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I Made A Thing — Bobble Pillow Case

Stitches & Words | I Made a Thing: Bobbles Pillow Case | verabear.net

Woohoo! Last year, I bought a set of interchangeable bamboo knitting needles and I finally got to use them this month. I’ve been wanting to make a set of pillow cases so we have something to use when our beautiful artisan-made cases are in the laundry. Finally, I got the project going when I ran out of yarn for my other WIP (work in progress) – my Sophie’s Universe blanket.

Yesterday, I finally finished one pillowcase — happy dance!

It’s faaaar from perfect and it wasn’t a smooth project – my stitches are uneven, it’s a little wonky because I didn’t do proper measurements, I had to do it over several times, one of our dogs chewed on and completely destroyed my needles and the longest connecting cable that I can now no longer use.

Stitches & Words | I Made A Thing | Sophie's Universe and Sad Needles | verabear.net

But it’s husband-approved, and I love it too. I’ll make a second case with the same design but I’m thinking of using a different colorway. So to give myself some time to decide, I will not start on that case until after another side project (probably a knit twist headband, just because).

Sharing below the pattern I based this case on. I did three repeats of the bobble chevron pattern, knit stitch all the way for the back panel, and used a needle to join three of the four sides. It’s open on one of the short sides, and I did a thin braided cord to close it off with the pillow inside.

This was a good project for getting back into knitting. Compared to crochet, I’ve only been knitting for a few years, and haven’t done so consistently. In fact, I had to watch (partial) Youtube tutorials (again) to remember how to cast on, purl, and cast off. Definitely had to Google how the bobble stitch worked when the pattern instructions didn’t click in my head right away. eee

I knit while watching Netflix – unless I have to read subtitles (hello, Kdrama), and sometimes during Zoom calls where I don’t have to take down notes. I think I made the mistake of knitting while watching Hometown ChaChacha, and that was why I was surprised that my stitch counts were completely off for a few rows!

Anyway, I just wanted to share that I made a thing! And that thing is this sunshine-y bobble chevron pillowcase. 🙂

5 Tips to Help Fast-Growing Trees Thrive

When you think of the ideal version of your home and yard, what do you see? Perhaps there’s the iconic white picket fence, some flowerbeds pristinely placed just below the windows, or a romantic patio swing just for two on your front porch. Whatever your vision entails, more often than not, somewhere within the vision will also be a tall, sturdy tree to provide a little privacy, maybe some mystery, and the perfect touch of shade on a hot summer day. A tree’s shape, size, and species will often be just as unique as each homeowner. A commonly sought out feature, though, especially when planting a new tree, is fast-growing trees.

As you may have guessed, this trait is popular because fast-growing trees can provide us the shade, beauty, and curb appeal we desire within a few short years. If you’re considering, or already have, fast-growing trees within your landscape, there are some tips the experts at Mr. Tree would like to pass on to help you ensure your trees thrive from the very beginning and for years to come.

1. Pick the Right Tree for Your Landscape

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to ensure you have the right fast-growing tree for your landscape before it’s ever planted. Not all trees thrive in all climates or soil types. A good place to start when considering a fast-growing varietal is to compare the tree’s ideal plant hardiness zone with the ranking of the zone in which you live. This will ensure the tree doesn’t suffer damage from too much or not enough sun, shade, or water, as damage can lead to the loss of your tree.

Once you’ve determined if your ideal fast-growing tree will thrive geographically, you should check the soil composition of the plant site. As different soil types will provide different types of nutrients, water retention, and water drainage, it’s good to know the makeup of yours and compare it to the needs of your tree. For those homeowners unsure of their soil composition, you can always consult professionals for assistance with testing.

2. Give It Nutrients

Once they’re planted, the next tip to help your fast-growing trees survive and thrive is to give them nutrients via fertilizer. Just like we take vitamins to help us grow big and strong, so should we give vitamins to our trees for the same effect. This is one way to help balance out a lack of the needed nutrients from your yard’s soil composition or a way to boost the benefits further. The results will include stronger root systems, fuller foliage, increased growth, and longer life spans for your tree.

