Monday, January 23, 2017

Handmade Holiday: Strolling Along

Rosa had a little doll stroller -- a pink, mostly-plastic affair that she got for her second birthday. It's served her well, but it was showing signs of wear and was really too small for her now. I loved this Nova Natural stroller, but $69 was a bit too spendy for us! 

We picked up some oak 1x2's (pine would be cheaper, but we decided the oak was much prettier and would be more durable). Of course, by the time we bought the oak, oak dowels, and four scooter wheels, we probably spent about $40! Honestly, I had no idea it would be so hard to source appropriate wheels. The fabric was from my stash, so that was "free." I suppose we still saved a good bit -- also, ours is taller than the Nova stroller by almost three inches, so perhaps it will fit her longer, too.

Rosa should be able to use this for years, too! I customized the seat to add a few pockets (Laddie loves to stuff them full). The seat is lined with batting to give it a bit more "oomph."

And the wheels -- which are adorable, even if they were hard to select! They also have bearings, so the stroller rolls quite smoothly. We finished the wood with a natural wax; it has a lovely, smooth feel, and brought out all the natural beauty of the wood.

Rosa was delighted with her new stroller (which, of course, made the effort worth it!), and Madeline seems quite pleased, too. At least, I'm guessing that by the smiles on both of their faces...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter White

We were snowed in for a few days after a storm blew through -- more "iced" in, actually. Snow doesn't bother me much, but ice is a different animal.

The perfect time for cozy breakfasts of homemade muffins with fresh sliced strawberries. 

And a determined snowman, despite the powdery, un-snowman-able snow (it was more of a "mound and carve" operation). His name is Nigel.

The littles have been waiting and waiting for the snow! Rosa and I found patches of clean snow to eat (one of my favorite childhood pastimes), but Little Man didn't care for the taste. He was more interested in launching chunks of snow at Daddy. Laddie tromped around happily, lasting far longer than I'd anticipated. His cheeks were quite rosy by the time went in!

The only ones who were not thrilled about the snow were the chickens, who stayed in their coop most of the time (what a mess!). I was relieved when the thaw finally came, for their sake.

But we did forget to make snow angels, so I'm hoping we get at least one more snowfall this winter! And I'm still holding out for some good, sticky snow so we can build a better snowman...

Thursday, January 19, 2017


I'll admit it -- I am not a patient, diligent "read-aloud" parent. Yes, I've read countless books to my littles over the years. But those parents you hear about who read to their two-month-olds for an hour every day... let's just say I'm not one of those parents. And yet, I've always said that I want my children to love reading as much as I do. I've selected books carefully, I've tried to build a "culture" of reading; but I've often felt guilt that I could be doing more.

So to see this on our couch virtually every day...

Well, it's bliss. 

The older two are out there right now, because we just brought home a new "haul" from the library. Little Man wants to read everything, and Rosa thinks she can read everything (she's getting there!). And let's be honest, Laddie's just in it for the pictures and the fact that everything his big siblings do is Cool with a capital "C."

So, mamas who are as human as I am -- take heart!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

In the Works

Do you see this? I mean, really, do you see this? There is something under my presser foot (other than a Christmas gift, mending project, etc.). And it's for me! It's nothing short of a miracle, folks.

More about it when it's done (hopefully soon!).

Friday, January 06, 2017

On the Agenda

There are so many things I've been looking forward to in the New Year -- we're making significant progress on some of our long-standing projects (we'll finally have more than just a bed frame for our master bedroom!), and we have grand plans for simplifying and organizing our house. We've not really invested time or money into improving our household systems in the past few years, but we've added both square footage and children to our home. While we probably have some surplus that can be culled, we also have "keepers" that just don't have permanent homes -- which means that there always seems to be a mess to tidy. "Everything in its place" doesn't work when everything doesn't have a place, you know?

But there is one event this year that I'm looking forward to even more than the improvements we hope to make -- in fact, I'm "working" on it as I write this: 

I'll be done with the first trimester soon, Lord willing! While my symptoms are mild-as-usual (light-but-persistent nausea, fatigue, major baby-brain), I'm looking forward to feeling a little bit more like myself in a week or two. Though with Rosa the nausea lingered until 20 weeks, so if this little one is a girl I may have a few more weeks to go!

