Thursday, May 28, 2020

six years of blog

Happy 6th birthday, blog! You gained a trim 29 posts over the last year. Though that’s less than previous years, we covered all the usual highlights: family events, house projects, and crafts! I think my blog book this year turned out just as beefy as each year before!

Over the last couple months, while we’ve been dealing with the impacts of coronavirus and social distancing, most of my posts have been to share pictures of my finished craft and home projects. That’s the only stuff keeping me sane, considering we haven’t done... well... anything else. Dan’s been working from home since March 13th, which was also Mae’s last day of daycare. I’ve only been to the office twice for a couple hours at a time since March 19th. Dan has done all our trips to the grocery and hardware store. I can count the number of times I’ve left the house (other than short walks) on two hands. I’ve driven to work twice, to the OB three times, to the Chinese carryout restaurant once, to the post office drive-through once, and to the park once. (I could have walked to the park if I wasn’t so massively pregnant.) With daytime temperatures getting into the 80s, even my commitment to our daily walks has waned. I am mostly confined to the air-conditioned indoors or the shade in the backyard (if there’s enough of a breeze.)

In just a few weeks, everything will change again. Instead of waking at night to manage my hip pain, I’ll wake to feed my newborn. Instead of balancing parenting and working from home, I’ll balance parenting a 4-yead-old and an infant. Instead of channeling all my extra energy into crafts and home projects, I’ll... who am I kidding? I won’t have any extra energy.

While it’s been scary and stressful to be pregnant in the time of coronavirus, I’m thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend with Dan and Mae. We’ve tried to plan things to look forward to, like our “sleepover” with Mae last weekend. Our days are a bit monotonous, but I have lots of happy, silly memories from this time. I’m thankful that maternity leave will give me the ability to stay home and safe for a few more months while businesses reopen.

I wonder what life will look like when this blog turns 7. It’s too hard to think about the future right now. I’m just trying to get through the next few months!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

charley harper nursery

The nursery is ready for baby boy! Putting this together seemed to take FOREVER. With Dan and I working from home and having Mae at home full-time, there just aren't very many hours of the day to get things done around the house!

I knew that I wanted to incorporate some Charley Harper artwork/fabric into the nursery. (Probably before I knew I wanted a second kid.) I upholstered these valances in "Upside Downside" fabric featuring nuthatches and woodpeckers. Dan built the valances for me from pine 1x10s, and we followed this tutorial to upholster and hang them. I had BARELY enough fabric to cover both and ended with just a few square inches remaining. Fortunately, I was able to pattern-match even with my very limited fabric when sewing the seam at the center of each valance.

I painted the ceiling a bright white and the walls in Sherwin Williams Alpaca to coordinate with the valances. We put up a little piece of trim along the side of the room to separate the ceiling and wall. The rug is a bound piece of carpet (same as Mae's) ordered from a local flooring store. Behind the valances, I hung sheers for a bit of privacy and to match the other street-facing windows. We also hung black-out vinyl roll shades. This setup has worked well in Mae's room so far, so we copied it for this room. Don't my felt birds look perfect in this spot by the rocking chair??

Following a tutorial from We All Sew, I also made a little canvas throw pillow in this "Cardinal Stagger" print. The cover is removable with an invisible zipper, because I'm sure it's going to need washing at some point!

I was searching the internet for something fun and colorful to hang on the wall when I found this 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle featuring a Charley Harper line drawing. Mae and I had lots of fun assembling the puzzle together. I gave her little piles of matching pieces, and she was shockingly quick at putting them together! I ordered the custom-sized frame from Art To Frames, same place where got the frame for my Indiana watercolor.

I incorporated the colors from the puzzle into this Plaidish Quilt. I had the idea to make a plaid quilt a few years ago and was very excited to find that Kitchen Table Quilting had already done the hard work of designing a (free!) pattern. Obviously, I won't use the quilt in the crib, but it makes a soft, washable play-mat (and a fun room decoration).

I sized down the pattern, removing a couple rows and columns and cutting my shapes to 1.25", 3.25", and 4" instead of the sizes recommended by the pattern. The resulting quilt is about 36" x 50". I used Windham Fabrics Bedrock Collection ordered from Cali Quilt Co (same Etsy shop where I got the Kona solids for my Hold Tight Quilt) and Keepsake Quilting. I was again playing fabric-chicken here and ended with only tiny strips of some colors remaining from the fat quarters I ordered. It required lots of planning and left no room for error when cutting! Since a couple people asked after my last quilt post, yes I did pre-wash all the fabric before cutting and sewing (after serging the edges). Despite all the tiny pieces, this quilt top came together pretty quickly. I quilted it on my own machine with Hobbs 80/20 for the batting and a quilting cotton in the same cardinal print as the throw pillow for the backing. I swear by 505 basting spray. It's the fastest quilt basting method and the only one I've had good luck with keeping everything together snugly while I quilt. I also added a "Love, Mom" patch to the front with a little piece of leftover fabric from the nursery valances.

