bits and pieces

:: I’ve got lots of projects in the works. I’d list them but then there would be a record of my overly ambitious plans. I will tell you that most of the prints in that happy stack pictured above will make their way into a color wheel quilt for friends who have lost a beloved pet. Materials from the belongings of that sweet pup, plus another twenty or so prints, will complement the selection.

:: I am going with my aunt-in-law to my local quilt guild for the first time tomorrow and am looking forward to three consecutive hours of crafting time outside of my home. I need to decide which project to bring. My fall-back plan is to just grab a bag of scraps and cut out 2.5″ squares. And maybe some cross stitch. {Cross stitch is allowed at a quilting guild, right?}

:: I don’t normally make new years resolutions. And if I do, I don’t normally share them with others. It’s not because they are super personal or anything. I think it’s because I’m afraid I will be held accountable.  This year I am making an exception by writing in this space that the one thing I am really trying to improve on is keeping our home clutter-free and being better about having a regular cleaning routine. Earth shattering, right? The reason why I am mentioning it here is because this new little mission has actually helped me free up more time for my two favorite hobbies: sewing and sitting on the couch. I hope to share some of my new habits in another post.

:: I’ve been thinking a little bit about the different elements that make a blog attractive to me.  Currently, my favorite blog is Buttons Magee. I probably found this one because the author sewed something that caught my attention, but what keeps me reading is her beautiful photography, great writing, and relevant content. She offers snippets of her daily life, without offering too much personal information, and talks about topics that resonate with me. Organization. Simple meal ideas. Thrifting. Things she does with her young girls.  Conversations she has with her husband. My favorite posts relate to little things that she does to make life easier on herself. Really, just every day stuff.  Her photography is pretty incredible, and yet it seems to truly reflect her real life. You won’t find perfectly staged shots with bright colors against stark white walls. But the writing.  I think that is the most important aspect for me.  Words matter. The reason why I mention this is because I am wondering what draws people to certain blogs. What is it about your all-time favorite blog that keeps you coming back for more? {I’d really love to know your thoughts on this if you have a minute to spare.}

:: Speaking of good blogs, my little sister has a newish blog. What it lacks in craftiness, it makes up in thoughtful, well-articulated prose. Have a gander if you are so inclined.

:: My best friend relocated back home with her family recently. They used to live in Florida. Last night I called her to see if she needed anything at the store because I was going to pick up milk. She had run out of coffee filters. I picked them up and brought them to her. We chatted in her kitchen until it got to be a bit too late. I was tired the next day. But was also very happy. There is nothing like good friends.

:: And last but not least, I finished the Oliver + S Jump Rope dress and have never been more proud of something I have sewn.  Will be sure to take a photo and show it off as soon as I can!

cutest patterns ever… and for a good cause

I don’t think there is a person out there who isn’t aware of the devastation in Haiti and the current tremendous need for help.  I won’t go on about that.  But did you know that you could purchase two of the absolute cutest softie patterns on the planet and help the relief effort?  {That bat just kills me! My absolute favorite.} I bought these just yesterday and received a follow-up email explaining that all proceeds from the sale will go to Partners in Health.

Non stitchers can also do good by way of the mighty shopping cart when they spend their pennies on beautiful handmade goods that have been donated to the Craft Hope Etsy shop.

Happy weekend.

christmas 09

Christmas was really nice this year.  We did a little bit less running around and a lot more lounging* around.  We were treated to a beautiful pre-Christmas snowstorm and a very special surprise wedding on the 26th. (More on that later.) I’ve had the whole week following the holiday off from work to spend with my little gang, playing with them and their new toys. I’ve also gone out to breakfast alone with my best friend.  (Thanks Mom.)  And out to dinner with my husband and some friends for New Year’s Eve. I’ve even had a chance to sit down at the sewing machine for a couple of small spells.  All in all, a really great holiday week.  Hope yours was nice too.

*I feel like the use of this verb requires some explanation.  Aside from nap time, we are never really left to actually lounge.  Our kids are in that constant motion stage. When I say that I really mean:  we stayed in our pj’s and didn’t leave the house. Which is a pretty awesome thing in my book.

our kids are still awesome

Its been a while since I told you how awesome our kids are. No changes there. They are still pretty darn awesome.

She is super happy because she recently found her feet and figured out that they make excellent chew toys. She’s also been teething on stalks of her daddy’s homegrown broccoli.

Occasionally she gets to hang out with her big brother in his new fort. It gives her the giggles. She has the best little giggles.

Eating his favorite dinner {chicken pot pie} up high in his new favorite place.

He is realizing that he really does have a sister who is here to stay. A playmate forever. He relishes his role as the one person who can make her laugh the hardest. They are already dancing together in the kitchen-when she is in the doorway jumper contraption. Kitchen dancing = the best.

