Kids Craft Day

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Another fun day today with the little ones! They got paint your own tea sets made by Totally Me for Christmas and had a blast decorating them on our new used table in our craft room.
Tip: Use leftover Christmas wrapping paper to cover your craft space. It works great, you usually have it on hand- especially this time of year, and it’s thick enough that nothing bleeds through while still thin enough to be pliable and drape over your surface.

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I love all the box craft sets. They make the job so much easier! No finding craft ideas and hunting for supplies. It’s all right there in one (most probably over packaged) box. The downside is the expectation kids have of their project turning out the way it looks on the box. I tried to stress that not even Mommy can make it look like the pictures do. All in all, they had a good time and were proud of how they turned out. Me Too!

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The light in this room is great for crafts, but terrible for pictures. Still, I got some that we’ll be able to look back at and remember spending time like this together.

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Happy Crafting Everybody!

Refuel Your Inspiration

IMG_2070What Inspires You? Sure, a killer pair of heels and cutting edge fashion, but I’m talking about beyond that. As a designer, I was taught that finding inspiration was half the job. That’s the part you don’t get paid for, but without it, you have nothing to draw from. So we spend our time searching magazines, museums, nature, cityscapes, all to have our little imaginations filled to the brim with lines, silhouettes, colors, and moods we can paint our own portraits with. That is so vital for designers and any creatives! Still, when I ask what inspires you, I’m asking what has you down deep inside. What churns your soul and makes you willing and able to go on? Because sadly, those things are often the most neglected.

For me, when all is stripped away and I do a personal inventory of who I want to be, I’m reminded that the two things most important to my heart are God and my family. (This recent inventory is thanks to Karan and our newest Sunday School series “Simplify”) I neglect God a lot and I’m working on it. The thing is with Him, He has a way of always pulling me back. My heart is His, and He never forgets me. Although I forget about Him daily. That’s what’s so awesome about Him. It’s soooo obvious that He’s the One who saves me; because I have no ability to even remember Him consistently, yet I’m continually on His mind, despite everything I’ve done to deny Him at different points in my life.

My other priority, family, often takes a back burner to what’s going on in my life. I never realize I’m doing it because it always feels justified, doesn’t it? We have a deadline, or chores, or we’re running late, or we have to get the kids to the game on time. But are we actually spending real time together-where we connect and fill each other up with love and energy that will keep us strong for days ahead? Often, I go without that. My husband and I watch tv together instead of focusing on each other or my kids are playing while I’m doing chores. None of that ever seems too bad, until I’m asked to take the dreaded long hard look at myself and how I spend my time and then I’m forced to understand that I can’t remember the last time I really had a day of laughter with my childeren.

Today I had that. We played with our hair and played dress up and put on mini fashion shows and concluded it with a contest to see who could throw the most crackers up and catch them in our mouths. One at a time, of course. I lost. And hit myself in the face with a lot of crackers! But, Oh My Goodness, was it a blast! And as much as I love writing and it fulfills something in me that nothing else does, I can’t wait to finish this post and get back upstairs with them and keep playing. I set my dreams of designing aside for a steady job when I found out I was pregnant with them. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t resent it. It was wonderful to be able to provide for my children. And when I thought about how much I wanted to fulfill their dreams in life, I was so much more than willing to give up design forever to give them the stability I know is such an important springboard in life.

Then the deeper I thought on the subject, I wondered what I would want for them if they started families before getting established in the career they were passionate about. Would I want them to settle or fight through it and live their dream? I don’t think I have to say which one I would hope for. If you’re a parent, you know. And I thought to myself, how could I ever expect my daughters to live based only on what I say and not on what I do. Aren’t they far more likely to just follow in my footsteps?

That’s why I came back to my third love. That’s why I’m designing-and writing- again. I’m living my passion so that they’ll have the courage to live theirs. They are my inspiration! They are my joy and my fuel. When we’re not close emotionally, my “energy bucket” will never be full. They are exhausting (let’s just be honest!) but they help me recharge. Another one of life’s little paradoxes that shows beauty and love can never be fully understood, yet are meant to be fully lived out.