This will be our first baby born in Virginia, and I'm looking forward to using the midwifery center at a local hospital (assuming the pregnancy remains low-risk). While my past three "regular" hospital births were all quite satisfactory, it will be nice to be in an environment that matches my preferences more closely. My biggest gripe with my previous hospital was the 48 hour post-birth stay -- always longer, because it took them ages to discharge us! -- and the initial nursery visit. We were allowed about an hour to bond before they whisked the baby away, usually for at least an hour (and once as long as two hours!) to bathe, weigh, examine, etc. I loved my OB and had no better alternatives at the time, but in-room care and a shorter stay are both big advantages in my book.

And, of course, a new baby is an excuse to spend some quality time with my sewing machine and knitting needles! Though with a July due date, I won't get the chance to knit newborn sizes. But first I need to do a bit of sewing for myself, because apparently my body thinks that, this being its 4th pregnancy, it should look pregnant RIGHT NOW. I mean, why wait, right? *wink*

I crave your prayers -- not only for a healthy pregnancy and baby, but also for peace for me regardless of the outcome.  

In the meantime, I have some body-building to do!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Out With the Old, In With the New

As the year draws to a close, I've been looking forward to a fresh, brand-new year! I don't do New Year's resolutions on principle, but a new year does feel like a good opportunity to retrofit systems that aren't working.

In this case, it's a simple cleaning calendar. A few tasks to do each day (Monday through Friday). It's not a list for daily tasks (like making the bed), but rather for weekly/bimonthly/monthly tasks that I easily overlook, postpone... or just plain avoid! *cough*

I've uploaded the file so that you can use it, too! I've printed and laminated mine -- then I can fill in the appropriate month and dates with a dry-erase marker, check off the completed tasks, erase at the end of the month, and fill in for the new month. If you don't want to laminate, you could just print a new schedule each month. I've also included a blank version, in case you prefer to fill in your own tasks.

Monthly Cleaning Schedule Printable
Monthly Cleaning Schedule Printable -- Blank

To use the printable -- press "print," but make sure you've selected landscape orientation, and no margins (or 100%). 

By the way, the lovely watercolor rose and leaves come from The Smell of Roses, which generously offers many lovely designs for free!

I like the idea of a monthly calendar, because it will help me see which tasks were done over the course of several weeks (and which weren't!). We'll see how it goes.

A few more thoughts along the way...
  • I've done a five day schedule because, quite frankly, I do not want to do housework on the weekends! Of course I'll be doing "as needed" tasks on those days (washing dishes, etc.), but I'd rather not plan anything.
  • My schedule is not very detailed -- for instance, "Kitchen" on Thursday means a deeper-than-usual kitchen cleaning, including stainless steel appliances, cabinets, sink shining, etc.  I don't have trouble remembering the individual tasks, just the task in general (hence the brevity!). And it may vary a bit from week to week, depending on how dirty things have gotten. I'm not going to deep-clean a clean kitchen.
  • I tend to prefer completing one type of cleaning in one go, rather than spreading it out over the week. Rather than vacuuming a few rooms per day, I'd rather just go around the whole house! Some people prefer to do a room at a time.
  • I've designed my schedule with grocery shopping on Mondays (we meal plan over the weekends) and a light-ish day on Wednesdays (Bible study in the morning). If you fill in your own sheet, it might be helpful to keep your weekly plans in mind and plan less (or no!) housework on days that are always busy.
  • I've listed laundry twice during the week (plus sheets on Tuesdays), but I'll generally do at least two loads on Monday (kid clothes and adult clothes), and additional loads throughout the week as needed. Monday/Thursday is the bare minimum for me to stay on top of things. 

As for the "philosophy of clean," I highly recommend Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae. Technically I'm still working my way through it, but it has been both refreshing and enjoyable. Consistent cleaning is something I struggle with (I'd much rather be sewing! Or reading! Or blogging!), and Sarah Mae's book is giving me renewed purpose.

I hope and pray you are richly blessed in the New Year!

Updated 1/11/17 -- I changed the calendar slightly, because I'd forgotten to include dusting (how?!?!). I wish I could say that was because remembering to dust was something that came naturally to me.... 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Love and Joy Come to You

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas! We had a quiet day at church and home, and enjoyed being together as a family (my husband was deployed last Christmas).  

I feel like there is so much "pressure" at Christmas time -- on the one hand, there is the ridiculous, commercialized, "Christmas is all about the gifts" message being blared in every ad and store in town. Did anyone else notice $50 stocking stuffers?! And on the other hand, there is well-meaning Christian community which, in an effort to avoid being caught up in the materialistic chaos, pushes "the Reason for the Season" so hard that you feel you're not "doing it right" unless you have ten advent readings daily and your children love Jesus so much that they don't even want Christmas gifts. 

