Top 5 Highlights of 2017

I usually do reflections with this one, but that would make this post too long. So here’s what’s been going on in my real life…


1. Obviously, the biggest thing that happened this year was having our second son. It’s been quite the adjustment! There was close to a month and a half where we had the dreaded two under 2 thing going on. We’re just about at 8 months and 2 1/2 years now. It’s still two in diapers, two not sleeping through the night (that has been SO bad the last couple of months), and now we’re just barely hitting the point where they’re both mobile! Padawan is sitting unsupported for longer stretches now, rolling all over the place, and occasionally army crawling. He also loves to stand up with help, so I suspect it won’t be long before he’s trying to walk. The little guy is such a cuddler. And I have to admit that I’ve been overall quite pleasantly surprised by Hobbit– I thought he’d be jealous, since he was just getting to a more possessive stage around my due date. But for the most part, he’s turning out to be quite the attentive and caring big brother! I hope that continues.

Speaking of Hobbit, he’s getting to a fun age. His vocabulary has exploded over the last 6 months, we can actually have basic conversations, he asks me to read him books regularly now, and when he’s not doing the 2 year old tantrum thing, he’s constantly cracking me up!


2. This has been a surprisingly busy year in my semi-professional life! I’m still doing the community orchestra, and am currently gearing up for a concert in which I play principal flute on one part and the highest notes I’ve ever had to play in my life on piccolo. I’m also still doing the flute choir, and we just recently did a concert featuring all female composers. (Which, according to our director, was surprisingly hard to assemble considering the general ratio of female to male flutists.) On top of that, I’d gone into the end of the summer thinking that this would probably be a good year to try and consolidate my teaching to fewer days– but then I picked up several new students! I’m up to double digits again now, which I hadn’t been in years. So a lot of my focus over the fall and going into 2018 is trying to figure out how to streamline and organize things at home to make it easier to juggle my job and the kids. (Also, since my mom is my babysitter for all of this teaching, she’s amazing and I couldn’t do this without her.)


3. We survived our first overnight trips with kids! We took a somewhat last minute trip down to Virginia over Labor Day weekend, in which we drove through a big chunk of Shenandoah National Park. And then last month, Doug’s parents took us and his sister’s family to a waterpark resort up in the Poconos. The park was better than either of us had been expecting, and we agreed we’ll have to try to go back up there ourselves sometime when Padawan is older and can actually enjoy more of what the place has to offer. Also, we have a tentative goal of trying to get the boys to as many states as we can before they graduate high school, so this means they’re both up to five now. Not bad for the toddler and under set. (It helps that it’s really quick and easy to leave our state. Yay, northeast.)

4. We ended up moving to a new church at the end of 2016. It was a tough call for me, because I’d been at the same church for nearly as long as I can remember. But this one is more local to where I live now, and there’s a lot more kids around the boys’ ages than there ended up being at our old one by the time we left. So the highlight for this year is that we’re starting to find ways to get involved and it’s feeling more comfortable now. Which is always a plus, since I am such the stereotypical introvert and it’s always hard for me to go into new situations where I don’t know people well.

5. I feel like I’m finally starting to get healthy again. I wasn’t exactly unhealthy before, and I’m still not getting nearly as much sleep as I probably should. But the time around the end of my pregnancy was rough. I was having so much trouble breathing at the end that I barely slept at all for the last few weeks, and even spent a day at the hospital’s triage section of the labor and delivery unit, only to be told that it was just the baby’s positioning and I just had to ride it out. I ended up having to deliver without painkillers, which wasn’t my plan, but actually a blessing in disguise because I was able to get around again more quickly. Except for my hip. I’ve been in physical therapy for several months because my hips got so misaligned somewhere in there that even normal walking was really painful. It’s finally taking effect now, though I’m not done PT yet. I’ve also been trying to walk more , since I got a fitness tracker to help me keep myself accountable. And it’s helping, because I’m already more than halfway through the baby weight! Hopefully it’ll continue, since it’s Christmas cookie season, and I do love homemade baked goods. I’m hoping to spend more active time outside with the boys next year, and maybe work in a yoga DVD too, to continue to improve on that. Exercise really isn’t my thing, I seriously loathe running and never enjoyed being forced to do team sports in gym class, but I do enjoy hiking. (Except for the bug factor.) And we tried out geocaching during the fall and that was fun, so I think I can get behind doing more outdoorsy family activities.


