29/04/2015

A Beginners Guide To Crochet - The Slipknot

Inked Hibiscus Crochet for Beginners
When I was asked to write these posts I held back. I wasn't sure if I should or not. While I love crocheting, I don't think I'm good enough to be imparting any wisdom to people who want to learn. I'm self taught. I'm still learning. But then I thought, hey, why not? I love talking about my love for crochet, and trying to get people to try it. Heck, I've even tried to teach people in person. Why should a blog be any different? 
Back in primary school, we were taught how to crochet. I use the term "taught" lightly. At the end of the year, I knew how to make a slipknot, and a basic chain. Anything beyond that was a mystery to me. But when I started reading blogs, before I was pregnant, all these crocheted pretty things popped up in the blogs I read. I decided one night to try to learn again, and dusted off my hook.
First things first, you'll need the basics. A crochet hook and some yarn. While you're starting out, any basic hooks will do. Since I crochet quite a bit, I use rubber handled hooks that I bought from Amazon. Though I've picked up some different types for different projects. It's great that they're so cheap!

Inked Hibiscus Crochet for Beginners crochet hooks
Helpful, but not necessary, are stitch markers. In fact, in all my time crocheting, I use a contrasting length of yarn to help me keep count. Save those pennies until you know if it's something you'll be keeping up.
Another handy tip, use a hook in a size that will work well with the yarn you're using. I started off using a 5mm hook, and some run of the mill double knitting yarn. Usually, there will be an icon on the yarn tag, telling you which size knitting needles or crochet hooks to use. The bulkier the yarn, the bigger the hook. Simples!
Once you have your supplies gathered, it's time to get started. Depending on which your dominant hand is, is the hand you'll hold your hook. I tend to hold mine like a pencil, but I've decided there is no right or wrong way to crochet. Do what feels comfortable. Also, when you're taking pictures of your hands for your blog, make sure you didn't use a crappy Revlon nail polish that chips when you look at it. Or be to lazy to reapply nail polish before you take said photos. Bad, bad blogger!
Inked Hibiscus Crochet for Beginners holding your hook
On the other hand, wrap your yarn twice around your index and middle fingers, making two loops with an "X" in the back. I always found this the hardest to imagine when I was reading up on how to crochet, so here's another unflattering photo of my hand. Using your hook, go under the first loop and pull the second loop through the first one, kind of like you're tying your shoelaces. Pull on the shorter tail to tighten the yarn, and there you have it. A slipknot!
Inked Hibiscus Crochet for Beginners making a slipknot
I'm more of a visual person when it comes to learning new things. While there are many books out there that can help with the basics, I found YouTube so much easier. Tutorials like this one from Crochet Guru to learn how to make a slipknot, and the hardest part is out of the way. In fact, most of the Crochet Guru videos are pretty top notch for a newbie.
I'll be back again with a guide to a foundation chain, and a variety of different stitches. Soon, you'll be well on your way to crocheting up a storm!
  

28/04/2015

Little Things

Despite the perky happy little bunny persona I have cultivated online, I can be quite the Moaning Myrtle in reality. I find it all too easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of my life. All too often, I find myself getting down, often about things I have no control of. Sometimes, I feel like I'm drowning. Like I have no control. 

Recently, I have been trying to be more positive, and take stock of all the little things that make me happy.

Like pretty wildflowers to brighten up the bedroom,



seeing Caelen's happy little face on a family day out,

enjoying the beautiful views on a charity walk,

and daisy chains and dirty faces on sunny evenings.

While this doesn't seem like much to most people, it's things like seeing my son smile, or enjoying a sunset, that I cling to when I'm feeling at my lowest. 

Some things may be out of control, some things may not go my way, but these things are constant. Like the sun rises and sets on the daily, Caelen is forever there to make my day. 

From the littlest things like hearing his laughter as he plays, to the special hugs he reserves just for me, his mama. 

He pulls me up each and every day. While some days are hard, and he gets frustrated at things he can't yet understand, I wouldn't change it for the world. 

He saved me from drowning.

