Sunday, April 11, 2021

Little Ray of Sunshine (or Izzy, Again)

 If my calculations are correct, I haven't made an "Izzy" dress for Rosa in over four years (I loved that little dress!). As long-time readers may remember, over the years I made nine of these dresses from size 18 months to size 5 -- just search "Izzy" in the sidebar for proof! I can't think why it's been so long since I've made one, and also can't believe this is my 10th Izzy. But I'm ever so glad I saved both the toddler and girl sized files for this pattern -- when I made my very first Izzy I mentioned that digital patterns sometimes disappear, and sure enough the files are no longer available now that the designer, Teri, has taken down her blog (Climbing the Willow).

Through the generosity of a reader and fellow knitter (whom I've dubbed my "fairy yarn-mother," but that's a story for another day), I came into possession of yards and yards of sunny yellow gingham. Not the unpleasant poly-blend that used to be all you could find at fabric stores, but a sturdy cotton with a small check. Just right for my sunny eight-year-old. As I look back through my blog posts, I realize this isn't the first time I've made an Izzy in gingham

For Easter Sunday, Rosa wore her new Izzy and I wore my coral gingham Penny dress by Sew Over It. It was lovely that we could "match," while the different colors and check sizes (not to mention different styles of dress) were still unique.

I sewed up a size 8 bodice with a size 10 skirt (lengthened a bit, to accommodate growth). Thank goodness I remember how to construct it, since the accompanying tutorial vanished with Teri's blog! 

For the closure, I opted for a KAM snap. I love the simplicity of this pattern (though there are many ways to modify and embellish it). At first I worried it would be too plain, but in the end I'm glad I didn't add anything. 

I made a tiny version while I was at it, for another sunny girl -- and I still have yards of gingham left! 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Old Made New

 After coming across some clever paint-and-dirt upcycled ceramics, I decided I wanted to have a go myself. I love the look of pottery, but have never found any suitable candidates at the charity shops I frequent. Upcycling opens up the options -- anything with a suitable shape is fair game!

And the charity shops didn't let me down -- the glass jar didn't look bad on its own (made in Italy, as a matter of fact), but a photograph can't quite do justice to the ugliness of the green vase. Still, they seemed good candidates for my purposes.

I mostly followed The Beauty Revival's Tutorial (after several failed attempts with a "dirt effect," I opted for just "textured clay"). I did spray a glass-friendly primer coat first, after my attempt to apply acrylic paint directly to the glass went awry. Admittedly, I read later that you have to let acrylic dry for quite a while in order for it to bond to glass.

I used acrylic paints I had on hand, so I had to blend colors to get the shades I wanted. For the grey, a mixture of grey, brown, and white. For the terracotta, a mixture of yellow, red, brown, and white. Not the easiest way to go about it, but I ended up under-blending them on purpose to give a bit more dimension to the color. A paint to baking soda ratio of about 2:1 worked well for me (I was not at all precise, I just kept adding until I liked the consistency). A few coats of each with a small foam brush did the trick nicely.

Despite a few hiccups along the way, this was a simple and satisfying project. $4 of thrifted vases (plus part of a can of spray primer) made an inexpensive addition to our decor, gave me an opportunity to flex my creative muscles, and brought new life to unwanted objects. 

I won't be looking at ugly thrift store vases quite the same way now...

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Catching Up: February and March

February: a succession of cold snaps and "heat waves." 
March: a holding of breath on the cusp of Spring.

This wall used to be such a blank -- it took over a year for me to figure out what I wanted, but I'm so pleased with it. I tinker with the details as the seasons change.

Our snow melts straight away, but we enjoyed some leftover drifts in a nearby more "elevated" town. I love how handknitted socks peek through my Dalias.

The number of photos in each month's folder usually reflects how challenging it was, and there are precious few photos from February. Losing Baby M brought weeks of anxiety to a close, only to be replaced by grief. It was a particularly busy month for my husband at work, too, so it was more a "survive" than "thrive" month. But God's mercies are new every morning, and we navigated this season by His grace. We kept homeschooling without interruption; the familiar rhythm was comforting and helped maintain some sense of normalcy.

Towards the end of February I put up some wooden bead garlands that I'd made over the holidays. A few hours later I came back down, and Little Man and Rosa had displayed many of our watercolors and even created new art to add -- they wanted to cheer me up, they explained, because they'd noticed how sad I'd been. I'm so grateful for their sweet, loving hearts.

We celebrated Laddie's sixth birthday -- definitely the highlight of the month -- and I find myself wondering where the years have gone! We went bowling for the third year in a row, and surprisingly I haven't improved much since last year! *wink* His quiet delight over everything from his presents to the green streamers and helium balloons was so dear. Laddie was a rainbow baby all those years ago, and he's just as much a gift now as he was then.

Not long after, he lost his first tooth (which he handed to me in the middle of a church service!) and finished up his reading lesson book. How have I been through this book three times already? 

