Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary...

...how does your garden grow?

I admit, when we first moved into our home, I was elated at the prospect of planning how our very large yard would be landscaped.  I had visions of blooms...lots and lots of blooms.  Names like snapdragons, dianthus, geraniums, hydrangeas, and, of course, roses danced through my head.

I was less excited about vegetables.  Herbs, sure...who doesn't like a fragrant bunch of basil or lavendar or sage?

But vegetables?  The 5 year old picky eater in me was quickly surfacing.
But we had this little plot of dead grass in our backyard...a section where no sprinkler head reached...with full sun.  So my sweet hubster labored to create this.

A fenced in plot where our pupster cannot enter and our veggies can grow in peace {well..except from the occasional bird or squirrel}.  After our first harvest of a million and five cucumbers which were pickled into the best pickles you've ever tasted, I was hooked.

We planted our first crop in August and had a mid-late fall harvest.  And I cannot take credit for the bounty.  I do not possess a green thumb in any way, shape or form.  I am descended from both a legacy of green thumbs and brown thumbs.  My Great-Granny Willie Mae could take the most barren soil and make beautiful things grow.  Ditto with my Grandpa.  And my brother...well if you hop on over you can see he inherited the genes {morning glories were also a specialty of Grandpa's}.

*Ahem.*  So that brown thumb legacy?  I'm thinking it's linked to the eye gene.  'Cause my Granny was not as talented in the green thumb department {though she could keep ivy alive}, my mom is a little less talented with the ivy-keeping, and I have killed every ivy plant I've ever owned.  And we all share the same blue eyes.  Which means...my little Kiddo is likely destined to kill plants. {Hopefully not!}

Our first crop was grown from seeds.  We have purchased plants that have already been started {is that the right term?}.  But this year, we are more budget conscious thanks to my new career.  {I joke that I get paid in smiles and poop.}  So we have gone back to planting seeds.  

And, until today, I never realized that you can save your seeds and replant the next year.  Apparently, that's how heirloom seeds are passed down.  And there is even a whole website dedicated to passing on the know-how of seed-saving {www.seedsavers.org}.  So...you buy your seeds once.  And replant year after year.  

Now seeds are already ridiculously cheap.  We spent $1.38 on a packet of red bell pepper seeds {which, coincidentally is how much they currently cost per pound at my local grocery store}.  And if we save seeds from our pepper harvest...we can replant them again next year...for free!

I'm hooked.  I might not be a coupon genius...though I admire those who miraculously haul in large amounts of food for little or no money...I do not have the time to hunt down those deals.  But drying out seeds and replanting for next year?  Done.  :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fancy Schmancy Pillow Slipcover

I confess.  It has taken me a ridiculously long time to get around to posting this.  This was a spur of the moment, hey-what-if-I..., type of thing that turned out way better than I dared to hope.  In fact, I'd say this handy dandy pillow slip has upstaged the chair slip she was meant to accompany.  {We won't mention that to the chair. ;)}

Once upon a time, I had a lovely 16"x16" pillow from HomeGoods.  She was pretty and fancy with her braid and tassel trim.  Enter the cutest puppy on the face of the planet.

Look at his adorable puppy cuteness!  I miss that speckled nose of his.  Here he is in all his distinguished adultness...

We jokingly give him Eeyore's voice..."Nobody loves me...it's all about the baby now."  Poor Baxter.  

Anyway, I digress.  As an adorably cute puppy, Baxter had an affinity for pillows.  If I turned my back for a second, he just couldn't resist attacking the pillows.  And turning my back for 30 minutes was all he needed to make a few choice "alterations" to the trim on my pillow.  We're just lucky he didn't actually eat the trim.

But I couldn't bear to throw out my pillow.  Green and blue are my favorite colors and this was one of my favorites.  Eventually, Baxter's alterations were so great that I ended up lopping off the tassels myself and just leaving the braid in place.  So this was the state of my pillow when I remembered I still had it in a closet somewhere.

I double checked my measurements, which I highly recommend because my pillow technically is 16"x16.5".  Not a perfect square.  And had I just gone off my memory of "oh it's a 16x16" my cover wouldn't have fit in the end.  And I would have surely cried.

Once I double checked my measurements {remember the old adage "measure twice, cut once"} I added an inch on each side to allow for 1/2" seam allowance and made my cuts using leftover fabric from our breakfast nook roman shades {thank you Mom!}.  

Working with stripes is a curse and a joy.  The curse comes when you need to match your pattern.  The blessing is you have built in straight lines to cut on.  This is where I was patting myself on the back for using stripes.  {And yes, I was cursing the stripes later.}

Next I folded my pleats and pinned them.  At first I was trying to be super exact, measuring out each pleat exactly.  After about 4 or 5 I realized, this does not need to be exact.  Eyeballing works fine and saves my sanity.  I'm pretty good at eyeing things for spacing.  If you aren't, you might want to measure out your pleats.  Also, this is where I began to realize stripes aren't always fun.  I had to be careful to make sure my lines matched up while pinning.

A close up of the pinned pleats.  

