Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What have I been doing all this time?

Wow, I can't believe how much time has passed! In the past several months, there've been two birthday parties

(including a first-time ever sleepover party),

lots of soccer games, art docent presentations, I've watched my oldest daughter flourish with the flute, my middle daughter successfully learn how to sightread music and perform, and seen my son's sense of humor grow immensely. I've also made lots of stuff - more reusable shopping bags,

poodle skirts for the kids' christmas show,

dresses for the girls for Christmas,

hosted friends from Colorado and others from Washington, took a watercolor class, lost and found my wedding ring diamond (yes, found!), learned how to knit

(definitely still learning) and had our first Christmas in our own house!

It's been quite a busy season, and I've enjoyed every minute and every project. Of course, I also went through a period of wondering if I should be more purposeful with my creativity. So far, most of my projects come about when a holiday, school event or celebration happens. So I ask myself, "Should I forge into unknown waters and generate a project on my own? Will I be able to stick with it to the end? Will my confidence falter and I'll give up on it completely? How do I come up with something I'll enjoy but that won't overwhelm me? Is that just part of the process? Why do I always think of projects in terms of its completion? Am I capable of doing something creative and not worry if it ever gets recognition?"

I'm sure you're assuming I'm leading up to New Year's Resolutions. Nope. I've never been one to do that. I try to look at goals in smaller chunks of time. However, as we begin this new year, we (meaning my family and I) have a new perspective and focus for an unknown timeframe. My mother-in-law just found out she has cancer. They're still trying to find out where the origination site is and simulataneously trying to deal with the mass that is currently in her liver and causing secondary problems. She lives in her house across our driveway and we're sure glad she's here and not on her own living somewhere else. Currently she's in the hospital and enduring a lot of tests. Actually, she's glad she's there and getting the care she was lacking over the last month. Gavin's been there after work everyday and they've had a lot of deep discussions and good bonding time. So far I've been able to take care of her dog and cat, clean her fridge, gather her mail, gather more toiletries, clothes, books and other homey items for her during her hospital stay, and done some research on the internet. I've also been able to make an eye cover so she can sleep despite the bright lights in the hall, and I've got a pattern for a chemo cap if we should come to that.

The complementary strengths of Gav and I are definitely in full swing: he's all about being in the moment, and just being; whereas I'm definitely a 'do-er' and I'm constantly thinking ahead for the next thing. The kids have done very well with all this news and although they really miss having Grandma around, they know she's getting help. Today we're going to work on a Welcome Home Poster as well as little notes we'll place around her house. She might come home tomorrow, but it's possible they'll want her to stay through the weekend. It's so touch-and-go right now and each test result leads to more changes.

A lot of blogs are coming up with a single word for the year like 'courage', 'change', 'leap' and 'expand'. All these are great words, filled with inspiration. It's weird for me to be living purely in one day at a time, not knowing what the next day will produce. It's a new perspective and quite an adjustment to this unsurety. Now, life definitely doesn't have to get completely put on hold during my mother-in-law's health issues. On the contrary, my kids especially need to have their routine and fun things to look forward to. Being mopey and worrying all day is not productive and not healthy for them to be involved in. That's helpful to keep me out of that mire too. There've been a few other times in our lives where circumstances have caused us to buckle down, take account of the things that matter to us in life, and get rid of or quit doing the things that are more frivolous. I'm sensing that we're entering into one of those seasons again. My goal will to not get so serious about the situation, and to embrace the laughter and fun things that happen in each day. Gavin and his mom share a dry wit together, and it's helped them to cope with all the stuff at the hospital. It's nice that they can be there together and share their sick jokes to keep the air light.

One short-term goal I have is to post more on my blog. Ugh, now I've set up an expectation for myself! That's ok, right?

On a sidenote, my parents gave me a new sewing machine and it's beautiful!

It's the Magnolia model by Janome. It'll be really great to use when I tackle finishing this quilt I started eight years ago!