I can't seem to get enough of flowers lately -- I seem to come home with something green on every trip to the garden center! This pot of daffodils caught my eye, especially with its half-exposed bulbs. I did find it amusing that the attached tag recommended planting 2-3" deep with 5" spacing... I also planted some crocus, hyacinth, and tulip bulbs in a pot, which all bloomed beautifully.

We have ever so many bulbs at our home in Virginia (like this beauty!), and I've been missing them so.  I'll save all this year's bulbs in hopes that I can plant them in Virginia next spring. In the meantime, I'm enjoying my potted blooms -- fingers crossed that the zinnia and ranunculus I planted will come up soon.

I keep feeling like something's missing from these posts, and I've realized it's all my recent reads and crafts! They'll need a post of their own, I think.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Catching Up: January

I doubt many of us were sad to say goodbye to 2020, but I found myself hesitating on the threshold of the new year. I longed for a sense of new beginnings, of hope -- but with three empty-arm due dates and two miscarriages in the past year, it was hard to feel optimistic. On January first I wrote on Instagram that tendrils of fear wrap themselves around my heart. Fear that 2021 will be another year in the valley, another year marked by grief and loss and pain. But, only by dwelling on God's identity and promises can I take courage for the coming year -- as one of His children, I am redeemed, called by name, precious, honored, and loved (Isaiah 43:1,4). The Creator of the Universe has promised to be with me no matter what (43:2), so what is there to fear? I can leave tomorrow to Him.  

Little did I realize how soon my declaration of faith would be tested. Days after I pleaded with God to give us a respite from grief, I found out I was pregnant with a baby I would likely never meet on this side of eternity. And then came Baby F's first heaven birthday. As I look back at snapshots from the month, I feel surprised that they don't reflect the mental torment of those few weeks of "certain uncertainty." But it makes me grateful to see how God kept me going, how I was able to enjoy so many moments with my children, and how He blessed us during that time.

It was such a strange month -- one day, the sun shining so fiercely that it coaxed us out of sweaters;  a few days later, the heaviest snowfall we've had here.

We discovered that Scout is ready for the balance bike,
and he took to it like a pro. Walks are so much less
"dawdly" now -- in fact, I can hardly keep up!

Progress on my Grey Havens sweater -- after far too much frogging...
The yarn color is "Sagebrush," just like my Balta top.

We made our first "real" snowman, thanks to an abundance of 
wet, sticky snow -- it had melted by afternoon. Crazy high desert weather.

I couldn't believe I found this Elizabeth Goudge novel at a $1 outdoor book sale, at a book shop we weren't even planning to stop at. Nestled amongst a miscellany of unwanted volumes, it caught my eye as I took a last glance before heading to the checkout (my arms already full, of course!).

Rather than being a battered ex-library book (my first impression, due to the cellophane jacket), it turned out to be in excellent "unborrowed" shape -- even the delicate dust jacket, thanks to the aforementioned cellophane! And I paid less than the original list price... *wink*

It was such a lovely story, and just what I needed at the time. I wish I could describe Goudge's writing, but every time I try, I end up with beautiful impressions of light and scent and beauty that don't seem to translate to the page -- which is exactly the impression I have when reading her books, so I suppose that's no surprise. It also makes me miss England rather badly, which is both pleasant and painful! 

One January delight was discovering a raspberry ice cream recipe, found in one of those tear-away magnetic calendars sent to us by the real estate agent who helped us buy our first home over almost eleven years ago (that's a mouthful!). I recently found a used Cuisinart ice cream maker at the thrift store for $10; I've wanted one for ages, but it seemed so unnecessary -- and, admittedly, it's a rather large single-purpose machine. Anyway, we tried the recipe and it was a smashing success! 

Raspberry Ice Cream
  • 1 1/2 C frozen raspberries, slightly thawed
  • 1 C sugar (I found it a bit sweet, so I use about 3/4 C of organic cane sugar)
  • 1 C whipping cream
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in blender and process until thoroughly mixed and smooth
  2. Pour into ice cream maker!

We've tried strawberry (fabulous), mango (pleasant but too "mild"), and mixed berry (a bit too sweet, so reduce the sugar). I have some cherries in the freezer that I'm tempted to try, though I'm guessing cherries might actually need a bit more sugar.

I love snow, and we had several beautiful flurries throughout the month! Another gift from the Creator.

We also cut out paper snowflakes for the first time (how have I never done that with my littles before?) so that we could have more "permanent" snow -- most of our flurries are gone in less than a day! It worked in well with a mini-unit on snowflakes. We all marveled at God's creativity displayed in Ken Libbrecht's Field Guide to Snowflakes. Stunning!

