Thursday, December 8, 2011

New purse

I am not a big purse kind of person.  I want something small - just big enough for my wallet, keys, and phone - but once in a while I need something bigger.  For our upcoming holiday trip to visit family I went looking for something and couldn't find what I wanted so I went looking online and found a great and easy tutorial for a cute pleated purse.  


It took about an hour and a half (which included hunting around for the right fabric combo).  I also added a small pocket on the inside.  It's just the right size too!  I can fit my normal purse things plus a book, iPad, and water bottle.  I'm very tempted to make a few more since it was so simple and easy!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quilted ipad cover



Back in November I spent some time reading up on iPad covers.  Let me tell you that once again the quilt blogging world is amazing and I found so many different tutorials and instructions online.  In the end, I didn't find just what I wanted (which was a way to have it covered with an envelope style case but still be able to plug it in) so I decided to wing it and make my own.  It was a fun little project made up of green and purple postage stamp squares.  I quilted it with double straight lines in a grid.  I'm really happy with how it turned out.  

The hardest part was figuring out how to make the edges so that they were open so I can plug it in and still leave it covered and protected.  I wouldn't recommend this method - I had to undo the edges 4 times to get them straight.  


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fall adventures...

It's raining outside and has been for several days.  I think this means that winter has arrived in Seattle.  It's too bad because Fall weather here is the BEST and it's my favorite time of the year.  Our fall so far has been full of lots of adventures and very little sewing.  I recently tried some interesting cookies for my book club; I found them rather disgusting but a bunch of other people liked them.  The are a Persian chickpea cookie (basically shortbread made with chickpea flour instead of wheat flour): 


Halloween came and went and we had an action filled weekend of events.  Malcolm went as a Sweet Pea and Dominic went as Link (the hero from the Legend of Zelda video games).  The best part of the weekend was when a 10-12 year old boy came up to us at Will's work Halloween party and was all excited and said, "How cute!  He's Link.  I love it when little kids are dressed up and cute."


I did attend a few meetings of the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild and did a lot of work on my Habitat challenge quilt.  I'm not done with it yet but it's almost finished.  I have the top completed but have yet to quilt it.  Hopefully, soon I will have time to quilt and bind it.  Here is a sneak peak of my blocks partially completed:


We also went down to Oregon for a few days to visit family and had a great time.  The best part of the trip was our visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.  While viewing the jelly fish Dominic asked me, "Where's the peanut butter one?"  


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall is here.


I adore Fall!  It's my favorite season.  Cool, crisp mornings with warm afternoons.  Perfect for a nice hot cup of tea with breakfast and a long walk outdoors in the afternoon.  =)  It also means that the quilts come out again.  I don't know why but I have trouble quilting in the summer - my progress always slows down on quilt projects.  Maybe it's because I don't really use or need a quilt in the summer?  I've been doing a lot of other crafting this summer - mostly crochet and painting. I used to spend my summers working on crafts with my Grandma Goldia and she was a painter and sculptor so maybe that is why I'm drawn to other art forms in the summer?



What other crafts to do work on?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Girly quilt


I finished another baby quilt this year for a cute little girl.  I did the flower with machine applique which was a first for me.  It was a technique that I'd been wanting to try for a while and the daisy was the perfect way to try it out.  I personalized it with her name and it turns out that letters are not that easy to piece!  It was fun to do make something girly for a change - it seems like I've been making tons of boy quilts for a while.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1000 Days of Dominic


1000 Days ago I became a Mother and nothing has been the same since. 


It's hard to think about it because it seems so abstract to think about his life in the number of days he's been here with us.  It's been an amazing journey watching him grow and learn.  He's grown from a tiny baby that couldn't do anything by himself into a walking, talking, reasoning little person.  He sees the world with such wonder and enthusiasm - everything is interesting and grand.  I love being able to see the world through this eyes and talk to him about the way he sees things. 



On my part, I've changed and learned a lot too.  From him I've learned to love unconditionally, how to be patient, and to appreciate the wonders that surround us every day.  His laugh is one of the best sounds in the whole world and his hugs are the best hugs ever.  I adore him and look forward to the next 1000 days!  =)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Postage stamp squares

At the last meeting of the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild we swapped postage stamp squares (2.5 inches).  I swapped 500 of them - others in the group swapped closer to a 1000 (I can't imagine cutting out that many little squares!).  After playing around with several layouts I decided on a scrappy Irish Chain:



Dominic was actually a very good helper - he held up my sketch for me and even told me when he thought I was putting them out wrong!  I think I'll stick with the standard white for the spaces in-between the colored squares.  It won't be all that big - just a lap quilt or maybe a twin size.  I really like the look of scrappy quilts but I have to admit I'm a little intimidated by sewing with such small squares (which I have to say is really funny considering that I made a quilt out of 1 inch hand pieced hexagons!).  Now, I just have to find time to start sewing on it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Inspiration

My Grandmother was one of the most creative and artistic people I know.  I used to spend hours with her painting, baking, playing with clay, gardening, etc.  It was always fun and inspirational.  She never quilted but always loved looking at quilts.  I learned to quilt so I could make one for her.  These are my two favorite paintings she did (both of them hang in my living room):





The first one is a water color she did in a class that we took together and the second one is her first attempt at "modern" art.  She did the second one as a birthday present for me.  I love it!  I always feel inspired when I look at her paintings.  I think it's because they always make me think of all the time we spent together being creative and that she wasn't afraid to try anything at least once.  What inspires you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taggie mini-quilt

A few nights ago I had a need to sew something that wasn't full of problems.  After sitting for a few minutes I noticed that Malcolm had one of his toys in my sewing room and it hit me - I'd make him a taggie mini-quilt!  (His favorite thing to chew on when his teeth are bothering him is the toy that was in my room - a soft rattle with with lots of ribbon tags hanging off of it).  So, after an hour of fiddling around I made this:



And, he loves it!  He's been chewing on it every day since I made it and it's nice to be able to switch out the two toys when they start getting gross and need cleaning.  (Yes, it's sideways.  I turned it three times but it keeps uploading like this so I gave up.)



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Too much of a good thing...

I'm at a weird place in my quilting right now.  I love to read blogs and spend tons of time browsing flicker but I feel like I've gone into inspiration overload.  I have a HUGE list of quilt ideas and sketches but I can't really decide what to work on.  How do I know if the idea is mine or if I'm just replicating something I've seen somewhere else on the internet?  But then again, quilting is such an old craft that aren't we all just doing what those before us have already done?  I feel very overwhelmed by it all right now - I want to sew more but I can't figure out what to work on.  Nothing really seems to be flowing well and I keep hitting a lot of bumps in the road with what I'm trying to work on.  How do you deal with too many ideas and not enough time?



I've also been cutting like crazy lately (I always liked the way my back of trimmings looks - so many bits of color all splashed together - maybe some day I will make a quilt that replicates that?).  I have a few projects that I'm working on that I've been setting fabric aside for that I also want to include in other things which meant I needed to cut out what I would need so I would know what I had left to work with for other projects.


It's been fun and relaxing to cut cut and stack for a while and not worry about the design problems - I think I just need a clear head so I can stand back and have that "oh" moment that will solve the issue.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beth's quilt


In many ways this was a frustratingly long quilt to make.  I wanted to make a simple/modern style quilt for a house warming present for my friend Beth (she had a blue and white theme going on in her bedroom).  So, when I came up with the plan for this quilt I thought it was going to be super quick and easy.  But boy was the simplicity of it the thing that made it very hard to finish - there wasn't any room to have something be out of place.  But, in the end I'm super happy with it and I really like the way it turned out (and I finished it just in time for our visit last weekend). 



I auditioned a lot of different blue fabrics before I found just the right set of them and then I had to rearrange them many times to get the placement of each right and balanced.  It was very hard to decide on the back too.  I wanted to put something on it but every thing I auditioned just didn't feel right so I left it totally blank which I think works well with the simple quilting.  The random straight line quilting was easy and quick but it was so hard to resist the urge to do more of it and make it more even and regular.  It was fun to make and I've definitely learned that simple doesn't always mean faster or easier!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

House hold sewing

June has been an interesting month for me - I went on an organizing spree in the house and accomplished a lot in every room but my sewing room which now looks worse than ever!  It's become a room to put "Amber" stuff that doesn't really have a home anywhere else (like the vhs video's of my high school band concerts - I don't want to part with them but I don't own a vcr so I'm not sure what to do with them) or stuff that needs to be repacked before being put away (like the Christmas decorations that I found in the pantry).  It's rather frustrating that everything is piled in there now but I'm glad that I was able to get a lot done.  I've come to the mindset that less is more and I've started getting rid of a lot of stuff that we don't really need or use (having most of our stuff in storage for 6 months when we first moved back here has been a huge help to figuring out what we don't really need or use).  Through this whole process I realized that my house doesn't show that I'm a crafter/quilter.  I have a lot of handmade goods and works of art but all of them have been done by other people (except for one quilt on the couch, the baby quilts for the boys, and one set of coasters).  I do love handmade items and I want my house to have more of that look to it so I've set myself the goal of making some house hold stuff for me (I've made lots of house hold goods in the past but I've given all of them away). 


