The first year that Rob and I were married I collected holiday decorations a little obsessively. It was some combination of nesting in our first home, having two incomes and no kids, and a love affair with eBay that made me do it. Now some years I have not had the time or energy to put out useless tchotchkes for minor holidays. This year, with two kids big enough to avoid catastrophe while I bring a box up from downstairs and a house that is no longer such a project on its own, I have really enjoyed putting out all manner of holiday decorations. The kids take total delight in “decorating” and making a celebration out of days big and small. These green and gold fishing floats were my newlywed eBay purchases–a pot of gold for St. Patrick’s Day. My mother bought the Leprechaun when Dorothy was a baby and this year the girl loved seeing him keep watch over his treasure on our entryway table.
Green candles in my candelabra, more fishing floats, vintage glass goblets that belonged to Rob’s grandfather, and some felt clover from the dollar store made us feel lucky and maybe even a bit Irish in the dining room.
And my very favorite, a set of vintage-inspired plates from that newlywed eBay spree. I didn’t know then how much our children would enjoy them in 2012! We ate off of them for a couple weeks prior to March 17. We rounded out our celebration of the Irish within us (Dad assures me it’s there, and my current red hair situation would lead you to believe it if you weren’t aware that all hints of the hue came from a bottle) by eating this delicious apple and cabbage soup and fried patties of mashed potato, garlic and cheese–probably not authentic, but reminiscent of a favorite Irish pub food in my college town.
On another topic, I’ve been prettying up the insides of closets and things that don’t always show. I spent the first year at this house taking care of big-impact things, but in this second year I get to move on to some crafty projects that might not be noticed when you walk in the front door but definitely improve my quality of life. I was so pleased with the new rag bag of a few weeks ago that I made a similar bag with an inserted hanger to hold plastic bags. While I do use cloth bags frequently at the grocery, I also like to hang on to those good, sturdy Target bags and the bags the newspaper comes in to reuse. I’ve seen patterns for small bag-holders, but we also save paper shopping bags so I felt like I needed something larger. This one is working out very nicely and looks pretty good too. The tote bag in the stairwell holds old batteries until I can drop them off at the recycling center.
This little bag turns an unused bar on the inside of my kitchen under-sink cabinet into a sweet little spot for reusable mop heads and dusters. I don’t think the buttons show very well in the picture but they are very pert make the bag look a little sassy–just what I need to make me feel better about some chores that are not my favorites.
This was meant to be a Christmas gift for my niece Maggie but, well, it wasn’t. Now I’m giving it to her as an early birthday gift instead because by mid-March it’s probably going to get too warm to wear it. I used the Easy No Sew Summer Baby Doll Sweater pattern which I’d also used this summer as a gift for a friend. This is a good pattern and it worked up nicely in this Swish Tonal yarn from Knitpicks. I hope the soon-to-be-3 Maggie likes it.
My other niece Lila turned five this past week. She’s about Dorothy’s size so after my recent success with Simplicity 5704 (see below) I decided to try it again. This time I used Michael Miller cowgirl prints, which were surprisingly soft and should make this a comfortable dress for Lila. She loves pretty ponies so I hope she loves this dress too. As I was stitching this dress together it occurred to me that while having my children and my nieces close in age is nice now, it might be kind of sad in a few years when all the kids in my family are too old for homemade pony dresses (or heart dresses, or whatever). It’s a privilege to be turning out these frilly little sewing projects; not everyone has a pretty little girl to sew or crochet for, and I’m blessed with three at once!
This project is not nearly as cute but it will probably be in use long after the pink sweater and pony dress are outgrown. I replaced the tattered and torn Target bag that held rags on the back of my guest room closet door with a sturdy and sensible rag bag sewn from old sheets. The opening, as shown, is on the front for easy access. I did not use a pattern for this but it is basically two rectangles sewn together, one cut in two then sewn back together with a finished slit in the middle, and then gussets added in all four corners. I’d picked up the sheet it’s made from at a thrift store and it actually looks pretty nice in the yellow, red and orange brightness of Aunt Stephanie’s room.
This picture is what you get when you set the camera on something, focus on your children, hit the timer, then jump in yourself. Oops! I really do have a head–it just didn’t make it into this photo. Anyway, the point of this photo is the matching Santa t-shirts I made for Dorothy and me. I cut out round scraps from fabric left over from the pillow project (below), a coffee-drinking Santa for myself and a stocking-stuffing Santa for Dorothy. I ironed them onto the shirts with Wonder-Under and zigzagged around the edge in red. Also with the red thread I did decorative machine stitching around the neck and bottom hem of the shirts. I paid $2 for my like-new, name-brand cotton shirt at a thrift store and $.50 for Dorothy’s from the same place. Not bad!
