Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where's Waldo

You'll never find him. Go ahead and try. (Hint: He's got his head down, trying to look nonchalant.)

Still can't see him? Try this one.

Or this one might be easier.

OK, Fine. I'll just tell you. He's right there in front, in the striped sweater.

Doesn't he look warm? It's a good thing, too, because ever since "Waldo" here got his spring haircut he's been shaking and shivering. (I guess it's a little early in the year for a buzz cut.) I felt sorry enough for him this afternoon that I dug this sweater out of the back of Grace's closet. She's long since outgrown it, of course, but as soon as she figured out what I had planned she wanted to wear it herself. (I'll admit it looked pretty adorable on her too, way back then. (Sorry, you'll have to scroll. It's a long one.)) But I soon convinced her that playing dress up with the dog is much more fun.

And it is!

I may have created a monster.

A warm, fuzzy monster.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Declaration of Independence

It's not surprising that Grace has her own opinions about fashion. Sam has been coaching her in these matters for a long time now. But now that she's actually able to get her clothes on (mostly) by herself, we'll probably be seeing more interesting ensembles like this one.

As you can see, this skirt is as functional as it is stylish. And I think the tails in both front and back add a little special something.

On a related note, Sam went to school today wearing layers: navy blue shorts over black sweat pants, paired with a long-sleeved striped blue shirt under a flashing light Wall-E t-shirt. Oh, and red rubber boots. I don't even bother with the gentle suggestions anymore. Why not let his teachers have a good laugh every now and then?
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Friday, March 13, 2009

Five for Friday

1. So I have more than a couple 10 for Tuesday/Thursday/Wheneverday entries saved in my draft file. I thought about compiling them all into one giant catch-up issue for today, but it turns out they're all out of date and out of context. And this blog is nothing if not context. More context than you could ever possibly want. So here it it, fresh and tasty for Friday, with no stale observations about the presidential election or Christmas shopping. Christmas is so 2008!

2. Speaking of stale holidays, a full four weeks ago we went to a ward Valentine's Day party. Sam brought home a heart shaped helium balloon, which is still fully inflated, skimming the ceiling as I type. I'll admit it's kind of cool to see it hanging in there for so long, but its longevity has ruined my credibility. With all of the balloons through all the years, Sam and I have had that tough talk about how things just don't last forever. We've mourned helium, noble as it is, always escaping the confines of its flimsy balloon home. But here's this pesky balloon, exposing me as an atomic ignoramus. It's embarrassing.

3. Speaking of uncooperative balloons, here's another one. We were at a family carnival put on by the folks at Hunter's Hope a couple weekends ago. There was food, face painting, and at the end of a long line of screaming children accompanied by irritable parents, a trio of balloon twisting clowns. We waited for quite a while to get Sam's sword and Grace's long-stemmed daisy, but once we had them both children were fully satisfied. We immediately had the "balloons don't last forever/I don't want to hear any tantrums when that thing pops" discussion, and the children went on their merry, balloon-bopping way.

Soon enough, it was time time head home. Predictably, our children were not happy about this news, and began to voice minor protests. I assured them it really was time, and began to approach Grace with her coat. With the frightening fury of a two-year-old, she screamed "NOOOOOO!" and hit me with her balloon flower. It immediately popped. While Grace wailed in disappointment, I turned the other way and cracked up. (I don't want to encourage her bad behavior by laughing at it, you know, but sometimes karma has its own (hilarious) lesson planned.) When I finally composed myself again, I helped my crestfallen daughter into her coat, muttered something wise like "and that's why we don't hit mommy with our toys."

I couldn't help but notice Sam was pretty quick to get his own coat on, without the usual protests.

4. Can you believe it, I have another balloon story? So a couple nights later, Sam and I were snuggling through his bedtime routine. He's got a keen interest in law enforcement, so he's always asking questions about criminals. This particular evening, he was worried about bad guys breaking into our house and stealing our stuff. I told him that that wasn't very likely: we keep our lights on and our doors locked, and our fuzzy motion detector always lets us know when there's someone approaching the house. Most importantly, we don't really have anything valuable for someone to want to steal. Full of earnest concern, he asked, "But what about my balloon sword? That's valuable." I agreed, snuggling him a little closer so he couldn't see me laughing, and assured him that he still didn't need to worry about it.

