Monday, December 26, 2011

Handmade Christmas

Here's a review of some of the handmade items I crafted as Christmas gifts. I went a little more homemade than usual this year, and considering I didn't get started on any of them until December was well underway, I'm pleased that I managed anything at all!

Here we have a counted cross-stitch ornament given to my friend, Susan. I lifted the design from a early 1990s library book. Most of the designs looked fairly out of date, but this classic folk pattern caught my eye. All materials came from my stash.

The recipient of this crayon roll was my little one-year-old niece. I used this excellent tutorial from The Pleated Poppy, adjusting the size to fit jumbo crayons. (If you want to do something similar, my fabric pieces were 5-3/4" x 24-1/2" for the outside and inside, and 6-1/2" x 24-1/2" for the pocket. The crayon pockets end up being 1-1/2" wide.)

Finally, this toile makeup bag went to my Mom. She had requested a smaller-sized makeup bag so this one ended up about 6" x 7." I used a tutorial from Flossie Teacakes, adjusting the sizing slightly and adding box corners. I am not totally happy with the way it turned out because the zipper corners look a little wonky (see photo). Perhaps my upholstery-weight cotton was simply too thick. For the lining, I used polyester lining and lightweight fusible interfacing. Other than the shape, I'm very happy with the neat finishing touches and the pretty fabrics.

I'm a little late, but I'll wish you all a happy (second day of) Christmas! :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Poor man's holiday room fragrance

Now that citrus fruits are in season, we've been going through boxes of clementines like there's no tomorrow. Here's a little room freshener idea that makes good use of all those peels sitting around.
  • orange peels from 2-3 clementines
  • cinnamon stick
  • whole cloves (maybe a teaspoonful?)
  • a sprinkling of grated nutmeg
  • (optional) a few drops of sweet orange essential oil (I have it on hand, so I add it)
Place everything in a small saucepan and add some water (not necessarily to cover, but enough that it won't boil down right away). Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Your kitchen will begin to smell wonderfully fragrant. Top off the water as needed. You can reuse the same mixture for several days -- just toss it when it starts to look like a nauseous mess. ;-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Fond Farewell (sort of!)

I've been procrastinating writing this post -- I'm sure you've noticed the neglect my blog has suffered of late! Douglas and I decided to get rid of our home Internet connection for a season, which went into effect at the beginning of this month. This is partly to cut out an unnecessary financial expenditure, and partly because we both felt we were too addicted to the Internet. It's been a few weeks now, and I'm truly surprised at how little I miss it -- mostly the convenience of looking up a recipe, checking the weather forecast, or things like that.

I initially thought that if we got rid of our Internet connection, I would give up blogging altogether -- but when push came to shove, I'm having a hard time severing something I've enjoyed so much over the past five years. So, I decided to semi-retire instead. My posts will be much more infrequent, since my Internet time is so limited, but I hope to continue posting from time to time, especially my sewing projects.

I will also be changing the comments so that all comments need to be approved by me before they show up. I've been blessed not to have to deal with much spam or unkindness through the comments feature, but this will just give me an extra measure of peace about the content of my blog when I'm not around to check on it every day.

Thanks for hanging in there with me! It's a blessing to be able to share the small beauties with which God has enriched my life at home. I'm always glad to hear from you, either in the comments or by e-mail (my address is in my blogger profile). God bless you, dear friends!

Pink or blue?

Flannel blankets

I haven't been up to much sewing lately, but I did manage to make these two swaddling blankets from lengths of flannel I had in my stash. It's just a single layer of flannel, with the edges folded under 1/2" twice and stitched down. I made mitred corners for neatness. They ended up being about 38" square. I had several like these that I used with Edmund, and I really liked them for their versatility -- swaddling, nursing cover, floor mat, etc.!

Lord willing, one of these blankets will be put to good use in our family next May! ;-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Back to School" shirtdress

"Back to School" shirtdress

As autumn rolled around this year, I realized I have a gap in my wardrobe of casual cool-weather dresses. I'd been wanting to try Simplicity 2246, so I ordered an autumn-hued plaid shirting from Mood Fabrics and got to work.

"Back to School" shirtdress collar closeup

I used view C, but switched out the sleeves from views A and B. I also used the collar from view B, but added a ruffle of my own. I lengthened the skirt by two inches so that it would hit me below the knee. I also cut the button plackets on the bias to take advantage of the extra interest that the bias plaid would create. Oh, and I cut out the pattern a size smaller than I normally would choose, based on the finished garment measurements (included in the pattern) and other pattern reviews floating around the Internet. The fit turned out fine!

