Monday, August 21, 2017

biscayne blouse

This is the Biscayne Blouse pattern by Hey June Handmade in a Kathy Davis rayon from Joann. It is so lightweight and fluid that the finished product is supremely comfortable. I made this shirt as a practice before using a more expensive fabric, but I have a feeling this one will get lots, if not more, wear. We'll see if it holds up okay in the wash. The orange and white feathers on blue background remind me of little koi fish. I made a size XS graded to a size S at the hips.

I wasn't thrilled with my finish on the front gathers or the bottom of the placket, but my collar and pocket turned out decently. The busy print hides some of the sewing imperfections. I interfaced all pieces of the collar before cutting them out as recommended by the pattern for lightweight fabrics (Tip: buy more interfacing than the pattern calls for). I don't need a functional front pocket so I would consider making a faux welt or basting the flaps together in the future so it doesn't pull open. I used French seams (my first!) to enclose the raw edges of the sides and shoulders since the fabric wanted to fray like crazy.

I'd like to try some modifications on the placket now that I understand the construction. This one took me about a week start-to-finish, but the process might go quicker in the future. I'm looking forward to making more of these shirts!

I wore this shirt to dinner a couple weeks ago. We stopped by the little park outside the restaurant for play time before ordering our food. Mae takes her park visits very seriously.

Fortunately, she lost the grump face after a few trips down the spiral slide with Dada! Glad we got to take advantage of such a beautiful summer evening.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

cactus pincushion

After finishing my detailed, time-consuming pajamas, I needed a quick and easy sewing project. I spotted the idea for a cactus pincushion while browsing the Art Gallery Studio fabric look books online. This little guy is made from some green spotted fabric from JoAnn, a small scrap of pink leftovers from Mae's crib skirt, and a tiny heart-shaped button from my box of orphaned fasteners. I followed the steps of this tutorial from Sewing Lab. I wrapped the base of the stuffed cactus in green felt and hot glued it into a tiny terra cotta pot.

I now have two sewing buddies: the cactus and a hedgehog, which are both very appropriate pincushion subjects. Dan said I should make a voodoo doll next. Now I just need an enemy to model it after...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

carolyn pajamas

Quick blog update before we get to the real post! I have added a gallery page where you can view all of my recent projects and quickly link to the blog posts about them! Click here to view the gallery or click the link in the sidebar on the right side of your screen! Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

​My latest sewing project! These are the Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case Patterns made from (believe it or not) an Ikea ÅKERTISTEL duvet cover. I was looking for an inexpensive fabric to try out this sewing pattern, and figured that if sheets are comfy enough to sleep on, they should be comfy enough to sleep in. The weave feels slightly nicer than quilting cotton, but there were other Ikea bed linens that were even softer. The cover had a different color top and bottom, so I used the yellow side for the main fabric and the white side for the contrasting piping. I had plenty of fabric, so I didn't have to worry about making mistakes, since I could always cut out another piece!

I made a size 6 in the top and bottom with no alterations. I am getting used to sewing-pattern sizes, which haven't followed the same vanity sizing trend I see in most stores. Both fit nicely, if only a bit snug. All exposed seams were finished on my serger. The pattern suggests french seams, but I am enjoying using my new machine whenever I can.

I printed out my pattern at the beginning of July and finished these pajamas in about 3 weeks. I can only do a few steps at a time in the evenings before I get tired and start making mistakes. I could probably make this pattern faster without the cuffs and contrast piping, but I love that little detail! My goal with this project was to build my confidence in sewing things like collars, sleeves, and pockets on a low-pressure project like pajamas. Okay, one last look, since this is probably the last time these jammies will ever be nicely pressed and unwrinkled!

Monday, August 7, 2017

i finally saw her

I have made several trips to the zoo over the last few months hoping to catch a glimpse of Fiona, the premature baby hippo whose story captured the hearts of animal-lovers around the planet. I wore my Team Fiona t-shirt each time as a good luck charm, but she was only outside for a few minutes a day and I never happened to catch a glimpse. Now that she is 6 months old and has been successfully reintroduced to her mom and dad, Fiona spends most of her time in her outdoor pool. Last week, I was determined to see her, even if I had to linger around the enclosure for an hour!