5. This one's not about balloons, but it's got Sam at bedtime. So, when Coach is out of town, I sometimes let the kids sleep in my bed with me. It's usually pleasant and cuddly sweet, but on one particular night a couple weeks ago, the kids just would not settle down. After more than an hour of their bickering, wrestling, and kicking me in the head, I finally lost it and told them both to lie down and go to sleep immediately. I issued the famous "I don't want to hear another sound out of either of you," threat and grumpily punched my pillow back into shape. Their immediate silence only made me feel more guilty about losing my temper. So a few minutes later, I apologized for yelling. I asked Sam, "Do you know how much I love you? I love you so much."

He said, "Yeah, but there's something more important."

"Oh, what's that?" I asked.

"You're not allowed to yell like that in the house. Never do that again."

He's right. He's been reminded many times about outside voices and inside voices, and I definitely used an outside voice. I just hope that my chuckling did not make my apology sound insincere. Because I really was sorry. That kid really is sweet.

6. Speaking of my sweet kids, both of them are sick. Grace is recovering from what the doctor called a "raging" double ear infection, and Sam has pneumonia. I feel bad (as in, cruelly negligent) that they both got so sick, but they're both doing better after a couple days of antibiotics. And I know that's just how life goes. Balloons pop, kids get sick.

But here's the part I'm still having trouble with, and the part where I really need advice from experienced parents. I'm paralyzed with ambivalence about the whole school situation. I kept him home for a couple days before I even took him to the doctor because he spent so much of the night coughing, and was just exhausted in the morning. When I finally did take him to the doctor, she said he could go back "whenever he's up for it." The trouble is, in the morning, he's never "up for it," and even on the best of days it takes considerable prodding to get him dressed and out the door. So two days this week I conceded that he needed extra rest and let him sleep until he woke up on his own, and then took him in to school. I got the usual disapproving looks from the ladies in the office for bringing him in late, but whatever. I'm the mom, right? My kid is sick. I'll do what's best for him. But then he comes home at the end of the day completely exhausted, and I think perhaps what's best for him might be to just let him stay home. But when I've done that (like today), by mid-morning he's planning parties, building forts and generally acting well enough to be at school. When I ask him, he's always too sick to go to school. He's only four. I don't want him thinking I'll spend the next 14 years falling for that trick. But on the other hand, he is only four. There's no need for me to be a cruel drill sargeant mommy, forcing him back to school when he's still got that eject-a-lung timbre to his cough.

So what's the right policy here?

7. Speaking of policies, what are the rules on counting to 7 when you're only shooting for 5? I should call this good and say I'm done, but there are a couple more things I've been meaning to tell you in one of these random conglomerate posts.

8. I've got a couple new blogs. This one was started by my friend Amber to compile and share the great deals she's sleuthed up for the good folks here in The Buff (although the fully-clothed are welcome to enjoy the savings as well). I'm practically the cheapest person she knows, so she invited me to blog there too. Watch for exciting posts on my beloved Yogurt Store and other great money wasting saving destinations.

I started this one a few months ago as sort of a creative journal for my jewelry making. Like everything else in my life, it's a work in progress. But it's really fun, actually, and I'm surprised at how much I enjoy the creative process of recording my creative process.

So feel free to visit at either of my new homes. Or visit my old/nearly defunct group homes for keeping track of angry grudges and weight loss. (Both of these are open to new contributors, so e-mail me if you're interested.) But don't worry, the human resources department will never let me out of my contract here, so Meaty Chunks will always be my primary bloggy residence.

9. Speaking of bloggy residences, thanks for visiting mine. I like it when you come over. We should do this more often.

Monday, March 09, 2009


I'm not naming pseudonyms, but one of the first five commenters on the previous post does not officially win a First Five Handmade Item, seeing as how he lives with me and gets handmade dinner practically every night, and handmade cookies more often than is good for either of us. Now, if only I could convince him to wear that handmade sparkly bow tie . . .

Anyway, the point is there's room for one more.

