Tuesday, June 30

rainbows... and my pot of gold

I know it's not St. Patrick's Day. Bear with me.

I saw this cake made by Meg at whatever... and decided today was the day to give it a try!
Start off with some white cake, a bunch of Wilton food coloring, bowls, and 8"cake pans.

We had so much fun mixing the colors in!

The cooking time was a bit less than the box said for 8" cakes (about 15 min). I cooked a few of the layers at a time just so I wasn't slaving in the kitchen all day.
Then after waiting *forever* for them to cool, I trimmed, frosted, layered, stacked, trimmed, frosted, frosted, and frosted some more. I didn't feel like going to get my ruler. But I wanted to give you a little perspective as to how tall 6 layers of cake is.
Then I swore my son to secrecy... I wanted it to be a good surprise and an amazing reveal. He actually decided to tell Daddy that it was just a big pile of frosting sitting on the cake plate.

Then we cut in & enjoyed the pretty colorful bunch of sugary yumminess after dinner.
Isn't it gorgeous???!!! I just didn't have a ton of frosting and didn't want to make more. I suppose it would take on a whole new look with thickers layers of frosting in-between. I kind of like it this way!
So why go to all this trouble? It's my anniversary. Love ya, sweetie! (he's my pot of gold, a treasure indeed!!!)

Monday, June 29

testing... testing...

I am so excited!!! I have been testing a pattern for Dawn, from Olabelhe.

I can only imagine all the hard work that goes into getting the details organized, formatted and put together - let alone the math & drawing skills needed to draw your own pattern. I am envious.

I can't really talk about any more details yet, but let's just say OH SO CUTE!
(that's a peek at my sewing table - do you see a little bit of pattern piece sticking out? a pretty blue fabric? just you wait!!!)

Saturday, June 27

cowgirl party

My niece's 2nd birthday party was today. This is the (handmade) invite.
Her cute cake (made by her mom) and poorly photographed by me.She celebrated in fine cowgirl style! Don't you just LOVE the boots?Here we are in "our finest duds" as requested on the invitation. (OK, maybe not our finest duds, but I don't have the time to stitch up detailing & pearl buttons on shirts.)
I fringed up the bottom of the tee, appliqued the heart with dark blue bandana fabric & denim ricrac around the edge. The skirt was one she already had. Her hairclips (not shown) used a skinny denim ribbon & the denim ricrac.
For his shirt, I just appliqued a star on (out of the same fabric) and stitched around the inside with white & around the outside with dark blue. When he was getting dressed, he found the sheriff star in the dress-up box. He wanted to put it in the middle of the star on his shirt. After the picture, he said he needed a bandana and we went digging again and found a red one. Then he asked what a "real" cowboy looks like & how they wear their bandanas. Google images, here we come. We got it figured out. (He asked if cowgirls wear bandanas too. Tip: DON'T Google "cowgirl" with your 4 yr old watching. Images not *quite* as appropriate as cowboys. He just giggled and pointed, it's not that bad. I'm just sayin'...)For me - I just grabbed a skirt & tank I already had, and then made myself a simple fabric headband & necklace. For the necklace, I made a LONG tube of fabric, shoved some of the kid's beads inside, and tied knots. So easy. My skirt was a layered, ruffled blue denim-looking one I already had. But, unfortunately with a 4 yr old photographer in charge, you don't get to see the whole outfit. (My boots are the ones in the pic with Abby.)

Then at the end of the party, as the sun was setting...

Thursday, June 25

the porch - again

Ok. Well the heat index is like 100 all week. So I'm pretty sure we're not going to get much landscaping done. This is what it looks like now. If I didn't just post it now, it might never happen.Some of the plants from before are going back in, and we're going to have a little more empty space (I think?) which is probably a good thing. Maybe some bulbs in the fall... or annuals next spring.I'm just not sure I love the furniture set-up either. It's just hard because the windows aren't the up/down kind, they're the crank out kind - so you have to be careful what you put in front of them. And I don't really want furniture crowding the door. Ultimately, I'd love two wooden rockers I think. I don't want to be Cracker Barrel or anything, I just love the idea of sitting in a big comfy rocker sipping sweet tea while the kids play in the yard.

What DO I love???
I love that the posts are clean and simple (although at this point unpainted).
I love that there is room to sit on the glider and not kick the bushes.
I love that I don't hit the roof with the door when it opens.
I love that I have a blank canvas to decorate.

