Monday, February 28, 2011

padding the padded booty

Now that this baby is on the floor a good part of the day (sitting up eating toys, or rolling to the nether parts of the room), I have found myself down on the floor with him quite a lot as well. Aside from the fact that it's kind of hard on the floor, I have also noticed a distinct temperature shift. Have you been on the floor much lately? My, it's drafty down there.

So coupling the chilly floors with the fact that most of this boy's pants can no longer wedge over his thighs, the time had come for some new pants. Reversible pants, preferably (two pairs at once).

In true no-pattern form, I headed instead for his drawer, pulling out the one pair of pants still roomy enough for his thighs, and then to the fabric bucket for some scraps. The pants are essentially a large square with a little half circle cut-out on the bottom to create the legs, and a mild elastic waistband at the top. I stretched out the waist, laid them out on the fabric, and cut two pieces of green for the inside, and two pieces of striped material for the outside.

And just to be safe, I grabbed some leftover batting to pad them with. Doesn't that sound like a great idea? A fitted, portable blanket? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. You can never be too careful about a draft, after all.

And here's where we learn a lesson about not using a pattern, and about freehanding with scissors. It's hard to "measure twice, cut once" without measuring. So to compensate for the cut-too-short legs? Extra stripes for a cuff.

I sewed the outside seams of each pant together, creating a green pair and a striped pair. I then basted the padding to the inside of the striped pair, and sewed the two "pants" together at the waistband, leaving a small opening to thread in elastic. This meant, after turning the whole shebang right side-out, that I could stitch the half-circle on the inside (stripe/batting) pant with a machine, but had to finish the half-circle on the outside (green) pair by hand. I added the cuff like quilt binding -- sewing one side on with the machine, and then folding it over and hand stitching the other. I then machine stitched around the waistband about 1/2 inch from the top. To finish, I threaded enough 1/2 inch elastic through the opening to fit his waist without being very tight. I machine stitched the elastic ends together, slid them into the opening, and hand stitched the small opening closed.

[Phew, is that confusing enough? Clearly I need to take more in-process pictures next time.]

And just like that . . . two new pairs of pants.


And striped:

The only catch? I neglected to account for his cankles when I decided to add more bulk with batting. Technically he could use another half inch of width on each leg. At least. Either those cankles are going to have to shift to ankles in the near future, or these new pants will be headed to the Pass Along box sooner than hoped. But for now, they sure are warm and cute.

Friday, February 25, 2011

another use for that old dress shirt

I really despise throwing out dress shirts once they get that inevitable ink stain on the pocket. Or that spaghetti sauce smear on the sleeve from adoring little girl hands.

Actually, I am secretly glad that my husband ends up with spaghetti sauce smears, little chocolate kisses, etc. on his shirts and pants. (Though I often suspect my children just enjoy using us as a napkin and feign affection so we don't get too mad.) It's another manifestation (in a long list) of what a great dad he is. But I do lament how horrible I am at getting the stains out of his clothes. In an attempt to support his uninhibited fatherly interactions with the girls (despite my lack of talent in the laundry department), I've tried to reuse his stained clothes where I can.

After my younger sister's visit with us over Christmas, I found the perfect use for one such stained dress shirt. My younger sister has been irrationally in love with California for a decade or so. She reminds me quite a bit of my husband in that way. I say irrationally because she hadn't ever been to California, excepting a family trip when she was six. When we moved to Santa Cruz, I knew I had gained the power to entice her to visit. I don't often get visits from my sisters, so it was quite a treat to have her here. And she loved it! One of the benefits, I guess, of living in a cool place even when you, yourself, are not all that exciting. When she returned home, I wanted to give her something to remember Santa Cruz by. Using a stained dress shirt I made this for my scarf-loving, California-loving sister.
I used the already made button placket in the design, allowing for some versatility in how it is worn. I thought about changing out the buttons, but then couldn't find anything I liked better. Plus their simplicity struck a chord with me about what it is I've enjoyed about Santa Cruz since coming here - the simple shapes and colors that make up the ocean and the coastline. Perhaps I resort to paint on fabric too much, but the wave silhouette seemed to embody the feeling of sitting on a bench along the coast, drinking in the beauty of it all.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

in love some more

It's been more than a decade since we lived in France, and all these years I've been in clinical baguette withdrawal. There is just nothing like a fresh baguette. I know there are places in the States where a good baguette can be had, but somehow I have never come across one of them. I've tried local bakeries, grocery stores, bake-at-home frozen numbers, but to no avail. Every baguette recipe I've made has come out, well, about like the rest of the bread I make (which isn't to say it's not yummy -- but the crust is just . . . wrong. You know?) Once in a great while, a restaurant bread has come close, but our restaurant outings are few and far between. I need something more consistent. Like, twice a week, say.