He’s been speaking in full sentences and, I think, has become an even happier person since discovering that the adults in his life can actually understand almost everything he says. The other day he called me stupid. The comment was appropriate at the time. Smarty.

He’s developing a crazy Boston accent. He gets it mostly from his mom. Yikes. I didn’t realize it was that strong.

I’ve been enjoying the summer with our little family. We haven’t been taking tons of weekend trips, like we did last summer. Been taking it slow. Its been nice.

The baby has started to consistently sleep through the night (knock on wood) but still goes to bed kind of late. I’ve been sewing a couple of hours here and there once or twice a week, but most nights I just want to sit on the couch with my husband.

We have an abundance of spearmint in our garden, so I have been making myself a mojito each evening. It’s a good habit to get into. Reminds me of my days in Berlin. That doesn’t sound logical, but it is. New favorite recipe here.

I bought a remote for the camera. So now I can be featured in some of my goofy photos. I think a family portrait is in order.

the overly enthusiastic bridesmaid

My sister-in-law (I call her City Auntie on this blog) is getting married in about a year and I am honored to be a bridesmaid in the wedding.  I’ve been in three weddings before.  I was Alpine Auntie’s maid of honor and a bridesmaid for two of my best friends from college.  When Alpine Auntie got married I was living in Berlin, so I wasn’t able to get very involved in the planning.  I did get to chose my own dress and found the perfect one in a boutique in Luxembourg.  {Boy was my life soooo different back then.}  The details for the other two weddings were mostly handled by the brides and their mothers.  

This wedding is different.  Now that City Auntie lives so close to us, the opportunities to help her plan abound.  And, wow, am I excited to help.  I love coming up with all sorts of DIY ideas and badger City Auntie regularly with e-mails and links to lovely, lovely things.  I daydream about sewing up 200+ cloth napkins for the reception (unlikely to happen, but I love the idea) and assembling perfect little party favors.  I realized the other day that I could possibly be getting a little bit too into it.  Especially for someone who eloped.  *Ahem.*

Here is what happened.  My mom gave me a gorgeous bouquet of roses the first day that I returned back to work after maternity leave.  The flowers were incredible; they looked like this.  When the petals began to discolor, rather then throw them into the compost pile, I conducted a little DIY flower arranging experiment to see what I could come up with.  The result is the top photo. Another view of the arrangement is here. Not perfect. But not bad.  You know–for an overly enthusiastic bridesmaid.

On another topic, my baby girl is already getting old.  Notice how she can practically sit up on her own, on her handmade quilt, which was sewn with love by Alpine Auntie.  {How I love that quilt with it’s perfect colors, some of my most favorite dots, and it’s hand-tied pouffy goodness.}

“Hey Mom.  I’m not sure how I feel about this pedicure.  I think the paint on the toenails of my right foot is a bit uneven.  Can we go back to the salon?”

I’m not sure if it shows in these photos, but I have been fiddling with my camera lately.  Been trying to stay away from the auto modes and figure out how to use more natural light. The idea to capture her age each month with a tag comes from the lovely and talented Anna who works wonders with her digital SLR over at Hank & Willie.

{the one where she shows off her breastpump parts}

I went back to work recently after a three month maternity leave.   When I tell people this, the overall reaction is something like:  “Wow, it must be hard to leave the kids and go back to work.”  This statement makes me smile a bit.  Yes. It is hard to leave the kids.  I miss having all that free time to spend with them.  And I miss having a more flexible schedule.  But no, it’s not that hard to go back to work. In fact, compared to life at home with two wee ones, work can seem like a breeze.

At work I can go to the bathroom by myself when I want; I can eat lunch at a leisurely pace; I have both hands free at all times; and I get to talk to real-live adults. Yep. Pretty easy.

That said, I miss the chaos. And the kisses. And the deciphering of new words that spill from my two year old’s mouth. The baby’s coos. The dirty dishes (not really). The lunchtime visits with my husband.  The outings with my mom.  The hugs. The noses needing wiping.  The wonderful, yet exhausting, unpredictability of the average day at home.

Don’t worry about me, though.  I’m not crying into my keyboard every day. I have an interesting job that I enjoy, a great boss, a fantastic daycare provider, a tiny commute, two beautiful healthy children,  and a very supportive husband who helps us get pretty darn close to achieving that ever-sought-after life/work balance.  Things are good.  

But enough about me.  On to the breastpump bags.  Because I know you are just dying to hear all about them.

I pump at work and needed something that “breathes” to carry the attachments for my breast pump to and fro the shared kitchen near my office. I repurposed a laundry bag to make two drawstring bags that hold all the attachments.   This is my favorite type of project.  They were quick and easy to make and are something I will use all the time.  Also, I had all the materials on hand at home. Most importantly, they are pretty to look at and make the whole “I am a modern-day milkmaid” experience just a teency bit better.

