Monday, January 31, 2011


Well, the weather is turning cold again, hopefully I'll take the opportunity to finish up a bunch of projects around here, although I've been having a little trouble with the motivation coming and going.  Today I finally managed to commit to my monkey appliques, so the little project I hinted at here, is finally coming along!  Here's the new blankie I'm making for Serenity's new pink and purple room...  (she asked for monkeys =) 

There is still quite a bit to do, stitching down the monkeys for security, a border, backing, and so on, but the monkeys were the part that I was hesitating the most about.  I wanted them to be cute, and I always have to take my time on applique.  (Even though I barely do applique, I always use fleece or felt so I don't have to turn anything under. Much simpler)  I used one of her favorite shirts from Carter's as the inspiration.

Friday, January 28, 2011


We had a lovely day outdoors today in the crazy t-shirt weather we've been having this week, and I finally got a chance to try this bubble activity I saw on Family Fun.  It was so simple and fun!  You just collect several straws, I used seven, and tape them together to make a crazy tiny bubble blower.  It worked amazingly well, and the best part was, even my two year old could do it!  Normal bubble blowers she just doesn't have the control to blow evenly and get actual bubbles, or she puts her mouth on it and gets a mouthful of bubble solution.  It made tons of tiny bubbles or crazy clumps of bubbles.  Fun, quick, and cheap! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cord Control, Finally!

Cord Control, Finally!

Well, inspired by my friend Abbey’s decision to clean out all her junk one closet at a time, I decided to deal with our television area.  We bought this flat screen tv and a wall mount for it more than a year ago, and I’d been staring at ugly, black, dangling cords ever since.  Plus, I was using a blanket box to hold our dvds, with the vcr on top of that, which meant it was a pain to actually look through our dvds.  This led to huge piles of movies that never got put away.  Here is my former nemesis:

Isn’t that awful?  I just can’t deal with clutter like that.  So I organized.  I sorted all the individual dvds in to black leather cases and threw away piles of the plastic cases.  Then I moved most of them into a bookshelf where it would be easier to look through them.  (I decided to put actual blankets in the blanket box, what a novelty!)  And I finally bought a shelf for the vcr, which has the added benefit that my daughter can’t get to it anymore.  We have a few scratched dvds from her experiments.  And finally, the cord covers!  I ordered this set from Amazon, and painted it to match the walls!  I love the look!  It’s so clean and finished!  I even painted the cords that led from the vcr to the tv so they blend too!  And hey, while I had the paint out, I touched up all the little mistakes from our shelf painting project, and the five or six excess holes caused by a defective studfinder during our tv mounting project.  So a successful day!!!  

Monday, January 24, 2011

How We Travel

How we travel…

The quick answer is, as light as possible.  Serenity always hated a stroller, and I hate lugging around a bunch of stuff, so I try to keep things simple.  Here are the must-haves:

For a two year old (where I am now)
1.) Dress her in pajamas (I wish she’d still wear footie ones, but we just do socks and shoes now.)
2.) Dress myself in something with pockets (must be able to quickly access pacifiers.  Although we are getting rid of them tomorrow so I won’t have this crutch much longer!!!)

In a backpack:
1.) Diapers, wipes, powder (or lotion, whatever you need.)
2.) A change of clothes if something icky happens.
3.) A sippy cup with juice (you can carry on liquids for infants and toddlers now I discovered on our last trip.  Plus the flight attendants will refill for you.)
4.) Simple snacks.  I take her favorite, pretzels, plus craisins for an option.  And then I have fruit snacks for emergency distractions. 
5.) Some sort of entertainment.  We have an ipad, which is the coolest thing ever for traveling with a toddler.  She is glued to the thing whenever we give her the chance.  (I don’t reveal it until it’s allowed in flight, or for long layovers.) 
6.) Non-electronic entertainment.  I bring several paperback books (because they’re light), and this trip our biggest success was a set of stickers.  I brought some simple colored circle labels, the kind you use for garage sales, and printed a few of the sticker sheets from this page on Simply Montessori.  She is in love with do a dot pages and this was nearly as good.  It entertained her for a whole hour in Denver, and for take-off!  We’ve also had some fun with word flashcards, and other flat things.  
7.)  Because I’m hopeful like that, I bring her small teddy bear that she sleeps with, and a blankie.  Sometimes she sleeps.  Usually as we’re landing at our destination.  But sometimes she just wants to snuggle so the bear comes in handy. 

