Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shirt Re-do

I found this shirt for Lydia at an end of season sale at a consignment store.  I really liked the colors and the shape..... and the PRICE.  I figured that Lydia could wear it while it was still a little big, and thought it would look great with dark purple leggings this fall.  I was really happy with the result, the long shirt that is almost a dress.  There was just one problem.....
the collar was just too big.  It is an 8 after all, and Lydia is only THREE!  Watching her in it I had an idea for an easy fix.  The entire neckline is a gathered strip of fabric about 2 inches wide with elastic on the top edge.  I cut through the top layer of the fabric and fed a piece of ribbon through the neckline.
Similar to how I often re-size skirts to make them smaller, I used a safety pinto feed the ribbon all the way through. 
Finally, I pulled the ribbon to gather the neckline and make it a little smaller and tied it with a bow.
Now the neckline is smaller AND the bow adds a nice accent to the shirt.  When Lydia gets a little bigger, I can just remove the ribbon and she can wear it even longer. A few dollars for the shirt, some leftover ribbon, five minutes of my time and Lydia has a shirt that she should be able to wear for several years.  Not bad! Not bad at ALL!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ruler Growth Chart!

Ignore the clutter on the counter, we have been sick and I was finally feeling up to doing something around the house......just not up to cleaning.   Go figure!
So, we have this wood trim in our house, lots of wood trim actually, but this one particular piece of wood is like a support column between our living room and our kitchen. 
 PJ decided it would be our growth chart for Lydia, so on her birthdays he has marked her height on the wood.  I am so glad he has taken this on, as I would have forgotten to do it until she was about 12 or 13.
I have seen these ruler growth charts on several websites.  I really like them, but I just wasn't thinking at all because we have a piece of wood that we are already using to measure Lydia.  I don't know why it never connected, but the other night while we were all recovering from our colds (laying around and watching non-stop episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix) I saw this version on Pinterest.  The original can be found here.  Apparently it is a hack of something sold on Pottery Barn, in case you have more money than time.  
So I saw it on Pinterest, didn't bother to even look at the directions, and just dove right in.  I didn't even have a ruler to make my giant ruler (that might have made things even easier!) but I did have a sewing board with measurements on it.  I traced the measurements onto a piece of paper.  I wanted each foot to look like an inch on the ruler, so I decided I would make longer marks at 1/4 of a foot (3 inches), 1/2 of a foot (6 inches) and 3/4 of a foot (9 inches) and then a really long and thick mark at the 12 inch measurement.
I marked my paper at those measurements, but also put a small mark for each inch.  I did OK as long as I marked the 3,6,9, an 12 inch marks FIRST and then went back to mark the individual inches in between.  Every time that I tried to save a step and mark ALL the inches, I got goofed up and had too long a mark in the wrong place.  Fortunately, my mistakes were mostly at the bottom of the ruler where it is less noticeable.
This took something like 15 minutes.  I did a one inch line for each inch mark, a two inch line for the fourths, a three inch line for the half mark and a four inch line for the inch/foot mark.
Here is where I hesitated for about 5 minutes (so we are up to 20 minutes total so far). I knew I needed numbers on my ruler.  I knew they needed to look uniform and ruler-ish.  I felt like I should have taken my time and printed a template or something, but I also kind of felt like if I stopped I would never finish it.  I knew if I free-handed it I would get messy and be disappointed. So I compromised by making a square template and free-handed the numbers so that they fit in the square.  You could easily buy number stickers or print them on a printer and then trace them of you aren't feeling brave (or lazy) like me.
So, 25 minutes and a Sharpie marker later I have a ruler on the piece of wood where our growth chart already was.  I love it so much and I am SO happy that it turned out so nice and in so little time.  Lydia keeps running up to it and checking to see how tall she is. LOVE it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Boot Weather!