Don't all comment at once. It jams up the server.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

February 28

Sam loves a good countdown. He's always asking me questions like "How many days till Halloween?" and "How many more days of school until I can be a rescue worker?" Maybe he just got tired of the answer always being in the hundreds/thousands/millions, because recently he's started inventing his own reasons for more immediate celebration.

February 28, for example. I think he must have heard about it at school, how February is a special month with only 28 days. For whatever reason, that date got stuck in his head, and he started asking for frequent countdown updates. I'd show him where we were on the calendar, and how many days it would take to get to February 28. He had me write the words "THIS IS A PARTY" in that day's box. He referred to it daily.

In the days leading up to the 28th, he talked about what he planned for his party. He came up with a guest list. He thought about presents. (He decided they'd be a surprise: jewelry for me, and a yellow tie for Coach.) He'd ask, "Aren't you going to be surprised when I give you your presents? Isn't that nice of me to make you presents?"

He wrote lists.
(I think "FRI" was going to be "FRIENDS," but he got distracted.)

When the day finally arrived, he spent the morning talking about how much there was to do to get ready for the party (see list). Not listed, but still a high priority, was making decorations. I gave him a pair of scissors and a stack of colored paper, and he cut these flags out all by himself.
I showed him how to use the hole punch and then string the triangles onto ribbon. Then all that was left was hanging it up. He told me precisely where he wanted it to go.

In the end, it might not have been exactly the party he had in mind. (His beloved Abygail wasn't able to make it, and he briefly considered canceling the whole thing.) But we had a great turnout otherwise -- both my friends and his. (Coach was out of town, so he didn't get to invite anyone.) And I think everyone had a good time. While the grown ups sat around chatting and making jewelry, the kids played. There was great food. And all the ladies went home with something pretty.

Sam already has several more parties planned for the next few weeks. I'm glad, because Coach has a busy travel schedule this spring, and all this partying will give both me and Sam something to look forward to.

So put your party hats on and get over here. You're totally on the list. And Sam's counting down.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

First Five/ Pass it On/ Love Chain

Since I'm all about being crafty lately, I took B's bait and jumped at the chance to be one of her first five.

Here's the deal:

The first five people to respond to this post will get something handmade by me!

My choice. For you. This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1. I guarantee that you will like what I make for you. 100% satisfaction or your money back.
2. What I create will be just for you. A surprise!
3. I'll do it when I'm good and ready (but before 2010).
4. I reserve the right to do something extremely strange. It might be fuzzy. It might be edible. It might have sparkles. It might be lame.
5. Most importantly, pass it on. The first 5 people to comment on your blog get something made by YOU! If you’re not the kind of person that wants to make something tangible for others, how about some kind of service for them, any type, any size?
6. Come back and blog about it -- what you made, what you got. All that.

Ready? Go!


I've been feeling pretty crafty lately. It's partly because of recent splurges at a nearby Jo Ann Fabric store that went out of business. Despite its dwindling inventory, I managed to spend hundreds of dollars on assorted fabrics, notions and beading supplies over the last couple months. A lot of that went to insulated curtains for our drafty house, but I'll admit there were a few things in the cart just for me. Anyway, I got lots of great deals, and I can count it as money well-spent as long as I use the stuff, not just add it to my stash.

So I've started work on some projects that have been on my list for a while.

Like these bags. Coach goes to lots of conferences and brings home bags that look like this:

There are variations on this theme of course (sometimes it's a backpack!), but basically we have at least a dozen black satchel-sized bags that advertise for some professional organization or pharmaceutical creation. Because I can't stand to let anything go to waste, I've been trying come up with ways to use these bags without being a walking advertisement for Pfizer. (Just say no to pharmaceutical swag!)

Here are my first two attempts, still not complete, but well on their way to being totally drug free.

The first one is Sam's new backpack for school. His original backpack (also swag -- but this one from pre-k registration in August) was totally thrashed. It had about 14 pockets, and the zipper pull on every single one of them was broken. Finally, the zipper on the main compartment stopped closing altogether. When Sam came home from school last week with his backpack inside a plastic grocery bag, I decided it might be time to come up with something else.

