Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I ♥ Blogs

In this season of joy, hope, love, and thankfulness, I find it appropriate that I am up for the second night in a row at 3 a.m. thinking about how thankful I am that I took a couple of sewing classes this year.  I love that I have found like-minded friends and that we share our ideas, our struggles, and our unabashed pride in our creations.  I hope this continues not just for the new year, but for many more to come.  And I am overjoyed that along with those classes and my friends, I found this other world, the blogosphere.  It is so full of creative people who are excited to share their adventures in not only sewing and crafting, but in life.  Be it stories about raising kids or running a race in mud.  It is so inspiring to me to read about what they are capable of and think that I might be capable of a little bit more.  It helps that so many are moms that have the same struggles on time and energy that I have.  So many people seem to find ways not only to share what they have done, but how they have done it.  I hope they know how much I love those tutorials and how thankful I am that they take the time to share.

I would not be me if all this thankfulness did not come with a twinge of remorse (and I didn't share it with you).  Many years ago I had a lot of free time.  Before kids came along I was living in Germany with my husband, two dogs, and no job.  I had hopes before I moved of taking that time to learn to cook.  But let's face it: A girl who does not really like to eat will never be a great cook.  I just never found the interest.  I so wish that I had had this other world to inspire me during that time of my life.  I also wish I had been more like Julia Child (yes, I did just watch Julie and Julia) and fought to find something that did hold my interest.  I would have loved to have found sewing during that time.

Today, however, is not about remorse.  It is about how thankful I am for what I have learned this year. It has been a surprisingly productive one considering Amelia just turned one.  I was thinking of that the other day while trying to get the inspiration to write our annual Christmas letter.  We have sent out a letter most of the years that we've been married, but this year I did not know how to share the joys of our lives with our friends.  We had missed last year due to Amelia's birth, so I didn't want to miss two years in a row. 

I had given up on Christmas cards when one night I was surfing through the blogosphrere checking out other sewers' reading lists.  I like to do that since you can stumble upon a lot of good ideas that way and I STUMBLED!!  I found this blog that had some cute pictures on it and the blogger had written how she had made her family's Christmas card this year.  She even provided the link to the You Tube video that helped her.  And that is when I found love for You Tube.  Yes, I had used it in the past to watch tutorials, but never truly appreciated it until the man walked me through a simple edit in Photoshop.  The true joy of the blogosphere though is not just copying what others do, it's making something yours.  In this instance, I combined these tips with the collage maker in Picasa that I had stumbled upon earlier this year on yet another blog (that I can not link to here because I can not find it.) 

So, with the help of these people that I don't know, I was able to make a Christmas card that captured, at least for me, the joys of this year.  Some people will not realize what they have when they see it, but in that picture is a love for family, for sewing, for blogs.  It is excitement for what is to come.  There are more blogs to discover and inspiration to find! 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rectangles for Everyone!

Yes, I realize that it is suppose to be joy or cheer or peace or something, but my Christmas wish for everyone seems to be rectangles.  Never have I noticed how many things come in rectangular form.  Crazy!  What am I talking about, you ask.  Christmas gifts.  It started out with the aforementioned rice bags.  Then came the placemats.  I decided to go for it and make all 12 of Sophia's classmates chalkboard placemats.  I had made placemats back in the summer for my mom so I thought, "No big deal.  Done it before."  How naive I am. 

These placemats, inspired by a tutorial over at Little Birdie Secrets, are not the kind that you sew, flip out and then topstitch.  With these placemats one must use...bias tape.  This didn't deter me either since I have more than once used bias tape successfully.  So, what was the problem?  Ah, that would be that BOTH sides would show.  I've only used bias tape on things where one side matters and if you flub up on the other who really cares. 

Well, let's just say that this whole project even though they are just a bunch of rectangles scared me a bit.  I took it slow and steady.  I cut. I glued.  I then drank a beer and scoured the internet for help because I didn't want to flub up.  After watching Angry Chicken's bias tape tutorial and having a good laugh, I read the one on Posie Gets Cozy.  Both helped out a lot, but basically it took me 1 placemat to figure out what the chicken was saying about sewing on the right side of the fabric BOTH times and another 4 or so to get the corners like the Posie tute explained.  But let me say, the last 8 looked darn good and I am now UNAFRAID of bias tape!

Hopefully the kids like them too.  I tied them using a ponytail holder that had been tied into two loops, one for the placemat and a smaller one to hold the chalk.  I assumed that not many moms cared around chalk in their purse.  My idea was that these placemats would be excellent at restaurants.  I also used plain cotton on one side because I could only find oilcloth that looked boring.

Now that I was quite confident about bias tape, I went on to a fabric checkerboard for my nephew.  I have procrastinated about his gift because truly what do you sew for an eight year old boy?  I finally found this checkerboard tutorial over at I Heart Linen.  I thought that even though he loves soccer and other very active games, he might find need of a quiet, sedentary distraction during a break in a tournament or even on the LONG drive from Tennessee to Missouri that his family takes several times a year.  I used the soccer theme to try and make the board "manly." 