"Back to School" shirtdress

By the way, I've needed corrective lenses since I was 10 years old, but I usually wear contact lenses. The last time I got new glasses was about 13 years ago, so my frames were a little out-of-date. I recently got this new pair for free, courtesy of my ophthalmologist uncle, so I've been wearing my glasses a lot more frequently. I think they fit the academic look of this dress, don't you? ;-)

Another off-topic note. The first time I wore this dress I managed to get French fry grease on two separate spots on the skirt. I have tried rubbing the spots with Dawn dish detergent and then laundering as usual, which I think helped fade them, but they are still there (probably only noticeable to me, but still!). If you have any great methods for removing grease stains, lay them on me!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Banbury Cross cardigan, revisited

Banbury Cross cardigan

I have a backlog of sewing projects to share, one of which is this new version of the Banbury Cross cardigan I designed last fall. The old one still fits Edmund, but there are a few "issues" that I was able to fix with this new one. The biggest thing I learned was that I needed to stabilize the button plackets, which I did with strips of interfacing.

This one was made from a thrifted, oatmeal-colored men's sweater. I used leftover herringbone wool for the elbow patches, and cute little leather-look buttons. I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Au lac de Wallenstadt

We've been quite busy around here with preparations for Douglas' weekend piano recital. Douglas has been devoting many hours to practice and I'm doing my bit by preparing for out-of-town guests and baking up dozens of refreshments. He did take the time to record my favorite piece that he'll be playing, "Au lac de Wallenstadt" from the Années de pèlerinage by Franz Liszt. Click here to listen or download. Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wool peddler's shawl

wool peddler's shawl

This is a project that has been five years in the making. Proof that I am not a knitter!

I started this back in 2006, working on it off and on. It reeeeally languished. For two. years. Finally, the summer before my wedding, my friend Keturah and I made a bargain to swap projects. I would sew her a vintage-style dress if she would finish knitting my shawl!

My end of the bargain was fun. I sewed her a dress in blue silk charmeuse, based on EvaDress 7482. I'm not so sure Keturah's part was quite so fun, but she persevered. ;) And this summer when I went to visit her, she presented me with this beautiful shawl!

wool peddler's shawl
[The pattern is the English Wool Peddler's Shawl from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle.
The yarn is Brown Sheep Co. Lambs Pride Superwash in Lichen.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Leek and Apple Cream Soup

  • 1 lb. leeks
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. cooking apples, such as MacIntosh, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 lb. red potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 (14-oz.) can chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. half-and-half
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • Lady apple slices for garnish (optional)
1. Quarter leeks and wash thoroughly. Coarsely chop white portions and reserve green tops for garnish.
2. Melt butter in large heavy saucepan. Add chopped leeks. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until transparent, stirring often.
3. Add apples, potatoes, chicken broth, and salt. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until apples and potatoes are tender.
4. Puree vegetables with 1/2 cup cooking liquid in blender until smooth. Stir into remaining cooking liquid in saucepan. Add half-and-half, coriander, and white pepper. Mix well.
5. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Garnish each serving with lady apple slices, and fashion apple stem and leaves from reserved green leek tops.

Yield: 6 servings.

--from the January 1990 issue of "Victoria" magazine

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blessings of the day

  • Edmund sleeping in 'til 8 AM
  • answered prayers
  • snuggling with my son under a wool tartan blanket, reading Marguerite de Angeli's A Pocket Full of Posies: A Merry Mother Goose
  • a full refrigerator
  • a little extra time to put dishes away, wipe down counterspace, and sweep the floor in the kitchen while Edmund entertained himself nearby
  • a moment of Joy
  • a new autumn candle ("Mulled Cider" from Mainstays brand, found at Wal-Mart)
  • leek and apple cream soup and most delicious spinach salad for supper
  • a country drive in the rain afterwards

Monday, September 12, 2011



The golden rod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown,
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curing in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brookside
Make asters in the brook.

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odor rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And Autumn's best of cheer.

--Helen Hunt Jackson

Sunday, September 4, 2011


airplane hood ornament

On Saturday, our little family went to a large car show and auction where we had the opportunity to admire lots of vintage cars, some quite rare. This is our third year attending so I guess it's becoming a family tradition! Now, my husband loves cars and knows a lot about them. According to his mom, at age two he could identify the make of every car by sight. I can't even do that at age 28. He's passing this love on to Edmund, who has entertained friends and family by correctly identifying cars, trucks, Jeeps, SUVs, etc. Now Douglas is working on teaching him the different makes. He has Pontiac and Chevy down pat, but still needs a little help with Ford and others. :)

The afternoon featured exchanges like this one:

She: (looking at a 1940 Packard) Doesn't this remind you of our wedding getaway car [a '39 Packard]?
He: Yes, they're practically identical, the only difference is that there's an extra portion of grill right here. (pointing)
She: How could you even notice that?
He: How could you not?