Friday, September 5, 2008

snap, snap, snap

Get ready for lots of show-and-tell photos - yep, that's right, I found my camera! Since I'm terrible at remembering 'Before Shots' (I'm always just too excited to get started with a project), you'll just have to visualize this area with all beige walls and tools, bins and random paper bags strewn everywhere! Not to mention the shopvac, baseboard trim and uninstalled doors!

I thought this blue was so calming - it's very similar to the color in my craft room. The kids love doing their homework here and it keeps everything off our dining room table so I'm not just moving piles of papers from one countertop to the next. It's also easier for them to keep track of their homework papers. And now their backpacks aren't on the floor by the front door either! I decoupaged a board with an old Curious George book and Gavin added the hooks.

I still had the inspiration to decoupage, so I made this homework clipboard to keep their papers organized. We'll see if it holds up through the year.

And finally this bookcase I grabbed for $3 at a thrift shop, so I painted it orange and decoupaged pages from old books. The color inspired me on the opposite wall of this room which I turned into our reading corner.

So this is our new reading corner and we are always finding ourselves hanging out in here. It's not a great shot of the olive green chair I picked up off Craigslist, but it fits me and Worker Boy quite comfortably with a good book! It's been a lot of fun pulling each piece together to make such a comfy little nook. Can you tell I'm just a little proud??

This cabinet I found at the Goodwill - it was all wood with the ugliest starburst brass knobs! So I painted it, scuffed it and put on a glaze and new knobs and I'm so happy with it. It's a great piece with great storage.

I went nuts with this fabric combination. Now I just need to get in and sew up some coordinating pillows to bring all the colors together! I can hardly wait.

In the midst of creating new livable spaces, I organized our mudroom which was a complete disaster. Eventually we'll install cabinets (I love being able to close doors for a clean look), but for now this is soooo much better. Each kid has their own shelf with a basket for shoes and a bin for miscellaneous stuff like soccer gear, dance stuff, jumpropes, etc. Notice the paint chips on the wall? We'll see what happens next. I'm really enjoying adding color on our walls.

My desk needed some serious attention too - so I forced myself to go through most of the stuff and I got bins for the things that didn't really have a spot.

I've still got a long way to go this year, but I feel like this is a good start; "a great shot in the arm" as Gavin and I say. Hopefully the walls, furniture and organization distracted you from noticing our concrete floors (rough concrete, not the en vogue stained and polished kind) or lack of baseboards and window trim! I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into those projects.

More to come.....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

House Project Mania

So I've been on quite a kick with getting our house to feel less like a remodel and more like a home! It's been a 5 year (yes, I did say FIVE) project and I've vowed to myself (and my family) that this year while the kids are in school I will be deep cleaning, completely overhaul our organization (or lack thereof) and actually decorate our home!

The moment the kids went back to school I was scouring (literally!) all our local thrift shops, goodwill & some antique shops - although there is quite a difference in pricing between all these! I've also been garage saling and craigslisting (did I just make up a new word?). Tomorrow I'll be meeting a woman at a halfway mark for a cool olive green velvet chair for our new little reading nook.

I've been such a fanatic about this new vision for our home, that I have completely neglected everything else - like blogging, even finishing sewing projects! Those cool grocery bags are still half-finished in a heap on my table. I haven't even thought about touching my watercolors - although I have painted, glazed and decoupaged quite a bit of furniture & room decor! I now have a pale blue wall opposite a burnt orange wall. I've bought at least a dozen fat quarters of coordinating fabric so I can make throw pillows and other stuff to pull it all together.

Anyway, I will be a lot more sparse this year with my blog because I am trying to be truly dedicated to finally finishing our home. I still have to work out cabinets thoughout the house, tile floor in the mudroom, closet organizers, floor, door & window moulding, painting all the trim, carpet in our bedroom and most likely engineered hardwood in the living room. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to coordinate all this and am looking forward to feeling great accomplishment at each step of the way.

