Monday, July 30, 2012

Today's post is brought to you by the letter...

Now that little man has his own room, and isn't sharing with his super girly-girl sister, I thought perhaps it time to personalize his space a bit.  So far he had an owl bow hanger, a pink bunny bank, and a lovely wooden jewelry box in his room as the sole decorations.  He's only one (for a few more weeks!) and could care less what his room looks like, as long as his slide and dog-dog were somewhere nearby.  But it made me a bit sad that I had made my daughter so many things for her room, trying to make it a special place for her, yet had neglected to so much as give him some crib sheets that weren't hand-me-downs (and pink with white stars, at that).  
The fabric I bought for the "baby" quilt I will one day make for him is water-y colors, with some pops of orange interspersed.  Rather than do an ocean theme room, though, I'm leaning towards just using this peachy aqua color scheme.  (Not orange and teal, by the way.  No way would my father-in-law let that slide.)
So, rather than actually making the quilt that will inspire his room decor, I thought I'd go easy and just do some basic crafty futzing around.  

"A is for Asher!"

I love the trendy chevron prints that are so popular in home decor now, so used that as a basis for his upper-case A.  It came out pretty nicely. 
 One day MacKenzie and I tore pictures from all of her completed worksheets and glued them to a canvas.  Just a simple coat of modge-podge, followed by a watered down wash of paint finished it.  It makes a neat opportunity for i-spy.

And I've been seeing these button letters on Pinterest a lot.  No, no original ideas here :)
I'm happy with the way they turned out, and the shadowbox effect of the frames.  I got unfinished frames, thinking I'd white wash them, but when I tried them as-is I kinda liked it.  What do you think?  

They won't stay leaning on the crib like this, though. That would be unsafe.

The monogram thing must have struck a chord in me somewhere, because I gravitated to this big wooden N next time I was in the fabric store.   I'm not completely sold on the paint treatment.  I tried to make it look weathered- but not sure if it just looks "poorly made" instead.  But I love the wreath itself.

Like most who quilt, I have a gi-normous bag of fabric scraps that I hoard away for the perfect project.  This is a great use for some. I like that I can remember the projects that the scraps came from- it's like a walk down memory lane each time I look at it.  

 I'm not sure any how-to is necessary here, but just in case:  Cut your fabric into relatively even strips and then knot them, spacing out colors as appropriate, around a grapevine wreath.  Trim the edges to a roughly even length.  Complex, huh?

I preferred the more organic look of the knotted side, but with more careful arrangement, the solid fabric wrapped side of this wreath could also look pretty cute.  Neat seasonal possibilities as well.  


That's all for today, folks.  I had a bag tutorial in the works, but my computer ate the images from my memory card before they were uploaded (grumble grumble!!).  Mr. has assured me he can retrieve them.  
We shall see.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christmas in July

AKA- Science is cool.

AKA- I do it wrong, so you don't have to.  

Yes, Christmas.  It's early.  But this year I've vowed to make ALL the gifts we give.  I tried this last year, and while I did contribute a fair amount of homemade presents to the Domesstic Christmas bag, I got pulled in by the rampant consumerism of the season, and in the end, failed in my goal of a completely homemade holiday.  
I had been without crisp air and pine sap for so long, living on the west side of Oahu, that being here in Monterey has me feeling the winter-spirit year round.  The mornings almost always feel like there's a frost not far away, and the scent of pine wafting from the forest makes me want to take a swag home to the fireplace.  I think I'll wait until at least October to get nutso like that, though.  Or maybe September?

We found these funky pine cones on a nature stroll the other day, and it got me thinking of the ornaments I like to use as present toppers.  And since December really isn't all that far away in terms of the crafting calendar, I thought I might as well brew some cider and get to jolly-ing.  

See the fish face?  This guy came home with us, and will be painted up with those big kissy lips for someone special.  

This one reminded us of a little bird.  My daughter is totally enamored with birds, and I think she'd love adding this guy to our tree.  

Salt dough has a special place in our hearts and home (especially the grout)- I make a batch fairly regularly as it's inexpensive, easy, and I always have the ingredients on hand.  Kenzie and I started in on some of her presents by making some beads.  I think they'll actually look quite nice with some paint and perhaps some seed beads as adornment.