So my car knowledge is sadly lacking, but I can still appreciate the beauty and elegance of well-made cars from days gone by.

super charged
[Love the vintage font!]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Slipcovering: estimating yardage

Before I went about choosing a fabric to slipcover our two wingback chairs, I needed to take some measurements to make a yardage estimate in order to have a rough idea of how much fabric I'd need. This helps me to know what my maximum price range per yard will be. In order to do this, I measured each individual surface at its longest and widest point. (As you measure, pay attention to which direction the chair fabric is running -- I always made my height measurement correspond to the vertical grain, or the warp, of the fabric.) The photo illustrates what I mean by "individual surfaces" in case you are a little confused already. :) If a measurement ended with a fraction, I rounded up to the nearest whole number.

chair diagram
[I forgot to label the "arm front," but you can probably figure out where that is!]

After measuring all these areas, I ended up with a bunch of rectangular shapes that all needed to be fitted onto a length of yardage. I decided to assume that my fabric would be 54 inches wide, since that is the width of most home decor fabrics. Now here is where things got tricky for me. I'm pretty visual and I really needed something to look at to figure out the most efficient way to utilize the fabric. Sooo, I used some graph paper to simulate my shapes. Each box represented 10 inches, so I drew a rectangle for my fabric that was just under five-and-a-half squares across. Then I cut out corresponding shapes for each of my measurements, remembering that certain ones (like the arms, wings, and seat cushion) would need two of each piece. This made things so much more easy and I was quickly able to push the shapes around to find a space-efficient layout. I found that if I choose a solid or very small print, I could make each slipcover out of 3-2/3 yards of fabric.

The reason the print of the fabric will affect yardage is that larger-scale prints will need to be centered and matched, which obviously reduces the efficiency with which you can lay out your pieces. At least I now have an idea of how much fabric I'll need (I'd say 4-7 yards, depending on the scale of the print) and can search accordingly.

You'd think that the next part, fabric shopping, would be quite fun, but I can be so indecisive. It doesn't help that my tastes far outrun my budget. ;-) In the past I have been drawn to muted, classic, antique-looking fabrics (especially gorgeous florals). Since my marriage, my husband has helped me be less afraid of color and trends. I still like the same things, but am willing to consider brighter colors and different prints. I want to choose something that is not overly feminine (probably no pale pink florals) and that will stand up to a household with children (no whites or creams, and I would prefer something with a print so as to more readily hide dirt and crumbs). It also has to look good with Douglas' (black) grand piano. Lately I have been more drawn to ethnic prints but I'm nervous about going for anything too trendy. I might prefer to save such things for throw pillows, which are less of a commitment.

It's good for me to write this down and get a clearer idea of where I'm going. How do you go about making home decorating decisions? Do you choose a color scheme first, or find a fabric you love, or just start thinking about a general 'look'?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer WIFD - day seven

wifd - day seven

On the final day of my WIFD, I wore an Anthropologie top with my newly-finished linen Beignet skirt from Colette Patterns.

linen beignet skirt

I made this from stash fabric as a "wearable muslin" and I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out! Colette Patterns are a bit pricey but you will end up with a very well-made garment. If I bought a skirt like this in a store, it would cost me well over $100, and it wouldn't even be tailored to my figure. Choose some quality fabrics like wool and silk habotai lining and you'll up the luxury factor even more. At times, it pays to sew your own clothes!

This week was a good exercise for me as I now see I have plenty of options to make it through a week of dressing femininely, without resorting to the grubby or sloppy (oh, it happens!). I've tried to pay more attention to accessorizing as I think those little touches can add a subtle and beautiful look to an outfit. As to why I even bother trying to dress nicely at all, you can find some of my reasons here. I hope these posts have been an inspiration and encouragement to you!

Other WIFD participants:
A Joyful Handmaiden
Pursuing the Calling

Summer WIFD - day six

After my great-uncle's funeral, we headed West to join up with Douglas' family and friends in the mountains. We all enjoyed a few days together at the family cabin.

wifd - day six

I wore my Simplicity 5914 skirt (again) with an Anthropologie tunic top (on sale) and a belt from Charlotte Russe. My day was mostly spent enjoying family time and relaxing -- not too bad!