Now the sad thing about making a t-shirt for Dorothy is that it was going to end up going into her closet, which is often a Horrifying Pit of Filth and Stuff, kind of like the rest of her room only worse. Housekeeping is not a talent of my five-year-old, but unfortunately hoarding does seem to be. One of the problems has been that she really hasn’t had enough drawers for folded clothing items. She has one vintage chest-of-drawers my Mom refinished before she was born, but it has very shallow drawers that won’t begin to accommodate the piles of accessories she accumulates. We were keeping skirts and pants in labeled kitty-litter buckets similar to these but as she got larger her clothing got larger too, and suddenly not very many pants would actually fit into a bucket at all, so they were mostly getting thrown in the direction of the buckets, spilling out, then mingling with doll clothes, dirty clothes, cat hair and who-knows-what-else on the floor. I got completely fed up with the situation all at once last week, drove to the nearest Goodwill, and promptly bought an old wooden dresser for $15. The drawers didn’t fit in quite right but I figured I’d see what I could do–I wasn’t making more than one stop.
The problem with the drawers ended up being that they weren’t in the right slots–easy fix! I sanded the whole piece, used leftover wall paint to make it a cheery yellow that coordinates with Dorothy’s beloved wallpaper, and sprayed the old handles white. I did need to purchase new knobs for the top because they were missing entirely, so I bought cute glass ones that look appropriately glamorous. We spent a productive afternoon organizing Dorothy’s things with the help of the roomy new drawers. She loves it and claims to be determined to stick to our new organization plan. I suspect she won’t, but at least now I can chalk her big mess up to her creative spirit instead of a system stacked against her.
As an update to an old post, we had a good thing happen in our family this week! Rob, who had been on crutches since he ruptured his Achilles tendon in September, is finally able to hobble around on his boot but without the crutches. He missed being able to drag the dresser downstairs to my work space and then upstairs to our daughter’s second-floor bedroom, but by the next time I drag home used furniture he should be much more useful!
Happy birthday to my sweet niece! I can’t believe it was two years ago that I videotaped her amazing and beautiful birth at the home of my brother and sister-in-law. I crocheted the flutter sweater as a gift for Maggie, and it looks completely adorable on her. The bottom and front edges curl up on purpose in a really cute way. The pattern was easy, but it was such a start-and-stop project for me that it took forever. I’d intended to give it to her for Christmas but couldn’t find my hooks in the move, so it became a birthday gift instead. I did it in a lightweight organic cotton yarn so hopefully she can wear it on in to warm weather.
I mentioned in my last post that I got some new tees to craft up for summer. A friend pointed out that they are also very nice plain–which they totally are. These two shirts remained plain (and nice) all winter while I meant to do something to them but never got around to it. These came from Target months ago. I finally took some time to embellish them this week, and here are the results. On this green one I appliqued some owls on a branch by using fusible web and the zig-zag stitch.
This one I was especially pleased with. I used acrylic yarn left over from another project
and machine stitched it to my shirt using a wide zig-zag, three bands around the neck, bottom edge, and each arm hole. Then I washed it, just to make sure nothing terrible would happen to it before I blogged about it.
And while I was doing that–just so no one thinks I have more hours in my day than any one else–my house descended into utter chaos. The kitchen came to look like it had never been cleaned, the girl fed yogurt to the boy in a messy and indiscriminate manner, and the boy “painted” my sofa with his yogurty hands. There is, um, no place like homemade!
I recovered the seats of our dining room chairs last spring
, and it was basically an exercise in uselessness. The medium-weight upholstery fabric I’d used bunched over the decrepit old foam (I’d not bothered to replace it), and something about the nap of that particular fabric just seemed to attract cat hair even worse than what had been on there before. The new dining room is headed for a different set of colors, too, so the orange hue wasn’t going to work. This time I went out and bought brand new foam and I’m using a laminated cotton fabric, which is similar to oilcloth but lighter weight and more stretchy. I don’t think cat hair will stay on it at all, and most spills should wipe up easily (here’s hoping), but I am a little concerned about the durability, given children with forks and cats with claws. We’ll see. In the meantime, I really love the Amy Butler fabric
and I can’t wait to see it with the blue we’re going to paint the walls in this room. (Note on that: you can see the wallpaper in here. There is a certain vintage appeal to this paper, I guess, but I’m way too fickle about prints to have them pasted on the wall. I need a clean, solid backdrop on the walls so I can choose other prints at will! Besides, you can’t have flocked wallpaper and cats who rub up against walls. Ick.)