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth;
it shall not return to Me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:6-11

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

'Twas the Night Before Christmas: Pajamas, 2020 Edition

As Christmas 2020 drew near, it was time to tackle the littles' yearly Christmas pajamas. They open them on Christmas Eve so they can wear them on Christmas morning, and it's become a favorite tradition. They often wear them for years -- Scout still has the pair I made when he was 18 months old, which look quite comical now that he's 3 1/2! 

For Rosa's pajamas, I finally bought some of the Birch Pirouette fabrics that I've been eyeing for ages. I used the free T-shirt pattern from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom for the top, but I wanted to add some detail. I cut the front pattern piece off just below the armhole, cut the top portion as directed, but  placed the lower pattern piece a few inches from the fold to make it wider. Then I gathered the top edge, and sewed it to the top of the shirt. Instead of a neckband I cut a facing, sewed it right-sides-together to the shirt, then flipped it to the inside and top-stitched. Very simple alterations, but it made for an entirely different look!

For the pants, I used Life Sew Savory's free family PJ pants pattern. I contemplated leggings, but my knit was a thick interlock and I thought looser pants would probably fit better and longer. 

I chose a Riley Blake National Parks print for the boys' pants, and a solid organic jersey for their tops. I used the same free t-shirt pattern and PJ pants pattern that I used for Rosa, which made everything quite simple! I did have to hem their pants afterwards, as I'd been a bit over-generous with the length (why didn't I just grab pants that fit them to check the length? Oh well...). This year I finally remembered to add folded ribbon "tags" to the boys' shirts and pants (in their favorite colors) so that they can identify their own clothes. At this point, Laddie and Scout are so close in size that matching pajamas often end up in the wrong bins!

I finished these up just in time for Christmas Eve, and the littles' delight was well worth the time and effort! I'm happy that they still enjoy wearing their mama-made pajamas -- and they've been worn quite often since Christmas, so now it's just a question of whether they'll grow out of them or wear them to tatters first...

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Catching Up: December

In early December we finally ticked off one of my "Out West bucket list" items: Lake Tahoe. We spent a few days in a cabin playing games, enjoying the lake views, and spending much-needed time together as a family after a busy season of work for my husband. We also managed to get our family Christmas pictures at Emerald Bay State Park, and we couldn't have asked for a lovelier setting.

I'd love to visit Fannette Island, home to the ruins of a 1920's tea house:

I can't resist a good tree hug...

These two... Rosa has always been Scout's second mother, and I love to see them together.

This was our first time away from "Emma," but thanks to some kind neighbors she did fine -- though she was quite happy to see us back again!

Little Man celebrated his first double-digit birthday -- he requested a Mandalorian theme, so some "Beskar" balloons were required:

Gingerbread 2020 featured a castle under attack by a gumdrop dragon:

Handcrafted gifts enclosed in handcrafted wrapping paper, made by my sweet daughter -- I couldn't ask for more, or for a better way to close out a most difficult year.

Goodbye, 2020.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Catching Up: November

After much begging from my littles, we finally carved our annual pumpkin -- but this year I departed from our usual style and suggested a fairy house. I think fairy houses might be our new favorite design! Some sticks, beans, and clay mushrooms (from Rosa's birthday cake last year) served as decoration. I've never used a hot glue gun while carving a pumpkin before...

But soon we had an early taste of winter -- last year we had snow on Thanksgiving Day, but this was a few weeks earlier still. I love the way the snow transforms a landscape.

Emma approves, too!

November was "puzzle month" for Rosa and me -- we do love a good puzzle, but rather outdid ourselves. Six puzzles, two of them 1,000 piece and the others unique in some way (mosaic puzzle, puzzle "sticks," and a winter scene puzzle back with cork that featured shapes such as dolphins, umbrellas, and candy canes!). I didn't get a picture of the sixth one! We'd had a bit of a spree at the local thrift shop, you see...

My favorite was this miniature 1,000 piece puzzle -- not only were the pieces adorably tiny, but the bookshelf theme was quite appealing. Many of the books had humorous titles, and the shelves are inhabited by all manner of fairies and creatures:

I appreciated that the pieces were labeled A-F on the back -- it made
it much easier to sort the pieces into sections before assembly!

Puzzles have always been therapeutic to me after a miscarriage -- something to occupy my mind, something I can "fix" when so much seems broken and out of my control. We lost Baby A just before Thanksgiving, so a plethora of puzzles to work on was so helpful.

Scout, apparently, found November quite exhausting, but couldn't put down a good story:

We had a quiet family Thanksgiving, and Scout asked me to read "Sharing the Bread" over and over -- the littles each identified with a child from the story (I'm surprised Scout was so delighted to be the baby!), and we all enjoyed the lovely words.

We put up our tree after Thanksgiving, the largest and loveliest we've ever had (also probably the most expensive, come to think of it -- but options are limited in our small town, and it was well worth it).

Grief and joy, pain and beauty -- ever juxtaposed, yet melding in a way that never fails to surprise me. And perhaps that wasn't a bad thing to be mulling over as we moved into the Advent season.