When I arrived, Henry and Bibi were snoozing in the pool with no sign of Fiona. I asked a zoo volunteer who indicated that Fiona was tucked in between her parents and completely hidden by Henry's huge body. Then I saw two tiny, wiggly ears pop up over his back. My first glimpse! After a few more minutes, Henry woke up and started nudging Fiona. A decent crowd had gathered and I think he was encouraging her to show off for her fans. She swam up and down the length of the enclosure windows, so I got a great view! She is 400 pounds of cuteness!!

We met up with Jen and Anna (we were sad to miss Stacey and Isaac this week) and treated Mae to her first train ride. She enjoyed it, though she wanted to stand and look out the sides towards the end. She is walking all over the place now! Just in the last week she has made the transition from primarily crawling to primarily walking, and she is getting very steady on her feet! Most of the time she only falls over if she's being too silly to stand up.

Looking forward to our next fun playdate!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

the missing link

We had such a fun time during Aunt Colleen's visit! The weather was beautiful all weekend, so we took advantage with lots of outdoor activities (and plenty of indoor time watching Harry Potter weekend). Colleen arrived Friday afternoon and we walked to a nearby brewery for drinks and pizza. Mae especially enjoyed the outdoor seating area since there were so many doggies to meet.

Colleen is the missing link that proves Mae is actually related to us. She doesn't look much like Dan or me with her light hair and blue eyes, but she looks just like a mini version of Colleen!

After a lazy Saturday morning (for us... Colleen ran 9 miles), we went to the swimming pool in the afternoon. Colleen showed Mae how to blow bubbles in the water and how to kick while swimming. We all took turns running through the splash pad with Mae, which made her very giggly.

Sunday, we walked to the farmers market and picked up fresh pasta and veggies for dinner. Tomato season is the best time to hit up the farmers market. I'm not a huge fan of tomatoes, but I love the little tiny heirloom ones splashed with balsamic vinegar and tossed with little pieces of fresh mozzarella and basil. Our garden is about 4 feet high with weeds instead of veggies this year, but I still managed to plant basil... it's a summer necessity!

We are looking forward to seeing Colleen again in just a few weeks when we travel out East. It was super fun having her here for some undivided Mae time! The weekend was very relaxing, since Dan and I both got a bit of a break while Colleen was playing with Mae. Thanks for visiting, Aunt Coll!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

julia cardigan

Another sewing project completed! This is the Julia Cardigan by Mouse House Creations in a light gray Robert Kaufman laguna cotton jersey. I made the doubled-over version of the collar and finished the seams with my serger after basting with a zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine. Construction was easy, though I did encounter a few learning opportunities. I rethreaded my serger for the first time (which I had been dreading), and it was super easy. I also unpicked a serged seam which was not nearly as time-consuming as I had been lead to believe.

cozy birdhouse | julia cardigan

All-in-all, a success! I have already worn this to work several times and will definitely need to make a few more in different colors!

Friday, July 28, 2017

windy city

We crammed a lot of fun activities into the last few weekends, so I have lots to share... including some big news!!

Two weekends ago we went with my family to an outdoor symphony performance of John Williams' music. It was a beautiful evening, and we enjoyed a picnic of KFC, fruit, and wine (we are classy like that.)

Well... I guess not ALL of us got to enjoy a glass of wine. Obviously the babies stuck to milk and water. Oh, and Emily too since she is PREGNANT!! We found out when Oliver wore his "Big Brother" shirt on Friday evening. Congrats, Christopher and Emily!

Mae and Oliver had to practice sharing toys and food during the symphony performance (good practice for when the new baby arrives in February.) In order to keep them from wandering away or getting into all the picnic supplies, mom and dad came up with the idea to construct a makeshift play pen with orange yard stakes and a large roll of plastic wrap. It worked amazingly. Both babies stayed inside the whole time and didn't try to climb out! (Maybe because Grandpa made buzzing electrified fence sounds any time they neared the edges.)

On Sunday, we went to a minor-league baseball game. Christopher got us awesome seats through work, so we got to sit right behind the plate and see a good, competitive game!

Last weekend, we went to visit Kelsey in Chicago, where she has an internship for the summer. This was Mae's first time to Illinois! I enjoyed our trip even more than previous Chicago visits, since I just finished "The Devil in the White City" and recognized lots of names and places from the book. I wonder if the architects of the World's Fair foresaw that their parks would be overrun with people frantically capturing virtual monsters on their smartphones as part of Pokemon GO Fest and the release of the much anticipated legendary Pokemon. My guess is "no."

Saturday we went to the Field Museum, and enjoyed seeing lots of exhibits including Sue the T-Rex.

