Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Late Night Rant on Quilts and other Homemade Items

I make things. In fact, I LOVE to make things. I sew, I quilt, I bake, I crochet, and just recently taught myself the basics of knitting. And in making things, I love to make things for other people.

Only often, I'm getting to where I don't...

Let me explain.

First off, I HATE it when people assume that because I can sew, I will happily drop everyting I have in my busy life to become their own personal seamstress. I actually have gotten to the point that I'm hesitant to reveal my talent to too many people because I am often bombarded with people who want me to hem their pants, their dresses, or make them a dress because it would just be so much cheaper than the store, plus they are just so hard to fit! And it's not like it would inconvenience me in the least because THEY'LL PAY ME!!!

(Can you picture the look on my face right now?)

First off, the cost of materials to make a dress are usually more than any dress you can buy at, say, Kohl's, especially if they're having a good sale. And as for the fitting thing, hun, if you're hard to fit at Kohl's, chances are I'm not going to even want to touch the idea of sewing anything for you. I don't do pattern alterations for people. I HATE it, and quite frankly am not experienced enough to even try it. Doing it for myself and risking what may come of it is one thing. Trying it on other people's buck is another matter alltogeter.

And then of course, there's the whole TIME thing. Where on my person is a sign that says I have so much time on my hands, that I have nothing to do to possibly occupy myself for a few days? Um, what part of I have three kids and barely have enough time to sew for them, do you not understand???

Oh, and quite frankly, you can't pay me enough anyway, because I really just DON'T want to.

As to homemade gifts, let me give you another example. It was the second quilt I ever made. First, ever that I painstakingly HAND quilted. And it looked VERY nice, if I do say so myself, a lovely patchwork quilted throw, one I would be proud to display in my own home. The fabric was NOT cheap, name brand designer fabric that was NOT on sale. And it took me a LONG time to do this thing by hand. I was soooo proud of it, so excited to hear the response of the recipient as they opened their gift...only, when it came, I actually wondered that they might be disappointed, that she'd much rather have had a very impersonal gift certificate to Books-a-Million, and while it is (sort of) displayed in a non-prominant room in her home, I would wager a guess that it has not been used, snuggled, or even washed, for that matter, not once.

So...I ask myself... WHY did I make that again? Oh, I don't expect every gift I give to be put in a glass case and oohed and ahhed over. Uh, no. I'm not insane, but I really thought this would be the perfect gift, one this person (who loves to read) would love to snuggle up under on a cold winter night and enjoy a hot chocolate and a good book. Conssequently, I think she has since received a Snuggi and uses it quite frequently.

I might be sick.

And this is not the first time a homemade item was met with less than enthusiasm.

So, I've begun to pick and choose who receives my painstakingly made items. My mother ranks as the top receiver, the woman who taught me to sew and who truly does appreciate my efforts (and not just because I'm her daughter and she has to. LOL) I also have a couple friends who also appreciate the effort.

But I have more to say on the matter...on selling items.

I have made things to sell, quilts, toys, etc, and I've come to learn something about myself.

I am a very selfish sewer...or perhaps greedy is a better word, for I seem to develop a relationship with each item that I make, particularly with blankets and quilts, things that take up a lot of my time, where the fabric or yarn runs back and forth in my hand over and over for a time, and I acutally begin to develop a sort of relationship with the item... For example, every quilt I make, I tend to remember what was going on in my life at the time, or what I was doing while I worked on it. I have one quilt in particular that reminds me of watching a series called Out of the Wild with my husband, for I would sit in the floor and quilt away every time it came on. Same with the show Bones. I have another quilt I made that reminds me of my Irish heritage, a simple patchwork throw that is made up of orange and bright green plaid squares I purchased at a display in the fabric store around St. Patrick's Day. I also have a baby quilt I made that I could not bring myself to sell, so in love with the bright fabrics, and it now hangs proudly on my sewing room wall, mine forever more. :)

And I work on one now, nearly finished, that has been a pain and a half and a thorn in my side, the first LARGE quilt I've made on a sewing machine, and quite frankly, I did not have the room for all the close, intricate sewing I had to do, and thought I would lose my mind before I finally finished cramming that thing in the machine, twisting it this way and that, and knocking all sorts of things off of my sewing room counter into the floor as I did so. Now, I'm binding it, and I have what may actually be a permanent hole in my finger from pushing the needle in and out...Yeah, I should probably go in search of my thimble, hmm? But the quilt??? I am totally, madly in love with this thing and wouldn't sell it for anything, even if I thought I could get a couple hundred for it. It's MINE. Deal with it. :)

That said, I haven't made anything to sew (or give) in quite a while, unless, of course, you count my children, though I really consider sewing for my family the same as for myself, as I get as much joy from sewing my kids things as I do for myself.