Today, it is beautiful in TN.  Cool enough to wear boots and jeans, but not so cold as to require a jacket.  Luckily for us, Lydia's cough is better and we both happen to have boots to enjoy this lovely weather.
 I got mine over the summer, when we took our mission trip to South Dakota and stopped at the famous Wall Drugs for lunch (and boots?).  I had no idea this place sold boots or that I would decide I had to have a pair....
 but LOOK at those BOOTS.  I HAD to have a pair!
 Sadly, the pairs that I fell in love with cost about as much as my mortgage payment.  I settled for a picture of the birdie boots and the flower boots.  Too cute, but too much money!
 Then I discovered a corner in the back of the store with the super discounted former display boots.  I had a price in mind that I was willing to spend if I found a pair that I liked.  I found one pair, that was plain enough to match most of what I own but fit within my limited boots budget.
I haven't gotten to wear them much since then, but last week when I was at the big kid's consignment sale I remembered that Lydia usually has a pair of winter boots and so I started looking for something brown an leather like to match mine.

And here we are, enjoying this beautiful fall weather, waiting to go to the fall festival at her school, both wearing our brown boots and jeans.
 And both pretty happy about all of that!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What to wear to preschool....

In the latest edition of posts based around the idea that Lydia now has to dress herself at pre-school but isn't able to deal with buttons or snaps yet,we tackle fall and winter clothing.  Summer was easy.  As mentioned in an earlier post, while the weather was warm I just put Lydia in shorts that were too big, so she used the elastic instead of the buttons or snaps.  I was hoping that by the time she needed long pants, the clothing book that I made for Lydia would have helped her master fasteners.  It hasn't happened like that, sooo.... fall and winter outfits that are easy to pull up and down have been assembled.
There are plenty of elastic pants out there, but I just don't like the look of most.  What I have found that I do like is leggings, but only under a skirt, dress, or long shirt.  In the photo, Lydia is sporting one of her new outfits; a pink and brown plaid shirt, pink leggings, and brown boots.  We were headed to the doctor and Lydia asked if she could bring a purse.  She said she wouldn't be scared if she had her purse.  OK.  Whatever.  She did great at the doctor, we found out what has caused her awful cough and she is currently medicated and napping.  I am rearranging things to stay home with her for one more day and to try to get myself and PJ tested for what Lydia has because it looks and feels like a bad cold, but will turn into walking pneumonia if untreated.  I have had a sore throat and a hoarse voice all week and right now I just want to lay down with Lydia and sleep.  So much for getting some work done while I am home with Lydia.  Oh, well.  At least we know what we are fighting..... and we have plenty of outfits to change into should she get sick.....(which has happened several times in the last 24 hours)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lydia's Top Hat

Lydia now has a tiny top hat to wear with her circus dress to the circus wedding.  Would you believe it started life as a Totino's pizza box?
I seem to have deleted the picture that shows the box, so you will just have to believe me!  I got the idea on Pinterest.  When I searched for top hats to get inspiration about the style, I found two different tutorials for making your own. Here is a link to the one I used the most.  I did not glue my fabric on ahead of assembling and I kind of wish that I had.  It sounds easier, now.
Here is a sideways picture of the felt going on the top hat.  Sorry its sideways.
Once all the felt was on, it was time for the fun part....DECORATING IT!
I bought some ribbon and two peacock feathers, so there is one for my hat too.
Now let's just hope that Lydia is willing to actually WEAR her hat to the wedding!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Halloween Brain Cakes!

I always have a lot of fun planning and making the food for our annual Halloween party, and some times I EVEN remember to take pictures along the way!  Unfortunately, i am usually so busy up until the party that I wouldn't get around to posting anything until after Halloween and that isn't helpful!

