Sunday, November 04, 2012

Halloween 2012

It was Millie's third Halloween this year, and since she still doesn't have strong opinions regarding costumes, I was able to let my imagination go wild.  I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from, but I thought an ostrich would be kinda fun.  It didn't take long to get her excited about it, and when anyone would ask what she was going to be she'd say "A type of bird called ostrich!"  Try as I did, I couldn't find any ostrich costume patterns, so I decided to stretch my sewing abilities and create my own.  I'm not exactly adept at thinking out patterns, so trying to put my idea into a 3-D form was tricky.

Basically I planned the body shape I wanted to see from a side view, then cut those out with a seam allowance.  I created an elastic waistband out of two large pieces of fabric sewn together, did this twice and then joined them to create one long piece with two waistbands.  I then gathered the sides of this long piece to fit the two side-view pieces with the waistbands aligned top and bottom.  The gathering allowed for the bumpy hips you see, which really gives the effect I was looking for, and also allowed Millie to adorably waddle while walking.  I stuffed the whole thing using batting from some old throw pillows and created a tube to hold all the batting in using black knit from an old shirt of mine sewn to the inside of the top and bottom waist bands.  

At Gardner Village in Utah
Once I had it all planned out, constructing the body took me less time than expected.  I put it all together in one late night while watching the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (I really recommend that film, btw). The furry fabric is super forgiving which really helped.

The head piece was constructed using the hood from last year's toggle coat pattern.  The inside is flannel cut out of the 6-12 month sizing.  The outer furry part is the 3 year size which was then gathered at the bottom to fit the flannel.  I then stuffed it a bit at the top.  And since Halloween is typically freezing in our area, I sandwiched a layer of Thinsulate between the flannel and batting to keep it extra warm.  The hat is held in place with a band of Thinsulate-lined flannel held together with snaps.

My mom helped me a ton with this project, which made it go a lot faster.  We made the hat together in about 2 hours.  We constructed the eye shapes by stuffing the toes of Leonard's old socks and tying off the ends. She then added all of the finishing touches.  I especially love the thick eyelashes and the light reflection detailing.  I think the eyes really made the whole costume - thanks so much mom!

Millie and cousin Chloe
We certainly got our use out of the costume.  Between Halloween here and our visit to Utah last weekend to see Kyle's parents, she went to two trunk-or-treats, Gardner Village, our work party, and regular trick or treating.  She really loved Halloween, and it was so great that she was able to better understand what was going on, while still being little enough to have no idea how much of her candy we ate!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

My Life Is a Sitcom

Lately I've been impressed with the number of "Did that really happen?!" moments I've experienced.  Strung together, they make for one impressive sitcom episode.


I'm at work, in the hallway between seeing patients when my phone buzzes.  A text from Leonard.  "Hey Megs, I just taught Millie how to say 'toot' when she passes gas!"  I groan and open the door to my next patient.

"I'm here to see you about my toe" he says, pointing to his foot.  His second toe has an obvious hammertoe abnormality.  It's large and all bent up, and reminds me of the talon from a gigantic bird of prey.  I expect it to start tapping independently, or to lunge and quickly grab the pen from my hand.  I explain that unfortunately due to his condition being quite advanced, surgery is the only likely option and he needs to see a podiatrist.  I can't get that talon image out of my head.  "Our referral coordinator will contact you in a week or toe.  Two.  She'll contact you in a week or two."  Sharp intakes of breath followed by laughter.  "I'm glad you can find humor in this" he says sternly.  The laughter escalates.

The next day I'm at my friend Holli's house.  Millie is playing with her best bud, Holli's two year old daughter.  Holli is wearing latex gloves as she separates about 20 lbs. of chicken into bags to be frozen, and I'm keeping the girls out of her hair.  We're discussing a recent outbreak of a stomach virus among kids in the neighborhood.  With no warning, Holli's daughter throws up on the floor, one episode after another.  Millie thinks this is freaky, and is crying to be held while inching closer to the mess.  Holli, covered in salmonella, watches helplessly.  I run to put Millie in another room so I can help.  On the way back I see the toddler, walking toward her mom for comfort, slip and fall in the puddle of vomit, her white pants covered.  She tries to get up only to fall again and again.*  Shocked gasps and groans.

Later on I'm preparing dinner as quickly as I can.  Leonard has taken Millie outside to allow me to get everything ready, as his parents are due in from Utah any moment.  The doorbell rings and I answer, dishcloth slung over my shoulder.  "Hi guys," I state excitedly.  Ron and Irene are standing in the doorway, arms and shoulders covered in luggage.  They look at me indifferently.  "Where is she?" they state, referring to their only grandchild.  I explain the situation, they sigh disappointedly and move pass me to put their things in the guest room.  "Nice to see you too," I mutter under my breath as I shut the door.**  Roaring Laughter.

It's getting late and I'm rocking Millie to sleep in her nursery.  It's dark and quiet, and she's a little mass of jammies and lovey and blanket lying on my chest with her head in the crook of my neck.  Awwww....
We continue rocking until suddenly the silence is broken by a soft puttering sound.  Millie lifts her head off my shoulder.  "Toot!" she says proudly, smiling widely.  Raucous laughter which transitions into clapping.  Cue cheery closing song and credits.

