Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Toy Shelf Cozy

OK, stay with me on this one. It's hot and sticky here in Kentucky and most afternoons have found us inside, out of the heat. My son is just starting to walk, but he can rip apart his room in seconds flat. It's true...we've already taken his crib upstairs to our room (since he sleeps next to us or with us anyway) to give him more room to play, but when he starts pulling toys off of his shelf, the floor quickly disappears and playtime can get a little chaotic. When I worked in a toddler room years ago, my friend and co-teacher and I had the same problem times eight 1-3 year olds. When we agreed to have an outside assessment of our classroom, we learned that we had too many toys out within reach. We sorted and donated old toys and turned shelves around and soon, the classroom was much calmer. I decided recently to try the same trick in Ari's room--hence the toy shelf cozy.

I used fabric samples that I buy for about $4/each at my favorite local vintage shop called Street Sense. I had made a fabric toy block before, so I just did pretty much the same thing--I sewed the sides to the top and then sewed all of the sides together. Pretty easy.

In theory yes, easy, but let me tell you something about my sewing. I'm not really sure yet how to follow a pattern so I mostly rely on my visual sense for how much to cut, what to sew where. I also have a lead foot. When a seam starts to drift (as it did with that pretty but thinner striped material in the middle) I tend to hit the pedal as if getting through it faster will make up for my lack of skill. When I'm sewing, I daydream a lot about all of the wonderful things my mom sewed for us over the years--4th of July dresses, quilts, doll clothes, whatever we asked for. It's easy to daydream like this because I'm learning to sew on my mom's old Bernina, the first big purchase she made with her own money. I loved this sewing machine growing up because it came in a big red case. Sometimes I have to laugh to myself while I'm sewing because I'm pretty sure my mom never closed her eyes, held her breathe and pressed the pedal to the floor, and I'm also pretty sure she never drank a beer while sewing either.

So, the seams are wavy, the hem is crooked and the fit is a little loose, but it felt good to have an idea and see it through. No, no one would buy this crazy thing on Etsy and I'm not going to win an award for blogging about this project, but you should have seen my son's face light up when he saw it! He doesn't know it's meant to keep toys from his little grasping hands, he just likes the colors and the textures and that he has something new that's all his own. And really, that's the reason I'm learning to sew--so that I can whip up a curtain for an impromptu puppet theater or tablecloths for a special birthday party. I also want to teach my son that it doesn't really matter if what you do is great or perfect, just that you try. My mom has given me a lot over the years, but this lesson is the most important.

If you've made something that might be a little bit off but got great joy from creating it, please share with us!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Birthday Boy!

I can't believe my baby boy will be a year old tomorrow! To celebrate his birthday, I made him a Birthday Boy onesie to wear out to breakfast and to stroll around the Farmer's Market. I intended to iron on the fabric and then stitch around it with a really beautiful variegated thread. When I had time to get this project done while Ari took his afternoon nap (it took 2 hours to get him to sleep--come on teeth! Just come in already!) I realized I had bought "No Sew HeatnBondUltrahold." Oh well, that made it all the easier to cut out the number from a scrap of fabric and just iron it on. OK, I'll admit that I cut the number out facing the wrong direction 3 times, but that's Kandyce's fault. She was making me keep her pregnant self company on the phone.

I admit that I love how this little shirt came out so much, I just might go crazy and start adding iron-ons to everything. Kind of like when Kandyce and I were in junior high school and she went nuts with puffy paint. Nothing in her room was safe!

When my sweet little boy woke up, daddy was home to play while I ran to the store. I couldn't resist this gorgeous bunch of flowers that the grower had just brought in to our local co-op. Fresh cut flowers are new to our co-op and I love how the grower is using repuporsed tin cans as well as funky assorted coffee cups. These flowers are to celebrate our birthing day, particularly today, the day before Ari's actual birth. We had planned a homebrith and ended up having to have a C-section, but our most vivid memories are from the days we labored at home. This day last year I was laboring in a tub in my kitchen when my husband brought in a perfect flower from our garden to help my visualize opening up for birth. I think a tradition was started today: I think I'll always splurge on flowers the day before Ari's birthday.