 So, today I am posting the step by step directions for the brain cupcakes that I made last year.  I started with a basic cupcake and these little plastic skull shaped buckets that I found at Walmart last year. I was thrilled to discover that a regular cupcake fit down inside the skull.
 I decided to pop the top off of the cupcake once it was inside the skull, so that I could drop in a blob of red jelly in the middle of the brain.
Next, I pushed the top back into the edges of the skull opening.  You could probably skip this part, but a bleeding brain cup cake seemed way neater that a plain cupcake.  Besides, the jam in the middle tasted good and I sear it made the brain bump bigger and that looked better.
 Here is a collection of the skull cakes ready to be iced.
I didn't take pictures of my step by step icing process, but you can find lots of them online.  Here is a picture that is similar to what I did.
 There are step by step pictures of the icing on this website.  I probably mounded up my icing higher than they did.  I also tried to get more of a purple-grey color for the brain, but I think I like the bright pink in the example better.
And here are my finished brain cakes.  Because they were inside the skull cups, they had to be eaten with a spoon.  Had I realized that a utensil would have been necessary, I think having a small spoon sticking out of the brain with some cherry syrup "blood" would have been fun.  Enjoy your BRAINS!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Best. Invention. Ever!

It's a ladybug.  It's a hard plastic suitcase.  It has wheels (like a lot of suitcases today) BUT this suitcase is designed for a kid to RIDE!!!  It's a TRUNKI and i have deemed it the Best. Invention. Ever!  I bought it because Lydia's Aunti has a thing for lady bugs and so now, our little "Liddy bug" gets lots of lady bug stuff too.  I bought it because it was just so darn cute.  And we were out of town.  And the shop was just so darn cute.  But legitimately, by that point in our trip I had 2 small bags and a back pack all filled with Lydia's school stuff and toys and clothing.  She definitely needed a bigger bag to put all her belongings in for trips.
Mostly I bought it for THIS.  I mean LOOK at that FACE!  We were up in the air about if we should give it to her right away or save it for Christmas, when Miss Liddy Bug will also be receiving a lady bug raincoat and matching rain boots.  We had to bring it into our hotel room and before I could even think about hiding it, Lydia came back early from swimming and immediately saw it, said "oooooh for me, I love it, Thanks!" She spent the next hour opening and closing it and locking and unlocking it. (It has really chunky latches with a big plastic lock and a big key built into the strap.  I didn't even have to show her how to use it, it was just intuitive.)  She packed and unpacked and asked for rides up and down the hotel hallway.
Here is when I fell in love with the Trunki.  I had a rolling suitcase and a purse and a laptop bag and now Lydia's rolling/riding suitcase to get out to our car.  I was able to loop the Trunki "leash" around my suitcase and I only had to pull on the one suitcase and her suitcase followed in line behind mine!  The Trunki doesn't turn very well, but Lydia was able to stand and turn while I waited, so it was OK.  It also relies on your child to act as the brakes so on a hill, Lydia flew out in front of me a few times.  We got a lot of smiles from other hotel guests and Lydia loved every minute of her ride.
Trunki is made by Melissa and Doug and comes in numerous colors and designs.  In addition to these, I have seen a bumble bee, a cow, and a monster.
They even make stickers so you can put a face on your animal or create a creature on a plain Trunki.  I LOVE the mustache!!!! Also, they sell a saddle bag, but it doesn't look like it would be that comfortable to sit on it when the extra bags were full of stuff.  All those items are sold separately and I paid about $40 for just the case.  I probably should have waited until I got home and researched the best deals, but I was on vacation and the store was just SO cute!  Also the sales lady at the super cute store swore that her 10 year old grandson still liked his, so I felt like Lydia could use it for a while.  

Besides, just LOOK at how happy my Liddy Bug is with her new wheels!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Gorgeous Guest Book.