Yesterday was a special day here. We celebrated Rob’s birthday in the dining room, in full view of the kitchen through the new pass-through! I still need to paint it (along with all the other surfaces in the rooms it joins–oy), but I already love it. It’s amazing how much it changed our house! Now I can see the sunlight from windows in every room of the first floor while I have breakfast at my kitchen table. Dorothy made a paper chain for our birthday celebration and I hung it in the opening. I can tell I’m going to need a couple nails, or maybe a tension rod, to hold this sort of temporary (yet eternal, ha ha) decoration.
The stomach virus is gone, but we’re not fully operational around here. Everyone is still tired and we’ve all just lost a little momentum. The house is a mess and we have a real estate open house tomorrow–yikes. The table I photographed happens to be covered with 4-year-old girl ephemera, but my own desk is just as overflowing, with mail, stamps and a stamp pad from an old paper project, a shirt that needs mending, and three different yarn projects in various stages of completion. Somehow we will get all this cleaned up and the Halloween decorations put away by tomorrow midday. (So this morning blogging takes the form of procrastination.)
I also just have to comment on this ugly article that met me at the breakfast table this morning. I don’t understand the so-called “mommy wars” at all. It seems to me that some people take others’ strong commitments to a parenting philosophy personally, and feel indicted if they don’t share one, whereas the focus of most parenting philosophies is actually on children, not other mommies. If a mother doesn’t like a particular philosophy, perhaps she should just avoid using it, instead of suggesting that its existence is undermining decades of progress in women’s liberation. Jong seems to miss the point that if a woman disagrees with a philosophy (in this case, attachment parenting), then she is free to ignore it and move on. It is only if she actually finds it compelling and thinks in her heart that she should be following it (or doing something differently) that it has any sway over her at all. If she does not find a philosophy compelling, then the fact that other mothers practice it should not even be on her radar–parenting is a very personal quest, not a contest, and mothers do not have to register their commitment to any particular set of values anywhere.
I am grateful for a community that allows me to parent the way I feel is right. Sometimes that is an accord with one particular parenting book or another, and sometimes it is not. I know women who largely share my parenting views and work full-time at demanding jobs. I know others who stay home and share none of my philosophies. I am glad that in this garbled world of feminism, post-feminism, and feminism-yet-to-come that I can stay home and tend my family’s metaphorical fires without feeling like I have something to prove. I stay home because that is what feels right to me. I enjoy contributing to my family’s economy in the kitchen, at my sewing machine, and out of my crochet bag. I hold a masters degree from a prestigious university and if I felt like that piece of paper forced me out of the spot that makes me happy, then that would be enslavement. To each her own. I can’t imagine any child would be better off staying home with a mother who felt stranded in the role. Nor do I think women should work outside the home just because that’s what they thought they would do when they were 22 and made expensive educational choices. It’s a big world–can’t we make room for all the choices that are as varied and ever-changing as the individuals who make up our current generation of mothers?
Our carefree days of summer are coming to a close. Rob and I attend preschool orientation tomorrow and Dorothy begins next Tuesday. Today the girl spent all day with my husband’s parents swimming in their neighborhood pool, which will close after this weekend. She told me emphatically she was not planning on doing flips in the water today because she has a runny nose. Somehow I doubt she maintained her position on that issue. I spent most of the day in the kitchen getting ready for our new routine. I made some chicken tortilla soup for the freezer, for heat-and-eat lunches at the weather gets cooler. I love soup for lunch in the fall, but I have never found any canned soup worth eating that doesn’t have tons of sodium, MSG, or both. (If you know of one, leave me a comment!) So homemade soup in freezer jars it is.
Then I spent some time sprucing up Dorothy’s room, since though she won’t take it with her, it seemed like a nice thing to give her a pleasant and orderly jumping-off-spot. I laundered, pressed and rehung her curtains, washed her bed quilt, and tidied up her space a bit. Then I made a double batch of oatmeal pancakes for the freezer so I can feed her breakfast quickly without resorting to packaged food. I put freezer paper slips between them so they won’t become one solid pancake brick in the freezer–it will be easy to grab just one or two.