I knit this leafy baby blanket from Drops Cotton Merino in the colorway Pistachio. This is the same yarn I used for Mae's baby blanket, and it has held up well to lots of snuggling and several trips through the washing machine. This is my 3rd time knitting this pattern, and I still love it!

I also knit a little newborn hat to coordinate with Mae's. I used leftover Rowan Wool Cotton 4-ply in the colorways Sea and Dark Lime. Who knows if this baby will actually need a hat, being born during the peak of summer heat, but it was a quick little knit!

Finally, this room has no closet, so we installed a hanging rod into the nook next to the dormer window. Eventually I would consider adding doors to make a little closet, but for now I'll just enjoy looking at the cute baby clothes hanging here.

The nursery is ready but I still have lots to do to prepare for baby boy! Dan and I sorted through Mae's old clothes and washed all the bottle parts. We also got the infant car seat and swing put back together this week. I still need to stock the changing tables and wash a bunch of clothes. Less than 5 weeks until my due date!

Details for the leafy baby blanket and newborn hat available on my Ravelry page.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

mae the four be with you

Happy fourth birthday, Mae!

Mae has been counting down the days since the beginning of May. Every morning this month, the first words out of her mouth have been, "Only 12 (11... 10... 9...) days 'til my birthday!" And thus begins another entire day of non-stop talking! (She even talks in her sleep most nights, so there's really no end to it.)

Mae's favorite foods are bologna lunchables, ham and cream cheese roll-ups, pizza, fried fish fillets, and fruit (all kinds). She's also quite partial to ice cream and cupcakes (but only the frosting part). We have lots of time to fill at home these days, and some of her favorite activities include Cosmic Kids yoga on YouTube (especially the Moana-themed one), playing with her Playmobil sets (mostly setting up elaborate meals for all the people), reading books with Grandma and Grandpa over Facetime, and choosing a theme for the daily coloring page I make her. On nice days, we try to get outside as much as possible with lunchtime picnics in the front yard, walks with the stroller or scooter, and playing in the baby pool or sprinkler out back if it's hot enough. We've upped our screen time allowances a bit, and she really looks forward to playing the Khan Academy Kids app on days that Dan and I both have to work. After dinner, she still likes to watch Octonauts, but has also added Doc McStuffins into the rotation. Her favorite movie is "Frozen II" (which I find much more tolerable than the first installment). Naps are officially a thing of the past, but she does "quiet time" in her room for an hour or two in the afternoons. She has just recently started reading and can get through the simpler Dr. Seuss books like "Hop On Pop" with a little help. I made flash cards with the words from “Green Eggs & Ham,” and she loves when we use them to build silly sentences like, "the green fox will eat a ham train with me."

We had a little birthday party for Mae yesterday. Since my family and Dan's parents have been well-isolated for the last couple months, we decided to gather for the weekend to celebrate. GranE and Batman arrived Friday evening just before dinner. We didn't tell Mae they were coming, and she was SO EXCITED to see them at the front door. She gave GranE a huge hug and her eyes teared up (as did mine and Dan's.) My parents plus Kevin and Kelsey arrived Saturday morning in time for Mae's birthday lunch. She was so happy that so many people came to celebrate her birthday. Isolation has been hard on all of us, but I think it's been hardest on our very social toddler. She was thrilled just to have someone else to play with and talk to.

She only asked for a couple things for her birthday: a magnifying glass to look at bugs and a telescope. A few months ago she also told me she wanted "a little clock... with clear on top..." and pointed at my watch. She was very excited about the pink unicorn watch we got her. She opened a mountain of presents from both families. Now she's all ready for a summer at home with lots of new warm-weather clothes and plenty of new things to play with! After lunch, she tried out the new walkie talkies, ran through the new sprinklers in the backyard, raced some hot wheels, and zoomed around wearing her reversible Batman/Superman cape.

After opening presents, we ate cupcakes (yellow cake with yellow and green frosting, per Mae's request). Mae ate the frosting and a couple bites of cake, and then ran to get the broom and dustpan from her new play cleaning set to clean up the crumbs on the floor. She's such a good helper!

