Take me out to the ball game… with my new Toronto Blue Jays crocheted tote bag

Have I mentioned that I’m a Toronto Blue Jays fan? So why not make myself a tote bag that screams my allegiance whenever I’m at a game! I crocheted 16 squares in the team’s colours, used red fabric for lining, and stitched everything together. For the strap, I attached a plastic shower ring to either side of the bag, crocheted over them in team colours, then crocheted a wide shoulder strap.

For embellishment, I traced the Blue Jay logo onto white fabric (which I believe is ok, as long as it’s just for personal use and not being sold), as well as the Ontario logo and Canadian maple leaf. Then I coloured them with fabric markers and sewed them onto some of the squares.

No matter what MLB team you root for, you can make yourself a tote bag; just switch up the colours.

Here’s how…

Materials

  • Worsted weight yarn in white (colour A); royal blue (colour B); red (colour C)
  • 5.5 mm crochet hook
  • Yarn needle for weaving in ends
  • 2 round plastic shower hooks (purchased at Dollarama)
  • A large enough piece of matching fabric for lining + needle and thread or sewing machine

Optional: Coordinating thread and sewing needle; thin, white fabric for tracing logos onto; fabric markers

Bullseye Square (Make 16)

Using colour A, ch 4 and slip stitch to make a ring.

Round 1: Ch 3; 11 dc into ring (12 dc)

Round 2: Ch 3; dc in same space; 2 dc in each st around (24 dc) Fasten off colour A and join colour B.

Round 3: With colour B, ch 3; dc in same sp; *2 dc in next sp; dc in next sp; repeat from * around (36 dc)

Round 4: Ch 3; dc in same sp; *2 dc in next sp; dc in each of next 2 sps; repeat from * around (48 dc)

Round 5: Ch 7 (counts as ch 4 + dc and makes the first corner); 2 dc in next sp; *dc in next sp; hdc in each of next 2 sps; sc in each of next 4 sps; hdc in each of next 2 sps; dc in next sp; 2 dc in next sp; ch 4 (next corner); 2 dc in next sp; repeat from * around. Sl st in third ch of ch-7 to close. Fasten off colour B and attach colour C.

Round 6: To make red border, sc in each dc around, with 3 sc in each corner space. Fasten off and weave in end.

Assembly Instructions
Fasten squares together, following layout and using red yarn to slip stitch squares together on wrong side.

Lining
Fold lining fabric to double, then lay tote on it, with tote bottom lined up to fabric fold. Cut lining about half-inch larger than tote, then seam (quarter-inch) both sides of lining together on sewing machine. I then stuffed the lining into the tote bag, and used a needle and thread to secure the lining to the tote bag, just inside, around the top of the lining. I’m not very patient with a needle and thread, so yours may look much neater.
Shoulder strap
Next, I attached a shower ring to each side of the tote bag, through the corner spaces. Once clipped on securely, I then did a round of sc around them until the rings were completely covered. I did one ring in the colour B, and the other in colour C.
I made the strap two-toned, one side in colour B, the other in colour C.

Using your 5 mm hook and starting with colour B, ch 9; sc in second ch from hook and in each across (8 sc)

Turn, sc in each across. Continue back and forth for an even 8 sc in every row until the blue part of the strap is approx. 22 inches. Fasten off and attach colour C. Then continue crocheting rows of 8 sc until you’ve finished another 22 inches in colour C. Fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing.
Next, attach the red end of the strap to the blue ring, and the blue end of the other end of the strap to the red ring.

To attach, simply fold the red strap end around the top of the blue circle, and using your yarn needle and the tail, sew the edge to fasten, just as it looks in the photo. Then cut a a piece of blue yarn long enough for sewing, and do the same with the blue end of the strap and the red ring.

Embellishing
I pulled up a Blue Jays logo on my laptop screen, used my magnifying glass tool to make it the right size to fit in the center of one of my squares, set the white fabric over the screen and held the sides in place with masking tape, then traced the design onto the fabric with a pencil, right from my screen. The computer screen is actually like having a light table—you can trace anything from it.
Once I’d traced 4 copies, I just coloured them in with fabric markers, then ironed over the fabric to set the colour. I did the same with an Ontario logo and a Canada logo.
Then I cut around the logos and used a needle and thread to just sew them onto alternating squares.
Go Jays Go!

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Make a playhouse for your feline friend using cardboard boxes

I discovered the most adorable book at the public library for cat owners. Even owners of small dogs could work with these ideas. Hey—even little kids would love playing with these! The book is called Cat Castles by Carin Oliver.
The book provides step-by-step photo instructions for all kinds of easy projects that are totally inexpensive because you make them from cardboard boxes that you can pick up for free at the supermarket. And the finished results are as adorable as your little pal!
Make an airplane…
a castle…
a couch…
a food truck…
a club house…
a house…
a locomotive…
a pirate ship…
a rocket…
a submarine…
a stepped condo…

There are other projects too; all so easy to make if you have a pair of scissors, cardboard boxes and adhesive.