I don't have any photos right now of my progress because a) I haven't taken any yet and b) I think I may have left my camera in Oregon over the weekend. I will be searching through our bags with the hope that it's deep down in a pocket somewhere. I will definitely post photos intermittently during the year.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

end of summer recap

I can't believe it's been almost a month since my last post! We've been running around to the pool, library, sewing camp, VBS, birthday parties, school shopping, etc. I think it's been because of our busyness, our lack of a schedule and the heat (which hasn't been all that bad, I have to admit!) that has prevented me from being inspired to post. Blah, blah, blah!

Anyway, since I heard from Beth at SewMamaSew today, I went running around the house collecting all of our summer projects so I could have something up-to-date on the blog. The girls' doll quilts will be on the Create and Celebrate post tomorrow - they're pretty excited about it!

Here's the list of cool stuff we made (including their camp):
drawstring backpacks, zippered pencil cases, long rectangle pillows, bolster pillows, aprons, placemats, bandanna shorts, old-fashioned dishtowels, pajama pants (I love the trim!) and a shopping tote (1 of 7!). It's pretty fun to line everything up - makes a girl feel mighty successful! Oh, and the girls and I made an apron for my mom when she visited last week. They just changed the color scheme in their kitchen, so we wanted her to have something fun to wear when working in it!
Tomorrow we're spending the whole day packing for our annual camping trip - we'll be gone for 3 nights (the absolute most I can do without a shower!). We'll be taking our dog, Tenna, with us - we'll see how that goes....

Then next week the kids are back in school! Everyone in our household is pretty ready for it. I might start getting some time to paint again, too.

Oh yeah, here's another reason I've been busy

These girlies are so cute! Sunshine Girl named them all: Caramel & Peanut, Thunder & Lightning, and Tweetie & Sweetie. We've had them for about 10 days and they've already doubled in size. Gavin's working on the coup and I told the kids we'll get to paint it and 'cutesify' it. More photos to come. The kids are thrilled that we're on our way to becoming a 'farm!' The only future additions I see are a pair of goats - no cow, pig or horse for me! I think I've forgotten to mention our 3 kittens, they are napping in my craft room.
I keep remembering stuff, so it's making this post really long - go figure! We also finished off another part of the house: the woodstove hearth and mantle. We're very happy with the results.

Gavin created the mantle with an oak tree off our property. We left the cultured stone up to the professionals and they did a fantastic job. And then we could get the woodstove installed so we won't have such a huge output of propane heat! I'm inspired now to work on finishing other parts of the house while the kids are in school.

If you've made it this far down the post, I'm impressed! I promise not such a long one next time - and in a shorter time span. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

celebrating four years

We had such a fun day celebrating Worker Boy's 4th birthday.

After 'pirate training school,' the kids went out on a treasure hunt...

and found the treasure chest hanging up in a tree!

Then we celebrated afterwards with cake and ice cream!

At the end of the party, we (Gavin and I) sacked on the couch while the birthday boy ran around with one of his new presents: a superhero cape.

The custom cape came with a personalized story and a really cool mask.

He is one happy camper!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fun at sewing camp!

The girls have been having so much fun at sewing camp this week. First they made these great backpack bags that close with a drawstring ribbon. They're so great for swim towels, books, dolls, etc. We found the headband pattern in their book, so we made coordinating/reversible headbands to match!

I even joined in and made a couple of headbands for myself. If you know me personally, you can probably count on getting one in the near future! Just let me know what color scheme you want. They're so easy and quick - I made one in under 10 minutes!

The girls also made placemats and started on bookmarks out of felt. They ran out of time, so we'll finish them at home. They get to go back to the camp the week after next. So fun!

We've been really busy this week getting ready for Worker Boy's 4th birthday party. It's going to be a pirate party - and it's tomorrow! I stayed up way too late last night making a somewhat authentic looking treasure map with watercolor. I'll have photos after everything's all done. We're all pretty excited - the girls are not only helping with the party, but they've choreographed a skit for the kids! But for now, I'm pooped out!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Doll Quilts

I signed up the girls (Pumpkin Girl is 9 1/2, Sunshine Girl is 7 1/2) for a couple of 2-day sewing camps this summer. The first one is next week and I decided I better give them a primer on the sewing machine before they go! So we decided that making a doll pillow and quilt would be a great way to practice.

