Friday, September 27, 2013

Homemade Friday: Laurel by Colette Patterns

I started this post this morning when my daughter was relatively calm and it was fun and goofy and talking about cheating on my sewing schedule, but I only wrote a tiny bit before that calm passed.

This week has been incredibly difficult.  I mean, she's a difficult child anyway, walking the line between wanting with all she is to be bigger and older, but not having the capability to do whatever she wants yet.  And so she struggles.  And I try, I try so very hard to be patient, to be understanding, but when she pinches me multiple times just for fun, and just because I've asked her nicely not to because it hurts because she won't let me cut her fingernails and they're broken and jagged and sharp, I kind of have some trouble keeping it together.*

Also when she kicked me in the shins because I had the audacity to help her brush her teeth.

And when she spits on me for, well, whenever  I do anything she doesn't like.

I want to be patient.  I try to be patient.  But when my entire day is filled up with explosions of temper, I just can't.  I can't keep it together.  I look so forward to naptime because at least then, then I can have a break from the disagreeable attitude.

Something is up.  It's really not this bad, normally.  I mean, yes, she's stubborn and fiesty, but not to this extreme.  But I don't know.  I don't think she's sick sick.  I think the changing seasons are getting to her.  
 She hasn't been sleeping well, which of course means that I'm not sleeping well.  And I end my days feeling like I've run a marathon or like I've been carrying a heavy backpacker's backpack for days.

I'm beat.

Which is one of the reasons I decided that yesterday during naptime I was going to sew.  I didn't really have time to sew - the house was a mess, I had a sweater that I've been trying to finish quickly so I can have my mom sew the buttons on when I go see my parents this weekend.

But I needed it. 

When I sew, I usually only do it when I'm alone or when Adele isn't around because she wants to help me by pushing my foot on the pedal or shoving the fabric through or helpfully touching the light on the machine, burning herself, then telling me it's hot.  And then doing it again.

So when I wrestled her into her bed (and believe me - it is a wrestling match) for a nap that she didn't take but that at least kept her in her room, I put on my headphones to listen to a book and zoned out into my work. 

Oh gosh.  It was perfect.

And then I couldn't keep her in her room not sleeping anymore because child services probably would frown on it (although maybe not if they spent much time with her?  They might be more understanding.).  So I let her come out - which meant that she headed right for her brother who'd been calmly playing on his Wii, and proceeded to smack him on the back.  And then she trashed his lego plane that he'd created himself.  And then she threw a remote at him.

So after I got both of the children in bed I went out for wine.  And cookies.  And I came back home and put my headphones back on and drank some wine and ate some cookies and sewed until I was finished with this dress.

As soon as I saw the pattern for Laurel by Colette Patterns I bought it.  And it wasn't really in the budget - but it was the type of dress I'd been wanting to sew for quite some time.  I'm trying to be better about picking my clothes, to put more thought into it instead of just grabbing whatever jeans and t-shirt are handy.  I've never been someone who knows a whole lot about style, but I've been attempting to look more grown up and more put together.  And I think layering is a helpful tool for looking like you know what you're doing even when you don't.

So I had a plan for this dress.  It will be worn this fall with brown leggings and boots and a scarf and I'll be straight-up autumn. 

Layering it up!  And yes, I do feel as exhausted as I look.
(And I totally knit that sweater I'm wearing.)
I didn't realize when I bought the pattern that the dress called for a zipper.  (Reading instructions is important, kids.)  But I looked at the pattern and the dress and thought that maybe, just maybe I could sew it without one.  My plan was that instead of cutting two pieces out for the back I would cut it on a fold like the front, thus creating a whole back that wouldn't need to be zipped up.  Now, it might have been smarter to sew a trial dress out of scrap fabric before diving right in, but I don't have that much spare time and so am not going to waste it sewing something I'm not going to use.

However, I did measure myself and used the size measurements on the pattern, which means that I had to piece together two different sizes because my top half is two sizes smaller than my bottom half.  My mom would be so proud of me for taking the time to do this step.

That being said, I think I should have gone smaller on the bottom half.  It's a little wider than I'd like. 