These little dudes are an homage to my favorite salt dough creation- these hideous elves I made a few years back for an  ornament exchange.  Aren't they cute? ;)  A note...  that hair?  Garlic press!  

But what this post is really about is science.  And snowflakes.  

In my surfing of the blogosphere looking for Christmas inspiration, I came across some beautiful images of crystalized snowflakes made from Borax.  The instructions were aimed at elementary students, so I thought it'd be a wonderful project for the girl and I.  

We made some pipe cleaner forms, and tied them by thread to skewers.  The instructions told me to put one to a jar, and to use a certain ratio of Borax to boiling water.

I may have mentioned this before, but I hate recipes and instructions.  I rarely read them, and it rarely works out in my favor.  I'm not sure why this hasn't sunk in yet.
I thought hey, we could make even more snowflakes if we used a large bowl, so grabbed a big mixing bowl and filled it up with warmish water (I didn't want to wait for it to boil) and some odd scoops of borax.
We also added some blue food coloring for pizazz.

The original instructions did mention that is was important that the container remained undisturbed.  Since we had started our project on the kitchen floor, I now had to booby trap the area to prevent tampering.  

I also locked my son out....

We went to bed, with the girl really really excited for her science project.  We had talked about the formation of crystals and all the learny type stuff, so if you try this at home (the right way) be sure to add that in.  It's pretty cool, actually. (Brief explanation stolen from the internets: 
 "Hot water holds more borax crystals than cold water. That's because heated water molecules move farther apart, making room for more of the borax crystals to dissolve. When no more of the solution can be dissolved, you have reached saturation. As this solution cools, the water molecules move closer together again. Now there's less room for the solution to hold onto as much of the dissolved borax. Crystals begin to form and build on one another as the water lets go of the excess and evaporates." )

Anyway, in the morning, she came to get me, to take the snowflakes out and see how it worked.

It didn't.

Sensing the disappointment, I swallowed my pride and set out to do it the RIGHT way. 
So, here.  You can to.  

 You'll need pipe cleaners, Borax (sometimes called 20 Mule Strong), string, a large jar (6 cup canning jars are awfully convenient), and water.
Food coloring is optional.

Make your snowflake forms, being sure that they can fit through the mouth of the jar without bending.  Tie some thread to the end of one point, and then determine the length you'll need to dangle it inside the jar.  Be aware that the thread that is actually in the water will gather crystals as well.  Once you have the desired length, attach it to a pencil or chopstick or something to hold it above the jar.  

Pur in six cups of boiling water, and then add one cup of Borax.  Stir until it's all dissolved.  

Add the snowflakes, and then leave the jar alone.  If possible, leave the house.  Nothing will happen for several hours, and staring at it will be extremely frustrating.

But after three hours or so, as the water cools, you'll start to see little crystals floating about, settling here and there inside the jar.   Now go away again.

In a few more hours, you'll have a nice chunky crystalized snowflake.  Carefully remove it from the jar and admire the beauty of science. 

This one is two forms, crystalized into one unit.  It's actually pretty sturdy.

 Also, don't freak when you see all those crystals stuck in the jar.  Add more boiling water, give a bit of a stir, and they'll come right off.  You can do it over and over.  

While I've got you here, I wanted to share something pretty cool.  Now that you have mason jars, you can take the rims to make PERFECT poached eggs (I topic.  What, Borax doesn't make you feel like breakfast?).  Just put the rims on the bottom of the pot, and gently spoon the egg into the rim.  When they've cooked, remove with a slotted spatula and flip.  They'll be amazing.  I love poached eggs, especially eggs benedict, and still get a kick out of this little trick.

Sigh, and now I'm hungry.

 Merry Christmas in July, everyone.  If you make any of these groovy snowflakes, show 'em off!  And for those in my family- pretend to be surprised with your new super-fancy ornaments come December :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

anchors aweigh!

The littles got new clothes!  
It might be living so close to the wharf, or Monterey's rich maritime history, or perhaps just my deep longing to get out on the (not icy cold) water again, but I have been slightly obsessed with all things nautical.  Anchors, whales, sailboats and knots- it's all been finding its way to my design boards (also known as yellow post-its stuck to my computer screen).  
So inspired, I made a skirt for the girl with some long hoarded fabric, and some mock sailor pants for the little man.  I'm thrilled with these two projects!  