And no, I have no idea what I'm gonna' do when I wind up with 30 throws for myself, but I think I will be quite content happily displaying them on a rack in my living room. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Childhood

So...my friend has posted in her blog somwhat recently, both of her memories of her own childhood and also a guest post of her husband's childhood, and it got me thinking back to my own childhood...
I didn't have a bad childhood. Actually, it was pretty darn great, to be honest, with a lot of happy memories. I didn't have a whole lot of problems, save the normal high school drama we all get sucked into. Even so, I would not call it my glory days or anything close. I had a happy childhood, and now I am glad to be in the midst of a happy adulthood. I do not wish it back, happy or no. But still, based on that previous post my friend made and a conversation my mother and I recently had, I got to thinking the other day about the days of my childhood...
Okay, well, let's start by a little physical description of myself...and that actually says it quite well. Little. I was short, pretty much the shortest kid in my class...okay, grade. I've always been little, and I suppose that would make me look like an easy target for bullies and the like...

Only I wasn't.

Because I was tougher than I looked. LOL No, really, though, I was. Call it wiry or spunk or whatever, but I was not an easy person to pick on. I was not above defending myself or another, and often did defend many of my friends who do not know about this, because I did not tell them, even willing to fight someone, should it escalate to that, though it thankfully never really did...though I did do some damage digging my fingernails into a couple bullies' arms once or twice. They pretty much left me alone after that. I did have one girl in high school think she would be funny one day, and she yanked down my shorts in the middle of P.E. when the teacher wasn't around. I don't know what she thought it would accomplish. Perhaps she thought I would turn red and cry or run humiliated to the locker room while they laughed at me. Well, I did turn red, but it wasn't embarrassment. It was fury. I lunged at that girl and chased her around the room until I couldn't breathe. (By the way, I strongly believe GOD kept me from catching her. Because I know if I had, angered beyond reason, I would have beat the living daylights out of her and therby gotten myself into a lot more trouble.) And interestingly enough, the girl NEVER mentioned it to me, NEVER bothered me again. I think, perhaps, she did NOT get the reaction she'd been expecting. Maybe I even scared her a little, because I'm sure my anger burned in my eyes. And even at half her size, I guarantee you I would have inflicted some damage had I caught her... Mama always used to say, "You're little, but your tough." True enough.
I've never been a wallflower. I am not shy, not quiet, unless, of course, I have nothing to say. I have always liked myself, always tried to be the kind of person I wanted to be, to be someone I, myself, could like. Part of this is from my mother. She always told me, "Like yourself. Sometimes you're the only friend you've got," and through the years I've come to see how true that can be. Friendships can be so superficial, so fragile. Friends can be both thoughtless, underhanded, mean, and cruel. Both on purpose and also not. I've learned a lot about friends over the years, and sadly, so many do not live up to my expectations of what a friend should be, of what I always try to be for them.
But that's what my mother was trying to teach me early on, and even though it still hurts, when friends forsake you, I did listen. I was at least somewhat prepared.
I also had parents who always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. And they truly believed it. And so do I. Still do, pretty much. Determination is more than half the battle in most things. And my parents did encourage a healthy, full self-esteem of not just myself, but of my heritage and my family name. I was proud of who I was, of where I came from. Still am.
And, of course, I had God. This is by no means the least of my assets. Quite frankly, the opposite. I was raised in a God-loving, God-fearing (that means respect, for those of you who have never heard or used that particular phrase before) houeshold. We went to church pretty much whenever the door was open, but that wasn't it. I was taught to seek Him, to love Him, and that God loved me sooooo much, that I was special to HIM, that He made me exactly like He wanted me to be. I found salvation at an early age, and though I have sinned as anyone, I was so young (fifth grade) that rather than all the things He'd forgiven me of...it was more of all the mistakes He would help to save me from. Oh, yeah, I've messed up. I've sinned. But I look back and see all the things He helped me with, helped me go through, and yes, even saved me from. I had Him to rely on when so many people do not. I honestly don't know how anyone does it without Him.
My mother asked me recently what it was, I thought, that made me different, that made me not a follower of the crowd, not subdued by peer pressure in high school. Was it just my personality, or my raising, or God? What was it? I told her I honestly believed it to be a combination of the three. I am outgoing, I am sure of myself, and my parents only fueled that with praise and compliments and encouragements. And God, of course. He gave me strength, assurance of His love and care for me, and He helped me to want to choose the right path, to make the right choices. (Oh, but don't we wish we'd listen ALL of the time!?? LOL) And he kept me from catching that girl in P.E. :)
I don't like bullies. I think they are cruel and mean, and I was raised to stand up for the "little guy," to not sit idly by and let someone get picked on and tormented. That is how I try to raise my children now, to teach them to do the right thing. To not let someone be trampled upon and to certainly let no one treat them that way. I am not too worried about them. None of my children or quiet, timid, or shy. My daughter, I think, has the gumption to stand up for herself, and I try to encourage her at home, to know that she doesn't HAVE to let someone do something just because they say they are her friend, but she also does not have to get mad, does not have to fight with someone. Just say no and walk away. She made me proud doing this the other day during a play date, instead of butting heads with the little girl who decided she wanted to rename Little Bit's doll. I was in the other room and heard her calmly say, "No. I don't want to," and she did not fight or argue with the girl, as they have in times past. :) As for the boys, they are twins, so it eases my mind to think that they have each other's back. Though, truth be told, sister is probably the one people better watch out for. I don't think she'd take too kindly to anyone messing with her baby brothers. :)
That is another thing that was drilled into me as a child, and I now drill into my kids' brains...Family is important. Most important. (After God, of course). Friends are all good and well and wonderful, but family is forever. No matter where we go, what we do, we will always have our family, and God gave them each other to love and to care for and to protect and to love them back, to care back, and to protect them back. Built in little best friends, I tell my oldest. Even when they disagree, they have to love each other. They have to compromise. They have to bend. Oh, they're not perfect. No one is. But it hurts me to see so many families who think anger and hatred and jealousy between siblings is a NORMAL thing, something you can do nothing about. They don't realize it has to be TAUGHT. Sure, they're going to argue sometimes, they're going to fuss, but it is NOT okay to hate, it is NOT okay to hurt. No matter what, they HAVE to love each other. Families stick together through it all. I wish everyone could see that, could teach that, could have that in their families. Things would be so much better in this world, were that the case.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Saving the Shorts

