Holiday Crafting

I wanted to pop in here to let you know that my Bitty Bag Tutorial has been featured in a fabulous digital magazine, DIY Decorating Addict available through the itunes store. Free for the month of December! Head on over and check out all the holiday crafty goodness. And, to those who found their way here through the magazine, welcome.

I would love to write a nice long post today about all the crafting going on around here, but I am sick, and either my kids are soon to follow or they love tormenting their poor sick mama with grumpy moods and lots of arguments. I think I have appeased them for the time being with a movie, but we'll see. For now, a few links to posts from the past that I hope will inspire you.

Check out my sewing category to see my fabric creations. There is the zipper fly plaid pants I made for my boy. My first attempt at a zipper fly. I had intended to do my own tutorial, but Oliver + S beat me to it and it is a wonderful tutorial.

My crafting with kids category shows some of the cool gift exchange gifts we make each year. I'm sure there is some great holiday inspiration for you in there, like the secret agent spy kit we put together for my sister's kids. Oh my, that was a fun one. Or, the peppermint sugar scrubs my girls gave to their Aunties. (links to the recipes are in the post)

And, of course, don't forget to check out my tutorials tab at the top of the page for detailed tutorials on adding elastic to waistbands using ribbon, or sewing a cowboy vest, as well as the Bitty Bag tutorial.

If you like what you see, you can now subscribe to my blog by RSS feed, e-mail, or follow me on twitter to get notified of my newest posts. Thanks for visiting and happy holidays.


This is a post I had almost ready to publish when my niece got sick. I found it today and it made me smile and think of the fun summer days that feel like so long ago already, so I thought I'd share it. Today there is so much more that I am in love with and thankful for. I don't think I have the stamina to post them just now. This week my niece has her big surgery. They will remove the tumor and her kidney and will clean out a major artery. There is a lot of prepping for cousins who will be staying here, and plenty of other, normal life things happening too, but I find myself pausing frequently throughout the days to worry, and to think, and most of all, to take stock and appreciate all that I have. 

  • The Black Eyed Susan's and Daisies popping up between our yard and the pond. 
  • The boy teaching his little sister how to pitch so he has someone to play baseball with now that the little league season has ended.
  • My youngest daughter's firm belief that some day soon she will be able to fly because she wished in a wishing well. And, her daily attempts to determine if today is the day.
  • Celery in my garden! It's stupid how happy this makes me. (It's also kind of stupid that I didn't realize that's what it was until yesterday.)
  • The way my kids pulled together and amused and impressed me with their problem solving skills to retrieving a runaway balsa glider when they were told that, "no they could not climb out the bedroom window onto the roof." (See above) I didn't snap a picture in time but, it involved a broom, a pool noodle, 3 kids strategically placed for optimal viewing of said glider shouting directions, and 1 precariously perched on the porch railing.

Digital Creativity in the (Home) Classroom

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently decided to take some classes from Adobe's Education Exchange. Our first assignment was titled Big and Small and we were asked to use Photoshop to put a small version of ourselves into a picture with a larger version.

Photoshop is my program. I love it and used it for photo editing for years. I am out of practice, however, and the last version I owned is now, over 10 years old. This was a great assignment to help me learn to navigate through the newer versions.

When my son heard me talking about my Big and Small assignment, he excitedly suggested that I make him one of his knights. He loves setting up battles with his action figures. He has even taken photos that play out a stop motion style scene when flipped through quickly. My reasons for taking these courses is to be able to teach my kids, and their friends, to use the programs, so being able to include them in these assignments appealed to me, plus it was a really cool idea, so I went with it.

Our next assignment used Flash. I had never even opened the program before and I got too hung up on creating the artwork which left little time for developing the story. It was fun though, and I was able to show my 12 year old enough to get her started with the program. She has had a lot fun making short animations and I'm so impressed with how much she is learning. This was my animation, the idea for which was decided while doodling with my 6 year old, just before Halloween.

Next up was video, using Premiere Pro. I was very nervous about this lesson. Thinking in terms of video did not come naturally to me, but my kids are fascinated with how movies are made and I knew they would love to help out with this one. Boy was I right. Honestly, I have to give credit for this video to my 12 year old daughter. I wrote some ideas, a rough storyboard, she chucked most of it and added some of her own ideas. Then, she recruited her cousins and little sister to act for her and she video taped all the scenes with my digital camera. I wrote, and she read, the voice over using some feature on my cell phone I didn't realize existed, and then together, late last Monday night, we worked together in Premiere editing, searching for the background music online, and taking photos to fill in where we needed something more. It was so much fun working with her. The assignment was to create a promotional video for your favorite book. This is a family favorite read aloud.

This week we were asked to start a blog, or if we already have one, to write a post about our experience in the class. I have to say that the community that has been created is wonderful and supportive and so much fun. I am having a great time brushing up on programs I haven't used in a while and learning some new ones along with my kids. I hope that these new tools will inspire them in their project work. I am looking forward to the next course, Digital Imaging for Beginners. I suppose I'm not technically a beginner, but the programs have changed a lot in the past 10 years, so I'm sure I'll get a lot out of the course.

Why I've Been Away

I haven't been here in a while. It's because I haven't been able to write much. Summer ended pretty rough for us and I just couldn't write and once I could, there was only one thing to write about. I wasn't sure it was mine to share. I don't know how I can continue here without filling in this empty space though, and it has become such a huge part of our everyday life here that even if it is not truly my story to share, I have a part in it, and it is a part of my story, so here goes.

Abby at Science Club just days before heading to the ER

I woke early on a Saturday morning in August, 4 a.m. early, to the boing boing ring of my phone. I think we've all had it happen. A call too late at night or early in the morning, that makes your stomach flop. Something is wrong, no one would call this early unless it was an emergency. I leaped from my bed, running through all the possible reasons. My father-in-law was going to the hospital, something happened to my mom or dad. I told myself to relax. This has happened before. I worry and it turns out it's nothing. I grabbed my phone and with eyes still sleepy saw it was my sister. I was confused, but somewhat relieved. She probably just woke up when her husband had. He must have had some side job to get to and she didn't even realize it was insanely early for making phone calls. She's just going to ask me to bring something to the birthday party she's having later today for her two girls.

To be honest, the phone conversation is a bit of blur. I remember realizing she was upset, and stepping outside onto my porch for better reception, as my husband wandered sleepily out of the bedroom wanting to know who it was. And, I remember the words, "Kerry, it's a tumor." and, "this is the nightmare." She was referring to every parents worst nightmare. The thing you always talk yourself out of stressing about when you bring your baby to the doctor for a checkup. The thing you worry about, but somehow know, everything will be fine, because it does happen, but chances are, it won't happen to you.

All following picture credits go to my sister

I don't know if I got the whole story in that phone conversation, probably not. By the time I left the hospital late that Saturday night, I knew that the flu like symptoms my niece had been experiencing for a few days were caused by a tumor the size of an orange on her kidney. I knew that because of the tumor, fluid had built up in her abdomen and had been crushing her lungs and heart, and that she had almost died 2 or 3 times since being brought to the emergency room for dehydration Friday evening. And, I knew they were starting chemo that night.

It's been a roller coaster of good days and bad since that August morning. My niece, with my sister at her side, was in the hospital for one month, released the day after her 6th birthday. There are lots of friends and family coming together to help any way we can. We know that the tumor is a Wilms tumor, a cancer that has a good recovery rate. Treatment is going well and surgery is being scheduled to remove the tumor and the kidney.

If you'd like, you can read more about Abby's journey here. It's a page my sister's roller derby friends set up to help out. My sister has had to leave her job at a pediatrician's office. They own a small waste disposal company and she spends her days caring for Abby, her 3 other kids, and running the office side of the business. Although medical expenses for Abby's care are covered. There are many other expenses, as I'm sure you can imagine, so if you are moved to, donation can be made there and are deeply appreciated.

As I mentioned earlier, this has, of course, changed our lives as well. Everything from what I'm sewing and making to the way we are homeschooling this year. We have cousins here often, watching them whenever Abby goes to the hospital for treatments or transfusions. All of this will find it's way into my posts, and so I felt it important to bring my blog up to speed with the rest of my life.

I have started freshening up my Adobe skills and I will be talking about that in the next couple days. In fact, the class I'm taking is the push I needed to get this written and posted so that I can get back to blogging about homeschool, sewing, gardening and of course those many bits of Abby's journey that overlap my own. I won't regularly post about my sister's or niece's lives. As I said, that is their story to tell, but I won't leave you hanging either. I will post occasional updates on her progress. And, I will be putting a link in the sidebar to Abrielle's Fight Fund, so if you're wondering how it's going, you can check in there too.

I'm not exactly sure how to end a post like this so I'll just ask you to keep my niece and her family in your thoughts or prayers.

My Kryptonite

I think some sort of transformation happened to me when I became a mom. I now have these crazy superpowers that give me the otherworldly strength to remain calm and not panic when I see blood gushing from my four year old's finger while her big sister sobs that she just cut off her baby sisters digit with a shovel (was only a fingernail whew).

I can leap tall chairs in a single bound to scoop up a choking toddler and administer the baby Heimlich faster than a speeding bullet.

I have even been known to fly down a flight of stairs to rescue a fallen child, (though I did not emerge unscathed from that adventure, of course, the kid was fine).

I have determined that about 90% of my parental supervision is done with my supersonic hearing, Which enables me to get to the root of almost any conflict between siblings (it's usually hunger), to distinguish real cries of pain, terror and distress from the not so critical and, to sense when and where major mischief is happening.

I have even been known to use x-ray vision to detect when a certain preschooler had skipped the underwear when dressing. Seriously? That sounds so uncomfortable to me, but apparently one out of four preschoolers hates to wear underwear.

These super powers have served me well in my role as mother but they came at a price. It appears, that for me anyway, the birth of supermom meant saying good-bye to the tough tomboy who picked up snakes, caught frogs and would attempt any trick on bike, board or swing that her big brother deemed too dangerous after first attempting himself.

I may be able to stand in the face of danger to protect my kid, I can keep my cool in the most frighting of scary mommy moments but, A pet chicken sneaking up behind me and pecking at my shoe? A mouse scurrying across the lawn?

Finding a garter snake staring at me from a shelf in my shed after I'd already stuck my head inside looking for a trowel!? Forget it. I'm ashamed to admit it, but my 10 year old self would have been embarrassed of my reaction, and supermom is pretty disappointed too.

My garden this week, dedicated to all the supermoms, and anyone who screams and flails and calls her 8 year old son and 10 year old daughter to come rescue her at the mere sight of a garter snake.

  1. The main garden.
  2. Cucumbers growing outside the fence of the main garden. There is no way we will have enough.
  3. Bush beans are looking good.
  4. I decided to try planting some heirloom pumpkins. I hope I gave them enough time.
  5. Hops flower buds? I'm not sure. I've never seen them bud before. :)
  6. The cabbage butterfly has decimated the brassica plants once more. I'm spending the rest of the summer planting flowers that will attract ladybugs and wasps to help me combat these evil little caterpillars.
  7. A little surprise from the compost.

My friend, who scared me last week, startled my daughter today, he had trapped himself in some netting in my shed.

My chicken loving, farmer wannabe, daughter was able to keep her cool and set the poor fella free. Creepy or not, we couldn't let him suffer.

Mad Scientist in the Making

Photo shoot prep for the apron pattern was so much fun. I'm planning to have it in the etsy shop ready for download by next week.

I am a Gardener

Gardener: One who works in or tends a garden for pleasure or hire.

For the first time ever I've started to consider myself a gardener. I realized it the other day, when I had an half hour conversation with an acquaintance about amending soil and shade tolerant plants, and then came home and had a temper tantrum while watching the cabbage butterflies, my arch nemesis, flit around my yard.

It might seem strange I suppose, since I have this big, fancy, fenced in area, a shed and a few edibles at the end of each season, that I hadn't thought of myself as a gardener before now. I certainly spend enough time planning, caring for and reading about gardening, but it kind of snuck up on me. I never really intended to be a gardener it happened sort of by accident.

 I suspect my husband has known for a while now. He did build the garden boxes, fence and shed after all.

I think that because I never felt like I knew what I was doing and we never get enough to skip a trip to the farmers market or grocery store and because I never really took it too seriously, I didn't really count myself with all those out there who are so good at it. 

But, That conversation, the fact that I could have a conversation, with someone who considered themselves a gardener without sounding like a complete idiot, that is when I realized it. I started to notice how much I really love gardening and how much I have learned in the past few years. Maybe I do know a little, most learned through trial and error. Lots and lots of error.

There are so many who know so much more than I do, and my garden could never compare to most I've seen, but I'll make it official, not that anyone else cares or thought I wasn't but,

I am a gardener.

The photos
  1. The view of my garden from my front porch where I love to sit and drink my tea.
  2. Potato blossoms. Last year we did a small experiment with potatoes and it went well, this is the first time I've seen the flowers though.
  3. Potatoes in the back cucumbers with radishes mixed in on the side, an attempt at some brassica plants, though that cabbage butterfly never lets me have any, and I think there are a few beets in there somewhere. The back corner growing over the fence is the hops that we planted last year
  4. The hops are doing really well this year and we're excited about the idea of brewing from our homegrown harvest.
  5. We decided to remove the bark mulch from the isles this year and plant an annual rye grass. It's supposed to nourish the soil and clippings can be use as mulch or compost.

I Think I have a Sewing Problem

Maybe it's a designing problem? Here's the thing. I'm so close to finished with the apron pattern. One more adjustment another proofread a cute photo shoot and I'm ready to send it out into the wide world. But do you know what's on mind today. Can you guess?

My next project that's what. The only thing I can think about is this cute baby deer fabric and the sweet little outfit that I'm dreaming up for my one kid who actually doesn't need any clothes. Like at all. 2 big sisters, multiple cousins and friends? This girl is swimming in like-new hand me downs that she absolutely loves. But, then again, handmade by mama clothes are rarely about the real need for them. No, this was never about the need for a new outfit. It is a classic case of remnant bin perfection combined with a stumbled upon perfect pairing. If you add to that my recent craving for more time designing and sewing, I don't see how I ever stood a chance really.

I'm trying to keep strong. I'm trying to stay focused, and with a day at home with no obligations to laundry or cleaning (it can wait another day or two. . . I hope) and mine craft keeping the kids engaged and creating and happy, I will finish this apron pattern. And, maybe even get a start on that outfit.

Ramblings with Unrelated Photos

Well, I suppose we do trial runs for a reason. All that progress with my fabric was a bit of bust or at least not quite as perfect as I'd thought. I'm testing out my pattern. You know the one I promised over a year and a half ago?

Yeah, that one. it's finally ready to go, but somehow, when I put it down so long ago I didn't finish estimating the amount of fabric required and for some reason put a ridiculously low number for the trim and tie fabric. I knew it seemed fishy when I was buying the fabric but, wanted to stick with what I'd written for my trial run. I didn't realize it until I went to start cutting over the holiday weekend and by then it was too late to head back to the fabric store for more.

Luckily I've been taking Heather's 30 Day Vegan course, and my energy level and focus have skyrocketed. It' amazing, I'm more patient with the kids, my husband and I have started doing morning yoga again and I'm getting so much more done every day. I don't know if it's just the better food, the half hour of exercise and meditation or taking time out of every day to focus on myself, but I'm feeling great.

I'm sure I'll have my pattern ready in no time, but right now, I've got to make some delicious vegan lunch, take some pictures of the prettiest little ballerinas I know and get back to that fabric store before the baseball game tonight.

My Most Productive Trip to the Fabric Store Ever!

Can't wait to get started on some aprons and some summery loveliness! I should make him come with me every time :)

A Tooth Pillow

Early this week there was a sudden need for a tooth pillow. No warning, just a startled realization of the loose bugger at dinner, a quick brushing to make those little pearls sparkle and pop! Before the dishes were cleared from the table we had our last, first tooth fall out.

Well, being the youngest of 4 my sweet girl knew exactly what to do and what was needed. She immediately ran to the fabric scrap bin and started searching. We finally settled on a baby outfit that was either mine, my sister's, or both.

I had intended to make some doll clothes from it, but my girl thought it was just perfect for her tooth pillow. I finished it just after she'd been put to bed and just before her last request for a glass of water.

Perfect timing really, for her to tuck that sweet little tooth inside, just as she was tucked into bed (again) before drifting to sleep dreaming of lovely little fairies with glittery wings.

A Hard Days Work

So these kids of mine, the same ones who refuse to help with dinner prep or clean up, who throw a fit on cleaning day when asked to do their chores, who have to be reminded a gazillion times to bring their clean and folded or hung laundry to their rooms, these same kids, love yard work. Who knew? (Actually I feel the same way and, I have a feeling that I may have unintentionally instilled in them a severe distaste for all indoor chores at an early age)

We had quite a productive day yesterday. The yard was spring cleaned. all rubbish, toys, bits of wood and anything else was cleaned up and put away. And, the lawn mowed by one very talented, tractor driving, 12 year old. Seriously she was backing up like a pro and mowing flawlessly.

The chicken coop was de-pooped, scrubbed, whitewashed and filled with fresh bedding. My sweet little chicken hugger worked hard and was so happy and exhausted at the end of the day.

We added 3 new little ladies to our flock this spring and they are loving the roomy run after spending their first few weeks inside. Now that the coop is cleaned and the big chickens are starting to accept tolerate them, they will have the choice of sleeping in the coop with the big girls, or in the nesting box they've called home for the past week and a half.

We even squeezed in a bit of gardening. My two youngest are determined to plant gardens that rival mom's. I'll be working on rototilling a bit more yard for them and helping amend the sandy soil with some compost, but the rest of the work, they have requested, is on them.

Everyone collapsed into bed exhausted, sun kissed and proud of all the work they accomplished.

Zipper Fly Plaid Pants or How to Catch a Chicken

I finished up the plaid pants a couple of weeks ago. I was a little paranoid that he'd destroy them before I  was able to get some decent pictures. Also, that fabric? Not cheap. Not something I would normally use to make pants for my boy but, he really liked the plaid print and I really, really wanted to make my little punk some super cool duds. But, you know that boy of mine is pretty observant. He saw how much work I put into them and knew how excited I was about finishing them.

I told him they are not sand pit pants and that they're perfect for days we're out and about rather than days at home or at the playground. I think he kind of likes having a "nice" pair of pants. I've seen him, twice now, run up to his room, without being reminded, to change into different pants before heading outside to practice baseball or dig in the pit. Don't get me wrong, he is as rough on clothing as any other 8 year old boy, and I have no delusions as to what state they will be in when he's through with them, but I like to tell myself that one day I'll be able to pass them on to his little sister. Maybe with a few flower patches over the holes and grass stains?

We waited for a day with mild temperatures and a little sun for the photo shoot and had so much fun with it. After getting the first two pictures up there, I just chased him around the yard while he did his thing. I didn't notice until I was choosing and editing which pictures to share with you here, that there was a bit of a story happening. It seemed to repeat itself in the photos I snapped, and had me smiling, so I thought it was worth sharing.

So, just how does an 8 year old boy catch a chicken you ask? Well, first you should sweet talk them. Use the same, high pitched, baby talky voice you would use with a toddler. As you can see they eat this up and somehow, instinctively, know that this means yummies and the affections of a doting caretaker will soon follow.

Sometimes it helps to get down at their level. Maybe pretend your a chicken, let them know you're a friend.

Next lead them to the garden shed and sprinkle something tasty on the ground.

Make sure to lock the yummies back up so no critters can get in. This also tricks the chickens into thinking you've moved on to other things.

Now that you've got them distracted it's time to go into sneaky, stealthy, ninja mode and slowly move in from behind. Then, when the moment is right, and this may take a few attempts, go for the grab.

I really love these pants and I'm so glad I decided to take the leap and try the zipper fly. I've started a monster of a tutorial for you combining the two I used and filling in the, big, gaps they had. Well I say it's for you but, honestly, it's because I know myself and, chances are, if I don't do this I'll let 6 months go by before trying it again. By then, all knowledge of how it's done will be lost and I'll be starting from scratch, so it's really for me, but I like  to share.