Thursday, December 20, 2012

The first snowman

We were planning to drive to my in-laws' home for our Christmas vacation today, but a snowstorm yesterday afternoon closed the Interstate all day long. (Douglas commented, "You know you're in Nebraska when the winter is mild up until the day before vacation, when a foot of snow closes the interstate for 500 miles.") Although it was disappointing to have our plans thwarted, it ended up being kind of pleasant to have a relaxing day at home. After lunch, Edmund and I bundled up and headed outside to make his first snowman! Well, I did most of the work while Edmund observed, but still. I found a nice, long icicle hanging from the garage to make a nose, vintage buttons for eyes, and a red pipe cleaner for the mouth. I haven't made a snowman in who-knows-how-long, so I enjoyed the snowy fun just as much as Edmund did.

After Edmund went down for his nap, Douglas and I played Carcassonne while enjoying some coffee and Christmas cookies. (I put eggnog in my coffee, mmm!) I am finally getting the hang of that game because I've won four times in a row, whereas when we first got it, Douglas won the first nine games we played. (We're kind of board game nerds and keep track of who won, when and where we played, and other pertinent details by writing it all down on the top of the game lid.)

What are you looking forward to during your Christmas break?

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Jesse Tree

Now that Edmund is three, we wanted to start some more meaningful Christmas traditions within our family. My mom did a Jesse Tree with my brother and me one year when we were kids, but for some reason it didn't become a yearly tradition. I remembered and liked the idea, however, and so this year I found a set of ornaments from Etsy seller Inspired Traditions. (If you are unfamiliar with the meaning of a Jesse Tree, she provides a good explanation in her ornament listings.)

The ornaments come with a little booklet that explain each symbol and give suggested scripture reading, so we've been doing that each morning at breakfast. The ornaments are simplistic, just little wooden discs hung with twine, with colorful but plain symbols on each one. The illustration style reminds me of what you might see on banners and cloths in more traditional churches. I like the visual symbolism, and it's certainly easier for a toddler who can't read yet.

My mom donated a four-foot Christmas tree that she wasn't using, so Edmund has his own little tree. It's nice that he can decorate it however he wants and I don't worry if he takes ornaments off and puts them back on, or if they're not hung in a very picturesque fashion. I think this will make a really lovely addition to our family Advent traditions in years to come.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"The Lamb"

I'm greatly enjoying all my Christmas music and I've been pulling up a few favorites on YouTube, too. I can't embed this one, but I can send you over to YouTube to see the King's College choir perform John Tavener's setting of William Blake's poem, "The Lamb." I rather enjoy the slightly bizarre quality of the music; it matches up with my mental image of William Blake.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So thankful

You know what, I am not a particularly grateful person by nature. It's easy for me to dwell on the negatives (part of why I started this blog many years ago; to help me record God's blessings in my life -- which I hope to get back to more and more). Feeling thankful doesn't come easily, so I have to choose to be so, sometimes on an hourly basis. When I am feeling resentful and ungrateful, it's not because God hasn't given me good things or provided for my needs, it's because He hasn't done it the way I want Him to(!). What foolishness.

I do actually have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful for the memory of a special Thanksgiving day, three years ago, when our firstborn son entered the world. He has been a delight to us ever since. I'm thankful for his good health, his quick mind, his sweet spirit, and yes, even his boyish energy. :) I wanted a son named Edmund and God graciously gave me the desires of my heart. He is so hilarious; I can't even tell you all the funny things he says that crack me up! Here are a few recent funnies:
  • At naptime, I put him down in his crib and covered him with his blankets. He looked up at me and sweetly asked, "Mommy, where are my pocket-handkins? Where's my pinnie?" (The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle reference, for those of you who are too far removed from Beatrix Potter books.)
  • the other day at lunch: "On your marks... get set... GO! PRAY! Lord Jesus, thank you for this day..."
  • I was walking past the (closed) bathroom door and heard a little voice inside practicing the "Minuet in G": "La, de, da, de, da, de, da, de, da. La de da. La de da." etc. He was using the Think System from The Music Man, hahaha.