26/04/2015

Mini Book Review // Candy - Kevin Brooks


Late last year, I found this book in my Amazon basket. Not knowing why, but knowing there must be some reason, I added it to my cart and it came home with me. An easy read, I powered through it in a couple of evenings.


"Joe is hooked from the moment he sees Candy. What is it that catches his eye? Is it her hair, her smile, or just the way that she's standing? When they chat over coffee, there's an instant attraction, but can love ever be this sweet?
As the bitter truth about Candy's dangerous world emerges, Joe must decide if love and hope are worth fighting for."


While Candy is an easy read, it also deals with a number of issues. It follows the story of Joe, a young musician, who meets Candy, a runaway with baggage. Billed as a young adult book, it combines a love affair, single parent families, drug addiction, obsession and prostitution to provide a truly captivating read. In fact, Candy's drug addiction mirrors the obsessive love that Joe feels for her. And while I won't spoil the ending, it certainly wasn't what I was expecting, and left me wanting more.

Candy is perfect to stash in your bag for a weekend away or a trip to the sun, if you want more than your average chick lit. Don't bother bringing it to a brothel, I hear they're too dimly lit.

24/04/2015

The Pros And Cons Of Being An Adult

The last couple of weeks, I've been trawling through boxes and boxes of my mom's old photos. In between photos of her youth, my parents when they were dating, and family snaps of years gone by, there was a whole slew of photos of me as a young'un. While they made me smile at the memories, it made me realise how much things had changed. When I was younger, I couldn't wait to grow up, and do adult things. You know, like 

So, in the spirit of things, here's a picture of me and my first ever bestie, Zoe. If you're reading this, sorry, but we look damn adorable!

Inked Hibiscus pros and cons of being an adult


Pro - Being able to stay up as late as you like.
Con - Having to get up early to deal with grown up responsibilities.
Like many adults, I don't have a set bedtime. Which means that I often stay up much later than I should, watching bad TV and being sucked into the internet. The following day, to deal with an extremely curious, active toddler, I need to set up a Red Bull IV just to get me through the day.


Pro - Alcohol.
Con - Hangovers.
Oh, alcohol. Elixir of the gods. Dutch courage. The leg opener. It's all fun and games guzzling your poison of choice, until the following day when it feels like your head is in the rusty jaws of hell.

Pro - Earning your own money.
Con - Bills. 
Can you pay my bills? Can you pay my telephone bills? Can you pay my automo' bills? Yep, totally have that song in my head right now. No shame, Beyonce is pretty damn good.

Pro - Having your own place.
Con - Having to clean.
For years, I wanted my own house. Even as a little'un. I envisioned somewhere warm and cosy, filled with knick knacks and books. I didn't, however, envision the dusting and scrubbing I'd have to do to keep that house cosy.

Pro - Making your own decisions.
Con - Dealing with the consequences.
Asking for permission to do the smallest of things used to be the bane of my life. But now, years later, there's times where I wish I had someone tell me what to do. At least then I could blame them if things went tits up!

Pro - Eating all of the junk food.
Con - Muffin top.
Want to eat a whole packet of biscuits for dinner? And wash it down with a couple of cans of Coke? Knock yourself out! Just remember you'll have no one to cry to when your clothes are bursting off you.

What have I missed?

22/04/2015

when plants become a metaphor

My mother used to tell me to start with plants. If I could keep a plant alive for an extended period of time, I could move on to getting a pet. If that pet stayed alive and well, then was the time to start considering children.

I used to scoff at this. I was never interested in children. Or plants for that matter, and what pet I wanted changed weekly. A dog. A cat. A gecko. Every week brought new ideas, and new animals, to the table. And for anyone that knows me, I did this completely backwards, having Caelen before a pet or plants. (No, I'm not counting the family dog.)

I was reminded of my mother's advice this week, when clearing up the back garden after the winter. Since there was no one going out there properly for months, it became a dumping ground. A broken chair. A cardboard box or two. A bag of cans, ready to be recycled. A tin container, with three dead, neglected herb plants.