Other WIFD participants:
A Joyful Handmaiden
Pursuing the Calling

Summer WIFD - day five


This day, we were traveling all day in the car so I opted more for comfort than style. I wore a short-sleeved knit wrap cardigan over two J. Crew tanks and an Old Navy knit maxi skirt, plus flip-flops for easily slipping on and off in the car.


In his college days, my husband was accustomed to driving very long cross-country trips to get from school to home and back again, and thinks nothing of filling up the tank and driving until it's empty again. By the time we reached Meramec Caverns in Missouri, I was begging for mercy. ;-) We got out and stretched our legs a little, although we didn't tour the caverns this time. Then back on the road again!

Other WIFD participants:
A Joyful Handmaiden
Pursuing the Calling

Friday, July 29, 2011

We interrupt this regularly scheduled WIFD...

My apologies for the lack of WIFD posts -- we ended up traveling for a family funeral on Thursday so the blog has taken a back burner. I'll try to get caught up when I'm able -- thanks for your understanding!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer WIFD - day four

WIFD - day four

This is my "soaking up Vitamin D" pose. The grass is getting a little too much sun as you can tell from its bristly, dry appearance. Anyway...

I didn't intend to go entirely homesewn again today but this is what I picked out of my closet! My first Sorbetto top and a white linen-look skirt made several years ago from Simplicity 5914. Today was a busy day so I wore my hair pulled back in a low ponytail most of the day. Not much else to say about this -- it's a very easy and comfortable outfit!

Other WIFD participants:
A Joyful Handmaiden
Pursuing the Calling

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer WIFD - day three

So far this week, I've worn all handmade items! I'm impressed with myself. ;-) Actually, it's more of a reflection on the fact that it's cheaper for me to make things myself than buy styles I like to wear in stores. With all the weight fluctuation of pregnancy and nursing, my wardrobe has been kind of a mish-mash the past two+ years!

summer WIFD - day three 2

Today I wore version #2 of the Sorbetto top. I made it from Lisette cotton lawn (available at Jo-Ann Fabrics). I omitted the center pleat (as in the cream rayon version) and added bias ruffles at the neckline. I left the edges of the ruffles unfinished so that they would fray slightly in the wash.

WIFD - day three

The skirt is also one I have showed you before. It's a nice, versatile neutral color. I like that the fabric is heavy enough that I don't need to wear a slip -- a real bonus during these hot summer days!

To add a little extra color I wore some turquoise drop earrings Douglas gave me.

summer WIFD - day three

Other WIFD participants:
A Joyful Handmaiden
Pursuing the Calling

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer WIFD - day two

WIFD - day two

If you read my blog regularly, the dress I'm wearing today isn't new to you! To shake things up a bit, I wore a vintage gold chain necklace that I haven't paired with this dress before. It belonged to my Great-Grandma Irene -- I miss her a lot and it's special to me to have some of her jewelry. I haven't worn it in a while and as I put it on today, it struck me that it looks very much like a modern bib necklace.

I spent a chunk of the morning helping my neighbor sew a skirt for herself, and the rest of the day has been spent doing laundry, ironing, folding and hanging clean clothes, preparing food, and other sundry household chores. It's hard to be motivated to put on something cute when I'm not going anywhere "special" -- but I need to get it into my head that being around my husband and son is special enough!

Plus, if Douglas gets in the mood to surprise me with a fun date tonight (hint, hint), I'll already be ready to go! ;-)

Other WIFD participants:
A Joyful Handmaiden
A High Calling
Pursuing the Calling

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer WIFD - day one

Since I'm in my Sunday best today, I'm afraid the rest of the week is going to be all downhill from here! ;-)

Sunday best

The sleeveless blouse I'm wearing today is my third version of the Sorbetto top. I eked it out of some cream-colored, twill-woven rayon remnants I found at a garage sale (yes, I have been doing a lot of garage saling lately -- a lot for me, anyway). I hemmed the ruffles with my rolled hem foot and the perfectionist in me loves how beautifully neat the stitches look! The rayon was slightly sheer, and since I didn't want to have to wear a camisole underneath, I self-lined it. This cut out the need to bind the armholes, but I did bind the neckline because of the ruffle.

I made my skirt several years ago from Simplicity 3841. I have always loved this fabric -- it reminds me of Paris in the 1950s. :)

And now to end, a prudent reminder to myself as I strive to dress in a feminine way: "Do not let your adornment be merely outward -- arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel -- rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." -- I Peter 3:3-4 (emphasis mine)

Other WIFD participants:
A Joyful Handmaiden
A High Calling
Pursuing the Calling

Friday, July 22, 2011

Warning: WIFD ahead

What, you may ask, is a WIFD?