I’ll be back…

It just might be awhile before I have anything new to show off of any needles or other craftiness, since my big 9 month project decided he was done.

Meet Padawan! He was born on Friday night after a shockingly accelerated labor (as in I really wasn’t sure we’d make it to the hospital on time by the end, and it was all over less than half an hour after we got there.)  He was 8 pounds 3 ounces, and 20″ tall. I don’t think Hobbit knows what to make of this yet– he was interested for a few minutes on Friday night, then got fussy, then didn’t want much of anything to do with either him or me yesterday. Toddlers. Hopefully I’ll be forgiven soon. 

Anyway, we’re going home today, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to pick up any of my projects again, while I’m healing up and we’re all getting used to each other. (And hopefully getting more sleep than Hobbit let us have.) In the meantime, happy Easter and happy sewing!

2014’s top 5 Highlights

Top 5 2014 #sewingtop5
Continuing with the lists… I was originally intending to lump the last 3 topics into one post, but this particular category ended up being pretty wordy. So I’ll spare you the mega-post.

The new category this year is “Highlights”, which is pretty much anything not sewing-related going on in our lives. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it hard to share life stuff on here, mostly for fear that I’ll bore people. So this seems like a pretty good way to keep it real! (Of course, I have actually talked about some of this stuff on here…oh well.)

IMG_28411. Travel. This was a really good year for that, and I’m really enjoying that I can say that I went fabric shopping in both New York and Paris this year! And there was also my girls’ geekout weekend in Atlanta for DragonCon. Aside from those three trips, Doug and I took a day trip down to Washington, D.C. for our first anniversary, which was also a lot of fun, and I also got to spend a day hanging out with some of my cousins down at the Delaware beaches. That’s been a tradition since I was a kid, and I’m glad I found some time to go down this year, even though I wasn’t able to stay overnight at all this time. (The picture is me and Doug at the Eiffel Tower, because why not?)

piano2. I got a piano this year! Both of my grandmothers have been trying to downsize their belongings recently, because it’s getting difficult for them to live on their own since both of my grandfathers passed away in 2013. So one of the big things going on in my family right now is that my parents are building a new house, and both of my grandmothers will be moving in with them in the spring. My mom’s mom had two pianos, so she asked me if I wanted one. She actually gave me the bigger one! So this is a baby grand that my great-grandfather originally purchased in 1928. It’s horrendously out of tune, which I’ll need to remedy at some point, but I like the family history behind it, and it’s been fun brushing up on my other instrument. I took piano lessons for about 7 years when I was a kid, but my parents didn’t want us overloaded with too many extracurriculars, so once I got to 7th grade, they asked me to choose between continuing with the piano or the flute, which I’d been playing for about 3 years by then, for my music lessons. Obviously, I picked the flute, though I still played the keyboard at home for fun when I could, and I also had to take one semester of basic piano as part of my music degree. (Which, since I already knew how to play scales and stuff, I basically spent learning the “Linus and Lucy” song from Charlie Brown specials. The professor didn’t care as long as we tested well.) The other thing connected to this is that I’m actually teaching one beginner piano student now at a local school, in addition to the flute. So in the long run, this could be a very good thing for my music teaching career.

3. In the category of non-sewing/knitting hobbies that I don’t talk about on here much, I am still scrapbooking. The Project Life system has turned out to be a really good fit for me–I can save photos without feeling like I have to make a layout for everything, and the pockets make it really easy to finish pages quickly. I still do “real” scrapbook pages from time to time, usually for bigger events. And I still use my older supplies, usually in the form of cutting down big pieces of paper to make cards when I don’t have a color I want. But aside from still needing to write in a few notes and paste down a few pictures, I’m basically done with everything from the wedding to our first anniversary. And I already have some stuff in an album for year 2 as well. That’s a nice feeling.