Don't you hate it when perfectly good clothing is ruined by a random hole or stain? And it's even worse when they're still practically new! Well, this is what happened to my new pair of khaki shorts. I have no idea when or how, but I looked down at them one day and realized a nasty hole had been ripped in the back of them. It was big enough to be noticeable, big enough to show the color of my underwear, to be honest, but I hated to throw them away. I hadn't had them for a full month, even, and they weren't cheap. It being a rip in the fabric and not the seam, it wasn't an easy fix, either. I could sew it up, but the new seam would be as obvious as the hole was, and a patch just didn't seem like a good idea...until I remembered what I had done to my daughter's jeans not long ago, in order to patch up the hole. First, I patched it with a plain, boring, denim patch, then I covered that with a patch I cut from decorative quilting fabric. I then, inspired by the pretty fabric, decided to embroider matching pictures (mushrooms and dragon flies) in the same colors around the legs. It turned out awesome, esp. for a pair of old hand-me-downs that now look like an expensive embellished pair I paid top dollar for. So, why not mine? So, I rummaged through my scrap basket, until I found some fabric I liked and would be easy enough to mimic in the embroidery, choosing a print from Anna Maria Horner's chocolate lollipop line. (I just love her!) And this is what I came up with. Though, please ignore the wrinkles from being rammed into an embroider hoop and carted all about the house. They need a good ironing, but I couldn't wait to take the picture.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Few Helpful Tricks