Sewing on mesh is not a simple affair so I folded and sandwiched a piece of twill tape along the inner seams before I sewed them up.  And the drawstring casing also sandwiches the mesh, so my machine never touched that tricky fabric.  I love the floral fabric so much.  I found a few fat quarters on super sale in Salt Lake City at this shop when I was visiting my sister who lives in Park City.  The print is called Bloom by Laurie Bird for Windham Fabrics, style 25822.  I have no idea if it is still around in shops or not.

Two miscellaneous items:

-I won’t weigh in regarding the breast vs. bottle feed debate because I think that what’s best for the mom, ultimately, is best for the kid.  However, it is helpful to know that some health insurance plans will pay for a good electric pump.  I was lucky to have a friend at work who clued me into this just before I was planning to buy one.  I’m just mentioning it here in case the information can similarly help someone else. {I’d be happy to let you know how I got mine through a medical supply company if you are interested.}

-While I was on maternity leave, a package from CA was delivered to the mailroom at work.  That package never made it from the mailroom to my office.  Thought I’d say something in the event that the sender reads this blog.  Such a bummer to miss good mail!  Hopefully (well, not really) it was just work related.

good intentions

I had this brilliant idea to get our Christmas card picture all wrapped up while we were on vacation this summer on Cape Cod.  My plan was to “dress up” the Little Guy in his Christmas pajamas, let him run loose on the beach in the morning, and snap away.  I like to have a front and a back to our Christmas card, so I needed a shot of his face and his back.  Morning is normally his most chipper time, so I thought this would be a easy.  No such luck.  He woke up very grumpy that day, and I never got that perfect shot.  So, just for fun, I thought I’d show you bits of the beach photo shoot that will not grace our Christmas card this year.  And in the meantime, will blather about a few things that have been on my mind.

Actually, I like this one and would have used it for the back of the card.

A few words about my favorite little guy who is almost two.  I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I feel like he is maturing.  We haven’t had many pre-dinner meltdowns lately, and in the morning he can wait the five minutes that it takes to make oatmeal rather than freak out and demand cold cereal.  Our Little Guy has made a fairly smooth transition to sleeping in his “big boy” bed.  His favorite words lately are “home”, “wee wee” (his nickname for a beloved auntie), and “baby no!”–which I translate to mean “that baby that is still in your belly cannot touch my [train, truck, doggie] when s/he comes out!”  Yeah, pretty awesome.  A sign of good things to come, for sure. Almost every evening he requests that we turn on the radio in the kitchen and have a family dance party.  Two years old is a very good time!

His second birthday party is less than two weeks away, so I am putting aside some of the Christmas crafting to focus on that.  If anyone has any good ideas for a simple craft or activity that can be done with 4 two-year-olds, I’d love to hear your ideas.  I know what I am doing for the goodie bags and that will involve some crafting.  The cake will be pretty simple–a train theme–since choo choos are his most favorite thing ever these days.

On the Christmas crafting front, I am making good progress.  I am dying to post some pictures of three special little gifts that my mom (Grandmama) and I worked on together, but I can’t because the mom’s of the recipients check in with this blog all too frequently.  I have made some things that I can post before Christmas and will do that soon.  Just have to get around to taking photos.

I have been having a lot of fun trying to sew things that I have never tried before.  I keep wanting to add to my list, but I really have to curb that inclination.  I’m not getting stressed out about my to-do list and am just enjoying the process.  I figure I could always give some late gifts if I don’t finish.  I have the week after Christmas off from work so there will be plenty of time for sewing during naps.

Yeah.  So.  I definitely have to get back to work on that Christmas card.  Plan B is to take a close up of his (hopefully smiling) face so that I don’t have to worry about the outfit.  Will let you know how that works out.  And if I get stuck, I will definitely take Anna up on her offer to help.

making my day

Lots of people and little things have been making me smile lately.  Here’s the list:

-My BFF who recently asked me if I would be her new baby girl’s godmother.  I am so honored by this request.  She really cracked me up because she began the conversation with something like, “You don’t have to say yes, I won’t be offended, but….”  She is nuts!  I am so excited for this new role and am looking forward to the christening in October.   

-All the sweet baby-on-the-way well wishes from my last post.  Thanks so much.  It was fun to receive your little notes.  They make the idea of having another baby even more exciting (and real).

-A very kind woman who took the time to leave me a terribly thoughtful comment about the “clever cape” pattern.  I don’t believe she has a blog; I would link to her if she did.  The pattern is downloaded a few times everyday, put Stephanie was the first person to let me know that she made it for her son.  She sent photos too.  Here is what she said:  My son turned three yesterday so about two weeks ago I started looking for cape patterns (he is VERY imaginative and I knew he’d enjoy a real cape vs. the blanket with a safety pin he’s been using).  I just started searching the web for free patterns and I found this cape, it’s much cuter than anything else I found so I printed and made it on Friday night – it’s darling, THANK YOU! As soon as it was tied on him he ran all the way around the park, arms properly outstretched.  You can smile knowing that a little person out west is enjoying his very own ‘clever little cape’.”  Thanks Stephanie!  Your note and photos made me smile, for sure.  Your boy is a handsome little one.  Happy belated birthday to him.