After I sewed the board (actually I sewed two of them in an attempt at perfection that did not occur) I decided to try a different pouch to hold the board and pieces (that have not been bought yet.)  I used a tutorial over at Flossie Teacakes that my sewing circle buddy, Casey, had sewn on Wednesday.  I increased the size of the bag to fit the folded board and used a rugged looking sports zipper.  The zipper didn't hurt my machine or needle and I much appreciate that.

And that my friends ends my Christmas story...except that now I think I will make another pouch. This time for my niece and put a bit of lip gloss in it.  I also still need to sew Eric's rice bag (he has rice bag envy right now.)  I also want to tackle a t-shirt tutu dress for Sophia that my other sewing circle friend, Melissa, has made. 

Then, after that, I am going to sit down and think about what I want my sewing goals to be for next year.  Casey came up with this idea.  I'll let you know what develops.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let's Believe...

in Santa, so that I can use my new stockings.

While we are at it let's also believe that that I am humble and that I will not make all visitors to my house during the month of December stand by my fireplace and have conversations until they compliment my handiwork shamelessly.  We will also say that I will take these compliments gracefully and NOT point out all the little tiny imperfections.

And while we are believing in miracles, let's believe that these FOUR stockings did not take me over TWELVE hours to sew NOT including the cutting.  Unfortunately, that is where our belief would have to end because they did indeed take that long.  It was MY OWN FAULT!  I had three main problems:  1. I did not believe in the pattern provided for free by McCall's, 2. I am a poor visualizer, and 3. I own, and therefore I must use, an embroidery machine.  Actually there was one other problem and that was that I just kept on going.  I would not let myself stop and take a break and THINK.  Just go, go, go.  That last one is why I was up at 2 AM thinking about how I should've centered the names on the cuffs. 

OK, let's review: Believe in the pattern.  I made my stocking first.

Pretty good, right?  Well, I spent hours trying to visualize (problem #2) how the cuffs were going to fit and how to "fix" the edge that was going to show after the stocking was done.  If I would have believed, I would have found out earlier that the seam does not show.  It is UNDER the cuff not inside the stocking. 

Problem #2 was ever present.  I tried to visualize how the cuff was going to be attached and failed.  I tried to visualize where the name should be embroidered so that it would come out on the right side AND right side up and failed.  Finally, I just had to go for it and 3 or so hours after I had started I had my first finished stocking.  I thought after that initial time that the next three would be easy since I now had conquered the problems.  I believed once again in the pattern and I did not need to visualize because I had already done it AND taken notes. HA! (Have you noticed all the exclamation marks in this post?  It was an emotional project.)

The last three were supose to be easy-peasy.  HA!  Problem #3 lurked, ready to suck all of my Saturday time up.  I had gotten lucky with my name on the first stocking.  You see I own a Brother SE-350 which is a good little machine that has a 4" x 4" embroidery area.  This is not big enough to embroider any of our names in one pass except for Eric's.  With the others I had to re-hoop.  It is not easy to re-hoop a piece of fabric so that the letters are 1. on the same horizontal line and 2. with the appropriate spacing from the previous letter.  So, three tries later for Sophia and two for Amelia, I had it. 

I must, now, confess a slight obsession about the side seam of the cuff.  You see on my stocking when I could not visualize ANYTHING, I did not know that the one seam of the cuff should line up with the side seam of the stocking.  After mine I did and this set off a whole new problem with centering because I could not just center the names on the cuff, I had to center them on the FRONT side of the cuff.  Oh, man.  I can be really compulsive sometimes!

After the embroidery was centered on the cuff, I had to center it on the stocking.  It worked for all but Amelia's.  So today, the day after my twelve-hour sewing marathon, I ripped out seams so that I could re-center it.  I did so with my 2AM epiphany which is appropriate during this holiday season.  I also had to (please stop reading now because this is getting painful even to write) rip out the seams that held on the loops because I did not listen to the pattern.  In an attempt to minimize the bulk of the seam area, I did not place the loops in properly and it caused the stockings to hang in all different directions. 

But now, all is well. We can once again believe...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spring Cleaning?

Anyone? Anyone?  (You have to use your imagination and think of the teacher in Ferris Bueller.  My writing would be much funnier for you if you could hear the voices in my head.  I swear.)  I have never, at least that I remember, been subject to the spring cleaning frenzy that others claim to feel.  I hardly ever have an urge to clean out closets or disturb things that are neatly packed away.  Outta sight, outta mind is totally my motto.  However, during this Holiday season I have felt an urge.  I feel a need to make my home homier, to de-clutter before I begin to increase the clutter by decorating for Christmas.  I suspect that the de-cluttering is being spurred on by a very inquisitive 1 year old who has made our floors walking hazards.  You know those movie scenes where the dad (Steve Martin, let's say) falls on the skateboard or steps on a jack.  Well, that is our house but we have hair clips and baby spoons instead of the toys.