*Holli's daughter was just fine.  We eventually cleaned up the mess and got her in the tub.  It wasn't until recounting the events that Holli and I realized just how sad but also humorous it was to see her slip around like that.  Oh, poor toddlers!
**It should be noted that my in-laws are the coolest, and I don't blame them for their excitement to see Millie.  I'm sure I've greeted them less than enthusiastically when visiting their home, as I excitedly rush to their candy stash.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Beyond the Rainbow Bridge

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge
Nurturing our children from birth to seven
Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley

When Millie was around three months old, my neighbor let us borrow a play gym-type toy.  I was pretty much holding my girl all day and figured this might be a good way for me to do things that required bending over, like loading and unloading the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  I laid Millie on her back under the arch, and upon kicking her legs made contact with a pedal that caused three brightly colored wheels to turn above her head while the toy simultaneously made a loud sound, like gears turning.  After the wheels were done the toy played a happy little tune.  Millie smiled and looked intrigued, which caused her to kick again, resulting in more toy movement and sound.  However, with each subsequent round she became increasingly agitated and eventually started to cry.  I put the toy away, thinking she was still too young and would bring it out every few weeks to retry, but it was the same each time.  This was confusing for me - weren't toys supposed to be fun?  I began to think more deeply about what constitutes a good toy.  I wanted her to be stimulated but not overly so, and as she grew I hoped she would experience imaginative play like I remember from my youth. This led me to do a bit of research on play in general which eventually led me to Waldorf education, where from birth to age seven children learn primarily through imaginative play.  

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge is written by a longtime Waldorf educator.  The book gives a good overview of Waldorf education and it's founder from the early 1900s, Rudolph Steiner. This is not an evidence-based or scientific book, rather it felt like sitting at the knee of a wise grandmother as she taught some really great principles.  Waldorf learning for young children focuses on learning through homemaking activities and work.  One of the best pieces of advice I got from this book was to not hurry and clean up the table so we can do an activity, rather to make cleaning up the table the actual activity, having Millie help and singing a little work tune as we go.  It also stresses unstructured play using natural materials like cotton fabrics, shells, wooden blocks, and baskets for filling and emptying.  Each of these toys are less "fixed" and can change their purpose depending on the situation the child creates.  Waldorf dolls are typically very simple, with their proportions equal to that of the child and with simple facial features which allows more input from the child regarding the doll's emotions, etc.  Rhythm is also stressed in this book - creating rhythm at home with predictable routines, as well as recognizing seasonal rhythms and allowing the seasons to dictate our daily activities.  The chapter on discipline showed that this type of approach is loving and child-centered, with adults encouraged to seek out their own self improvement as children see everything we do and are likely to imitate our moods, tempers, etc.  Keeping a tidy, orderly environment helps children stay calm, and distraction at this age is one of the best ways to redirect behavior (something I've certainly noticed with Milllie).  One thing I'll definitely take away from this book is the advice to avoid too many questions and choices as this can be burdonsome or overwhelming to young children.  I find myself constantly asking Millie: "Should we go outside?" (hey, Megs - she's 17 months old, she isn't going to say no!), instead of "It's time to go outside!"  The book ends with instructions on how to make simple Waldorf dolls, something I've found is quite common in Waldorf books.  Since reading this book I've watched a few You Tube videos of Waldorf preschools, where long-braided hippie-looking instructors gently guide children through their daily routines which involves nature, play, baking, and storytelling from memory.  Sadly we have no Waldorf schools in this area, but I hope to use these principles in our home.  Overall, this was an easy read with lots of good principles and something I'll probably re-read as Millie continues to grow.   

Friday, December 23, 2011

Little Pink Toggle Coat

I made a coat and I'm so pleased. I almost wrote "sew pleased" which is kind of scary. Next thing you know, I'll be sporting a "my sewing machine is smarter than your honors student" bumper sticker on my car.

I used the School Days jacket & coat pattern from Oliver + S, and once again I only have good things to say about these patterns. This was a 3 scissors out of 4 difficulty, and I was a bit intimidated by the idea of making a coat. The pattern proved easy to follow, however, and I didn't really run into any snags.

I used a light pink wool I picked up on our family trip to New Orleans in October. I fell in love with the wool once I felt how soft it was. It's not a particularly heavy wool, however, so I constructed an interlining out of thinsulate (essentially a second lining using the lining pattern pieces) which I sandwiched between the regular lining and the wool shell. The thinsulate makes the coat a bit puffier and warmer which is nice. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it was featured on Oliver + S blog and I just followed the instructions. I used the 12-18 month size, but took the shoulders in about 1/4 inch on each side, since Millie's a bit small up top.

And although I'm sure my Husky would have been up to the challenge, I borrowed my mom's fancy computerized sewing machine to sew together the thick layers. I used a gray cotton fabric with little pink and red cherries for the lining, which was purchased locally and is from Moda. Overall, I'm happy with how it turned out. I learned so much with this pattern and hope to repeat it in the future. Once again I traced the original so that I could reuse it.