A dear friend got married this weekend.  I was asked to choose a reading for the ceremony and to make something for the guestbook.  Between those two, finding the reading was the most difficult.  I finally ran across the poem "Love" by Roy Croft.  If you have to read at a wedding, or just want a sweet sentiment to share with your spouse, I highly recommend it.  It is all about how we love our partners because they make us our best selves and they do it, "without a word, without a sign" they make us better just by being themselves!
Speaking of making something better, the bride requested note cards instead of a guest book.  She gave me her ideas on color scheme (purple and natural colored paper) but left all the decisions up to me. I knew I could do anything with the cards but felt that the hardest part would be finding an interesting box to collect the completed notes during the reception.  I wanted to find something purple, but that wasn't happening so I settled for a good shape and colors that were close to what I had in mind.  The box came from Hobby Lobby and thankfully it was half off on the day I went shopping.  It was styled to look like a suitcase in aged brown faux leather.  The only thing I didn't like was the white wash of paint on the edges.

Here is the finished box.  I painted all the trim a bright purple and then antiqued it by letting the purple dry completely, then adding a layer of brown acrylic paint, and then wiping off the brown paint with a sponge.  It is my favorite technique for playing up the texture of an item.  I showed specific steps in an earlier post, found here.  You can also see that I added a chip board letter M (the bride's new initial) to the top of the box.  The cool thing was all the guestbook stuff stored away inside the case before the wedding and after the cards were complete.  I assume the happy couple will find the box equally useful after the big day.
Once the box was taken care of, it was time to play around with note cards and pens.  I used my favorite flower pen idea, but this time with several small flowers (one fake hydrangea pulled apart) and a few feathers (one feather flower pic pulled apart).  Luckily the flowers were also half off on the day I went to Hobby Lobby.  I love that place! (....except for the one at Turkey Creek. They were rude to a friend of mine!)  I even found ball point pens with PURPLE ink!  I hope the bride can use the pens to write thank you notes or something later, because I LOVED writing with the fancy feather pens.  In fact they were so pretty that when they were sitting in the pen holder cup, one lady thought they were flowers an asked where the pens were!  The note cards were just basic craft paper blank cards that I stamped with purple ink,  They were also bought at Hobby Lobby and were also half off on the day I did my shopping.  We did not use the envelopes that came with them, but I sent them along to the bride so that if any cards were left over, she could use them for thank you notes.
Here is the set up of the guest book note cards at the reception.  It's a little hard to read, but the sign inside the box said "Instead of signing a guest book, please leave a note with your best wishes for the new Mr. and Mrs."  
Congratulations Elizabeth and Jason.  I hope you enjoy your guestbook as much as I enjoyed being a part of your special day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Year Ago Today

Ten years ago today, it was a really beautiful fall day.  I was living and teaching just outside of Washington DC and the day started as one of those fall days where it has been hot and muggy all summer and suddenly it was cool, but not too cool.  It was sunny with a few perfect fluffy clouds.  It was the kind of day where you can't help but look at the sky.

I can't say that I notice EVERY day that is like this, but most years I notice the first "nice" day of the fall.  This weekend, I was out of town for a wedding and we had similar weather.  It has been SO hot this summer in TN, and it feels like it has rained non-stop since last weekend!  Suddenly, it is THIS weekend and the air just turned cool and clear, and I can't help but look at the sky.

The odd thing to realize is that for the past ten years, looking at the sky has included the sickening realization that in your field of view you just might see an airplane that is out of place, horribly off course, and aiming for a building.  I remember a boy in high school who used to stare at the sky and claimed that he was watching for planes to crash, because he just knew that if he watched long enough, one would.  I, like everyone else who knew him, thought he was a little "off".

The idea of planes crashing still sounded crazy to me, even as it was happening.  I was teaching in a suburb just south of DC and living in a suburb just east of DC.  It was September 11, 2001, early in the morning and a student returned from the restroom and said that the "mall" was on fire.  He wasn't a good student and often said things loudly to get attention.  I told him that the mall (the strip of park land between the Capital and the Lincoln Memorial) was NOT on fire and instructed him to get back to work.  I did not give it a second thought.  Large government areas in Washington DC did not catch on fire, and if they did it would be a small fire and someone would put it out. I was wrong.