It is a phenomena peculiar to the Sense & Sensibility message forums and stands for Week in Feminine Dress, though the original idea came from LAF/Beautiful Womanhood. Every so often, the S&S ladies will commit to a challenge of dressing femininely and documenting it for the encouragement/inspiration of other board members. I haven't participated in a WIFD since before my marriage, and it's high time to do another one! Starting Sunday, July 24, I'll be posting photos on my blog as well as at the forums.

I'll post links to other participants' blogs at the end of each day's post, so if you'd like to join in, leave a comment and I'll add your link too!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Let the slipcovering begin!


Well! I did not expect to find a wingback chair so soon, let alone two, but God graciously blessed us with these chairs over the weekend! We found them at a garage sale we happened to be driving by (looking for a different garage sale, incidentally). They are made by Broyhill, in very good shape, with no odors or stains or traces of bugs (shiver), and we paid less for the pair than ONE ratty old chair would cost at Goodwill! AND, even though I plan on slipcovering them, in the meantime they match our couch's upholstery really well. :) What a blessing.

So, the next steps are to take some thorough measurements in order to estimate yardage, and pick an upholstery fabric for the slipcovers. This latter task is not as easy as it sounds, as I am a pretty indecisive person. Douglas and I have discussed what colors and prints we like and hopefully we can find some kind of middle ground there, especially within our price range. I will keep you up-to-date as this project progresses!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Edwardian-style heels, pt. deux!

black suede shoes

So maybe I should start a side business sourcing and selling early 1990s vintage shoes? I found these this weekend at a garage sale -- SAME SIZE as the other pair I'm selling (i.e. just too small for me to keep!). Sorry to keep tantalizing those of you who are not 7.5, but the eBay listing is here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Edwardian-style heels

Old Edwardian shoes

I thrifted these champagne gold shoes a few weeks ago -- they date from the early 1990s, I think, but look oh-so-very early 20th century! Unfortunately, they are just a shade too small for me. (Wearing them for a modeling session, yes; standing and walking in them for hours on end, no.) If you have a love for historical clothing and are fortunate enough to be a size 7.5, check them out on eBay.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sorbetto top

Sorbetto top

Yesterday I whipped up a new summer top from Colette Patterns' free Sorbetto top pattern. I made this as a wearable muslin using leftover cotton lawn from my maxi dress. I did lengthen the top by two inches, but other than that -- no changes!

I'm really pleased with the fit and the way it turned out. This is such a simple, easy pattern (two pieces!), but it has the potential for many variations. I'm planning on sewing up another version in the next few days, using some Lisette cotton lawn. I'm still deciding how to "fancy up" the next one. I'll share photos when it's done!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Archie vest

Archie vest

I recently won a giveaway at The Baby Gardner and was delighted to receive this sweet little Archie vest in the mail! It's perfect for a well-dressed gentleman of diminutive size. Too small for Edmund at this point, but I'm hoping for more boys in the future... ;-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Grand Hotel

Thanks for playing along with my little guessing game! Each of the photos I shared held a clue, which I'll now explain to you. The first photo shows that we were near water, and the subjects -- red geraniums -- are the "trademark flowers" of the hotel where we stayed. Photo #2 depicts a horse-drawn carriage, one of the main modes of transportation on the island (the other options are bicycling and walking). The third photograph shows lilacs blooming in late June, indicating a northern location. And the final photo shows a long porch, which is the façade of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan!

Grand Hotel

We were very blessed by the wonderful opportunity to stay at this hotel for one night in the midst of a week-long reunion of my dad's family. Mackinac Island is situated just between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, in Lake Huron, and is a historic summer destination. The hotel was built in 1887 and is beautifully kept, both inside and out.

My dad treated some of the ladies of the family to afternoon tea after we arrived at the hotel. How luxurious to sit in the beautiful parlor after a day of traveling by land and sea! We were each given a plate of savory sandwiches and a plate of sweets, plus our own pot of English Breakfast tea.

Grand Hotel room

Each of the 385 guest rooms at the hotel has its own unique décor, so here's a peek at ours! I loved the striped wallpaper, floral chintz fabric, and mint green ceiling. :)

Dressed for dinner

Part of the fun of staying here is that guests are required to dress for dinner. If you know me, you know I love an excuse to dress up. I seized the opportunity to wear a 1920s-style beaded dress Douglas gave me for my birthday two years ago. I did my best to approximate an "Eton crop" by slicking my hair down and pulling the length up into a bun at the nape of the neck.