The first up on the list was a hot pad and tea cozy set.  I finished the hot pad (except for binding) and will be making a matching tea cozy soon.  My original plan was to make another square of the 2.5 inch squares and cut it to fit the rounded top of the tea cozy pattern but now I don't think that will look good.  I'm following this tea cozy tutorial.  Maybe I should make vertical stripes instead of squares? Or pick my two favorite fabrics from the hot pad and use one on each side of the cozy? Any suggestions?

Next up will be place-mats for the dinning room (maybe made with this fabric which is the colors that I'd like to bring into the room) or maybe some pot holders for the kitchen.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baby quilt


Dominic has been going to a music class for the past year that he loves (during our Christmas break he cried when we walked past the building the class is held in and I had to tell him that there wasn't any music class that week).  His teacher was wonderful and fun and Dominic really bonded with her so I thought I'd make her a thank you gift since today was our last class with her.  As a quilter I immediately thought of a quilt and since she is having a baby in August a baby quilt was the perfect thing! I had Dominic go through my stash of novelty fabrics with me and pick out a bunch that he liked and I sewed them up into a quick I-spy baby quilt!  I really liked this project because it was simple (and had no problems), I used only fabric from my stash (which I've never done before), and because Dominic was able to participate and help me pick out what fabric to use.  This marks my 6th quilt of 2011!  I've never finished this many quilts in a single year before!  It's exciting!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

5th quilt done!


Last week I finally finished the quilt for baby Jerrick and was able to deliver it to him over the long holiday weekend since we drove down to Oregon to visit.  I had to put it aside in January after my unfortunate math/cutting issues since I was so disheartened by it.  I do like the way it turned out and I think I will keep the pattern around to make again in the future (and next time I will cut the white triangles to the correct size!). 



I added a single blue stripe down the back and did some very simple stitch-in-the-ditch quilting and then tied it to finish it off.  I think it's a simple, bright, and cute quilt for a baby boy and it is my fifth finished quilt of the year! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Exciting mail


I found a very exciting envelope in the mail box today!  It contained a lovely pile of scraps from my friend Jessica!  They are perfect for my Star Quilt and I can't wait to use them.  Jessica is an inspiration to me in my quilting - I started my 60 degree diamonds stars because I saw how amazing and beautiful her star quilts are (here, here, and here).  Thanks Jessica!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hiking


I recently discovered that the nature preserve that is about 3 blocks from our house has a ton of hiking trails that are super toddler friendly.  The boys and I have gone hiking several times in the last two weeks.  It's so nice to live in such a beautiful and thriving natural area.  We even have deer wander through our yard once in a while (although I don't like that they eat my trees!).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Busy, Busy...

The boys have aligned their afternoon naps and it's been wonderful.  I have time to to sew in peace on most days of the week and it's been rather nice.  Some days I only get 15-20 minutes but that's better than nothing and right now I need all the peaceful me time I can get.  Dominic is a typical two year old boy and is full of soooo much energy!  That short bit of down time is always very welcome in the afternoon!

In April I put together all the triangles needed to add another row to my spider web quilt.  It's only six inches wider but I think it's a much better size now.  I've been thinking about what to use as borders and backing fabric and I think I just have to take it to the store and see how it looks with all the options (I don't have anything in my stash that would work).



I also made a few small blocks for my houses and trees quilt.  I'm not sure I like the house in the upper left corner.  I thought that it would look okay without a door or window since it's so small (only 7 inches tall) but it looks weird to me.  I'm tempted to try to applique a door onto it - I've been wanting to try out a few different machine applique techniques and this seems like a good place to start. 



I also finally finished my tree wall hanging.  This was my second attempt at free motion quilting and it was horrible.  I had so many problems with the thread tension in the bobbin that that I wasn't sure I was going to finish it.  As it is now, the back is horrible.  If it was anything other than a wall hanging I wouldn't have finished it because I don't think it would stand up to use.  Somehow the problems are all of the back and the front actually looks okay.  I still need a lot more free motion practice but I've figured out my problem and how to fix it so that next time will be better.  The next project up is to finish quilting baby Jerrick's quilt.  We'll be down in Oregon for Memorial Day weekend and I want to give it to him then.  =)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thank you!


I love this quilt!  A HUGE thank you to the members of the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild for the beautiful baby gift.  The tree theme is very me and each tree really shows off the personality of the quilter who made it. 