4. Meeting writers. As if I didn’t have enough to do to keep myself busy, I’ve always loved to read. And I got to meet two of my favorite living authors this year! A couple of friends and I went to see Brandon Sanderson at a quasi-local bookstore signing, and I briefly got to meet Jim Butcher when he was signing books at DragonCon. (I was wearing my Belle costume at the time, and when he saw me next in line, he sang one of the lines from her intro song: “Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar…” So that’s a fun story.) One of the friends I went to Atlanta with is a published author herself, and she introduced us to another writer friend, Diana Peterfreund. I bought two of her books and read one on the plane on the way home from Atlanta. I have yet to read the second, but I quite enjoyed the one I read, so I’m sure I’ll get to it before too long.

5. Family stuff. Being able to say I’ve been married for a year was pretty exciting for me, since I wasn’t sure I’d ever get married in the first place. And, of course, what’s been mostly occupying my brain lately is being pregnant with our first child! (And all the nausea that goes along with it, which is sadly still going on. I thought the second trimester was supposed to be better!) I’m sure this will be occupying a LOT more of my attention for 2015.

What about you? Anything exciting going on for you this year?

Playing with dye

First of all, thank you for your kind words about my grandfather’s passing. It was a rough week, particularly on Saturday when we had the funeral. My mom’s side of the family in particular has stayed pretty close throughout the years, even now that all but one of my cousins is college-aged or older (I’m the oldest of 12 on that side, not counting the several spouses that have been added over the last 5ish years), and we still get together every few months for holidays and things. So it did help to have that time after the funeral to hang out with them and my aunts and uncles and laugh and reminisce. Thanksgiving is going to be strange this year, since we also lost my dad’s father a few months ago, but I’m hopeful that there will still be some good times with my family to look forward to. 

I was off of my retail job most of last week, since it was the lull between pumpkin season and the Christmas tree rush, and working on my second Doctor Who Sewalong project was a welcome distraction. (Incidentally, I was also glad to have the 50th anniversary to look forward to on Saturday night! I originally had more elaborate plans to make themed food and all, but in the end, my husband and best friend and I just ordered Chinese food and sat around in our Whovian t-shirts to watch the later showing. LOVED it. Anyway.) But this post is about the one day I took off from that sewing project! I do enjoy fiddling around with fabric dye, even though my last experiment didn’t go well at all. So when several sewcialists on Twitter decided that November should be “play with dye” month, I thought it would be fun to join in. I still have several projects in mind to do, though I think some of them will have to wait for warmer weather and/or other sewing projects. But here’s what I decided to fiddle around with.

IMG_0883I started off with these–a thrifted, all-cotton cabled sweater, a cotton/viscose rib knit cardigan that I got for free at a girls’ night swap, and this cotton gauze shirt that I made several years ago and barely wear because I don’t like the way the color looks on me (or how see-through the light fabric is!) Not pictured here is the yardish of silk dupioni left over from the outside of my wedding dress, since I didn’t find it until after I took the picture, but I threw that in, too. I know silk can sometimes shift colors when using the Procrion dyes, since I tried to dye some silk lining brown several years ago and it turned pink instead, but I figured that with the color I picked (Grecian Sea, from Dharma Trading Company), I figured the worst that would happen is it would be some shade mixture of blue, green or yellow. I could live with that. And the fabric on its own was just so….bridal, you know?

I read the directions more carefully than the last time, and spent most of my morning running up and down the stairs to make sure that the washing machine was still agitating but not draining the dye too soon. So not only did I get a great workout (for once), the results were much better!

IMG_0884I lost a lot of the silk to fraying–I probably should have taken the time to just stitch the edges, but I was in a hurry because by the time I found it, my clothes were nearly done pre-washing. So I think I may have just barely enough for a Sorbetto or some other kind of camisole top. The texture of the silk is also much different now, from all of the washing, but I’m ok with that. As for the clothes, I’m really happy with how they turned out! It’s really interesting how the different fabrics react to the same color. It shows up best on the gauze top, since the crocheted lace is so much darker and the polyester ribbon didn’t take it at all. I may end up just taking the ribbon out–what do you think?