And that’s it.  I carry my two-year old, a single backpack, and her car seat, which is more than enough.  If I ever get rich I’ll buy one of those wheeled cart things for her carseat and we’ll breeze through the airports. 

We’ve mostly been very lucky at airports.  People are usually helpful, and when she was an infant, the airport people would put us in our own row sometimes.  And the last trip that I flew alone, five different people offered to help me carry her car seat.  It made me so happy =)

For an infant:
We carried a few different things when she was tiny.  I carried infant Tylenol, which I gave her a dose of half an hour before flights the first few times in case she had ear troubles.  She never has though, so we’ve stopped that.  I carried more diapers and wipes and more like two or three spare outfits, because having to shop for a onesie in the airport because of a blowout sounded like no fun to me.  I carried a nursing shawl for feeding and a fleece blanket that was thick enough to support my arm and pad the airplane wall so I didn’t bump her head.  And then the front carrier, which I dearly miss.  But no toys, so it evened out pretty well. =) 
We have our favorite places in several airports... In Detroit, they have this awesome rainbow tunnel that's hard to leave behind, and an excellent fountain where Serenity completely soaked herself. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Infant-Sized Superhero Cape

Well, I posted just last Friday about the capes I made for my daughter's birthday, but I made another one last week that I have to share!  I attended a shower for my good friends Marilyn and Andrew.  I made capes for their baby's cousins when I did the huge batch last summer, and they mentioned that their baby will need one so he can be one of the Musketeers too.  Well, I decided he probably needed his cape right away, so here it is, the superhero onesie!

I altered my original pattern by removing the neck part, because I thought it would choke the baby.  Instead, I sewed snaps to the top, and snaps onto a light blue onesie.  That way they can remove the cape when they want to stop flying the baby around  without removing his whole outfit.  
And if you're curious about the superhero emblem... yes that is bacon.  They are calling him Baco-Bits until they decide on his name, and it's so cute everyone is using it now.  So I thought it would be a good Superhero design for him!  I just took dark red felt and beige felt, cut into wavy shapes.  Then I topstitched the beige down to be the marbling in the bacon.  You might not be able to tell, but the bacon is actually a little bit dimensional.  I just tacked it onto the blue plate in two or three spots so I could make it wave like actual bacon does.  

This cape is reversible too, to a plain dark blue. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Our reading list

Serenity is two and a half :). In case you are wondering what age range our book selection is.

Books we read

Mouse Paint
She loved this book!  she loves colors, and it was good practice for color mixing, which we usually do with tub paints.  And when the cat can't find the mice on the white paper, she is always happy to help the cat find them. ;)

Go Train Go

Crack in the Track
These are both Thomas books, and we must have read them fifty times easily.  She has a bizarre love of Thomas, even though she has never seen the show.  She has picked the books frequently.  We have a generic train, but I may have to break down and get her a Thomas.  These books were good, a little long for two, but she obviously loved them. Nice rhythm.

1 Zany Zoo
Hilarious, and colorful.  Counting.

Llama Llama Misses Mama
We have checked out this series several times, and this is our favorite.  Especially useful now as we are considering school two days a week this fall.  Although I bet that will be more, Mama Mama Misses Llama than the reverse. :)

Biscuit Finds a Friend
We check out a BIscuit book nearly every week, usually the I Can Read versions.  She loves the "Woof Woofs!" It is fun to see her try to figure out the words on her own!

Well, those are a few of our recent favorites!  If you have any recommendations to add I would love to hear them!

