Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Sewing Corner {Before}

Sorry for the phone-quality pictures; I was too lazy to run downstairs and grab the camera.

The sewing bug is biting hard, but after making our Christmas stockings I mentally committed myself to getting my sewing corner cleaned up, a little better set up, and organized before I started any more sewing projects. Since I don't have anything that I need to make before a deadline and since the space has never really been properly set up or moved into, it is much needed.

Now is not the time for me to be looking at pictures online of other ladies' sewing rooms, with all their beautiful sergers and Berninas and what-not set up in neat, spacious, dedicated "studios". I can't say that I haven't peeked at a few pictures, though.

My sewing corner. I love the two windows; one faces south and one faces west. Both let the daylight pour in!!

On the left is my 40 year old Singer Futura II 920. I am currently in a love-hate relationship with it. I love that it has the ability to do some cute vintage stitching patterns (Scottie-dogs and tulips, anyone?) and I have a bunch of the stitching pattern wheels (it uses these disc-like wheels that you put onto the machine for different stitch patterns beside the basics). The hate part is that the feed-dogs are worn and broken completely smooth and sewing on it is very difficult, or almost impossible now, for that reason. I plan to call the repair shop and find out if it is repairable. If not, I may be sadly kissing it goodbye.

On the right is a machine my mother-in-law loaned me and it is newer (maybe only 15 or 20 years old, ha!) but a very basic, bare-bones sewing machine. I'm not sure if there's a manual with it and it has a few quirks that I have to work around, but for basic sewing it does what I need it to (I have yet to figure out button-holes on it, eek.).

My lovely sewing chair is at the top of my "get a new one" list. The folding chair sits too low and gets uncomfortable when one is parked in it for a length of time (thus the pillow). It is also awkward to maneuver around and in. A swivel, wheelie chair is what I plan to get, hopefully before too long.

Both Daniel and I aren't sure that this is the most efficient set-up for this space. Storage is a major issue (for everything sewing related) and I would like to turn the end wall into storage in some way. Perhaps a low cupboard or bookshelf or two, side-by-side. We'll have to see what I find that fits the budget. For now I think diaper boxes are going to be my friend for storing my fabric.

Speaking of fabric, the den couch has been holding many stacks of my fabric collection. Most of the fabric has been given to me and I am so very, very thankful for it. Several weeks ago I started sorting by general color, but that got disheveled when I started sewing for Christmas gifts.

The ironing board is definitely moving. I may put it at the end of my nook for now and see how I like having it there. On the floor beneath it are bags and boxes of fabric. 2 of the bags are flannel and felt that a lady from church gave me!! The flannel is primarily pastel children's prints so I hope to turn it into pajamas and nightgowns. I haven't decided what to do with the felt yet, it is several yards of red and black. Another bag is dresses and jumpers that I plan to take apart and re-use the fabric. A woman's jumper of dark maroon corduroy? A floor-length dress covered in white eyelet? Yes, please!!

After taking these pictures I went through two smaller boxes of notions that I have collected ever since I started sewing (what feels like years ago!) and got them both emptied and the contents sorted and organized for the most part. Finding so many spools of different colors of thread really makes me want to halt the organizing part and just sew something!!

My oldest sister offered for me to look through her fabric collection over New Years and I am eager to see what kind of treasures I might come home with. Susannah will need summer clothes before I know it and I would really enjoy making them for her (but I need to get on the ball with that because I doubt I will be doing much serious sewing for a while after the new baby comes)!

I can't wait to show you "after" pictures. I haven't figured out yet what my best option is for storing the fabric, yet, but something must happen and it won't happen with me sitting here pecking on the keyboard. :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Wonderful Christmas-Time

Early in December when we had our week of stay-cation, one thing we did was get down all the nativity scenes. Two are toy sets that Susannah could hardly wait to get her hands on and both she and Sylvia have loved playing with them this month. Another set is a ceramic set that I put out of little fingers' reach on top of the piano, and then we also have this set that is plastic. I remember how special it was to arrange and re-arrange and pretend with my mom's manger scene, so I made sure to put this set where little people could do the same. I did set a boundary that the pieces had to stay on the table, but they were free to play and arrange to their hearts content. They have and have enjoyed it. :)

Wanting to teach our children what Christmas is all about, we told or read many Bible stories surrounding Jesus' birth for bedtime stories. Sometimes telling them without a book or Bible, and other times we would take a few days and go through different of their Childrens Bibles. They are both very much aware that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.  It didn't stop Susannah from knowing that Christmas also meant presents, though. ;-)

On Tuesday before Christmas the girls and I made a birthday cake for Jesus. Susannah then asked several times if the "real Jesus" and Mary, Joseph and the angel were coming to our house for His birthday. :-)  I had to do some fast thinking to figure out how to answer her that Jesus is in Heaven at the right hand of God, and Mary and Joseph lived a loooong time ago and are not alive now; BUT that when we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins and give us a new heart, He then lives in our hearts.  I don't know how much of it made sense to her, probably more than I think, but it was the answer I had.