With a buffer between them they seem almost sweet together.

Before I knew if kid #2 would be a boy or girl, I bought (on impulse) a bunch of fabric to use for a quilt.  It was all nautical themed, with submarines and squid and mermaids.  I had the idea that it was gender neutral, so I could use the quilt for either a baby boy or a baby girl.  This particular piece was my favorite- but when I went to use it, I second guessed its neutrality.  The mermaids were nekkid- and the little girls swimming alongside were wearing some rather cheeky swim bottoms.  I didn't want to send the wrong message.  So I stashed it away.  And took it out every now and then, to fondle.  And ogle.  And mourn the sweet mermaid quilt that would never be.
Sigh.  Anyway.  Now that MacKenzie will be entering kindergarten (what?!?!), I wanted to begin sewing her clothing in earnest.  The mermaid fabric kept calling to me, and I finally had the perfect design pop into my head late one evening.  Just right for the small half-yard piece.  

look at the ties on the bottoms!  and the little fish!  and the pigtails!

The main fabric is an organic cotton, with a lot of fiber variation and a bit of sheerness.  To counter this I added a demi-slip to the skirt to hide any hello kitty undies from view. 

This is perhaps the first thing I've sewn that looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside.  EVERY seam is a french seam, with pressing down in between steps.  This is counter to everything I've ever done in sewing.  It looks lovely.  

I love this skirt, and I'm thankful that the girl is in the stage where she's growing up more than out now. I think it'll stay wearable for a long time.

Couldn't wear a mermaid skirt without a fishtail braid...

Asher's little sailor pants were made from an old seersucker robe of Mr's that I had been eyeing for years now.  I love seersucker.  He loves it too.  But the robe was ratty- literally falling apart in places, and he is rather eager to please me, so he consented to forfeiting it to my whims.  The back pockets on the pants are the front pockets of the robe.  I just added the buttons.

There is a very deep, fold down cuff to accommodate growth,
and adjustable elastic in the waist.  

This cute pirate boat at the museum down the street
made for the perfect prop, don't you think?  

Little man is kinda OCD about throwing away litter.
Something about him doing this task in this outfit kills me.

Deep pockets for rock and bug storage.  What more could a little boy ask for?

The only thing I bought for these pants were these anchor buttons.
I couldn't help myself.

 Funny story about the pants.  I had gotten them almost entirely assembled, with just the waistband left, when I realized I had thrown the rest of the robe fabric away, thinking I was done.  It had been almost two full days gone when I realized this- and yes, I did dig it out from the food scraps, coffee grounds, and dirty diapers.  There is no project in this house, after all, with out some mess.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Officially a big girl.

As of tonight, MacKenzie is officially a big girl.  
I've been holding her back from this milestone for yeeeaarrrrs.  I started her Big Girl Bed Quilt back in 2009.  I made the top, and then promptly folded it up and stuck it in a closet.  The quilt was designed around the room she had in our Oahu house, painted green and purple, with an owl theme.  Some may recognize this picture I uploaded, on her first night in the new bed with the unfinished quilt top laid out on top of her:

This dates from September 2009. Yes, almost three YEARS ago.  (Isn't she cute, by the way?)

A hundred things kept me from completing the dang thing.  A hundred, and none, if that makes sense.  But finally.  It's done.  The room I made it for has been repainted (and is now rented to a preist).  The matching curtains don't fit on her new windows.  But none of this really matters.  She's got her big girl quilt.  

In our groovy old house here in Monterey, Kenzie has the coolest room.  It's the finished attic, and has it's own stair/ladder entry.  Once upstairs, it's all low ceilings and reading nooks, shag carpet and coziness.  The perfect room for a little girl.  She keeps all her small toys up there away from her brother's sticky destructive fingers, and has plenty of hidey spots for stashing books to read once it's lights out time.  We call it her "upstairs wonderland".

The dim light and low ceiling make photography a nightmare, so these didn't turn out the best.  But here's an idea.  I loved all the bird-themed fabric so much that I couldn't bring myself to cut it up.  I left it in rather big chunks and randomly sewed them together for the top.  I'm not sure I can even technically call it a quilt.  More of a cover?  Anyway.  The owl print there on the bottom was the originally inspiration for the (Hawaii) room, and I have a lovely pair of matching curtains tucked away in a box somewhere.  Hopefully at our next house they'll have a home.