Well, like most people now-a-days, my new year's resolution has been to lose weight, and also like most people, it always just sounds good, spoken with genuine good intentions but never followed through. Except this year, though I did get a late start, the last week of April, to be exact. Now, for those of you who do not know me, I am not huge, nor badly overweight. What I am, is a mother of three who, like so many women, added on a few pounds with each pregnancy until they were just not happy with the way they looked any more. It didn't help matters that my last pregnancy was twins, or that I had post partum depression, plus an additional depression coupled with a dangerous drop in platelets, both caused by a reaction to my MS medication. Basically, I am an emotional eater, eating not just when I am hungry but for the sake of food. I LOVE food. I can well be thinking about what to have for supper while I am still eating lunch. This is, of course, not a good thing. It also doesn't help matters that diabetes runs in my family. I do NOT want to encourage that in my own health, rather, I want to do everything I can to prevent it. Now, those things listed above...pregnancy, depression, etc. Those are reasons. I also had plenty of excuses. And I'll be the first to admit, I have a bad lazy streak. And exercise is not something I wake up, stretch my arms and say, "YEA!" about. Nah. I'd rather pour me another bowl of cereal and break out the laptop. But, I'd had enough of not fitting in my old jeans, enough of sighing when I saw myself in a picture, realizing what I REALLY looked like, plus I just wanted to be healthier, and exercise is always something good for people with MS, anyway, so along with my husband, who also wanted to shed a few pounds, I FINALLY got up off my lazy bottom to do something about this. And in five weeks, I've lost 9 lbs. :) Not too shabby for someone addicted to chocolate and who thought they hated exercise. LOL Oh, I'm not done, by any means. I've got about 9 more to go until I'm totally satisfied (though the real test is the old jeans, not so much the scale...) But hey, I'm seeing improvements! I can already fit into shorts that used to BARELY button if I sucked in really hard. I can already wear a couple dresses I haven't worn since before I had the twins. I even fit into a leather jacket I hadn't been able to wear since before my FIRST child!!! (So glad I didn't throw that out!) AND I bought a bathing suit. That I like...and that I didn't cringe when I tried it on in the dressing room. Whoa...that is also something that hasn't happened since before first child. Now, HOW am I doing this? Do I have some sort of gimmick? Some sort of fad diet or fad exercise routine? Nope. Just counting calories and exercising, but I do have a few handy tricks up my sleeve that work for me, and I thought I'd share them for any one else who might be like me and just need that gentle shove to get started. Now, I'm no health expert or anything. These are just trucks that have really helped me. 1. It's an amazing app called LOSE IT. It's free. Download it! Now!!! :) You put in your current height and weight, what your goal is and if you'd like to shoot for half a pound, one pound, or two pounds a week. (I put in one.) Then it calculates how many calories you can have per day and lists it on the log in page where you log in everything you consume and every bit of exercise you do (and yes, house cleaning is on the list. It all counts. LOL) You can even input your own exercise (like I do on the treadmill...it knows my incline and whatnot, so I trust its calorie count better). And, of course, the more you exercise, the more you can eat. It calculates all that automatically for you, too. :) Cool. Also, it's soooo easy to use. My favorite feature is the barcode reader. Say, you have Special K for breakfast, like I did, today. You scan the barcode, then put in how much you ate (1.5cups for me), and it automatically figures it up and adds it in for the day under breakfast. How cool is that?? But the best thing is that it KEEPS YOU HONEST about what you did and your portions. Now, when you take that fifteen minute stroll down to buy that 400 calorie ice cream, you can no longer convince yourself that the walk cancled that out. LOL And it forces you to measure how much peanut butter you've been putting on that graham cracker to either be horrified or pleasantly surprised at how badly or well you are doing with your portions. But either way, it keeps you honest, and that has been more than half my battle right there! (As shows with my bathing suit purchase!) Oh, and on a side note, it doesn't not berrate you or fuss at you if you do not exercise a lot on any given day, like another program my husband tried beforehand. It would dock him "points" or whatever if he did his run fifteen minutes than he had inputted his plan to do so. He got tired of that pretty quickly. 2. Hot dogs are your friends. At least, they are if you are eating Oscar Meyer's 98% fat free hotdogs. These babies have only 40 calories a piece!!! Now, by no means do you need to eat them every day, and hot dogs aren't exactly health food, but say, if you know you're going out to eat for supper, have a low calorie hot dog for lunch. Or use them to help make your cookout more figure friendly while everyone else is chowing down on that hamburger! (Turkey burgers help with that, too, btw, which is fine for me, as I like them better. I'm not a big beef person, myself.) I love hotdogs, and this was a big help to me. 3. Skinny Cow candy. YUM! It's every bit as good as a REAL candy bar, just as big (that's the clencher for me, too), and like, 1/3 of the calories. A real candy bar for 120 calories? Yes, please. In fact, I often save up my calories for one of these as the end of the day for a well deserved reward. YUM YUM YUM! 4. Portions sooo count! And so does the calorie count of any given food. So, be smart. For example...Now while I hate Kix, I happen to adore Honey Kix, even when I'm not on a diet, and while most cereals are about 3/4 cup for a serving, the Honey Kix will let you have 1 1/4 cups for about the same calorie count. Add your skim milk, and you're good to go. 5. Exercise. This is the kicker for most of us. Ugh. Exercise??? When do I have time? Well, to quote Dr. Oz (though I'd already figured this out, to be honest), the best kind of exercise for you is the kind you WILL ACTUALLY DO!!! So...I like to dance. I like video games. JUST DANCE!!! Love it. I have every version of it, and change it up by doing different songs, different versions, plus I have some dance workout videos. Denise Austin's dance workout and The Bollywood Booty are two of my favorites. And dancing, I have found, is one of the BEST ways to burn a lot of calories quickly, if you actually get up and go at it energetically. I also like the treadmill because I can watch TV, read a book, play on the laptop, all while I'm walking. :) I'm a multitasker. I have been known to earn swagbucks on the laptop while burning calories at the same time. LOL My kids favorite is to pile up on my bed and watch cartoons in MAMA'S room while I walk on the treadmill (I very rarely run). Hey, whatever works. We also do family bike rides, sometimes going as much as 10 miles on a nice Saturday afternoon. We really enjoy these and get family time as well as exercise. A great combo. We also do walks together, sometimes, too. 6. Substitute. For exampke, applesauce for oil in brownies and cakes, when you do have to make that special dessert for somewhere, though I advise only doing half, if you want it to have a better texture. But that's personal preference. Oh, and don't eat 6 brownies or 3 slices of cake in one evening. :) 7. Homemade is always healthier, or at least it is with EVERYTHING I've tested so far. Did you know my own homemade vanilla ice cream has only about 70 calories per 1/2 cup serving? And that's using 1% milk, 2% evap. milk and real sugar. The sugar free ones at the store have at least 80 calories per same size serving. And while I do indulge in diet drinks occasionally, I try to steer away from artificial sweetners as much as possible. And I don't have ice cream every night, anyway. My cheese pizza, by the way, also only has about 70 calories per slice, though that is cheese. You would have to add more for pepperoni or ham or whatever. But still, that's normal non-diet ingredients. Not too shabby, and it's very good besides. 8. Diet A&W Root beer is the best diet drink I've tried. So good I dont' feel like I'm actually drinking diet drinks, and I soooo need my carbonated beverage every so often...and especially with pizza. Anyway, as I said, I am no expert nor do I claim to be. I just know these are things that have helped me out and got me started. Already I'm seeing an improvement and feel better, besides. :) Anyway, good luck to any of you in the same boat, and maybe some of these tricks can help you, too. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kids' Clothes Week Challenge

