Friday, January 1, 2016

Handmade Holidays: Ornaments

This holiday season ended up being a pintastrophe. Every Pinterest find turned into a disaster. I have yet to find/follow/execute a proper bird seed ornament. The kids' jammies were finished right before bedtime on the 24th (OK, big kid got pants, little kid had to wear a pair of leggings that matched, more or less), and the cross stitch ornaments never got finished. Moving on.
Painted ornaments for godparents. PX actually did a very careful, thoughtful job. Lots of color blocking and q-tip dots. BH gave zero effs and just wanted ALL the paint. ALL of it. More and more and more colors!
Preschool-made ornament by PX. It was supposed to be a grandparent gift (boohoo!), so we get to keep it. Not sure how to seal it so we don't have glitter/crumbs everywhere...
PX saw this in my bin o' stuff to be painted, and he insisted on making it for his baby sister. She had a very moosey Christmas! Sweet boy. He did his painting while she napped (and she while he was at school), so it was a real surprise for her.
No time to cross-stitch? Problem solved with a little heat-n-bond, puff paint, wool felt, and enough drying time. She got a matching pillow case for her big girl pillow.
Why did I buy so much sperm whale fabric? Matches his own pillow case (and his shirt, and his backpack...), and he has plans to make a family portrait of the four of us using four whales. Ha! Someday.
This is one of eighteen, each individual, sent to family. We missed the big extended family party because we were in Chicago for a different big extended family party. I thought to myself, "this is the perfect kind of project to photograph and write a tutorial for!" But the reality of squeezing in time to make 18 means no tutorial. I found a Sew Mama Sew project that was similar, but I wanted to use two fabrics, and I didn't like the way it looked just using a semicircle. So, I made my own almost-semicircle to make the folds more even. Uhg, these pictures are obnoxiously focused. This is what happens when you have to fight the battle with too little light. F-stop vs ISO. Sigh. Looked better on my teeny camera screen!
Last one! I didn't make this. It's from M's family, so it is at least 20 years old. His mom had mad talent, and I am so thankful to have pieces of her work. Especially when they have teeny holiday calico fabric and pompoms. 

I love the new year, even though it is only the illusion of a fresh start. I feel so motivated to get all my projects done, but I am also motivated to work out and cook and tidy and travel and hike and....sigh. Off to go do! Something! Anything!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Birthday, Thanksgiving, Advent

Time flies when you're having fun. It flies even faster if you're having fun and working non-stop.
Here's one week's work. Or, approximately ten hours of Gilmore Girls episodes worth. Time management has never been my strong point, so of course these are getting all the attention while my personal Christmas projects gather dust. Soon, soon. 

Birthday came and went (I grow old!), Thanksgiving did the same. "Buy Nothing Day" turned into "Do Nothing Day" and we barely even left the house all weekend. So many projects, so little time. The Halloween and Fall decorations are finally down, the Advent wreath is up, and we're slowly preparing for the Christmas tree. It is hard to get the tree up when the kids keep dumping ALL THE TOYS where it needs to go. I don't have an Advent calendar. I don't have a pile of 25 books to unwrap each day. I don't have the three dollar felt tree kit from Target that everyone is dying to have (though, I admit that I keep checking for it). I don't have kids who care about these things, so we will be ok!

In house excitement, we came up with a more-permanent-temporary fix for the leak in the kids' room which initially involved spray foam and then turned into some other kind of spray sealant. Many, MANY days of rain mean leaky roofs and grumpy humans. Don't ever buy a house with a flat roof. I love this house, and historically it didn't have a flat roof. I pushed, but not hard enough, to change it back to a plain dormer before we got our new roof.  Can't anyone just patch in the roof, you ask? No, of course not! Not stone-coated steel! Some day. Not soon, not soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Tribute to Gutermann 266

I can't decide if this means I do too many sewing projects with blue, or not nearly enough. Gutermann 266, I had no idea how much I love you.  I found these gems while trying to apply the principles of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to my sewing supplies. I would say that these most definitely spark joy, so they stay.

Organizing sewing things is much, much harder than I thought. I can't find some easy, intuitive way to store things. I ogle pinterest sewing rooms, but I don't want to go out and buy a ton of matchy-matchy storage containers just to have them not be what I really need. I thought I knew where to start, but now I've hit a road block. My sewing stuff is still piled up in the living room, and baby stuff is still piled up in the sewing room. At this point, I feel like I need to be next to the kids, and having them up in the sewing room is almost out of the question. How do they ALWAYS find the sharpies?! There's also the small matter of finding wasp carcasses up there. How? Why?? And life wasps in the basement. Again, how? WHY? For now we'll stick with our "make it work" set up of sewing in the dining room then shoving everything into the parlor and closing the pocket doors when company comes.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November, already?