Again, knowing your soil composition here can greatly impact the decisions you make. Fertilizers come in many composition varieties to both balance out what your landscape may lack and to address what your plants and trees need. If you don’t know the specifics of your soil, then focus on fertilizers that meet the known needs of your tree species by doing a bit of research or consulting a local licensed arborist.

3. Keep It Hydrated

Again, just like our own reliance on water, hydration is life to your fast-growing trees. For survival, it’s required; for thriving, it’s necessary at the right time and in the appropriate amounts. Your watering habits should adjust with each season.

During hot summers, you need to ensure your trees are watered on a fairly consistent basis and usually during the coolest time of day. This will ensure optimal saturation within the soil for the roots to get their fill, without losing the water to evaporation. During the cooler months, depending on the local rainfall, you may need to water your tree very little, if at all. Instead, you may be more focused on ensuring the surrounding soil has good drainage so the roots aren’t drowned, making the tree more susceptible to root rot and disease.

Because the root systems of your fast-growing trees need both water and oxygen to thrive, there are various methods of watering. One of the most popular is the slow-drip irrigation method. This ensures a nice long slow drink for the tree’s roots. It also includes a balance of oxygen and hydration by giving an ample amount of time for the water to saturate and drain through the soil. It can be accomplished over an extended time period with a hose, or there are commercial slow-drip bags and spikes that can significantly decrease your active time investment in this watering method.

4. Prevent Pests and Disease

Pests and diseases can be the downfall of any new or established tree. For fast-growing trees, they pose an increased threat due to the instability they can cause in the foundation. Because fast-growing trees grow quickly, their root systems are that much more important to the stability and life span of the trees.

When your tree has to allocate its resources to protect itself against pests or fight off disease, it can hinder the development of the root system. This can slow the growth or make the tree less sturdy and more susceptible to falling because of wind and rainstorms. Regularly look for signs of pests and disease, like peeling bark or yellow and curling leaves not consistent with the fall season. If you think you see signs of an infestation or problem, reach out to trained arborists, like those at Mr. Tree, to get it under control quickly and with the least amount of damage to your tree.

5. Prune Regularly for Health

Pruning and trimming benefit all trees. These are ways of removing diseased or dying areas from your tree, while also ensuring optimal growth and shape. It should be done regularly every couple of years, depending on the type of tree.

Based on the species and varietal, there are different times of the year recommended for pruning to ensure trees heal properly and continue growing. While you can trim your tree yourself, we recommend working with a professional for safety and the best results. Pruning and tree trimming will give the tree the ability to refocus its energy and nutrients on growing taller, faster, and stronger.

For more tips, best practices, and recommendations for taking care of your landscape and trees, check out the other resources Mr. Tree publishes to address any and all of your concerns.

My Bravest Move, Yet!

Last year, I did my bravest move yet: launch a premium freelance VA (Virtual Assistance) business. (Yup, that’s where hitting the road led me to)

My Bravest Move, Yet! | Stitches & Words

What’s so brave about that?

  • I had to put myself out there to find clients. It started with Upwork, sending proposals and getting interviewed. And then I moved on to LinkedIn prospecting – even when I didn’t think I was ready yet!
  • I needed to resist the temptation to take on work from clients who didn’t see the real value that I bring just so I could start earning again.
  • I turned my back on the possibility of having a more predictable 6-figure monthly income with HMO benefits and 13th-month pay, by not applying for a job at another BPO company.

It wasn’t easy, and it was a tad scary. I wasn’t sure if I could make it happen. I really think this is my bravest move, thus far. There were so many $3-$5/hour jobs out there for VAs but I refused to take them. I chose to stand my ground and wait for my ideal client even as I watched my bank account balance get smaller each month.

Of course, I had a cushion. My old company gave me a going-away gift for 9 years of service; I have a husband who was employed and has HMO benefits that extended to me. So maybe that meant I could afford to be brave, and maybe I wasn’t being brave after all?