Actually, when I finished at 10 p.m. last night and tried it on, the entire dress was too wide.  The reason for that, I realized, was because I was supposed to have a seam up the back of the dress for the zipper.  To fix it I just, well, sewed a seam up the back and cut off the excess.

I know it's not the proper way to do it.  The proper way would have been to take out the hem and take in the sides and blah, blah, blah.  Or maybe to have followed the instructions and finally learned how to sew in a zipper?

Too much work.

I also had to use a smaller seam allowance on the sleeves, which is totally because of my giant muscles and not at all because of arm fat. And apparently the pockets were made for people with tiny, dainty, fairy hands and not my super-sized man ones.  Or maybe they're just for looks?  But at least it has pockets.

Tiny pockets!
 So.  The verdict is that I love-love-love it, though it could do with some adjustments - even more than the ones I've already made.  I think the bust darts are maybe made for someone whose upper lady parts are a bit higher than mine - or maybe for someone who hasn't nursed two kids. 

Luckily I cut out the dress in another fabric at the same time as this one by placing the fabric on top of each other and cutting them both out.  As you can tell from my ingenious move I'm crafty.  Plus I really, really hate cutting out patterns. 

So, if you see me at anytime this fall I will probably be wearing this dress, starting tomorrow when we take the kids to a pumpkin patch with some friends.  If you look out for us, we'll be the ones chasing after a screaming, spitting, kicking, adorable little girl. 

Here's a close-up of the fabric and the back seam
for your viewing pleasure.
Pattern - Laurel by Colette Patterns
Fabric - $3/yard at Wal Mart (and no I'm not even a little bit embarrassed - look at how cute it is!)
Size - 8 for top and 12 for bottom, but probably should have gone to a 10 or 8 on bottom because it's a wide dress - a little too wide.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Motherhood and More: Whole-family friendship is much more fun*

This past weekend my family had a long-overdue get-together with some friends.

As many parents know, trying to find the time to leave the house is extremely difficult when you have three other schedules to work around, as is the case in my household of two parents and two small children. We have soccer and birthday parties and work and school and general life duties that take up much of our time.

So carving out a chunk of a day to spend relaxing with friends is hard. But what makes it even trickier is finding people you have commonalities with, and whose kids play well with your kids.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes you don’t mesh well with the parents but your kids are friends. Or maybe the kids’ personalities conflict and create great chaos, which leads to parents spending the entire visit monitoring the children and making sure no one goes home with a black eye.

But sometimes you find people who are your people. They think a lot like you and they parent similarly. And they pass the ultimate “couples with kids” friendship test — the kids become friends, too.

I look for what I call the ability to “free-range parent.” I will be there to kiss boo boos and be the parental presence, but I expect the kids to play without my interference. I do them and myself a disservice by hovering when they’re interacting with other children.

And this weekend we had the perfect blend of nice weather, nice people and nice behavior. The two other mothers and I became friends through work at The News-Enterprise and our kids are all close to the same age, ranging from around 3 to 6 years old. Our husbands cliqued, too, which was helpful.

When I told my kids who we were going to visit, they both were excited. My son declared he was going to run up and hug the boys he’d been missing.

We can’t seem to find the time to visit as frequently as we probably should, but carving out an autumn Sunday to spend together was pretty amazing.

There was zip lining and baseball and trampoline time — all in one backyard. The children took turns and played nice and ate copious amounts of cookies. The adults watched football and talked and ate. And then ate some more.

But in spite of all the junk food and belly aches from too many cookies, it was a fantastic day. Since I spend most of my time with my kids at home, it’s so nice to be in adult company — especially pleasant adult company.

And even though we wait far too long between visits, it’s great to know that whenever we do find the time again, my kids will have their own friends ready to go.

And that means I can actually enjoy myself instead of worrying. Which is pretty great.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on September 25, 2013.    


After a night of interrupted sleep, my husband and I have mini competitions to see who got the least amount of sleep and who is therefore worthy of the most sympathy and the ability to sleep in on Saturday while the other responsible adult wakes up with the children, the oldest of whom seems to think it's totally fine to start his day at 5 in the morning.