Dinner was a delicious five-course affair. My favorite dish was the Salad Caprese -- I am going to try to replicate it in my own kitchen! We even did a little dancing after dinner. Douglas has taught me some basic Lindy Hop steps so I can act like I know what I'm doing.

The following day was gloriously sunny, so after a wonderful breakfast we enjoyed some family time playing croquet and lawn bowling on the lawn in front of the hotel. Douglas went on a garden tour and showed me some of the highlights afterwards. It was amazing to see lilacs and peonies still in bloom in late June! We also took advantage of the swimming pool and Edmund had his first successful pool time (he has rather hated being in the water until recently).

Pink poppies
[pink poppies in the gardens -- lovely!]

After a late lunch, we boarded the ferry to return to the mainland. For me, it was surely the most unforgettable experience of our vacation!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Guess where?





Can you guess where we were this week?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Books, books, books

Through my recent birthday and the discovery of two very well-priced used bookstores, I've added quite a few books to my shelves lately. Here are a few highlights:

A Pictorial History of English Architecture by John Betjeman ($1, used bookstore) -- I admit, the name "John Betjeman" caught my eye first, but when I read the title I knew it would be a great addition to my library. The photographs are either black-and-white or the dingy colors of the early '70s, so the pictures alone don't make the book worth seeking out. However, John Betjeman is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, and the basic information remains the same, 40 years later.

The English House by Sally Griffiths and Simon McBride (birthday present) -- I have loved browsing through this book. It features 11 different homes from various counties of England, ranging from the likes of the Tudor Country House to the Victorian Terrace House. The text introduces you to the history of each home and its present owner(s). It interests me to read how the owners have chosen to renovate and decorate their historic homes. Some of the rooms and furnishings were familiar to me from photographs and stories in my beloved Victoria magazines, so I have enjoyed getting more views and backstories beyond what the magazines provided. This book is filled with beautiful inspiration for those who love English Country style.

Romantic Style by Denny Hemming and Victoria's Secret ($2, used bookstore) -- Yes, this book was published by Victoria's Secret back in the day when it was a classy establishment! There's not a single scantily-clad female in the entire book, imagine that! Although a few touches here and there are a little dated (it was published in 1990), for the most part, the decor featured in this book has aged well after twenty-one years. Much of it is in the "English Country" vein, hence my interest. I've enjoyed flipping through the pictures (the text is less interesting) for decorating inspiration.

Do-It-Yourself Tailored Slipcovers by Sophia Sevo (birthday present) -- I was excited to receive this book because it covers a variety of chair styles and how to slipcover them. I have been talking about slipcovering our couch for a while now, but recently the idea to start a little smaller has appealed to me. :) Now I'm on the lookout for the perfect used wing chair and the perfect upholstery fabric, then away I'll go!

Simple Upholstery and Slipcovers by Carol Parks ($2, used bookstore) -- I was pleased to find this as a supplement to the above book. It goes into making slipcovers for couches and ottomans as well as the actual ins and outs of re-upholstering furniture, with step by step photographs. After looking through this book, I feel I have a pretty good idea of how an upholsterer works!! I think I might have the confidence to try re-upholstering... someday. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Potted herbs

potted herbs

Meet my apartment garden: potted basil, chives, spearmint, and dill. I love having fresh herbs for my kitchen. My future herb garden will include all of the above, plus cilantro, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, parsley, and lavender. What are your favorite herbs?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

33 years

wedding napkin
["That we may with one mind and one mouth glorify God..." Romans 15:6]

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ikat maxi dress

Ikat maxi dress

My mother-in-law recently commissioned me to make a maxi dress for my sister-in-law Emily, using some pretty aqua batik rayon and Simplicity 2579. It was such a quick and easy pattern I decided to make a version for myself, too. Of course, I ended up making some changes to mine so it wasn't so quick and easy anymore.

I added a ruffle to the bottom of the skirt for fun, and some shell buttons to the shoulders for nursing access. This pattern runs quite small in the bust so I also did a full bust adjustment using the instructions from Fit for Real People. It wasn't as hard or complex as it sounds, and the ensuing fit is great (after taking in the sides a lot -- way too much ease, as usual!).

I used a semi-sheer cotton lawn from Fashion Fabrics Club and lined it with plain cotton. The skirt is also lined to the ruffle, which is not in the pattern -- I just cut extra skirt pieces from the lining cotton and treated them as one with the cotton lawn when gathering and attaching the skirt to the midriff.