My family stuck around through the evening and we had a little baby shower. (More about that later, since today is all about MAE!) We snapped some group photos before they left. We had so much fun celebrating our smart, silly, energetic, sensitive, chatty little girl! Happy birthday, Mae!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

dan makes stuff, too

It's high time I shared some of the projects Dan has been working on around the house!

First up, Dan built us this digital family calendar. True, our schedule has been depressingly empty over the last month, but before that, this was really helping us keep ourselves organized. It's also been useful for teaching Mae the days of the week, and she loves to check the weather forecast and temperature every morning! Dan built this from a Raspberry Pi Zero. The display is made from an LCD screen he removed from my old laptop, and the operating system is powered by Dakboard, which displays our shared iPhone calendars on this device and rotates through backgrounds sourced from my Instagram account. He built the wooden frame to hold all the components, and now it hangs in the kitchen so we can use it every day!

Here's a picture of the guts.

For Christmas this year, my parents bought Dan a miter saw and table saw. His first project was to build this work table. It has a recessed spot to hold the table saw, a big workspace, and shelving for storage.

Two little projects were next. These playing card holders have been ESSENTIAL for our current work-from-home situation. We have played countless games of Uno. These help Mae's tiny hands to manage a lot of cards (and for us to keep our cards on display while we work on our laptops).

Okay, I know this post is all about Dan's projects, but I have to share a little one of mine since we're talking about Uno here. Growing up, my aunt had made us a plastic canvas box to hold our Uno cards. With how frequently we've been playing, I was getting frustrated with our small cardboard box (and nostalgic for my childhood), so I made one for us! It’s much easier to manage this big deck of cards now.

Lastly, Dan built this little wall-mounted bookshelf for Mae. I recently cleaned and repainted our "Harry Potter closet" (the little storage space underneath our stairs) so it could be a hidey-hole for Mae. Dan built the shelf and then painted it with Mae. So cute! We also bought a bean bag chair for her, which has been useful both in the closet and in the basement when we have to take her downstairs in the middle of the night for tornado warnings!

Next up, Dan is going to build us a storage solution for the laundry baskets in our bedroom. I'm excited to see the result!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

jersey suki robe

I started working on this robe quite a while ago, but I decided to prioritize Mae's quilt after we ordered her big kid bed. I pushed these pieces to the side of my cutting table where they gathered dust and wrinkles for the last few months. I'm planning to start working on a baby quilt soon, and couldn't stand to have this partially finished robe taking up my work space any longer!

I am definitely a "robe person." I wear one every day after I get out of the shower and often putter around the house for quite a while before I actually get dressed. That said, I know what I like in a robe: comfy jersey fabric, short sleeves, and at least one pocket for carrying my phone.

This pattern, the Suki Robe by Helen's Closet, is written for a woven fabric but it checked all my other boxes. I made several modifications to use a knit instead. I added clear elastic to the pocket openings and the shoulder seams, and I added a strip of bias tape to stabilize the back of the neck so it wouldn't stretch out when using the hanging loop. For the hanging loops and side loops, I just folded twice and zig-zag stitched with a little piece of knit interfacing for some additional stability. I omitted the inner ties but might add pieces of ribbon or twill tape if I find the robe tends to open while wearing. I overlocked all the seams.

I chose this Art Gallery Fabrics sprinkled peonies fabric that has the prettiest little metallic bronze accents. I specifically wanted a fabric that would coordinate nicely with our remodeled bathroom! Yes, I made a robe to match my bathroom. Don't judge.

I changed the construction of the neckband quite a bit. First, I extended the neckband to be the full length of the robe. I didn't want to mess around trying to sew perfect right corners with stretchy jersey fabric, and I like the stability that the double layer of neckband provides to the front edges. I followed the directions for the Camas Blouse for finishing the neckband. Before starting the neckband, I hemmed the robe to my desired length (removing 3") using a twin needle. Then I sewed together the two neckband pieces, serged one of the long edges, attached the un-serged edge of the neckband to the robe with right sides together, stitched the bottom edges of the neckband together just below the hem, flipped the neckband corners right-side out, then pinned the serged edge of the neckband just covering the neck/robe seam and top-stitched it in place. I think this method reduces bulk at the neckline and hides the inner seam decently.

Lastly, I made a few changes to the belt. I attached the two pieces together instead of directly to the robe; it's still plenty long for tying. I stabilized the belt with a strip of polyester lining leftover from another project that I attached in place when sewing the long edges together. Then, after flipping the belt right side out, I topstitched all around to further hold the lining in place. (I ran out of thread with 6 inches of topstitching left, so I had to finish with a dark gray instead. Shh... don't tell anyone.)

