Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
We love Halloween here.
I really love forcing my family into looking ridiculous together.
I'm pretty sure I am reaching the end of being able to force my children into this, but the Halloween gods were on my side this year.

I know we probably won't be able to ever outdo last year's theme, but that will never stop me.

I got the idea this year to be the cast from Pixar's Up.

My children have no care for Up one way or the other.

Lucky for me, Squirrel wanted to be "Jewel" from the movie Rio. (Well, hello, bird costume, or KEVIN the bird...) So, I made her a bird costume and if you asked her, she was Jewel, but if you asked me, she was Kevin (which did NOT make her happy if she overheard).

Little Bird really wanted to be a ghost, even though I wanted him to be Russell. I compromised and made him a Russell costume with a ghost costume to go over top. Turns out, he didn't want to wear any costume, but didn't notice that his Russell costume was on him. (Anyone need a big white piece of fabric with two eye holes cut in it???)

Rob of course, was Carl, the old man. Unfortunately, no store in our town sold white or gray hair spray. (Can you believe it? Totally unheard of, but I guess that's what you get in a small town.) So I guess he was Carl, the middle-aged man...

I was Dug the Dog. In typical fashion, there are no photos of me, but my costume wasn't that great anyway. Most people's favorite was the "cone of shame" made from butcher paper. :)
Oh, wait, here's one! Hmm...I guess I did do a pretty good job on the costume...

The best part though, was the paper mural I drew for the trunk or treat--a magnificent crayon rendering of the house, accompanied by a bunch of balloons affixed to the van/house. We were pretty much the MOST awesome family at the trunk or treat, no doubt.

I will be so heartbroken when my children develop minds of their own when it comes to Halloween....

Anyway, hope you had a fun one with oodles of candy and lots of good times!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A "fairy nice" birthday present

For my birthday, Rob took the kids to the dollar store to pick out presents for me.

While he says he reminded the kids extensively that the presents were for Mommy, their interpretation of my interests was somewhat different than my own.

Little Bird got me a package of Cars candy. Which he promptly ate most of. (I was cool with that...they were really gross!)

Squirrel bought me a lovely fairy play doll which she named Fairy Dust. (I have to say though, her selection was kind of brilliant, because now every time she starts to play with her princess dolls, she remembers Fairy Dust and I am suddenly expected to play along, rather than passively observe. Clever girl, this one...)

The best part of Fairy Dust is that she is a little unique.

When we opened her up, we realized she only had one shoe.
Eh, no big deal. I mean, for a dollar, can you really expect a complete collection of accessories 100% of the time?

And then I realized why she only had one shoe...a practical solution to her other issues. 
It seems Fairy Dust is missing more than just a shoe. 

At first I thought Squirrel wouldn't notice, but of course she quickly did. 
I told her Fairy Dust had a "little foot"; just like Nemo has a "little fin."
She seemed to take that just fine. 

The best part, was later as she was playing with Fairy Dust and the Princess Barbies, I heard her telling the Princesses that Fairy Dust was special, to be nice to her, and that her "little foot" helped her fly and land on flowers, and that was why Fairy Dust is the best fairy. EVER. 

And that is why I am pretty sure I have the best daughter. 


Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Happiest Birthday

I kind of hate birthdays. Every year, I have a tendency to have a melt-down around my birthday. This year was no exception. I feel like I have had some really crummy ones, that sometimes people I love forget about it, or just generally awful events tend to coincide with the weeks/days before I turn a year older. And even when they don't, I still get so ornery and mopey around my birthday. It's been like this for at least the last several years, but I can trace the beginning of feeling this way back to when I was in high school. In the weeks or month before my birthday, I look forward to it. I like cake. I like presents. I like when my friends and family call. Birthdays are great!

Until four or five days before...and then I get gloomy and mean.

This year was no exception.

The day before my birthday, I melted down. I cried to Rob about how I hate my birthday, everything and every one that has anything to do with it, and I that I didn't even want people to wish me a happy birthday; I just wanted to crawl in a hole and forget the whole day.

And then I had a realization. It isn't my birthday. It's me.

Every year around my birthday, I get the birthday blues. I always thought I was feeling bad FOR myself, but I realized I feel bad ABOUT myself. Even though I don't struggle the rest of the year with this thought, there is something about being another year older that makes me feel like I have fallen short; I look at myself, at my life, and I basically feel...worthless. I feel like I am another year older and I haven't done anything meaningful or important. It's kind of hard to write it out like that, to realize that deep down, that's why I hate turning another year older, but really, I heard it in my head and I felt it in my heart, and I knew that the anger wasn't about what someone had done or about something that had happened. It was about me, and the fact that I didn't think I was worth celebrating.

