Thursday, August 23, 2012

sewing right along

As I mentioned in passing, I moved my sewing downstairs to our basement about three weeks ago. Initially I did it because the living room gets a bit crowded when we homeschool, but there were many added blessings to this decision. It's not nearly as pretty down there, but it sure has solved a lot of issues for me, some that I've been praying about for awhile. Funny how we pray about things and then we're surprised when God answered and we didn't even notice until after the fact. Sometimes hobbies can become what they shouldn't and take priority over other necessary things. I've felt for awhile now (years if I'm being honest) that it's easy for me to let sewing, which is just a hobby, become a selfish outlet and take priority over other clearly more important things. Putting my sewing space in a less visible, less accessible (during the day) area has really helped clear up this problem for me. Casey and I hang out down there together in the evenings, he plays his X-box and I get to sew. He considers this quality time and is actually thrilled to have me down there with him :) I can also spread out down there and don't have to keep quite as tidy with my sewing messes. Added benefit.

Something else I've been praying for is to develop a deeper love for cooking. Sounds silly, but in all honesty, although I like to eat, we are a pretty healthy-eating family and I am somewhat of a good cook, it's never been my favorite--mostly because I don't like to clean it up, ha! Somehow, now that I rarely sew in the daylight hours, what else is there to do when the kids don't need me but to hang out in the kitchen and cook?? Funnily enough, cooking is turning into something I genuinely like to do, rather than drudgery. I find myself planning better and even planning prep to make the clean-up easier. So, the Lord is answering my prayer!

My house has been cleaner too. Can't imagine why ;)

Anyway, since finishing Kelby's quilt, I've managed to make a few things. I had bought a knit shirt from Target clearance that I really liked the fit of and thought maybe I could copy it, since it's really only two pieces, front and back. I pulled out a knit that I liked, but didn't love and was really cheap, so I wouldn't be upset if it didn't work out. But, I actually really like it!
 Since it turned out so well, I immediately cut out my next version! I got this awesome bordered mesh fabric at Denver Fabrics, in hopes that this would work out. I absolutely love the color and the gorgeous border. I'm sure to make more versions of this simple top in the future cause it looks so different in various fabrics and it's really fast to cut out and sew up.
 Lastly, yesterday I finished a cardigan out of this striped sweater knit that I've had for about a year now and have been saving just for this purpose. I'm glad it finally got done! Our weather is starting to cool and with the sleeve length on this, it's a perfect transitional piece for Fall! It's Simplicity 2206 and I did add a bit of length. It's really soft, really comfortable and I think it will go with a lot of things!
That's it for now!

Cheers :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

back to school

We have started our home school year and so far it is going SO well. This is the first year I've felt pretty confident with my plans and the books I chose. I guess that just comes with time. I tried to really pinpoint some problems we had last year and come up with ways avoid those same problems before ever starting this year. And it's working :) Also, Kelby is a little less disruptive to the school effort too now, which helps immensely. Natalie's reading has come a loooooooong way over the summer--once the pressure was off, she totally ran with it. Her reading willingness is obviously helping too.

We use our formal dining room and living room for our school space. And this year, since I moved my sewing downstairs to the basement (reasons for that in a forthcoming post), I get my own "teacher desk" in our space too, which is nice for me. Everyone needs their own "spot", according to Mary Engelbreit. This is now mine:

 I managed to frame some of the art I got from my trip to Mongolia! These are my two favorites, so it made sense to hang them here:

 We went with Five in a Row curriculum this year. It's book-based and we are all really loving it. It's super inexpensive, it allows for a lot of creativity, which is right up our alley and has a great guide while still allowing for a lot of personalization of the program. Even though I supplement every week's subjects with library books, homeschoolers just have a lot of books! No way around it. I did try to weed out a lot over the Summer and organized the ones I kept by subject on the school bookshelf. Books for that we're not using now, but will use in the future went in a bin downstairs. This makes it much easier to find books related to what we're learning for the week. I keep the week's books in the larger tub near the bottom.
 Each child decorated their own work box (below), in which we keep their own little supply box, plus the books they use daily. This makes finding glue, scissors, pencils, etc... easy because they each have their own. Each child also has a magazine holder (above) with their name on it with other workbooks for extra practice. These include random workbooks we've collected or been given, word search books, 1-100 dot-to-dots, etc... For every extra practice page they do, they get a Mom Buck. These have been nice because while I'm working with Layla on her reading, for example, Natalie still has something to do that does not require help from me.
So there ya have it! Things are going great so far, even better than expected. I'm sure I'll have more posts about homeschooling in the coming weeks. I always like reading about what works for other homeschool families, so hopefully my ideas might be useful to someone too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

creative kids

Do you find there's some things you've accidentally done right in your parenting, but now you're so glad you did??

