Monday, August 30, 2021

summer round up

I was browsing photos from the last few months and realized I had some cute ones that I never shared! They actually paint a pretty good picture of how we spent our summer. At the beginning of the summer, we visited my family for a weekend so we could celebrate Oliver's birthday and Mom's birthday. We even enjoyed a tasty lunch all together!
It's been hot recently, but that hasn't kept us from the outdoors! We've made a couple trips to the farmer's market for fresh pasta and tomatoes. Colin and Mae like playing with the sidewalk chalk and then washing their hands (and feet) off in the fountain.
We've spent many afternoons in the front yard, playing in the sprinkler and decorating the sidewalk with chalk. Mae likes being traced and then coloring in her outline to match her outfit.
Colin watched her do this a couple times and then grabbed his own piece of chalk, walked (yes he walks now!) over to the sidewalk, and laid down on his back to be traced! (I drew a diaper on his outline.) He also likes terrorizing Mae by sitting right on top of her freshly chalked art.
Mae was finally able to finish the swim lessons that were cancelled because of COVID. She did 5 private lessons with her instructor and then a couple of group lessons at our public pool. She's made so much progress being comfortable in the water! While Colin likes being in the pool, his favorite part is the splash pad. He is fearless and barely flinches even when he gets a face full of water!
With Colin still taking two naps, it was harder to fit in play dates this summer. Fortunately, we did manage a picnic and playground visit with Anna and Grant!
The day before Mae started school, we took a trip to the zoo with Grandma, Christopher, Emily, Oliver, Archie, and Lillian. The kids had so much fun running around and visiting all the animals. It was a great finale to summer vacation!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

mae goes to school

Mae's is officially a kindergartener! It feels like we spent all summer getting ready for this moment, and it's finally here! Last week on Monday, we went to a snow cone social at school and she got to peek into her classroom and meet her teacher. Thursday morning, we loaded her up with her new backpack, new water bottle, new mask, new light-up shoes, and new raincoat, and we all walked over to drop her off at school. Even the pouring rain couldn't put a damper on the excitement. No tears were shed (by Mae or by me), so I'd call it a success!
We picked Mae up at the end of the day, and she had lots to tell us about her first day at school. They explored the school to find all the important locations (cafeteria, art room, library, gym, etc). They sang songs, did a couple worksheets, and had art class! She had a turkey sandwich and cookie for lunch, and the rain cleared up in time for outdoor recess.

After school, we went to a small festival at the park. Mae got her face painted and jumped around in the bounce house for a long time.
The house was so quiet on Friday with Colin napping, Dan working, and Mae at school. I took Colin to the grocery store for the first time, and he was enthralled. Colin and I are going to have to come up with some more fun activities for our Wednesdays and Fridays!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

lake time

After two years away from my grandparents, I was so excited to visit them at Lake George! Even though we were constantly busy with kids, we had lots of time to visit and relax throughout the week. We played lots of cards, did a few puzzles, and ate almost every meal together out on the porch!
We spent much of the week at the little beach. The kids kept themselves entertained with just buckets, shovels, and trucks! With plenty of sunshine and relatively warm water, they didn't get cold even after hours splashing around in the lake looking for snail shells and pinecones.
Christopher and Oliver built an elaborate canal with pools and sand dams and filled it with water from the lake. Colin loved splashing in the little pools... and in the big buckets!
Kelsey and I shaped mermaid tails for Mae, Oliver, and Archie. This might be Mae's favorite beach activity.
Our sandbox and our trip to Brigantine beach this summer prepped Colin well for a lake vacation. He loved playing in the sand, and seemed to have gotten over the impulse to eat it. He was very clingy and scared when we took him down to the water on the first day, but he quickly adapted to the gentle lake waves.
Kelsey, Christopher, Dan, and I took turns on the paddleboards. The older kids had fun going for short rides in the shallow area of the lake and then hopping off and swimming back to shore in their puddle jumpers. Even Colin and Lillian tried it out for a second!
Mae had fun practicing casting with her fishing pole. After she lured the fish close to the dock with her red bobber, Mom and Oliver had fun feeding them with bits of leftover salami.
When Colin wasn't at the beach, he was playing with this hose reel. I'm not sure why he was so obsessed with this thing, but we could not keep him away from it!
While Colin napped in the afternoon, Dan and I had time to visit, play cards, and do puzzles. I could sit and play ten-to-one all day. We even had time to read! Real books!
Of course, we did have a few rainy afternoons. During one downpour, we went outside for a good, old-fashioned puddle stomp. We stayed outside until everyone was soaked through. I think Colin lasted the longest. He was having the time of his life chasing the little popsicle stick boats around in the water. He toddled around in the water more than he's ever walked before!
Our visit wouldn't be complete without a trip to Pirate's Cove. All the kids enjoyed their first attempt at mini golf. They also loved all the pirate-themed displays, especially seeing the treasure inside the cave behind the waterfall. (Colin's face in the stocks is cracking me up.)
I think I will remember this visit as "the one where I woke up really early," but not in a bad way. With Colin getting up sometime in the 6 o'clock hour almost every day, I spent my mornings taking quiet walks with him in the front carrier as we waited for the rest of the house to wake up for the day. The mornings are so pretty and peaceful, and I love how chilly and dewy everything gets overnight. Even though our visits now are fairly different to the camping trips we took there as kids, the feeling in the morning always brings back such vivid memories. I'm climbing out of my sleeping bag, pulling on my windsuit to shield me from the brisk air, and wandering out of the tent to hunt down some cinnamon pop tarts warmed up on the propane toaster. Even at home, we refer to those rare, cool summer mornings as "Lake George weather."