So, for now I will just try and enjoy my sweet tea, and try and dream up something fun so I'm more impressed with it than I am right now. What are your front porch dreams?

Wednesday, June 24

labor of love

Check out this baby doll carrier.
My sister-in-law picked the fabric, cut out the pieces and did the first couple steps of the 50-step pattern. She asked me if I could finish it (she was getting a little overwhelmed with baby #2 and the difficulty of the pattern). I didn't think it would be that hard. I could figure it out, right?

I love my niece.
I love sewing.
I've decided I'm just not sure I love taking someone else's beginnings. Next time (if there is a next time?!!!) I'm doing it myself from the cutting out part. And I'm not sure I'm EVER going to use this particular pattern again. It kept on going to the bottom of my to-do pile, which tells me pretty blatantly that it was not my favorite project.
But.... Saturday is her 2nd bday party (and it's FINALLY done!!!) so Happy Birthday, G!

Monday, June 22

display space

My front room has slowly morphed from a not-really used room, to my creative space. It has the piano and a hutch too, but more importantly - it is my craft space. It houses my shelves, tables, sewing machine, fabric, and other assorted goodies.
Because it's the first room people see, I have to be a little aware of what it looks like if someone just stops by. Sometimes I just say oh well, but when I need to clean up I do - and I turn it into a consultation space for meeting with customers.
Recently, we added a display shelf. (I can't take all the credit - all I did was pick out the shelf. My hubby did the install.)
I love how deep it is - no problem holding my fuzzy cubes, hooded towels, and lovey blankets. I love it that people can see the goodies when they walk in the door, rather than having to dig around in a plastic tub. And my favorite part - the shelf brackets. I chose them with those squares for a couple reasons - I don't really love the whole country look anyway, and figured the little squares would be great for hanging some of my items. I kind of feel like the top of the shelf is pretty crowded though, so I guess I better start selling some things!!!!

Sunday, June 21

happy father's day

You know it's Father's Day if there are a lot of tools involved...And if you have steak for dinner & hamburgers and fries for dessert!

Happy Father's Day to the three best fathers I know! (and thanks to the grandpas for helping with the porch!)

(porch reveal coming soon. click here or here for hamburger/fries inspiration.)

Saturday, June 20

concrete or cement?

We went to bed on Monday night with the front of our house looking like this.

The kids and I ate breakfast Tuesday morning looking out the window at this.
Now it's the weekend and we're finally getting the posts put on.

It's 2 feet deeper, and isn't cracking OR sinking - three reasons to be thrilled! Lastly, and most importantly - we didn't have to pay a penny for it! Our payment was our old pick-up truck which we'd been trying to sell anyway. I love it when things work out like that!

So now, I have two questions for you...
Do you know the difference between concrete and cement?
What would you add to the space? Keep in mind that I do NOT have a green thumb, I do not remember to water plants, and I can't even begin to keep up with the weeding that is needed everywhere else in my yard! Let alone, my budget is very small.

Wednesday, June 17

i spy a birthday present

We have a couple birthday parties coming up in the next few weeks.

One little girl saw some shirts her mom made at one of my parties and said "where's mine mommy?!!" which in my mind is code for "just wait til your birthday, sweetie!"

I also made one I SPY pillow for a Cubs fan we know, and another one for my niece.
Thanks Jen, for the tutorial. It went together SO easily!

Now if only I had Father's Day figured out.....???!!!!

Tuesday, June 16

2nd birthday tees

Remember my friend Nata-Leigh? She's starting a kid's party business, shindigs for kids, and I am thrilled to be a part of her Birthday in a Box package!

Here's the train shirt to match the train party

and the ladybug shirt & hairclips to match the ladybug party
Happy 2nd birthday kiddos!

Monday, June 15

i think I'm a geek...

This is my wish list. No it's not my birthday, Mother's Day, or even Christmas. I'm just having some serious cravings. (This is also MUCH more fun than doing laundry or dishes!)

iPhone 3G S
MMS. GPS. VIDEO!!! Ah what fun I could have.

I really want to read more. Maybe this would inspire me to get off the computer and away from the sewing machine? (Or maybe it will just make me want to sit on the hammock and read all day long!)

