Thursday, January 28, 2010


I know that at least once a month I mention how much I love my library. Really, the online hold system is so awesome--just type in what you're looking for, and click "place hold," and they'll email you when it's ready to be checked out. How could you not love it?

Yesterday, I was back in the library (I had gotten an email, of course; a book was waiting for me). And I happened upon this lovely book.
As I was flipping through the pages, I found this project.
My girls bring their lunch to school every day except Fridays. On Fridays, they get to buy, and it's very exciting for them. I usually put their lunch money in an envelope and send them off. But now, they'll have these to keep their lunch money in:

I added a strap so it can go around a wrist, if need be. The one in front is made from leftovers of a thrifted and felted sweater. The other one is made from scraps leftover from a skirt. The zippers are from a big thrifting score--a gallon ziplock bag of zippers for $5.00. I've used them for all the pencil pouches I've made over the last year. These were done in under half an hour.

I know they're going to be tickled when they get home from school. Good thing tomorrow is Friday so they can put them to use immediately!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays

But what if the rainy day IS a Monday?

Well, in that case, I check the sump a few times to make sure it's not about to overflow; I get a big enough bowl to put under the mystery only-happens-every-14-months-or-so- leak in the family room ceiling; I let the kids stay in their pajamas all day (because they're off from school); and then I get to work:

Sewing an Everything Tote from Weekend Sewing. Just because I found this red and white gingham sheet at the thrift store and it looks so cute with this leftover denim.

Then I finish sewing covers for our new floor cushions.

These floor cushions are actually re-purposed pillows from our bedroom. When we first moved here, I bought these euro shams (and these giant pillows) to go on our new bed (because we finally had a bedroom big enough for a king-sized bed). After a time, we tired of putting the pillows on the bed in the morning and then taking them off the bed in the evening, so the pillows have been sitting in a corner in our room. For a few years.

Since the kids love to take every throw pillow off the couch to sit on while they watch TV, I figured I'd give them the bigger pillows to sit on. I'm secretly hoping this will cause them to stop throwing the throw pillows on the floor. The fabric is mostly all leftovers. I did find some of the smaller gingham check on a clearance at Jo-ann last week ($2/yard remnant!). It's a home dec weight, so it should stand up to some abuse.

And even though the rain eventually stopped (and the sun did actually come out for a few minutes), dinner was straight comfort food, courtesy of Julia.

A delicious end to a productive day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sneak peek

A couple of nights ago, I just couldn't sleep. I had a million things going through my mind, and I just couldn't turn it off. I've been spinning my wheels creatively the last couple of weeks. (I was between knitting projects...that's never a good thing!) Anyway, earlier in the week I had decided to go ahead and focus on the kids' Valentine's day presents. They are usually homemade, with a little candy thrown in for fun. Last year I made appliqued t-shirts for the kids. The girls loved theirs, Bobby thought his was stupid and he never wore his.

Here are last year's shirts:

This year, I decided that I would just buy a new shirt for Bobby (and Old Navy had a cool Spiderman shirt, so I know he'll love it) and I'm making shirts for the girls.

So while I was tossing and turning the other night, I kept thinking "peace, love and something . . . music? no. candy? what sort of candy is easily identifiable and can be stenciled? candy cane? no. Wait! KISSES! Hershey kisses!"

Then I was so excited that I had figured it out I couldn't go back to sleep.

So this is where I am in the process now. I found all the graphics (thank you google image search--another new trick I just learned!) Now I just need to sit down with my exacto knife and some freezer paper and I'll be on my way.

I decided to give a sneak peek just to share the idea--please feel free to borrow and improve upon it.

And for their cards, I'm using Jennifer's fabric card tutorial that is over on Sew, Mama, Sew.

So I feel my crafting mojo returning, which is a good thing. A mojo-less mama is not good. And I have a new knitting project! Happy weekend to you all. I'll be out in the cold again selling Girl Scout Cookies.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sew Connected: December

December was our last month for Sew Connected. Audrey is making an alphabet I Spy quilt for her daughter. She sent out different letters to everyone. She sent me "S".