I made it to my first guild meeting last Friday night since Malcolm was born and it was a blast.  A giant thank you to Will for taking both boys for the first time by himself so that I could enjoy two hours of sewing and socializing and generally being awed and inspired by the wonderful quilters in the group.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone!

In my search for inspiration on how to continue my journey to be more "green" I have found that other bloggers are one of the best sources of information out there  (which I have also found true for quilting - sewing tutorials are amazing!).  So, here is a list of Green blogs that I read pretty regularly and find a lot of helpful and inspiring information on:

My Plastic Free Life (aka: Fake Plastic Fish) - the journey of one woman in San Francisco to eliminate plastic from her life.  Amazing resource for learning about the issues of plastic and how to use less of it and (hopefully) get ride of it totally. 

No Impact Man - "crazy" New Yorker who experimented with his family for a year to find ways to live with no impact on our planet for a year.  His project took extreme measures (like no electricity for half the year) but it was done in the spirit of trying inspire others to take up their own projects and lessen their own impact on the planet.  If you are a Netflix subscriber his movie is currently available on the instant play list.  Really inspiring to me because he started from zero - he had no idea what he was doing and just jumped in head first and learned a lot in the process.  His goal is to find the middle path in life where we are all striving to do our part and save the planet but also finding ways to be more efficient about it so it's not a struggle but becomes the normal way of life.

Crunchy Domestic Goddess - a mother who writes about the eco-movement from a family standpoint.  Lots of information about "green" kids products and craft projects.  A lot of information about natural family living.

Betz White - an eco-friendly crafter!  She creates some super cute and beautiful crafts all by recycling (felted wool, re-purposing old clothing, etc)!  And she even has her kids doing it and creating super cute projects.  Inspiring from a creative side and an "green" side.

This last one isn't a blog but a site with some short videos about how we ended up in our crazy consumer driven society: The Story of Stuff.  Simple but informative.  A good place to start if you are just dipping your toes into the waters of the "green" movement. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter

With Easter coming up next weekend I find myself thinking about ways to be more eco-friendly during the holidays.  Easter (and Halloween) tends to be day full of single use items.  Easter baskets and Easter grass (the weird plastic stuff) are horrible!  Both are a waste of money - the grass just gets thrown away and most kids have no use for a basket and both are bad for the environment.  And, I really hate buying something that will be used once and then be thrown away. 

I try to be creative with my Easter baskets for my kids and I owe my own Mother for the inspiration to do so.  When we were kids we rarely got a basket (and if we did it was a real basket that she wanted for something else in the house and would then confiscate and use for it's real intended purpose once Easter was over).  We did however get an Easter "basket" that was another object.  One year we needed new bike helmets so the Easter Bunny left our goodies in our new bike helmets and that same year the Easter Bunny left my Grandmother (she loved to paint) a new vase filled with jelly beans (instead of water) and new paint brushes (instead of flowers).  Last year, Dominic had just started playing in the sand box at the park and was always trying to take the other kids buckets and shovels so his "basket" was a bucket and shovel.  This year the Easter Bunny is bringing Dominic some new legos (that will be put together into the shape of a basket) and Malcolm is getting a dump truck.  I also try to keep the candy to a minimum and find other goodies to put (I found some cute board books in the dollar bin at target this year and I am sewing up some bean bags for a ring toss game).  The grass I use is made out of paper that I shredded in our office paper shredder and have been keeping every year to reuse. 

Other ways to go eco-friendly is to use natural dyes to color your eggs.  I've done this in the past and the results can be good as long as you don't expect the brilliant colors you get when you use the pre-packaged dye kits.  And of course, going Fair Trade and organic when purchasing candy is always good (disclaimer: while I do prefer organic candy I fully admit that I bought Cadbury eggs and Starburst jelly beans for our baskets - I love both and only get them at Easter).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reuse


I remember hearing "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" as the main slogan for the green movement when I was a kid and I think that it is a great way to start going green.  It's simple and easy to implement.  Reuse is a big one that many people over look.  So many items in our homes can be reused and not simply thrown away.  Around here I use old jars as storage for beans and pasta in the kitchen or craft goodies in the sewing room.  We save our plastic food tubs for use as bath toys and bath toy storage for the boys. 