That's kind of depressing, right? And maybe not normal (I don't a lot of people feel this way?), but definitely not the type of person I want to be.

So I decided to change my mind. I think this has been a long time coming. The past few months, I have been thinking about doing something meaningful for my birthday, and finally came up with a plan. But I realized I could easily do more, and that when you feel bad for yourself, the best thing you can do is go out and do kind things for others.

So, I did register for that 5K, and even had a little extra to add to the donation.
(Look! Here's me, "running"!)

 But more significantly, I got done crying, wiped off the smeared mascara and walked into the kitchen and started making cookies and brainstorming. And I think I created a new tradition for myself and my family.

That night I made 4 dozen cookies. The next morning, we got up and we went to spread some love.

Our family delivered cookies to the police station, where we were invited to give them to the Chief of Police, who nearly came to tears, telling us that the day before had been one of the worst ever, and that he couldn't express how grateful it was to know that some people were actually appreciative of the work they do. (They gave the kids badge stickers and a ride in the display car.)

We went to fire station, where we handed cookies off to the fire fighters and the kids were given a tour of the station with a look/climb around the ladder truck.

We went to the library and gave them to the librarians.

We took people treats AND animal treats to the local animal shelter where the kids got to happily play with the dogs.

Then we went to Walmart to get a dozen balloons, where we left 3 plastic bags of quarters taped to the soda machines for people to find and enjoy a free soda.

We took the balloons to one of the local nursing homes, where we made some new friends and spread a little cheer. (It was so AMAZING to see my sweet daughter giving hugs, holding hands, and talking to the residents. I was so worried that she would be too shy or would be frightened, but she commented on how much she loved it and all the "nice grandmas and grandpas.")

I had to go to work after that, but after work, we went "camping." The kids have been asking to go camping for ages now, and with all they do to fill me with joy, I figured one awesome birthday present would be to return the favor. It was really cold, so I chickened out and we took the kids home once the fire died and we all got sleepy, but it was once of those moments I want to tuck away in some place for safe keeping and never, ever lose; a moment I wish I could freeze for all time and play back again and again and again.

We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and watched the colors of the fire. The kids told us campfire stories: Squirrel's was about a little princess who shared her name who went camping in the woods and was afraid of everything, so her mommy stayed with her. And THEN when a bear jumped out to scare them, they realized it was only DADDY! (Insert shrieks and giggles.)

Little Bird's was about a little monster (who also shared his name) and a little ghost that came to play with him everyday, until a big ghost came and put the little ghost in the garbage can! (Insert raucous laughter.) Luckily, his friend came and got the little ghost back out of the garbage can and they played more.

As I sat there by the fire, with Squirrel snuggled in my lap and Little Bird in Rob's, listening to my children weave tales (complete with conflict and character development), watching the purples, oranges, and yellows of the flames run into each other, I realized that these amazing children were another year older too. That every year, time will move on, and these beautiful little people are my accomplishment. These sweet hands delivering cookies, stroking the veins on the hands of the elderly, their darling mouths telling stories and filling the cold air with laughter, the eyes that shone at me with love and affection and pride for their work that day, those are the things that reflect my worth back to me.

And so, this is how I know that in the past year, I have accomplished something important and that I am not only someone myself, but I am creating beautiful little someones who can someday go on and do the same.

Pretty much the best birthday in the history of the world.

Peace and love,


Friday, October 14, 2011

Tutorial: Cowl Shirt

Hi, friend!

By now, I'm sure you've heard of Pinterest, the most amazing website ever. It's essentially a digital bulletin board, where you can pin pictures of all your favorite things and still retain the original source link. The only down side is the obvious black hole for time it can become as you sift through all the beautiful eye candy.

While perusing the site, I came across this adorable outfit:

Lucky for me, I already own jeans, brown boots, AND a green knit pea coat. What I really had my eye on was that adorable striped cowl. Lucky for me, I also had some striped knit...

AND a handy workhorse tee pattern from an existing shirt, so I made myself one! 

What do you think? (Photos come courtesy of Squirrel, who is quite the gifted iPod photographer...I feel like I walked right off a magazine shoot!) 

(Well...a magazine shoot where the models never lost that 40lbs of baby weight from #2
...and then slouches...
while wearing horizontal stripes...) 

Want one of your own? (The shirt, not the leftover baby belly!)
 Lucky you! 
I'll show you how! 