My very own Chucks
Kacey at Chronicles of a Mommy did a great post about her Chucks (and those of her 3 kids). And it got me to thinking. Every time I pass the shoe section at Target my hand almost reaches out and grabs them. But did you know you can make your very own??? Be still my beating heart. So many fun choices. (Of course I chose blue!) They also have a cute floral design... and some turquoise ones... oh my.While we're on the subject of design your own... Have you seen the Timbuktu bags? Here's the one I would choose.

What's on your random wish list? Are you into the tech toys too? Why is it they make such a big deal of this stuff on Father's Day? Can't mothers want the goods too?!!! And is $62 too much to spend on sneakers??!!!

Sunday, June 14

doreen cronin

I love Doreen Cronin's books. I often worry when someone's series gets so popular and merchandised that the original appeal of the series will be lost. I find that not to be true with her, thank goodness!!

Her books are silly and informative all at the same time. Her animal diaries compare the animal's life to a kid's life in the most hilarious ways!
Diary of a Spider
Diary of a Worm
Diary of a Fly

Click, Clack, Moo - the first in her now VERY popular and prolific series. My son loves the crazy barn animals and compares them to
Here's some other titles to check out:
Giggle, Giggle, Quack
Thump, Quack, Moo
Click, Clack, Quackity-Quack

What's your favorite Doreen Cronin book?

Saturday, June 13

vintage at its best

Found them! Here is the original scallop dress I wore 32 years ago. Kinda cute, huh?

Here's another one made from the same pattern. I guess it was a big deal to wear your place settings??? (My mom was trying to convince me. I'm not convinced.) I know the picture's not great, but we were running out of patience at the photo shoot the other day, and even though she's smiling now, she didn't really want to stand still so I could show you the whole place setting on the front.

And here is another little outfit from my childhood.. I groaned when I first saw it a few months ago - red, white, and blue with apples? What the heck? (No offense to anyone, just not really my favorite fabric.) I guess Abby agreed with me...Then I walked into Target and saw the same colors with a larger apple design. (And this was way before 4th of July stuff!) Kinda funny.

Thursday, June 11

sewing machine meme

Sew Mama Sew is hosting a Sewing Machine Month, and has invited readers to write about their sewing machines. Here's my thoughts on my sewing machines...

What brand and model do you have?
Pfaff 2010 Tiptronic
Brother Quattro Innovis 6000D

How long have you had it?
The Pfaff - about 6 years, The Brother 4 months

How much does the machine cost?
The Pfaff was around $900 (I think??) when I got it, I'm not even sure they make that specific model anymore.
The Brother was *significantly* more since it was a brand new, top-of-the-line machine. I did trade in my Viking Designer SE for it though, so I got it reduced a little from sticker price.

What type of things do you sew?
Quilts - clothes - embroidery - minimal home dec (just a few pillows here and there)

How much do you sew?
EVERY DAY (pretty much)
How much wear and tear does the machine get?
A LOT! I probably should have a regular maintenance schedule, I don't. I just try and remember to take it in every so often for a cleaning/ check up - usually when we're on vacation so I won't miss it!
The Pfaff is definitely in retirement most of the time - and when I was sewing with my Pfaff, it wasn't as often. However, it has definitely gotten some good use over the years and I still pull it out when I'm stitching out big patterns on the Brother and want to get some other work done, or if I have a friend over & we're sewing together.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent/ passionate? Does she have a name?
I LOVE my BROTHER!!!! I am passionate about my love. And I have a hard time giving "her" a name, because "she" is my BROTHER!!! So... he doesn't have a name, but let's just say he rocks my world!!
My Pfaff - definitely less passion, and sorry - also nameless.
(If you're feeling sorry for my nameless machines, you are welcome to leave a comment with name suggestions!)

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
ummm... all of them! I'm still learning little nuances about the embroidery settings, but I love the decorative stitches for quilting, love the camera for placing my embroidery, love the automatic seam allowance for piecing, love the presser foot knee lifter for applique, love the attached thread stand, love the automatic threader & cutter, bobbin sensor... should I go on?