I have super creative kids!!! I am a creative person myself, so this may come easier to me than some, but I truly believe we were ALL made creative in some way. Even my type A, super organized, perfectionist friends have ways in which they are crazy creative! After all, a linen closet with nice baskets and perfectly folded stacks of matching towels is beautiful, right!? Others, like me, are the messy creative types. And some art forms require a perfectionist's eye--like photography, for instance.

Anyway, here's my secret to raising creative kids: let them. I know it it's messy and I know I probably spend more time cleaning up than many moms, but it's worth it to me because creativity teaches resourcefulness and many other things that translate into life skills:

"How can I really stretch the grocery money this week, even though we're having company twice?"

"I think if I cut the bottom off this too-small jumper of my daughter's, it would make a cute skirt for her instead."

"$50 to get a piece of art from Mongolia framed!? Forget it, I can figure out a way to do this myself." (clearly speaking from recent experience there, ha!)

Last weekend my kids showed up to meet Casey and I at the airport after a little anniversary trip with super hero masks, crowns, belts, arm bands, etc... out of construction paper. The girls had fashioned them all and it was an adorable site, especially when Natalie handed me her "business card", which said "Cat Woman. Meow". When we got home, I suggested they make their masks and stuff out of felt instead. Then I would sew on some Velcro and elastic for them.

This morning I handed Kelby an empty egg carton and he got super excited and asked if he could paint it, to which I said, "you get the paints, I'll get the water".

Natalie is currently setting up an "Art Shop", for which she's been drawing pictures since yesterday. As the project expands to more rooms in the house, I have to suppress my desire for the house to look last-minute-company-ready all the time and just let her do it. She'll be cleaning it up later ;)

Layla's trying to make paper airplanes. With lots of paper. But, she's using scratch paper that I insist Casey bring home just for this purpose--and we can recycle it later.

You might think art and craft projects always need to be planned and supervised, but this is not the case--as long as we aren't trying to make their work look perfect or getting upset that they're ruining perfectly good felt--that only cost ten cents. 

So, here's what I'm saying. Even if you're not a sewer, scrapbooker, or naturally inclined to the arts at all, if you have a few supplies around and in reach of your children, they will use them. And you'll all be enriched :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kelby's Quilt

I did it, I finished! Feels like I've been working on this quilt forever!! It is one of the largest I've made (his mattress is a Full, but I made it closer to Queen size, just cause it worked out that way), so it was a bit more time consuming. Plus, not using a pattern is definitely more fun, but probably more time consuming too. Worth it, I think :) I should mention that this quilt was inspired by this lovely quilt.

He's been pretty attached to it all day. Rolling himself into a cocoon inside of it, laying it out flat and trying to break dance on it--in his undies. If you didn't notice, he doesn't love wearing clothes these days. When we're home, this is his uniform.

He's a happy boy :)

And I get to sew other things, woot!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


That's right, my little baby boy turned 4 yesterday! Nope, can't believe it. When my oldest was 4, I had two more babies. Not the case with this one. I find it rather more enjoyable! And sad. I dunno. My baby is 4, regardless of how I'm feeling about it, ha! Last night he had a bad dream and ended up in bed with me, which has not happened since he was tiny. What a gift to wake up with him curled into me! *sigh*

We had a little party for him over the weekend and it was soooooo much fun. The weather was perfect and the kids had a blast with the slip n' slide and the sponge bombs I made (adapted from this idea. I was too cheap to buy a mop head and shelf liner, so I only used sponges and it worked out fine.)

There ya have it! Pardon the lack of commentary. I have a quilt to finish binding!!!

Monday, August 13, 2012


As a stay-at-home mama, I am thankful for the radio. It's a minor thing, maybe, but when I think about going without it, I can't imagine! NPR makes me feel a bit more connected to the world at large, I love K-Love, both for it's music and for the positive news stories and having the radio on in the background just makes me feel less alone in the house (well, I have my kids here, obviously, but you know what I mean).

Today I want to share some radio favorites!

I LOVE podcasts. I usually clean up my house for a good hour in the afternoons, while the kids are either outside or watching a movie for some down time. I find it much easier to get into the cleaning groove if I put in my cute pink ear buds and cue up a podcast on my iPod. I've blogged about podcasts before here, but I want to add a few more recently discovered favorites!