-Grammy’s story about a co-worker of hers who made a shrinky dink bracelet using my tutorial and photos from her flower garden.  How cool is that?  I’m hoping Grammy will snag a photo one of these days when she gets a chance.

-A very close friend’s latest sewing project.  It is going to be amazing once it is finished.  I am dying to get a preview.  (You know who you are.  I will trade you a belly pic for a project-in-progress pic.)

-My kiddo’s “chicken arm” run.   The little guy bends one of his arms like a little chicken when he really gets going when he is running.  It is hilarious, and I was so glad to capture it with my camera. (Top photo.)

-A tiny bit of patchwork that has helped me get over my sewing blahs and has reminded me that quilts are really what I like to work on the most.

squeaky

 

About a month ago, I ventured down to the basement of my office building in search of a vending machine treat.  I put my dollar bill into the slot, pressed B7, watched the spring-like thing that was holding my bag of Sunchips rotate, and stood there feeling helpless as the bag dangled, unable to drop into the bottom of the machine where I would be able to fish it out.  Normally, I would chalk it up to bad luck, fork over another dollar, and secure that bag of chips–which I did.  But I also made note of the telephone number of the vending machine company and told my sad story to a very friendly customer service rep.  Two days later, I received the above note, with cash, in the mail.  Of course I felt pretty silly making that call, but for now lets just blame it on the raging pregnancy hormones.

So, yes, my goofy vending machine story was just a very long-winded segway leading to our big news that we are expecting number two in late January.  Horray!  We are very excited.  The only real side effect I have experienced with this pregnancy has been fatigue in the evening and a true aversion to sewing.  Lucky, the first trimester is behind me and I am feeling a lot better.  Fear not.  This blog won’t be turning into a “best-of-the-baby-junk” factory.  We’ve got all the gear we need, and plenty of tiny green and yellow hand-me-downs from baby number one.  Belly shots, however,  will make an occasional appearance– for my sisters in particular. 

We don’t plan to find out the gender of the baby, though I did catch Grammy referring to #2 as a girl the other day.  I realize the unknown drives some people nuts, but we like the element of surprise.  Plus, I won’t be as tempted to make things for the new baby and will be able to focus on my little guys “big boy” quilt which will be completed in time for his second birthday in December.  Thanks to a certain Ginger Monkey and Miss Tula Pink, I am thinking hexagons.  I have the fabric all picked out, and just have to learn a bit more about English paper piecing.  I feel like I may be getting in a little over my head with all the hand piecing, but I think I am going to like the process.  If anyone out there has any advice on the topic, please drop me a note.  I’d love to learn any tricks that speed things up.

We’ve been having a fun and busy summer, full of ice cream eating and pool hopping.  I was in LA recently for a work trip, and then we spent a wonderful long weekend in Maine.  I’ll post some photos from our Maine trip soon–there were lots of good ones.

random swirling thoughts

Lots of random little thoughts swirling around in my head. First the bad news. Creamsickle kicked the bucket yesterday. She lasted more than two months so I think that is respectable as far as the life of a goldfish goes. The sad thing is that “fishy” is one of about seven words in the little guy’s vocabulary. It looks like we might be in the market for a new family pet. One that looks like a creamsickle.

I’ve started up my running habit again. There was a very long hiatus (November-April) but my scare-the-townfolk-pale-legs are pounding the pavement with the kiddo once again. It feels good. And it fits nicely into our routine. My jogging partner is a lot heavier than he was last October, but he is also a lot more fun now, pointing out the trees and cars and houses and fellow joggers/bikers/walkers as we go. Last fall, he was guaranteed to snooze.

I have several little projects in the works and a plan to try something new. Felting. Motivation comes from here. My plan is to “up-cycle” a bunch of old wool sweaters by felting them and creating something useful. As far as I can tell so far, felting is accomplished by washing and drying wool in high heat. If local folks have any 100% wool sweaters they are looking to get rid of, the donation bin is open.

I missed the opportunity to say goodbye to a work friend who moved recently. And I don’t have her new digits. You know who you are, so if you are reading, could you shoot me a quick email so that I can be in touch? Oh, and I know that other friends of yours are scouring the internet looking for you too because some of them end up at this blog. Poor people do a search of your name but all they find here is a bunch of hokey crafts and photos of cute kids!

I just heard some big news today that my idea of utopia may be coming a little bit closer to reality by the fall. (A VERY BIG YAY!) More on that great news later.