Monthly Archives: March 2011

New life for old towels


I debated whether or not I should do this project.  Having to keep track of specific hand towels for a specific bathroom seemed like a bit of a hassle.  But after living here for a few months and establishing a routine I realized that the downstairs bathroom towels already get thrown in with the kitchen laundry and returned to the same bathroom so there was no reason not to spruce them up a bit if I wished. I took three basic hand towels and bleached them to freshen them up and remove stains. Sorry, I know bleach is not the most environmentally friendly thing but neither is buying all new towels, and using a bit of bleach now and then seems way better than resorting to something like those horrifying new Kleenex hand towels, the existence of which makes me wonder how it is that some people have a) money to burn, b) no concern for the amount of resources they are using and waste they are producing, and c) never apparently heard of their washing machine, which is generally an excellent tool for keeping hand towels clean.  Anyway….sorry for the rant.

Back to my bleached towels.  I ironed scraps of coordinating fabric from my bathroom curtain project (same bathroom) to make long, turned-under strips, then sewed them over the decorative strip on the towel.  The ironing and sewing took only minutes but the towels now seem to make my bathroom look really pulled-together. The towels themselves don’t match each other but since I only use one at a time it doesn’t matter. I’ll definitely do this for my other bathroom too once I get around to painting it.

Yesterday’s other project was not nearly as satisfying.  I started painting the living room ceiling and it’s falling apart!  Eek!  The textured finish on the ceiling is crumbling down on my head as I try to roll on paint. I would just scrape down the whole textured layer, but it seems to be stuck on quite tight in other parts of the room, and my bad elbow doesn’t really like doing lots of work like that over my head. My current plan is use glue and wallboard compound to try to rebuild some of the textured ceiling in this part of the room, but I know I can’t get the swirly pattern to match the rest of the room, and again about the bum elbow. Oy. The wallpaper was at least a known problem–this one was an unpleasant surprise.

A gift for the classroom


It is a tradition in Dorothy’s school to buy a book for a child’s classroom on his or her birthday. The book is brought in all wrapped up and the birthday child gets to unwrap it, then the whole class listens while one of the parents of the birthday child reads the book to the class.  I thought it would be fun to make a book for Dorothy’s class on the subject of their class pet, a guinea pig.  I took photographs of the animal while he was staying with us last fall (each family gets the “privilege” of weekend sitting for the pet a couple times during the year) and used Wikipedia to fill in some bits about the animal that were not obvious to me. I had almost finished the book the week after our guinea-pig-sitting several months ago. Then we sold the house and my efforts at childrens’ literature and most everything else went all to h$%!, so by the time I remembered again that we were expected to gift a book to Dorothy’s class on her birthday it was already last week. I considered ditching the effort and just buying some book but decided I’d gone that far, I may as well finish it.  Typing up the last couple pages didn’t take long but unfortunately shipping the thing from (on the West coast) to Kentucky did, and I was too cheap to spring for quicker shipping. I still went in to read to Dorothy’s class on her birthday, but I just read a book she’d selected from her own collection.  Now that the gift book is here I’ll take it in tomorrow all wrapped up to read and Dorothy will get to play the birthday girl one last time. I ordered a copy of the book for Dorothy too and she seems to like it.

I really wanted to work on throw pillows for the living room today but it just didn’t happen. The baby is fussy over teeth or a cough or something and he is refusing to sleep unless I’m holding him, which means a) he’s not getting enough sleep, and b) the rest of the time he’s a Grumpus McGurkus, which is our household name for someone who is in a very foul mood (inspired by a favorite book of Dorothy’s). I did catch just a few minutes at the machine, however, and made a padded sleeve for my little camera. I know you’re thinking, “doesn’t she have a big camera? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her at soccer practice, one of those moms who thinks she’s the press corps?”  Yes, I do, but jokes have been deservedly made about how much I like to photograph my children and my big camera isn’t something I can just toss in my purse and always have on hand.  Thus I still have and use my little camera and I recently had to replace it, possibly because the inside of my purse is not a very safe place to be even if you are the small unfussy camera. I used scraps from Dorothy’s birthday dress to make a very simple little Velcro pouch. I lined it with polyester quilt batting to make it nice and soft, and hopefully the polyester will repel rather than soak in liquids in the event of a spill.  (Liquid spilled inside my purse?  Well, have you ever dined out with my children?)

