Tuesday, April 29, 2014

“Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul — and you answer.” ~Terri Guillemets

Today I just had to stop for a moment from my work at hand and write. It's a day where I ponder other career tracks because the rainy weather, my Civil Wars playlist on Pandora, and my lack of creative time lately are conspiring against me. I'm having daydreams of sitting at my computer and writing or maybe editing photos or creating a collage of some sort. Something else than what I am doing right now. I need more creativity in my life is what my soul is telling me!

Instead, I shall settle on sharing with you the wonder that is my daughter. I can't believe how much she has grown in just a year. Her 2nd birthday approaches soon and I just can't believe it.

Look at this tiny tot. She just steals my heart.
I hope you have some creativity in your day on this dreary Tuesday. Perhaps later I will share the great progress we've made on the tiny tot's play area in our yard. It's come a long way!

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Blankets wrap you in warmth, quilts wrap you in love." ~ Anon.

I, creator of the let's-think-of-the-most-complicated-new-project-that-I-know-nothing-about-but-I'm-going-to-start-and-finish-in-less-than-a-month plans, have finally created a project that was actually simplistic, something I know a teensy bit about, and finished it in about a month! My dear friends are expecting their first baby in March and I really wanted to make them a quilt. However, unlike my first quilt that took me over a year to complete and give to friends, I wanted to design one that was simple but cute and give it to them BEFORE they have their baby. Mission accomplished!

Originally, I wanted to make two baby quilts: one representing the father's home state/university (Ohio State U) and one representing the mom's Irish heritage. I decided this about two weeks before the shower (that was an old Miranda plan). But when I went to look for fabric, surprise surprise but in Pittsburgh it was hard to find OSU material. But while browsing the fabrics in Joann's, I stumbled upon the sailor bear print, which is just adorable.

Image from Joann.com
I belatedly remembered that their nursery would have a nautical theme and thought, "New plan!" How about I only make one quilt? And instead of a MILLION tiny squares, I choose a design with bigger blocks. I roamed the store to pick fabrics that went with the theme and I found the octopus one next. I wanted to pop out the bits of red on the sailor bear print and I finally found the red fabric that looks like tiny bubbles. I was happy with just these three prints and I pored over a number of my quilting pattern books to find a design that was small enough for a baby quilt but balanced equally with only three prints. And ta da! Here is the final product.

I will also admit that with my first quilt, I didn't necessarily follow ALL the instructions for how to make one, start to finish. And frankly, I think those details matter. If you look at the pics of my first one, you can tell it's a little puckered (on the back mostly) and luckily, the larger design and tiny square variations hide much of the other imperfections (at least I'd like to think so). I'm sure my friend's toddler doesn't care!

But for this second one, I wanted to learn correctly and do it right. In about two weeks. That's a rough timeline for me! I ended up taking a month, but I have to admit that all those details (like ironing your fabrics, changing your needle...) helped make the project turn out well AND made it easier to sew along the way. It certainly created less problems towards the end of the quilt's completion. I'm so pleased with how it turned out and I hope the little one loves it!

I have a bit of the quilting bug now and I'm torn between wanting to create one for me and hubby's king-size bed (we desperately need a new cover) or making my daughter an adorable little quilt. So addicting!

stitch by stitch

Monday, January 13, 2014

"In the mountains there are only two grades: you can either do it or you can't." ~Rusty Baille

Happy New Year, compadres! I hope your January is starting off lovely, albeit cold for most of you I expect. It was quite frigid here as well last week and I'm hoping that doesn't repeat any time soon! It was rough getting back into the work routine after almost three weeks off. Besides the holidays, it was nice spending more time with the toddler and hubby, as well as getting some projects completed around the house (perhaps you'll hear more about those later).