Those herbs had taken pride of place on my kitchen windowsill only a few months earlier, a constant reminder of the first time I grew something successfully from seed. I nourished them, and maybe made one too many mojitos from the mint! Until one weekend I forgot to water them, and they died. 

While on the phone out at the back step a few weeks ago, I poured water from an overflowing empty plant pot into my deceased herbs. And thought no more of it. Until I was out there again this week, to see my mint has come back from the dead. Maybe it was the water, maybe it was magic, but this little mint plant is going to make me very happy this summer. It will offer up its leaves for many the delicious drink, I can tell you that.

But it also made me stop and think. For the last few months, I've been feeling down. A combination of bad weather, and things playing on my mind. Court dates looming, and being put off. Like I'm treading water, waiting for things to change. But now I know, like the mint plant, I can come back from this, and stronger.


It's funny how something so simple as a recovered plant can make you put your own life into perspective. So, in future, when giving Caelen advice, I'll take a leaf out of my mothers book. If you can keep a plant alive, or bring one back from the dead, you can do anything you set your mind to.

20/04/2015

Review // InstaNatural Youth Express Eye Serum*

As a mama, sometimes I find myself short on time. Burning the midnight oil is essential if I want to catch up on shows I like to watch, finish crochet projects, and still find time to spend with family and friends. And now, we've started the dreaded potty training. What is sleep again?

Last month, InstaNatural got in touch with me, asking if I would be interested in trying out their Youth Express Eye Serum. Knowing that it was something I could incorporate into my daily routine to make me look less like a zombie, I jumped at the chance. As any mother knows, what sleep you do get is vitally important. When you don't get enough, no matter what you try, your eyes are always the first area to suffer. 



Using a combination including kojic acid, vitamin C, caffeine and hyaluronic acid, this serum is formulated to reduce dark circles, puffiness and wrinkles.  It can be used alone, or under makeup. The serum is lovely and lightweight, and absorbs quickly into the skin. Because it uses a pipette to dispense product, it's easy to only use what you need. This particular serum is a bright orange, somewhat different to the clear/white serums I've used in the past. It also has a distinctive orange scent, in fact it reminds me of Terry's Chocolate Orange, without the calories!

But did it work? Yes! Because I don't get a lot of sleep the majority of the time, before I started using this, my eyes were puffy and tired looking the whole day though. Now though, I feel more confident without makeup. I don't look like I've been up all night, or spent hours crying at The Notebook. I tend to use one drop per eye in the mornings, gently patting it in to the undereye area until it's fully absorbed. In the evenings, I use two drops per eye. While I could do with it more during the day, when I have to actually see people and not scare them with my puffy eyes filled with bags, I find that it works a lot better when I use it without slapping makeup on afterwards.

An American based company, InstaNatural boasts a wide range of products, free from harmful alcohols, sulphates and parabens. In addition, none of their products have been tested on animals. While they're not available in shops at the moment, you can purchase their products from their website or through Amazon.

*I received this product free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
 

15/04/2015

Sketchy Business - "Hate" in the Blogosphere

Normally, I don't get involved in Twitter spats. Sure, I'll follow along if I'm online, but I usually won't make any judgements or assumptions. It's not my place. Sometimes, though, things are different. Sometimes, you have to take a stand. Sometimes, things are so sketchy it boggles your mind just a little. I've said sometimes a lot in the last few sentences. Here, have another one. Sometimes. When someone constantly pops up on Twitter, both directly and indirectly, you start to take notice. You notice the flaws in their stories. The way they're quick to block people who question them on said sketchy things.

I'm not a great blogger. I know that. Hell, I own it! I pride myself on my procrastination, my irregular posting and my subpar photography. I think it gives me an ~edge. I'm not writing this to gain followers. I'm not looking for internet fame. I'm writing this because I'm worried. There are a lot of people, new to blogging, who don't know the ins and outs. Hell, I've been blogging for years and I'm still only skimming the surface. If you're looking for in-depth knowledge, you're in the wrong place, darling.