This block required a lot of planning. I wanted to fit the embroidered sheep in with the letter--not the easiest task.
One of the things I learned about myself during this year of making quilt blocks for other people is that I'm more of a wing-it type instead of a meticulously-plan-and-sketch-and-calculate-all-the-measurements-including-the-seam-allowances type.
I'm pleased with how it turned out, so I guess all that planning and calculating does pay off!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Family Day

Yesterday morning, we stopped by our church. I had to drop off some mac & cheese I had made. The church was full of volunteers ready to begin a day of service. This is something I'd like to do next year. Our MLK day this year was already booked. We went over to New Jersey to visit with Rob's mom and his sisters. And of course, all the cousins.

We met his mom and one of his sisters at an outlet mall. I can't tell you the last time I went shopping--even window-shopping. It was a treat. I didn't buy anything--and one of the side-effects of being crafty is that I spent more time studying the construction of the garments than the price tags. I can see that the trend for spring appears to be RUFFLES. I think I'm going to be having lots of fun with my sewing machine this spring!

The kids wanted me to take their picture, but first they all had to jockey for position on the tiny kiddie ride.

After we left the outlet mall, we went to my sister-in-law's house. While we were there, Rob and my brother-in-law moved the live Christmas tree. This was funny to watch. Since it was warm and the ground was nice and squishy from all the rain, they went ahead and planted it!

While they were planting the tree, I went down to the barn to visit Cori's chickens. There are a couple of roosters, and their "cock-a-doodle-doo's" are just so funny! NONE of the kids came down to the barn. They really missed out.

And we ended our visit with a family trip over to the cemetery. Rob's dad passed away eleven years ago today. His grandparents and an aunt are also buried at this cemetery, so we paid our respects to all the family members.
So our visit yesterday ended on a somber note. But on the way home the kids were full of questions about Rob's dad and about Aunt Shirley (whom they never met). It was nice to get to tell some stories about family members who are dearly missed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quick Knit

Last week, just as the calls from the school nurse began to come in, I cast on. My yarn: the last remaining ball of Misti Alpaca Chunky. My goal: neck warmth! My pattern: none!

After reading over some cowl patterns, I decided to wing it. I wanted this cowl to fit snugly--close enough that I would be able to zip my coat all the way up. My kids walk home from school, and I go over to school with all the other neighborhood moms to wait for them to come out. It is the windiest place on earth, I tell you, and my coat needs to be zipped all the way up, but my neck needs another layer snuggled up against it.

So I cast on 60 stitches and started knitting a 4 x 2 rib. Then I randomly cabled along the length of every other knitted panel. I made a couple of increases as I went (I think I finished with 70 stitches). I kept going until I looked like I was almost out of yarn.

Do you ever go into a yarn shop and find a yarn that is so soft that you want to rub it against your cheek? (I do--want to, that is, I don't actually put it up to my face until I've bought it. Usually I just hold the skein in my hand like a kitten. I stroke it as I walk around the shop. A little yarn kitten. Have I said too much?) Anyway, this is that yarn. It's so very soft, and now I will have it up against my neck and face all winter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweater Love

Here's my latest sweater. The original pattern, the Neighborly, was designed by Jennifer for little girls. Larissa turned it into the Big-Girl Neighborly.

This used two skeins of Plymouth Galway worsted in this yummy raisin color, and two skeins of Noro Kureyon in a most delicious colorway (251, I think). This was the first time I've ever used Noro, and it was just so much fun to watch the colors change. Every time I sat down to work on this, I would rave to Rob about how much I loved the colors.
I finished it Monday night; washed and blocked it yesterday, and I'm wearing it today! I love, love, love this sweater.

A big thank-you goes out to the ladies who created and shared this pattern. This has me thinking...with Valentine's day coming up, maybe my little girls could use a little Neighborly love of their own!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Well, that was something! Since I was here last, every member of the family--parents included--was leveled by this mystery bug. There were lots of naps, lots of quiet play, lots of ginger ale and saltines, and lots and lots of laundry. (There was also a little knitting and reading, of course.)