I'm feeling excited for many things in 2014 - one of which is more time outdoors hiking and camping! I had hoped to take Rory on her first camping trip this past year, but alas we had so many other travel plans that we couldn't work it in. I only managed one afternoon of hiking and it was NOT all that enjoyable. At 11 months, Rory was still small enough to be in a carrier, not walking yet, etc. The only one I had that would work, however, was our Baby Bjorn. I love that carrier but she was just starting to get a little big (mostly because I'm so short that her legs constantly hit my knees and legs and makes walking difficult). The strain on my back was too much and going uphill was impossible with her legs hitting mine. I had to lift the carrier up and hold her in order to go uphill.

It's hard to tell here but I'm lifting her up a little since it's a slight uphill grade.

So I was determined that for this year, we would save up and buy a backpack carrier meant for hiking. I read the many reviews out there, the list of top carriers, etc. But what I really wanted to do was try one on. Considering my height and my husband's height (there's about a foot difference between us), I wanted to make sure it was easily adjustable for both of us. Last December, I finally got my chance when we were waiting for a table at the Cheesecake Factory and popped into REI for some window shopping. They happened to have two carriers in stock (Deuter Kid Comfort I and II) and I finally got my chance! This also easily narrowed our options down.

Note: There is no child in it right now. But it's so comfortable!
The Kid Comfort II felt more comfortable and had better back support than the I, so that was hands down my choice. But I didn't want to pay $240. Ouch. So we opted to check around, look online, and if the opportunity arose to get a cheaper one, we would. Or we would wait a while before buying.

Dec. 26: The After Christmas Sales come to the rescue! A few days after trying the carrier on, I was searching online for cheaper ones. I came across the site Campsaver.com which supposedly had a few in stock for about $180 plus shipping. Unfortunately, they seemed to be out-of-stock at the time, so no luck. But I signed up for their email news and coupons because why not? I already get a bunch of junk mail, so what's another to the list?

The morning after Christmas, they sent me an email with a 20% coupon off any items (both from their regular site and the outlet store) PLUS free shipping. For the heck of it, I checked their inventory and they had ONE left in the outlet store online. Woke hubby from his nap to double-check and BAM! Scored this carrier for only $140 total. I'm totally happy with that deal. And now I'm dying for warmer weather so I can take her out in it. We did a few dry runs in the house to get it adjusted and see if she liked it. All she wants to do now is ride in it and of course go outside. The toddler is ready for the outdoors and so am I!

And speaking of deals, I've had some major luck lately. Last month I scored this Dora organizer brand new, in box, at Babies R Us, for only $6 and change (instead of the listed $45).
And then just today at Sam's Club, I noticed they had a few of these plastic shopping carts (again, new, in box), for only $7.51 instead of $35. Seriously. We bought it and will be holding onto it for her 2nd birthday. Now if my luck can just keep working out since it's time to look into summer vacation plans!

Monday, December 2, 2013

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence..."

 "...but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”   ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Hello again! We managed to survive Thanksgivvukah and only a little under the weather as a result. It was enjoyable though hectic and I think a little too much craziness, even for me! Weird, I know. I'm thankful that mashup won't happen again in my lifetime.

I want to share a little project with you that popped up out of the blue and has started me on the stepping stones to the larger path of my desire to learn woodworking. I finally made something out of wood! Not that I haven't messed with it a tiny bit, especially in the construction of our attic. But hubby did most of the physical construction there. Along with my other creative crafting pursuits, I've wanted to learn woodworking because the ability to build your own things is so alluring. My own tables, shelves, etc. And the intricate details! So much hard work and love goes into that.

As of yet, however, I have not the means nor the time commitment to enroll in any sort of beginner classes. Instead, I usually follow blogs like Ana White and Sawdust Girl and dream of what I could build on my own someday. But my first project is completed!

I ordered two new pegboards online for my lab at work, expecting them to arrive like the two I already have wall-mounted from years ago. Just ready for me to screw into the wall! I had some extra paint from home that I was going to use to jazz them up and add color to the drab white lab. Imagine my surprise when all I got were two pegboards. No wooden frame attached to hang them on the wall, no accompanying screws. Crap. This just turned into a bigger project.