I'm thankful for our lovely daughter, who just turned six months old. I can't wait to see the beautiful person she will become. I am also thankful for her good health and her sweet temperament. She charms people everywhere we go with her ready smile. We're often asked, "Is she always this happy?" (For the record, no.) She has the cutest mannerisms, from sucking her thumb to making adorable "ba ba ba" noises to squirming and dancing in the most fetching way. What a sweetheart!

I'm thankful for my husband, who has worked so hard to provide for our children and me. I'm proud of the steps he has taken to create his own business, and amazed at his multiple talents in creating websites, brochures, marketing, creativity, etc.! That on top of his talents as a musician and a teacher. He has stretched himself out of his comfort zone (and mine) again and again, all for the sake of his family. He keeps persevering in the face of setbacks and discouragement. What a man! He is my best friend. He is the funniest guy I know -- once in a while he'll come up with something that has me literally crying uncontrollably with laughter. That's a good feeling.

There's more, but I'll stop there and keep the rest in my heart (or for another blog post). ;-) I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving meditating on God's blessings!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New and Improved DIY Nursing Bra Tutorial

I recently had to convert another batch of bras to nursing bras and I felt I could improve upon my last tutorial, which I made shortly after Edmund was born. Since I posted it, I've had some lovely and excited e-mails from ladies who have found it to be helpful. Janel of Simply Nel told me how she added elastic to the strap and cup to keep it in place, which makes the bra more like a store-bought nursing bra. I thought it was a great idea and I'm sure you'll agree. Here's the revised, and I think, much-improved tutorial!

I started out by ordering three dozen 1/2" nursing bra clasps in beige, black, and white from Sew Sassy. I also ordered 3 yards each of 1/2" plush elastic in those same colors (at the time I placed my order, the strapping elastic in that size was only available in white, so the black and beige finishing elastic that I got has a picot edge trim on one side -- not a big deal.) I figure this should last me through many more years of nursing.

The ubiquitous "T-shirt" bras that have plastic rings above the cups are ideal for this transformation. If this is the type of bra you have, start by unpicking the stitching at the top of the bra cup. (If your bra doesn't have a ring between the cup and the strap, I address that at the end of the tutorial.)

Next, unpick the stitching behind the slider on the strap, where shown.

At the top of the bra cup, slide on the bottom half of the nursing clasp and pin in place. Zig-zag stitch where you previously ripped out the stitching, catching the loop in back. (For all machine sewing involved in this tutorial, I generally stitch, backstitch, and stitch again, for extra strength.)

Take the top of the elastic strap out of the slider, releasing the plastic ring, and slide it through the top of the nursing clasp (making sure it's facing the correct direction). Re-thread the elastic through the slider and re-stitch where you previously unpicked the thread, as shown. (Don't be like me; make sure you're stitching the correct two bits of elastic together. Yes, I had to do some ripping out during the making of this tutorial!)

Next, thread some elastic through the bottom of the top nursing clasp, as shown. (If you are using a plush elastic, make sure the soft side will be facing your skin.) Stitch in place.

Hook the nursing clasp together. (Don't be like me; make sure the strap is not twisted.) Now, this next part is a bit hard to describe, but just use your fingers to guide the elastic down to the bottom of the bra, where the cup meets the back (as shown). Don't stretch the elastic or make it too loose, you just want it to fit the inside of the bra cup. Pin the elastic in place.

On the outside of the bra cup, stitch in the ditch where the elastic is pinned. A zipper foot will be helpful here.

Then go back to the inside of the cup and trim the elastic close to the stitching. Use a little Fray-Check, if you like. All done!

Now, if your bra doesn't have that handy plastic ring, you can still probably convert it. This bra just had a continuous strap from cup to back. First cut the strap about 1" above the cup, then put the bottom half of the nursing clasp on the strap and fold it to the back to create a loop. Stitch in place.

If you don't mind sacrificing some of the length of your bra strap, you can just do likewise to the top part of the strap. However, if you want to keep its maximum length, cut a short length of elastic or ribbon to create a loop. Thread the top of the nursing clasp through the elastic, then sandwich the cut end of the strap between the ends of the elastic loop. Stitch in place, then proceed as in the tutorial above.