Here’s to spending time with the people who hold your heart!
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Organizing Break 2

How do you build a wall? One stone at a time. That’s the way I’m organizing my house- one small victory at a time. Every Christmas I swear next year will be different. I’ll sort all the toys and get rid of a bunch of the old ones in advance so once my kids get all the new toys, their playroom will be a beautiful landscape of orderly bliss. There will be plentiful space for the new stuff and we’ll put it away while in wonderful moods and probably humming in unison.

But then, every Christmas comes and goes without me preparing space in advance. We have Christmas and clean the wrapping paper and cardboard mess and get out the Barbies and play sets. I forbid them to open any of the craft items or anything I’ll have to help them with because I know how much cleaning, purging, sorting, and woo-sah-ing I’ll have to do. And “there’s no way we’re getting out paint on top of this mess, girls. Have you gone crazy? “(This year the EZ Bake oven was the exception- and that’s only because my husband loves to cook and helped them with it.

I’m ever so happy to announce that we’re making real progress, however! For the two weeks of my kids’ winter break, my focus is spending time with them, doing some crafts that we often don’t have time to do together (like teaching them how to make embroidery floss friendship bracelets, which we’ve already begun) and getting my house organized. We’ve had a lot of upheaval this year and we’ve changed rooms around a few times, causing, well, a headache! The biggest change to deal with is that my sewing stuff is no longer in my sewing room. I moved it into my living room. If you love to sew, you know that there is excitement and pride bursting out of me right now! That’s the dream, isn’t it? To have all of your stuff right smack dab in the middle of your house. Sewing while the husband watches football? I could happy-faint! But, despite my intense delight, I didn’t really know what to do with the sewing room. I still have my fabric and half-done projects in there.

The other thing I’d really put off is my girls’ craft supplies. We’ve never really had a proper space in this house for crafting. We’ve had stuff divided and stored in about 4 or 5 different places and would work on the kitchen table…occasionally. Doing crafts with them has been something I’ve dreaded for a long time- only because the supplies have been so scattered and unorganized. My thought was to store their craft stuff in my “sewing room”, but I hated that idea a little, too, because I didn’t want to have to carry it all downstairs every time we did a project. As I was going through the craft stuff in my sewing room, my daughter walked in and said, “We need a table in here.” Brilliant! 

Why in the world had i not thought of that? (Probably because I was used to having way too much squeezed into that tiny room for so long and didn’t realize that now I have space for something like that.) Now my much anticipated goal is to find a secondhand table and chairs and use it as a craft room! It’ll be a space where I can store all of my fabric for sewing, my shipping supplies, my design area, and, best of all, I can craft with my girls with very little set-up and tear-down! (The actual best part is that their craft supplies won’t be out in the open to get dragged out when I’m not upstairs so that I walk up and find a terrible paint-glue-glitter-stickers-on-wooden furniture surprise.) Long story short, I’m stoked!

The Moral of The Story:

Find a good space for crafting so you can do what you enjoy without it becoming a chore.

And for the love of Pete, keep the glitter and glue under lock and key!

How’d The Ugly Sweaters Turn Out?

Dec. 2014 Group 2 414Like dresses for the most part.  But we did end up with a couple legitimate sweaters. I didn’t go all out and nothing lights up, so my best friend’s is still my favorite. (She had twinkling stars poking out from holes all around her sweater. She’s so stinking creative.) We didn’t win any best sweater awards at church, but they were fun to wear and pretty fun to make.

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 This dress was just so adorable the way it was. Both of my girls wanted to keep it for every day wear. Neither of their names start with a C.

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So I admit, I  kind of threw the dresses together at the last minute. I ran out of steam a bit after the sweaters, but the girls enjoyed them. They both had jingle bells on them, so it was a pretty loud church service. Fun.
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Mine was pretty silly. It wasn’t as extravagant as I was gonna go for, but I just couldn’t resist this cute ugly puppy! I did manage to add really big jingle bells to my right shoulder so I could do a little festive shoulder jig every few minutes to make sure everyone at the party was still awake and merry.
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This is the hubby! That’s the nicest thing I can think to call him since he often calls me his “ole lady.” Flattering. I’m still proud of our Goodwill crochet score. I’m extra super proud that there are jingle bells in each of those wreaths. I totally made him jiggle for everyone who complimented his sweater. The man can shimmy.IMG_2031Dec. 2014 Group 2 421

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I feel like I have a lot of explaining to do about this picture. I didn’t get any pictures of myself in the hat and the sweater together, but this is the magnificent hat I found to go with. I think I may wear it throughout the year when I have diva moments. Try arguing with a woman in that hat!