The living room


More house progress!  Removing the living room wallpaper was a serious pain in the ass. My mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, daughter and husband all worked with me (and in the case of my mother, much more than me) to get the wallpaper off this wall.  There was a thin liner underneath the regular wallpaper that had to be steamed and scraped away shreds at a time.  Ouch.  But now it’s off!  Mom and I primed the newly-bare walls, which had never been painted in their 71 years, then painted them a perky green called spring cactus. I made the curtains from fabric I found online and posted about previously, from Heather Bailey’s Pop Garden collection. This is a room we needed some furniture for when we moved into this house.  I fell in love with the Eames-inspired tulip chair from an online discount store, and we bought the light fixture and white sofa (below) from IKEA. This room is meant to house my collection of hobnail milk glass, and the bumpy white lamp and chair are really just accessories to my beloved dishes.  I have a less-is-more attitude toward some things, but dishes are just not one of them. I love dishes.  I have way too many.  But hey, better dishes than drugs and booze, right?

After I hung the new curtains this weekend  Dorothy came into the room.  She immediately noticed the curtains and rushed over to the windows to admire.  “Wow!  These new curtains are so pretty!  They are going to look beautiful at my birthday party.”  My husband came home an hour or so later and his reaction was not as satisfying.  I had to drag him into the room to see the curtains, which I doubt he’d have noticed on his own.  He glanced and said, “oh, those look nice.”  He might have said the same thing if I’d hung paper bags in the window.  If I hadn’t prompted him he might never have noticed they were there. This is why I’m so grateful to have a daughter.  🙂

My over-the-sofa art is going to be supplied by my children.  I purchased artists canvases at a craft store and covered them with more of the Pop Garden fabric using a staple gun. I have a can of low-tack spray adhesive that I’m going to use to adhere a rotating collection of the kids’ art to the screens.  This felt like a formal but fun way to honor their artwork. I have admired framed child art in other people’s homes, but I’m thinking this will be easier to peel off or stick up art as their talents and interests change.

Now all I have to do to finish this room is patch and paint the ceiling, paint all the trim, mop off the bits of wallpaper that seem to have stuck to the floor, buy a coffee table, sew throw-pillows, buy a coordinating shade for the milk glass lamp (not shown), sew a Pop Garden scarf for the piano, find or make an entry-way rug, paint or replace the plant stand that doesn’t seem to match, and find the rest of my milk glass in a box downstairs.  It’s a good thing my baby sleeps through the night and I have nothing else to do all day, right?  Oh wait…

And today is my daughter’s actual birthday.  She gets to bring a treat to school to share with her classmates, so we made cupcakes with lavender icing at her request. I love this recipe for vanilla cupcakes and have made it several times, even though the method of adding the butter to the batter seems rather unorthodox. The cupcakes don’t turn golden-brown until they are over baked–you have to do the toothpick test to get them out in time–but they come out really moist and they hold their shape nicely so you can eat them without having most of your cupcake dissolve into crumbs all over your lap.  According to Dorothy’s birthday wish the cupcakes needed to have her classmates names on them, so we did that too.  I printed the names onto a sheet of card stock and we just cut, glued and folded the little tags onto toothpicks. Hopefully the birthday girl will feel like she got all her birthday wishes granted today. She woke up pretty excited!

Fifth Birthday


Another birthday!  We joke in my family that we have birthday season in February and March.  Both nieces, my father, father-in-law and two children all have birthdays in those months.  We eat cake.  Lots of cake.  Here is Dorothy’s birthday dress, which features a yellow Volkswagen Beetle patch.  She wanted a pinch buggy birthday so that is what she got. She declared that her dress should not be constructed of pinch buggy fabric (although I did find that, see below), but should be a pretty dress with just one pinch buggy on the front.  I found the patch on eBay, the fabric and Joann, and the pattern is Simplicity 5695, which I think I’ve made a zillion times now but she asked for that style specifically.  (She wanted it to be like this dress of the same basic pattern.)