Halloween has come and gone. Kids' costumes were ready for the preschool party on the 29, adult costumes were ready in time to scoot to Lauren's work to trick-or-treat on the 30th. Hot glue was still wet when we dashed out the door, but dry by the time we arrived. Win! The kids got some candy, but they were mostly interested in playing in giant pits of balloons. Can't blame them! PX did get a little upset no one knew who we were--oh son. You come from a long line of geeks. Get used to it. Today I have to put away all the Halloween decorations and find all the Easter eggs (from Mike's costume, Easter Bunny).  The kids keep hiding them...

I used to be vehemently opposed to letting anything Christmas related creep into the house before Thanksgiving. Now, if homemade gifts are going to be ready in time, I have to work early.  All the ornaments for the extended family are finished but need labels attached (hand made stamp from The Small Object two years ago).  My new job (!!!) involves sewing, so I am very glad I got the ornaments done. What little free time I had is earmarked for drool pads! Striking a home/work balance when I'm not making enough to afford a sitter and the kids aren't big enough to safely entertain themselves while I work is going to be interesting. So far I've learned that they can't be trusted with pin cushions or drawers of sharpies, and all my attempts at organization have been undone. Never a dull moment!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Making but not Sewing

Lots of making-stuff these days. Preschool had a car show last week. Ignorant me, when I saw this on the calendar six weeks ago I assumed they were *going* to a car show. Not *being* a car show. P decided he wanted to be an ambulance. Grandpa helped construct the body, I covered it with red poster board, and P decorated. He is especially proud of the face on the front and doors that can open and close in the back. I am especially proud of the blinking bike light and the fact that it looks like a kid made it. Worth mentioning, so maybe I remember in two years when we do it all again: the tankless water heater was the biggest box used by any kid, and he was the only one without straps to hold it up. He put his hands palm-up under the roof of the car, which worked fine. For the next one, I'll probably aim for something more like a diaper box.  Of course, by then diapers will be a distant memory, right?? This was a fun project, but of course we ended up with a stressed-out-time-crunch right at the end. I like making; I don't love deadlines. Speaking of deadlines, Halloween is a BIG one...

Progress is being made on one of the four costumes, anyway. I'm having a hard time finding fairy wings. Gah! Time to turn to Amazon, I suppose, but I'll have to do it soon! Time is a-wasting! Next year we'll just be the Tiger family. Two of the four of us won't even need pants!

Friday, October 16, 2015


Figuratively, anyway. In 2012 every blogger had an Expedit. In 2015 it's the Raskog. And it must be in turquoise. Literally speaking, everyone knows KALAX is the new EXPEDIT.
I accidentally spent five hours in the new Ikea on Monday. Not in an, "Ooo we had so much fun and so many meatballs, the time just flew by!" sort of way. In a, "This store is brand new and we don't know much about Ikea and DEAR GOD THIS SHOULDN'T TAKE SO LONG!" sort of way.  This was not my first trip to Ikea (that was in Germany) or even my second ('cause it was 2012 and I needed an Expedit). The trip started out as a feat of efficiency.  Many, MANY parking lot attendants ushered us exactly where we needed to park, and we got inside and found my sister. Then my children needed to try out every single bed. Every one. Sorry to the employees who had to fix all the bedding; I REALLY tried to stop them. The kids were up and down, in and out of the Ergo, the cart, and my arms. I think Lil Bit ended up on my left hip for at least three hours. My arm! Then we got in the queue for lunch....45 minutes later, we realized there was a second place to line up, with no actual line. We decided to hold our spot, which was a mistake. We should have moved. Live and learn, and eat some meatballs.  Or, in my case, veggieballs.  The kiosks weren't working to get set up as a family member (another 20 minutes wasted), the friend we were with didn't actually need the delivery service (another 30 minutes...), and once we checked out I promised the kids some chocolate from the Swedish market (in line another 20 minutes).  In the end, we came home with two Raskogs, a lazy susan ("UNCLE RYAN HAS THIS AND WE NEED IT!"), and four curry-colored kitchen towels (because turmeric stains eeeeeverything). 
Step five: Line up the bins and then throw it on the goddamn floor because it's just time to give up.
I'll admit that assembling the first one took some time. I didn't catch that some of the tubes weren't symmetrical and it DOES matter which direction you have them going.  The middle shelf is supposed to be height-adjustable, and I think if I had just pressed on it would have been OK, just fixed on one side. I can't tell if the grates were directional or not. I googled a bit and found a LOT of blogs explaining how to assemble them...some claimed it took several days. It did not. Even with two toddlers hiding the bolts, it did not take two days. The second one took 20 minutes, tops. The first one immediately went to work holding blacksmithing tools. Did I mention the family took up another hobby? Someone decided someone needs a suit of armor in honor of birthday number 4. Many Amazon purchases later, we had ourselves a nice pile of thingamabobs and dodads piled in the foyer.
But not anylonger! They're contained and can easily be moved out to the porch. Done and done. The other cart is supposed to be mine (since I'm the one who wanted it), but it has held everything from blocks to cars to electrical tools and twist-on wire connectors. Once the newness wears off, it'll be mine. Or, I'll just have to go back and get a third. In turquoise, of course.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

On My Nightstand: October 2015

As soon as we got into our guest room in Santa Fe a few weeks ago, PX dumped out our bag of books and carefully stacked them on "my" side of the bed. "That's where they belong!" he said.  Amazing. I never thought twice about the giant stack of books next to my bed, so I certainly didn't think he noticed.  I thought it would be fun to document what's on my nightstand every once in a while.  This is one of those things that readers (all four of you, heyyy ladies) may or may not find interesting, but I definitely will want to read ten years from now. So bear with me.

