Friday, April 30, 2010

Going [a little bit] Green

Had this post typed up several days ago, and became totally sidetracked on the way to posting. Granted, the project (request for vampire bunny, ala bunnicula) which derailed me ended up being run off track by a 2-day migraine from hell... but that's another post.

During my quest for things to keep my hands busy during TV viewing - of which I do entirely too much - I came across sweater repurposing & felting, through a link someone posted to Betz White's blog.

I read some of her posts, and the reviews of her book Sewing Green, then popped over to Borders to pick up a copy for myself.

I'm not generally one to get all warm & fuzzy about recycling, but this particular sort of Green was something which got my attention. This is Grandma's (or Great-Grandma's) way of doing things - use it up, wear it out, and then find another way to put the parts to use. The items White makes are generally useful, and they actually look presentable. Not the sloppy DIY repurposing I often see... great that they're trying, but I'd not want to be seen in public with it.

There are a few general sewing projects from the book I'll be readying for summer, such as the pool bag, which I'll be making from fabric placemats and a towel with the dog-chewed corner. And the cashmere dog & rabbit, if I can ever convince my daughter to give back the cable-knit cream sweater she snatched out of my stash. (She loves that the grownup sweaters shrink to her size in the wash. It's becoming an issue, since my 10-year old has also discovered the joys of a really good merino wool and started pilfering felted men's sweaters. I'm hoping the 80-95 degree days coming up will put a stop to it.)

I've picked through our closets & drawers for a few outgrown, stained, worn out wool sweaters, and have also picked up a few at Goodwill. There are a couple of projects in mind that will take a while - to find the right combo of colors - but I love that I'm able to snag the sweaters off the rack no one wants, and for $1-2 a piece, since the damaged sweaters always sit around long enough for the full price drop. (The red sweater - 100% wool, great quality, had two small holes and a snag in the sleeve - $1.80 at Goodwill.)

That's not to say I'm stockpiling for no reason. There are already a few completed projects:

A heart shaped purse, made for DD's valentine from less than half of the red sweater (above):

And this adorable little hedgehog, made from an ink stained sweater from the back of my own closet and the leftover felt scraps from a school project (free!):

This one is DD's, along with the inflatable flamingo from her birthday party, and the Alice-like dress & apron, made from blue shirts and leftover white muslin. I'll be making a second hedgehog next week, as I prep teacher gifts for the end of the school year. (B2's teacher has a hedgehog as class pet.)

Yep. I'm environmentally conscious alright. Except it's for reasons that have more to do with "fun on a budget," nifty DIY and challenging our creativity, and less to do with worrying about the oceans boiling.

Noet to slef:

In future, please refrain from answering work emails while turning buttermilk pancakes and packing school lunches. Replying to a question about parking & text updates on MASP is not good for raising the confidence of a client.

Plus, you'll probably burn the pancakes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Invasion of the 3rd graders

There were moments today when I didn't think I'd make it through the day. At times, it was the ever-increasing chaos of 18 nine-year-olds in one place... and the a few times I was hoping for the ground to open and swallow me up. This is the biggest batch of kidlets I've hosted at once. Sent 20 invitations, figuring it would be the normal 5-10 that would RSVP. We had 17, plus my three children. Here's what I learned:

The work it takes to handle children's birthday parties increases at an alarming rate with each additional child... especially when you get into double digits. Look, I've made this handy-dandy, super scientific chart:

Choosing food was easy. Carrots & celery with ranch dip, apples, grapes, cookies & cream hershey's kisses, red and blue jugs of hawaiian punch, bottles of water, and... cupcakes.
The Alice in Wonderland theme made goody bags easy:
  • Reusable bottles, with "Drink Me" tags attached.
  • Containers filled with variety of Skittles (regular, sour & crazy core), with "Eat Me" tags. (Normally would have gone with M&Ms, but I was prepped for a child with peanut allergies.)
Activities were a little harder, as I wasn't sure until Saturday how many children were coming, or what my girl/boy mix would be. Plus, third graders are at a funny age. They consider themselves too old for many party games, but they don't want to just "hang out" like the big kids. I had a couple of things in reserve, but we ended up not needing backup, since there was a good bit of random running and flinging of water from bottles in between the three main planned games.
  • Croquet. Small group, while kids were still arriving, and most of the others were chasing down DD's big brother (he's such a great sport).
  • Balloon Pop - Tag. Tied balloons to everyone's ankles, and let them work out a strange boys vs. girls thing, which I never quite understood, since the prize went to the last person with an unpopped balloon. (This is the perfect game for that age, by the way. It combines two favorite activities - running and stomping balloons.)
  • Painting the Roses Red. In hindsight, I think I'd hand out red stickers if I did this again. If you placed bets on how long it would take the kids to start painting each other instead of the rosebush... well, let's just say it happened sooner than I expected.
I am so very glad we had the big party for DD's birthday, but I am even happier that she let me know she'd like a girl's-only thing with pizza, movies & pedicures next year. A sleepover such as she described will put us much lower on the chaos curve.

Friday, April 23, 2010

After a week of playing with power tools, I still have all my fingers. I'm calling that a WIN!

My daughter's birthday is this weekend, as mentioned in last post. She wants Alice in Wonderland, which is good, because we have a front yard perfect for croquet. I found an amazing setup at a California party planner's website. It was for younger children, my budget (and time) is quite limited in comparison, and I'm nowhere near as talented as she is... but I got a lot of great ideas for how to make a 6-wicket setup a little more festive.

A lot of ideas.

This has made for one darn busy week of preparation. It didn't have to, but I tend to jump into things with both feet. Before thinking things all the way through.