Monday, January 17, 2011

DIY Flower Box Cornice

DIY Flower Box Window Cornice

This was a fun and simple project!  With the upside-down garden, I knew I wanted to have lots of flowers, and using a window box for a window cornice seemed perfect.  I made a simple box, using the cute trim molding on three sides so the back side would be flat.  There are little one by one scraps of wood at the corners to give me something to nail into, and one board in the middle to help keep it sturdy.  Then the back piece has a small rectangle cut out of it so that I can hang the box easily on a one by two that is screwed to the wall!

After filling the nail holes with wood filler and painting, I did the arrangement.  I stuffed the box with styrofoam.  It was very tight so I didn't worry about gluing in case I wanted to reuse it later elsewhere.  I purchased lots of silk flowers after they went on sale, you can almost always find some seasonal flowers at a good price, plus the ones from the dollar store work fine for something like this.  I was especially glad for the big sunflowers as filler, but I think the prettiest are the little sprays of blue and red flowers that draped down so nicely.  Then I just hung it up!  It’s great for color and detail, and would be nice as part of a little play garden for someone whose nursery is right side up =)  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Superhero Capes!

For Serenity's last birthday, her Princess Presto Tea Party, I made superhero capes for all the kids!  It was a lot easier than I thought it might be, and I wanted to share a few tips and the design I settled on for them. 

 Here are the general dimensions:
The bottom is 21 inches wide (22 cut), with a gentle curve at the bottom because I wanted it to look wavy.
The length from the bottom of the cape to the neckline is 23 inches (24 cut)  At this point, the cape is 12 inches wide.  So it's a triangle with a rounded bottom. 
Then the neck, which I just eyeballed, is about six inches if you measure from the top of the cape where the velcro is to the neckline.

The general shape is the most important, I sized it so that I could get as many capes as possible from my 60 inch wide fabric. 

The capes are reversible, and I used reds, dark purples, medium purples, lavender and hot pink.  I just sewed two pieces together, trimmed the corners and clipped the curves,  turned it right side out, ironed it and ladder stitched them shut.  For my daughter's, which I fancied up a bit, I top stitched it.  This definitely makes a big difference, but I didn't have the time and energy to do it for all 14 that I made for the party!  Then I just sewed velcro, one to the top right neck piece, on to the bottom left. 

The star and letter applique was very simple.  I just printed the biggest star I could make in photoshop, and the letter S in the Dolphin font, which is one of my favorites.  I used iron on steam-a-seam, and top stitched it for security.  **** I did this before I sewed the two pieces of the cape together!  The capes also look good with big circles or Superman shaped diamonds. 

Part of the party fun was getting to decorate the capes!  I had a ton of sticky-back foam, foam letters, and other stickers for this purpose.  The kids loved them!  And they could add masks, wands and other various accessories to finish their superhero costumes.   I also set up two canvas backdrops with appropriate super hero designs for photos!

Here are some other pages for superhero capes.  I love the applique designs at Puking Pastilles, she even has a SuperWhy design!  And her diagram was helpful for the start of my pattern, although I did a different shape.  I like my pointed corners, I couldn't explain why. =)

And Martha has some more ideas for superhero designs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

DIY Wall Bookshelf

Here are the shelf plans I promised in the post on Serenity's Nursery!
All right, here are the measurements on the shelf!

The overall size is 48 inches wide by 39 inches high. 

The top and bottom boards are one by fours, which means they are actually more like three-quarters of an inch by 3 and one half.  My dad says it’s always very important to measure the boards to see what size they actually are, not what they say they are on the label.  These one by fours hang over the side a bit, because I liked the way that looked!  So they are 48 inches wide.  Then my dad cut a dado out of the back, which is a little notch a quarter of an inch square, so that the back nests inside these boards.  We would have done this for the sides as well, except I picked a fancy trim board with a wavy edge and a vine pattern that I didn’t want to cut into. 
Here you can see the Dado and the vine design on the trim board I chose, which I got at Lowes.