But being brave is not just about doing things without a safety net. At least for me, being brave means intending to and actually leaving your comfort zone, seeking growth, and stepping into a vulnerable space – so you can emerge and realize your wildest dreams.

Down the road, I may have to do something that requires even more bravery – I will look back at this time, as well as other times in my life, to get me through it.

What’s your bravest move?

How to Maintain Good Vibes While In Quarantine

In our neck of the woods, it’s Day 13 of {Extreme} Enhanced Community Quarantine.

I mentioned in last week’s update that life is almost normal and that despite all the things that makes this situation difficult, life is still good. And it is.

As we end the second week of quarantine, I wanted to share with you some of the ways in which I maintain GOOD VIBES despite being in this time of uncertainty and hearing all the sad and upsetting news.

verabear.net | How to Maintain Good Vibes in Quarantine

Start a Daily Gratitude Practice

Now is a good time as any to start a daily gratitude practice. Carve out 5 to 10 minutes out of your day to jot down what you are thankful for. It could be just one thing, or five things, or ten.

As for me, I have a journal (on my second now!) where I try to write 10 things that I am grateful for on a daily basis, usually at the start of my day while sipping coffee. Some days I don’t make it to ten, and that’s okay! Doing this daily has helped me stay positive and it encourages me to recognize the lessons from otherwise difficult and upsetting situations.

If you don’t feel like writing in a journal, consider sharing what you’re thankful for daily on Facebook, or creating a card for posting on Instagram Stories. There’s value in sharing your practice with others, you’re spreading the good vibes!

Get Moving

Movement plays a huge role in boosting your mood and energy. Movement and exercise release happy hormones! So does going out to soak up some sunlight (in these times of Corona, do this in the safety of your front/backyard or balcony/terrace).

So I may not be the most credible here because if you Google sedentary lifestyle, my image will probably pop up! BUT I get points for effort.

Start by walking around the house. When you’re working, set a timer to stand up and walk around (and maybe do stretching, and hip circles (it’s fun!)) every hour.

Go outside (put on a mask, if you must).

Take frequent breaks from whatever it is you’re doing and do a 30-minute happy dance ala Meredith and Cristina.

When I’ve gone long periods of NOT moving enough (as is the case now), my go-to exercise to ease me back into the habit and to build-up stamina, are Leslie Sansone’s Walk-at-Home videos on Youtube. I really do not like exercising and hardcore workouts stress me out (I’ve tried HIIT), but these videos, even the hubby sometimes does them with me.

Find the movement or exercise that is doable for you.


Now is not the time for isolation. Yes, we are physically distancing from each other, but this is the time to be social. And I don’t just mean scrolling Social Media feeds.

Talk to the people you’re quarantined with. Binge-watch a series or movies together. Eat together. Be present with each other.

Chat with your parents, wherever in the world they may be. Call them!

Setup group video calls with your friends and family.

Reach out to friends and workmates just to say Hi! Ask how they’re doing.

If you’re in a book club, participate! If you used to meet up in person weekly/monthly, do it virtually now.

Instead of sharing doomsday theories and/or fake news, share the good news. Exchange recipes, book recommendations, crochet/sewing patterns, online courses.

Stay connected.


So I had a bad headache all day Friday and all I did was sleep it off. I got up just before 8 PM, right in time for an exclusive training inside a freelancing tribe I belong to.

Before it started, the host played music from the early ’90s and, of course, I sang along. I immediately felt better!

Sing out loud to upbeat tunes or any of your favorite songs. Kebs na kung maingayan ang kapit-bahay.

I’ve also been tuning in to the Facebook Live sessions of various Pinoy singers/musicians raising funds through Bayanihan Musikahan. They have a different set of performers each night (who perform from home, with just their phones or computers to broadcast with, yet they STILL sound great!) and it’s been fun and AMAZING too. You can still catch them, performances usually start at 6PM each night, until late into the evening! I think Martin Nievera’s performance on Wednesday lasted 2 hours!

Get Good Sleep!

Just like movement, sleeping well has a lot of benefits. Remember my post about The Sleep Revolution?