I keep telling that child that it's totally not fine, but he doesn't listen to me.  This morning, thankfully, he stayed upstairs until 6, though I could hear him walking around earlier than that.  But he needed to sleep with us because there was apparently a huge buzzing dragonfly in his room that was preparing to sting him at any moment. 

It turns out that his window was cracked and we live super close to a busy bypass and train and really, I think the incessantly loud traffic noise and stupid, over-exuberant train whistle woke him up.

So it was early when I was dragged out of bed because my children aren't cuddlers in the sense that they can be still and just lay with you.

They may want to lay down, but they don't want to lay down and be still.  There is turning and wiggling and elbowing and general not-comfortableness that does not encourage any of us to dawdle in bed. 

And this was after my husband came home late from being out of town for work.  It was around 11 before he showed up, and maybe I should have gone to bed since I'd missed out on good sleep all week from a certain 3 year old who wakes up screaming a few times a night.  But I kind of thought he'd have a sympathy present for me as I'd had to deal with both grumpy children by myself for two days and also had to take Adele to soccer practice wherein I spent the entire time chasing her back onto the correct field because once she gets the soccer ball she just wants to keep running and kicking and the only way to stop her is to pick her up and carry her back to the correct spot.

I also had to pack up two chairs and three jackets and a stuffed dinosaur and a water bottle while keeping an eye on my precious angel who was mad because the concession stand was closed and I wouldn't promise her that she could have a sucker at home (because you don't need anything to make you more hyper, Adele.) and so she ran all around, including toward traffic because the only way to really punish me for not giving her candy is to have me lose my mind.  I finally got her to stay sort if in one area by having Sebastian kick the soccer ball with her. 

But I also thought Chris would have a sympathy gift for me because Adele colored all over the bathroom and herself with a non-washable blue marker, and this was after she overflowed the toilet by flushing down a whole roll of toilet paper.

But no.  Nope.  Zero presents. 

So we went to bed late but I couldn't sleep because I'd had a ton of french press coffee in the afternoon to try to keep myself awake on account of being ridiculously exhausted and we all know what happens when I do that.

So I lay there and lay there and tried to calm my brain down, and just when I finally think I'm close to sleep I hear screaming from the monitor.  Okay then. 

I go upstairs and pick Adele up out of bed and sit with her and as soon as I do she falls right back to sleep.  And I sit and hold her for just a few more minutes to make sure she's good and asleep but also because there are very few moments a day when she's still and even less when she sits
still in my arms.

So no sleep.  But I did get to enjoy a quiet, non-argumentative moment with my fiery, I-do-everything-myself 3-year-old baby girl.  And maybe that's worth it. 

(Although a present would have been nice, Christopher.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Random Monday: In which I discuss soccer and lack of sleep and knitting.

1. We're coming off a very busy weekend.

2. Like three soccer games, a birthday party and friend get-together weekend.

3. It was glorious.

4. Not to brag or anything, but my son is turning into quite the little soccer player.

5. Last year he didn't really get that much of a chance to play because his coaches strategy was to put in all the best players so they could score as many goals against the other team as possible.

6. I was not on board with this strategy, and not just because it meant my kid didn't get to play that much.  I don't think it was teaching the kids a very good lesson.

7. This year Sebastian's coach is a woman, and she's sweet and encouraging.

8. Plus my kid plays more, which means that he's improved tremendously.  It's neat to watch them learn and grow, you know?

9. Adele is also pretty good at soccer.

10. She's just having trouble learning that you're supposed to stop at the white line when you're out of bounds.

11. She just keeps going.  And going.  And going.

12.  No matter who tries to tell her to stop.  All the way onto other fields.

13.  I don't think her coach was too happy with her.  But I just laughed.  She's 3.  I think he might be expecting a bit much from someone who's that young and never played before.