It got stupid cold* yesterday, so I’ve already debuted my cable sweater. The blue matched perfectly with one of the stripes in this thrifted double-gauze plaid buttondown that I have. I’d normally not wear it this time of year, since it also has 3/4 sleeves. Maybe with a cardigan at most. But I figured it would be a good candidate for that sweater-layered-with-a-longer-buttondown look that I keep seeing on Pinterest and whatnot. The only picture I had time for was this Twitter selfie, so you can’t really see the whole outfit, but it worked, I think. Nice to know I have another cold-weather option for at least one piece in my wardrobe.

// even though that sweater is too short to wear on its own, the color makes me happy, and I’m sure that I’ll be reaching for it a lot more this winter.

IMG_0885While we’re talking blue things, I’ll leave you with a sneak preview of my sewalong project. Let’s say inspired-by and not exact replica, ok? I’ll explain more next time. The sleeves are basically sewed together, but I need to sew them on the shirt. And then there’s the matter of buttonholes and hemming. But I’m getting pretty close. This is a new-to-me pattern from a Burda magazine, and I didn’t bother with a muslin, so I may have to fiddle with the buttonhole placement to get it to fit.

(*Stupid cold: When it’s cold enough that being outside for more than a minute makes your face hurt, and there’s no snow on the horizon. See all of last winter in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.)

Random thoughts

First off–thanks for the kind words about the scarf! That was pretty different for me, but it was fun to make.

Second off–once again, not being able to do a craft compelled me to add to my stash. I spent part of the weekend and yesterday at the beach with my family. And while we were there, my mom/aunts/yarn-crafty cousins decided they wanted to check out this cute little local yarn shop. So this is what I brought home. The greenish one on the left (really more of a green-blue mix) is Chacabuco Multy from Araucania Yarn–it’s exciting because it’s from Chile, which I’ve actually been to, and it’s hand-dyed, and it’s cotton. You have no idea how exciting it is for me to find hand-dyed cotton, since I can actually use it! The brown and blue are Milky Whey by Kollage Yarns, and it’s a super-soft soy/milk blend. I’m excited to have some new-to-me wool-free yarns to play with! And I think going to the store was inspiring for others in my family too. One of my cousins decided that she wanted to give knitting a shot, so we got her some cheap needles and yarn and I taught her how to make the knit stitch. She seemed to be getting the hang of that pretty well by the time I had to leave to come home (had to work today, boo), so I’m excited to see if she sticks with it!

I already have projects in mind for both of these yarns. I’m thinking the Whittier Hat from last fall’s KnitScene for the Chacabuco, and I specifically bought the Milky Whey to try out the Branching Out fingerless gloves from Coastal Knits. My best friend and I have been making bucket lists lately, and I have several sewing/crafty-related items on mine. One of the things I added was to knit at least one project from every knitting magazine or book that I own. And since I didn’t really have stuff for either of these publications yet, that means I’m justified in buying the yarn, right?

As for that background….several yards of dupioni silk that arrived yesterday. Guess I’m committed to that wedding dress thing. Or, as it’s gotten dubbed by some of my geekier friends and family, the “One Dress To Rule Them All.”  So now I have the lace and the outer fabric taken care of, and I just need to get some underlinings and linings. And bodice support stuff.

Between the beach and some wedding-related stuff, there hasn’t been much sewing going on in the last several days! But I did get the basting in the jeans ripped out, at least, so now they’re ready to sew together for real.

Year-end crafting

Now that Christmas is over and all gifts have been given, I can show the rest of what I’ve been up to this month.

1. Herbal eye pillows. They’re filled with flaxseed, lavender, and peppermint. I got the idea and the basic instructions from this blog that I found while Google-searching how to do it. The pillows themselves are bits of muslin from testing out that little black dress at the beginning of the year, and I was able to use some 100% cotton scraps from several projects over the last couple of years. I made one for myself, one for my mom, one for the cousin that I got in the family drawing on my mom’s side (as part of an after-work relaxation kit–she’s a nurse, so she has to put in some long days), and one that I’m not sure what to do with yet.