What started as two double-sided wickets and a sign, has become:
  • 2 wickets, hearts on one side, spades on the other
  • hand-lettered Royal Croquet Court sign
  • caterpillar wicket to place by final stake, or used by chess table
  • cheshire cat, to be placed in dogwood tree by court
  • heart shaped rosebush with white roses*, which will be used in blindfolded "Painting the roses red" game
Not bad for three $5 pieces of 4x4 plywood (floor underlay) and $8 of paint.

*Now that I think about it, maybe I should hold off on the finger count. I still need to cut out the rosebush.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Super Clutz + Jigsaw: What could possibly go wrong?

That's plain ol' orange juice in the glass... I'm clumsy, not stupid.

The munchkin is turning 9 next week. For the past four years, the "Party or trip?" question has been answered "Trip". Not this year. This year, Alice in Wonderland. But, DD decided she's too grown up for a little girl tea party.


This is why, in the middle of a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, I am learning how to use a jigsaw, so as to cut out a sign for the croquet field.... and two playing card wickets. If I don't lose any fingers, I may try a large caterpillar arch, to go by the start. We'll see.

Picked up a flamingo ring toss last week, and tonight I'll be hunting for cookie cutters shaped like chess pieces.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Attitude adjusted.

I was not at all happy about running this morning, for many reasons.
I have a list:
  • Legs have been sluggish and heavy since the marathon three weeks ago. And, I tire easily. It's like I have nothing in reserve.
  • Since taking the short runs up to 7 miles, and the medium/long routes to 12-20 miles during marathon training, it now takes me 2-3 miles just to get warmed up and into a good rhythm. I only had time for a 3 mile run today, which is frustrating.
  • It's peak pollen season around here. Runny nose. Itchy eyes. Scratchy throat.
  • I've been playing with kids & gardening during spring break, so it's been over a week since my last real cardio workout.
So of course, when I headed out the door this morning, my attitude was less than cheerful. Stayed that way, until I came upon this:

A full block of running past a wall formed by big clusters of wisteria... Problem, solved.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Back to normal

The suspiciously agreeable kidlets have returned to their regularly scheduled bickering. Didn't even have to wait until after the requested trip to see the beautiful cars. They started in on each other before we made it through the first five cars.

As for the exhibit... Wow.

My kids are up to something.

I'm not sure what my trio is planning, but something is in the works. How do I know this? They are getting along.

We're most of the way through spring break. They should be at each other's throats by now, fighting about who's in charge of feeding the dogs today. Or maybe over someone hogging all the yellow legos to build a robot/spaceship/house. Instead, I have only to ask (once) for the stacks of folded clothes on top of the dryer to be put away, and it happens. There was minimum whining during our hike Tuesday. Yesterday's yard work was handled with happy cooperation between children responsible for pick up, mowing, and bagging. They even ate all vegetables last night.

It is possible this ceasefire is temporary. The High Museum has an exhibit of rare and beautiful cars on display, and they all want to go. The Allure of the Automobile could just be that strong. If the bickering doesn't start in the car on the way home though, I'm not sure how I'll handle it. It's a bit like waking up to find the laws gravity doesn't apply any more.

Friday, April 02, 2010

How I spent my blogging vacation

Staying away from the computer except for work & bookkeeping for a few months left me with more than a little extra time. There was home organization, half marathon and marathon training, experimental cooking, big volunteer projects at the school... but I'm not one to sit idle. To put that extra time to good use, I chose something off my "Someday, I'd like to_____" list. I picked Learn to Sew.

My mother sews. Not just the simple hems and repairs - she made costumes for halloween and school history fairs, dresses, curtains. (She's quite handy.) My grandmother was even better, tailoring her own suits, making fancy window treatments, doing her own reupholstering. Me? Nothing since I was an 8-10 year old in 4H Club.

I have a 3rd grade daughter. She, like many 3rd grade girls, has an American Girl Doll. She wants her AG doll, Molly, to have an extensive wardrobe. A wonderful thought, until you go into the AG Store and take a look at the prices for each outfit. $20-30 a pop... OUCH!

Then I found out McCalls, Butterick and Simplicity all have patterns for 18" dolls. Not just period costumes - shorts, shirts, dresses, tights, track suits, coats, etc. The fabric requirements are 1/4-1/2 yard, making bargain hunting in the remnant section a breeze.

Add that to my love of handmade aprons, and the fraying status of my favorite two vintage models, the approach of holiday gift giving, and sewing seemed to be the right skill to learn. Bought a sewing machine and set to working my way through the first few projects.

I figured I could manage a few things, but had no idea I'd end up loving the process. The planning, measuring and order of sewing a garment appeals to the same part of me that loves making maps. (With only a handful of map projects the last several months, I think the sewing helped keep my brain from stagnating.)

What started as a dabble, became something a little bigger. I've now got a stack of finished AG clothes, some of which have been bought by other moms, and a uniform wardrobe which did fairly well in the school auction. DD has a growing wardrobe of skirts, peasant tops, and dresses from both current and vintage patterns. Aprons and bags are making great gifts, when I can bear to part with them. I've even managed a couple of 1950s pattern dresses for myself, with plans for a couple more, now that the weather is warming.

Learning how to sew has made changed the way I look at some other parts of daily life, too. What's even better, it's making my daughter look at things differently. More about that next week, though. I have an A-line summer dress to cut out for DD, a hem to let down on a pair of B1's pant (he's hit 6'1", when did that happen?!), and a zipper to add to my soon-to-be favorite summer dress.

Happy weekend! And a blessed Easter to those celebrating.