I don’t often make hair bows for Dorothy because she won’t keep them on, but I did make one for this event and she did keep it on just for the duration of the party. Hair bows are so easy–I have no idea why they cost so much.  Yet there is something about just dragging out the glue gun that has made me an Etsy hair bow purchaser myself, back before my kid started refusing to wear them. This one is made from ribbon left over from another project with flowers cut out of the dress fabric (raw edges and all) and one purple button that came as an extra with a store-bought sweater.  Now she’ll probably never wear it again but who knows, I might.

I found this Volkswagen fabric on Etsy.  (Or was it eBay?  I find novelty fabric in both places.) This is the third time I’ve made an accent tablecloth for her birthday table.  It’s just one yard of fabric, squared off and hemmed all around on the serger. In the past I think I layered them over other tablecloths, but since Worth likes to yank at tablecloths I skipped the layered look this time.  The small homemade tablecloths set off the theme for her parties by decorating the table, then they find a more permanent home in our playroom housekeeping area where they perfectly fit the small play table.  As usual, we have Nana to thank for the beautiful cake, and the theme was inspired by Rob, who drives a pinch buggy convertible.

More t-shirt embellishment


You’ll only like this one if you, like me, are a fan of Mo Willems.  (It’s for personal use, so I’m not trying to do anything evil here with copyright.) I cut out, ironed-on and stitched down a pigeon figure inspired by the book, then printed the word “drive” three times on printable fabric and ironed those on around him.  Dorothy likes this one too.

I had a hard time photographing this shirt.  It is another long sleeve tee like the ones in the last post.  I used different colored thread and the decorative stitches on my sewing machine to create a border around the neckline and waist.  The effect turned out pretty well and I think it makes this shirt look sort of mail order catalog-y, in a good way.  This was a really rewarding project because it was so quick and simple and made such a difference in the shirt.  I wouldn’t try this with a dull needle–decorative stitches on knit need a sharp, fresh needle designed for knits.

I recently ordered this book on crochet motifs, mostly because I was a little short of the free shipping threshold when I was ordering something more urgent (how much money does make that way?  so brilliant!) and I really like it.  The little shapes can be the building blocks for any larger project one can imagine, but they are also fun little quick projects on their own.  I was feeling frustrated with our cheap, stupid (yes, I have a 4-year-old and I know “stupid” is a bad word) tea kettle because the stupid product designers made the handle out of some material that heats up so much when water is boiled in the kettle that unsuspecting, innocent tea drinkers get their hands burned every time they fail to remember that this stupid kettle isn’t like every other kettle they’ve ever owned, and that they can’t touch the stupid handle to pour the water out when the stupid thing whistles.  Tired of reaching for a potholder just to pour water (or failing to), I decided to crochet something decorative and insulating to stay on the stupid thing to avoid this problem in the future. I made one of the hexagons in the book and tied it right onto the handle at the points. The red and white wool matches my kitchen, so now the stupid kettle looks prettier too.  If anyone thinks that a person who repeatedly burns their hands making tea is a little bit stupid herself…well, no one asked you.

The kids and I are off on an adventure tomorrow.  The car is packed, the MP3 player loaded, and a basket is well-stocked with snacks.  We’re headed to Chicago to visit my college roommate.  I used to travel quite often with just Dorothy before Worth was born but our preschool schedule and being outnumbered by my kids has kept me home more this past year.  I’m hoping that all goes well so we can make travel a regular part of our homeschooling experience next year. On this trip we’re hoping to take in a St. Patrick’s Day festival at the Irish Heritage Center and the children’s museum.  I have used my mother’s trick of wrapping small gifts in old newspaper to hand out to the kids at regular intervals to keep them happy in the car.  Some art supplies, a tiny backhoe that makes noise, books…I think they will be well received.

Some wearables


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!