The announcement came over the PA system a short time later.  Apparently the planes had already crashed in both the Twin Towers in New York AND into the Pentagon (near the mall) in Washington, before my principal decided we needed to know anything about it.  At that point there were reports of fires and explosions in other parts of DC. There were planes in the air that weren't responding.  It was all very confusing and no one knew for sure which parts of the DC area were safe. I had students in my classroom when they announced some details of what was going on.  I did not have a TV, or a radio, or a telephone in my classroom.  I did have my very first cell phone, which I used to try calling my first husband (who worked right next to the Capital) but I couldn't get through.  I offered my phone to any student who had a parent at the pentagon and several students also couldn't get through.  At some point we switched classes an I ended up in my planing period and then we went into lock down.  I was able to find a classroom with a TV get "locked down" in front of it.

Shortly before noon, the school decided to close early an finally got all the school buses back so that we could actually dismiss.  It was several hours after the last plane crashed.  Many people who worked in DC never made it into the city that day because the buses and subway system shut down for fear of further attack.  Those who were in the city at the time of the first attack, promptly evacuated when news of the Pentagon got out. My route home from south to East DC, took me on a freeway that was, at that point, eerily deserted.  If you have ever been to DC, you understand that there is ALL WAYS traffic, all ways!  So there I was, on September 11, driving through a town that EVERYONE ELSE had already decided was too dangerous to be in.  While driving the empty freeway home, military jets and helicopters flew over head.  I wanted to be HOME, not in DC but in TENNESSEE, with my family.  Instead, I made my way to  Cheverly MD and sat alone on my couch in front of my TV for hours.  The phones were working intermittently, so I was able to find out that my husband was driving his stranded co-workers home and that my family in TN knew we were both OK.

Only nothing was really OK.  I sat in front of my TV for days until I couldn't stand not doing anything.  I got it in my head that being a universal blood doner, I could do something. So I set out for the only Red Cross offices that I knew of, in Virginia.  I remember it feeling like a chore trying to get dressed and drive my car for the first time in days.  But I had a mission and so I drove, and my route took me on the freeway past the Pentagon, which at that point had a huge flag draped over its still smoldering scar.  This was the stretch of freeway that took me to my first DC apartment everyday of my first year in the city.  It was the freeway that would continue to take me home to TN every chance that I got.  It was also the freeway from which witnesses dialing 9-1-1 on 9-11, reported first seeing a plane, flying terribly off course and so low that you could see the faces of those on board.  It was the last time those passengers would be seen alive.  They weren't injured in anyway that my blood donation would help and so I was politely refused by the lady at the Red Cross and sent home.  My route this time took me around the other side of the Pentagon, further away from the crash site, but closer to the building.  Close enough that I could see the camouflaged Humvee with the soldier laying on top pointing a large weapon at everyone on the road, including me.  For the next year, I would see this same Humvee, the soldier, and the gun (pointed at me), on this stretch of road too close to the Pentagon to be safe but too important to the flow of traffic to be shut down.  It would never seem normal.

Eventually, school reopened. We put up our American flags and we went back to work.  We tried to get that part of our lives back to normal but I had students with relatives that were still missing in New York.  Back on Capital Hill, anthrax was found in the mail for one of the government office buildings where my first husband worked.  It took weeks of testing and sorting and searching and waiting and debating.  More anthrax was found in more places.  At some point my husband went to work in a suit and tie and men in white Tyvec suits, with respirators and sensor machines, came to test the air.  They were checking for anthrax.  He was told to just ignore them and work normally.  At some point they sent everyone in his office building home so they could clean the building "just in case" there was anthrax. By then the mail had shut down in the DC are, "just in case".  It was around Halloween and, yes, it was scary.

Eventually, the mail ran (radiated as it were) and the men in Tyvec suits stayed away and we tried to move on and days turned into weeks, and I could not get into the Christmas spirit.  I felt a need to go to New York for the holiday.  It was a bittersweet mix of every childhood fantasy of Radio City and giant lighted trees and amazing window displays to lift my mood, mixed up with posters for missing people and makeshift memorials to bring me back to our sad reality.