My sewing has gone along with this sense of calm and cozy nesting.  I have been on a rice bag binge and today started a baking soda sachet one. 

They make me feel so warm and domesticated.    The two rice bags were made with a few modifications using V and Co's tutorial.  I must say that I do need a foot warmer when the temps here drop down to 50F at night, but I made these a little longer and a little thinner (15" x 5") with the idea of a neck warmer in mind.  I have been having neck/shoulder aches and thought others might also.  The one on the left is for Sophia's Mother's-Day-Out teacher.  Who better to give one to than someone that has to pick-up, play with, and care for 13 3 year olds all day?  Her favorite color is white so I thought this cute material with the white hearts was perfect.

The one on the right is for my dad even though the hubby says that men won't use them.  I tried to make it look manly by using one of E's old shirts.  I think the button on the front and not having to do the extra ironing and sewing to make the flaps was a true eureka moment.  I also added my grumbeere tags to both of the bags.  I made these tags a while back using this tutorial from Patchwork Pottery.  I have been a little shy about using them, but thought they looked liked they belonged on these. 

My only concern is the instructions.  The tutorial says to heat the rice for 2 min. but in my microwave that makes the bag both pipin' hot and wet.  I have dialed it back to 1.5 min. but still think it is a bit too warm.  I  will stick with 1 min. in the future.  No, I do not plan on stealing my dad's.  I made three rice bags and only need to finish a cover for mine.  I think I will make it exactly like the one above though.  E is right: even using his shirt, it is still super cute.  Manly, but super cute!

The other pouches in the picture are an attempt to make my babies room less smelly.  If you happen to be a fan of Sew Mama Sew like I am, you might have already seen these cute smell zappers.  They are part of the Homemade Holidays series that SMS did during the month of November.  If you aren't yet a fan, check it out.  These sachets are from the tutorial from Fly through our Window.  I am a bit scared that they won't work since I used just normal baking soda and not the scented one.  However, I must actually be an optimist because I made two so that I could give the second one to a friend who is going to have her fifth child (loony!!!) in January.  I used that super cute fabric that I bought for Amelia's banner.  I always buy more than I need and this has really paid off.  I have made a banner, pants and now sachets.  I still have a bit more.  Yay!

My only concern with the tutorial and my first two efforts is the placement of the loop.  I think it should be sewn into the front side so that the weight of the baking soda wouldn't make the front side hang lower than the back one exposing some backside of the fabric.  Picky, I know, but something to consider if you make some for yourself!

And that is the end of my Home Sweet Home story.  I still wonder why others get this feeling in spring.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finished, but distracted.

I have finished several projects lately, but have failed to blog about them because I have been distracted.  By what, you may ask.  By books.  I get that way sometimes.  What way?  Obsessed.  That way.  I get on reading kicks and except for the absolute musts (like feeding the kids, sewing circle meetings, speaking at least a couple of sentences to the husband) I do nothing but read.  What has trapped me so, you may ask.  I am ashamed to admit it (would love to say Rushdie or Mailer), but the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series from Charlaine Harris.  I really enjoyed them and once I got started I could not stop even though a couple were not that engrossing. 

I think I have an obsession with completion.  I had all eight.  My husband had been so nice and picked them up on his last trip to Germany.  So, even the books that I didn't love like #2 Untot in Dallas (Living Dead in Dallas) propelled me forward and I was just as excited even perhaps more excited to finish and move on to the next one.  Weird, huh?  Oh well, I am done now and if I can show some self control until next year, I will wait until Book 9 comes out in German.  It keeps my vocabulary up to read in German and my conscience about not being productive at bay. 

During this book obsession period, I had put off reading my book club book, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. When I finally finished with the Sookie Stackhouse books, I had to take a little break from reading and interact with the family (so they would not forget what my face looks like) and finish some sewing projects. I made three of the t-shirt dresses similar to the Halloween dress that I made for Sophia.  I made one out of a tunic t-shirt allowing me to just put one long ruffle on it. 

Then I made the girls matching Christmas dresses with a gingerbread GIRL (Sophia would like me to stress that) theme.  Amelia has not tried hers on yet, but I bet it is going to be...super cute! 

Finally, with a little help from the hubby with the letters, I made this outfit for Amelia.  I started out using a pattern for the pants but then decided they needed a little ruffle on the end.  I did not do the best job since those tiny ruffles are tough, but it still looks...super cute.

So, after a weekend full of sewing and family fun I had one week to read the Symmetry book.  I felt like I was in college again and I had to get ready for a test or something.  It was funny feeling as if I had to get done.  Our book club is not that serious, but I like completing things, as I said before.  Three days later and two days early, I finished the book.  I am looking forward to the meeting tonight so that I can talk with others about what I thought about the book.