I plan to make Otis the stepped condo so he can look out the window when I’m in my office.

It’s a great book. I highly recommend it and guarantee that both you and your feline friend will be pleased with the creative ideas inside and the very clear and easy step-by-step instructions.

Refashion an old pair of sneakers with Sharpies

Hmm… what to do next with your Sharpie markers?

Why not experiment with an old pair of canvas sneakers that were probably soon headed to a landfill anyway.

Choose the colors you want to use, then practice doodling on a sheet of paper, sticking with simple shapes and designs.

Once you feel confident, start drawing right on the canvas.

You don’t have to be an artist to do this—simply doodle away… just like when you’re holed up in a boardroom meeting at work while somebody is droning on and on and on. 🙂

Once you’ve finished drawing and coloring your designs, you can also use a glue gun or a bit of fabric glue to add embellishments such as beads or sequins.

You can also spray them with a clear sealant, for added protection.

Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be the one wearing the coolest pair of sneakers this summer!

(Duh! I put my initials on the wrong feet—oh well, c’est dommage.)

 

Our Trip to Antigua

We’ve been to a lot of tropical places over the years, but this was our first time to Antigua. It’s a small island in the Caribbean, in the same area as Montserrat, Guadaloupe, St. Kitts, St. Barts and St. Martin.
The island boasts 365 beaches—one for each day of the year—and I have to say, if you’re a beach person, the beaches are truly to die for. We stayed at Jolly Beach, which was a mile of soft, white sand and sea water that was so turquoise, it looked as if somebody had painted it.
The people of Antigua that I met were super nice and very friendly to tourists. Because I have a torn tendon in my foot, I couldn’t do any day trips that involved a lot of walking, so this vacation was basically just a week to relax on the beach.
It’s a long flight from Toronto to Antigua—5 hours. I sure wish there was a way to get there other than flying. The worst part of the trip was having to go through Toronto Pearson airport. It’s like being tortured. Your flight leaves at 6 am, so you have to be there at 3 am. You’re half-asleep, dragging luggage behind you, and they make you line up for ages to type in your information at kiosks (that are absolutely mind-boggling) so then they no longer have to pay agents to help book you in for your flight. They’re the winners, we’re the losers. Then you have to mind-wrestle with another set of kiosks to register your luggage. I’ve never witnessed so many pissed off people all in one place. It was a nightmare of bedlamic* proportions.
*No, you won’t find this word in any regular dictionaries. It comes from the Dictionary of Donna.
The airport in Antigua was the polar opposite—efficient, with actual agents waiting to sign you in. Bam bam bam and you’re done and relaxing in the lounge. What a difference. The Antiguan agent that I dealt with was quite delighted to hear that their tiny airport was 150% more efficient than the big-city teched-out Pearson.
I’ve been travelling for 30 years, but after this one week of travel, I have arrived at a few conclusions:
1. Travelling for one week is bloody exhausting. Especially when you’re working full-time and have to return to your job when you get back. It’s the preparation leading up to the trip, the whole airport experience, the squished-together-like-sardines-in-a-can plane experience, the getting yourself oriented once you arrive at your destination. Then, repeat in reverse only 6 days later. I was more tired when I got home than when I left. To top it off, they deluge you with work on your first day back. It’s just not worth it.
2. The travel industry is nothing but a complete and total rip off. By the time you reach my age of wisdom, you realize that people crooks running the travel industry are far smarter than the rest of us; they’ve discovered multitudinous ways to soak people for their hard-earned money.
It’s like this when you’re dealing with the travel industry: first, withdraw a massive chunk of money from your bank account; lug it all to the top of a windy hill; fling every last dollar into the air; watch it all blow away forever. That’s basically what happens when you travel to a resort for a week.
It’s rare to find true last-minute “deals” anymore, unless you’re looking to go to a 2-star resort where you’ll be sitting on a toilet with the runs all week. It used to be that you could book a last-minute great-value all-inclusive trip at a 4+ star resort during the off-season for under $1,000 each. Not anymore.
Ok, so you’ve booked your trip. Next, you have to pay for insurance (which, fortunately, I get through work) and cancellation insurance. Then they want you to pay extra to reserve your preferred seat ahead of time on the plane (the unreserved window seats we ended up with were perfectly fine), then they warn you that if your luggage measures and weighs more than XYZ, you’ll have to pay extra. Then they tell you how much more luxurious your trip will be if you pay extra to upgrade to the premium lounge at the airport, where you can eat and drink free while you wait for your plane (sure, I want to get bombed at 5 am in the morning!). Then they bombard you with emails for pricey day excursions that you should book ahead of time to get the most out of your trip.
Next, if you don’t have someone to drive you to and from the airport, you can either pay upwards of 50 bucks a day to park your car at a lot near the airport ($100+ a day to park right at the airport), or you can pay a limo/taxi to take you there. It was $65 plus $10 tip to go there. When you get back, they know they have you by the balls, so they charge you $100 to drive you home.
On the plane, the cheap bastards no longer give you anything to eat; you have to pay for airplane meals now even though you’ve already paid hundreds and hundreds for your seat. So I brought sandwiches and apples in my carry-on. They do still serve you a gulp or two of coffee or pop, but that’s it. Hand over more moolah if you want anything else.
Of course, once you’re at the resort, you’d better have lots of cash on hand because hotel staff expect to be tipped if they so much as blink at you. I understand that they don’t make the best wages… but hell, I ain’t Howard Hughes either!
3. I get really, really sick of people really, really quickly. When I’m at home, it’s nice and quiet. Nobody can invade my space unless I invite them to. So, what do I do? I go on a trip (to relax!) where swarms of people are in my face around the clock, everywhere I go, for 7 full days.