Last fall I picked up a book at the library (Local Breads, to be exact) that seemed promising, and started reading. I know people who are cookbook readers, but it has never really made much sense to me. I am confused no longer. The next day I ordered a copy from Amazon.

This book is a gem -- cover to cover. I felt like I had just unearthed the baking rosetta stone. Unfortunately, a move and a baby interrupted my reading (I was still deep in the pre-recipe portion of the book) and six months later it was the fourteen year-old who pulled the book off the counter, dog-eared the "Parisian Daily Bread," and began begging. Two days later, a real, honest to goodness french baguette popped right out of my very own oven.



Spongy on the inside, chewy crunchy on the outside. And the taste? Oh my. Suffice it to say that the three loaves this recipe makes were gone in about two minutes.

So while this is not a quick bread (it takes about 3 hours, start to finish, but you only have to spend about five minutes of each hour actually doing anything -- the rest of the time the dough is just rising in various incarnations: ball, folded rectangle, loaf), it is well worth the effort. If you're going to be in the house one day, and plan to wander through the kitchen a couple of times, try this bread.


[If you can't get your hands on the book, here is another recipe that is close enough to be tightly related.]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

wednesday's ode

To beautiful scenery.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ah, pinafores

Pinafores must be one of the most brilliant clothing inventions of all time. Does anyone out there despise changing out clothing as much as I do? It is something I dread every time my children reach a new size range. Thus any piece of clothing that can be worn far longer than typical children's clothes is instantly a favorite in our household. Pinafores are one such item.

I knitted this pinafore (I adore the creative patterns I find on in preparation for my oldest daughter's birth. I loved the bright colors and the pockets perfect for carting around tiny books.
This was early on in my knitting career and I hadn't yet grasped the importance of gauge, so it was, admittedly, a bit large on her. But the fact that my daughter, now four, can still wear it, as well as her two-year-old sister, is a modern day miracle to this busy mother.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Our seven year-old takes after me in many ways. We share a love of dirt, horses, and mountains, and a mouthful of lousy teeth. We also both blow through the knees of our pants at an astonishing rate. The right knee of our pants, to be specific. I like to attribute the fact that I'm always flashing one knee to a savvy sense of fashion, or to all of the intensive work I do around here (dishes really wreck havoc on the knees, you know). But I don't actually know why one knee wears out on every single pair of pants I have ever owned, or why some of our kids always go through the knees of their pants, and some of our kids never do. It's one of the mysteries of the universe.

What I do know is that I've always got a pile of pants in a box in the laundry room that I am either patching, turning into shorts, or cutting up for other projects.

Last week these pants (the superb jeans in the picture below -- and don't you just love that Pippi-esque hair?) landed in the box a little bit early. They're special pants from grandma, you see, and only a few months old. So the day that a dime-sized fray appeared, they were pulled out of circulation while I figured out a patch.

The good thing about these particular pants is that they came with accessories in the first place -- little felt flowers around the cuffs -- which made the patch an easy choice. Felt flowers it would be.

I've actually patched with felt before, but I don't remember where I picked it up and have since decided that felt was pretty lousy quality. This time I opted for wool felt. I found the greatest little fabric store, which had a whole vintage suitcase full of beautiful wool felt square (they had me at suitcase -- would that I could present anything so well). As far as stores go, I don't really do large. Or mall. Or mega, in any sense. The crowds and options tend to overwhelm me. So this store was heaven sent. It's a small shop in the middle of the old downtown, and I still spent an hour wandering less than halfway through. A good good hour. I wanted to touch everything. As far as I'm concerned, any fabric store that can get me to say "oooohhhhhhhh" at every single bolt is a golden find. I restricted myself to the felt (and one little tiny chunk of cotton for pants for the baby, but that's another post).

Back to the felt.