I'm pretty sure my girl likes it, too. She actually keeps the hood on which is a first. And I feel good knowing it keeps her nice and warm in the freezing cold. (Hard to believe how cold it is without any snow!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baby In Hat

Can I still call her a baby even though she's technically a toddler? Never mind, every cell in my body says YES!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

5:07 p.m.

Waiting for Leonard to come home...

Mess-free finger painting (this is why I love pinterest)

Toddler vs. Tree

Learning to say "cheese!"

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Train Shirt

Well I finally finished another one of my aforementioned projects. I've been planning this shirt for some time and thought it would be perfect for fall. I was drawn to the fabric initially because it reminded me of the pattern worn by old fashioned train conductors.

I placed the stripes horizontal for the bodice and vertical everywhere else. And since the dark gray blue pattern is a bit masculine I added a ruffle on the front and back to feminize it a bit.

I used the music class blouse pattern from Oliver + S. It was my first time using one of their patterns, and I loved it. The instructions were very clear and even contained options on finishing seams, etc. along with tips to make it look more polished. Millie's a bit narrow through the shoulders and chest, so I made the 6-12 month size up top with the length and width of the 12-18 month size for the bottom two thirds.

I learned a lot of new things with this pattern. First off, it's the first shirt I've ever made so attaching a collar was new. The pattern gives the option of pintucks or gathers below the bodice and I chose pintucks as I'd never done those before. They were a bit tricky but also quite rewarding. And since buttonholes aren't my favorite thing to sew, I used snaps instead which was also a first. I went painstakingly slow as I wanted to get it just right, so it took me a bit of time. I hope to make more in the future, and hopefully quicker now that I've made it once. Luckily I thought to trace the pattern with tissue paper so I didn't have to cut up the original.

Treasured tot with tucked in train attire! (we've been reading lots of Dr. Seuss)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Botany Beige

Botany Beige by Kwal

Botany Beige is my nemesis.

Leonard and I have lived in this house for two and a half years now, and other than decorating Millie's room, it looks pretty similar to when we moved in. That's not to say I don't have big plans for this place. I've got big plans. Plans that occupy my mind those last moments before falling asleep. That give me pause while cleaning the kitchen, my mind a whirl of paint colors and tile. That cause me to furrow my brow and murmur things like "hmm.." or clack my tongue while looking at a bare wall and contemplating bold artwork. I'm glad we haven't done any big projects yet as I feel like I've been marinating in this house, figuring out it's strengths and flaws. It certainly has it's strengths - open floor plan, spacious rooms, beautiful wood work.

But as for flaws, it's greatest is botany beige. Botany beige is a nice enough color. A safe neutral, used frequently on walls to add warmth and complement many design styles. However, this is the color the builder chose for all the interior woodwork. It covers the trim, columns, baseboards, window pane casings, and even some of the exterior doors. Even the bleeping outlets are botany beige. To make it pop, a fairly dark milk chocolate brown color was used on the walls which do make the botany beige look light. That is, until you put a white piece of paper against it and realize that botany beige isn't light at all. And that's where my design dilemma comes in. When it comes to color palettes, I'm a gray girl. I like cool light grays, blue grays, and charcoals. And those colors would look great in this house, but certainly not against botany beige. And since Leonard and I are planning a revamp of the sewing room (coming soon!), I needed to figure out a good salmon pink (bold, I know!) for my cabinets, but in order to do that I needed to know what wall color I should choose, and in order to that I needed an arsenal of tones that would complement Botany Beige. So I went to a local Benjamin Moore store yesterday to get some help from their color consultant as my mom entertained and toddled with my toddler.

November Rain by Benjamin Moore

Turns out Botany Beige has purple undertones, and any of those cool grays I like would bring those out, which is why they just won't do. Francine, my matter-of-fact and knowledgeable consultant, recommended yellows or greens for the walls. I wasn't interested. So we settled on a warm, light, gray green called November Rain. And I'm in love. I bought a sample and painted a poster board, and as Francine recommended, I've been moving it around from room to room at different times during the day. Sometimes it looks gray, sometimes the greenish tinges subtly shine through, and sometimes it looks like an off-white. It's gray enough that it doesn't look minty and green enough that it still looks warm, but not too warm. And it looks pretty nice against that conniving Botany Beige. My plan is to start off with November Rain on the walls of the sewing room and see how we like it, then eventually use it to cover up those brown walls in the larger living spaces of the house.

Coral Buff by Benjamin Moore

And speaking of the sewing room, I bought some Ikea cabinets which I'm having painted. I feel like I can be bolder in this room since it's meant to inspire all sorts of creativity, so I thought a salmon pink would be a good choice for the cabinets. I wanted it to be an orangey pink, kinda like the black sheep of the pink family. We finally decided on Coral Buff which is bold but not too bright and goes great with November Rain as well as Regent Green, another color I plan to use in the sewing room and throughout the rest of the house.

Regent Green by Benjamin Moore

I'm satisfied with what I've got so far, and I couldn't have done it without Francine. Well, Francine and the color that inspired it all. Botany Beige helped me step out of my cool gray tone comfort zone, so thanks BB!