I hope you find this useful! I've been "test-driving" the models and they are super-comfortable. I can't feel the elastic inside the cup at all. Vive la breastfeeding! ;-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"As giddy as a baby on a swing..."

One of the absolute best things about having two children is watching them together. I love seeing Lavinia's joy when Edmund talks to her or plays with her. (With a big brother of my own, well do I remember that sisterly adoration.) It really wrings at my heart! He is not always all tenderness toward her, but when he is sweet, he is really really sweet. Today, he was anxious to push Lavinia in the swing, even helping her little fingers grasp the ropes so she could hold on. The light in her eyes speaks for itself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Red shoes for fall

Lavinia's ballet flats: handmade gift from Shannon
Edmund's high-top Converse sneakers: (thanks to my mom for her Kohl's cash!)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Baby jeans

Earlier in the year I bought some "jeggings" fabric from Jo-Ann Fabrics to replace a ragged maternity panel on some thrifted jeans. I didn't use the entire length so I kept the remnant to make some baby jeans down the road. Now that we are getting a few cooler days here and there, the time has come!

[My children have both suffered from silly (but cute) bald patches on the back of their heads,
until they learn to sit up on their own and the hair can grow in!]

I whipped these up yesterday in no time at all. I laid out a pair of Lavinia's leggings on top of the fabric, then cut around the front and back pieces with about a 1/4" seam allowance added. I topstitched them to create faux jeans details (front and back pockets, a fly, flat-felled seams, and a back yoke). They fit her perfectly and look adorable! Instant gratification!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blue chambray shirtwaist dress

Here's my third and final incarnation of Simplicity 2246! It's time to move on to a new shirtdress pattern after this, methinks. This one is really just the bodice with a waistband and gathered dirndl skirt spliced on. Because the buttons no longer extend below the waist, I added a side zipper so I could get in and out of the dress.

This dress took me FOR. EVER. because I had this harebrained idea that I should try to learn a new sewing skill with each project. So, I decided to do topstitching, and do it right! At first I tried threading my needle with two threads, which gave the desired decorative effect, but I could not get the tension to stay even between both threads. After ripping out the same seam three times, I gave up and bought a topstitching needle (basically a size 14, with a larger eye) and topstitching thread (thicker than all-purpose thread).

I also took my time with the finishing details on the inside of the dress. I could almost wear it inside out! All of the seams are flat-felled, with the exception of the sleeve seams and the left bodice seam that has the zipper, which are both serged. (It is possible to flat-fell sleeves to a bodice, but this requires setting in the sleeves before sewing the side seams, and I uh, forgot to do that).

Despite all the extra work, I really did enjoy sewing this dress. It's a pretty classic fabric and style, and I think I'll be able to accessorize it many different ways. The sleeve length and full skirt remind me of the late '50s or early '60s, so it has a bit of the "vintage housedress" feel. With a cardigan, it should be a good transition into fall.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Vintage children's clothes

My mom has been helping a friend sort through and clean out her parents' house. This week she brought home a bag full of vintage children's clothes that she knew I'd enjoy seeing. I quickly snapped a photo of all the wonderful fabrics and prints:

There was a golden brown and pink girl's dress, made of real silk, from the 1920s. Lots of cute baby rompers. Most incredible of all was a girl's petticoat from the 1950s which had an inflatable inner tube sewn into a casing for extra flare! I'd never heard of such a thing. My favorite dress was a simple little '50s sundress, printed with rosebuds (on the left in the picture).

My mom's friend has yet to go through the clothes and decide what she wants to keep, so we'll be returning the bag to her. But it was lots of fun to take a small peek at what girls wore in the past!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A boy and his Puddleduck

One day, back in Indiana, Douglas and Edmund were walking around our apartment complex and stopped to befriend an older single lady. When Edmund admired her cheap plastic garden duck, she presented it to him as a gift. I confess I rolled my eyes when they brought it back. In my (well-intentioned, but perhaps over-zealous) drive to keep our lives free of clutter and junk, I thought it would end up in the dumpster in a few days.