I googled instructions on how to make a pegboard and luckily found this very simple blog post. It seemed doable to me just for the frame construction. I didn't need to turn them into flippable pieces or add handles like she did. Just the bare bones.

So I ordered the pieces online from Home Depot, after adding up measurements and figuring out how many individual pieces I would need. Pick-up was super easy, though they were a little thicker than I was imagining. (Cue just a tiny bit of alarm that I wouldn't be able to use the hand saw at work. I really didn't want to try and find the power saw in our messy basement) Once back at the lab, I marked my measurements on one piece and began the search for the hand saw. Hm. No luck finding this tool that I recall my coworker using to saw a giant tube in half. All I can find is a tiny pocketknife-type saw. It has a nice blade, but really? Is this going to work for 1x2s?

Texted coworker. Yep, that's what she used. Darn it. And I REALLY didn't want to wait until the next day or to take it home and cut it. Now I just want to build it! I had already painted the pegboard sheets a few days before and the green color was going to look great. The attachments had all arrived. I was itching to organize!

I gave it a go with the little pocketknife saw and surprisingly, it wasn't too bad. My arm was sore after cutting pieces for two frames but it was soft wood (pine) which was perfect for this little blade. And here's where I run into small issue number one. In my haste to get the frames built, I didn't double-check my measurements. And I began cutting while talking to a coworker, otherwise I probably would've noticed my error. But it wasn't until one entire piece of wood was cut that I realized I had followed the wrong measurements. And I now had two tiny pieces where I needed one longer piece. Shoot.

But no worries! I corrected the other marks and decided to cut the other pieces. I could always buy more wood, but I wanted to see the end results of the one frame first. In the end, I ended up joining the two tiny pieces with an extra screw while clamped together. Not the best, I'm sure. But they are flush and even and meet the corners squarely. So hurray! Error fixed.

Luckily, I have clamps at work, large worktables, and metal squares that will help me keep this frame nice and squared up while held in place. My drill and screws I brought from home - I am getting quite comfortable with this drill since it's helping me with lots of projects! I followed the blog post's directions on assembly and put together one corner at a time because of the table layout.

Right away, I ran into problem number two. My screws were two inch long screws. Just long enough to breech the second piece of wood and connect, but not so long as to be ridiculous screwing in. However, with the softness of the wood, my first corner began to crack and split as the screw went in. It didn't help that a giant knot of wood was located at the corner and part of it fell out, making it a little thinner at the edge. Lucky me, it seemed to hold strongly and didn't split completely. But after this one, I was nervous and screwed each one in as slowly as I possibly could and tried not to counter-sink the screws too much.

You can see the frames along the side of the pegboard.
Minor mess-ups avoided, I had a student help me assemble the pegboards to the frames with small finishing nails and later that week, we mounted them on the wall. They really add a nice pop of color to the space! So much so that I had to go back and paint the other two I already had on the wall.

My first real woodworking project without any help from my hubby. Now I just hope it doesn't fall off the wall anytime soon...I DID use a stud finder at least. :)

DIY Show Off
http://diyshowoff.com/category/other/that-diy-party/" title="DIY Show Off">http://i899.photobucket.com/albums/ac195/Roeshel/f15dcd81-7780-4021-949f-51682cd76964_zps2db7cec4.jpg
I'm joining That DIY Party today!

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution..."

"...long after the mood in which it was made has left you."  ~ Cavett Robert

Alright folks, it's time to get my shit together. It's been a fantastic year in many ways, but I've also been feeling...low? disappointed? Not quite depressed but just meh regarding some of the things I used to have time for. And though I enjoy my job, it's not an easy place for upward mobility and new challenges. So I'm in a funk, to be frank.

Having turned 30 this past September (which wasn't a terrible birthday) and following it with an awful month of losing two pets abruptly, I'm ready for some good cheer and new goals.  I am NOT going to call them resolutions because I don't like the New Year's resolution ideas- they are so temporary. These are permanent goals I will always have.