Unfortunately you're just going to have to imagine what this looks like on me. There is no way this would close with my huge pregnant belly in the way. And my alternate modeling options are somewhat limited at the moment!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

hold tight quilt

It’s finally finished!!! Last summer, I was tossing around the idea of making a rainbow quilt for Mae when I stumbled across this Hold Tight quilt pattern on Instagram. I immediately knew that I wanted to make one for Mae with rainbow-hued balloons!

I spent hours selecting colors of Kona Cotton fabric to create the transparency effect of the balloons and the rainbow gradient. I mapped out the colors in PowerPoint with overlapping transparent shapes to try to get the colors and values right. It doesn’t exactly match my design (even 340 colors of Kona Cotton weren’t enough to capture the range of orangey-pinks I wanted), but I love how it turned out.

Choosing colors was quite challenging using only online color swatches! I ordered a big stack of fabrics from CaliQuiltCo on Etsy, and only swapped out a few with additional fabrics purchased from Jo-Ann. I ended up with balloons in azalea, carnation, melon (also used for binding), peach, school bus, highlight, sour apple, cypress, breakers, spa, thistle, and magenta. The overlapping shapes are camellia (melon + peach), melon (carnation + peach), cheddar (school bus + highlight), limelight (peach + sour apple), pool (cypress + breakers), Niagara (breakers + spa), and wisteria (thistle + magenta). Phew. That’s 18 colors in case you were counting. Oh, and white. Lots of white. 19 colors.

As with many of my projects, the supplies sat dormant for a bit while I mentally prepared myself. In January, I steeled myself for the challenge of making my first bed-sized quilt. I sized up the shapes about 10% and added an extra column of squares to the left side of the pattern to make the quilt about 68” wide (good for a twin sized bed). I made a couple test squares and encountered a slight issue, which was quickly resolved by Sharon, the pattern author (very responsive). Then I started cranking out squares. Press, pin, sew, repeat. I finished piecing the quilt top in late February. I added white borders to the top and bottom to lengthen the quilt.

While piecing the quilt, I spent lots of time considering what to use for the fabric on the back. I was debating between a striped pink backing or something more fun, and I just could not stop thinking about this Michael Miller “Children At Play” Balloons fabric. The colors coordinated nicely with my quilt top, and the whimsical little bunnies and girls holding the balloons were just perfect for the theme. Plus, from far away it just looks like polka dots, so the pattern isn’t too distracting.

I knew that actually quilting this on my machine would be nearly impossible and wouldn’t turn out as neat as I wanted, so I handed it off to a long-arm quilter, Judy from Fine Finishes Longarm Quilting. This was my first time using a long-arm service and I am SO glad that I did. I chose white Glide thread, Hobbs 80/20 bleached batting, and a repeating cloud pattern (inspired by similar pattern I saw on another Hold Tight quilt on Instagram). The stitching looks so good! I picked up the quilt from Judy after about 4 weeks. (Don’t judge me for violating our stay-at-home order. I put way too much time into this project to let it languish, just hours away from completion.)

For the finishing touches, I hand-stitched the balloon strings in gray #8 DMC perle cotton embroidery thread. (They are hard to see in the photos, but they add a fun detail up close.) I also added a little corner tag, similar to the one I put on Mae’s baby quilt.

Finally, I machine-bound the edges with more Kona Cotton. I finished the binding this morning, and was so excited to share that I had to photograph and write this TODAY! Mae is THRILLED that her quilt is finally finished. She’s been asking about it non-stop. As soon as I finished taking photos outside, she ran upstairs to try it out on her bed. Now she’s fast asleep, snuggled up under a beautiful quilt made with my love (tons), blood (only a few pin pricks), sweat (dang, my craft room gets hot), but surprisingly no tears (my projects usually involve at least one melt down). So happy with this finished quilt!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

easter at home

Happy Easter!

We celebrated a socially-distanced Easter over the weekend. We tried our best to make it feel special, but it was definitely weird to be away from my family for the holiday (for the first time ever).

On Friday we dyed eggs. Mae woke up yelling, “it’s egg ‘diving’ day!” She had been looking forward to coloring the eggs since Dan brought home the dye kit from the grocery store last week! (She couldn’t wait to use the included stickers, so we made Easter cards for family on Wednesday.)