However, I was proved wrong when Edmund really enjoyed playing with Jemima, as we call her. He treated her almost like a doll -- feeding her, putting her to bed, and meting out discipline.

Since our move, she's been residing in a box. During a recent retrieval trip to our storage unit, I came across Jemima and rescued her. She now happily resides in the herb garden.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Traveler" shirtdress

Here's another version of same shirtdress I made last fall, once again using Simplicity 2246 (albeit two sizes larger this time - argh!). I used a stretch cotton poplin for the bodice and a Lisette cotton twill for the skirt. Both fabrics have a lot of crispness and body to them, so I opted to pleat in the skirt's fullness instead of gathering.

I also added piping at the waistline, an idea I stole from one of Casey's recent posts. I thought it would add a little more definition between the skirt and the bodice. However, I found I prefer the look of a belt instead.

I am not sure why, but I'm not very thrilled with the way this dress turned out. I'm not so sure I like the style of the sleeves and I wish I'd chosen a bolder print for the skirt. There's nothing wrong with it, and I'll certainly be wearing it as I don't have a lot of other options! I'm a little more excited about version #2, which I plan to modify into a shirtwaist with a fuller skirt. Blue chambray fabric, you're next!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sweet Lavinia

Lavinia is two months old now! We are entering my favorite part of the infant stage -- she gives us sweet smiles and makes pretty coos, her neck is getting strong enough that she doesn't need constant head support, and she sleeps well at night. She's definitely left that "lean newborn" look behind and is quite the pudgy lady.

It's been a challenge to adjust to being a mother of two, but I have had so much help I feel like I'm somehow cheating. :-P I am sooooo blessed that Edmund still takes 2+ hour naps every afternoon, as it gives me some time to rest or work more efficiently. Edmund is a great big brother and calls her 'Avinia (being unable to pronounce his L's without great prompting from Douglas or me). Very cute.

I've been finding some time to (slowly, slowly) do some sewing, and I finished up a new shirtdress last night. I'm (slowly, slowly) losing that post-partum weight, but in the meantime nothing that I wore last summer fits. Shirtdresses are great for nursing so I bought enough fabric to make two. Photos of version #1 coming soon!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Life in snapshots

Douglas surprised me with an iPhone in March. Before he handed it over, I barely knew what a smart phone was. I hadn't carried a personal cell phone in years. But oh my, it's a handy little thing! One feature I especially love is the ability to capture photos and video so easily. I'm a little bit lazy about recording things about my children as they grow, so this is a boon to me. Now I have a video of Edmund saying, "You're my sweet love, Mama" that I can watch over and over when I'm 99 years old. And when I'm too busy to haul out my "real" camera, I can still take snapshots of life. Here are a few from Instagram that I've taken over the past two months...


[from top to bottom, left to right:]

1) I made a huge double batch of Sweet Potato, Carrot, Apple, and Red Lentil Soup while I was pregnant -- half to eat right away and half to freeze for post-baby. I added 1 teaspoon of garam masala to the linked recipe, which turned a good soup into greatness. Curry powder would also be a yummy option.
2) Douglas asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day, and I told him a bouquet of peonies. He delivered! And the smell of these beauties made my last week of pregnancy a little more bearable.
3) A newborn babe with the most beautiful little profile. That nose definitely comes through my husband's genes!
4) A border-print cotton poplin that is waiting to be turned into a vintage-style dirndl skirt... as soon as my waist loses a few more inches. ;-)
5) We took a break from packing on the evening of my birthday to enjoy dinner at my favorite local restaurant. I ordered their delectable sticky toffee pudding one last time!
6) The last view out our apartment balcony before moving. Goodbye, soybean field!
7) My curmudgeonly old cat, who continues to reside with my parents, was here to greet us in Nebraska. Well, maybe "greet" isn't the right word. How about "tolerate."
8) Now that I'm awakened several times in the night by a certain little lady, my morning cuppa has become a necessity again. It's like a beacon light in a great fog.
9) My mom's David Austin rosebush is still producing a few blooms for us to enjoy, though all the other roses have come and gone. What's not to love about this plant -- they look gorgeous, smell heavenly, and bloom often!
10) My toes are sporting Revlon's "Minted" nail polish right now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The freshest flower of May..."