14.  And she just really likes to run and kick the ball.

15.  She's much more coordinated than I ever was.

16.  Guys.  I'm totally loving being a soccer mom.

17.  I think today is going to be rough because I have a lot of real newspaper writing work that I need to do.

18.  And not much sleep happened last night. 

19.  A certain young girl was up for hours last night.

20. There was screaming and whining and finally just talking to her animals.

21.  After Chris checked on her I just turned the monitor off. 


23.  I don't understand why children don't get that.

24.  Plus I have a lot of knitting to do because I'm trying to finish a black cardigan for myself before I make anything else for my etsy shop.  (Peruse! Buy! Share! Please!)

25.  Because in my mind I have to finish it before I work on anything else because otherwise I'd be cheating on my black cardigan.

26.  And cheating is bad.

27.  Here are some blurry pictures that don't have anything to do with this post:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Homemade Friday: Homemade Feta

I made feta.

A large part of me feels like I need to apologize for that, like somehow me making homemade feta cheese is causing someone else reading this feel bad for not making homemade feta cheese.

(If that is you, fear not.  My house is covered in clutter.  I hope that makes you feel better.)

But the rest of me feels pretty awesome, because I MADE HOMEMADE FETA.

How cool is that?

I can't remember what first made me want to make feta.  I knew that it is usually made with sheep's milk, but I had a ready supply of cow milk from my sister and so hoped that I could work something out with it. 

I'd already made mozzarella, and have a continual supply of yogurt and kefir going at all times. So I guess I needed a new challenge.

In this situation, Google was my friend, as it usually is.  I searched around until I found a recipe that would work for me and didn't include doing a magical cheese dance or sage cleansing in order to get good results.

This one was relatively simple, and one I knew I could do.  I ordered milk from my sister and supplies from the cheese lady and my children to bed early so I could have enough time to get going.

It started off like this:

Three gallons of milk!

 With these supplies:

And then it looked like this:

Then this:

 Then I hung it over a pot on my stove to drain:

And then it looked like this:

I drained it some more, then I drained it even more - that last time over the utility sink in the back room because it had to stay there for a couple of days.

It left my house a bit ripe, if you know what I mean.  I started it when Chris was out of town for work, and when he came home he asked what smelled like sour milk.

I told him it was sour milk.  Duh.

After it drained for a couple of days I transferred it to one of Chris' beer grain storage containers.  Don't worry - he told me I could use it.

It stayed there for around two or three weeks to age.

When it came time to taste it, I admit that I was a little nervous.  I'm not really sure why, because I was there for every step of the process.  But I was worried that somehow I'd screwed everything up and would get food poisoning.

I didn't. 

It's absolutely delicious.  It's salty and sharp and creamy and crumbly and absolutely perfect.

Here's a blurry picture of last night's dinner - shrimp sauteed with collard greens, onions, garlic, tomatoes and green peppers.  Topped with homemade feta.  It was pretty freaking awesome.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Homemade Friday: Baby Doll Mei Tai for Adele

I'm not entirely sure what possessed me.  I mean, I have a million things to do before Adele's 3rd birthday party this Saturday, not the least of which is get over the Mom Guilt that I'm not giving her the detail-oriented, homemade paper mache pinata birthday party that her brother had.  But I do try to alleviate some of this guilt by telling myself that I didn't really go to much real trouble for the party until Sebastian turned 4.  So next year.

For Adele's birthday we bought her a baby doll with accessories like a diaper bag, bottle, baby stroller, and I found a little vintage wooden doll bed online that I love.

So are you sensing a theme?  She wasn't much for dolls when she was littler, but I think that had more to do with her brother not playing with dolls than anything else.  She just wants whatever he has, you know?  But in the last few months she's been playing pretty hard with the one Cabbage Patch doll she has.  She tucks it in at night and gives it blankie and a paci.  She sings to it.  She puts it on the potty and wipes it's behind.  So I've been wanting an excuse to buy her a new doll and everything that goes with it.

I may have gone a bit overboard.

(Here she is with a mouth full of candy, wild hair, and in pajamas at 4 in the afternoon.  Winning at parenthood, right?)

For some reason yesterday I decided that she had to have a carrier to hold her baby with her at all times.  Like she had to.  Like I had no choice but to make one for her right away.

I'm not one to ignore my sewing feelings, so I got to work.

