Guest post by Meghan Murphy I love to craft with yarn—and my kind of yarn crafts are super-fun and super-easy. Though knitting and crocheting might be the most common handicrafts, I don’t know how to do either. There are stitches to learn, patterns to follow, and it can get pretty complicated. So I say, why knit and crochet when you can cork? Corking is sometimes referred to as spool knitting or French knitting. Using a spool, a hollow cylindrical tool with four nails or pegs secured to the top in a square shape, you knit around the spool to produce long corked braids, which come out of the centre of the spool. These braids become the foundation for any number of homemade soft goods. I started corking many years ago when I was a kid. The summer camp I went to in Mississauga had knitting hour once or twice a week. A group of older ladies would come in and teach us crafts like corking. I loved it from the very beginning and I’m still corking today. It’s a unique, refreshingly simple craft, and the act of corking is so low-key you can do it almost anywhere. I like to cork while I’m watching TV—it’s relaxing and comforting. All you need to cork is a ball of yarn, the spool and a crochet needle. Craft stores like Michaels and even Wal-Mart also sell corking kits that include everything you need for a corking craft. Here’s how to cork in seven simple steps: Step 1: Tie the end of your yarn into a slipknot so that you have a loop. Step 2: Take the loop and place it on one of the four pegs. The end of your yarn, where the knot is, should be pushed through the center of the spool. Step 3: Take the yarn and wrap it around each peg to form a square shape. There will now be two loops around every peg. Step 4: Once you’ve made the square, “knit” the yarn around the pegs to create your first cork stitch. This is accomplished by using the crochet hook to manipulate the yarn, taking the lower loop and folding it over the upper loop to the back of the peg. Step 5: Continue knitting around the spool until your corked braid is long enough—braid length depends on the final craft you’re making. The more you cork, the longer your braid will get. If you’d like to add more yarn to your project, just tie the end of one ball of yarn to the beginning of a new ball and keep corking as usual. Use yarns of similar weight to make your braid even, and have fun choosing colours! Step 6: To finish a corked braid, take the yarn from the peg you just stitched and move it to the next peg waiting to be stitched. Step 7: Knit a regular stitch, and repeat step 6 until you’ve reached the last peg and you have only one loop left. The beginning and ending of your braid should now look similar. Take that last loop, make it a little larger so you can fit the end of the yarn through and make a knot. You’ve successfully made a cork braid! There are lots of creative crafts you can make out of your cork braid such as bracelets, necklaces, place mats, coasters and scarfs, just to name a few. When you sew your braids together with a needle and thread, you can make just about anything. Have fun and get corking! And if you want to lean how to knit, Canadian Living has some popular knitting patterns for beginners!
Whip up a dozen moist muffins on a leisurely Sunday morning. Or better yet, set out the muffin recipe ingredients the night before and let the first person up bake a batch for everyone. Most of these muffin recipes can be made in advance and frozen.
Made up holidays get a lot of flack, but this is one we can get behind. February 13th, Galentine's Day, is all about your most important platonic relationships—your BFFs.
Back in 2010, Parks and Recreation delivered unto us the greatest holiday in modern history: Galentine's Day, a celebration of female friendship (and frittatas) that preceded the dreaded February 14. Ultimately, it was Valentine's Day but for best pals, and therefore trumped the traditional Hallmark celebrations, tenfold.
A few years later, one of my best friends and I decided to embraceGalentine's Day for ourselves. We went out for dinner, drank too many martinis (this was before I stopped drinking), and broke down the many reasons why the guys we had crushes on at the time were clearly the wrong choices. Then, the next year we added another pal. And while some of us (hi!) were getting over a wicked stomach flu, the three of us still opted to spend the night snacking and bowling and making jokes about Drake. Valentine's Day proper would be reserved for Netflix and chips, as all reasonable winter nights should be. February 14 was officially Just Another Evening™. Bless.