1. Get back to the gym and get in shape again. I haven't belonged to one since the birth of my daughter (and THAT'S been 18 months...) and I really need both the physical workout and the highs from it. I can do yoga at home sometimes but I need a place away from home to stay committed.

2. Get back into blogging again. I never set deadlines or goals for myself, just some projects here and there. But I miss writing and showing some of my crafts. I don't have quite as much time for it and the focus has often shifted to child crafts, but I still enjoy this avenue of sharing.

3. I didn't really have a set goal to do for my 30th birthday or even a written bucket list. I would like to start accumulating little ideas for a bucket list. When I think of them, I'll jot them down (or hopefully write them all here!).

I think that's it for now. I just want to get a little of ME back, you know? Stay tuned for a post on my bucket list and two I've recently accomplished without realizing it!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Never iron a four-leaf clover because you don't want to press your luck." ~Anon.

"Mummy, I want to go outside today!" She's itching for warm weather!
Last month, Rory and I had a Mommy and Me day. We visited an indoor play gym (her first introduction to a ball pit, which she loved so much we had to create one at home), had lunch, did a few errands, and then made a BIG mess with finger paint.
Rory enjoying the finger/body paint
I had chosen a word that I wanted to show up after the paint was on, using masking tape to write them out. We picked our (washable) finger paint color, squirted it on, and let her go to town! After letting it dry, I carefully peeled the letters off. And took Rory into the shower to get cleaned up.

We decided to embellish it a little, instead of leaving it blank. And what better theme than St. Patrick's Day? I gathered an odd assortment of supplies from my craft closet to pick and choose what we would decorate with.

And with a little marker here, some fabric and glue there, voila! We have ourselves the perfect St. Patrick's Day decoration or year-round decor (since it could totally fit in with our stuff). I need to attach a proper hanging bar on the back, so for now it's crooked. But I kind of like it that way. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's hard to tell, but the two gold shamrocks are actually all glitter. Click the pic to see the details better.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Roses are red, Violets are purple, Isn't it a shame, Nothing rhymes with purple?

I haven't been able to craft and sew as much as I'd like lately (with work, baby, and classes). But when Rory's daycare sent home a note about a Valentine's Day exchange if parents wanted to participate, my first thought was A New Project!

I like practical things, even if they are sentimental. I also love holidays and traditions, just for the sake of celebrating the holiday. We have to make life interesting, right? Valentine's Day is one that I know I will enjoy more and more each year with my kid and hubby to celebrate it with. And who am I kidding, I love hearts. So I didn't want to just buy a pack of Valentine's cards, write the babies' names on them, and that be it. I know they'll get tossed or just take up space somewhere. Then I thought about making personalized Valentine's cards. Hm, a step in the right direction but not quite it. What would babies love? And what can I make that I'm good at?

Aha! A personalized Valentine's book. And even better, it can have a hard cover, but have the inside be like a soft cloth book. There will be a little poem, different textures to touch, and commemorate baby's first Valentine's Day (or second for some). Of course, this took up a good bit of my time. But when I have an idea in my head, it's just not going away until I do it!

Ta-da! Here is one of the book's I made for Rory's classmates. Her book has a different poem in it but it's the same construction. It helped that there are only 4 other babies in her classroom. There were many details I wanted to add (I wanted to have felt letters throughout instead of using non-toxic markers); but I was running out of time and had to reassess as I kept going. I wanted them done for the party and I wanted a book for each kid. So some details had to be sacrificed. There is a layer of batting inside each cloth page, just for added thickness. I then sewed each page to ribbons that are attached to the covers. That way it's all secure! I hope the kids enjoyed them (I know the daycare workers did) and if they stay in Rory's group, they can expect more crafts to head their way...for good or bad! Check out the pictures below and hopefully soon I'll be posting my and Rory's St. Patrick's Day craft. We recently had a mommy and me day (daycare closed for professional development day) and we took advantage for some fun. Hopefully I won't post it as late as summer!