I love the finished dress -- it is very comfortable and easy to wear, and since it's all cotton it keeps me cool. I'm going to be wearing this aaaall summer long!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Suzy Homemaker

This vintage toy washer/dryer resides with Douglas' grandmother, where it has delighted children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. The top lid is missing, but a child can still spin the interior and push buttons to his or her heart's content. (My husband remembers doing so as a boy!)

Suzy Homemaker

I've looked for small toy versions of certain domestic tasks so that Edmund and any future children can learn to be helpful around the house. My discovery has been that "homemaking" toys are hard to find these days. My mom found a wooden toy iron at a specialty store in Ohio, and I recently bought a tot-sized push-broom (at Jo-Ann Fabrics, of all places!).

I was intrigued by the brand name "Suzy Homemaker" -- a small glimpse into a time when little girls aspired to be like their mommies and keep house!

Do you recollect any favorite homemaking toys you played with as a child?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Comments, etc.

A few people have told me lately that they have tried to leave comments on my blog, but their comment wouldn't go through -- so if this has been the case with anyone else, my apologies! Part of the fun of blogging is the interactive nature of commenting, so I put on my thinking cap to see if I could discover the problem. I currently have the comments set up so that you do not need to wait for me to approve your comment (unless you are commenting on a post over two weeks old), so if you comment on a new post and it does not show up right away, then your comment did not go through for one reason or another. (I only delete spammy comments.)

After a bit of investigation, I think the problem may be the "word verification" feature -- if you are unfamiliar with how this works and why it is there, it is easy to miss! If you are trying to leave a comment but do not have a Blogger account, you may choose to comment as "Name/URL" from the drop down menu. (A URL is basically a web address -- if you do not have a personal website, just leave that field blank.) Once you hit "Post Comment," you will be asked to verify that you are not a spambot by re-typing a randomly generated "word" image, like the one below:


In this case, you would type "twartme" into the blank field before hitting the "Post Comment" button for the final time. The verification "word" changes at random, and appears "wavy," to fool spambots -- it is easier for an intelligent human to discern letters, despite any distortions, than an automatic script.

(The "handicapped" symbol next to the blank field is for those who are vision-impaired or cannot discern the verification word. Instead, by clicking on the symbol, you will listen to a series of numbers read aloud against a background of "gibberish" and type the numbers you hear.)

In my mom's case, she was using Internet Explorer and the word verification feature was not even loading. My husband fixed this by going to Tools --> Internet Options --> Content --> Clear SSL State. Why that worked is beyond my Internet knowledge. ;-) So if your problem is like my mom's and you're not even seeing the word verification option, consult your nearest computer nerd. :-)

That wraps up my little tutorial! I hope it helps anyone who's been having troubles leaving comments.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"The real way to travel..."

Edmund's car

[Toad, disguised as a washerwoman and hitching a ride after his prison-break, feels his old cravings for reckless driving rising once again...]

"Please, Sir," he said, "I wish you would kindly let me try and drive the car for a little. I've been watching you carefully, and it looks so easy and so interesting, and I should like to be able to tell my friends that once I had driven a motor-car!"

The driver laughed at the proposal, so heartily that the gentleman inquired what the matter was. When he heard, he said, to Toad's delight, "Bravo, ma'am! I like your spirit. Let her have a try, and look after her. She won't do any harm."

Toad eagerly scrambled into the seat vacated by the driver, took the steering-wheel in his hands, listened with affected humility to the instructions given him, and set the car in motion, but very slowly and carefully at first, for he was determined to be prudent.

The gentlemen behind clapped their hands and applauded, and Toad heard them saying, "How well she does it! Fancy a washerwoman driving a car as well as that, the first time!"

Toad went a little faster; then faster still, and faster.

He heard the gentlemen call out warningly, "Be careful, washerwoman!" And this annoyed him, and he began to lose his head.

The driver tried to interfere, but he pinned him down in his seat with one elbow, and put on full speed. The rush of air in his face, the hum of the engines, and the light jump of the car beneath him intoxicated his weak brain. "Washerwoman, indeed!" he shouted recklessly. "Ho! ho! I am the Toad, the motor-car snatcher, the prison-breaker, the Toad who always escapes! Sit still, and you shall know what driving really is, for you are in the hands of the famous, the skilful, the entirely fearless Toad!"

--The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, first published 1908

Edmund's car

Thankfully, Edmund's new toy pedal-car at Grandma and Grandpa's house will never reach break-neck speeds. In fact, at just under 18 months, he'd rather push the car than "drive" it.