Now, I'm not saying you should take whatever I say as a given. I'm just setting my side of the story - if there even is one - straight. If you follow me on Twitter, @inkedhibiscus FYI, you'll have seen a barrage of tweets about a certain individual. A girl who has apparently been handed opportunity after opportunity. A secret partner who is paying for her to be a full time blogger. She's set up a lot of online "businesses". A blogger company, to help new, aspiring bloggers gain followers, views event tickets and products to review. A blogger events company, setting up blogger holidays and events. Various blogs. A million Twitter handles. Photo plagiarising. Basically, this girl has her fingers in many, many pies. 

For someone who hasn't seen all of this unfold, you may consider me a "hater". My handful of blog readers, versus her "empire". You couldn't be more mistaken. Whatever pies she has her hands on, are rotten to the core. Some of her ideas, granted, are sound. But I don't think she has the ways and means of getting them off the ground. We all have pipe dreams and aspirations, but not all of us follow through on them unless we're fully committed. This girl seems to want it all, and will take any measures to get there. Half assed blog posts, even more half assed YouTube videos, ideas that never fully take off the ground. The worst part? She's taking people along for the ride. Asking people to hand over money every month for information they could find out with a simple Google, or by asking another blogger on Twitter. Hey, I've been there. They don't bite. The majority of bloggers I've interacted with have been completely lovely, and willing to share their knowledge when it comes to branding, SEO and the like.

Tonight, enough was enough. I spoke out. It wasn't my first time. When I asked some general questions on a post in a Facebook group we're both members of, the whole post was deleted. That was the first time I thought something was up. Maybe some of the things I said tonight went a little too far. I got caught up in the moment. But at the end of the day, if what I, and the other bloggers involved, reached people who had signed up for the holiday, or the blogger company, and saw how other people thought it was shady, it was a job well done. It might make them question things.

We've all been there. When I first started, I wanted to be the biggest blogger. The blogger to rule them all. But reality kicked in, and I realised that was impossible. I'll never take stunning photographs. I don't have a beautiful way with words, that make people want to come back again and again. And you know what, that's ok. I know I'm happy with my little space of the blogosphere. So if you've come here, after seeing it on Twitter, you'll know. I'm not a hater. I'm just misguided. I could have sent a simple email calling her out, and chose not to. That's my cross to bear.

I don't even know where I'm going with this, only that I needed to write. I'm still a little riled up. I just think that IF all the places for the blogger holiday are filled, those bloggers are in for a tough time. So, you know, just think smart. Over and out *drops mic* *awkward cough* *shuffles off stage*


 

13/04/2015

Mini Book Review // The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova


 

This one really is an oldie, but a goodie. Published in 2005, it's a book I'll go back to again and again, picking up something new along the way each time. Every year for my birthday, my aunt would buy me a whole slew of books. This one arrived just in time for my eighteenth birthday, and is now battered and worn, but very well read.


"Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient nook and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to "My dear and unfortunate successor". Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of - a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history."

Inked Hibiscus // The Historian Elizabeth Kostova book review


The Historian reads like an updated version of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula, if the Count himself had a grĂ¡ for librarians. A compelling plot, with details of vampire lore, and wonderful descriptions of the Romanian countryside. If you think the idea of sparkly vampires ridiculous, check this one out.

Best read when the curtains are drawn, the candles are burning, and you have no need to go into the pitch black kitchen for more tea. Being surrounded by old vellum covered tomes are a bonus.


07/04/2015

Snippets // Sunny Days and Manual Settings

For the last few days, I've plucked up the courage to try to use the manual settings on my camera. For too long, I'd been relying on the automatic settings. In all the time I've had this camera, I've shied away from using it properly. 



Since Sunday, though, I've been trying. While they're not groundbreaking, or amazing quality, I'm proud of them. I bit the bullet, and tried my best. Sure, I was terrified that they would turn out all blurry and I'd be missing cute pictures from these lovely sunny days. 


Today was spent in the park, climbing and swinging and using the "big boy" slide. In other words, the slide in the 5-12 age section. That boy of mine is braver than I would be at his age. Seeing his little face light up with happiness makes me so thankful that winter is over. Days like today can happen more often now that the warmer weather is on the way.