These last few weeks have been my first reading kick since Amelia was born.  I had one after Sophia was born that centered around Georgette Heyer.  If you are a Jane Austen fan, then you might appreciate Ms. Heyer as well.  And this brings me to my latest discovery (brought to me by my friend Julie), Goodreads.  I can not truly vouch for the awesomeness of this site yet since I have only played with it a bit, but so far I like it. 

What I like most though are the monthly newsletters with info about two new books.  The first newsletter that I received had info about Niffenegger's Symmetry and Nick Horby's new book Juliet, Naked. Both books that I am/would be extremely interested in reading.  This newsletter made me realize that I am lacking in information about what is being released and what is being talked about.  BS (Before Sophia) I listened to NPR.  I bought Lattes and walked leisurely through Barnes and Nobles.  Remember those days when the train in the kids section was NOT a stop on your Barnes and Nobles tour?  Anyway, I am hoping that Goodreads and my friends on Goodreads will help me find more books that strike a passion in me.  This will lead to, hopefully, fewer reading kicks, but more goodreads.

Here's to hobbies!  May they keep us young and entertained.  May they inspire and excite!   

Friday, November 13, 2009

First steps towards toddlerdom...

Amelia's first steps were not literal. 

First, she turned one.  We had a great time: 

I had a great time making her little outfit and banner. 

Sophia had a great time making cupcakes.  Amelia had a great time wearing the outfit (I'm sure) and eating the cupcake even though she seemed a little confused at first.  As you can tell she seemed to get into after a while. 

Kelsie had a great time helping unwrap the presents.

The second step means that you will not see this picture again even though it is super cute.  Yep, a week after she turned one, her mean parents took away the pacifier.  It has not been super easy, but she is crying coping.

And then finally, today she actually did take her first few free-standing steps.  I don't know why today was the day, but she seemed to rocket herself forward a couple of times.  It was really cute and I was very glad that she decided to do it on carpet!

Go Amelia!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I've been sewing, but I can't show you...

That is the problem with Christmas time. And yes, I am now using the store calendar as my own. I am doing this because if I didn't get started on Christmas gifts in September and October I would never get them done. So, believe me I have been sewing lots.

For instance, this dress for Sophia.

Talk about easy-peasy! My sewing circle friend, Jodi, told us about this one. You just start with a tshirt (this one is from Target, of course) and cut off an inch or two. Then add two or three ruffles making each ruffle 1.5 times the width of the previous level. In other words, the first ruffle is 1.5 times the width of the tshirt. Next time I might go for 2 times the width since I don't think this one ruffled very well. Unfortunately it might also be my ineptitude at gathering. I try, but I NEVER get an even ruffle.

Along with Christmas, birthdays have been coming fast and furious. I bought Eric an iPod nano for his birthday and gave him a couple of bags to gather all the accessories in. I have been threatening to take his picture for the blog since I gave it to him, but have never done it. While I was making his bag, I got jealous and decided to finally make my GPS a bag too. It took me two tries but I ended up with this.

It fits perfectly in the compartment of my car where I keep it. Yes, I know. I am just asking for someone to steal my GPS. Oh well, I really can not carry that around with all the other stuff I have to carry around for the kids AND carry the kids on top of that. I am a SMALL person people!

Both bags that I made for the GPS are from Projects by Jane. I found them both on this cute little site called DIY Bag Lover. I really like the Bag Lover site because it gives you a picture of each bag, not just a name or description. The only thing that I will add in the future is interfacing. Most people don't add it, but I like the sturdiness that it adds to the bags, but especially to the handles.

That is about it for now. The circle is working on some dress-up scrubs. They should be done in a few weeks. I am looking forward to Halloween so that I can take pics of Sophia in her costume. It turned out well and that was only a day or two after my last post. When I say that I have no grace that is what I mean. If I could have kept my concerns private for just a couple more days, you guys would have thought that I was a sewing genius. Well, maybe next time!!

Amelia's birthday is in just a week and a half. I am super excited, not only because she will be ONE but also because she has some cute stuff to wear and decorate with. I am excited to write about them...but first I have to finish them. Gotta go.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

May have bitten off more than I can chew.

So in my desire to be awesome I decided to make Sophia's Halloween costume instead of buying it. There are actually two other reasons for doing this. First, a lot of the animal costumes are really thick and hot. For Texas it is just impractical because we hardly ever have that cold of weather in October. The poor girl has sweated through two Halloweens (yes, I am not opposed to reusing costumes if the girl allows it) in a dragon/dinosaur costume without complaint, but I don't know if she would do it again. She is more vocal now. The second reason is that if she wanted to be a princess, and I thought she might, the costumes look really itchy and not as fabulous as their price tags seem to think. And of course, I thought that I could do a better job.