The back board is cut to 44 ½ wide by 37 ½ tall.  My fancy boards that I used for the sides are ½ and inch deep, which makes 45 ½ the size of the main part of the shelf, and gave me about 1 ¼ inch overhang on either side from the top boards. 

The interior shelves are placed so that the distance between the shelves is 11 and ¼ inch for the top two, and 13 ¼ inch for the bottom one.  I find the 13 ¼ inch shelf the most useful, because those really big books just fit better faced out than in my other bookshelf.  If I built another, I might make it larger and have two shelves at the 13 ¼ size and only one at the 11 ¼ size.  Definitely no smaller, otherwise it’s a pain to get the books in and out! 

The interior shelves are 1 by 4s, cut to 2 ½ inches deep so that they are just slightly narrower than my two trim boards that make the sides.  2 and ½ deep by 44 ½ wide. 

Then we made little side pieces to hold the dowel rods in place.  I used ½ inch dowel rods  These pieces are one by fours cut to 4 ½ inches tall for the smaller shelves, and 6 inches tall for the larger shelf.  They are 2 ½ inches deep, and I routed the top outside corner a bit.  We cut two holes near the outside edge, about two inches apart and near the top of the little boards as pictured. 

I gave the dowel rods a coat of paint, skipping the part that would go inside the little wood pieces.  We used wood glue to secure them in to the side pieces, and then I finished painting them so that all we’d have to do after the shelf was together would be touch up.

We also gave the back a coat of paint, skipping where the shelf would go so the wood glue we used would stick well.  It was a lot easier to just have to do touch up after the shelf was assembled, with the dowel rods in the way! 

We used finish nails in a nail gun to assemble the pieces, and of course wood glue.  After we filled the tiny holes with wood filler and painted, and now I can’t even see any nail holes at all!

To hang the shelf, we used screws right into the wall studs.  I used brass so they didn’t show up much at all against the yellow paint, and I never notice them once the books are in place.  We wanted to be sure it was very sturdy, since the weight of the books and wood is significant!!!  This part is definitely at least a two person job!  

I hope this helps, and I would love to see pictures if anyone uses this tutorial!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Digital Scrapbooking

I am officially a digital scrapbooker now.  My paper scrapbooks were taking up so much space, especially since I have a tendency to scrapbook nearly every picture I take, and believe me, I take a LOT of pictures.  So my current plan is to use digital scrapbooking as sort of a complete journal.  I use it to record all my stories, web updates, and pictures from the year.  This way I feel like nothing gets forgotten.  Even though no one but me will probably ever read the extremely loooong journaling, I love knowing the memories are there!  I still do paper scrapbooking, but I am saving it for more artistic, special pages, and trying to keep it to maybe one scrapbook per five years.  I was doing about a scrapbook a  year, sometimes two!  Anyway, this is leading up to my sharing a little bit of my first new year goal, to catch my scrapbook up to date!  I've done January of last year up to my daughter's birthday in July, so about halfway there! =)  Fortunately all the journaling was already written, which was always the most challenging part.

I've made dozens of photoshop templates using sketches from Becky Higgins and other scrapbook idea books, which makes this SOO easy!

Here are a few favorites...


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Serenity's Storybook Nursery

I'm feeling a need to post more about Serenity's nursery, because it's about to change drastically with the arrival of a new sibling in May!  So here are the details of her nursery that I created just for her.  I already posted about her storybook art that I made here.  Here are the rest of the ways I decorated her original nursery.

Here's a pic of me with the storybook art at about 6 or 7 months... yeah, pretty sure I already look this pregnant this time at more like 4 months...
My dad and I built this bookshelf, inspired by a Pottery Barn shelf.  We decided to make our own for two reasons, first of all I needed color anywhere I could get it in this room, and I couldn't justify paying 100 dollars for Pottery Barns shelf when I would have to paint it immediately.  And then we just like building things together. =) Plus, we made ours bigger! I used it to hold lots of storybooks, especially those I thought we wouldn't read until she was older, and those that were too big to fit on her regular bookshelf.  I will try to post plans for that shelf if anyone is interested in how we made it!  Just a quick note, I find the biggest shelf by far the most useful, having room to face out all the odd size books really help!  Also note that my sister got me lots of great vintage Raggedy Ann books that were just adorable for this.

