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. :)