I'm glad I was able to find a few peaceful moments during this vacation! Thanks for a wonderful time, Gramma and Grampa!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

flamingo elina backpack

I bought a new sewing machine! I’ve been sewing on my little Pfaff Smart 100S for over a decade. Although it handles thinner fabrics well, it’s not powerful enough to manage thicker fabrics like denim, coating, or canvas. I decided to use my overtime pay from back in the spring to buy a Pfaff Ambition 620. This is my first time sewing on a computerized (vs purely mechanical) machine, and I’m looking forward to some of the features like automatic buttonholes, tie-off, and thread snips! I am surprised at how much of a learning curve there is with a new machine, though. My first project took longer than usual because I had to look up how to do EVERYTHING. Change needle? Read the manual. Thread machine? Read the manual. Load bobbin? Read the manual. Slowwww progress.

Anyways… I decided to christen the machine by making a backpack for Mae! This is the Elina Backpack pattern by iThinksew. It comes in two sizes, and I made the smaller one.
I spent a while hunting down a water resistant, sturdy, cute fabric. This Terrasol indoor/outdoor fabric met all my requirements. Mae loves flamingos, so the print was perfect! I "fussy cut" the front and back pieces to get the flamingo placement just right. Mae modeled the backpack for me while wearing her flamingo flippy sequin shirt from Grandma.
The pink webbing and ladder buckles are from JoAnn. The bias binding for the inside seams was left over from binding Mae’s quilt. It was exactly the right amount! The lining is a quilting cotton from JoAnn, interfaced with Pellon SF101. I ordered the #5 zippers from MarieAngele on Etsy. This was my first time using zipper-by-the-yard. It comes as a long roll of zipper tape that you cut to size and then attach the separate zipper pulls. It was surprisingly easy to use and comes in tons of colors! I was not particularly careful about which direction zips and unzips each pocket; hopefully it's not too annoying for Mae. Next time, I'll pay more attention to install all the zippers backwards to make it easier on my little leftie. The main pocket is a two-way zipper, so that one should be easy enough for her.
The backpack assembly itself was pretty straightforward. I read a few negative reviews of the pattern, but I found it pretty straightforward and easy to follow. I’m not a huge fan of the seam finishing; there are exposed (overlocked) seams in the front pocket, and I’m sure there’s a neater way to finish the lining seams besides bias binding. But, these methods seem somewhat common across other bag patterns I looked at. Other than that, I only wish this bag had instructions for a water bottle pocket on the side.
I made only tiny modifications. I shortened the back straps 2.5” since they are the same size for the large bag and the small bag. I topstitched the seam allowance on the front pocket, and I’m debating top stitching the main zipper also. If I made this bag again, I might add a little padding to the back straps. I would also pay better attention to my seam allowance when sewing the zipper on the front pocket. I ended up with less width on the pocket gusset, which made it a bit harder to attach.
I would consider making this pattern again… maybe when Colin needs a backpack. I did struggle a bit with managing the bulky fabric through the machine, even though it sewed well. The bias binding attachment inside is pretty messy, since I was maneuvering the entire assembled bag around the machine at that point. Thank goodness for the new machine... my old one never would have made it through all the thick layers of fabric!