Well, HA! We ended up after one Cinderella moment and a week or so of Ariel as a ladybug. Not one of those thick costumes that I spoke of early. No, this one she saw in a magazine and it was more cutesy ladybug like the bee below.

Well, I thought it would be simple enough. I just needed to find a pattern that had a similar top and then a cute skirt. I could even wing the skirt, if necessary. I looked through all the patterns and found NOTHING. So I eventually, after being enticed by a $0.99 sale, I chose to just modify this pattern.

I am making the blue one, but in red and black. I must say: I HATE SATIN and TULLE! They are just so much more difficult to work with than cotton. Satin slides while cutting. It slides while sewing. You can not even IRON it and make it stay. And then the darn tulle. Aaarrggh! is what I have to say.

Today, after getting the hem done on the satin underskirt and trying to pin some tulle into place, I had to take a break and iron. I chose ironing over sewing. This is a sad day.

Thank goodness there is always tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For the love of...

the sewing circle. We had a hard time properly sizing our notebook/book covers last night. Here is a successful and FINISHED version.

Two reasons to be thrilled:

1. One Christmas present done.
2. Mothers' Day Out programs that take care of our kids (and teach them) while we sew.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Montage of Events

Life has been passing pretty quickly this week, so here is a quick rundown. Amelia got her first tooth right before vacation. After that and seeing Amelia and Alexis get real food all week, she wants it too. So here is the results of her first spaghetti experience.

We had another sewing circle this week and I must say, I think that we are getting good. It is very inspiring to have creative companions. More on that later.

Finally, we ended the week with a game night with the neighbors and found we have some feisty ones. I learned the word "moe-ron" and that staying up until 2:30AM while KNOWING that you have to take care of kids starting at 7:00AM (If you are lucky. We were not.) is a little moe-ronic. Pretty-pretty Bob was moe-ronic right along with us.

FYI-moe-ronic will not be an accepted word in Bananagrams, so don't even try it!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Lessons of Summer

Our summer started slow and easy with a long visit from my sister and her family. The visit ended with us going with them back to Tennessee and having some time with my whole family. It is so much easier now with Sophia remembering everyone and loving the time and attention given by grandparents and aunts and uncles. Amelia is also good since she loves attention. She still got up every night for some reason, but that will slip my mind by next summer. In fact, it had already slipped my mind, but got brought back with a vengeance last week in North Carolina. More on that later.

When we were in Tennessee we got to go to Dollywood. I say "got to" like it was a great privilege when only a year ago I railed against going with a then 2.5 year old. But after that first trip Sophia talked about Dollywood for a YEAR. So I was psyched to let her go back this year when she was older and able to do more things.

What I learned from this trip: My daughter can be fearless. She loved the rides that she could do herself and was even ready to ride the River Rampage but was held back not from fearful parents but by a lightning storm that was approaching. Even though she didn't get to ride it, I was impressed. I also learned, and this served me well in Germany, that I can have a wonderful time just watching my kids and/or husband have a wonderful time. I also learned that one thing that I will never say no to is face painting.

Then we went to Germany. I was scirred. I ain't lyin'. (see how my southerness really comes back when I am scirred.) Have you traveled with a 9 month old? Have you tried to travel with one while crossing 7 time zones? I have and it can be exhausting. I thought vacations should be relaxing! But we persevered (mostly due to Eric's enthusiasm).

We had a WONDERFUL time! We did not get to visit friends because, as we should have known, everyone takes vacations in August. However, we did bump into acquaintances at almost every Weinfest we went to. The best was when we met our old neighbors and they sat with us for quite a while and caught us up on our old neighborhood as well as telling us that their son is on an amazing adventure. He is driving from Germany to AUSTRALIA! I didn't even know you could do that.

Along with visiting old haunts we also saw lots of new stuff because we have children. We went to Legoland which is somewhere I have wanted to go for years because it is just COOL what they can do with those little blocks. We also visited a bird park, animal park, and a reptile zoo. Each thing was fun and interesting.

And so, on this trip I learned: that babies can get adjusted to German time in about one night. However, readjustment to US time takes about a week. YUK! But hey, it doesn't ruin your vacation. I learned you can DRIVE from Europe to Australia. But the biggest thing that I learned is that my friends who are moving to Europe now and in the future will know a different Germany than I did. Their Germany will be kid friendly and kid oriented. That said, I am still jealous of their move and wish it were me.

Then the final trip. We went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX) with Heather and Mitch who we have been friends with now for seven years. We have only lived in the same place for about eight or nine months, but we have had life experiences that kept us connected even though location did not. We also happened to enjoy their company, so even though I proclaim not to be a "beach person" I looked forward to our trip (with only a little hesitation.) We were also going to share the beach house with Heather's brother, sister-in-law, and nephew.