This particular trip to the fabric store was something of a whim, so I didn't have the pants with me and had to guess on colors. In the end I left with a handful of squares (about $2 total), and only used about a quarter of that. The colors aren't an exact match (which I prefer anyhow), but close enough not to look aftermarket, if you know what I mean.

I freehanded a few flowers and leaves, and sewed them on with an easy straight stitch (up the middle for the leaves, side-to-side between the petals on the flowers). The big red flower covers the hole, and I did a bunch of wide stitches in a square under the pink middle to reinforce the frayed section. Then the flower middles went on with a quick circle of straight stitching.

Twenty minutes total.

Not a bad matched patch, if I do say so myself.

So far the felt is holding up very well. It's been slid on, muddied up, banged into, scraped, washed, and even dried.

Wait a minute. Maybe I do have an idea why this girl and I go through the knees of our pants after all . . .

Friday, February 18, 2011

veggie bags

When Allyson posted about these produce bags, I fell in love with the idea. I despise having to waste those plastic bags in the grocery store. I often skip a bag, but this tends to elicit glares from the cashier trying to round up my wayward tomatoes as they roll along the conveyor belt.

But back to these beautiful bags. I loved the idea of color, transparency, and lightweight material. I never actually made it fabric shopping to buy netting. But then a week ago I ended up with a huge, yellow, plastic mesh bag with produce in it and decided to make use of it for the project. Since all I had was yellow and I couldn't replicate all the rich colors used in the tutorial, I made some freezer paper stencils of various veggies and sewed patches onto the bags to liven them up a bit. I skipped the drawstring on top, and used a zigzag stitch so it would be easy to catch all the loose ends of the mesh.

Armed with my bags, I am actually enthused by the idea of a trip to the grocery store!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

on obsessions and such

Do you ever take a picture of something and then realize you've been taking the same picture for weeks? The lake, the playground, the kids on the couch. It seems that I find a good spot and just keep going back to it. This baby, for example. Post bath. Ohhhh, look how cute he is in that blue diaper on my white covers. So chubby, and look! a smile. And just like that, I've got ten more pictures that match the ten I took three days ago. And three days before that. And three days before that. All superb, mind you, but all oddly pretty much the same picture (give or take half a pound).

And just so, it seems, with shadows. I didn't realize I was quite so addicted to them until tonight. This afternoon the girls went outside to play and when I looked out the back window I saw this:

It didn't even occur to me to go outside and take a picture of the actual people -- no no, just their shadows. On its own one shadow picture isn't all that odd (right?). But as I was downloading pictures I started browsing backward and was startled to find a whole slew of shadow pictures. Like this one.

And this one.

And, well, this one.

Honestly, isn't this getting a bit obsessive?

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it.

But I'm pretty sure I can't be the only one. Right? (right?)

What are your obsessions? And should one parade them around like this?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

wednesday's ode

To beautiful scenery.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Nerdy Valentine's

After seeing this clever Valentine's idea from Lynne over at Sugar City Journal, I began racking my brain for a similarly non-committal Valentine message. But alas, nothing came to mind. I did have the foresight to do some watercolor painting with my daughter. Even if I didn't think of anything, we could at least give out pretty watercolor hearts instead of the ever popular store-bought advertisements for some movie or another that are passed off as Valentines.

This was my daughter's first time doing watercolors using anything besides the little prepackaged trays that try to pass as such. She has been eyeing my watercolors and brushes for months, but after seeing the way she systematically demolished her own, I couldn't bring myself to share. Instead, I bought her some watercolors for Christmas. And with the perfect gift idea from grandparents, a gift card to our local art supply shop, she and I went and picked out watercolor paper. She absolutely loved using her new supplies and I thoroughly enjoyed participating in her exploration of the new medium.

My husband, returning from a trip, brought home a bag of little Valentine Nerds boxes on Sunday night. He had picked some up just in case I hadn't gotten around to actually doing so. My husband knows me all too well. When I saw what he had bought, inspiration finally struck.

Clever? Definitely.

Non-Committal? This Valentine message could be taken several different ways:

     1. You are a nerd and nerds make the best Valentines, ergo
         you are the best Valentine.
     2. Nerds may make the best Valentines, but obviously you are not
         a nerd (since "nerd" is a derogatory term). You are cool. We
         can both agree that a nerdier person might make a better
         Valentine for me.
     3. Nerdiness is the new cool. You are a nerd, thus you are cool
         AND as an added bonus you are the best Valentine.