Bottom to top:
It Starts With Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig (Victory Belt Pub., 2012)
I love food, and I love knowing what food is doing in my body. This is like taking the food info out of The Primal Blueprint, expanding on it, adding recipes and a high level of playful attitude. The extent of my university biology education was sorting through leaves and seeing what bugs we could find (seriously) and spending two class periods talking about e-coli break outs (complete with drawings of port-a-potties in spinach fields). Science doesn't come easily to me, even though it is what I am MOST interested in, and I have to read and re-read and discuss it to make it stick.

Lovable Livable Home by Sherry and John Petersik (Artisan, 2015)
So many projects, so little time. Signed by the authors who came to St. Louis and gave a lovely presentation about homemaking. Tons of pics with a few projects scattered throughout. They don't have precise instructions, but the emphasis is really on making stuff your own, so I guess that's easy if you have to wing it! I started reading Young House Love when it was This Young House and I stumbled across it while trying to plan my wedding. I was hooked. I miss it, but I admire the way they're putting themselves first. I still have moments when I look at my house and think, "Dang, YHL would have been DONE with these projects by now!" Not sure how they did it.

Sewing to Sell by Virginia Lindsay (Stash Books, 2014)
I already mentioned this one when writing about the sperm whale backpack for the big cub. I keep renewing it from the library, but I've had it for two full months now and I guess I need to give it back. The projects are really well-designed, so I'm tempted to buy it. The advice from a business side is maybe useful, I guess? It is definitely more about marketing than about "How to not go to jail for doing your business all wrong." It doesn't even mention things like CPSC requirements for children's items, and I am just really frustrated with things that make it seem like all you have to do to open an Etsy shop is take a picture and post it.  I guess you CAN do that. But shouldn't? Clearly I'm overwhelmed and bitter about the whole "knowledge begets responsibility" thing, since plenty of people selling kids' stuff just....make, pic, post, sell. Some day. Just not today.

Fun with the Family in New Mexico, 4th Ed. by Kate Winslow and Julia Ward (Globe Pequot Press, 2004)
Most of the things we did in Santa Fe were, in fact, recommended in this book.  I'll certainly check it out again for our next trip.  It's a big state and we haven't done a whole lot of exploring yet. The restaurant suggestions were not so good (both in quality, per the opinion of our hosts, and accuracy--several had closed), but that is to be expected with an eleven-year-old book.

My Quotable Kid (Chronicle Books, 2009)
A gift from an aunt, Christmas 2013.  We get to write down things that PX says like, "I don't need to think! I have LIGHTNING in my brain!" but the downside is that it makes me compare the kids.  Lil miss is hilarious in a way that can't be quoted, so it's hard to capture that.

Santa Fe, 5th Ed. by Lawrence W. Cheek (Compass American Guides, 2009)
This book was written by a native, who really likes mentioning he is a native, and it starts out by telling us in Santa Fe it is normal to work three jobs and barely make ends meet. Womp womp. I didn't read it cover-to-cover, so I can't say if that tone carried through the book.  I'll probably check this one out again, too, because it was so thorough. Lots of historical context, many day trips, and very, very detailed descriptions of things.  Where Fun with the Family only had one section of one chapter dedicated to Santa Fe, this is a whole book, so they're different by equally valuable.

Falcon Guides Best Easy Day Hikes: St. Louis by JD Tanner and Emily Ressler (Falcon Guides, 2011)
Library book! This guide has several things going for it. It is super detailed, describing the whole lengths of trails down to the tenth of a mile. It includes quite a few Illinois trails (woo!). And, it is small enough to take on the actual hike. Downside is that it is from 2011, and these kinds of books get outdated pretty quickly.  The only error I noticed was that they said there was no curfew in Forest Park, and there definitely, definitely is. If I had more time and a shorter bucket list, I'd do something crazy like make it a goal to hike through the entire book in a year. Maybe in 2017!

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Penguin, 2001)
Sometimes I read fiction.  I stole this one from Liz while helping her clean out her bookshelves before she moved. Progress is slow because I keep losing my spot and forgetting all the details.  This is why I never made it past a few hundred pages of Game of Thrones! (Not on my night stand. That one is IN my night stand.)

Five Wriggly, Wiggly Caterpillars by Debbie Tarbett (Caterpillar Books, 2012)
There are always kids' books in our room. Always! This one is a solid choice--good rhymes, bright pictures, take-away-one math concepts, and butterflies at the end. A gift to PX from a great-aunt on his first Easter.

What are you reading? What should I add to my pile?