Finally, what's a birthday--or night before a birthday even--without cupcakes?! Since his Grammy made them for him special and sent them overnight, how could we not let him have the pleasure of holding one himself so he could just lick off that wonderful icing. Of course, mommy and daddy had to taste one first to make sure they're alright. They're delicious and thankfully, we have more. Since Ari loves pumpkin, my mom made him Pumpkin Patch cupcakes from the new Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. Definitely worth a try if you're craving a not-too-sweet, gingery cupcake. I have to mention that I'm obsessed with another book my mom just gave to my sister and I called Babycakes. The book has all kinds of "Vegan, Gluten-free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes" that are irresistible and you'll eat it up visually as well. Ari likes me to read it to him while he's eating lunch. "Once there was a baker named Erin and she had lots of different colored bowls to hold her ingredients..." He's enthralled and you will be too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Garage Sale Fundraiser

It was a busy weekend! Saturday was our annual community garage sale--one of my favorite days--and thankfully my mom was still in town from Seattle to play with the baby and help out in a million other ways while my husband and I got rid of some clutter. It's amazing how differently you see your house when you have a toddling, almost-walker. My Lady Liberty statue that has presided over my desk for almost a decade now seemed just too heavy and precarious when my son pulled himself up using the leg of that same desk, so she had to go. I'm happy to say she went to another teacher who plans to sit her on his desk when he teaches his students about justice. I love to see my belongings that I've cherished over years move on to new purposes and loving homes.

The most satisfying part of our garage sale this year was our bake sale for charity. We managed to raise $80 for our local Food Bank, specifically for a program called Kid's Cafe that supplements the free lunch program by serving meals to children who are at risk for going hungry at night. Being able to raise this money this summer was very important to me because I was unable to complete a larger fundraiser I had planned to do for this charity with my college freshmen this past Spring semester. I teach composition at the University of Kentucky and had planned my entire curriculum around the topic of food. One of our projects as a class (I taught 3 sections) was to write and publish a cookbook together and then sell it, along with baked goods from the cookbook and give the money to the Food Bank. Many of us had planned to volunteer at the Food Bank as well and, of course, we'd all be writing about our experiences. Just a month into out semester I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to quit. The fundraisers were all cancelled.

The good news is that my cancer was diagnosed early and, after recovering from a bilateral mastectomy in March, I just recently got the good news that I won't need chemotherapy. I'll be back to teaching part-time in the Fall and I plan on organizing a bake sale with my class once again. My little garage/bake sale was sort of a trial run and it went really well.

If you'd like to add a bake sale for charity to your next garage sale, here are some how to's:
1. Keep it simple.
I took stock of ingredients I already had so that I only had to spend a little under $30 of my own money towards supplies. I also planned treats around the hot weather and my limited baking time as a mom of an almost 1-year old. I made 3 batches of Rice Krispy treats, 1 batch of Peach Jam Oatmeal Bars, 1 batch of Cookie Bars, and I popped 4 boxes (12 bags) worth of Kettle Corn that I got for $1 each on sale.

2.Dress it up.
My mom is the queen of wrapping and presentation. She showed me how to cut wax paper into squares and then wrap each bar by gathering the two sides at the top, folding down a few times into a nice crease on the top of the bar, and then folding each corner in and and then behind the bar like the sides of a present. I also printed labels for the table using different colors and a pretty script font and I dusted off several bowls, baskets, and serving trays that we got for our wedding and don't use very often. I used craft scissors with a decorative edge to cut the tops of paper bags, which I then filled with popcorn and stapled closed.

3. Price with a goal in mind.
I had a hard time deciding on prices for the baked goods. You know how it is at garage sales-- someone offers you a buck for an antique dresser you've priced at $35. I had visions of eating Kettle Corn for breakfast for the next 2 weeks because no one would want to spend 75 cents. I ended up pricing the bars at an even $1.00, the popcorn at .75, and cutting the Rice Krispy treats into small squares and charging .50. I hoped to make $50 over what I invested myself and that's exactly what I did. I sold everything at full price with the exception of 3 bags of popcorn and often customers threw in extra.

4. Look around for other items you'd be willing to sell for charity.
I subscribe to a lot of magazines. Correct that--I don't subscribe to any, my mom and sister have given me subscriptions to a lot of magazines. I usually recycle them in some way (I take them to the YMCA with me, for example), but over the last few months, I've been throwing them all into a big box next to my desk. On garage sale day, I propped them up in a barrel and added signs asking for a 25 cent donation for every magazine.