I had attached the road ribbon and the car buttons to his first backpack at the beginning of the year because I assumed every child in his class would have identical (free) backpacks. (Turns out most of the other parents are not as cheap as I am. Or they were smart enough to throw that piece of trash in the trash right away.) Anyway, I wanted Sam to have something cute, and easily identifiable as his. So we went to the fabric store, and he helped me pick out some fun buttons.

When it was time to move to the new backpack, he wanted to move the car buttons over, plus add a few more transportation related decorations from my sewing stash. I agreed, and even suggested I could stitch on some train tracks for the colorful little train engines he'd picked out. He was excited about that idea, so I started to work. Unfortunately, I did not get instructions regarding the specific placement and orientation of said train tracks, and made the mistake of stitching them in a diagonal line, because I thought it was cute.

Sam disagrees. He wants the trains to "drive straight, not on a hill!"

I can't decide whether to honor his artistic vision for his own backpack and take the stitches out, or insist that since I already put time and effort into making his backpack special the stitches will stay. So in the meantime I've done nothing, hoping perhaps the whole thing will blow over.

Things didn't look promising after his first day back to school with it. When I asked if the kids at school liked his new backpack he said: "Yeah, but they think the train tracks should be straight." I know the kids in his class pretty well, and asked who specifically didn't like the slanting track. He said, "All of them."

It's been a few days since then, and there hasn't been further mention of the offensive train route through Backpack Town, so perhaps it might be safe for me to resume work.

In the meantime, I've been working on a bag of my own.

This project is an example of serendipitous mishaps. Initially, my plan was just to use the damask print fabric (from a shirt purchased on a clearance rack for $1.50. I loved the print, but it looked really really bad on me. So I bought two.) to cover the offending panel. But because I don't actually know what I'm doing, I had a really hard time sewing the panel to the outside pocket without catching the lining of the bag in the stitches underneath. After several attempts, I decided to try free form machine quilting instead. I've seen this technique used by quilters who actually know what they're doing, and I love it. I'm not a quilter, but I got a beginning quilt book and some encouragement from Peanut and Mom a couple months ago, and according to the quilt book this technique is "easy and fun." So I thought, "why not?"

It turned out to be neither easy nor fun. And it looked stupid. And the stitches were small and hard to take out. So I decided to try disguising my blunders with buttons. And then that looked dumb. So I tried balancing out the buttons with colorful embroidery. At first I was just making matters worse, with huge clumsy french knots and crooked stitches. But then it all started to come together, and I really started to love the design. Since then, I've been hand-stitching every change I get. It's time consuming, but I do it while I watch TV or listen to a book and it's really pretty relaxing. Who knew?

Anyway, I'd still like to figure out free form machine quilting at some point (I know it has something to do with those pesky feed dogs, but my sewing machine manual is not talking.) but until then I think I'll just go with hand stitching. (It would have saved me a lot of time and frustration if I'd just tried that in the beginning. Oh well!)

Here's another blunderful project I recently completed. I was the item-of-the-month for our relief society enrichment craft group, headed by the talented Mackenzie (check out her photo to see where I should have put those ears!) I tried to follow all of Martha's instructions, but I still ended up with a creature that looks more like a dog than a lamb.

To add injury to insult, this lamb (apparently) recently underwent cranial surgery, as evidenced by the awkward scar of stitches at the back of her head. (Due to the graphic nature of the photographs, the scar itself will not be shown here.) But she's sortof cute from a certain angle, and I like her perky pink bow. Grace, lover of all animals even the deformed ones, affectionately calls her "Baaa." Sam, who doesn't care much for stuffed animals, but does like presents (especially ones given to his sister and not to him), wants to know when I'll be finished with his lamb. I kind of want to tell him "never." But this does seem like the type of project that will get much easier after a couple tries, so I may just give it another go.

As long as we're on the topic of fuzzy pink creatures, here's this backpack Grace got for Christmas.
I didn't make it. All I did was add the pink ribbon straps. But I love it because it was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. And I had looked at many stores both online and in person, and couldn't find a suitable toddler backpack at a price I was willing to pay. I ended up finding this insulated lunch bag on a clearance rack at Shopko during our visit to Logan in December. It was surprisingly easy to open the stitching and slide in the ribbon, which was leftover from the curtains I made for Grace's room. All totaled, this little gift cost less than $5. And I would have paid a lot more than that for how much Grace loves it.