First, there’s the airport, where everyone’s pissed off and glaring at each other; and people run over your toes with their luggage on wheels; and airport staff are so fed up with everyone’s bitching that they actually tell you that they’re already sick to death of people and they’ve only just started their shift (I actually heard the carry-on scanning guy say that); and the boarding call, where people rush to nosedive ahead of you so they can get in line first, as if the plane’s going to take off unless we all get on there RIGHT NOW.
Then there’s being trapped on the plane beside a stranger with rancid breath who hogs the armrest for the entire flight, and you have to scrunch yourself to one side so their body and yours don’t become one; and you have to climb over people to go to the bathroom; and the person behind you continuously knees the back of your seat; and the baby 2 rows ahead is screaming bloody murder; and they give you customs forms to fill out while the plane is bumping up and down in turbulence; and the woman behind you with the grating voice never shuts the f–k up.
Then at the resort, there are 600 people and 100 beach huts. You do the math. If you don’t drag your ass out of bed by 4 in the morning to claim a beach hut by leaving your towels there (and then drag your ass back to bed to try to get in a few more hours of sleep), you will have absolutely no shade for the rest of the day. The sun down there is brutal—shade is a valuable commodity. I’ve never had to get up that early to go to work. But on vacation? I must be awake every day before sunrise so I don’t turn into a walking melanoma blister.
And later, once you’re finally ensconced in your lounge chair under your priceless hut, ready to zone out while you gaze at the picturesque sea and listen to the soothing sound of waves rolling up onto sand, that’s when all hell breaks loose. That’s when the masses of your fellow-vacationers are ready to gather at the huts that surround yours. But they’re not there to zone out—they’re there to party! There’s the boozed-up, raucous gang of 6 under the hut beside you, blabbing and shrieking non-stop… then there’s the teenager a few over blasting hip hop through a full stereo system that he has on his iPhone… then there are the peddlars wandering up every five minutes trying to initiate chit chat so they can sell you a condo or a coconut or some damn thing. Just try reading the book you’ve been longing to dive into. Just try hearing those waves.
Then there are people elbowing you out of their way at the buffet… and screaming kids running up and down the dining area because their parents are too ignorant to teach them that they’re supposed to remain seated at a table when they’re dining out… and the sweet sounds of construction from the resort next door.

I escape as often as I can into the sea, and that’s where I find Heaven on earth.
4. I really hate leaving my pet. My beloved cat, Otis, spent our week away at my mother’s house. It was the first time we’d left him with her, and it will probably be the last because he was enraged and did nothing but hiss at her the entire week. He spent every day huddled behind a chair in the basement, going upstairs only to eat, drink and use his litter box, then back downstairs. If she dared approach him, he would hiss fire at her. I made the mistake of emailing her on our first night away to find out how he was doing, and ended up worrying about him for the rest of the week. I couldn’t help it. He’s my cat and I love him to death, and I felt really bad imagining that he probably thought we’d abandoned him and that he’d never see us again. We had barely arrived home before we were in the car, driving over to pick him up. You’ve never seen a cat so happy to see two people. He couldn’t resist shooting one last hiss at my poor mother before he left with us to go back to his own home. What can I say. He’s not a fan of travel.
5. There’s no place like home. Don’t get me wrong; Antigua was a lovely island. The weather was heavenly—not too hot, no humidity, constant cooling trade winds. The beaches—perfect. The people—warm and friendly. I can see myself someday renting a private house or condo there for a month or two, and living in short-term bliss. But there really is nothing better than your own bed. And your own people-free space.
So I’ve decided that, from here on, unless I’m travelling to a place where I’ll be staying put for a month or two, I won’t be travelling at all. Until I retire, the remainder of my vacations will consist of a combination of day trips and lazing around at home. At this point in my life, there’s nothing that sounds more relaxing to me than that.

Then again… when I look at pictures of that beach…
Here are pics of some of the gorgeous shells and coral I collected during my many walks along the beach in order to escape the hut-people. They are definitely God’s artwork.

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