Well, again, it was great except for a few minor glitches. I had a terrible sinus infection. Amelia did not sleep well and by the end of the week was waking up not one but TWO times a night. And finally, the weather was overcast most days which made me skip with joy and pull on my sweater with a smile, but made Heather who lives in Michigan and Brielle who lives in New Jersey sigh in despair because really, they could have stayed home for that kind of weather.

What we did have, regardless of weather, were WONDERFUL, filling meals. I mean I have never been one of those people to put on weight during vacations or holidays. But man, if I go on vacation with Mitch again I am going to have to go shopping not for souvenirs, but for new CLOTHES. And having big meals with lots of adults while the kids are off playing or watching TV is just nice and entertaining.

We also had some kick-ass sand castles. On the second day, I thought that I was a bit obsessive because even though Sophia quickly lost interest in our castle, I was determined to build it. I really don't know if I have ever truly built one since I have blocked out all memories of vacations at the beach (I really didn't like them.) I felt a bit silly building it myself, but kept going and made a decent one. Well, let me tell you, I was not even CLOSE to obsessive in comparison to my husband who spent the next THREE days working on his FORTRESS. It was hysterical how the first day he had the men working, then the second day he had Heather working. The older kids, Gabe, Jack and Sophia, helped out (or smashed whichever was their mood at the time) every so often, but mostly just played in the sand and water around the fortress area.

The worst part about the trip was the return home when Amelia proceeded to cry/whine the whole 3 hours to the airport and my shoulders hurt for 3 days afterwords for no apparent reason.

So on this trip I finally learned: that vacations are great, but the getting there and back stinks. And yes, I can be a beach person, but only if the beach is not too hot, there is no mention of jelly fish or sharks, and I'm with fun people. (Amazing amounts of alcohol helps, too.)

I also learned, and this is another story all together, that there are places in the US where you can not rent a car after 2PM on Saturday! Crazy!

Now we are home, at least for a bit. I am excited about having a routine again!

still kicking my butt...

School started yesterday and it was GREAT. Both girls did really well with the new routine which includes Sophia wearing something other than a leotard and Amelia staying awake until we get back from dropping Sophia off even if she wakes up early or doesn't sleep well at night.

The drop off went super and when I picked her up Sophia had nothing but good things to say and a big smile on her face. She didn't even want to leave so I let her play on the playground for a bit. We got home and BOTH girls gave me over a two hour nap. In fact this is Sophia after two and a half hours, still knocked out.

The only thing that got her up was her little sister banging on the bed.

Unfortunately today has not gone so well. Sophia had a hard time getting to bed last night and then got up early today. Waking up just to discipline your child sorta sucks. Amelia also seemed to be a grump or maybe she has just decided to become a screamer. Yep, cousin Ella might have a screamer companion. Please let it not be!

But now in the quiet of the house, after another smooth drop off, I am hoping these bumps in the road are just part of the adjustment. And I am hoping that I also get adjusted which means actually getting something accomplished instead of just sitting here and being amazed that quiet still exists in the world. It hasn't been in mine for quite a long time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The search for beauty

I like pretty things. That is a given. However, I usually go for comfort over fashion. Even though I love so many of the fabrics that I see and buy lots of them, I can not quite spend the money for some of the well-known names. I am content and pleased with JoAnn's and Hobby Lobby just as I am content to buy clothes from Target and Old Navy. And this is why I was so shocked today.

I had a sewing circle at my house last night. It was our third, but the first one for me to host and help the others make a project that I had made before. We had decided to make either the crayon roll or the drawing notebook inspired by Skip to my Lou. The biggest problem with this is that I have made many of the notebooks, but only two of them were the same and that is because I made them at the exact same time. I always try to improve them either changing the size or the amount of interfacing. Don't get me wrong. I love them and I think that they are great gifts, but I have never been 100% happy with them. This is mostly because of the deforming of the front due to the pull from the crayon/pencil pocket on the inside. Even after all my changes, I still had not found perfection, but thought the pattern was well worth sharing anyway.

The girls came over and made two beautiful notebooks. I did not sew because 1. I had no one to sew for and 2. it is hard to concentrate on sewing while also helping others to sew. I am not a multitasker. I didn't even remember to take the pictures of everyone hard at work even though the camera was sitting out for that very purpose. Pictures or not, everyone got done, early even, and I got new ideas on how to improve the pattern. That is what I love about the circle. That and you get to be a sewing geek with other geeks. Yay!

Well, then I woke up today going, "duh!" I was just chilling out last night watching everyone sew thinking I had nothing to do while in fact, I know two little boys who are going to the beach with us and would love a drawing notebook. So, I set out finishing my demo project from last night and getting a second one made. And that is where I ran into trouble.

I have not had to go to the store for supplies in a while. It has been great finding things that I want to make and just grabbing for the prettiest or best suited fabric and thread. Today I tried, but failed. It made me so sad. I had made Gabriel's with the left over firetruck material from Eli's, but didn't have enough for a second one.

When I started to make Jack's the plain blue canvas was just too depressing.