I’ve prepped a Moroccan-style stew for tonight, with bread from the bread machine on the side, and I when I went to pre-cook my chickpeas I realized, ugh, that my pressure cooker was among the things I had to pack away when we put stuff in storage a couple weeks ago. Bummer. Fortunately I had canned chickpeas in the pantry, since you never know when you’ll need an emergency batch of hummus, but it’s rather frustrating. We did have a showing last weekend, but the prospective buyers claimed disappointment regarding our lack of a garage. And I have to say this is a bit confusing to me, since it states very clearly in our listing that the house has no garage. Maybe they thought we didn’t mean it?
This isn’t a new project, but just one I was using and enjoying. Last summer I crocheted cozies for the repurposed glass juice jars we use for water. I put little handles on them and they are very cute and portable, and they both insulate the jar and keep it from getting broken if I want to grab one on the go. It felt like a nice way to use up (gifted) scratchy acrylic yarn I wouldn’t want to wear or put on my babies. I just crocheted a little mat the size of the bottom of the bottles, then did double crochets in a round all the way up the side. I used several stands of yarn together so it would be extra bulky.
In other news, we’re really enjoying our hiatus from house-selling. Our goal is to have it back on the market in two weeks, but in the meantime it’s nice to not have the constant threat of a showing hanging over our heads. In a funny turn of events, however, the house is actually pretty clean right now because I just bought a steam mop and Dorothy and I are both so charmed by it that we keep using it. I love the idea of being able to keep the floor clean and chemical-free as our little wee one becomes more mobile and has the floor as his new realm. We’ll just hope the charm of using the mop doesn’t wear off in a couple months. (Ha!)
Two days of painting by my Dad and one late night (pictured) from my husband later, and we now have an extremely attractive newly exposed front porch that in no way resembles the screened-in haven of tea party dishes, half-burnt candles and caked-on playdough we had before. Although I have to admit I was rather fond of my dusty old front porch playroom, this one should look much better to potential buyers.
With the house all cleaned up for the open house, my little family skedaddled out of town to a lovely outdoor wedding picnic and a day at Holiday World. The park was just right for us–I couldn’t believe how family friendly the whole place was! From the clean, safe rides for the four-year-old to the pleasant, air-conditioned space with stacks of clean towels and comfy gliders for nursing moms (hell yeah!), we all had a really terrific day. Dorothy rode the canoe ride (above) so many times that when Rob finally went to drag her off the friendly ride operator told him “Dorothy is a very polite girl.” Apparently they’d developed a relationship and exchanged names during her multiple trips through the start!
Our only unpleasant moment at the park was right after Dorothy and Rob exited the log flume–soaking wet. We hadn’t prepped her that she’d get wet on the ride, oops! She recovered (and dried off) pretty quickly though.
After we arrived back home, however, our little happy holiday was over. We realized we’d left an big wet bag of dirty cloth diapers back at the hotel room. Ick
! Cloth diapering only saves money if you wash and reuse–not if you leave them at hotel rooms to get pitched out by horrified cleaning staff. Darn. So I made a little trip to Mama’s Hip
today and did some diaper shopping. Luckily, my little chunk is now big enough for the next size up, so although it hurt to replace the wet bag, at least I was able to buy some diaper covers we’d have ended up needing anyway.
Given that we live on a busy street in a fairly large city, it was quite surprising on Tuesday morning when Dorothy and I looked out our window and saw a deer in our side yard. Rob phoned animal control, but they said they do not deal with “indigenous wildlife.” (Which is cool, I guess, except isn’t it a little dangerous to have deer near busy streets and the nearby airport runway?) We left for a playdate and some errands, and he was still there when we came home six hours later, just bedded down and looking more comfortable. We watched him for a long time–we had a great view! Dorothy felt a little frightened of him and was resistant to taking her nap, and although I was not scared of the deer, it did feel really odd and alternative-universey to be staring at it out of my own window. The animal left maybe thirty minutes after we came home. I guess our presence back in the house made our side yard less comfortable for him.
Meanwhile, inside the house. We’re still preparing in a fast and furious way for Sunday’s open house. My brother and mother came over yesterday to help, and we (meaning actually my brother and a friend) took down the entire screened-in front porch. I hate to lose that indoor/outdoor space, but the front of the house looks much nicer now, since the screens and frames were really not in very good condition. Tomorrow we will repaint the newly exposed porch. I’ve been working on taking down and laundering curtains, and I also made a little skirt and tablecloth (above) for the kitchen microwave cart, which was also looking pretty shabby. It looks nicer now, and I think sewing the skirt was much easier than trying to scrub up the grimy
toaster oven that is now well-hidden!