This year I decided that I wanted to make stockings for our family. After seeing stockings made from thrifted sweaters, I wanted to do it, too. Unique and fun. Probably not as inexpensive as regular stockings from WalMart (our closest Goodwill is NOT cheap!), but lots more character! In November we purchased the sweaters and I started turning them into stockings last week. It took a little longer to get the hang of it (and to remember to turn the sweater INSIDE-OUT before tracing and cutting!!!), but by the 4th stocking I was moving right along. I finished sewing the hanging loops on them the afternoon of Christmas Eve and Susannah helped me hang them up. She was SO excited!! I was pretty excited, too, and couldn't wait to put our goodies in them after they went to bed. (I didn't grow up with stockings and always wanted Christmas stockings. Maybe that's why it's very exciting for me to do this for our girls.)

Daniel and I were both up late and the girls were up early. :-)  Susannah could barely contain her excitement over knowing there were things in her stocking!!  As soon as Daniel and I were up and had our bearings about us, we let them dig into their stockings. They had so much fun! We put very practical but fun things in them: a new toothbrush (Susannah got a new tube of toothpaste, too), a miniature box of raisins, a baggie with Cheerios and Goldfish, and an orange. They dug right into the munchies as I knew they would and that bought me a little more time to finish putting together our simple but yummy breakfast.

I had made Monkey Bread the night before so all I had to do was pull it out of the fridge, let it rise a bit and stick it in the oven (it was a new recipe, here, and I highly recommend it!). We also had bacon and eggs; the bacon was already baked (leftover from a family get-together on Saturday) and all I had to do was fry up some eggs. It was all so yummy! The Monkey Bread and bacon are special treats for us, which fit with our "special food for Christmas Day" tradition. While we waited for the eggs and bacon to finish, we read the Christmas Story as a family, sitting around the table. That was special and we were reminded again of why the day was so special.

After breakfast we opened our wrapped gifts. The girls went first and it is always fun to watch them. We kept our gifts very simple this year, but some were very exciting. Sylvia got some story books that I had been on the look-out for and found either at our MOPS swap or the thrift store, and a new notebook to draw in and a sheet of ladybug stickers. Susannah had been asking for a few specific things that we gave her. Glitter markers were at the top of her list and she got those with a new notebook. Nail polish so we could paint ladybugs on her nails was also very high on the list, and her wish was granted. :-)  She loves looking at my jewelry so I found the perfect necklace for her: a ladybug on a simple chain. We saved that gift for last and it was her special gift. It was sweet to watch Daniel helping her open the box and then help her put it on. I envisioned what they might look like in 10-ish-plus years when perhaps she might receive a pearl necklace, or diamond earrings, or whatever. *sniff*

Haha, Daniel and I were pretty practical. :-)  I gave him some tools including a new splitting maul, he gave me a cheese slicer (a very nice one!), 2 movies for date-nights and ... a freestanding toilet-roll holder for our master bathroom. I will really enjoy not having the TP on the bathroom counter anymore.

After we opened gifts we relaxed as a family until lunch. Lunch was more of our traditional, special foods. Oh, and we use paper plates for all meals to maximize our time of relaxing and being together! A shrimp-ring, summer sausage, Lebanon Bologna, cheese and crackers were the main course along with the oranges that were in the stockings. For dessert we had Jesus' birthday cake!!

We relaxed some more, enjoying our family time together. Before nap-time I sneaked the girls' dolls upstairs while Daniel and the girls went to their room to wait for one more special gift (that we didn't wrap). A while ago I got this wooden cradle (also from our MOPS swap) and had been keeping it for a special occasion. When the sewing bug bit this fall after the canning and garden were done, I started off with sewing cloth diapers for their dolls. After I made Susannah's dress I used the leftovers to make her doll a matching dress. Sylvia got a blanket for her doll since she didn't have one.  I got both dolls fixed up in their new things and brought them in the cradle to the girls' room.