I usually make a necklace or two for my mom’s stocking every year as well. So here’s this year’s–she mentioned she didn’t have much gold-toned jewelry. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the chain is broken up here and there by some antique gold-colored freshwater pearl beads.

I also got some lovely sewing and knitting (mostly)-related gifts this year from my family…

New fabric! From left to right, 3 yards of a lightweight charcoal denim that absolutely has to become pants, a black/white/grey silky print (I think about 2 yards), and a yard each of 3 cotton prints for me to make a new bag, of this style. It’s kind of cool that I basically have an entire outfit here! I’ll just have to make sure to choose a pants and top pattern that will work well together.

 And I got new yarn! 2 skeins each of this really thin bamboo yarn (I’m guessing for socks)…

….and 2 of this lovely colorway of the Serenity yarn I like. For acrylic, it’s super-soft and I love their color palettes!

A few other miscellaneous things: 3 knitting books (2 with some really lovely patterns, and one that’s a pocket-sized tips book), a tiny circular needle which I’m guessing is also for attempting socks, 2 pairs of scissors (a badly-needed pair of new fabric scissors, since mine are rather dull, and some pinking scissors so I can stop stealing Mom’s all the time), and a little pendant from my sis-in-law.

Here’s the close-up– we both love Van Gogh, and I already had the “Starry Night” pendant. So this is the “Sunflowers”, of course. I love that it came with two little sunflower charms so I can make some earrings, too! (Sunflowers are my favorite flower, as you’ve probably figured out by this point.)

So that pretty much wraps up the holidays. My seasonal retail job is basically done for the year, so unless my job hunt proves more fruitful over the next couple of months than it’s been so far, I’ve basically got no work other than my flute teaching until March. So I think a lot of my non-job-hunting/non-work time will probably be spent playing around with some of these things. I’m hoping to get that mock-up of the raincoat cut out this week. And I have one more holiday-related project up my sleeve, which must get done this week. I’m also planning on doing the traditional year-end wrap-up post at some point this week. But first, I need to figure out where to put all of this stuff…

Just a little holiday fun!

There’s a tradition in my family, on my mom’s side at least, that when we get together to celebrate Thanksgiving, we decorate gingerbread houses. My grandmother made them for me, my brother, and my other 8 cousins–a labor of love for certain. Now that we’re basically all adults, the guys don’t bother with it (of course), but the girls still have fun with it. A couple of my cousins brought a bunch of extra candy they picked up for really cheap at the dollar store this year, which made for some fun building materials. So I thought I’d show off some things, at least as far as the camera on my phone would let me.

So this was my rather ambitious project this year–Gingerbreaduseld!! (Otherwise known as Meduseld, as seen in The Two Towers. Yes, I am a hopeless Tolkien geek and proud of it.) I can’t take credit for Eowyn, though–that was entirely my sister-in-law’s idea/creation. Complete with candy cane sword, which Julia was very proud of because she managed to get the sword to a) stay on and b) be pointy.

Speaking of Julia, she decided to go the fantasy geek route with me and did a Hogwarts House. Specifically, Gryffindor.

My cousin Katie decided to turn her house into Noah’s Ark. My brother actually helped with this one….namely by sorting through the animal crackers to help her find pairs. And eating the extras. But still, that’s the most participation he’s done since the infamous “Gummy penguin frat house of horror” that he did when we were teenagers (and which we still talk about.)

Aside from my graham cracker additions, Katie’s sister Lauren was the most architecturally ambitious of us. She managed somehow to cut windows in the roof without making it collapse, which I don’t think I would have been able to do. What can I say, I’m clumsy. (I also thought her cookie log stack was a cute touch.)

Stephanie always seems to think she doesn’t do a very good job with this, but I thought her Oreo roof was really fun!

Her new sister-in-law, Kate, did an Oreo roof too. But completely differently. And the little blue house was cute!

So yeah…it’s fun to see all the variations that you can get from the same building materials. And the creativity in other people in my family!

Speaking of creativity, back to my one-woman sweatshop. I’m sewing on a deadline!