I'm calling this week my do-over week, because I really didn't get the whole "first week back" experience I was looking for last week. I got the house un-decorated and partially clean just in time for the patients to arrive. Yesterday was full of changing sheets and disinfecting bathrooms, and I'm feeling much better about the state of the house.

I did finish my last birthday sweater last night. I just have to wash and block it before I share. Caroline has a birthday party on Saturday, and I am behind on my last Sew Connected block, so I think this week I'll be bringing the sewing machine back out. I look forward to getting re-acquainted with my old friend.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Change of plans

Right as Bobby and I were sitting down to lunch yesterday, the school nurse called. Caitlin was throwing up. I took Bobby in for kindergarten and came home with Caitlin. Poor thing. Watching your child be ill and knowing that there is nothing you can do to make it stop is one of the worst feelings in the world.

She is home today--the vomiting appears to have stopped, and she's occasionally sipping some water. I'm hopeful we'll graduate to some toast before too long. The poor baby hasn't eaten since yesterday morning (and this is my grazer--the one who come through the kitchen every 90 minutes or so to announce, "I'm hungry!").

We'll be right here on the couch for today at least. I hope you are all well and warm!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Easing in

We are all easing back into our weekly routines. Not all of our regular activites are resuming this week, and that's a good thing, because the kids are having a tough time getting back into the day-long groove. The homework hour has been challenging--lots of meltdowns and distractions. Today the girls have dance, and I'm looking forward to breaking up the afternoon a little. I'm also looking forward to tonight's broccoli soup, but I may be the only one who is.

All the decorations have come down, and parts of the house feel naked. I put up fall decorations in September, so it really has been several months since the house was "normal." I like it though. It feels like a clean slate.

I want to thank all of you for your sweet and encouraging comments to my last post. I treasure them--and by all means, if you see something that I've done and you want to do it or put your own spin on it, please go right ahead! And one of these days, I'd love to have a real-life bloggy meet-up. Maybe I should put that on my "bucket list." You know, if I ever get around to making one of those.

In between the holiday madness, I decided it was time to knit another hat for myself. A hat that I would actually wear. The other hats I've made for myself are more of a beanie style--not the most flattering for me. So here is Felicity (free on ravelry). I used up some of the gray wool from my Mr. Greenjeans sweater. It's....okay. I'm just going to keep telling myself that I am cool and hip enough to wear this hat. It is keeping my ears warm, so mission accomplished.

But my neck is still freezing! So I'm cooking up something for this last ball of alpaca. Hopefully I'll have this done soon because standing outside the elementary school in the bitter wind is getting old real fast. I keep adding a layer every day, and every day it seems to get colder.
As a final note, Molly posted a tutorial on how to customize your blog header. I am very excited about this--I recycled a picture from last year to make the new blog header, but now that I know how to do it, I'm going to have lots of fun with this!

Stay warm, everyone!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I've been thinking a lot about that phrase, "bloom where you are planted." To be honest, I'd never heard it until a year or so ago (whenever Erin made that wonderful quilt with the saying on it). But it's such a good idea, and it really rings true for me--mostly because I feel like I've not been blooming. Let me 'splain...

I live with my husband and our three children in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We have lived here for about four and a half years. For the six years before that, we lived in my husband's hometown. All of our children were born in the same hospital as my husband. Our house was maybe three miles from his mom; his two sisters were even closer. His grandparents were about two miles away from us; aunts, uncles and cousins--all within four miles.

My family? We're a little more scattered. I grew up in South Carolina, in the same town where my parents grew up. After I finished high school, my family moved to Tennessee, and now my brother and my parents are still in Tennessee. I have one grandparent and an aunt and cousin still in South Carolina, but I haven't lived there since 1988. I don't really keep in touch with anyone from high school (, it just doesn't do it for me), and I don't really feel like I have a "hometown."