I noticed while sewing the zippers that the alignment of the foot on my new machine wasn’t quite right. I took it back to the store for an adjustment. I was so stressed about it… it was frustrating to have spent a bunch of money on something and have it not be quite right! Fortunately they were able to make the adjustment and it’s back home safe and sound now. I hope it doesn’t give me any more issues. (My serger is also in the shop right now. I miss it.)

Mae loves her new backpack (or packpack, as she calls it.) I hope it holds up well to the rigors of Kindergarten!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

polka dot jessica dress

This is one of those projects where I had a vision of exactly what I wanted and then had to hunt down the right supplies to make it happen. I tracked down the polka dot cotton shirting at JoAnn several years ago, and it’s been in my sewing room ever since! I considered a few different sundress patterns (Style Arc Ariana, Sew Over It Sienna) but ultimately decided on the Jessica Dress by Mimi G for Sew Sew Def. I liked the feature of the button placket and the plain back. I wasn’t sure how the shirring on back of the other two patterns would look with my polka dot fabric. I think this pattern used to be free, but it is paid now.
Based on my measurements at the time (34/28.5/36) I made an XS, graded to a small at the waist. I made a toile of the bodice to check the fit, and it did not remotely work for my shape. I ended up watching a YouTube video that helped with fitting the princess seams. I pinched out excess fabric above and below the bust and lowered the apex. Then the waist seams were all crooked and I fixed them as well as I could. Ideally I’d like to find a nice-fitting princess seamed bodice pattern at some point. This was not it for me.
My other issues with the pattern were minor. First, I had it it printed by the copy shop in large format. WHY did I still have to tape the pieces together?? Why were several of the little pattern pieces split across two sheets of huge paper when they easily would have fit onto one of the pages? Also, the skirt has no lengthen/shorten lines. I shortened the pattern piece by at least 5" (I can't remember the exact number) and trimmed another inch off before adding the button band. The way the button band is finished, the hem length of the dress is set long before you can try it on, so you kind of have to guess at the finished length. I made the pockets smaller (cut to 10.25” x 8”) and attached them to the front about 5” below the waist.
The biggest modification I made to this pattern was to add a side zipper and sew the button band shut. (I just really hate when a button band gapes in a dress.) For the skirt, I just topstitched the button bands together. The bodice was more complicated. I fully lined the bodice instead of using the facing. I made the front right and front left bodice pieces into one piece for both the dress and the lining. I topstitched a faux button band onto the bodice. I also added 1/8” to the right side seams to make the zipper seam allowance 1/2”. I used instructions from Itch To Stitch to insert the zipper and it looks really good! I hand stitched the bodice lining to the skirt seam allowance. I added twill tape to the bodice lining top edge to prevent it from stretching out.

I made the straps 1/2” wide and interfaced them. (Yes, I know you can still see my bra straps. I really couldn't care less.) I made them adjustable using instructions from Suzy on Sew Sarah Smith. I'm glad I did because they already stretched out quite a bit just from being on the hanger. I poached the rings and sliders from an old, worn-out swim suit. The first time I made the straps, no polka dots were showing! I don't think I could repeat that feat if I tried. I cut them a second time to show off the dots.
This was a much more involved project than it could have been, but I love how it turned out!

Friday, July 9, 2021

a brown bear birthday

We finished up Colin's birthday weekend with a big birthday bash! We had family and friends over for a fun backyard party, pizza, and cake. The decorations and cake were themed for one of Colin's favorite books, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"
It was REALLY hot, but Colin and all the other kids had fun playing in the sandbox and baby pool. Between the Baptism, the sandbox, the cake, and the pool, I think Colin went through at least 5 outfits... and even spent some time in his "birthday suit."
Colin loved trying cake for the first time! He poked it a couple times, and then dove in face-first for a bite. I think he was confused about how to eat something that wasn't cut up into tiny pieces!
After a few tentative nibbles of frosting, he really dug in!
I used the leftover colorful frosting from the cake stripes to frost cupcakes for everyone else. I might have gone a little overboard with the food coloring!
I think I barely survived hosting a Baptism and a birthday in one day. Remind me never to have a double-header party again! I was especially out of practice from not hosting any gatherings during the pandemic. Fortunately, everything went smoothly, and I was able to relax and enjoy the party! I'm grateful that we were able to have family and friends all together to celebrate!