With my Pfaff, I love the large quilting table. I'm thinking I may have to get one of those for the Brother, too.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
I go a little nutty (sometimes) that I don't get to use it more often - and I haven't figured out how to load my own pictures on it yet. I think that's a problem with my memory stick, not with the machine. Just haven't taken the time to figure it out yet.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine?
I haven't had any major tragedies yet, and it was not a hand-me-down or present for any special occasion. I just love that my 4 year old son climbs on my lap and wants to use the mouse to pick special stitches, help me wind the bobbins, and push "go" when it's time to embroider something. Next step - teaching him to change the thread, I think - or maybe how to clean it??!

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
Sure - it's obviously a stellar machine. However, if you are just starting out, this is NOT the machine for you! It's quite a substantial financial investment if you're not going to use it often and use it well.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
The biggest question I kept on getting asked is what are you going to use it for? When I was picking out my Pfaff, I had NO desire to do machine embroidery or make clothing. I was more into quilting then. So - it was a perfect start, not a total budget machine because I knew I would use it well, but not top of the line because I was still teaching and wasn't sure how much time I would devote to it. As my passion for sewing grew and my horizons expanded, I knew I was ready for an upgrade. I was ready to try embroidery and clothing, and didn't want to skimp.
So - I guess my answer is - - -
#1-how much do you want to spend?
#2-how often are you going to use it?
#3-what are you going to use it for?

Do you have a dream machine?
It would be fun (I think?) to have an embroidery machine that can do hats. And I've always wondered if a serger would be useful. Since I'm starting to enjoy doing more clothing, it's something I'm considering.

Wednesday, June 10


Dear Jen,
My package came today! YAY!!!
I love the apron - can't wait to put it to use on the next batch of cookies or cupcakes I make! I don't want to fold it up in a drawer either - I'm trying to figure out a way to hang it proudly in the kitchen without being a big dork.

Conner went absolutely nuts for the I Spy Pillow - first it was "this is awesome" - then it was "look mommy, a ..." (repeated numerous times) - then it was laying on the kitchen floor "this is SO comfy, mommy!!!" - repeated all over again when Daddy got home!I can't wait to take it on our big road trip this summer!!

I wish I'd had my camera ready when Abby first saw the doll. Her eyes truly lit up and she grinned her head off!!! (She then proceeded to try and untie the blue ribbons from her ponytails. Hmmm... I don't think so, sweetie!) It will probably sit on a shelf in her room for a month or two, mostly because I'm selfish and want to enjoy it a little before she chews up the yarn (a weird phase she's in) or pulls out the ponytails.

What marvelous handiwork, and such thoughtful gifts for my kids too. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tuesday, June 9

blue day

In our house, a blue day is a good day. Blue makes us happy. Check out this bit of goodness! A family friend knit this for Abby. I'm lucky if I can figure out a scarf (with a book sitting next to me!) so I am TOTALLY impressed with her handiwork.Abby decided to lift it up and show off the skirt for you.
This is my contribution to blue day. I LOVE the skirt (found it at Target, of course!) and the tank too - what a cute scoop neck, right? But you know I can't leave a shirt plain! That's just not my style. So I went to my blue stash and picked out two favorite fabrics. The circle background is a really light blue with white dots. The a is from the dragonfly fabric shown on my header. Then on the side I used a couple Sizzix dies and cut out felt flowers, stitched them on, and put a blue flower button in the middle. (and yep, she's not just looking down to be shy or cute, she's eyeing the veggie booty her brother is eating!!!)
Oh my gosh mommy, why do I not have my blue shoes on??!! (Don't worry Abby, the white matches better. It's the wrong shade of blue in your shoes.)
Yeah, Conner saw her and said "Mommy, is Abby 6 already?" - it took me a minute to figure it out. Uh, no honey, you can just write "a" a lot of different ways.
Still learning.

Monday, June 8

sweet scallops

Remember how I just couldn't stop raving about Heidi Grace's fabric? Well here's another top/dress I made. I thought it would be short enough to be a top, but it ended up being a little long & because of the angle I took the pictures at, it really looks long! The top is knotted at the shoulders, and has a scalloped bottom. It is totally reversible too - blue with flowers and ladybugs on one side, white with ladybugs and hearts on the other side.
The best part - the pattern is "vintage" - meaning my mom saved it from 1976! I wore outfits made from this same pattern when I was a little girl. Too funny, huh? (My mom saw the scalloped edge on the flowers and thought of this pattern right away. I'm impressed she remembered this pattern from 33 years ago!! I love how it turned out, so thanks mom!)