We finished this two days before Christmas (no, we never procrastinate!), inspired by this one. I love how it turned out! The
tiny wreath is just a wire frame, so we can easily refill it with fresh greenery next year. Pallet wood, free. Paint, stashed.
Wreath frame, $2. That's my kind of Christmas cheer. *wink*

I'm trying to find the middle ground. I certainly don't want to fall prey to materialism. I don't believe that Jesus was actually born on December 25th, though I am more than happy to celebrate with the rest of Christendom on that date. And I also think that the truths of Advent should be celebrated year-round, not force-fed once month a year! That said, I do have my eye on the Prepare Him Room devotional by Marty Machowski for next year. This year, we read Scripture, had conversations with our children about why we celebrate Christmas and why we give gifts, and enjoyed the celebration!

And here it is lit up at night!

I think I was every bit as excited as the littles were -- I love making and wrapping gifts (though we try to be conservative), and their anticipation was contagious. I'll have to share the rest of our hand-made holiday soon! To my great delight, the Christmas pajamas (opened on Christmas Eve) were a huge hit, and they all fit beautifully with room to grow! I think total cost was bout $5 per child, so it turned out to be both practical and economical.

Our yearly "free" Christmas wreath -- we always pick up extra greenery when we
get our Christmas tree (there's a huge bin of free trimmings), and I stuff it into a
grapevine wreath. A few accents and it's ready to go!

May the love of God enfold you as the year draws to a close, and a new one awaits!

"Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Even so. Amen.

'I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'"

Revelation 1:4b-8

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dreaming of Christmas

Last year I made the Littles each a set of Christmas pajamas. Which I failed to photograph or post about, of course! Little Man had a red moustache shirt with green pants, Laddie got a green moustache shirt with red pants, and Rosa got a red-and-green FairIsle nightgown with red pants. They're all still wearing them regularly! So when I passed a rack of adorable (and DEEPLY discounted) fabric at JoAnn's a few months ago, I couldn't resist having another go. Maybe this will be a tradition?

Of course, I made it easy on myself last year by using knit fabrics. No closures required! But this year I fell in love with flannel. Not only that, but I purchased the fabric without knowing how much I'd actually need. Always a good idea... 

I had no suitable patterns for the boys, so I decided to wing it by tracing existing shirts. I'd already decided to nix any kind of collar, and opt for a simple v-neck button-up. Less fabric and less stress. I drafted all of the pants patterns from existing pants, too. I'm becoming more confident with that (for pajamas, at any rate!), and I kept the patterns I made for use as the children grow -- no sense going through the work again. I tried to make everything a tad on the roomy side, so there's room to grow. 

Miraculously, they went together with very little effort! Laddie's sleeves required a little extra finagling, but they worked. I made a facing (using the black buffalo check, because I ran out of the bus fabric), which finished off the neck edge nicely. I didn't even bother to keep the image uninterrupted across that front opening -- these are pajamas, after all! The "stripes" match up, and that's good enough for me. *wink*

I didn't have any appropriate buttons on hand (somehow my vast collection of mother-of-pearl buttons didn't seem quite right...), so I picked up eight cheap black buttons for less than $2. Again, pajamas.

For Rosa, I thought the buses were not just the thing. Lo and behold, on the same rack of fabric there was a distinctly feminine Eiffel Tower print! And nearby was a matching pink check flannel. Perfect for my Madeline-loving little girl.

I used McCall's 5695, a pattern that's been in my stash for ages. However, I used the short puffed sleeve pattern piece and lengthened it to make a long sleeve -- I do NOT like the "bell" shaped long sleeve in the pattern that's fitted at the armscye and gathered at the wrist. Gathers at top and bottom, thank-you-very-much.

Simple pants (with a bit of ruffle at the top!), a silver plastic KAM snap for the back opening, and these pajamas were done.

As for my fabric? I couldn't piece together the scraps of all four fabrics to even make a yard! Somehow I managed to buy the perfect amount, despite having no idea what patterns I was going to use -- or even a solid design idea, for that matter. Hopefully these will loved as much as last year's pajamas. And hopefully they'll fit, too...

They'll get to open these on Christmas Eve, so they can wear them for Christmas morning. A little extra excitement, and something that will be well-loved and used in the coming year.