A very exciting trip

For the first time since preschool began in the fall, I really can’t wait for it to end.  Dorothy has had a great experience but the commute is getting to me.  I’m tired of trying to schedule all of our family’s living around the picking up and the dropping off.  I’m increasingly plagued by the annoying feeling that I can never get anything done, which must mean my priorities are off somewhere.  At this point I’m thinking that the problem is the prioritization of sending my kid to a great school on the other side of town, and I know how to fix that.  I’m glad we’ve chosen to homeschool next year so our lives and our learning can be more seamless.  In the meantime we’re making do with weekends, like this Saturday when Noah’s Ark and my sewing project collided, creating a brand new playscape and a cozy scene.  It was neat the way the toy took on a whole new creative dimension after I’d scooted the sofa over and spread out my work–the animals took on completely new existences. I’m finally working on the yellow quilt for Dorothy’s room that occasioned the purchase of many yellow-toned sheets almost a year ago, when we were still playing the real estate game and day-dreaming of living in our current house (wallpaper and all).

My household now includes (cue ominous music) a walking toddler.  He took steps the day before his birthday, apparently feeling the pressure of that milestone–or perhaps all the overheard whispered conversation about what an early walker his sister was.  In any case, he’s a full-fledged across-the-room walker now, and wow is that dangerous. I’m so tired of replacing all the contents of my drawers that I went to the hardware store and bought an entire can of bungee cords and have been attempting to babyproof with them.  They actually work pretty well on places like these.  I have to make sure I don’t get them on there too tight because I don’t want to put stress on the cabinetry, but they do seem to be deterring the marauding child for a whileand I didn’t have to screw in any complicated locking mechanisms.  (P.S.  Stay tuned for a future before and after in which those kitchen cabinets become white!)

Also this weekend we took advantage of a Monday preschool holiday to take a one night getaway with our extended family.  In honor of Dorothy’s upcoming birthday we journeyed to her idea of Paradise–the Great Wolf Lodge outside Cincinnati. We went there once before, as a sort of consolation prize to her after a summer spent watching a newly-pregnant Mommy lie on the sofa in nauseous misery, and she’s talked about the experience ever since (the Lodge experience, not Mommy’s pregnancy–ha). I’m on their e-mail list so I know when they have good rates, and I really do think it is a worthwhile trip for the money.  It’s not too far from home, not as overwhelming as a large park would be, and holds just the right amount of child-sized pleasures to keep a kid Dorothy’s age happy for a short trip. From the discovery of the complimentary child shower gel to the wolf mascot’s bedtime story, the experience kept a smile on Dorothy’s face for 24 hours straight.  (And did I mention that all her doting grandparents went?  Lucky girl!)

I wasn’t sure what baby brother’s take on the excursion would be, but after a short hesitation as he explored the splashing water he seemed to enjoy himself as well.  We had to keep his stumbling little zombie steps from carrying his chubby baby legs out into deep water!

Unrelated, if anyone else likes embellishing t-shirts for themselves or kids, Old Navy is having a spring stock-up sale right now that involves good prices ($4 and $5) on solid-colored tees.  These shirts are much better for crafting than the ones sold at craft stores because they have a more flattering shape and are softer.  They won’t last forever, but do you really need them to?  They are comfortable and cheap!  Now I’ve got a whole bag full of future t-shirt projects waiting.

The dining room


Except for my continued procrastination on painting the baseboard, the dining room is pretty much done.  Here’s the before (after we moved in, before stripping wallpaper)…

and after.  I posted an in-progress picture back in January when we were picking paint.  We didn’t end up using that exact shade, but went with one that didn’t have as much turquoise.  It’s Glidden’s Pool Party, and it’s a little brighter in the daylight.  It’s so happy!  The old thrift store tablecloths made easy and bright drapes, and I really love the way the fun prints on the chair seats turned out.  Rob and his Dad hung a light fixture here that we removed from another room; it was way too dark in there before.  The biggest pain in this project was puttying over a crack in the ceiling and some cracks that had formed between the upper molding and the ceiling, but of course those tasks also made a very big difference in the look of the outcome.  I’m gearing up to tackle the living room next but I think I may have to switch gears first and clean the basement, which is turning out to be a bit wetter than we’d though.  (Since we, um, didn’t think it was supposed to be wet at all.  Oy.)