The girls love the cradle and Sylvia knows which pink doll blankie is hers. Dear Susannah had done some digging around in my sewing corner Christmas Eve morning and found the doll dress, so it wasn't the surprise it was meant to be, but she was still happy to finally have it on her Baby! Both girls mothered their babies a lot today. :-)

Daniel's parents came over and joined us for a simple dinner and it was nice to visit and relax with them as we wound down the evening. This morning Daniel headed back to work and the girls and I had a good day getting back into normal routines and doing housework. Susannah asked this morning if it is still Christmas. I told her that it is still Christmas-time. In fact, we had more of Jesus' birthday cake for dessert tonight.

While Christmas Day is now behind us, we are still listening to Christmas music and enjoying Christmas-time. Merry Christmas to all of you!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Too Much Party?

You know the Berenstain Bears story "Too Much Party"? That's how I feel. Peopled out. Socialed out. Get everybody dressed up and loaded up and drive to be around more people -ed out. Really struggling with the thought of going to the Christmas Eve service vs. staying home and having our own little quiet "service".

Which should I do? Which will bring much-needed nourishment to my soul? Good quality spiritual food, the meat and potatoes kind, has felt far and few between from our church's pulpit this year (we are between Senior pastors). A lot of milky sermons that leave my heart and soul begging and crying and longing for MORE. I try and listen to meat and potatoes sermons on the radio but they are during hours of the day when I am in full-blown parenting mode.

If I/we (Daniel's on call so I can't have any idea if he'll be home or not this evening) stay home from the Christmas Eve service, is that giving in to my selfish, moping "don't wanna go anywhere" desires? Is that just having an ornery attitude? If I do get us all ready and go, is that being sacrilegious since I'll be there but don't really want to be (at least right now I don't really want to be)?

I don't know and wish I did. That there were some special formula to have the answer.

It's not that I don't want to celebrate Christmas. I do. I really, really do. I just don't want to go anywhere to do anything. I bet Mary kinda felt that way, too, huh? 9 months pregnant and having to travel several days, probably surrounded by other people also traveling - maybe even whispering and making comments about her pregnancy, to end up in a crazy-busy town full of more people. My guess is that she was not a social butterfly but more of a quiet, contemplative kind.

I have rambled a bit here, trying to see if sorting my thoughts out would give me any type of "a-ha!" revelations. That hasn't happened. Maybe a nap followed by some quality Christmas music will help.

Friday, December 13, 2013

When You Have Sewing Fever...

...and you discover that "the bigger WalMart" actually has a sewing section, then see a sign marked "Clearance" over bolts of fabric, you just have to go look. And when you see two bolts of fabric that would look darling made into little girls' dresses, and you feel the fabric and it is nice and soft (not coarse and stiff feeling), and then you look at the marked down price-tag and think it is a good price...

Well, it just couldn't stay there at the store any more. I don't have a specific dress pattern in mind but I did buy a couple patterns a few weeks ago and will likely use them to make Susannah and maybe Sylvia dresses or jumpers. I can't wait to decide what to create and then have fun finding all the trimmings to go with!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Being Random

This is in no order at all, just things I've thought or thought about recently.

I am a member of an online local "for sale" group. I frequently see people selling name-brand - like BIG name-brand - shoes, clothes, decorations that are brand new and never use. Things like "cleaning out my closet and found..." or "bought this and never use it..." often accompany. Sometimes it's multiples of the same thing, like "6 pair of shoes, new in boxes, never worn."  Seriously?? It blows my mind to consider buying something expensive and then never using it.

Over vacation I asked Daniel to get our 2nd toilet brush out of the attic. We only had one bathroom for so long that our second toilet brush was packed away. While he was up there I asked him to get down three boxes. Just any boxes he chose, so that I could sort through and purge the contents. I have yet to open the boxes but know they are all full of glass dishes that were wedding gifts. I hope it's an easy purge; not for sentimental reasons because I honestly won't remember who gave us what anymore, but because I am being picky with how much I fill up space with stuff.

An empty box, a small handful of nails, a toy hammer and some pre-poked nail-holes has provided lots of entertainment for the girls lately. So much so that today I had to make a second box so they could both hammer nails at the same time.