Okay, so this week is supposed to be the kids' clothes week challenge, where you're supposed to dedicate the entire week to making kids' clothes...if you sew, that is. I actually got a head start last week, finishing up some projects I've had cut out for ever next to my sewing machine, and I was going to take pictures today, but, as luck would have it, my camera battery is completely dead. So, maybe tonight if I get back around to it. But anyway, I have already made the boys some pj shorts (long for more warmth and so they don't outgrow them in two weeks...), cut off a pair of Little Bit's pj pants she had ripped (They are pj SHORTS now), and made her a pair of shorts, a pair of pants, and finally finished a top. I also made them all some t-shirts using bought appliques, an owl for the girl, firetrucks for the boys. They LOVE them. Hopefully, I'll have more to show before the week is up! I'm having a blast getting back to my sewing machine after so long long of...nothing. I've really missed it. And it feels soooo good to finally be getting some of my projects finished, for once! I'll try and get the pics up soon! Also, unrelated, but I am working on a knitted/crocheted baby blanket for my etsy shop. Hopefully, I'll have it finished and pics up before too long! Anyone else working on this challenge?

Monday, April 16, 2012


Well, it seems springtime is in full swing around here. As soon as the nice weather hits, it's like I'm hit with this obsession to go outside and garden. Unfortunately, this doesn't last all the way through summer, as once the full blown heat kicks in, I tend to melt, quite literally. LOL I need to live somewhere where it gets warm, but not hot, I guess. Shrug. But right now, I am just in love with the color starting to appear in my backyard! I spent the majority of the last few days outback, working in the garden, planting new flowers and such. The boys and I planted sunflowers, corn, a pumpkin (thought they would love watching THAT grow), some tomatoes (roma and celebrity) and some Zinnias. I also have some Oregnao and a few things I planted the other day that haven't had time to sprout, yet. But anyway, thought I would share a little of my garden with you! I just love the springtime! Second ONLY to fall. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Little Men

Just thought I'd put up a picture of the little men I made for the boys for Christmas this year. I used the Eddie pattern from Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew and Love by Hillary Lang. I used some old onesies from when the boys were younger to make the little shirts, and the pants are made from some cord fabric I've had around for a while now. They were tickled with them, as was I.