Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter gardening project

Winter sure is dragging its feet around here! Normally things are pretty bleak this time of year - but look at our ornamental pear tree! The leaves have finally turned colors and are just starting to fall off. It was super warm and sunny outside today, so while the boys rode their bikes on the driveway I decided to harvest my sunflower seeds. Not a very wintery activity, but it was pretty great.

I planted these guys on a whim in late September - WAY later in the season that you are supposed to plant sunflowers. But things have been so weird on the weather front that they sprouted, bloomed, and actually produced seeds. TONS of seeds. I only got three flowers, even though I planted about 20. But that's the success ratio I get on all my crops, so I wasn't surprised.

This guy has been hanging in the garage since a wind storm broke it's stem a few weeks ago. I thought that the seeds were too underdeveloped to be of any use, but when I checked it out today I saw that about half of them are nice and plump, just asking to be eaten. The boys had fun helping me smack it on the ground to loosen the white seeds - and I'm super glad I decided to do this little project outside. There are plenty of spiders and dust and crinkly dried plant bits in there with all the seeds.

I had visions of opening each seed, roasting them, and making my own sunflower butter, but after cracking a few for the boys to eat raw I realized that even I do not have the patience to do something like that. I'm super happy, though - it is like my own little sunflower miracle. I know I say it all the time, but there is something so satisfying about harvesting a crop that you've planted from seed. I'm hoping to plant lots more next spring - they are so cheerful and sunny to look at, even when they are dried up and have had half their seeds removed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

do. Good Stitches January blossom block

This month (January) I am in charge of designing and assembling the Empower Circle's quilt for the do. Good Stitches charity quilting bee. It is exciting, yes, but to be honest, I am suffering from a bit of stage fright. Oh well, here goes! Above is a picture of the blocks we will be making. I was inspired by this quilt, which I can't stop thinking about! She made it using all solids, but this month we will be using prints in deep purples and pinks, with accents of gray and gold:

I couldn't find a tutorial for this block anywhere so I just figured it out, taking pictures as I went along (this required MATH. hm.) I'd love to give credit where credit is due, and figure out what this is actually called, so if you know, please tell me! I'll call it a blossom block for now, since that's what it reminds me of. Here is what you need to cut out:

4 large 6.5" squares in your chosen prints
8 small 3.5" squares in Kona coal (for bee friends; everyone else, use the same fabric you will be sashing with)
2 small 1" x 6.5" strips in Kona coal
1 large 1" x 13.25" strip in Kona coal

Lay a small square on the upper left hand corner of one of the large squares and mark your sewing line:

Since I am lazy and don't like to get up and down from my sewing machine, I like to do both corners at once, like so:

Sew your seams, then cut the extra fabric and save it for another fun project. Things should now look something like this:

When your seams are ironed, it will look like this. You have your first petal!

Repeat with the three remaining petals. Now you can finish your block using the strips you cut out. Here is the layout:

And now you're done! The end result should measure about 12.5" square. Feel free to mix it up as far as the petal part of the block goes (that's the large squares). Solids, prints, even pieced petals would look awesome if you had the time and felt like it.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how all the different blocks turn out!

Monday, December 26, 2011

In summary:

Boy am I blessed.

Our Christmas was lovely, how about yours? Among the usual favorite things, like sitting around a cozy fire in pj's well into the day exchanging gifts, laughing, and hanging out with family, there was the added bonus of little people thoroughly enjoying handmade gifts. Moses was thrilled with his quilt - mostly because of the camouflage backing fabric I used:

And, in spite of dipping Little Hoot's bottom into a puddle of melted wax after blowing out a candle, Titus was thrilled to death with his tiny felt animals.