Here's my own bag makeover. I didn't think to take a picture before, so you'll just have to use your imaginations. Here it is after.

I found this purse for $2 at a thrift store. I liked it because it looked cute on the outside, but also had great internal architecture, with open pockets big enough for diapers and a container of wipes, plus smaller compartments to save me the trouble of dumping out the whole bag just to find my chapstick. I didn't realize until I got the purse home, however, that the lining of the was shredded. So much for compartmentalization!

I thought about tossing the purse right back in the Goodwill box, but then decided to try re-lining it. I probably wouldn't have bothered if I hadn't remembered a conversation with my creative friend Rozannah, who has a knack for disassembling stuff that's old and worn and turning it into something adorably unique and stylish. I asked her about a car seat cover she'd made this way, and she said it really wasn't that hard, just time consuming.

So I did it! I took apart the purse and disassembled the lining. Then, using the lining pieces as patterns, I cut a new lining in this pretty striped fabric, purchased as a remnant for 75 cents. (There's an even better story here. Before Christmas, I went to Jo Ann's specifically looking for a remnant to use to line this purse. I found this very print in the remnant bin, but because it came from a fancy decorator bolt, it was still about $7 for the piece, more than I wanted to pay for my experimental little project. I didn't find anything I liked better, so this project stayed on the back burner until about six weeks ago, when I heard that this Jo Ann store was going out of business. I stopped in to discover that they'd marked down ALL their remnants, including the stripey one I'd coveted weeks earlier, to 75 cents each. I didn't want this little fabric swatch to be lonely, so I bought pretty much everything left in the remnant bin. Can you believe how much money I saved?!)

Anyway, attaching the new lining to the purse took some trial and error (turns out it's important to do these things in the right order!), but it really wasn't that hard. In the end, I'm very happy with my $2.75 purse. My only regret is that the shell itself is not very sturdily made, and will probably fall apart long before the new lining does.

Here's another bag (what's with all the bags?) made from a copied pattern. My mom passed along a Christmassy gift bag that one of her friends had given to her. She knows me pretty well, and thought I'd enjoy copying the idea. So I did.

This bag is now home to a band of Ikea finger puppets that I purchased many months ago to give as a shower gift. But then I couldn't stand to part with them, and thought they'd make good quiet toys for church. (Cause heaven knows my kids need quieter amusements.) But then I realized it'd be nearly impossible to play with these without making animal noises. And what's the point of whispering, "ROAR!"? So the whole lot went into my sewing basked to wait for a home and a purpose.

OK, one last project. This one epitomizes why I keep a stash in the first place.

I purchased this picture frame/tray from a thrift store way back when we lived in Iowa (circa 2004). I wasn't sure exactly what I'd do with it, but I loved the frame and I kind of liked the green flapper girl print inside it. She ended up hanging on the wall in three homes, even though Coach never really liked her.
Enter designer fabric swatches purchased from Jo Ann's closeout sale for 50 cents each!

Here's the part I love: I used my new rotary cutter (purchased at Jo Ann's closeout sale for $8) to trim the fabric, which I attached with double sided carpet tape (purchased for $1 at the Yogurt Store*) to the backer board (which I was given free from an art store scrap pile) which I nailed to the frame with decorative brads (25 cents a pack at Big Lots) that were a little too long and had to be trimmed with my heavy duty (but disappointingly dull) craft wire cutters (Dollar Tree, $1). Each one of these items (well, except the rotary cutter) has been in my stash for a while. I pick up this stuff, halfway feeling guilty for acquiring stuff I don't really need, but knowing that it might come in handy some time. And then I spontaneously decide to do a project rightnow!, and I (surprisingly) have everything I need on hand. And I get it all done in less than an hour. And it looks much prettier on my buffet than that flapper ever did on my wall.

And the whole thing only cost me $295.00 at Jo Ann's closeout sale. What a bargain!

*Yogurt Store: That's another post. This one's long enough already.