 And, old spice containers also make great toys (especially if your little one loves to pretend to cook, like Dominic does - right now he's making orange juice and fruit pizza for us to snack on).  Old sheets (ours are from a twin bed we no longer own) have been saved to use as picnic blankets and as materials to make forts.  I also have a box full of Will's stained/torn button up work shirts that I plan on cutting up and making into a quilt (I need a few more to have enough for a big quilt like I have in mind).  We also keep egg cartons and food boxes for future craft projects and old cotton t-shirts make great rags.  The list can go on and on - just stop before you throw something out to consider if you can reuse it some how and if you can't then can you donate it somewhere or recycle it?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Earth Day is coming soon

Earth Day is coming up soon (April 22) and it's made me think about what I've been doing lately to continue my quest to be "green" and eco-conscience.  This month I have several posts planned (as long as kids and such allow me to write - I'm still getting into the groove of having two kids around now) to hopefully inspire others out there to go green with me! 

My main goal this year to to consume less paper towel (and eventually stop using them entirely in our home).  Paper towels are pretty wasteful and are often made with very little recycled content.  Most often we use paper towels in our house as napkins and for wiping up spills and messes.  In February, I bough a huge bag of rags (on clearance for less than $3) and we've been using them for cleaning up almost everything that we used to use paper towels for (table, cabinets, Dominic, spills, etc).  We have also started using kitchen towels as napkins at meals.  I have a laundry basket in the laundry room for used rags and kitchen towels that I throw in the washer once a week with our load of bath towels.  The only real thing that I haven't figured out a replacement for is using them to soak up grease (like when you make bacon) - but I guess the occasional use of a paper towel for bacon is okay since I can put it in our compost bin.  I have also cut up a bunch of old white t-shirts into large squares to use for cleaning things like windows and as a replacement for the swifer cloths (nothing gets up the cat hair from the wood floors better than the swifer broom but the cloths were expensive and hugely wasteful so I'm really excited about using the t-shirts as a replacement).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Playing...

I finally got a chance to sit in my sewing room and play with fabric.  Malcolm was contentedly sleeping in the carrier and Dominic was happy to "sort" through the fabric with me.  :)  I have several scrap projects that are in progress that I plan on working on this month - all of them are perfect for short 5-20 minute long breaks that I can sneak in for sewing right now. The first is my wonky star project - I've been piecing on these for a while and have a big stack of them so I think I'll make a few more and then see what I can do with them.  The second is my spider web quilt - I started it back in 2009 and thought that I was done with the top except for some borders but then I found more of my theme fabric in my scraps so I think I'm going to try to add another row or two to it since I did want it to be bigger. 



And, the third project is to search for more epp star fabric in my scrap bins - I think I might have used up everything I have in my stash that is in the right color scheme (green, purple, and blue).  I found a few pieces that I haven't used yet but not as much as I was hoping for.  I did get them all cut out but I any not anywhere close to the number I need to finish the quilt at the size I want - I guess I'll have to go fabric shopping soon (oh, darn!).

 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Goodbye March!

March sure went by fast!  I've had my hands full with my two boys and trying to get enough sleep!  It was so much easier the first time - I could easily sleep when he slept during the day but now the first one keeps me up and going all day while the second one is sleeping.  It's been crazy and hectic but nice to see their relationship develop over the past month.  I did manage to piece a little on my EPP star quilt but not as much as I thought I would - but I do think that will change as things settle down.



I think the biggest challenge this past month has been trying to get a picture of Dominic and Malcolm together.  Dominic has been a little afraid of Malcolm and had to be coaxed and bribed with chocolate to get him to sit down and hold his baby brother.  I think he's just not really sure what is going on and who this little baby is yet but he's getting better every day and I know that eventually he'll love his brother very much.

Thanks to Linda (my Mother-in-law) and my Mom who both came out (from Florida and Colorado) to stay with us and help.  They did a lot of work around the house (grocery shopping, cooking. laundry, and cleaning) that made the transition to life with two kids much easier.  Love you both.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's a boy!

Malcolm Declan P.

We welcomed out little Sweet Pea in to the world on March 1, 2011 at 8:41am.  He weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces (exactly the same as Dominic) and was 21 inches long.  (He has blue eyes but hates the camera flash and manages to close them pretty much every time I try to take a picture.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February sewing...

This has been a very frustrating month for me in the world of sewing.  I seem to have lost my mind and keep doing really dumb things over and over and over.  For example, I sat down when I had a free 20 minutes to "make" some fabric squares I can work with in a scrap quilt I have in mind but I managed to spend 10 minutes sewing scraps together with NO thread in the bobbin.  I've yet to figure out how I spent so much time sewing without noticing that nothing was actually being sewn together.  And then I left my power cord at quilt guild last weekend. :(  I haven't been able to sew since then and it's been frustrating but I do know who has my cord and will be able to get it back so at least I have that comfort.  :)  The whole month has been full of little, annoying, frustrating sewing mistakes so I think I must give up for a little bit and stick to making EPP stars.