On Sunday morning, Mae immediately went searching for her Easter basket and found it in the first place she looked! We made fancy French toast from a loaf of bread I baked on Saturday. Yum! We all ate lots of candy, and Mae made a pretty good dent in her big chocolate bunny.

I watched live mass streamed from the University of Notre Dame basilica. A very strange way to celebrate Easter for sure, but I was at least quite comfy on my couch.

The highlight of Mae’s day (besides all the candy) was hunting for eggs outside. We did three egg hunts: one where Mae and I hid the eggs and Dan hunted (and Mae helped), one where Dan and Mae hid the eggs and I hunted, and one where Dan and I hid the eggs and Mae hunted. She could have kept egg hunting all day! We might have to play “egg hunt” more this summer!

I was glad her Easter dress from last year still fit, and glad I didn’t have any grand plans for making new Easter clothes this year. I’m swamped with nursery and other craft projects at the moment. At least I finished painting the nursery this weekend!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

weave me alone

Here's a little weaving project I finished back in January. This is only my second project on my cricket loom, and I am pretty happy with how it turned out! (I warned you after my first project that there would be more weaving puns in the near future.) It was also the only handmade Christmas gift I made this year. (Yes, I know I said I finished it in January. Stop judging.)

The yarn is one skein of Wonderland Yarns Cheshire Cat in the colorway Too Much Pepper (same as I used in my Breathing Space Sweater) and one skein of Jessica's Creations sock yarn in the colorway Lilac from Kentucky Wool Fest from last year (my mystery bag purchase!). I warped the loom with 110 ends about 110" long. I wove a semi-random plaid pattern, tucking the ends in as I wove. I tried to wet-finish by hand washing in a bucket of water, alternating hot and cold, but I didn't get much shrinkage or felting since both yarns were superwash. The edges were a bit messy and uneven while washing, but they mostly evened out with blocking and drying.

I gave this scarf to Kathy when we celebrated our belated Christmas at the beginning of this year. She made me these adorable socks! They are the Pierogi Slipper Socks made from Rock and String Creations yarn in the colorway Meow, which I admire at Wool Fest every year. They are a perfect fit, and I am wearing them as I type this. (The stripes are different cat colors! My favorite stripe is the calico. It's so cute!)

Scarf project details on my Ravelry page.

Friday, March 27, 2020

flowers and flurries

Well, a lot has changed around here in the last couple weeks. As I was writing my last post, my concern was growing about the new coronavirus. The next day, Dan got an email recommending he work from home. Fortunately, that allowed us to pull Mae out of day care, since she is usually the patient zero of most illnesses in our household. But it also meant Dan was pulling double duty, working and parenting, while I went to my job which can’t be done remotely. I started feeling sick over the weekend (not coronavirus) and tested positive for strep on Wednesday, which allowed me a little break from the office. My anxiety about leaving the house was increasing by the hour. By Sunday, lots of businesses were closed including bars and restaurants. Mae’s swim lessons were cancelled, which I both expected and agreed with but still had a good cry about. (She was excited about them and so proud of her progress in just 2 lessons!). I started picking up another assignment that can be worked remotely and tried to limit my time in the office. Last Friday I found out that someone in the building had tested positive, and I told my boss I’m just not comfortable being in the office any more. There’s so little data on how this virus affects pregnant women and babies, that I want to be as cautious as I can. Since then I’ve been trying my best to work from home on the new assignment, while battling computer issues and juggling work and parenting. We are getting by with homemade worksheets, Cosmic Kids yoga, the Cincinnati Zoo’s home safari, lunchtime doodles with Mo Willems, and FaceTime with grandparents.

Fortunately, we’ve had a few beautiful spring days mixed in with the drizzly ones. At least when we can get outside a couple times a day, the isolation and anxiety seems a bit more manageable. Wednesday afternoon, we walked to the park for a little creek stomping. It was crowded, but we did our best to maintain social distancing. It’s a hard concept to explain to a toddler... why we can’t go to day care or swim lessons or the playground. She knows people are sick, and we are keeping distance so no one else gets sick. But she doesn’t understand why we can’t visit friends across the street when we are both apparently healthy.

The cherry trees were almost in peak bloom, so I had to take a few photos.

Lastly, just wanted to share this snowy photo I discovered while reviewing my park photos. This is from February when mom visited while Dan went to the Oscar movie marathon. I feel a little cheated on snow this year (no sledding!), so I’m glad we got to at least build a small snowman. Also, you can see a sneak peek at new landscaping (or rather, the lack of old, overgrown landscaping). Excited to see how all the plants come in as the weather warms up now! Stay home, stay healthy.