For the record, I hope my daughters grow up to be nerds. And I hope none of the parents of the sweet little four-year-olds in my daughter's class took this the wrong way.

Monday, February 14, 2011

happy valentine's day!!!!!!!!!

Alright, alright. I'll admit it. I'm actually not a big Valentine's girl. I think I used to be. My dad would buy a flower and a card for each of us girls, and I always thought that was lovely. But once I got to junior high, and Valentine's extended beyond my immediate family, the "holiday" brought much more trauma than affection. What if I'm the only person in the whole school not carting around some token of affection? Or worse, what if someone does hand me a bunch of droopy chocolate roses? Do I give that boy five lockers down something? I mean, he's kind of cute, but I don't actually know his name. And what do I do with the plastic earrings that the other boy in my English class gave me? I'm pretty sure his mom just picked them up for him ("hope you like this . . . it's just a little something my mom picked up.") -- does that mean I'm not obligated to wear them?

Can you see why I would be scarred? Even in the late 80's I didn't wear plastic earrings. But there they were, neon pink plastic earrings and a boy with a big smile on his face.

[Speaking of, someone told me recently the 80's are coming back. She was kidding, right? Oh please tell me she was kidding.]

So I don't really count this as a holiday I'm required to pay attention to. The good news is that my husband doesn't count it a holiday either. The bad news is that my kids do.

They don't mind so much that I don't decorate (let's face it, I don't do much decorating for anything), but the cards. Ohhh the cards, for each school mate year after year. How those cards have haunted me. This being a non-holiday, it just sort of sneaks up on me, and the best we can do late on Valentine's Eve is run to the grocery store and stock up on princess pop-up cards and a bag of hearts.

But this year, praise be, the girls started preparations a week early, resulting in actual handmade cards. And I must say, I kind of like Valentine's Day this way.

I mean, who wouldn't want a chunk of a watercolor painting with chocolate glued on it? Even I can go for a holiday exchange like that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

This American Life

Any of you familiar with this excellent radio program hosted by Ira Glass? My husband and I are longtime listeners and have often patronized their online store in search of gifts for each other as well as a way of supporting the program.

One year he bought me a This American Life t-shirt (to go along with the one he already had) which never quite worked out. It was an awkward fit at first, then proceeded to shrink in the wash. But I couldn't bear to let it go to waste.
Although I detest sewing with knits, I feel moderately comfortable modifying and resizing t-shirts. This is what I started out with:
 And here is the final product:
 The idea was loosely based on one I found while perusing Dana's MADE blog. I simply cut off the top right below the sleeves, gathered it onto a piece of calico, made it into a casing, and threaded elastic through it. Strips of the leftover knit (no hemming needed) were then sewn on to make straps.
My favorite part was the pocket, made out of one of the sleeves. I kept the hem of the sleeve intact so I wouldn't have to hem the edge of the pocket. I did, however, have to hand stitch it to the dress to prevent any inevitable odd puckering or stretching that would have occurred with a sewing machine.
 My daughter seemed the epitome of Americana as she chewed on a piece of sour grass that morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

back to bags

You'll have to forgive the lousy light in these pictures, but I finished the last of the sandwich and snack bags this afternoon and forgot to take photos until tonight (after half of them had been packed with food. Do you want to know what's in the little red one? Actually, I better not tell . . . you'll just get really really hungry).

The coated cotton worked wonderfully, and I had plenty of scrap cotton for the exterior that both the boys and the girls can be happy with. Hopefully. One minor problem: the thickness of doubled up cotton and coated-cotton was too much for my little old hand-me-down serger. I know, I know. I'm spoiled even to have one (many thanks again Sarah, it has been well loved). But I had hoped it would be up for a quick zip around the edges to save me the hassle of stitching, trimming, and then zigzagging.

Instead, as you see, I stitched, trimmed, and zigzagged. But it was well worth the extra fifteen minutes. Instructions on the coated cotton say not to machine wash, but I did anyway (cold and delicate, for sure) when one bag got loaded with fruit peelings on its maiden run. I hung it dry though -- that's got to count for something.

Now we'll see if the bags last longer than the kitchen spoons that somehow manage not to make their way home after school. From time to time.