Merry Christmas, guys!!!!

Don’t Wear It On Your Sleeve

Dec. 2014 Group 2 400Ok, I love loving yourself. (Plus, that’s a really fun sentence to say.) But I am no fan of this look! Sure, the idea behind it is kind of cool. Remind yourself to take care of you. Respect who you are. Know that people love and respect you. That is, unless you wear this shirt. In that case people don’t like you. They think you’re really egotistical and selfish and probably talk behind your back.

The Moral of The Story?

Think you’re awesome, but please don’t wear it on you shirt!!!

Organizing Break

As my readers know, I have no qualms about being an open nerd. You guys are about to see that soar to a whole new level, though! Since I’m home with my daughters now, I’m taking a break from everything I normally do besides blogging and chores to spend time with them and enjoy the holidays. (Is enjoy the correct word for extremely last minute shopping and wrapping in the dead of night and any time you can find when your kids are otherwise occupied?)

I’m very blessed to be able to spend this time with them. I’m excited for Christmas morning and the many other Christmas parties and events we have going on this week. I’m excited that we finally got the cartoon version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. But most of all, I’m excited to be able to clean my closets! Don’t adjust your screen. You read that right. If I were a superhero, all I’d need on my utility belt would be a label maker. And I would straight Save The Day!

I know a lot of crafters that share  my affinity to label making. It runs in our blood. It’s like nature’s way of balancing out our quirky, haphazard, mayhem-enous ?- way of delving into multiple projects while managing to not put any of the supplies away until our crafting area is overrun. Well, it’s usually more like our crafting area, our living room, bits of our kitchen, and possibly our garage if our current project is very work-y. The creative brain has a way of ironing all that out- and it’s the incessant desire to get organized. And while our houses may not look very organized depending on what stages of creativity we’re in at the time, we tend to be able to put everything back quickly and easily because it has a predetermined place of belonging.

Ah, if only we could stick to those predetermined spaces instead of constantly upheaving our homes to change the way everything is sorted. But, no such luck here folks. In our need to create and become better and better, we’re just going to have to make peace with the fact that we move stuff around- a lot. And we’re generally pretty good at it. That is, if we can make it through the whole organizing endeavor and get everything put back up before we crash.

Which leads me to why I love to organize my closets so much. (Not just my closets, to be honest. I obsess over my friends’ unorganized closets, too, usually until I get my way and they let me have at it.) I always says “Closets are the command centers for your house.” Yes, I know how geeky that sounds, and the actual logic there isn’t very sound, but I say it nevertheless. If the storage areas aren’t organized, it’s hard to even clean your house, because you don’t know where all that clutter really belongs. You end up with a scenario similar to when husbands clean- no junk gets moved off of counters or tables and put up. It just gets washed around. Ok, that better not be just my husband!

So I’m off to the races. If I have any major organizational epiphanies or anything muy entertaining happens while I’m sorting, I’ll be sure to let you guys know!

LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENT SECTION: What are your best organizing tips?

Looking Forward

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Here’s to a New Year. . . with all the same problems, habits, and pitfalls of the previous ones! Why do we always expect something different? Why do we think we’ll be suddenly dosed with self discipline and transformed by sheer resolve? Why be transformed at all? Sure we need to always keep moving forward. Have a plan. Keep your vision in sight. But no need to masochistically list all of your chronic failures by arbitrarily stating how you’re going to change them. Especially as a seasonal event! (What a tradition, right?) The truth is, everyone’s exhausted by the end of the holidays. It’s the busiest time of year for a lot of people, yet we want to use those couple months to catapult ourselves into previously unattained success in not one, but many areas of our lives. I’m just gonna say it to help you out. This is crazy, people!

Who are you, really? To answer this accurately, you’ll probably need someone’s help. The reason I say that is because we are so critical of ourselves. Think of a few recurring themes on your usual New Year’s Resolutions lists. I’d be willing to bet a lot have to do with trying to fix something that’s not broken. Sometimes we punish ourselves for not hitting goals that are unrealistic or not needed in the first place. If your goals are unrealistic, figure out why. How can you break them into more manageable steps? Get creative about your goals and only attack them one (or maybe a few if you’re really type A) at a time.