I did manage to get a good start on cutting and sewing a quilt top for my friend Beth.  It's all blue and white and probably the most modern quilt I've ever done.  I'm excited about it but I can't really post pictures because I don't want her to see it in advance so here it is all cut up:



I also finished my February Project of the Month with time to spare (Dominic's 2 year photo album - well, technically I still need to go through it and spell check everything and double check it all for red eye but everything is in place so the hard part is done).  But, since it's a photo book I can't really share pictures with you until I order it and then it probably won't be that interesting to see a picture of a picture book.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The ugly pink blanket...


This is my ugly pink blanket and it means the world to me.  It's warm and special.  My Great-Grandma Ruby crocheted it long before I was born as a gift for either my Mom or my Grandma (both of them insist she made it for them and both of them have "owned" it as some point so I'm not really sure who it was made for but it doesn't really matter because now it lives with me). 

I always remember this blanket being there in the background of life.  It could be draped across the back of the couch, covering up my Grandma when she was watching tv, or laying across the foot of my Mother's bed.  It's funny how such a simple thing can be so present in your memory.  I have lots of memories of being covered up with this blanket when I wasn't feeling well (again, both at home on our couch and at my Grandma's house on her couch) and I want to hold on to that special feeling and keep it around for my kids.  Dominic and Romeo both make frequent use of it already so I think it will happen for them over time too.




When I look at it I think it's ugly and yet is is very beautiful too - I really don't like pink and it doesn't go with any of my decor but the fact that it was made by hand, by a loved one as a special gift makes it beautiful and amazing.  I find it inspiring too since it has held up so well after all these years of use and frequent washings - I only hope that the quilts and blankets I made will do so well and be so loved.  What special objects exist in your life?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Toddler lessons

Do any of you out there plan lessons or home school your toddler?  No, I'm not crazy here, I mean it seriously.  I don't sit down and try to teach my 2-year old like he was in school - I mean it more vaguely that I have activities and "lessons" planned for him.  Slowly over the past year I've found myself planning "lessons" for Dominic.  At times it feels strange since he is only 2 but it has been helpful to me to have a weekly plan and keep him on a regular schedule.  And, I fully believe that as a parent I am my child's first and most important teacher.

It started by accident when he was a little over a year.  I found that we were going to the library every week for story time and that he liked to take books home afterward but I didn't like just wandering around and randomly picking books off the shelf.  So we started picking "themes" for our books.  Usually I'd have him pick an animal and we'd find stories that involved that animal that we would read at bedtime for the week but it slowly evolved into also picking out non-fiction books about those animals.  We keep the books in a drawer in the kitchen and he pulls them out on his own all the time to "read" them or ask me or Will to read them to him.  He's picked up a lot of information this way and we can't go to the library without checking out new books now.  It has developed over time into picking "topics" for the week and finding books about our "topic".  (For example, since Valentine's Day is next week we picked out a bunch of books about Valentine's day when we went to the library this week or the week in December that we went on the Santa Train we found a bunch of books about trains). 

Mostly my plans involve going to the weekly library story time, reading the books we checked out, going to our weekly Kindermusik class, a weekly craft, and doing some sort of playgroup.  But, I'm finding that the older he is the better off he behaves when I have activities pre-planned for him.  I can tell him at breakfast that today we will be doing X after he naps and he looks forward to it and asks to do X when it is time.  Mostly, these planned activities are special craft projects (we made Valentine's to send to the Grandmother's this week and the week we went to the aquarium he was so fascinated by starfish that we made a bunch of starfish and hung them on the wall in the kitchen) or trips to various local parks.  I try to incorporate things that are educational into the activities to make them "lessons" (discussing colors when we paint or make play dough or asking him to point out letters and numbers on signs when we are out for a walk)  But, I think it's time to expand on my options of what to do with him that is fun for him, easy for me, and also educational (especially since we will have #2 coming soon I want to have a bunch of options around the house).  So, what do you all suggest?  What type of activities do you do with your toddler/preschoolers?

I have ready lots of craft kits and craft supplies (finger paints, coloring books, simple maze and puzzle books), sticker story books, and new puzzles to open.  Will will be taking him to his regular music class and story time for the first month or so after Sweet Pea arrives so he'll be getting out of the house a little bit.  I also printed off the words to a bunch of kids songs that I'm going to try to teach him and the "rules" for a bunch of simple games to teach him that will involve physical activity for him (like teaching him to sing "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" or play Simon says) but I think I need more.  A lot of these are things we already do a lot so I want to have something different for him that will challenge him a bit so he's not bored and "getting into trouble" when I'm trying to adjust to having a new baby in the house. 