And now we have a whole week more of relaxing, spending time with family from out of town, and enjoying not having to dash off to anything in particular. I have been struck this season with how very busy we have been, and how in need of a real break we all are. The kids have not once asked "what are we doing today?" like they usually do on the rare day we have nothing planned. I think they are really enjoying the down time. The amazing weather has been an added bonus, and a new crossbow and excavator (kid versions, of course) nearly put things over the top. I am so thankful for this little space of time to do, well, nothing. Or at least, less than usual. I know vacations are a luxury and am feeling extremely grateful. Hopefully you are getting a little break as well...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Birthday Brother

Moses turned 6 (SIX!!!) a few days ago, which, of course, meant that I had to make a big brother dinosaur for him. I wasn't sure if he was too old for mommy-made toys, and almost decided not to make this guy. But, a few days before the big day he looked up at me and said hopefully "Mom, are you making me something for my birthday?" Geez, twist my arm. :) So, as I was frantically sewing dinosaur eyes around midnight, I asked my husband if he thought Moses would like the dinosaur. It was a rhetorical question. Maybe I should start saying that before I ask those types of questions. Anyways, this is the first answer I got: "I don't think I was still playing with stuffed animals when I was six." Hm. This is the second answer I got: "I mean, actually... six? Oh, yeah, SIX. Yeah, I think I had stuffed animals when I was six. Yes. Yes, I definitely had stuffed animals on my bed when I was six. He'll love it."

So, it was with some trepidation that I handed this guy over to Moses to be unwrapped the next morning. As with Titus' dinosaur, I had braced myself for a polite smile from the birthday boy as he shunted past my painstakingly handmade gift in favor of the new legos. BUT, he opened his dinosaur, screamed "I LOVE IT!!!" and forgot that he had another gift. Success! He and Titus got a big kick out of having matching dinosaurs, and that night Moses wrapped his dinosaur up in a blanket and laid it on the pillow next to him. I'm so glad I stayed up late making that guy. If you want to make one you can find the pattern and LOTS of other cute patterns here. Happy Birthday Mose, we love you!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

"I didn't like frowing up in mine bed."

Neither did I, Titus. Neither did I. I've resisted the urge to post a picture of the piles of used kleenex, laundry, dirty dishes, and empty Tylenol bottles, and opted for a picture of what we will look like again soon. In the mean time, I am trying to reclaim the week before Christmas and day before my son's birthday party with some modicum of grace. I'm at that irritating phase of recovery where my body tells me I need to eat something but my stomach says "that was a bad idea." The little guys are running around happily again, though, which does my heart good. I have so many Christmas gifts left to make that it is stressing me out - I have to keep telling myself that I could actually BUY something if I run out of time. Perish the thought! I mean, it would be a crime for this huge pile of Altoid tins to go unpainted... Blessed Brett has picked up as much slack as he has time to and made teacher gifts with Moses last night. Such a sweet man - I would kiss him if I wasn't worried about making him sick (hmm... I wonder when he'll turn up with this bug?) Anyhow, it is good to be back in action, even if it is only at 70%.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Little Hoot

Have you read Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal? It is one of our favorites - we picked it up at the library and are now hoping to find it under the tree at Christmas. :) This little guy reminded me of the darling illustrations in that book, so I couldn't resist buying the pattern and making one for Titus:

Isn't he darling? This was my first time working with felt and I LOVED it - no seams to hide, no unraveling, no sewing things inside-out! My handiwork certainly isn't perfect, this being my first attempt at blanket stitching anything, but I just loved how the pattern allows for so many choices in fabric, felt, and thread colors. Very fun! I think I grinned the entire time I was sewing this little guy.

The pattern is from Gingermelon, and she has TONS of other darling little stufflings you can make. I'm hoping to make the fox and raccoon in time for Christmas. I bought my felt from Benzie Bazaar and it is wonderful - not at all like the scratchy stuff in the craft store. This is 100% merino felt and is so soft and smooth - definitely worth the few extra bucks it costs.

Sadly, all crafting has screeched to a halt due to a stomach bug that my oldest son came down with last night (why do kids always start throwing up in the middle of the night???). Poor little guy is still in his jammies with a bowl in his lap - I remember having the flu as a kid and it was the WORST. I've got my fingers crossed that the rest of us don't come down with it, or that we are at least finished with all the germs by the time Christmas rolls around! Hope you are happily and healthfully crafting!