First things first: cut your pieces out from your tee pattern.
For this shirt, I knew I only wanted a half sleeve, so I simply folded my shirt sleeve pattern under itself.

Then, right sides together, sew together the shoulder seams on your front and back pieces. 

Now, take a sleeve, and by folding it half, find the middle. 
(You can see below that I placed a pin there to mark it.) 

Putting right sides together, line up the center of the sleeve with the shoulder seam. 

Pin the shoulder of the sleeve to the curve of the front and back pieces. 

Sew the seam you pinned, and then repeat for the other sleeve. 
Now you are starting to have the shape of a shirt! 

Next, start at the underarm seams of your shirt so the front and back line up. 
Pin them and sew from the end of the sleeve to the bottom of the shirt. 
At this point, if you don't want a cowl, you can hem the sleeves, neckline, and bottom of the shirt and call it quits. However, we are going for something even better! 
In order to have a good loose cowl (and not a turtleneck), make sure that you have a wide and deep scoop-neck to your tee. If it isn't wide enough, take some scissors and trim out the neckline. 

Once your shirt has a wide enough neck, use a tape measure to measure all the way around the neckline. 
This one measured 33 inches. 

Now, to cut the cowl: 
Using the measurement you took around the neckline, cut a piece of fabric that is that length and very wide. 
I cut a piece 33 inches long and 12 inches wide. 
Here it is, folded in half "hot dog style."

Now, unfold the piece and re-fold it, "hamburger style."

Sew the two raw edges together so you have a loop of fabric. 

Now fold the loop "hot dog style" again. 

Tuck the loop, open edges up and align the seam in your loop to the back of the shirt or the shoulder seam. Pin the paw edges and the neckline of the shirt together all the way around, and then sew together. 

All you have left to do is hem the sleeves and bottom of the shirt!
(And have a private photo shoot with the world's MOST adorable photographer.) 

A cool new cowl to keep you just right for fall! 


(Here's one more of my little artist--she's diverse and enjoys modeling as well!)


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tutorial: Shirt Pattern from Existing Tee

Hey y'all! 
I have a couple of tutorials ready for you, but have had a hard time getting them up here. Of course, life is always busy, but lately, blogger and my internet are not getting along. C'est la vie. Hopefully, you enjoy these as I can roll them out. 

I have been working on a couple of clothing items for myself. (I always get a hankering for new clothes at the start of Spring and Fall...must be the change in weather! And when you can't afford to shop--sew!) And I thought while I was at it, I'd draw up some tutorials. 

But first, what we need is a good workhorse shirt pattern--basically, a pattern that fits well, is basic, and easily adjustable. So this tutorial focuses only an creating that pattern, a very simple process that translates easily to most basic clothing articles. 

You will need: 
a t-shirt that fits well (long-sleeved if you have one--easier to shorten sleeves than make them)
butcher paper or freezer paper (found in many grocery stores) or even newspaper
straight pins

Freezer paper is great because it is very durable and relatively inexpensive. 

First, you will fold your shirt in half and lay it on top of the freezer paper. You can do this with the sleeve out, but I prefer to just tuck it under. 

Then, using a marker, trace the outline, keeping a couple of things in mind:  
*Make sure to give yourself a bit of room for a seam allowance. 
*If you are working from a t-shirt that is very thin, add a little extra width because thicker fabrics will not stretch as well. 
*Remember to add more at the bottom for a hem! 
(If you are uncomfortable with a marker this close to your favorite t-shirt, you can use the pin prick method mentioned below!) 

You can see in the photo above that I added quite a bit of length to this shirt. 
Partly, this is because this shirt hits me just above where I'd like it to, 
and partly because I knew what I was making would be a bit longer. 

Repeat the tracing with the other side. When you are done, you should have a front and a back piece. (The front should be cut lower than the back). Label the side that you will need the fold to be on, and label each piece as "Front" or "Back."
Here's my two pieces, front and back. (Sorry for the lack of contrast--I'm a night crafter!) 

Next, we are on to the sleeve. Much like the bodice, you will lay the sleeve out flat. 

Now, as you can see, you can't just use a marker to trace the inner seam of the sleeve, so one way to do this is by using straight pins. 

Simply use your straight pin to poke through the freezer paper along the seam, as demonstrated with the yellow dots in the next photo. 

Then, remove the sleeve, and connect the dots with a gently curving line...

And you'll have a whole sleeve and a finished pattern! 

These are the three basic pieces for a shirt pattern, and there are only a few seams before your shirt is completed!

More tomorrow on the first project (so long as blogger cooperates).

See you then!