The girls had a great time picking out their fabrics (most are from my scrap pile), planning the layout of the quilt and cutting the squares. They were very patient with each row, wanting to be careful to line up the pieces and pin them together. They also really enjoyed ironing their seams along the way! I was amazed at how much they enjoyed the entire process and didn't peter out. The only parts where I helped were the first half of quilting everything together (I didn't want too much puckering), and sewing on the binding. We added the bows for a little bit of character. Oh, and the pillows were fun too - I think by the end of the summer, their dolls will have quite a few additional pillows!

It's so much fun to see my kids attempt, accomplish and enjoy a new craft. I especially enjoy the fact that it's an area that I find so satisfying myself. I hope in the next year or so I can get Worker (almost 4) started on some sewing. You may chuckle at that because he's 'all boy', but he helps out quite a bit in the kitchen and of course, always wants to do what his sisters are doing!

I will be sure to post the girls' projects from their camps.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

first jam of the season

I was at a friend's ranch for a few days and we took full advantage of the trees laden with ripe peaches. Picking and eating a ripe peach right from the tree is heavenly! We ended up with several bags full - some not quite ripe because of our little helpers who didn't know the difference - and decided to make jam. It was quite the jam-making production in the kitchen that night with one diehard soul putting all the kids to bed - especially mine who had a harder time settling in (thanks, Chris!). The next morning we all enjoyed sampling the excess supply on our toast - yum!

I still had some jars leftover, so I got a half-flat of strawberries at the local Farmer's Market near our house. Last night in the midst of needing to start dinner and getting one dancer ready in her makeup and costume for the dress rehearsal, I decided to make the strawberry jam - crazy, I know! I guess I figured I was already in the kitchen and had a lot of momentum going. Despite the process taking longer than I thought, I managed to get spaghetti and meatballs, salad and garlic bread on the table and Sunshine Girl off to her rehearsal without any major mishaps.

This week the girls and I will start their quilts for their American Girl Dolls, Nellie and Samantha.

I think we're going to just make a simple block quilt and put it together with ties. The girls have handquilted before, so I think this time I'll give them sewing machine lessons with this project. They've got a couple of sewing camps they're going to in July, so I'd like them to have a familiarity with the machine.

We put up Worker Boy's curtains last week and they're really great because they block out a lot more light than the shades. I was so relieved that they covered the window because I measured, but I was really loose about it. The girls' curtains are still awaiting installation of the rods, but Gavin's working really hard right now on making a wood mantel for the cultured stone rock we're having done behind our woodstove. I think they're supposed to start next week!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

pillow surgery

Worker Boy's pillow is incredibly special as I know many of your children have special loveys too. It's only 2 years old and has already gone through a lot of repair! It has finally reached the point that major work had to be done. I actually felt like I was conducting major surgery - and I had to make sure Worker Boy wasn't around because I think seeing his pillow that way would have caused him horrible trauma. So here are the photos of the entire process...
I had to cut open the pillow to take out the stuffing and add a liner.

This is what stuffing looks like after hundreds of washings!

I quilted the liner to the pillow fabric so that any future tears would be contained to a small area (Gavin's idea - thanks, Hon!)

This pillow definitely wouldn't win any aesthetic awards, but at least it has been reinforced and will hopefully last a long time now!

Despite some initial apprehension (my mom couldn't believe he'd even notice), Worker Boy has reunited with his best friend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

more Yosemite

Yosemite is so breathtaking! It was amazing to just look around and see these immense mountains of granite that have taken on beautiful shapes after thousands of years of snowmelt, waterfalls and rain.

I'd like to say that we hiked up to every waterfall and peak, but surely I can't say that! We stayed on the main paths and took the tram around the village most of the time. One day we rafted down the Merced River which runs right through the valley. In this photo we had stopped at a little beach to skip rocks and have a snack.

Next time when the kids are older, maybe we'll do more hiking.