I searched online, trying to find a pattern or tutorial for what I wanted, but I couldn't.  So, as usual, I just decided to make it up myself.

It's an easy pattern, a square with straps attached to it.  The material is some that I filched from my Mom years ago.  I figured if I was going to try to make my daughter into a hippie baby-doll wearer I should follow through and use hippie fabric.  Do you recognize the butterfly fabric?  Maybe from hereOr here?  The brown fabric is corduroy.

There are things I would change about it if I did it over - like I would probably try to make it slip on over her head instead of having to be tied.  And I would make the bottom thinner than the top so the baby would fit in better.  And maybe make the edges curvier.

But for a quick, one-day project, it's not too bad. 

Of course, it would be much better if my daughter actually wanted to wear it.  But I suspect that has more to do with her knowing that I want her to wear it rather than a statement on how she feels about the carrier itself.

I've been thinking about making a few for my Etsy shop, so look for that at some point in the next year or so!

And one of my favorite things about the carrier - it's reversible:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I, on the other hand, would have never made it out of the pool

The thing about my husband us that he's dedicated.  Or some (I) might say stubborn.  Mule-headed. 

Before the race.
 But that behavior, while maddening a lot of the time, serves him well.

So that's why, when he told me he wanted to participate in a triathlon I knew that he was going to take it seriously. 

He was going to train.  And train.  And train some more.  He worked out twice most days, for an hour each time, running or biking or swimming.  We completely changed the way we eat, eliminating most foods that don't do us any favors - including, for the most part - beer.  And pasta.  And potatoes.  And cake.

We've both grown unnaturally fond of almond butter and kale.  But not together.  Mostly.  I think he made smoothies out of them a few times.

Transition area - where he started the bike ride.
He's lost 20-25 pounds and gained the ability to not only finish a triathlon, but also excel at it.

Beginning the bike ride.
The man placed second in his division.

Back from the bike ride.
Let me say that again - the man, my husband, who has never competed in a triathlon before - placed second in his division. 

He killed it. 
Setting off on the run.
I'm not one to be too mushy on here, mostly because I'm afraid it will come out sounding ridiculous and fake and whatnot.  But my husband is an inspiration.  I look to him for fitness advice and when I feel most like giving up and saying screw it, mostly when working out makes me feel like I'm never going to be in the type of shape I want to be in - I see him striving and running and working so hard to achieve something.  And I push myself a little harder.

Almost done!

(Recently I've discovered zuzkalight on youtube.  I love her and hate her all at once.  Also my sore muscles thank her.)
If you look closely you can see Christopher almost at the finish line. 
And that's Sebastian running after him.
And being at the event last Sunday and seeing all those other people who you can tell spend a lot of time trying to be the best they can be was amazing.

Of course, we celebrated that night with beer and cake. 

After the race.
And as a present to him I forgave him all those Sunday mornings he left me alone with the kids so he could train.

You are welcome, Christopher.

Accepting his trophy - which Sebastian is storing
in his bedroom next to his own soccer trophy.
(I'm ridiculously proud of him.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Homemade Friday: Sebastian's Snowflake Hat

In case anyone was wondering, and I know that you were, my Great Caffeine Afternoon Explosion yesterday resulted in poor sleep and weird dreams wherein I was in California with my mom and somehow met friends who had driven there from Kentucky in four hours.  I also possibly witnessed a murder, or at least a bad fight.

So worth it?

Totally worth it.

The hat I have to show you today is one that I was knitting for my Etsy shop.  However, I made the mistake of trying it on my son to see what size it was, because it was kind of supposed to be for a baby, but ended up much bigger than I expected.  As you can see:

But Sebastian decided he wanted it to be his.  And I couldn't very well say 'no' as I hadn't knit his hat yet this winter.  So Sebastian's Snowflake Hat it became.

The colorwork design came from Vogue Stitchionary Volume Three.  I love books like that, because it allows you to create your own patterns using the designs in the book.  And I like to create my own patterns.  It gives me a bit of pride, you know?

I'm also extremely fond of Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns books, which I've used over and over again.