After my pleats were pinned, I topstiched down both outer edges.  Again, I had to be careful to make sure the stripes matched as I was stiching.  Thus, I sewed with the pins in {yes, I know this is a huge no-no}.

After I topstiched down the sides, I measured to find the middle and topstiched straight down the middle.  Here is where reverted to singing the praises of stripes.  See how I just lined up the foot of the sewing machine with the stripe?  It was a wonderful guide and I started patting myself on the back again.

You can see the effect of the pleats.  And I almost stopped here.  It was pretty enough.  I was just messing around so I didn't really need to continue.  But my inspiration for this project was an episode of Sewing With Nancy {I hear you laughing...but seriously there is nothing on TV in the middle of the night when you are up nursing your newborn...so yes, I watched PBS instead of infomercials} and she made it look so easy....I had to give it a try.

So I went back and carefully pinned in the opposite direction.

And then topstiched in the opposite direction.  And voila!  Here you can see what a difference it makes.

Here are both sides topstiched in the opposite direction.

Then I matched up the fabric I cut for the back of the pillow and stiched along 3 sides with the right sides together.  I hemmed the edges of the 4th side and left it open.

I thought the fasted way to end my project would be to just stitch it closed.  *Ahem.*  And then I broke 2 needles consecutively.  Moving on to plan B!

This is a jar of vintage buttons my Granny let me play with as a little girl.  I went shopping in my button jar and found these...

I sewed them on the inside of the edge of my pillow and consulted my sewing machine manual to learn how to make button holes.

Voila!  Here is my pillow all neatly tucked into her new pillow cover.

And here are her fancy schmancy pleats!

What I love about this pillow:

1) Let's fact it, she was free!  I already had the pillow and the fabric and you just can't beat free.

2) She's pretty front and back.  I go back and forth flipping her around depending on if I want my chair to look fancy or casual.

3) Since she matches every room in my house, when I get bored with her in my bedroom, she can visit the living room, the study, even little Matthew's room if she wants!

The one drawback:

I mentioned she is made from leftover drapery fabric.  She is a synthetic suede and is dry clean only.  {Wah Waaaaa}.

Overall I'm super pleased though.  Now go out and make yourself one!

Post Edit: In re-reading this I realize I didn't explain how to measure and cut your fabric for your pleats.  For my pillow I cut one square 17"x17.5" {remember my extra inch for seam allowance} and then for the pleated front I cut 17"x the existing length of the fabric.  This allowed me extra fabric to fold into pleats.  A very important thing to know!  Because if I had just cut the fabric 17"x17.5" like the back I wouldn't have had enough length to make pleats.  Hope this helps!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lake Day

Post Edit: I wrote this Wednesday, started adding pictures and such Thursday, but my little one has been so fussy I haven't gotten to upload it until now!

I love lake days.

I wish we had both a "city" house here in town and a "country" house down by the lake.

Well...if I'm making wishes it would be more than just a house.  It would be an entire ranch right there on the lake {so we're talking acres, not just a plot}.  It would have a farmhouse style, two story house like this, with a wrap around porch and shutters.

And we'd have our own boat launch...and a boat to go with it.  Maybe I'd finally learn how to water ski.

A girl can dream right?

But today I am content to go to the lake and breathe the fresh air

and watch my baby laugh

and my doggie play

and the sun dance on the water.

Those ducks better watch out!

I took Clive Staples with me to read.  You know Clive {CS Lewis}, I know you do.  I was first introduced to Clive as a 6th grader.  We were required to read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe for English...and we were required to read it in increments...no reading ahead allowed.  If you answered a question and it was apparent you had read ahead you were scolded.  I'm a fast reader.  I can't read at someone else's pace.  So I read ahead, got in trouble, stopped reading so the class could catch up with me...and then never finished the book {still made A's though}.

In high school I heard adults talking about CS Lewis and what a great writer he was.  So I gave him another try.  I guess I was too young and too unfocused to appreciate dear Clive.  I read the preface and probably the first 3 pages of Mere Christianity and never gave Clive a try again.

Until now.  Mostly because of Edie at Life in Grace and all of the wonderful things she has written about Clive and the quotes she has shared.  And I have been blown away.  I don't always agree with Clive...but his arguments are well thought out and well written.  And in a time when we are bombarded with marketing campaigns and headlines {most of which are not news worthy} I heartily appreciate his words.  They are thought provoking and I encourage you to give Clive a try...even if you've read him before and thought it was dry reading...give him another chance.  You might agree with him, you might not...but he challenges the individual to think for oneself...which is, unfortunately, not something our society often encourages.

As I sat at the lake, and tried to help my cute-but-fussy four month old sleep, this quote grabbed my attention.  It was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment:

We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity - as if God Himself was proud.  He is not in the least worried about His dignity.  The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself.  And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble - delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once go tired of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.  He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are.  I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off - getting rid of the false self, with all its "Look at me" and "Aren't I a good boy?" and all its posing and posturing.  To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.  -- CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

He sure doesn't mince words!  I love Clive.

Happy Friday Y'all! :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Week in Review

I know I've been quiet this week...and that some of those posts I wanted to write haven't been written yet.  So I thought I'd let you in on what we've been up to this week...