Apparently Mae thought we were taking one of those touristy photos where you pretend you are being attacked by the dinosaur skeleton.

(Actually she was just cutting a new tooth -- top left canine -- and had a few emotional moments over the weekend as a result). Sunday, we went to church and to Navy Pier. We enjoyed Chicago-style hot dogs and ice cream before heading home. It was a long weekend, but full of fun memories!

Finally, an update on a couple of Mae milestones. She walks more every day, but often defaults to crawling for long distances. Her day care teachers even reminded her, "Mae, you can walk," when she crawled to Dan at pick-up time this week.

She is continuing to sound out new words, and greets me with a cheerful "hiiiiii" frequently during the day. She is also working on animal noises like woof ("fff") and moooo ("mmmmmmmu"). She learns baby sign language at day care, which isn't super helpful since I don't know it. But this weekend, Dan was pushing her in the stroller at Navy Pier and she was making the "all done" sign after finishing her milk. They walked past a mom who took one look at Mae and asked, "Are you all done??" Mae was very proud. Apparently I need to brush up on my signing!

Mae is enjoying lots of foods now and weighed 18.5 lbs at her most recent doctor appointment. Her favorites are pepperoni pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches, and she drinks milk like a champ from her straw cup. She is still not a fan of peanut butter, eggs, or chicken. She is down to one nap, but loves to sleep in on the weekends and weekdays when I'm home with her. She wears herself out with all her walking practice!

We are looking forward to a visit from Aunt Colleen this weekend and have lots of fun things planned. Hoping for good weather!

Monday, July 17, 2017

hank's blankie

When I gift a handmade item, I hope that it is loved to pieces, literally. The ultimate compliment is, "I used it so often that it wore out." Achieving this is pretty difficult with baby items. They outgrow clothes so quickly, and they get lots of blankets which all compete to become The Blankie. (A child's selection of The Blankie seems random, but is actually based on a sophisticated ranking system taking into account: ease of throwing out the car seat/stroller/window, chewiness, drool saturation capacity, and imperviousness to stain remover. Number of hours spent lovingly handknitting said blanket is not considered.)

So, when my cousin Courtney mentioned that her daughter Kate still uses the blanket I made, and that she'd like one for her son Henry, I was thrilled! I ordered the same yarn I used for Mae's blanket, Garnstudio Drops Cotton Merino in the Denim colorway. I like the cotton/wool blend for warmth, softeness, and drape.

I used the Pine Forest Baby Blanket pattern, same as Kate's blanket, but added 2 pattern repeats to accommodate the thinner yarn and smaller needles while keeping approximately the same finished blanket dimensions. I completed 54 repeats and made far fewer mistakes than the last time I knit this pattern, thank goodness!

Happy belated first birthday, Hank! I hope you enjoy cuddling your new blanket!

Details on my Ravelry page.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

star wars

Dad's birthday celebration continues. (He's really dragging out his February birthday, isn't he??) Saturday we took him, Mom, and Kevin to see an exhibit of 60+ Star Wars costumes from all 7 films. There was an interesting dichotomy between the simple, iconic costumes of the original movies and the elaborate gowns from the more recent films.

My favorite takeaway was the idea of "greeblies," which was George Lucas' term for the little bits and pieces attached to the outside of costumes to look like electronics, weapons, badges, etc. Definitely adding this word to my lexicon.

Afterwards we enjoyed a walk along the river and some tasty German food. Mae let Grandpa help color her Kinder Menu and then wolfed down some pretzel and hot dog. Such a fun day!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

mae milestones

I didn't write a "thirteen months of Mae post", but we still have lots of fun Mae milestones to catch up on!

A few weeks ago, Mae started saying her first real word: doggy. As soon as a dog comes into view during our walks or runs across the TV screen in a Beggin' Strips commercial, Mae yells out "DOG-GEE!"

Just five days after her birthday, Mae stood up on her own for the first time. Since then she frequently just pops up in the middle of the floor looking super proud. She loves playing "How Big is Mae?" and keeps her balance (most of the time) when she throws her hands up in the air! Since she's finally standing, she has graduated to the next room at day care. That meant a quick shopping trip to get Mae's first pair of shoes! We got a cute pair of white and pink Stride Rite sneakers with little butterflies on the side. Mae thinks they are weird and tries to chew them off her feet.