Making Gabe's notebook seemed to be an ordeal with the machine getting stuck on corners and other little annoyances. I thought that I just didn't want to sew.

Then I went and got fabric that I liked. I made the changes from last night.

It made all the difference.
At the beginning of the day I was so worried that Gabriel's present would be better than Jack's. I hated to do that to a 4 year old. Now, even though Jack won't know it, he is getting the PERFECT notebook.

And I found that beauty does matter. Making things that will be worn or used is great. Making those things well (straight seams, symmetrical, etc.) is what we strive for. Making those same things pretty is just satisfying.

Modifications to the DIY Pencil and Drawing Pad Holder:

To make the notebook smaller, I use a length of 10 1/2 in. This allows for 8-10 crayons or pencils.

When using crayons the width need only be 14 1/2 in.

The crayon pocket needs to be 7 in. wide.

The crayon/pencil pocket needs to be 11 3/4 in long. When attaching the pocket to the inner lining you need to draw lines on the inner lining AND the pocket. The inner lining spacing is like the original: 1 1/4 in. on ends and 1 in. for the rest. The lines on the pocket should be 1 3/4 in. on the ends and 1 1/8 in. for the rest. When sewing the pocket on, start in the middle and match the line on the pocket with the line on the lining. Just bunch it up, there is not enough material for a pleat.

When sewing the pocket to the lining, start about 1/4 in. from the top edge. This leaves a free bit of fabric so that you have something to hang onto when trying to replace your writing utensils.

And that is my perfect DIY Pencil and Drawing Pad Holder.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Me, me, me

I would have started this post with My First..., but I thought I have had too many of those. So, here are my first pair of shorts. They are super comfy.

I was sort of tired of making skirts that just hang in the closet. I finally admitted to myself that I wear shorts, lots and lots of shorts. So, I made these shorts using Simplicity pattern 7229. Yes, looking at the link now is sort of sad since it says 1 hour on the front. I was so ready to rave about how quick these drawstring shorts sew up, but that seems a little useless now since it really did take longer than 1 hr. Still, I made a second pair today without a babysitter and with a screaming baby. It took all day, but I think the baby screaming should count for many, many hours since it always feels that way!

I used a smaller size and some new fabric for the second pair. The size is probably a bit better for me. However, if I decide to add pockets on my third go around, I will use the bigger size to allow for room in the leg to actually USE the pocket. I found the fabric at Hobby Lobby or JoAnn's. I don't remember now. I have been dying to make something with it, but am not quite sure that the shorts were the best bet. I love them, but will everyone else? We'll find out soon when I wear them at the beach.

Just a note of greatness: due to sheer luck the pattern on the front of the second pair matched up perfectly at the seam. I love luck!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sophia's Rummage Sale

I am the first to say that TV is bad. However, I love it and so, unfortunately, does Sophia. I also LOVE my DVR. Seriously, out of everything that was invented or made popular while we were in Germany, the DVR was the absolute best. I mean, I can fast forward through commercials, I can pause it when asked a question. Man, I love it. It also allows me to record shows for Sophia so that most of the time she only gets exposed to things that I approve of. Somehow she still knows who Sponge Bob is and still likes him, but I have no idea how. Weird.

One of the shows that I let Sophia watch is Max and Ruby. Like all kid shows thse two bunnies take some getting used to. Really, where are the parents of these kids and can I really expect Sophia at age 7 to fully take over watching Amelia? I can hope.
Well, Ruby is teaching Sophia about money: How to spend it AND how to earn it. A couple of months back Sophia wanted a toy. She wants a toy every day so that was nothing new. But when I gave her the party line of "Maybe for your birthday" or "Tell your grandparents" she said, "I can have a rummage sale." Huh? Yes, Ruby had a rummage sale to make money and now, Sophia wanted to, too.
I fought this idea for quite a while. I had two fears: 1. She would sell everything and 2. That she would want to have a rummage sale every time she saw anything that she wanted. But I finally gave in and found out that I should not have worried about the first thing. As for the second, I tried to make it VERY clear that rummage sales are sort of like birthdays: they only come around once a year. Only time will tell if that sunk in, but, oh my, was it worth it!
Sophia and I started getting ready for the rummage sale on Monday. It took her DAYS to get enough toys to have a sale. I had to help at the end, but even my suggestions didn't help much. I didn't realize that Anna Lisa would like the stuffed dog and that Eli really likes to play with that McDonald Happy Meal robot. But even after we found all the toys, there was so much more to do. We had to sort them, price them, and draw signs for the toys AND the sale. Here is the finished product.

We invited the kids from the mommies group and since only girls seemed interested, I made them all little princess shopping bags for the occasion.

Yesterday was the big day. I held my breath hoping that she would make enough money to buy that Cinderella doll that she wanted so badly ($3 at Target, so we thought) as well as not yell or cry during the sale. (I was afraid, of course, that she would be upset that the girls were really going to take her toys home, but also that she would tell them how much money they had to spend. She had mentioned this throughout the prep time. She was going to make everyone pay $3 since that was how much the princess was.)