It’s just stupid to have a list of 15 things we want to change about ourselves in the course of one year. We all know it’s not going to happen. We all know that leads to burn-out. Yet we all tend to bite off more than we can chew. Why? Human nature. We’re tenacious. We’re fighters. When the rough gets going, we…well, say we’re going to change. Problem is that lovable little nature inside us takes change kicking and screaming. So, whatever you set out to change next year (hopefully after a well-deserved recharge in January) make sure it’s something that’s worth changing. (If you meet that goal, will it add real value to your life? Or is the reason behind that resolution a personal insecurity that you really need to deal with? You may be killing yourself to lose weight for your husband when he loves your shape the way it is, for instance.)  Make sure you tackle one thing at a time and in small chunks. If you’ve made it this far in life without conquering the world, chances are, you’re not going to come January 1, 2015.

And lastly, make peace with who you are! Yeah, some of your “flaws” may drive you nuts, but they just may be the cutest little quirks about you! Instead of looking to the future full of hope for changing all the bad things about you, I encourage you to look at yourself a little less crtically. You’re not all the things about yourself that you think you should change. You’re not a to-do list. You’re a person. You treat others around you with love and respect and can embrace all parts of them. And I want you to  look at yourself with the same great scope of love and acceptance.

Holiday Scarves

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Here’s my new reason for loving crochet: It makes excellent gifts! Here’s my suggestion for the holidays: Pick one design that you like, perfect it, and duplicate it in a bunch of colors so you can hand them out to everyone and the next year pick another item. This means you don’t lose track of who got mittens and who got scarves already, and you get the benefit of quick chain-style production and not having to switch gears between each gift. The real beauty of this manner of DIY gift giving is that it’s newbie-friendly. I JUST learned to crochet. I can only make a few things. This is the second type of scarf I made and I loved it, so I decided that’s what everyone would get. I don’t have to worry about learning how to make a ton of items right away. Next year I think I’ll work on those ear warmer head wraps. And maybe the year after that I’ll attempt mittens. Who knows? Maybe by year 4 or 5 I’ll learn how to send out Christmas cards instead of just buying them and addressing half and leaving them on my table until it’s too late to possibly send out. Maybe this blog just became fictional.

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These are the two scarves my daughters are giving to their teachers this year, and I must say I think it’s a good gift. They probably have more plaques and tree ornaments with rulers and apples than they can stand. I used the thick yarn and my blue plastic jumbo hook, which I love! If you want to take up crochet and have very little patience, I suggest starting with those two items. And a double crochet. It goes pretty quick that way.

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For the scarves, I chose the infinity style, obviously, because they are so popular and snuggly and cozy and everybody’s happier when their neck is warm. I used the double crochet and made them ribbed by only putting the crochets into the back part of each loop. (Can you tell I don’t really know all the terminology yet?) I will probably do a step by step picture tutorial at some point. If anyone is dying to see that soon, however, I would make that tutorial sooner if you told me to do it in what? Your handy dandy comment section, of course! (Can you also tell I’m really vying for your feedback?)IMG_1976

Here they are all wrapped up. And by wrapped up I mean jammed into a bag and topped with tissue paper because mama hates to wrap. Is it just me or does that cardinal look a bit nefarious?IMG_1974

The Moral of The Story?

Find something you want to learn how to do and dig in. Look at blog tutorials. Look at Youtube.  Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to learn everything at once. Work on making one killer item and be proud of it.  

Then, mass-produce it and stuff it down all of your friends’ and relatives’ metaphorical throats for the Holiday Season!

 

Comment Section:  Do you give DIY gifts? Which are you favorites? Which ones are well-received? Which ones bombed?

Taggie Tutorial

 

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How different it is to have babies today in a pinterest world than long, long ago when I had mine. Ok, so it wasn’t that long ago, but Pinterest wasn’t invented until 2011 so I missed the opportunity to find out what all those creatives moms were making for their babies. Now I see baby stuff on there occasionally because I look at a lot of sewing boards, but I was still pretty out of the loop on the whole “taggie” craze. Heck, I didn’t even know that a tiny baby blanket is called a lovie now! When my girls were babies, they loved blankets, but they didn’t make any small versions, so they mostly just cuddled up with the cutest burp cloths we had on hand. Don’t say it- I know, mother of the year!