Oh my gosh mommy, am I just the cutest? (It soon turned into peek-a-boo.)Look mommy, horses! (we were at the farm with my in-laws for the 40th anniversary party.)
I know, I'm adorable. But can we go in and eat cake now?!
I can't wait to make another one! It was so quick and easy, and lends itself to so many embellishment options and great fabric match-ups. hmm.....

Sunday, June 7

let them eat cake

Heck, after 40 years of living together - let them do whatever they want!(in case you are wondering why there are three times listed, there was a little bit of a question as to the actual wedding time in 1969.)

The top of the cake had my first attempt at roses (since they were in the bouquet) as well as a happy couple :) and hearts to mark the date & time. The side of the cake was decorated with hearts bearing the name of each of the 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, and 5 grandchildren. It was a pretty crowded cake!
Congrats to my in-laws on their anniversary. What a commitment!

Lastly - a picture of the cousins together. All the girls were in matching dresses. My daughter was hot, tired, and not wanting to participate. At least she wasn't screaming or trying to crawl off the couch in this one! But look at the rest of them - what darlings!!!

you read to me

I'll read to you!

I am a huge fan of shared literary experience. Some of my favorite activities with kids in the classroom and library when I was teaching were choral readings, reading buddies, plays, and partner readings. There are so many great things about sharing a story with a friend!

Here are a couple of my favorites:

The whole You Read to Me, I'll Read to You series is just great! They are written by Mary Ann Hobermann - a fabulous author who probably deserves another post entirely. The original one was Very Short Stories to Read Together, followed by Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together, and then Very Short Scary Stories to Read Together. The text is written in three colors - one for each person reading, and then one for them to read together. The illustrations are very appealing to kids, and the stories are short and sweet. Very fun for kids. My son found the book on the shelf, and even though he can't read them with me (yet!) he was very interested in taking the book down so my husband and I are going to try and find a time SOON to read it with him!

My other favorites are written by Paul Fleischman. They are definitely for a little bit better reader, but still enjoyable when I did them with second graders during their bug unit. His first one was called I am Phoenix, the second one was Joyful Noise. I am Phoenix is a collection of poems about birds, Joyful Noise is about bugs. The layout of the page is a little different than You Read to Me... but the kids still figure it out. I just love it because they are animals, he can really use the reader's voices to portray noises/ actions that the animals make.
Here's the good (&bad) thing about Amazon - they're always recommending more books when I go there to get the links for the ones I write about. Has anyone ever read/ seen Big Talk? It's also by Paul Fleischman, and is for four voices. Sounds like fun!!!

Saturday, June 6

hi wheaton!

This is just a little tribute to my hometown, Wheaton, Illinois. It's not a perfect town, but I'm proud to say it's where I was raised. Although I live in the neighboring town now, I can still call it my hometown, right?

Today was the Taste of Wheaton, and although it was a little cool, cloudy, and rainy - we enjoyed it! Here's Conner on his first ever Ferris Wheel ride. He was LOVING it!

This would be the "mom, stop hugging me, I'm trying to enjoy the ride!" shot. (thanks Grandma for the photography skills.) Grandpa and Abby were waiting on the ground for us.Here's a view to the south. I included it for a couple reasons... just a little shot of my town, but also a possible last view of the town's first high school. If the Ferris Wheel is in the same spot next year, the high school will (probably) not be there - it's an old decrepit building that is being torn down and replaced by offices or condos or something. A piece of history, changing with the times.

Do you have a penny candy shop in your town? I guess, there's not really such a thing as penny candy anymore, but you know what I mean. The candy shop in my hometown was around the corner from the movie theater. It was actually just an alley that they covered and turned into "The Popcorn Shop". It's so skinny, it's address is actually 111-1/4 Front St. Too funny, huh? Here's my son continuing the family tradition. (Unfortunately, no movie theater anymore.) You pick up a little white bag at the front of the alley, work your way towards about the middle picking candy off all the shelves on one side. Then you give your bag to the worker who dumps it out and miraculously counts it. I would swear the tax sheet is the same one from my childhood tacked in the same place on the shelf - except that tax rates have changed! Then you pay and head on your way with a bag full of the best stuff you could pick! Our first treat was Pixy Stix. Yummmmmm....Hope you all had a wonderful Saturday - flying high, enjoying some candy, or whatever else made you happy today!