Edmund's car

My dad can pull Edmund down the sidewalk with the help of a bungee cord attached to the hood ornament. (I told Dad he really looked the part of a Grandpa with his slippers and argyle socks.) ;-)

Grandpa and Edmund

I'm not sure who's more thrilled with Edmund's new toy, him or his vintage-loving mommy and car-loving daddy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

the "Emily Rose" skirt

tiered summer skirt

So named because it is a copycat version of a skirt owned by my sweet young friend, Emily Rose. She kindly let me borrow the original for a few days so I could see how it was constructed and take some measurements. I tailored it to my own size and height (being 5'10" means that most maxi skirts and dresses sold in stores are not really maxi). I also added a 2-inch elastic waistband covered with jersey knit -- not because I have any baby news to share, but because I am all about those "transitional" pieces that work for multiple seasons of a mom's life! I figure I can at least wear this through the first half of pregnancy when God sends us another little one.

This is one of the quickest projects I've done in a while -- from drafting the pattern to finishing the skirt was just 24 hours. (My sweet husband even got in on the act and drafted the third tier for me. It's the best-looking one, isn't it?) ;-) The skirt is constructed of circular flounces cut on the bias that gradually increase in size. The "tucks" are a result of lapping the edges of each flounce, rather than sewing "right sides together" as one would normally sew a seam. I was very blessed by my good friend Leah, who let me come over to her house and use her serger to make rolled hems on the tiers. It was so quick and easy!

The fabric is a linen blend I got for a great price at Hancock Fabrics last fall when shopping for fabrics for our medieval costumes. I ended up not using this particular length for our costumes, but it was perfect for this skirt.

So thanks again to Emily Rose, Douglas, and Leah for your help! I couldn't have done it without you. ;-)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Her Children Arise and Call Her Blessed

Mother and daughter
[Photo by Melenbacker Photography]

Now that I am a mom myself, my own mother has become that much more dear to me. When I envision the type of mother I want to be, my mom's example comes to mind again and again. Above all else, I want to emulate her selflessness. I cannot stress enough how much my mom uses her life to serve others (Matthew 23:11). As I've grown older and met more and more people, I've come to realize how unusual this is. More times than I can count, I have been the recipient of her thoughtfulness, creativity, and generosity, and I have often witnessed her giving in the same way to others.

My mom practices hospitality (Romans 12:13), often inviting those who are unmarried or have no nearby family to her home. I have known other women who practice hospitality, but what sets my mom apart is her faithfulness in doing so. It is easy to invite someone over, then think to yourself, "OK, I've done my duty," and proceed to neglect the friendship you've just initiated, or wait for them to make the next move (been there, done that). Mom frequently invites the same unmarried or widowed friends over for Sunday meals and has done so for the past five or six years. Her recurring invitations show her genuine love for her guests. And beyond meals, she has also offered her spare beds to countless overnight visitors, whose stays have ranged from one night to a year or more.

My mom is creative. When my brother and I were young, we lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids, but not as much parental involvement from other families. Mom was often the one guiding our collective energy into wholesome and entertaining activities. One time, we hosted a miniature bake sale, baking lots of diminutive treats to sell at bargain prices to our friends. Another time, all the kids got involved in putting on an elaborate circus in our backyard. My brother and I always had wonderfully fun and creative "theme" birthday parties (we got to choose each year's theme, and my mom would do the planning and hard work!). You can imagine how this creativity extended into our homeschool time, too.

Mom "does not eat the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:27). I never see her sit down to aimlessly surf the web, watch a movie (unless she is joining others for a social activity), or read frivolously for excessive amounts of time (I have been guilty of all three). Although she does find opportunities to rest and relax, she is wise with her time and does not waste it in idle pursuits. She is also generous and energetic with her time and resources. Whenever she comes to visit me, she is always willing to pitch in and help me with whatever tasks need doing. During her latest visit, she did some hand-stitching for me, washed my kitchen floor (even moving the fridge and stove!), helped me cook, played with Edmund, went shopping with me for groceries, vacuumed my carpet, and many other helpful things, too.

My mom loves God and His Word. When I was living at home before my marriage, I would often come down in the morning to find my mom sitting on the couch or her favorite armchair, patiently tolerating my cat on her lap and poring over her Bible. She takes opportunities to memorize scripture and hymns, and often has an apt verse on her lips for whatever life situation arises. Her love of God is evident in the fruit of the Spirit that marks her life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Mom, I love and admire you, and I'm so grateful for your godly example. May the Lord bless you as you have blessed others!