Eventually, the holidays passed and the weather began to thaw and we tried to get back to normal and then someone was shot at a suburban supermarket just outside of DC.  And then someone else was shot at a different supermarket.  And then someone else was shot at a supermarket that I had shopped at.  Suddenly, in the midst of hunting the terrorists responsible for 9/11, and while still trying to figure out who sent the anthrax, DC was searching for a serial killer sniper who was believed to be in a white utility van.

Eventually they caught the sniper and the school year ended and we decided for several reasons (most of them unrelated to the events of the past year) that it was time to go home to TN.  I was relieved and tried once and for all to get back to normal, but "normal" would never be the same. I was fortunate to have not lost anyone close to me on September 11. 2001, but today something is missing that will never quite be regained.  The crazy idea that if you stare at the sky you might see a plane crash seems about as crazy as driving in DC with no traffic, or men in Tyvec invading an office, or people dodging sniper fire at the supermarket.  Fortunately, I can categorize those events as isolated to a unique period of time in a place I no longer live, but I carry them with me as possible scenarios for what could happen.  I have come to understand that most generations have a defining momentary shattering of innocence.  For my parents generation, I assume it was some combination of the assassinations of Kennedy, King and Kennedy.  For others it was Vietnam or Kent State.  Far enough back in history it would have been the civil war or the assassination of Lincoln.   I take hope from the fact that I studied each of these events without understanding or suffering from the magnitude of their weight.  I believe my daughter will similarly study 9/11 without understanding that I cringe physically and emotionally for a split second at the thought of that time.  I am glad that she will be able to hear about September 11 and still retain her innocence.  I just pray that she does not have to experience anything like it in her lifetime.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Alligator Party!

I am taking a little break from all the Circus Sewing (which doesn't have to be finished until mid-October) to devote a little time to things that need to be finished in early October.  At this rate, I may get this week's grading and lesson plans finished, um, by October so it all works out, right?  No?  OK well I have a headache and I think I am still fighting some kind of crud, so focusing on real work just isn't happening right now.  Instead, i am trying to focus for a short time on the things that give me energy before dealing with the things that suck the energy from my already energy drained self.

Justification complete, on to the PARTY!!! We are planning a baby shower for a young mom at church.  I was asked to work my magic on the decorations, which means make it look good on a budget of $0.  The baby-to-be is a boy.  I am such a girl party person, I was tempted to make this an honor the mom party and use my pink decorations.  However, a little brainstorming about baby Paul, who is due in November and I came up with having an ALLIGATOR party!!  I thought of Paul and then thought of fall (as in November due date) an that let to "In the fall, Paul" which reminded me of "Later Alligator".  I never said it would make sense, but that is how my brain works.  So here is the start to the invitation.
I figure we can fill in the details of the party on the top.  I will use my projector to enlarge the alligator image onto a long sheet of paper and we can hang that behind the main food table at the party.
I still have most of the blue and green decorations that we used at Lydia's Under the Sea party.  Throw in a few balloons, ask the people bringing food to use blue and green if possible, and keep my eyes peeled for any really cute alligator baby stuff. 

I need to talk PJ into carving another watermelon, this time it needs to be an alligator watermelon!

If only I could find these guys!  Apparently Toys R Us used to sell them and they blow BUBBLES!!! They don't seem to be on the website, so I am betting this Alligator Party was a while ago.

Hmmm.  Maybe I will have to volunteer to bring the cupcakes.  These are actually green fondant, with directions here, but I think they look an awful lot like those orange circus peanut candies.  I wonder if I could dip them in green chocolate coating?
So, not a completely planned party, but my brain isn't really up to completing things today.  Either way, we should be able to have a color coordinated, cute, alligator themed baby shower. Later, Gater!