The yarn is Knitpicks Swish Worsted in Lava Heather and Squirrel Heather.  I knit about an inch and a half of 2x1 ribbing, then a row of contrasting color, then a couple rows of plain stockinette stitch, then started the snowflakes.  After I was finished I knit a plain row, then decreased evenly every row until I had a small number of stitches.  Then I cut my yarn and pulled it through the leftover stitches a few times, tied a knot and weaved it in.

Now, lest you think I am a knitting wizard, as I fear that many of you already do, let me show you the inside of the hat:

Awesome, no?  I'm relatively new to colorwork and haven't yet figured out how to prevent that sort of thing from happening.  But my plan is to pick up stitches around the bottom of the hat and basically just knit another hat, a plain one this time.  That would make the hat reversible and also hide the mess that you see above.

Sebastian approves.  His look of boredom tells me so.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I think my children are happy I'm caffeinated as well, because I am much more patient

I've decided that ridiculously strong french press coffee at 2 p.m. while I sit on my front porch waiting the bus to drop Sebastian off from school is the best idea ever.

It may have something to do with my daughter who thinks that sleeping is stupid and so wakes up at weird hours, like 5 a.m., and won't go back to sleep and my husband waits until I've already gone up and semi-comforted our precious angel and come back downstairs before telling me that he was getting up anyway and could have gotten up with her instead of me.

Thanks, Christopher.  That was super helpful.

So I've been dragging all day, even after my morning dose of coffee.  But that coffee isn't thick, french press coffee.  So as I prepared myself to sit outside, which is my favorite part of the day because I am alone, sitting outside quietly knitting, I decided to make some coffee.  But I didn't want to make a pot because it seemed wasteful for just a cup.

And I'm so glad I opted for french press.  (I'm also trying to see how many times I can type 'french press' in one entry, and how many words I can write about coffee.  Because coffee is delicious and life-affirming.  Especially french press.  French press.  French press.)

But strong coffee in the afternoon makes me feel like a human again, instead of an exhausted mutant.  And it also makes me feel slightly less aggravated.  Like, I've been interrupted just now no less than 58 times to fetch my children random snacks and I'm still not wanting to lock the door and lock them out.  I mean really, you'd think that sitting them in front of the television would offer enough of a distraction, but no.

So strong coffee in the afternoon makes me want to accomplish things.  I've been plugging along pretty steadily making things for my etsy shop, but I've been pointedly ignoring the quilt I'm making for Sebastian.  Sometimes it just seems overwhelming, you know?  But I'm close enough that I think the super tedious part is behind me.  So I dove in this afternoon.  See?  Progress:

Notice the Tardis fabric? It makes me smile.
And I also decided to finally mix up the cream that's been sitting in my refrigerator and make some butter.  My sister gave me a bunch of milk that I needed to skim and pasteurize, and so I had an over-abundance of cream.  I made the mistake of pouring it all into the mixer at once and made a helluva mess.  But fresh butter was the result.

Butter.  Almost.
Strong coffee in the late afternoon even makes me want to blog when more often than not by this time of day I've already given up on finding the time to write.  Of course, I should be making dinner, as is evident by my starving children.

So I'm going to go now.

But just know that I am cooking dinner with gusto and boundless energy.

(Of course we all know that I'm either going to come down from this caffeine high at 7:30 and crash, or I won't be able to sleep all night long and will, once again, repeat the non-sleeping cycle.  I'll keep you informed as I'm sure everyone is waiting impatiently to hear how my evening went.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Etsy is the place to be

So I finally opened an Etsy shop, as you can tell from that widget thing that's to the right of your screen.

And it's a little ridiculous how much fun I've been having making things for it.  I've mostly made jewelry, but there are a couple of hand knit hats, and I'm working on more.

I told my husband that really, that's my dream.  That's what I want to do with my life.  I want to make things and sell them.

I haven't actually sold anything yet, but I have high hopes.  Or at least a positive attitude?

I'm not the best at self-promotion, but here's the link to my shop:


Or you can just click on that little Etsy box on the right.

Stop by and take a look! 

And if you like, share with friends.