Our beautiful daughter, Lavinia May, was born Saturday, May 19, at 2:35 p.m. She weighed 8 lbs., 1 oz. and was 20-1/2 inches long. We praise God for the many answered prayers surrounding her birth!

Lavinia was born at home after a short labor of only 8-1/2 hours. I had been praying that my labor would start in the morning so that I would have more energy. The first sign that labor was beginning occurred at 6AM Saturday morning! I was about to head out the door to go to the grocery store, but I woke Douglas and he went instead.

[purple bellflowers that Douglas bought
on the morning of Lavinia's birthday]

My due date wasn't for another week, but honestly, I thought she might come anytime in May, so by her actual birthday I was thoroughly tired of waiting! We were all so excited to realize that Saturday was the day. This was another answer to prayer - in previous weeks, I had struggled with the thought of going through labor again, but by the time Lavinia arrived, God had prepared my heart to endure the trial with fortitude and joy.

As I said before, my labor was pretty short, which was another blessing. When Lavinia was born in the early afternoon, I was a bit shocked as I had thought it wouldn't be until dinner time or later! Good thing my midwife made the decision of when to arrive at our apartment instead of me; I was a bit clueless.

We're thankful for a healthy baby and a recovering mama. I'm a little slower to get back on my feet again this time, but my mom arrived on Monday to help and that is another huge blessing. I'm grateful to be a mother of two - my arms are full of God's goodness to me!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Springtime beauty

We have been having the most beautiful spring here in Indiana that we've ever experienced since moving here three and a half years ago! It feels like a gift from God as this will be our last spring to enjoy here.

God has opened a small door for us after we have been praying and waiting for one for the past three years. We'll be moving back to Nebraska shortly after our baby is born. At first we will likely have to live with my parents for a short while, but then we'll be moving to a house only a few blocks away once it is ready for us.

I'm excited to have some of the things I've been missing the past three years of apartment-living -- a yard for Edmund and the baby to play in, a place to take walks with the kids without having to drive anywhere, space for some gardening, and less cramped living quarters! Not to mention ready-and-willing babysitters just a few blocks away. ;-)

Meanwhile, Douglas will have the opportunity to work on some entrepeneurial endeavors. There's no knowing where the next few years will take us, so it is especially a time to trust God for provision, care, and guidance.

[Dutchman's Breeches -- a favorite springtime flower from my Illinois girlhood that does not grow wild in Nebraska as it does here in the eastern Midwest.]

Of course, we will miss our Indiana church and friends. We're trying to savor the things we enjoy about living here these last few months. Douglas likes the taller trees that you find in the eastern part of the Midwest. It seems silly, but I'll miss the grocery stores I frequent. :) (Though it will be fun to coordinate shopping trips with my mom or grandma, to have an extra hand with wrasslin' two babes and a shopping cart.)

"Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you
wherever you go."
--Joshua 1:9

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Depression Quilt" pillow

Here's a small pillow that I made for Edmund recently, using a square recycled from a beat-up, vintage 1930s(?) quilt. This blue square happened to be the only one that was not mangled or ripped in some way. Using a seam ripper, I removed it from its neighboring squares, ironed a lightweight piece of interfacing to the back for stability to the old fabrics, and created a backing for the pillow out of plain white cotton in my stash. I made my own pillow form to stuff inside and this quick project was finished!

Edmund was very happy that I made it for him, but so far he does not want to sleep with it... so it's residing on his rocking chair instead.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Simple, delicious veggie wrap

Spread a large tortilla (I like the flavored kind, like Tomato Basil or Spinach) with a thin layer of Neufch√Ętel cheese. Pile some spring greens and alfalfa sprouts down the center. Grate 1/2 of a medium carrot over that. Take a handful of grape tomatoes, cut them in halves, and scatter over the carrots. Cut up a small broccoli floret into bite-size pieces and scatter on top. Roll up the tortilla and enjoy!