No worries necessary. It went off beautifully. The shoppers were so ready to spend and be happy with their new toys. Sophia was so proud behind the cash register just beaming at me as the quarters kept multiplying. It was great. Not all, in fact not many, big projects that I do for/with Sophia actually end up as planned, so it was just such a relief and joy to see this one happen!

Then came the counting of the money and the buying of the toy. She had to wait until after our playdate to count the money. (You might as well teach them young that it is impolite to count other people's money in front of them). The final count was $6.91 and I gave her another $0.09 to get an even $7. She had to wait until this morning to buy the toy. Oh, but she did so without whining (oh my goodness, miracles happen!!!).

After breakfast this morning it was off to Target we went and she had eyes only for that one doll that was in the cash register line. I had to make her go back to the toy section just to make absolutely sure that she didn't want a different princess. She didn't. It was one of the quickest shopping trips EVER. And now, we're home...

and she and Cinderella are happy.

Just a note: Notice the dress that she picked out to wear today. Oh my, she is determined to make today a good one!

Friday, August 14, 2009

At least she sleeps...

Jet lag has hit our house pretty hard. Or at least that is what I am telling myself while listening to Amelia scream her head off because she doesn't want to take a nap. It was also what I was telling myself at 5 in the morning when I was getting up to feed a nine month old AND give cheerios to a hungry and AWAKE 3.5 year old.

At least Sophia makes it up during her nap time. I don't see how she gets into these positions, but she sleeps and sleeps hard...and pretty: notice the bow in her head.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Repurposing, but with a pattern

Alot of the sewing circle have done the repurposing of a man's button down shirt and Sophia has been begging for a blue dress, so again I took the opportunity to do a twofer. I, however, do not love sewing without a pattern and really hate the Step 1: make a pattern that begins a lot of the repurposing tutorials like the one found at Made. So instead I used the dress to make one of my Simplicity patterns (Simplicity 3859) that I picked up on sale at JoAnn's.
The dress, like a lot of the other stuff that I have made, turned out ok.
Yes, just ok. I am proud of myself regarding one thing that actually didn't work out that well, but I tried and that counts for a lot in my sewing world!! For the first time, I actually checked the final measurements on the back of the package BEFORE I started. Amazing, right? Unfortunately, I am unclear about whether the measurements are with or without the ease. After it is made, I am thinking...with the ease. Regardless, the end measurement was suppose to be 22 1/2 in around the chest and my little bitty 3 year old is just 19 in around, so I....made the pattern pieces TWO inches smaller. And now, it looks...................a bit small. I have decided that sizing is the hardest part of this hobby!!
With armholes following somewhere close behind.

I added some iron on butterflies to make the dress even better.

And how did Sophia like it, you ask. Sigh.

I almost hate to admit this, again, but the girl doesn't approve. She did model it for the pics which is more than I can say for the cape. Unfortunately, she took it right off after the pictures. That means another failure, at least as far as the critic goes.

I offered to change up the buttons on the back to make it even more special, but she said, "no thanks." She is a tough critic, but, at the very least, a polite one.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Confessions of a lazy day...

Yes, this is sitting in my floor. Yes, there is another one right beside of it and a load in the washer AND the dryer.

Yes, my kid does need a diaper change (pew wee) and is playing with both a pen and a tube of benadryl cream.

Yes, the other child has been like this all morning.

This has been a lazy day.

In my defense: we just got back from Germany and are all a bit jet lagged. We are going to bed early (at least the kids), getting up early, being a bit cranky and needy. Yesterday, I think we held Amelia about 85% of the day. So, who could blame me taking advantage of the times when she is happy to sit on the floor and play with things that normally she couldn't?

So, I took advantage. I made this cute little bag using the tutorial found here. In the process, I learned how to use my zipper foot. I have used it before, even successfully a couple of times. But this time I really understood where the zipper should be positioned and where the seam should be. Yeah for simple projects that give you the time to understand what you are doing.

I also got to take a few pictures today of the cape I made last night at our second sewing circle. We used the tutorial found here.

In true Sophia fashion, she informed me BEFORE I went out that she did not want a cape. I, as always, thought that 1. I wanted to make it anyway and 2. that after she saw what an awesome job I did that she would BEG me to wear it.

Well, at least I was right on one account. It was great to make. I love the material I got for the princess side even if it was $7 a yard ON SALE!! We switched around how we cut the material compared to the tutorial so that we saved a lot and I could make another cape using what I bought. If one thinks of it that way, one could convence oneself that one only spent half the money...sort of.

Now back to reality. The lazy day is now over. Amelia is screaming bloody murder after a nap that was less than one hour. I have a feeling my arms will be getting a workout this afternoon.

It was fun while it lasted.