We got new flannel sheets several weeks ago. Our old set had worn completely through. The new set is so lovely to snuggle into each night!

I never liked grapefruit as a kid. For a long time we only got yellow grapefruit (when the neighbor boys sold it for the FFA), then pink became an option and Mom started ordering that. Mom and the other grapefruit likers in my family exclaimed how much sweeter the pink kind was; I still never liked it. Then I was pregnant with Sylvia and one day decided I needed to taste pink grapefruit. I have loved it ever since. This summer I wondered if I would still like it this winter (since I typically only buy it in-season) and I sure do!  Susannah and Sylvia like it, too, though not quite as much as I do. Sylvia will eat a bite and make the most horrible sour-face and then ask for more.

I am still loving having my sewing machines set up and operating. I have so much sewing and creating that I want to do. Early this fall I finished sewing the kitchen valences that I started several years ago. I love seeing them hanging in the kitchen and they look perfect there. Then Susannah was in desperate need of bigger clothes to wear for church this winter. The fabric stash did not yield enough of the right kind of fabric so we went fabric shopping. By burning the midnight-and-beyond oil for a week, I made her dress. From purchasing the pattern on Sunday to her wearing her new dress to church the following Sunday. Her excitement made the early mornings so worth it.

I hope to become more efficient and familiar with sewing (again) so I can continue to turn out clothes for our children to wear. Each day when gets dressed and I see that her pants are getting shorter and wearing thinner, I toy with the thought - for just a moment - of re-purposing Daniel's jeans into new jeans for her. I think that's a bit beyond my ambition at the moment plus the demin from his jeans would be very heavy for her.

On that note, I am off to start the dryer for two of four sweaters we bought at Goodwill so I can get them turned into Christmas stockings. :)  Then I will head upstairs and very carefully try to sew the second sleeve onto a doll dress (that I've already ripped off once).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Vacation in December

It has been way too long since we've vacationed as just us (we had 3 weeks of vacation this year: 1 was a work-on-the-house addition week, 1 was at the beach with my sister's family, and one left), so with Daniel having vacation time available we decided to take this past week of vacation and just stay home. It was a welcome break after a whirlwind of Thanksgiving related trips and events.  Daniel had a list of projects he wanted to work on and got quite a few things accomplished!

On Monday he and the girls spent the morning outside getting things ready for him to gather leaves. They took a trip or two around the yard on the lawn-mower just for kicks. I spent a lot of that morning catching up on the mountain of dishes that had piled up over the preceding very busy days. I enjoyed being able to work without interruptions. :)  At one point I looked out the window and saw this:

He was giving his girls AND their dollies a ride on the lawn-mower (not mowing, just riding). During naptime he borrowed his dad's fancy riding mower with a leaf gathering attachment and got up a lot of our leaves, putting them on the garden for compost.

Tuesday day he spent the day helping a friend with an urgent project they needed his help and expertise with. That was a long day for me, but we're all glad he was able to fix their problem (which was a safety hazard). Because we needed to do it and since Daniel was going to be gone all day the girls and I did a major grocery shopping trip to Costco and Kroger. It was a morning and most of the afternoon ordeal and I was about done-in till we got home, but we made it and the coffers are restocked for a while!

On Wednesday Daniel spent a few hours in the morning and all afternoon getting wood from a friends' property to boost our firewood supply. There is still a lot left that he wants to get, but he was glad to be able to get what he did get in one day. (It is just cut, not split yet.) That morning I just did not feel like being home doing home-things so the girls and I went and did a little Christmas shopping. I didn't find what I was looking for at that store but did find a great gift for Susannah. She spied it first in the store and doesn't know I bought it. :) That night we watched the original Winnie The Pooh movie that I picked up for $1 a while back. Susannah has been asking to watch it and it was perfect for winding down the day together as a family.

That evening while waiting to eat supper Sylvia gave me the perfect opportunity to get a picture of how she sucks her fingers and holds her blankie.  She likes to make a "hole" in her blankie, wrapping the satin trim around the pointer finger of her left hand. This is how she snuggles, cuddles and sleeps. Sometimes she will wrap the little finger of her right hand (the one she sucks) AND the pointer finger of her left hand and snuggle that way. Aaaand... of course sometimes she sticks her finger up her nose to be silly. :)  

Thursday the girls and I spent much of the morning outside playing while Daniel worked on getting his load of recycling ready to take to the scrap metal place. It was an unseasonably warm day and it was good to get a bunch of fresh air and exercise before the cold front started coming in. That evening we watched The Sound of Music Live!, starting out with all of us watching and then we tucked the girls in about half-way through. Susannah loved it and has been asking to watch "the lady with the children" again. It was great to just sit and relax together.

