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!