So for over four years now, I've been feeling a little lost. I've been trying to make a home for us--not just a house that we live in, but a place in the world for us where we feel that we truly belong. The hard part, for me, at least, is that making a home requires building connections and relationships with other people--people in the neighborhood, in the community, in the schools, etc. And I have really resisted this part of putting down roots. I don't know why. When Rob was unemployed last summer, he looked for jobs back in New Jersey. The idea of moving just filled me with dread. Transplanting whatever shallow roots we'd created here in Pennsylvania seemed awful.

But living here with only shallow roots hasn't been especially rewarding for me either.

So I made a decision--to bloom where I'm planted. To encourage my roots to grow deeper.

Ironically, one of the places where I feel I've grown the most is right here online. The blogging community has allowed me to find endless inspiration and to "meet" many wonderful women. I hope it's okay that I consider you my friends. I feel a sense of community here, and I want to put more of myself out here. I hope to write more thoughtful pieces here this year in addition to sharing the crafty fun and the perennial laundry struggles. I want to learn more about you, too, so I'll be commenting more instead of just lurking.

Don't worry, there is plenty of interaction with actual, real-time people going on, too. I'll share more of that later. Right now, I have a little story for you.

It's about family heirlooms.

My mom's mother passed away a few years ago. Last April, we went to South Carolina to visit my grandfather. While I was there, my mom gave me some of my grandma's old books.

Not only are they useful, they are full of treasures. Grandma liked to tuck things away in her cookbooks. Here is the program from my elementary school's Christmas show when I was in the third grade.

My mom has claimed Grandma's main cookbook for herself, and rightly so. It has the most treasures hidden in it. But over Christmas, Mom brought me this:

It was written by eight-year-old me. I immediately put it in one of my favorite cookbooks.

And then I showed my mom one of the treasures that I had tucked away into that same book:

I love that my family has generations of women who stash away letters, programs, even scraps of paper from everyday life. I hope that my daughters will do this one day. To me, this is the making of a family heirloom. It is the "putting down" of roots. It is the beginning of blooming--wherever we may be planted.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New New Year's Tradition?

It's brand new for us this year; hopefully we'll be able to continue this every year. I had originally wanted to do this as a stocking stuffer for Christmas, but I found myself running out of time.
But it made a perfect gift for the new year! It's a coupon book. Each child gets a coupon a month. Each coupon has an activity to do with either mama or daddy--work on a puzzle together, go on a bike riding date, bake cookies together, etc.

And I put each coupon book into a stuffed heart. It's the Family Heart from Soulemama's second book.

The kids were really excited about the different activities--most of them are ready to cash in January's coupon today!

Friday, January 1, 2010

And Happy New Year to You, Too!

Last night we let the kids stay up to watch the ball drop. The kids donned their glasses and their pajamas and got ready to party. We played some fortune-telling games and Apples to Apples Kids. We tuned in to Dick Clark. Bobby fell asleep on the couch some time after ten, but the girls made it all the way to midnight.
In the morning (or late morning--we all tried to sleep in), I made buttermilk biscuits (and bacon and eggs, but the kids were most excited about the biscuits). We went bowling and grocery shopping--loads of fun! Now the kids are ready for naps.

The mailman brought me some goodies to read over the weekend. This will give me something to do while the bowl games run non-stop.

And it's a new naturally I think about resolutions. I don't really have any beyond the usual--try to be more patient, try to eat better, try to improve at meal planning. One special project I'm going to try this year is a 365 picture project. I feel pretty confident that I can take a picture a day--it's the uploading to flickr on a daily basis that I'm more likely to fall short on. Since this is my challenge, I'm making the rules! I'll take a picture daily, but if I'm only able to upload to flickr a couple of times a week, that's okay. The whole point of the exercise will still be satisfied. And maybe my photography skills will improve!
The kids go back to school on Monday, and I want to enjoy these remaining days together. I'm sure I'll be back here after my post-holiday cleaning frenzy early next week.