Friday morning Daniel puttered around here doing different things outside and then in the afternoon tore the car apart to fix a leak in the heater core and trying to find a possible leak in the radiator. Thankfully the radiator did not have a leak!  I purposely made sure we would eat supper a little bit early so we could go on a family date afterwards. As soon as supper was over we got into our coats and drove to a small but very good Gelati (Italian ice cream) place. None of us had ever had gelati before but I've always had high recommendations from friends. It was a really fun and special treat. Daniel had Cookies & Cream, I had a scoop of Dark Chocolate (so, so, so good!) and a scoop of Mango (also good, but the Dark Chocolate was the best), Susannah chose Pomegranate since she wanted pink ice cream and that was the pink one she chose, and Sylvia had Strawberry. We all had tastes of each others' flavors and they were all yummy. The flavors were very true and fresh tasting.

Saturday morning was another exciting time! We went and got our Christmas tree. We had been planning to go to a tree farm, but spied a pre-cut lot while we were out Friday. We decided to look there first and found a very pretty tree to bring home. This is the first time we've had a fir tree and it is considerably heavier than the pines we've had previous years. Getting it to stay in the upright position was a little more of a challenge since it is heavier, but we finally got it up!

Saturday afternoon it started a wintery mix of weather and our church services were cancelled Sunday. We had a very relaxed breakfast (Daniel made us all eggs and toast), stayed in our pajamas for a while, I took a much-needed unhurried shower, and then had a time of reading Scripture and the Jesus Storybook Bible.

After that Daniel started stringing the lights on the tree. I caught this picture of Sylvia and Daniel. :)  The lights are on the tree now and I will work at decorating it this week. It is really pretty just as it is, too!

Since Daniel did not officially work on any projects Sunday we had a nice relaxing afternoon. Since he was home and everything was going smoothly, I mixed up a batch of gingerbread cookie dough towards the end of naptime (it had to chill in the refrigerator for a while). After supper we cleaned off the table and we all worked at making cookies. It was quite an adventure and I think Daniel got a little dose of what my daily life can be like sometimes. ;)  He helped Sylvia with her ball of dough and I helped Susannah.

Sylvia was all about poking the dough with her fingers and was finished before the dough ran out.

Cheesing at the ceiling instead of the camera!

Susannah wanted to try all different cookie cutters so it took a little longer for us to get through our dough and fill our cookie sheet, but we got there!

Then the fun part of adding the sprinkles!! That may well have been Susannah's favorite part. I got out all the sprinkles and sugars that she could use and let her go to town with them on "her" tray of cookies.

Some of her cookies were very well sprinkled!!

Sylvia was too busy doing other things to sprinkle her cookies so the first tray went unsprinkled. Daniel had fun doing the few cookies that ended up on a 3rd tray. I think he was secretly having fun. ;)

Susannah's cookie tray... and she wasn't finished yet! The large train cookie got lots and lots more sprinkles till she finished!

Susannah made sure that Daniel's cookies had enough of all the right colors of sprinkles on them.

While the cookies baked we got the girls into their pajamas. Before brushing their teeth they each got to eat a smaller cookie, fresh from the oven.

Today Daniel is back to work and both girls asked where he was when they woke up. The snow and ice are melting and pretty much gone (but a good possibility of snow in the forecast tomorrow! Yippee!). It is back to the reality of single-parenting for me and delving back into real housekeeping and homemaking. I think it was Tuesday afternoon that I decided we were going to use paper plates for ALL of the remaining vacation meals. Even though there were still dishes from cooking, utensils and cups to wash or run through the dishwasher, it was nice to be able to just open the trash can and have the dirty plates gone! Somehow we still generated enough dishes to run a dishwasher full every day. :)

Having this break between the busy of Thanksgiving and the upcoming busy of Christmas was so nice. It was great to not have to pack suitcases and haul our stuff anywhere. We got to sleep in our own beds, have all of our cupboard, freezer and pantry things at our fingertips, we didn't have to worry about the girls touching or breaking things that don't belong to us, and best of all we didn't have to pay anything to stay here or buy gas to travel anywhere!

I might just be thinking about suggesting that have staycation this week every year!