A person who hasn’t had much sleep tends to be cranky and irritable. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of depression and higher levels of stress. Don’t let that be you. Sleep 7-8 hours each night. Take naps if you need them.

Sleeping well does wonders for you, and helps keep you in a good mood 🙂

Spend QT with your Pets

We now have 4 grown dogs (Sirius Black, Pandora, Jango Night Fury, and Lep) and 2 puppies (YuQing and LuXia). They’re not trained, but I swear, they are like emotional support dogs.

The way they’d come close and reach out when you don’t feel all that well. Or particularly sad. Hay.

The hubby randomly picks up one or two or three of them at a time, smells them and showers them with love. The two pups are particularly smelly because they haven’t had a bath in two weeks (sabay sa quarantine, haha) and they eat dog food (pellets) but he still smells them. I believe it’s because it makes him feel better.


I know that when you spread goodwill, you shouldn’t expect anything in return. But, it is true also that giving makes you feel better. So, for my last tip on how to maintain good vibes while in quarantine, I ask that if you are able to, give. Share your blessings.

In closing, I hope that you picked up a thing or two from me today (not the virus!). Though we continue to hear a lot of stories that are heartbreaking, and there are whispers that sow fear and anxiety, it’s important that we stay in good spirits and not be led by fear or scarcity. This is just the rain we’re putting up with right now, soon we’ll see the rainbow.

I leave you now with a short list of ways to help others. Thank you in advance for sharing what you have, prayers and good thoughts included.

Ways to HELP

Donate any amount while enjoying the sounds of Bayanihan Musikahan performers. They are raising funds to send food and PPEs to frontliners, AND to feed and help out families whose livelihood have been compromised by this pandemic. Food and assistance will be sent to them so they won’t be forced to leave their homes to earn a living and run the risk of contracting or passing along the virus.

Frontline Feeders PH – this is another effort by the private sector to feed frontliners and provide PPEs.


Support this group who makes Faceshields for Frontliners!


Protect the Poor by supporting Caritas Manila in providing COVID-19 Ligtas Kits and/or Manna Food Bags to poor families.

Extreme Enhanced Community Quarantine – The First Week

Our story this week isn’t any different (not that much) from that of any other family in many places the world over. We are in that period of suspended animation – much like what you find yourselves in on those few days between Christmas Day and New Year – when you’re not sure what day it is, or what you’re supposed to be doing.

masked stuffed bears on quarantine
Photo by L N on Unsplash

Because three residents of our barangay (the smallest unit of local government here in the Philippines, like a more ‘official’ type of neighborhood) have tested positive for COVID-19, we have been declared under Extreme Enhanced Community Quarantine, an announcement made three days into the Metro Manila-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine.

Residences of the confirmed patients are considered Hot Zones and are blocked off. There will be no one going in or out of those homes. Houses within 500 meters of the Hot Zone (like ours) are considered Warm Zones and are also on a sort of lockdown. For a few days, we were not allowed to go beyond the checkpoints on both ends of the street, but now we are given a Quarantine Pass to be used by one person per family, to buy essentials.

I work from home, and I’m grateful that I continue to have work during this time of crisis. My husband is also able to work from home.

We are surrounded by family, and get to interact with them ALL THE TIME if we choose to. The other day, I got two nephews to clean my car, plus the windows out front and today, another nephew indulged me when I asked him to fill a bucket with soil (which I will later use to bury my Bokashi in).

And as we both continue to work, we also both talk to clients/colleagues over Zoom all the time.

Our pantry is currently stocked – thanks also to food packs we received from caring groups and individuals – and our last-minute grocery run before the restrictions kicked in. We have food and vitamins for our dogs. The puppies missed their scheduled vaccine, but we can always get that done after all this settles.

So life is almost normal.

Except that we can’t go out to visit our parents.

And we can’t physically show up for friends who are grieving.

And we can’t just go out anytime to go anywhere.

But life is still good.

I recognize that we’re one of the privileged ones. And we won’t take that for granted.

From our home to yours: love, light, and healing. xx

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