Gluten-Free Creamy Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Crispy Topping

I found this recipe from The Chunky Chef (great blog name, by the way!) awhile back, and finally got it tweaked so that it’s just right for us. First and foremost, it needs to be gluten-free for my mama. Second, it needed to be a little more affordable, and stretch a bit more. We are on a tight budget and we’re feeding 7, so while gruyere is delightful, I can’t really justify the cost.

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Red-Necked Grebe – A Tennessee Rare Bird

Red-necked grebe in winter plumage

Thus far I’ve refrained from posting the nerdy bird stuff, but c’mon, you had to know it was coming! I love birding – the peace and solitude, the glory of nature, the chance to learn about and observe such interesting and beautiful creatures, and of course, that ever present possibility of seeing something unexpected. If your interest in birds ends with Tweety, feel free to skip on over to my crochet posts! If you want to learn about a bird you’ve probably never heard of, read on!

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Crochet Christmas: 3 Gift Card Holders – Free Patterns

3 Christmas Gift Card Holders

In years past, before I started making my own patterns, I’ve searched for crochet patterns for gift card holders to help make my simple gifts a little more personal. I never found a free pattern that I particularly liked (and free can be important this time of year). This time around, inspiration struck and I crafted 3 Christmas-themed crochet gift card holders that I’d love to share with you! These are fun, easy projects that work up quickly, and best of all, they are inexpensive.

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Lion Brand 24/7 Cotton Yarn Review

Lion Brand 24/7 Cotton Yarn in Red

I almost can’t wait to get to the 24/7 Cotton Yarn review, but first, let’s talk a bit about most cotton yarn. I haven’t created a ton of projects using cotton yarn, but when I have crocheted with cotton, I’ve been less than enthusiastic. Generally, cotton yarn leaves something to be desired. It’s a bit…lifeless. It gets easily stretched out, doesn’t have very nice stitch definition, and it doesn’t feel great running through my fingers for hours on end. I used Paintbox Cotton when I made this darling blanket for a friend who was expecting her second child at the time. It was fine – probably a bit nicer than the Knit Picks “Dishie” Cotton I’d tried before that, but not by much. They are really all pretty similar. (The blanket turned out wonderfully, by the way. I just didn’t enjoy working with the yarn!)

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Campfire Coffee Wrap – Free Crochet Pattern

‘Tis the season for all the warm, cozy, snuggly things made with the prettiest of yarns. I chose a delectable teal yarn for this crochet wrap pattern. The color gives so much richness and depth, and the size makes it deliciously warm and versatile! I didn’t want a dinky little scarf, here; I was after something with more coverage that you can really snuggle into. This can be worn in a variety of ways: as a shawl, a scarf (if you fold it), or a wrap. I’ve even used it to wrap around my dainty 5-year-old in the middle of the night when she stumbles up the stairs, still asleep.

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Frozen Morning Bulky Slouchy Hat – Free Crochet Pattern

This past Saturday, I went out bird watching alone in the morning. I knew ahead of time that it was going to be in the high 20s/low 30s when I left at 6:30 a.m., so Friday night I whipped up a nice, warm hat. I would love to share what I did in an easy, free crochet pattern.

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Knitters Pride Color Play Interchangeable Knitting Needles Review

Knitters Pride Color Play Interchangeable Needles

I know I mention knitting as one of my hobbies, but at this point, it’s really more of a pipe dream/work-in-progress/source of frustration. I’m new to it, not great at it, and feel like I’m all thumbs when I’m doing even the most basic garter stitch practice swatch. The fact is, being new at something is uncomfortable, and that’s all there is to it. I’m persevering, and I realized that a huge part of my problem was the knitting needles I was using.

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Eeyore Stuffed Animal Big Sad Eyes – Free Crochet Pattern

A dear friend and sister in Christ asked me if I would make a crocheted Eeyore stuffed animal for her daughter’s 18th birthday, and though this isn’t the type of project to which I’m normally drawn, I said yes. I purchased a set of 4 vintage Winnie the Pooh & Friends patterns on Etsy, picked more true-to-character Eeyore colors than those used in the pattern, and got started. It was a fairly big project – the finished product was around 18″ tall and it was probably the most involved pattern I’ve ever worked from – but it was so rewarding to see the video of my friend’s daughter opening her gift and absolutely loving it!

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Greetings & Salutations

Cades Cove - Sparks Lane

Hello! I’m so happy that you’ve stumbled into my little corner of the Internet, and I hope you’ll enjoy your stay. My name is Valerie and you can probably see me over in the sidebar – nice to meet you! As you can perhaps guess from my blog name, I’m an unabashed bird nerd. I love to go birdwatching and spend hours alone in the woods with my camera and binoculars. As an introvert with a wonderful husband, 4 kids, a black lab, and an active social life, I crave that time alone every once in a while, and I’m grateful that the birds let me keep them company.

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