Thanks in advance.  =)

(On a related note, what are your kids favorite toys?  Dominic plays with his legos and wooden trains on a daily basis and loves them both.  I generally believe that "less is more" when it comes to toys but I know with two in the house things are going to multiply and I'd like to have ideas to share with the Grandparents (they are asking what we want) that will be successful and not just accumulate more stuff to have sitting around.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

January PotM

My January project of the month was to complete Sweet Pea's baby quilt and I mostly finished it on time.  I forgot about adding a label to the back until I was about to finish the binding!  I had to unpick a big section of stitches and so had this small section in the corner unfinished until the second day of February when I had time to add the label and finish off the binding.  It's funny how it doesn't really look how I thought it would - it's a bit too busy.  I found a huge panel of the squares in the middle and thought they would look nice with simple blue and red borders and then the busy print as the outer border.  I like it and I'm happy with it but if I had to do it again I think I would make the inner borders bigger and maybe not do the outer border or make it a bit smaller by cutting off one (or both) sections of wording.  I've never really worked with huge panels before so it was a new experience for me.  =)



I really like how the quilting turned out on the back - very simple but it ended up really even with almost no puckering at all!  Quilting without puckers is my dream - no matter what I do there is always something wrong on the back of my quilts.  :(  I think part of the problem is that I don't quilt a lot so I'm just not that practiced at it but I also think that maybe I should take a class how to baste a quilt.  The more I read on the internet about quilting the more I think that I might not be basting my quilts enough even though they seem like they have a ton of pins in them when I'm done.  Or it could be a combination of factors - I would just like to get better at it sooner rather than later.  =)


My February Project of the Month isn't something I can easily share on a blog so I won't have any nice pictures at the end of the month but it will be a creative endeavor.  I want to finish Dominic's second year photo album - I'm creating it on Shutterfly.com and it's super easy.  I'm already finished up to the month of June so it's half done.  I love the photo books on Shutterfly and have made a bunch of them (our wedding, Dominic's first year, gift books for others, etc).  They are super easy to make and turn out great.  And, they have some really nice sales so if you're not on a deadline you can create it and save it until they have a good sale and then buy it.  Ideally, I'll finish it soon and have time for some sewing fun in which case I want to finish up baby Jerrick's quilt.  I have it all ready to quilt and bind so it should be another easy and quick project.  Of course, this will only happen if Sweet Pea doesn't come early - if that happens then who knows when things will settle down (but I don't have any high hopes of an early baby since Dominic was a week and six days late!).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First quilt of 2011!

I finished my first quilt of 2011 last Friday!  It was exciting to finally get it done since I started the quilt back in March 2010.  It was one of those frustrating UFOs I had sitting around forever because I ran out of matching pink thread to finish off the binding.  Once I finally got around to getting more thread it took less than 30 minutes to finish! 



It's a one-block wonder pattern based on this book.  I took a class on the technique with my friend Megan and her mother and had a lot of fun - in fact, on Saturday morning I started my second one block wonder quilt.  This one will also take about a year to finish but that's because I expect to have my hands full soon with Sweet Pea's arrival this month (hopefully!).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TV for toddlers

Our "experiment" of no tv has gone super well for me but not so well for Will.  I do not miss having tv at all (although I must admit that if we didn't have Netflix I would probably miss it).  I watch about one Netflix movie a week with Will and the occasional tv show on the internet but I feel a lot better not having to "keep up" with the shows I was watching before.  The only thing I really missed was not being able to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade!  Since then we have acquired an antennae for the tv to be able to watch the free broadcast channels so that Will can watch "real" tv occasionally and so we won't miss the holiday parades and firework shows. 

Depending on which study you read, the average person watches somewhere between 3 and 5 hours of tv a day.  I can't even figure that one out - how do people have that kind of time to waste?  Our no tv "experiment" might be working so well for me because I was never really into in the first place - I never really got into tv shows enough that I had to watch them every week.  It was always easier to wait until they were in reruns and watch when I had time.  The weird thing about it now is that I think I might be missing out socially because I don't watch tv.  I can't participate when others are talking about the shows they watch and I have no idea what movies are playing in the theaters since I don't see previews anymore.  It's a bit awkward at times when I can't add my input to the conversation. 