Addendum: I do know a few synonyms for "cute" other than "darling," just didn't come up with any while writing this post. Sheesh.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Log Cabins

These are my first-ever log cabins and I love them! I can't believe I've never made this type of patchwork before. It is right up my alley - lots of strips of fabric and not much planning ahead. . I made these for what I thought would be a quick little birthday project for a friend, but my second attempt at following a real pattern turned out to be extremely frustrating. I didn't even take a picture of the end result because by the time it was finished I didn't want to see it EVER AGAIN. *sigh* (It's nothing personal, Rachel, honestly!) If I can offer a half-hearted explanation: I turned these log cabins into a quilted little change purse with one of those squeeze-on-the-ends-and-it-pops-open closures. I even bought these fancy closure things and waited for them to fly here all the way from China. And then, after bungling the purse part three separate times, I spent a HOUR AND A HALF "sliding" the clasp through the loops (the pattern should really say "man handle"). Ninety minutes. And I was not about to give up, either, folks. I had already made the dang purse three times and the light was at the end of the tunnel. So I sat there grumbling and almost crying with a pile of various sized butter knives, chopsticks, and tweezers in front of me until I got the dang thing finished. And the purse is actually super cute, I just couldn't bear to photograph it. BUT I loved the log cabin making part of the whole thing. And the giving-the-gift part, of course. I'm thinking a huge log cabin quilt might be in my future...

Monday, December 5, 2011

In which I start a new Christmas tradition

I am in the process of decking our halls... as much as I wish this was the blog you were visiting to get awesome decorating ideas or holiday eye candy, I'm afraid it will again turn out to be the blog that you read to make yourself feel better. Last night we decorated the Christmas tree, which prompted me to quickly attempt to finish putting up the "real" every day decorations I've been hemming and hawing about. Several accidental holes in the wall later, I had a nice collection of framed pictures hanging up (I'll show you later), a trip to Home Depot for touch-up paint planned, things were properly dusted, and we were ready for our traditional "Christmas party." This is a tradition I've carried over from my own family - we all hang our ornaments together then sit on the couch eating home made sugar cookies (tons of sprinkles are a must here) and drinking hot apple cider. So. Christmas party: check. Next it was time to bust out my first awesome kids Christmas project.

If you've read my blog before perhaps you remember last year's failed kids Christmas project. Well, maybe that will be a new tradition around here. Every year mom sets up a dangerous activity for the kids to do in the name of Christmas and spends the rest of the day cleaning up the disaster that ensues. This project is pretty self-explanatory by the pictures. I bought a 6-pack of empty glass globes at the craft store, and we put buttons in them. Very cute - I saw it on Pinterest, in case you were wondering. As with last year's project, this was partially inspired by economics: I have a ton of buttons lying around and saw an opportunity for putting some of them to good use.

As cute as all these pictures are, however, they are still photos of young children gripping fragile glass orbs in their soft little hands. Nobody got cut, thank goodness, but as soon as we finished filling up our balls, Titus promptly dropped his on the kitchen floor, smashing invisible shards of glass everywhere. My dad was here, so he whisked the kids to safety while I sorted out buttons from pieces of glass, swept, vacuumed, swept again, and quickly filled up one of our spare empty globes with the buttons. Well, that's what I tried to do, but for some reason this new globe had a smaller opening in the top and wouldn't allow all of Titus' buttons inside. So, halfway through filling it up I decided to switch to the last empty globe, in the hope that its opening was big enough to fit all Titus' buttons. This meant that I needed to remove the almost-too-big buttons from the first replacement bulb (are you following this?), which proved to be a difficult task. Even the buttons I had managed to fit into the globe were now too large to fit back out of it. Of course my dad jumped at what he perceived as a heaven-sent chance to use the swiss army knife that has been collecting dust in his pocket, so he started to pry the buttons one by one out of the too-small globe with his handy portable tweezers. Halfway through this endeavor his gigantic hands squeezed the stupid ornament too hard, showering him and the kids in more invisible shards of glass. This clean up procedure was slightly more involved, but of course there was more vacuuming and sweeping. In the end we had 4 very nice looking button-filled ornaments, no injuries (how did that happen???) and another project on the not-really-for-kids list. Oh well. It's early in the month; maybe I can come up with something else. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My dad has a gigantic crop of leeks and carrots right now - he and I agree that my pilfering from his garden is actually doing him a huge favor. The other day I picked these beauties - the purple and green things at the far left are Dragon Tongue Beans from my own garden. I do love California - I'm not sure if many people are harvesting green beans this late in November. I sauteed the leeks up in coconut oil with diced fennel bulb and thyme and it was delicious!!! It was my first time ever using leeks, and I think we have a long happy relationship ahead of ourselves. Good thing, too, because there are about a million more out there. (And in case you are wondering, those red things are Atomic Red Carrots, not radishes. Cute, right?)