5. Make the charity and the profits visible.
I positioned the bake goods and magazines right at the front of the garage sale so that I could welcome each customer and let them know what we were doing. I taped down several signs advertising the charity the money would go to as well as information about children and hunger in Kentucky. I also kept a tall, clear vase right in the middle of the table so that everyone could see how much we had already raised. Periodically I counted the money and announced to new customers how we were doing so far.

I had a lot of fun talking to people throughout the day about this charity. I learned a lot from those who are active volunteers in our community and I feel inspired to do more. At the end of the day, my house was de-cluttered a little and my husband and I had some money to help us with our own expenses, but we also felt good about helping children in our own city. If you decide to add a fundraiser to your next garage sale, please leave us a comment and let us know about it!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Projects

It's been awhile since I've been on our blog because my mom and I took the baby on a car trip to Stuart's Draft, Virginia to visit my aunt and uncle. We just got back a few days ago, just in time to get some gardening done before this next batch of thunderstorms we're getting here in Kentucky. I'm also happy to write that my husband, Matt, is home form his research trip to Spain. Ari cannot be happier to see daddy!

While in Virginia, we visited a wonderful quilting shop called Rachels' Quilt Patch. I had to scoop up two "Aunt Philly's Toothbrush Rug" kits for Kandyce and I to try. I just read about these in Mary Janes Farm, our new favorite magazine, and knew I wanted to try them. Has anyone out there made these rugs before? What's great about them is you don't need to do any sewing and you can use up all of those scraps of fabrics you have in your sewing baskets. The owner of Rachel's gave me a quick demonstration and showed me how her ugliest scraps actually make the best rugs. I'm OK with the straight stitch, but don't quite have the hang of turning yet. Lucky for Kandyce--and all of you who live in Colorado, Aunt Philly herself will be in Loveland and in Denver this summer giving classes. You can check out her website for other products and her calendar by clicking here.

A last minute surprise on our road trip, my sister, Erin flew in from New Jersey for two days to join in the fun. While I worked on just two rows of my toothbrush rug, Erin managed to crochet a sweet new hat for her daughter, Madison. Which reminds me: the new Craft Hope Project 3 is up! If you haven't already checked, the new project is making baby hats, booties, and blankets for babies in India.I'm planning on sewing a blanket and my sister is going to make another hat. You can find the pattern she used in the book Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders: 101 Small Indulgences. Here's Ari modeling it reluctantly

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Little Lulu

I have mentioned that I have 7 awesome, gorgeous children. I'm not bragging, it's completely true. Ask Kelly. Any way, they really, really want to be on the blog, so here is the first introduction. This is my youngest. She has many names but I mostly call her Lulu. She is a maniac in the best sense of the word. Way to smart for her own good. And did I mention dramatic!? The other day, my oldest asked Lulu to sing,"A B C D E F G". Without missing a beat she answered, parroting the tune,"no, no, no, no, no, no, no!" This kid is 2 years old?! Where did she come from, because I'm tempted to pick up another.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Back again

See, I told you I'd be better. Today, I feel crafty. (Crafty in the making something fun sense not the making trouble sense :) Martha has come through for me in a big way in the inspiration department. Check out this necklace . So simple and summery. My husband, Ben, is from Venice beach and we used to live in Hawaii, so sea glass is abundant here and I now have something fun to do with it. There are also directions for matching earrings. Not that anyone would need those directions, they are pretty common sense once you have the steps to the necklace. Vintage Chica has a shell version that is precious, too.

I also love this mobile. I want to make the birds and flowers from clay instead of paper. This will take a while. I haven't fired up the kiln in ages.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Craft Hope Doll Project

Here's the story of my doll for Craft Hope's current doll project:
I don't know how to make a doll. I don't know how to hand sew and have to beg my husband to sew buttons on for me. That said, I gathered wonderful and inspiring materials like 100% wool felt yarn, bamboo stuffing, and vintage fabrics and sat down to make my doll on a rare night when the house was totally quiet. The baby was tucked in bed and my husband was out singing Karaoke with friends, another rare occurrence (I heard his "Billy Jean" was a crowd-pleaser. He ended with "no, really, the kid is my son and I love him). By the time he came home, I had a doll! She wasn't much to brag about, but I was pleased with my efforts. My husband called her folksy. This compliment is sort of like when I get a haircut that's not particularly flattering and he assures me that it "looks healthy." Anyway, I agreed with him--my doll was folksy.