When I say that I don't watch tv and that we don't have cable people tend to react weirdly but I think that it's fine since it's a choice we made for the benefit of our kids.  The best thing for our kids is what we will stick with since they are our priority.  But, that does bring me to the topic of today: tv for toddlers.  We were adamant that Dominic not watch tv before the age of 2 - too many research studies have show that it's just not a good idea and that kids benefit so much from not having it on to watch  (not to mention the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no tv at all before the age of 2 and limited exposure after that).  But, now that he's older we didn't want him to be that weird kid who doesn't know what tv is and at times it can be a helpful distraction (like the cross-country plane flight to Florida we take twice a year - watching Blue's Clue's on the laptop really saved us this last trip!). 

But, this doesn't mean we want to throw him in front of the tv and let him watch whatever he can find.  I firmly believe that he should only watch when we can sit down and watch with him and that we limit his tv time to 2-3 hours total a week (about 3-4 child length episodes a week).  We want to be able to interact with him about what he is watching and not let him think/accept that watching tv should be a passive activity.  So far it's gone really well and he actually seems to be learning from the tv at times (he learned to say paw-print and clue from watching Blue's Clues and backpack and map from Dora).  So here are the few shows we have tried out with Dominic and why (or why not) we will continue to watch them:

Blue's Clue's - Very well done and fantastic show for a 2 year old!  Dominic loves it and is always asking to watch the "doggie on tv".  The show is about a dog named Blue, who is also colored blue, and the game it plays with it's human friend, Steve.  Steve asked the viewers questions and for help all the time which Dominic does his best to answer.  He likes to run up to the tv to point out the clues when he sees them.  It's a slow paced show but has simple puzzles and games to be answered throughout that is wonderful for the 2 year old level.  They have real educators helping them with the show to write plots that can actually teach your child something and not just have them sit and zone out for a while.  There is a lot of repetition of the theme in each episode which is great for the age level of the show but it does make it a bit tedious at times for the adults watching.

Thomas the Tank Engine - I hate this show and Dominic is NOT allowed to watch it.  The stories seem like they are teaching moral lessons about life but it's done very badly.  The Trains are really mean to each other, they are always making fun of each other, they often seek revenge on each other, and "curse" a LOT.  The cursing isn't real - they say things like "bust my boiler" - but it teaches children that saying things that resembles cursing is okay when you are angry/upset/frustrated.  And, if you can't be a "useful engine" you get sent to the scrap yard to be junked.  What kind of message does that send to kids?  Not to mention that there is Thomas merchandise everywhere - it's a marketing machine that I don't like and don't want my son to become so obsessed with.  Yes, some marketing and commercialization is okay but I really hate seeing young kids who are obsessed with collecting the next Thomas item.  The problem is that Dominic recognizes the trains and really wants to watch them - he does have one Thomas and one Percy train that were gifts.  I don't mind him having them but when he's asking to watch the "choo-choo's" on tv it makes me worry since this show is a bad influence on children.

Dora the Explorer - Another show that Dominic really likes and is great for his age and development level.  You follow Dora and her monkey friend, Boots, on a three step adventure to find something or help someone in each episode.  It teaches words in two languages and has lots of simple games and puzzles like Blue's Clues.  This show is a lot more repetitive than Blue's clues which is good for the kids and helps them pick up what the show is trying to teach but it's hard to watch as an adult. 

Word World - This show is rated for an older audience (about 5 years and up) but Dominic really loves it and I like it too.  It's the adventures of a bunch of animals in Word World and it's another show that is backed by real educational research!  The animals and many of the objects in the show are made up of letters that spell out what they are and the stories involve finding/making objects out of letters.  They talk about the different words you can make with the same letters, sound out words, spell words out, and spending a lot of time talking about letters and how they function in different words.  It's nice because I can ask Dominic to identify the different letters he is seeing on the screen and he will also frequently point out letters that he knows already.

What show's do you watch with your toddler and preschoolers?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January PotM

I used to "assign" myself a sewing project every month and I stopped doing it mid-2010 since I thought that it wasn't that productive but after reflecting on it I think I actually sewed more in the months I gave myself a project to work on.  It's funny how things work out but I make more time to be creative and sew when I have a specific goal in mind.  And, when I complete that goal I always seem to spend more time working on other works-in-progress or trying out new ideas.

For January, my Project of the Month is to work on the final items for Sweet Pea's nursery (the curtains and baby quilt).  The curtains were finished and hung up earlier this month and the quilt is almost finished.  I have two borders to add to the quilt and then the quilting.  It's not an elaborate pattern and I'm keeping the quilting very simple so it should be finished during another 2-3 nap times.


The nursery "theme" is the rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle and I found a great fabric that had it illustrated nicely.  I cut out the large squares from a panel and added the blue and red border and have a larger, third border to add to it before it'll be ready for quilting.