Sunday, November 27, 2011


What a lovely end-of-November afternoon! It is so warm and sunny outside, and the boys are having such fun "killing bad guys" outside that I've even decided to let Titus skip his nap. Brett is keeping an eye on them while he brews up another batch of beer, and I am enjoying some time inside (with the windows wide open) pursuing some less testosterone-driven activities: making Christmas banners. In pink, no less! They are slowly making their way into the shop...

This has been the most relaxing Thanksgiving weekend ever. Lots of naps, absolutely no piling into the car to drive anywhere, gorgeous weather, tons of great food (of course), time in the garden, and lots of sewing time. Ah... exactly what I needed. I believe it is the sign of a great break when you start feeling ready to get back to the daily grind, and I am feeling just that. I hope you had a wonderful long weekend too!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This and That

I considered entitling this post "Oh no, she's decorating again!!!" but thought better of it. I'm trying to stay positive. :) Anywho, in my constant quest to make a tiny house that is crammed full of stuff look cohesive and cozy rather than crowded and hectic, I am yet again rearranging the weird little space above my sewing cabinet. After deciding I needed less color and looking for all kinds of pictures on Pinterest of "decorating with white," I have decided to make a huge colorful collage of fabric hoops, as inspired by these pictures. Oh well, I guess I'm just not going to be able to get away from the color thing. I can't help myself. Do you see how she has hung hoops on hoops in this first picture? I can totally see myself doing something like that.

I love the curved effect of the plates on this wall, so I am copying it to make up for the fact that I have a super tall armoire next to a short tiny cabinet... And neither of these is too matchy-matchy, which looks effortless but is actually quite difficult to pull off. I'm working from the one tiny corner in my house that I like the look and colors of:

Plenty of white, but also lots of color, though nothing bright or over-the-top. It is a collection of my mom's old books, as well as some of my own. I love dilapidated old books, they have so much character. The more crumbly, the better! SO, here are some fabrics I pulled yesterday when the urge to do this project struck me:

I'm afraid the colors aren't looking quite true in this picture... the overall effect really is much less green. I've put some of them on the wall, but it isn't finished yet so I don't want to post a picture of it yet. It is nice to have something different up there, and I actually think that adding these different colors and patterns has calmed down and lightened up the space. Hm. As if I even know what I'm talking about!

And while I'm making a mess on that side of the house, I've managed to clean up one mess:

Over the weekend, that became this:

The only disappointing thing about this project is that my overdue book fines were more than the cost of the actual book that I got the pattern from (don't tell!). *sigh* I had to make a few tweaks here and there to make up for cutting and measuring flubs on my part, but this is the very first time I've managed to follow a pattern from beginning to end without making a royal mess of things and throwing the half-finished project in the trash. (I guess I made the dinosaur without a dramatic incident, too, so this is the second time.) It was super stressful because I am such a perfectionist and am completely self-taught and actually don't know much about sewing at all. But I learned a lot, and am in love with the end result. I almost didn't post pictures since this is a Christmas gift for somebody, but I just couldn't help myself. Aren't the fabrics gorgeous?!?! That Anna Maria Horner is the bomb, and I found that some of her Loulouthi prints mixed perfectly with a stack of Joel Dewberry fq's I recently bought. Love it when that happens.

And that's it for now. I have a ton more little projects in the works as Christmas approaches and I'll try to post pictures of the things that aren't for people who read this blog! Are you making hand-made gifts this year? I'd love to hear what you are making - I love handmade gifts!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ah, fall

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love dusting off my crock pot, pulling the big chunky sweaters and boots out of the closet, and drinking tea in the afternoon. And the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas gives the whole season a backdrop of excitement. I took this picture of Moses swinging on the new swing Brett and my dad hung a few weeks ago - what a great thing! I took a turn on it and it goes so high that you actually get that roller-coaster swoop in your stomach on every down swing. The leaves on that tree are much prettier today - all orange and yellow and falling like confetti at the slightest breeze. It makes swinging feel like winning the Super Bowl - every time you even sit down a huge pile of leaves rains down on you. I hope you and your family are enjoying the fall this afternoon - we have NO PLANS! Unheard of and glorious!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mini Holiday Bunting