So when a friend from church asked if I could make a taggie lovie and blanket for her son who has to make multiple trips to the children’s hospital, I gladly accepted. The poor little guy had lost his old one during one of those trips and needed a replacement. Luckily, I had seen them enough to know it was pretty simple construction, but I still looked at a couple tutorials to see what tips and tricks they offered.

Here are the best two tips I found:

1) Sew the ribbons on very securely by sewing each one two or three times. This is super important! You don’t want any of these ending up in baby’s mouth!

2) When sewing the layers together, sew with the minky side down. This helps avoid stretch.

Now, on with the tutorial:

Prerequisite: Wash your fabric! Don’t skip this step, most cottons will shrink. I used flannel on the front and minky dimple dot on the back. The flannel shrunk quite a bit.

1. Cut the fabric to the size of your choice. Lovies are often 12 X 12. I cut mine 11 X 15 so the finished size was 10 X 14. The blanket’s finished size was about 40 X 40.

2. Cut Ribbons 4-5 inches long. For the lovie I used 4 inch ribbons and for the bigger blanket I used 5 inch strips.

3. Fold the ribbons in pace and pin around the outside of the blanket. (I didn’t measure between tags, and I didn’t put the colors in any particular pattern. I thought that would look best with the different textures and sizes of the ribbons I had. However, you could always measure between them if you’re so inclined.)

           **Use two pins to pin each ribbon in place. This is so important, because it keeps the tags from pivoting as you sew. I tried to sew one side with one pin in each, and the tags came out so wonky it was ridiculous. Save yourself seam ripping time and pin twice.**

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Again, this is how not to do it. Most of my pictures are from my first time around when I only used one pin in each. I was probably too frustrated once I had to redo it that I forgot to take pictures. That’s so me. 🙂
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4. Stitch the tags onto the fabric. (Once again, using two pins per tag will make sewing a lot easier.) Each time you sew over a tag, backstitch all the way over it and sew back down it again. This creates 3 rows of stitching over each tag. It may seem time-consuming, but it’s worth it to ensure they don’t  become a choking hazard.
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See how securely fastened the ribbons are now?
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5. Attach the minky to the top layer. I saw some tutorials that don’t sew the tags onto the top layer first, but I think it’s really key that you do this so those tags are really on there tight! Pin all the way around the minky carefully. By carefully, I mean this stuff stretches like nobody’s business, so watch yourself! I pin on the outside corners first and then the middle and then fill in with pins from there. It’s kind of like pinning something you’re gathering. The two pieces of fabric are the same size, but because of the minky stretch, you may have to guide the fabric back to shape a little.Blanket 7

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5 1/2. Quick tip: Make an X with your pins in the spot you’ll be using to turn the fabric. This will keep you from sewing into it like I always seemed to do until I developed this ingenious method. (Can I call it ingenious if I developed it to counteract my sometimes overwhelming airheadiness? Yes, I believe so. It’s my blog.)Blanket 9

See, I remembered to stop sewing! It’s easy to get into it and just keep going, so the big X is like my “Danger, Danger!” sign. And if you don’t see the X coming up, the pins will just stab you, so either way it does the trick!Blanket 10

6. Clip the corners and turn the blankie right side out. Iron on the cotton side, being careful to avoid the ribbons, which could melt. Also, don’t use super high heat, which could affect the minky even through the other layer of fabric.Blanket 11

7. Topstitch. This closes up the hole you have from turning. I used the yellow thread that matched the minky and contrasted with the cute Superman fabric.Blanket 12

 

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To make a taggie in a bigger size, it’s the same process, just on a bigger scale. Even if you got away without using two pins for each tag on the small one, you’ll want to do so on the large on, because the fabric gets so bunched up and moved around when sewing.Blanket 16

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Well, that’s all folks! I hope this post inspires you to make your own taggie. It’s nothing to be intimidated by! If you can sew a straight line, you can make one. Most of the work is in the cutting and pinning. And picking minky fuzz off of your cutting table. And your carpet. And your couch. And your clothes. And your cat…Blankie folded triangle