First, these got painted a lovely shade of blue...and I got a review in why it's good to open the garage door when you're spray painting.  :)

Then our house got a wonderful facelift...hello new windows.  You are beee-U-tiful.  And you block out cars driving by, planes flying overhead, dogs barking, and the annoying neighbor girl who lives behind us and "sings" like a banshee at the top of her lungs.  And our electric bill should be lower this summer.  We are forever grateful.

To compete with the lure of being inside and away from loud neighborhood noises, our backyard has decided to bloom...

Hello Hydrangeas...I can't wait to see your colorful blossoms...

Hello Honeysuckle...you make everything smell heavenly...

Hello Roses...you're so bright and cheerful every morning...

Hello Bluebonnets...Texas wouldn't be Texas without you.

And while there have been many good times this week...lest you think the week was flawless I give you this.

Yes ladies.  It's that time of year again.  Time to torture ourselves by shopping for swimwear.  There were tears and gnashing of teeth...and eventually I found a swimsuit that fits at least half of me.  Isn't it a lovely blue?  There she is getting prewashed and ready for the weekend.  I'm not brave enough to post a picture of me actually wearing this...so this is the best you're gonna get.  And from this week of torture-some shopping I have a few observations:

1) There is a gap in the swimwear market for women who have recently had babies but are not currently knocked up.  Underwires, folks.  And think beyond D.  Some of us need a little more help than a triangle and a string are gonna give us. 

2) Call before you find someone to watch your baby and drive to the store...those precious few hours {minutes?} should not be wasted on a store that doesn't have your size.

3) If I call your store and ask if you carry a size that sounds like it should be a joke, please don't laugh and assume that it is, in fact, a joke.

4) Why can't someone make specialty size swimwear that's more affordable?  We're talking about some spandex, a little wire, and that's about it.  I had a tremendously hard time taking the tags off to wash this thing.  I really, really wanted to take it back because I felt wasteful spending so much on so little. 

Stepping off my soapbox now.  *Wooosaaaaa* I'm gonna go smell some more honeysuckle now. 

Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

4 Months Already

"From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things are everywhere." 
-Dr. Seuss

In his fourth month, my little one...

gained more hand eye coordination...

found his feet...

rolled from his tummy to his back...

started teething {complete with drool}...

laughed and giggled and cooed...

turned pages in Pat the Bunny and Winnie the Pooh...

and brought much joy to our happy home.

Where did the time go?

Thoughts on Kid-Friendly Bathrooms {that grown-ups will like too}

One of my favorite rooms in our home is the guest bathroom.  The previous owner did some basic renovations to the house including updating the vanity in the guest bathroom.  When we moved in the bathroom was painted the color of sand {to match all the other rooms} and the vanity had been updated with a furniture style vanity.  It's a pretty fussy vanity.  And, if I'm completely honest, it's a little too fussy for me.  And too tall for petite {read: child-sized} me.  But since it's not in the budget at this time to update the vanity, I'll have to live with her for now.

We added a cabinet above the sink for extra storage for baby toys, baby shampoo, baby washcloths....you get the picture.

And my loving hubby graciously painted the walls a rich, moody grey {Valspar Cathedral Stone} last fall when my hormones were screaming "Nest! Nest! Nest!" but my swollen body could barely walk.

That freshly painted blank canvas above the towel rack was just screaming for something.  Something.  And for a long time I've thought "maybe botanical prints".  Then it occurred to me "the rest of the house feels like a beach cottage...what about beach prints?"

So, I consulted Mother Google and learned that the study of mollusc shells is called "conchology" and I could buy a reproduction book from Amazon on the study of shells with some lovely pictures in it.  I tucked that thought in the back of my mind...I didn't really want to buy the whole book because I knew if I did it would end up on my coffee table and not on my walls {I can't pull apart a book...seriously...I love books...I don't disassemble them}.  Then one morning as I was perusing Etsy I found these lovelies...

Someone else had already pulled apart a book from 1923.  I would have loved to have the whole book, but I never would have pulled it apart.

So I bought them quick.  Then with some Hobby Lobby finds and leftover paint from the breakfast nook {Valspar Gossamer Sky}...

... I gave them the royal treatment.

I used some scrap curling ribbon and scotch tape to make "scrapbook corners" to mount the pages to the mats.  I didn't want to just use tape because I wanted to try to preserve the pages {and I've seen what tape can do to receipt paper}.

I was super careful to get as close to the edge as possible without letting the tape touch the pages.


Then I put them in inexpensive frames {made even less expensive thanks to Hobby Lobby's fabulous frame sale}.

And now they work their magic to make my guest bathroom so cheerful.

Now that I've done this, I'm not as happy with our towel rack.  Seriously, what is it about home-improvement type projects that just make you want to do more?  I find myself excited about how fresh things look, but I rarely have that sense of peace that comes when a project is "done" because I always start in on something else.  Anyway, I love what Paul and Bethany did in their bathroom, and I may do something similar.

Maybe with these? {From Anthropologie.}

I guess it's not so bad always having projects in progress...there's always something to look forward to!

Do you have any suggestions for making a kid-friendly bathroom {or any other space} that adults will use also?  I'd love your help!