I think way back in the comments on that post, someone referred me to the This American Life podcast and it's been a favorite ever since. Right after my return from China last month, I listened to their "Americans in China" episode (what a coincidence!!) and loved it. Having just been there, I found myself saying things like "Ohhhhh, that's why...." and "Aha! I knew it!" Everything these guys report on is very entertaining.  If you like Radiolab, which is one of the most popular podcasts out there and my #1 fave, you'll love This American Life.

Another one I've been liking a lot is Stuff You Missed in History Class.  These episodes are little shorter, which is nice sometimes and cover all kinds of fascinating topics. If you have older students, they will love this too--it could be a cool tool for homeschooling.

If there is any content in any of these podcasts that may be inappropriate for younger audiences, they will always tell you up front. These are not Christian organizations, so just be aware that not every episode is appropriate and there have been two or three that I have not finished because of this. But, those have been few and far between. All the podcasts I've mentioned can be listened to free online or subscribed to free in iTunes. I like to subscribe and then upload them to my ipod whenever there are new episodes.

Now for music! Natalie and I are loving this song lately:

And all the kids and I love dancing to this one!
I have some favorite non Christian artists and songs, but find myself almost always turning on Christian radio. It's good for the spirit, both mine and the kids. I love me some Norah Jones or Jack Johnson or Paul Simon while I'm cooking dinner though!

Last week I got this little cutie at Target:
It's nice because I can move it easily around the house with me without having to unplug my big dock and carry it from room to room. It would travel well too. Yesterday I took it outside during Kelby's birthday party and we listened to the Tangled soundtrack while slip n' sliding haha.

Another favorite listening toy is my Skullcandy ear buds. The white ones that came with my iPod (and every other Apple device--I'm pretty sure we have a dozen of them) are too big for my ears. They're uncomfortable, they don't stay in when I run and they tangle up easily. The Skullcandy ones don't tangle, they come with different sizes of the soft pieces to fit all ears, they stay in, even when running, and heck, they're just cute!
Casey got these pink ones for my Christmas stocking last year:
 Your turn!! I'm always looking for new entertaining podcasts, music, listening toys, etc... I'd love to find a worthwhile podcast or two for kids. Most of what I've found for kids is pretty lame.

Happy listening! :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

thrifty thoughts

Casey and I share a love of thrifting. We both really love unique, vintage things and over the years, our styles have meshed and we almost always agree on house projects, colors, decor ideas, etc... Other than my handmade things, I think it's the "found" things that make our house and anyone's house unique. Here are some of the things we've found in recent months:

We scored this chair from the 60's at a Goodwill while on a date (yes, we like thrifting that much hahaha!) Casey spotted it and we didn't get it at first, cause we were in the small car. But, we were still thinking about it the next day, it was only $10 and it's perfect for our bedroom, so we went back and grabbed it. Plus, did you know Goodwill gives a military discount?? Well, now ya know :)
 Love it with my bird quilt! The vinyl is in perfect condition and so is the wood. It's rare to find mid-century modern pieces in this great of condition and for that cheap!
 OK, not vintage or rare, but still, we are loving this calendar--so much better than the big poster-style one I got before last school year that would NOT stay on the wall, no matter how much sticky-tack I used!
 I got this little strand of birdies at an estate sale--actually this is the only thing I bought. It was half-off day, so I got it for a dollar. It's always special to me to find handmade things like this and take them home to appreciate. I hope my handmade things go someplace where they're loved when I'm gone.
 Another chair! The vinyl on this one is perfect too! It was $2.99 at Savers. The stack of linens came from an estate sale--also in my neighborhood, also on half-off day and at a house with the same floor plan as the other one. Coincidentally. A few of these are headed to a friend for part of a housewarming gift. I bet she knows who she is, but I bet she can't guess which ones ;)
 Casey was in Kansas on Army business a few weeks ago and found an usual amount of vintage Corningware (seemingly harder to find that Pyrex pieces) and bought them for me, then proceeded to carry them on to two more flights, in a plastic grocery bag, to get them home. What a guy! This one's my fave and it's funny because I have a matching loaf pan that I found recently too.

When I really think about it, I buy hardly anything new anymore. Toys, clothes (mine and the kids'), furniture, all come secondhand--thrift stores, estate sales, consignment stores, Craigslist. I buy fabric new, but on clearance.  I buy shoes new too, although not before agonizing over the price for a couple weeks, ha! But, really, there's a way to get almost anything cheaper. It takes creativity and patience, but that's the fun part!! I do know I'm lucky to live in a city with amazing thrifting options and this might not always be the case for me, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts!