Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fitting Woes

I love to sew but the elusive perfect pair of pants is still elusive. This week's challenge is to make myself some new pants. I tend to shy away from that task because they never seem to fit right. I read all the alterations books, look at all the "wrinkle smiles" and try to determine what is the problem with my crotch. My other problem is the back gap. No matter the pants, the brand, the pattern, I have a gap in the back. It is not a waist size issue because they fit snug in the front.

I have so many pair of passable muslins. From an untrained seamstress eye, the pants fit great. Little do they know that I wear my shirts untucked to cover my ugly waistbands and oddly gapping back waist. Most would look at me and see a slim built woman that would be easy to fit. Surprisingly, I am curvy by definition. There is a 10" difference between my waist and hip measurement even though I wear a size 4. My problem being that my torso is very long so the distance between my waist and hip is also long.

I write this post to tell others you are not alone. No matter your size, you will have fit issues. We are all brainwashed into thinking that Ready To Wear has a size to fit us all. They change the sizes constantly so that a 4 today may be a 6 tomorrow. The cut is changed almost as frequently so that pair of Gap jeans that you have worn out, are just a distant memory because they no longer make that style. Fads come and go and pant legs get fuller and tighter. Waistlines rise and lower with the changing of the tides. If you are lucky enough to find a pair of jeans that fit, buy 10 pair and make sure you never age or change weight.

When I get my perfect pants finally finished, I will post a picture.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm a Knitter!

I've become crazy about knitting socks. My first attempt ended badly. So bad in fact that I only made one and left it lying on the back stairs so long a moth ate a hole in it. The toe was oddly rectangular and the foot length was too short. My second attempt, which I call my first pair because really, it's the only pair I've made, came out much better. I enjoy wearing them. I ripped out that first sock 3 times before I got it right. That is what I get for using a free pattern off the internet. Turns out it was missing a row.

With one pair under my belt, I decided I needed a bigger challenge. Looking through my new sock book, I settled on these because they fit the supplies that I have. Additionally, they are just pretty and look very impressive for a beginning knitter. Socks are very logical once you figure out the basics. They are all generally constructed the same way with all the same sections. They are small and easy to transport. I spend about 4-5 hours a week, sitting and waiting for my girls. This is just the project. I could read but then I wouldn't get to chat with my other mom friends. Given the choice I would have a portable sewing studio, but until that purse Hermione had in Harry Potter becomes a reality, I will have to stick to knitting socks.

Unfortunately, the bottom of my bag had begun to look like a game of pick up sticks. It was time to make a knitting roll. Using the scraps laying on my cutting table, I whipped this up in under an hour. I made it 8x12 but my next version will be a touch bigger because some of my needles don't fit. Very simple sewing and perhaps someday, I will make a tutorial.

For dinner tonight: cranberry orange pot roast. A family favorite.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Getting Real

Wow, it has been a long, long time since I have posted. I've been busy this summer with sewing camp, a wedding at the beach, VBS, and everything else that summer brings. It has been an amazing summer full of good times and great friends.

One special friend has been battling cancer this summer. She has fought courageously and with tremendous faith. Her battle is nearly won and we are all praying for a full recovery and many more years to share in her sweet spirit. Throughout her battle she has "kept it real". She honestly and openly voiced the uglier side of cancer treatment. It made it easier to be a friend, knowing what she needed and what trials she was facing day to day. If nothing else, I knew what specific prayers she needed.

As I talked to my cousin this morning, I realized that moms aren't very good at keeping it real. We want to be super heroes and have it all together. In an earlier conversation, she had mentioned what a challenge it was washing her 4 year old daughter's hair because it was so thick and she screamed and my cousin got frustrated. Today she said "I don't want you to think I'm always frustrated with my daughter over her hair." I laughed and told her that it's part of being a mom. Children can be frustrating.

Perhaps that's our problem though. On the outside, in the outside world, we have it all together. We never yell at our kids. We are always calm and we never get outwardly frustrated because people are watching and they will find out our dirty little secret...we are not perfect mothers. In the comfort and security of our home, when we let our guards down, we allow ourselves all the ugly, yet real, emotions and we hate ourselves for it. It confirms our worst fears, we are not super heroes.

I try to be the voice of honesty when talking to my friends with young kids. I tell them my horror stories of my oldest that screamed from the moment she was born until she was 1. There were days I wanted to run away. There were days I wanted to sell her to the gypsies. My house was a mess, I was a mess, and there was no pretending I had it all together.

There have been days I have snapped at my kids, not often but on occasion. I use it as a life lesson. I sincerely apologize and tell them that I am tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, whichever emotion fits the scenario. I tell them that I should not have gotten angry with them or snapped at them. In my weakness, I have humbly shown them that I am still a work in progress. In recent years this has born compassion. They sense when I am tired or sick and rather than pushing my buttons, they offer to help.

Moms, let's do a better job of keeping it real. Let your family and friends know when you are struggling so they can help you and pray for you. Don't put on a pretty smile and clean clothes when your husband comes home and you have had the worst day imaginable. God gave us a spouse to help us and love us. He cannot help us if he does not know we need help. Take some time out of your day just for you. A time to sort out your thoughts, dreams, and maybe take a shower. Raising kids is the hardest job you will ever love. God knows we are not perfect so stop pretending that you are and accept the help you desperately need.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I thought I would share my latest and greatest sugar cookie recipe. It's a constant struggle with sugar cookies because I cannot have dairy. The fake butter tastes, well, fake. I use palm shortening which is fine but just doesn't compare with the half butter, half shortening cookies that I used to love. Tonight I decided to try coconut oil. The resulting dough felt much closer to the cookie dough I grew up loving and sneaking bites. The taste is excellent. I will roll them and cook them tomorrow and will post an update. Here is the recipe:

Simply Sugar Cookies
1/3 C coconut oil
1/3 C shortening
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 C flour

Combine shortening and coconut oil in mixer bowl. Add sugar and cream until combined. Add egg, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon rind, baking powder, and salt. Beat until fluffy. Add in 1 cup flour and mix until combine. Stir in remaining flour by hand, just until thoroughly combined. Divide dough in half and press into flattened circles between plastic wrap. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. I like to leave them overnight. Roll out to an 1/8 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 for 7 min. or until set.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My latest obsession is wool covered clips for my daughter. She loves wearing extra pretties in her hair to dance so I started making small ones and then found giant ones out shopping the other day. I love the size because I can add embroidery and beads. It's a great project to do while I'm waiting at dance and piano lessons.

They are simple to make. You need those snap clips that you bend to open and bend to close. Cut 2 circles of felt big enough to cover the entire clip. Make a small slit off to one side and slide the clasp part of the clip through the opening. Attach the other circle on top and you now have a pretty clip perfect for a little bit of hair or for adorning a pony tail or braid.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Facebook Farse

I've been thinking about technology lately and its benefits and pitfalls. Technology has made it easier than ever before to keep in touch with the people we hold dear. It has made it possible to connect with like minded people all over the world. It has shrunk our world and expanded our access to information.

But with progress comes pitfalls. The industrial age also ushered in new technology and easier access to machinery that simplified the drudgery of household labor. With that positive came the negatives including child labor, pollution, and increased exposure to danger in the workplace. So to, our society has seen the benefits of progress along with the hazards.

I could talk about the internet, cell phones, computers, and a host of other advances but my biggest concern lies in the social network. I have noticed that people can keep up their appearances on Facebook easier than in person. I read a friend's post about her wonderful children only to have her say over the phone that she cannot wait to send them off to school because they were driving her crazy. I see posts about injury and illness and the replies of prayers and hope only to be left wondering if anybody has actually reached out to this person with a heartfelt sentiment and real help. Worse yet, simply click the "like" button and you feel as if you've acknowledged their suffering and done your job.

With 400 "friends" listed on Facebook, I can guarantee that there are only a handful that would really help me in times of trouble. These are obviously not all true friends but acquaintances. Does this blur the line for our young people? With children as young as 10 (that I know personally) sporting Facebook pages, do they understand the difference between friend and acquaintance? I know we used to chase after the myth that was popularity in high school and junior high. Does accepting any friend that comes along on Facebook instantly make you popular? What if those friends are dangerous and strangers?

Social networking has made us seemingly more connected and at the same time removed us from the community. We know what is going on at the Jones' or at least we think we do. How many people really post what their life is really like on their Facebook page? Status: I'm drinking to escape my life. Status: I'm cheating on my spouse. Status: I have this big fancy house that I cannot afford. Status: I am unemployed and drowning in debt. Status: I am hopeless but I just put a smile on my face. These are the things we miss about our friends and neighbors when we don't talk to them face to face. We cannot love others when we do not know what they need.

Disconnect today. Love your neighbor as yourself. Hug your friends in person. Take a meal rather than clicking "like". Reconnect with your community. Lift each other up in prayer rather than just saying you will. Send a handwritten note, smile a real smile, laugh in the company of your friends, and reconnect with our world.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tulle Explosion

Tutu making is not for the weak of heart or easily discouraged. It is a tremendous amount of tulle which can be rather unwieldy at times. Above, my trusty old Bernina is chugging through the 4th row of tulle on the waistband for this romantic tutu. No fancy machinery though, just a good old mechanical machine that can muscle through anything yet still handle delicate tulle. I have fancier machines that do fancier stitches but this is by far the machine I use the most.

When I lovingly open up my Bernina and clean lint out of the metal gears and drop some oil here and there to keep her running, I am reminded of the utility and simplicity inherent in these machines. They were manufactured in the 1970's. The intention was that they would run forever. It seems that more and more things have become disposable. And not just razors and grocery bags, but big things like appliances, furniture, vehicles. How many people do you know driving around a 20 year old car? Has our age of abundance and prosperity made us wasteful?

Let's talk socks for a minute. My daughter is learning to sew from an old book originally published in 1913. One of the lessons is darning and mending. When was the last time you thought about mending a sock? Having started but not finished knitting a sock, I can tell you if that sock got a hole, I would definitely mend it because of all the labor I have sacrificed. Maybe because necessities are so cheap, we don't consider our wastefulness.

For dinner tonight...grilled salmon, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and bread.

Here is the finished tutu...

Saturday, February 26, 2011


It's hard to break old habits. When the kids were young, I had to sew really fast or I would never get anything done. I took shortcuts and sewed up quick things so I could feel some sense of accomplishment. Of course toddlers can get away with elastic waist pants and slightly wonky dresses and tops. As we are rapidly approaching teenager hood, my sewing needs to change as well.

I enjoy heirloom sewing because the inside looks as beautiful as the outside. The seams are all beautiful french seams. I love the look of a hand stitched shell edged neck. Even the lace is inserted and the edges are finished so that at a glance, you cannot tell right from wrong sides. I have often put a sleeve in inside out because I did not check carefully.

My girls are too old for much heirloom sewing these days. They have long outgrown the lacey, ruffly dresses of their babyhood. I still love making them and have found a dress to make for my oldest for Easter that will incorporate some heirloom sewing but in a more grown up way. I am excited to return to my first sewing passion. Hopefully I can restrain myself and not make it too much like a doily.

This brings me to my waistband picture above. I was so used to racing through things just to get them done that I was taking shortcuts. When my shortcuts produced a less than stellar product, I was disappointed. My oldest needs new shorts for summer and having no money to buy them, I will be making them. They need to look like all the other kids shorts. I decided to take my time and finish the insides properly. I added some buttonhole elastic so they would be slightly adjustable for her ever changing shape. They turned out beautifully and my time and attention was not in vain...she loves the shorts.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Here Kitty, Kitty

When I was growing up, my dad owned a store in the middle of town. He has been an appliance repairman for almost 38 years. Mom says that he started the business to pay for my delivery. I often saw him come home at the end of the day with random odds and ends. An oil painting, a basket of fruit, homemade preserves, and often a bucket of change. The change he cleaned out of misbehaved dryers. The other odds and ends were often payment or thank-yous from doting customers. My dad would occasionally work on barter when the goods or services were useful to our family. He had a contract with the local butcher shop which kept us fed on fresh beef, chicken, and pork. He never charged a clergy member and when he knew someone could not pay him, he often made up an excuse why there was no charge. When I went off to college with my new computer, the salesman was the lucky owner of a new refrigerator.

I suppose my history with the barter system is why I still use it. If at all possible, I am more than willing to barter for goods and services. Dance lessons this year and last were paid for by my efforts sewing and altering dance costumes. As this year has been a year of financial hardship, I am thankful for my ability to sew. I am also thankful for my enjoyment and passion for costuming. I know that I am doing what God has planned for me because it is never a burden and always exciting.

I just finished up the last of my costuming for the March production. The cat masks have been a challenge. I must have made 8 different versions before I was satisfied with the look. They needed to be sparkly and girly for the big girls wearing tutus and pointe shoes, yet still look like a cat. They needed to be comfortable for these girls to wear. I ended up making a layer of flannel, a layer of canvas, and a layer of satin. They were rather time consuming but I think the finished result is worth the extra effort. I cannot wait to see them all on stage.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cozy Kindle

Mom got herself a Kindle and then realized it annoyed her, so I became the new owner at Christmas. I was not sure how much I would use it because I didn't enjoy reading a book on my husband's Kindle. Then I found out that I could transfer recipes and web content to it by email for free. That changed my whole opinion of this nifty little E-reader.

My mom had bought an expensive red cover for it. It was fine and well made but it wasn't as pretty as I wanted so I set out to make my own. I dug through my stash until I found a set of polka dots that I had long since forgotten. I love polka dots and fun colors so this would work perfectly. The basic shape of this project is a rectangle. Curve the one edge so it looks pretty and then bind the edges.

My biggest challenge was the closure. I didn't want anything to scratch the screen or damage the electronics. I thought maybe a button would work but I wasn't sure it would stay shut. Then I discovered some elastic ribbon in my stash and figured out the solution. I attached a long loop of elastic ribbon to the center of the flap. I just loop the elastic around the whole case once it's closed and everything is secure. I also added a piece of fabric covered timtex to the back for rigidity.

There you have, quick Kindle cover that doesn't cost a fortune!

For dinner tonight...Pork tenderloin with veggies.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mmmm, Cheese Alternative

I'll begin at the end...
What's for dinner tonight? Whole wheat Calzones with sundried tomatoes, pepperoni, and cheese.

Wait a second. After all the groaning I do about being dairy free and dairy causing me so many troubles, how could I have calzones with cheese? I have found a new product which stands to alleviate my cheese envy. Daiya Vegan Cheese has arrived just in time to save my day. I was so excited about this product, that I sent my hubby to Whole Foods just to pick some up.

Admittedly, I did not have real high expectations for this product. Having tried several other vegan cheeses, I was always left with a strange after taste or an even stranger texture when using in my favorite recipes. I made some homemade "cheeze spread" that the girls dubbed "cheeze goop". They turned their noses up in disgust as I tried longingly to replicate my beloved cheese. They devoured their grilled cheese sandwiches while I tried desperately to console myself with cheeze goop sandwiches and convince myself that it really tasted good. It didn't.

So I tentatively placed a few shreds of mozzarella in my mouth, bracing for the funky aftertaste or the waxy texture. I was pleasantly surprised that the taste, while not exactly mozzarella, was quite good. The texture was not exactly right but very close. It was close enough that I liberally sprinkled some shreds on my calzone and hoped for the best.

Honestly, it was the best calzone I have had in years! The cheese melted beautifully and added just the right texture and taste that I didn't long for everyone else's calzones dripping with Italian cheese. My husband even declared that he would be willing to eat it in a casserole or something. That's quite an endorsement. I come!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pride Before a Fall

When I first became a parent, feeding was easy. My daughter was breastfed so I knew that my milk provided everything that she needed to grow and thrive. I didn't have to worry about vitamins and minerals or a balanced diet. Perhaps that is a gift from God because it is one less thing to worry about in our sleep deprived state. Of course in 3rd world countries it is a tremendous blessing because clean drinking water is often a problem.

As my daughter progressed to solid foods I prided myself on her varied diet. She loved all the food groups and would eat well even into her toddler years. She continues to be a good eater, willing to try new things and preferring healthy snacks to junk. I assumed that eating was a result of good parenting or bad parenting. I was a great parent, therefore, my child ate a healthy diet.

I should have known that pride goeth before a fall. My second daughter was a challenge from the start. She loved breast milk but after almost 3 years, I was finished with the whole process. She had overstayed her welcome on my privacy and I was ready to reclaim my breasts. I continued nursing mostly because I loved the closeness but also because she was a hesitant eater. She launched everything that I put into her mouth. She didn't really like anything and meals became a struggle.

I only had to look at my picky husband to realize this was a genetic defect that she had inherited from him alone. As moms, we are so wrapped up in feeding and nurturing our children that when we have a child that rejects our motherly intentions, it feels as if we are failing at motherhood. Then there is the struggle of discipline versus abuse. We feel we are falling down on the job when our defiant toddler refuses the dinner we so lovingly made. Sending them to bed hungry falls into the category of abuse, or does it? If we look at discipline in any other context, we side with the parent.

No you cannot run out into the street because I love you and don't want you to get hurt. We see the logic in that statement but how about if we look at food in the same light. No you are not going to eat chicken nuggets and mac and cheese every night because I love you and want you to be healthy. We have given our girls the option to go hungry. They can eat what is on the table, or they can go hungry. Once we accepted that it is our role as parents to teach them healthy eating habits, the stress and worry subsided. We cannot force them to eat but we can provide healthy foods.

As my youngest nears her 10th birthday, I see tremendous change. She no longer goes to bed hungry. She is willing to try new things on occasion. Even though her sensitivity to foods continues, it no longer causes disruptions. I have found ways to feed her fruits and vegetables that she willingly accepts. Whole wheat pumpkin muffins, zucchini bread, and roasted sweet potatoes top her list of yummy foods. Allowing her to help cook has also broadened her list of acceptable foods.

For dinner tonight...Sloppy Joes (with some shredded carrots and red peppers for added benefit)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snow Dye

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. After being stuck in the house for the better part of this week due to ice and snow, I've run out of things to sew. I was expecting to get several packages of fabric to work on mouse costumes for the dance studio this week and since the adage "neither rain, nor sleet, nor dead of night" no longer holds true, I had to improvise.

The coat at left is one project that my daughter desperately needed and just in the nick of time. Then I proceeded to make pajamas for everyone in the house, save hubby as he wears the boxers I make him to bed. I know TMI.

Having made everyone pj's, cleaned the house, played Wii, it was time for something new. I just happened to see a blogpost somewhere about snow dying fabric. Well, I have lots of snow!

I was on a kick for several years of dying fabric. It was fun and I've made some interesting garments out of the results. Turns out, I ran out of interest before I ran out of fabric. I still have yards of PFD hemp cotton jersey, french terry, and corduroy. What can I say, it was dying to be colored.

It involves piling snow on top of wet fabric and then squirting dye all over it like a giant snow cone. Warning: Don't taste it no matter how good it looks. Then it's time for patience. Let the snow melt completely (or almost, I ran out of patience). Rinse. Wash. Dry.

It was like Christmas at the end of they day unfolding our masterpiece. It did make a bit of a mess and my hands are still varying shades of blue, yellow, and red. The results are spectacular though. Almost like we painstakingly painted the fabric.

Today we are playing with round II of snow dying. My girls wanted to make t-shirts and I wanted to dye up the last yard or so of hemp corduroy. By this afternoon the snow may be gone but the fabric will be a reminder of the Snow Storm of 2011!

Dinner tonight...tacos!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Day

Oh the weather outside is frightful...
I love a good snow storm and that is the one thing I miss living in the south. Of course it takes a lot less snow in the south to make for a good snow day. I grew up outside DC and as soon as it started snowing, they started plowing. By the time the storm was over, we could get out and about. We missed a day of school here and there, but not like they miss down here. If they are predicting snow or any wintry precipitation, the schools close.

Of course the south has no reason to invest millions in snow removal equipment so we cope. The problem is that people get snowed in for a day and go stir crazy. All these moms that are desperate to send their kids off to school everyday suddenly find themselves stuck in the house with those same kids. They feel the desperate need to go OUT. It doesn't matter where...Kroger, Walmart, just out. Of course going out on these roads is a death wish. In the south, they don't plow neighborhoods and side streets. They were having a tough enough time keeping the interstates clear today. Add to their ice woes an SUV with stir crazy mom and a load of crazy kids. Seems like a good time.

I am more than happy to stay home. Gives me more time to sew! The kids are thoroughly entertained by the rare accumulating snow and play outside. I have gotten so much done this week with no activities to attend and no kids around. I will take a snow week anytime.

For dinner tonight...hamburgers, roasted potatoes, and peas.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Great is Thy Faithfulness

With Bible Study Fellowship on Christmas break I've returned to my old method of Bible Study. I open the Bible randomly and start reading. I always find God speaking to me through the words of wherever I seem to be reading. This morning even more so than usual.

Lately, God has been speaking to me through hymns. I cannot remember scripture, aside from my favorite verses, but hymns stick in my head like glue. I find myself thinking and humming them all day. This morning Great is Thy Faithfulness was running through my head. I opened my Bible this morning and began reading Lamentations. "The Lord's compassions are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23 is the verse behind the hymn and that is where I happened to be reading. Coincidence, I think not.

In my prayer time I realized something important. I long to know what lies ahead. I cannot see the future but wish I could. I know that God has great plans for me and my family, I just don't know what they are. I follow the weather intently. I realized this morning it is because it gives me a glimpse of the days ahead. I cannot foresee anything but I can know what weather lies ahead, or at least pretend to know as the weather forecast is often wrong beyond 24 hours. I sometimes worry about the days ahead. What is to become of us? When will Dave find a job? God has told me over and over that I need not worry about tomorrow. I need only think about today. For today, I have enough money. For today, my provisions are met. Today, I need to be joyful about today. This is the day the Lord hath made and I should rejoice, not worry about tomorrow.

Here is the last stanza of the hymn. I pray that it gives you the hope it has given me today.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow-
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!