Despite needing more hair and stuffing, I set her aside until the deadline for sending in the dolls was a week away. Oh no! I thought, she still needs more work! So earlier this week I put the baby to bed and got out the sewing box again. As I sat down, I realized that an ink spot was on her face...and then her dress...and it kept spreading. "Where is this coming from?!" I thought, panicking. It got to the point that I wondered if I had sewn a leaking pen into her dress that original night.

Enter Grammy (a.k.a. my mom, a.k.a. Susan). She arrived last night after a day's travel from Seattle and, as I went to bed, she went to work:

My doll spent the night in Grammy's Hospital after the first successful doll face transplant and she's doing great! She also received more hair and little dress spiffing up. I got a lot of encouragement and advice to try to make another doll. Aren't mom's/grammy's the best? So I am off to mail our doll from us here at Notions & Threads. Make sure you check out Craft Hope to see all of the beautiful dolls that are on their way to waiting children. There are actually more dolls than are needed, so I'm not sure where my little folksy doll will end up. I just hope she makes someone smile.

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Hello there...

Well, it's been a long time. Kelly has been so good as to hold down the blogging fort all by herself. I'm sorry to have been so absent. My precious Papa died last month and I haven't been able to motivate my pregnant self to do much. But, here I am and I vow to try to be a better blogger.

So the project for the day has been one of the utmost simplicity. I made myself a change purse out of a pair of kids chinos. Super simple, I used the pocket for the front and the back is the bottom of the pant leg. All I had to do was sew them together and add a button. Yeah!!! I feel so good after a successful project. Even a little one like this.
What I really want to try is this repurposed mans shirt and here is another version maternity style. I have my doubts this will turn out as well as the pocket book, but I'll let you know.
I am off to Starbucks to meet a friend for coffee. Have a happy Thursday all. Oh, speaking of Thursday check out this site Creative Thursday. I love the site and how it came about.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Barefoot Books

Just a quick post to let you know that I now have my own Barefoot Books site and am able to offer 10% off for the summer. Barefoot Books is a wonderful independent publisher of children's books and gifts that was started by two moms. Just click the button on the right sidebar. Here are some pictures of my son Ari enjoying his new books (early birthday presents from his Grammy and Auntie & Uncle).

Ari LOVES "Bear on a Bike" and needs to read it every night. He just stares at every page because of the beautiful artwork. When bear goes to the open market on his bike, Ari pretends to eat the bananas and oranges!

We're keeping a basket of Barefoot Books by the bed for nighttime reading with mommy and daddy. They're a special treat at the end of the day for all of us.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

If you can't sell it at the garage sale...

In keeping with our theme of using what you find around the home for creative projects, check out the May issue of Sunset West magazine. I know, I don't live in the west, but my mom sent her copy along because there really were some great ideas like this plant stand above that reminds me of the projects I've been up to lately. Take a few minutes to check out all of the projects at 5 Surprising Salvage Makeovers. The bright yellow of this "new" plant stand has inspired me to paint a little wire table I used to have indoors and is now collecting dust and who knows what else in the garage. I just picked up a can of outdoor spray paint this same color today and I can't wait to see the results.

More garden projects

About a week ago, I was on an evening walk with my baby, Ari, when I saw a bathroom sink and pedestal next to a neighbor's trash. I've wanted a pedestal sink in our downstairs bath, so I quickly took the baby out of his stroller and loaded the sink and pedestal in (don't ask me how I did this)! I should have looked closer--the sink is cracked and the pedestal is too short.

Since garden projects using found objects are on my mind lately, I quickly decided to add the base to my shade garden that I'm creating in our backyard. I buried the base a few inched and then filled it with broken bricks and rock I have lying around. Then I simply added a Terra cotta pot I already had and then the shade-friendly plants. I also have a lot of limestone in the yard from the previous owners, so I built a little circle around the base. I'm not too worried about the gap between the top and the pot because the Vinca vine will grow and cover that up pretty well.

Here is a wider angle view of the project so far. The shutters are discards from our house that I painted and distressed. There's a dumpster from the church next door right behind them that I'm trying to cover up. Those beautiful birdhouses were made by Kandyce's creative kids two summers ago on our visit back to Colorado!

One more tip for gardening this week:
Friends of mine who live right around the corner form a Habitat for Humanity Re-store told me that a local nursery donates annuals on Tuesdays. Great tip! I got a box of beautiful flowers for my planters for $10. Check out the local thrift stores near you for similar deals and happy planting!