(I have made this for lunch [or breakfast] several times lately and it's very yummy and filling!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cloth diapers

Lately, I've gotten renewed incentive to try to kick the disposable diaper habit once and for all. We've been dabbling with cloth diapers off-and-on for about a year. I am certainly not an expert on the topic; in fact, I find it rather overwhelming. There are so many choices these days that I hardly knew where to start! Eventually I just picked Econobum covers after my blogging friend Shannon alerted her readers to a "Buy One, Get One Free" sale at Cotton Babies. I purchased five so we now have 10 diaper covers and cotton prefolds.

I have no complaints with their functionality (no leaks or blow-outs in our limited experience), but they do have their drawbacks. Edmund is more prone to diaper rash when wearing cloth. Also, the cotton prefolds are pretty bulky and I have my doubts that they would work well on an infant as they are simply too big. And last but not least, they develop a strong odor when soiled -- I do realize this is probably due to build-up or laundry abuse on my part, I'm just still in the process of trying different things to see what will work to get rid of the smell.

So, I decided to take a look around and see what might solve some of my problems. Thankfully, Shannon is a fount of cloth-diaper information. I went back and reviewed her helpful posts on cloth-diapering (Adventures in Cloth Diapering, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) and decided to try my hand at the free Rita's Rump pocket diaper pattern, taking Shannon's suggestion of using Alova suede as the liner in an effort to keep moisture away from tender skin.

Serendipitously, Jo-Ann Fabrics had their flannels on sale for $1.99/yard and with a 50% off coupon, I was able to get a good price on the Alova suede, too. I planned to make just a few to make sure I liked the style and fit before going crazy making tons of diapers. I also bought some microfiber auto towels at Target for about $1 each to use as "soakers" in the diaper pockets. Here are two of my first efforts, made up in nice gender-neutral fabrics.

[You can see I added a seam at the crotch of the froggy diaper, just so the frogs would be right-side-up on both the front and back of the diaper!]

These diapers are not waterproof so I still use the Econobum covers over them. They do not have any fastenings, which is supposed to make them more versatile in fitting infants all the way to toddlers (the diapers do fit Edmund, who is almost 28 months and around 35 lbs., although the back wings barely meet in the front on him). Shannon said she is able to use them without pins by keeping them in place with the waterproof cover -- I tried this and it is a little tricky on a big, active toddler. I will pick up some diaper pins next time I see any at a store (I'm assuming these are still sold in stores, right?!) and try that route.

As far as reducing bulk, they certainly do that, and are doubtless more comfy for Edmund to wear than the prefolds. It remains to be seen whether they'll help with the diaper rash issue -- never a huge problem with him anyway, but one that just crops up from time to time when he is wearing a lot of cloth. It's certainly an economical option as the materials can be had pretty cheaply if you use Jo-Ann coupons, and the pattern sews up very quickly. It's a little hard for me to judge how functional they are because Edmund is in the process of potty-training and isn't giving them the full workout that a newborn infant will. So stay tuned for an update in a couple of months! :)

[Baby bump at 30 weeks!]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Regency Roses

Before the month slips away from me, I'll share about this Regency gown that I made for a friend this past month. She and her husband were invited to an English Country Dance, so she wanted a pretty Regency gown to wear to the event. Julie chose the fabric and the style, and I did the stitching!

I used the Elegant Ladies' Closet pattern from Sense & Sensibility Patterns, with a few modifications. I raised the neckline 1.5" and added a total of 4" of extra width to the front of the dress for potential maternity/nursing wear. I custom-fitted the length of the bodice on Julie so that she could wear the dress without needing period undergarments. Julie wanted a little extra something to add interest and definition, so she requested that I use a coordinating bias binding on the outside of the dress for the drawstring casing. I also added detachable long sleeves, from the same fabric, which I basted in after this photo was taken. I also made a chemise from cotton muslin for her to wear under the dress (no pictures of that, as it is pretty basic, but the interesting challenges of that pattern are flat-felled seams and inserting gussets under the arms).

Sewing this dress in the middle of winter was like getting a whiff of summertime and roses!