so hard, making more money again, those are attractive prospects. But then I love the flexibility of my days, the ability to respond to things that come up last minute, spend more time writing when it’s going really well, or be there for my kids or clients when something comes up last minute… it’s hard to say if one option is better than the other. They each have benefits and drawbacks, and it depends on the day which is more attractive.
No one can answer this question for you, and know that your answer could change from one year to the next. Our goals change, our values can change, and what we want almost definitely will change. Stability, medical/dental benefits, a work-paid RRSP, possibly more money are on the day job side of things. Freedom, potential to make even more (or even less!) money than a day job, flexibility and the chose-your-own-adventure of every day are on the other side.
There are a lot of crossroads in everyone’s life, where you are standing in front of a forked path and you have to make a choice. It takes a really acrobatic mind to look far ahead on those paths and see not just the immediate results of choosing one or the other, but what the second, third, and fourth results are from those decisions. Each choice we make in our lives ripples out in a series of consequences, challenges, and opportunities that stem from an earlier choice, and the leap into freelance can be one of the biggest.
From where you stand right now, which would you choose?