Now that these photos of our little trip to the playground worked out relatively well, it's given me more confidence when it comes to taking photos. Where I'd usually have grabbed my phone, or used one of the presets on my camera, now I'll be confident enough to fiddle around with it before snapping away.



Has anyone any tips or tricks I could use the next time I bring the camera out and about?

06/04/2015

The OOTD That Wasn't

If there's one thing I said I'd never post here on Inked Hibiscus, it was outfit posts. In the age of the selfie, I very rarely come across full body photographs of myself, let alone take them. Being not all that body confident means there's barely a cursory glance in the mirror before leaving the house, only to ensure my knickers aren't on over my jeans. This blurry mess of a photograph, that makes my face look a million times darker than the rest of me, happened on a coffee date, with the original four musketeers and the latest two smallies to join our gang.

But, on a day to day basis, here's what you'll find me in. Skinny jeans, a long slouchy tee, Converse and a leather jacket. Of course, these are interchangeable. Sometimes I wear a hoodie. Or shiny silver Vans. But the base of my outfits rarely changes. Not so much fashionista, as busy mama. My wardrobe is pretty bland, but it works for me, at the moment.



There's nothing wrong with that. Before Caelen came along, I'd buy a whole new outfit "just because". I'd spend a huge chunk of my wages every week updating my wardrobe. And there's nothing wrong with that. I was footloose, fancy free, and had money burning a hole in my pocket. These days, the majority of what I'm wearing comes from sale rails and Penneys. And there's nothing wrong with that either.

My priorities have changed. I'd rather buy new clothes and toys for Caelen, than for myself. I'd prefer to have a cheeky bottle of wine and a takeaway on a Saturday night, than buy a dress I'd be waiting months to wear, if at all. I have an array of excuses, from wanting to lose weight, to having nowhere to go, to justify buying something that wasn't Penneys finest.

Some day, I'll find myself not relying on jeans as much. I have a stash of pretty dresses and skirts in my wardrobe that are crying out for an outing. But for now, while I still have to run around after Caelen, I'd rather not bare my behind when I bend down. And until then, this is the outfit post that wasn't.



 

05/04/2015

Last Minute Craft // Easter Wreath

These days, I seem to be talking about crochet a lot around these parts. Honestly, I'm not a little old lady sitting in with her yarn on the daily. I just seem to have found my passion for it again, and it's hard not to share.
Two nights ago, I decided I didn't have enough (ANY!) Easter decorations. Save for some yarn wrapped branches in a vase, that we hung some glittery eggs from. And a crochet bunny on the mantlepiece, a single reminder of the mini army I crocheted for family and friends.
I'm forever planning on things for my own house and never seeing them through. This time was different. While watching The Walking Dead (tardy to the party yet again, but we're on season two and I love it!), I crocheted up some quick little flowers. Fiddling about between a couple of different patterns, I cobbled together that was quick, easy and could be reused for future crafting endeavours. If anyone is interested in this simple little pattern, let me know. I'd be only too willing to share!




After hooking up a million and one blossoms, I hit a hurdle. I had no base for my wreath. And being half eleven on a Saturday night, I had no chance of popping to a shop for one. Ever the opportunist, I repurposed a wonky old draft excluder that had been messing up our living room door. A simple snip to free it from the manky plastic covering, some tape to hold it together, and yet more yarn wrapping, turned this fit for the bin draft excluder into something a lot prettier.


Even if you don't crochet, or knit, this would be such a simple little project. It's easy to find little satin flowers in craft shops and discount stores. Even rolling up some leftover ribbon and securing with pins would do in a pinch. Or, if it was to be hung indoors instead, some sweet little flowers made from coloured tissue paper would look adorable!


It doesn't look like much. And in fact, it's not. The flowers are all held to the base with sewing pins, the ribbon is already fraying at the back. It was a rush job, but it was for me, and I finished it. I plan on making a more Summer inspired one for indoors, and the Autumn/Christmas ones I've thought up? I'm excited.