The big blue rocking chair was my major baby purchase, and worth every penny as I slept there way more often than I should have.  It also added some nice color, and I made an Irish Chain quilt with my mother to give it even more!  My Mom appliqued all the butterflies, and I used a rainbow of colors.  Ok, rainbow minus orange.  I have my quirks.
I debated the pattern for this quilt FOREVER but decided on the chain because it made me think of rainbows =)

We had this brown bookcase that was a nice color to go with the crib that we inherited from my sister.  I added the colorful baskets that worked great for storing all her clothes.  Yeah, no hanging tiny baby clothes, I'm way too lazy for that.  Stuff them in the baskets, occasionally consider folding... and that does it.

The bumper is a pottery barn alphabet one that I begged my sister-in-law Kelly to send me when my nephew was done with it, as the letters and colors were just perfect for my plan.  =) 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Valentine's Heart Path

For Valentines last year, when my daughter was just 19 months, we set up a simple, fun surprise for her to wake up to.  I cut out hearts and wrote the names of people that love her on them, like Mama, Daddy, Papa, and so on.  I scattered them going down the stairs and led her on a path to her Valentine's treat, a heart full of Skittles.  We love skittles because they have an S on them for Serenity.  Oh, and they are full of sugar. =)  I was happy to discover she recognized some of the names and was thrilled to find them!

This year, I think I'll do a variation of this.  Maybe find wooden hearts that I can paint the names on so that she can add them to her crazy pink tree.  I'll be sure to post what I decide to do! 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Plans, Plans, and Shopping!

Well, the new year has begun the way I like best, with lots of new ideas, projects and plans!  We've got some major plans underway on our house, and these ideas are starting to settle in a way that's letting me get my sewing machine back out!  Yay!  We're adding another room for another baby!  Well, Eric and I will be in the new room, the baby will be in Serenity's nursery, and Serenity will move to the purple room.  It just made sense as all our baby stuff matches Serenity's current room, and her current tastes lean heavily to pink and purple so with just a little decorating we can make the purple room perfect for her without painting anything, which I'm not allowed to do at the moment. 

The color of our bedroom is really eggplant, which is a little more mature of a purple than I would really have chosen for her, although I love it for myself.  But Mom and I went shopping yesterday to find fabric for a new blankie for Serenity that will brighten it up!  With some lavender or pink curtains, I think it will turn into a great little girl room! 

So here is the result of SEVERAL hours of fabric shopping... lots of pinks and purples!  I asked her earlier what kind of blanket she'd like, and she said purple and monkeys, (although I'm not sure she really understood what I was asking her about, oh well, I love both those things too!)  We ended up with lots of textures!  We have satin, flannel, cotton, and a fuzzy minkee or two.  I'll share more about the quilt pattern later!  The Dora print will be a pillowcase, partially because my pattern works better with more neutral designs, partially so that it's easy to change the minute she outgrows Dora. =)  Don't get me wrong, Dora has some very good qualities.  But I've spent the last few months waking up to various Dora songs stuck in my head, and I think that is the first part of her childhood I won't miss! =) 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Eve Fun with Toddlers!!!

We celebrate New Years Eve "Buenos Aires Style"  which means around 9pm for us.  We located a countdown on the internet, and enjoyed counting down, New Years kisses, and a Happy New Year toast with Sprite and tea party cups.  =)  It was a blast!  We spent the afternoon making silly party hats, and I made a set of poppers like these.  We even skyped with her Grandparents in California so we had more people to enjoy the moment with.  It was a blast, and we will definitely do this again next year!!!

It was easy to do some quick decorating with our silk scarves that we dyed ourselves, plus some party supplies we keep on hand (blowers, and a big rainbow ball that's not pictured)  We pull these things out whenever we decide we need a party, and we always enjoy the fancy details!