I just listed some more Christmas banners in the shop - I love the gold in these fabrics. So festive! These are still fun to make - it seems like there are more and more great Christmas fabrics out there. I can't wait to hang mine up in the house, but I'm forcing myself to wait until after Thanksgiving. I love this time of year!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A birthday buddy and a hand-made nap

Today our littlest member turned 3, and I was finally able to give him his present. I made this little guy, pattern courtesy of Bit of Whimsy, a few weeks ago, and have been peeking in at him in his hiding place every day since. He makes me smile. And even though Titus said "Where's mine udder presents?" as soon as he opened this guy, he has been carrying him around the house in a loving choke-hold ever since. At nap time I captured this heart-warming photo:

I just love that he is under the quilt I made him, holding the dinosaur I made him. So special to me. I love you Titus!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I have been in love with Pinterest for a while now - it is such an easy way to organize and hold on to all the great things I find on the internet. I used to "bookmark" things, but had no idea how to even find them afterwards. Pinterest makes it all so much easier. This week I've made this soup from a Rachael Ray recipe I found on Pinterest:

It was DELICIOUS, and I would have never known it existed if not for Pinterest. Tonight we had pizza on cauliflower crust, thanks to this awesome recipe:

Another huge success - even the most anti-vegetable member of the family scarfed down a huge plate-full. I ate way too much and I don't even feel guilty because I know my stomach is full of cauliflower (and I didn't even put cheese on my pieces, so it was basically all baked veggies!). I have a bunch more recipes "pinned" to my cooking board on Pinterest waiting to be tried out. I might not have a cell phone that works, but I sure feel modern with all this pinning I'm doing. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Half-way there...

Remember my 49 Monkey Wrench Blocks? Last night I finally got to work piecing them into a quilt. I dug up the pattern I was following all those years ago, and saw that rather than piecing each block with sashing between, they are actually placed on the diagonal with setting squares between each block. In the pattern, the setting squares are supposed to be a solid color, but of course I opted for a print. (I know, even after I touted the joys of solids in my last post...) I thought this Tula Pink "Damask Dot" would modernize things a bit, and hopefully keep the eye moving so it isn't easy to spot all my terrible corners! (In my own defense, these Monkey Wrenches are the very first patchwork I ever did and I cut all the tiny pieces out sitting on the carpet using paper scissors...) It was super hard squaring all the blocks off to the same size, and some are a bit wonky, but with that gorgeous damask between each one I don't even care.

Oh, and please pardon whatever is going on with my shirt and belt in this picture. Pretty sure this is what I accidentally look like most afternoons following my super-rushed potty break between making snacks and playing marbles. Hm. I should look in the mirror more often.

Anyways, the boys were excited this morning when I showed them the quilt I am making "for us." I didn't have the heart to tell them it is really for ME. But I think there will be room under it for snuggling, so I guess I can share. Hoping to finish the piecing tonight while the hubs is throwing pottery at our neighbor's house...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Chance to Win

I've been doing a shameless amount of internet fabric shopping lately, which has been super fun. But wouldn't it be even more fun to get fabric for free??? Well, you could win some if you hop on over to Lily's blog, which is delightful. She's hosting a giveaway of a huge stack of solids (you even get to pick which ones you'd like to win!). I'm using solids more and more in my quilting and loving the contrast of them with the busy prints I'm so addicted to. Fingers crossed!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Having kids has made me start to like Halloween... Something about grocery shopping with a real live Scooby Doo in the shopping cart kind of warms my heart. And seeing my very own Superman parade around the school with all his classmates, well, it's just too cute. I even bought two frozen pizzas for dinner, and I NEVER do things that wild and crazy.

Here are our Jack-O'-Lanterns... they looked like this two nights ago, and then the dogs ate them, as they eat everything else, whether it is filled with burning flames or not. Have a wonderful evening!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You know you have boys when...

... not only does a toy gun make its way into the dish washer, but you don't even notice it's there until after you run the load.

Needlebook Tutorial a la Nana Company

Today Amy at Nana Company posted a tutorial to make the darling needle books of hers that I've been coveting. Hooray! I think I might be making one of these to put in my OWN Christmas stocking this year... If you haven't already, you must stop by her blog if for no other reason than to drool over her gorgeous photography and the cuteness she is constantly turning out!