Of course, there's been a lot of emphasis on the merits of female friendships lately, especially in pop culture. Through 2015 and 2016, Taylor Swift used her commercialized brand of feminism to prioritize sisterhood over female-centric competition, but her redefinition of #SquadGoals—via social media and red carpet appearances—became increasingly demonstrative. Especially as the likes of her July 4 parties became a who's who of trending names on Twitter, she cast every famous woman alive in her "Bad Blood" video (a song allegedly written about her feud with Katy Perry) and used her message of unity when it was convenient. (Like when she thought Nicki Minaj was starting something with her … which wasn't the case. Yikes.)
But the thing is, picture-perfect friendships aren't realistic. Friendships in real life are as flawed and messy as they are nurturing and unifying, but that's what makes them so wonderful. A 2011 study by Concordia University proved that those with a wide network of friends have lower stress levels, boast stronger immune systems, and tend to live longer, while a Wilfrid Laurier graduate co-authored a paper on how friendships improve if you recognize and respect your pal's introversion, social irritants, or even triggers. (In short: if you understand and celebrate that your friends aren't like you/are actual people, your friendships will be fulfilling.)
Which obviously makes sense. Because even though pop culture has scaled back the woman-on-woman hate, the superficiality behind seemingly perfect female friendships is just as damaging. Real friends argue, disagree, and aren't an exercise in twinning, thank whatever-higher-power-you-believe-in. Instead, they reflect the values we saw with Ann and Leslie in Parks and Recreation, or the dynamic between Rosa and Amy on Brooklyn Nine-Nine right now, or the dysfunction between Selina and Amy on Veep. Real female friendship isn't painted with the Valencia filter or measured by height in formalwear at an industry event. Real female friendship is bowling in a snowstorm and making jokes about Aubrey Graham, or doing the opposite and sitting in someone's apartment in silence.
Late last year, my uncle died and I spent the day I found out about it debating whether or not I wanted to keep plans with a pal that night. But after I warned her that I looked terrible and felt nauseous and wasn't sure if I'd be super fun to hang out with and was for sure wearing too much fleece, she reminded me that nobody cares about the bags under my eyes, and roaming the mall might be an exercise in distraction. Which it was. It wasn't Instagrammable, but that's the point: the realest moments in friendship are the ones that simply exist.
Which is something I think we're starting to understand more and more, especially as we see the social currency of celebrity supergroups begin to plummet. So now under the umbrella of Galentine's Day, we've begun to expand our scope to celebrate the complexities of female friendship and the imperfections that make each of them so special. Whether it's hanging out on February 13 and talking about everything that's gone terribly wrong, or making jokes in the mall on an otherwise very sad day.
Ginger may not be the first spice you think of to incorporate in your snacks, salads and dinners but it's one of the healthiest on the planet! Here's why:
1. It's healthy for your heart.
Research has shown that ginger may lower cholesterol and help prevent blood clotting, which could, in turn, help prevent blood vessel blockages that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
A recent study out of Pennsylvania State University found that a meal made with a spice blend that included ginger (along with garlic, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, turmeric and black pepper) reduced levels of triglycerides by 30 percent when compared to an identical non-spiced meal.
2. It helps your tummy!
Ginger has long been associated with relieving nausea and morning sickness, motion sickness, and even menstrual pain, as it's original use was for pain relief. A 2012 study shored up that wisdom, showing that ginger can reduce nausea after chemotherapy when taken as a supplement.
3. It can help you breathe easy. Ginger tea is a classic remedy purported to ease cough and cold symptoms. And it turns out, there’s some science to its soothing powers when you’re sick. In 2013, research out of Columbia University found that ginger might help asthma patients breathe more easily.
4. It has anti-inflammatory effects.
Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and stiffness, but the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger can help that. In a trial done by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, participants who took ginger extract had less pain and needed less pain medication than those who didn't.
*Although rare, too much ginger can cause heartburn, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth, according to the University of Maryland. There can also be interactions with medications, such as acetylsalicylic acid.