Also, she has started to take a few wobbly steps at a time; I think her record is five. She looks like a tiny drunken Frankenstein, but she gets more stable every day. She thinks walking is hilarious and usually collapses into a giggly puddle at the end of a practice session. I'm looking forward to her walking just so her little knees don't get so scraped up now that she's in shorts most of the time!

But possibly more exciting than her first word or her first step, was Mae's first bite of cheese. She is now eating (and loving) all forms of dairy including cheese, yogurt, milk, and my personal favorite... ice cream. I made a cheesecake for my birthday last week, and I have never seen her mouth open so wide as when I was offering her little bites. I have to admit, I did selfishly hoard the thumbprint cookies that Kathy made me (using my homemade jam!), but I did share bits of the Boston Cream Pie cupcakes that she also brought to my birthday party on Saturday. I'm getting used to this dessert-sharing business; I haven't had to share with anyone for years now!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

oliver turns one!

Our little godson is one! Last Saturday, Emily and Christopher threw a "Little Blue Truck" themed birthday bash for Oliver at their home. They had great weather and excellent turnout... and we had lots of fun!

Oliver really got into the cake smash. He had practiced a little during his one year photo shoot, but had devised a new technique for maximum cake consumption at his party. He started out by bringing the cake to his mouth in big fistfuls, but figured out that smooshing his face directly into the cake was more efficient.

Ollie got lots of fun new presents including a slide, a water table, and a fancy blue coupe. All the kids were fighting over everything; I think Oliver is going to be one popular kid with all his fun toys!

If you haven't read the book "The Little Blue Truck," it's about a friendly little pickup who helps a big dump truck out of a mud puddle with the assistance of some barnyard friends. Emily's party decorations were really cute; my favorite was the cornstarch/cocoa powder "mud" that was super fun to squish and play with. She asked me to make a truck photo booth after seeing one on Pinterest, and I had so much fun working on it! It's made from a science fair board, craft paint, and some wood trim to reinforce the back. Emily bought balloons shaped like the cow, the pig, and the BIG GREEN TOAD!

On Sunday (Oliver's actual birthday), we celebrated Father's Day for Dad, Dan, and Christopher, plus Emily's birthday and my birthday! I sewed Emily an apron from this super cute bird fabric I found at Joann, and of course I had to add teal ties for her. I bought the Sweet and Sassy Apron Pattern from Modern Vintage Designs on Etsy. The pattern had great instructions and was easy to follow. Happy Birthday, Emily!

Monday, June 19, 2017

we be jammin'

During mom's birthday week extravaganza, we had a little extra time on Wednesday before I had to drive back home. Emily invited us to go strawberry picking, which neither mom nor I have ever done! I was shocked at how tiny (and adorable) the ripe berries were.

Each group got their own row of plants to work on, so we didn't have to worry about rushing around to find the best berries. Oliver kept wanting to eat the ones that Emily picked! We left with several pounds for each family.

Two pounds of fresh-picked strawberries was the perfect impetus for my first attempt at canning. I bought jars and pectin and set to work Saturday evening. I made a half recipe following instructions from The Pioneer Woman. The jam set nicely and the jars look to be sealed properly. We had some with breakfast on Sunday morning... successful (and delicious) first attempt at making jam!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

birthday fun for mom

Last week was a whirlwind of Mom's birthday activities... I think I drove 9 extra hours last week to make it to all the festivities! (Still nothing compared to Christopher and Emily's 36+ hours of driving on vacation). On Tuesday, I left work a few minutes early so I could surprise mom for her birthday dinner. She didn't expect me to make the 2 hour trip, but I couldn't miss such an important birthday!

We celebrated with presents and cake back at the house... sixty years young!

Wednesday morning, Emily invited us to go strawberry picking. More on that in my next post! I drove home Wednesday afternoon to get Mae to a doctors appointment. Thursday I worked a half day and then went sport clay shooting with my group from work. This was my first time even holding a firearm and my first time shooting anything more powerful than a nerf gun. I've never even been paintballing! I was pretty terrible, hitting only 10 of 100 clays, but it was still lots of fun.

After shooting and dinner, I drove again to my parents' house to be ready for Friday morning's continued birthday festivities. We met Aunt Ruthann, Jamie, Erin, and Courtney for lunch at the prettiest little pastry shop I've ever seen. We had a delicious lunch with sparkling drinks and, of course, delicious, glittery cakes! Such a fun Ladies Day Out to celebrate a very special lady... happy birthday, Mom!