 In the meantime, I repurposed an old skirt into these.  Hard to tell the colors, but it's a soft grey with blue roses print, and peach lace trim.  I quite like them.

And, on the topic of windows, the little stinker also happens to have the best view from her window.   She likes to look out at night at the "city" across the water.  That's the bay there, and if you squint, you can see the mountains in the distance.  In the mornings, you can't see any of this because of the fog.  Solid grey.

I bought the nicest yellow solid- something horrendously expensive- for the backing, but underestimated the yardage by a huge amount.  Here's the weird piecing that I filled in the gaps with.  It bothers me, as it doesn't match the front, but Kenzie calls it the "night side" and seems happy with it.  And she's what counts.

This labeled egg fabric is her favorite from the quilt.  It might be mine, as well.  I imagine her reading it to herself at night, slowly reciting the bird's names as she falls asleep.  It seems a very relaxing thing to do.

I have to admit, I feel quite relaxed myself.  Three years is a long time to kick yourself for not finishing something.
And now I can start all the other projects I'll let sit around in the closet.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hard work.

I've got a major case of mommy guilt.
Guilt is nothing new, as all moms can relate to.  We go to bed each night, and think about all the ways we'll do better.  Not as much inter-netting.  Not as much yelling.  Active listening and playing and educating.  That guilt is basic to even the very best mothers. The "tomorrow, I'll do better" guilt.
But tonight's guilt needs more than just a vow to play ponies with my girl tomorrow (something she begs me to do almost hourly- but I've actually done only a handful of times).
This guilt needs a vow to change almost every aspect of me, as a mom and as an individual. 
It's HUGE.

The pivotal scene, as it replays in my mind:
My daughter is riding in a boat, at a boardwalk amusement park.  She is ringing this little bell and laughing.  She keeps ringing the bell- harder and harder and faster and faster and her laughing turns maniacal.  She honestly looks like a crazy person.  She is drawing stares, and I hear people...laughing.  At her.  I begin to try to get her attention, to get her to tone it down. And Mr. stops me, asking, "what's she hurting?"
The inner dialogue goes something like this:  "She looks insane!  But who cares?  People are laughing at her!  So what?  I don't want her to be made fun of!  She doesn't know anyone is making fun of her.  But someday she will!  So she can deal with it then...  But I want to PROTECT her!"

I realized that for the past few years, so much of what I rationalized as "protecting" my little girl was in fact hindering her spirit.  My daughter has a huge personality.  Everything about her is....well...a little intense.  She talks constantly.  To me.  To herself.  To strangers.  She makes 'best friends' instantly.  But she doesn't always realize when those friendships aren't mutual.  She tells people she loves them, after knowing them for less than an hour.  She hugs strangers, and gives them gifts.  She is endearing and loud and frenetic.  She gets really really really excited and squeals and gushes and sometimes cries with happiness.  She gets really really really mad and stomps her feet and growls and breaks down in sobs.  She is truly smart and needs almost constant attention.  She tells the people she meets on the street whatever it is that she's learned that day.  In great detail and with fierce conviction that everyone would want to know what she learned that day.
She is draining....and amazing.  And perfectly her.

In elementary school, this previous paragraph could have easily described me. I danced and sang in public.  I yelled out answers and was loud and really really really excited about just about everything. 
And in middle school, I got made fun of, relentlessly.
By high school, I was sitting in the back of the room, and never raised my hand.  I still can't speak in public.  And I care far too much about societal conventions, and what is "appropriate behavior". 

Society is going to pick my little girl apart.  It's already starting.  She comes on so strong, and the little girls at the playground are intimidated by her.  She is having a hard time adjusting to the move, and it's heartbreaking.  And I had been trying to help, by coaching her to "tone it down".
 What an ass, huh? 
Society is going to pick my little girl apart.  And I've gotta be there, to keep her together.  To keep her HER.  To support her and encourage her and not let her slip into the back row, quieted by idiotic notions of normalcy.

I need to be a better mother to HER. 
And to just let her be.