Maybe Matilda: February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

11 Questions

I usually don’t participate in the whole blog tag game thing . . . but I was tagged twice in two days this week (by Maggie of Midwestern Sewing Girl and Jennifer of Finding My Way In Texas). That just seems serendipitous, doesn’t it? Plus my buddy/stalkee Chelsea of Two Twenty One did a Q&A post recently that I thought was really fun to read. So heck, why not? I bet you were just dying to learn more random crap about me, right? On the edge of your seats, I’m sure.

When was the last time you cried? And why?

Oh dear. This question is more relevant than you know, Maggie. Once upon a time, I was actually kind of proud of how little I cried—I didn’t cry when Jeff proposed or during our wedding ceremony, I didn’t cry during sad movies . . . I just didn’t cry very often. Then I got pregnant with Forrest, and wouldn’t you know it, I was crying over everything, from the cute little baby lions on Animal Planet (that is true) to hearing baby boy’s heartbeat. I looked forward to the day the raging pregnancy hormones would dissipate and I could get back to my normal heart-of-stone tearless state. To the contrary, my insane hormonal emotions have only gotten worse since Forrest was born—I cry just about every day now, and it hardly takes anything to set me off. I cry over videos of soldiers coming home (here’s a mix for you—tell me that doesn’t get you crying, especially the little girl at 1:40), just about any Disney movie (I was weeping just the other day over the scene in The Incredibles where Syndrome is flying away with Jack Jack . . . that is deeply pathetic), even a Hallmark commercial last night had me tearing up. I think there’s something wrong with me.

What celebrity do people say you look most like?

Back when my hair was longer and when she wasn’t as skeletally thin as she is now, I’d occasionally get Anne Hathaway. I think there was a lot of wishful thinking involved, but flattering nonetheless. I’ll take it.

But I’ve always wondered if people were referring more to the pre-makeover Princess Diaries version:

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Probably growing a human. That’s pretty amazing!

Morning person? Or night owl?

Definitely neither. Can I be a mid-morning through mid-afternoon person? I have a hard time waking up in the morning (there’s usually a lot of moaning and whining and hiding under blankets involved), and I’m almost always in bed by 10:00. I was the one at sleepovers who would say at 9:45, “Guys? How about we stop talking now and go to bed? Okay?”

Worst or most disastrous project ever?

Oh, so many options! Most of my attempts at knitting have been rather disastrous, as well as any and all early sewing projects. Jeff and I once tried to paint a dresser that for some reason never dried completely, but we never knew how to fix it, so we spent the next 3 years prying objects that had gotten stuck to the perpetually-tacky paint off the top. I recently tried to sew a vest for Forrest that came out rather comical. These shoes were pretty bad, too:

I have ruined a lot of things in my crafting time.

Household chore you hate the most?

I absolutely, 100%, truly and deeply despise any sort of work involving floors. I hate vacuuming, I loathe sweeping, I detest mopping. I don’t really mind doing dishes, I kind of enjoy laundry, and even scrubbing toilets isn’t that bad . . . but I hate taking care of floors. Our neighbor has a really friendly golden retriever that I often invite into our place just to lick up the food crumbs from my kitchen floor. I kind of want to get a dog just so it can be my personal vacuum.

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(That’s Forrest “playing” with the endlessly patient golden retriever last summer. She is absolutely the sweetest animal I’ve ever known—I would expect even the most nicely-tempered dog to snap at a baby who constantly crawls on top of her and sticks his hands into her mouth, but she always just sits there and wags her tail. Forrest used to be in love with her, but he finally noticed one day that she is way bigger than him, and he’s kind of scared of her now. She hasn’t noticed yet because she still tries to play with him and he freaks out and screams and hits her until she wanders away, looking dejected and confused. Poor girl lost a friend!)

What is your secret talent?

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a crazy-fast typer. I once applied for a job that required official typing test results (a job I did not get, by the way—go me!), and the lady at the testing center was so impressed with my score that she asked if she could photocopy my result page to show to all the other employees because they’d never seen a typing speed that high before. I was absurdly proud of myself. Until I didn’t get the job. I think the fastest score I’ve gotten was something like 130 words per minute.

I’m also a really good speller. Admitting this will make any future blog spelling errors doubly embarrassing. When I was in fifth grade, I won my school spelling bee and went to regionals, where I was eliminated on the word “dappled,” which I misheard and spelled “dapple.” Curses! To this day, that 5th grade school spelling bee is the only time in my life that I ever won a trophy. I’ll spell that out for you . . . N-E-R-D. Nerd.

If a movie was made of your life, what actress would you want to play you?

I have a bit of a crush on Ginnifer Goodwin at the moment. I love her style, I think she’s just gorgeous in a rather unconventional way, and she seems like she’d be so bubbly and fun in real life. So, you know, the opposite of me. But future generations watching my movie don’t need to know that.

So either her or, for authenticity’s sake, pre-transformation Anne.

Who was your first crush on?

This should be fun. I’ll stick with celebrity crushes, since they are the most tragically unrequited. Zach from Saved by the Bell. Lance Bass from N’Sync. Jonathan Taylor Thomas in his Home Improvement days. Nathan Fillion from Firefly (that one might . . . ahem . . . might still be happening . . . ).

What are three things you cannot live without?

I really struggle without a good book to read. And I’m an absolute monster if I don’t get enough sleep (seriously . . . you did not want to know me with a newborn in the house). And I don’t do well without regular “me” time.

Name one thing you wish you did better.

If we’re being serious, I wish I had more patience with Forrest and Jeff. I tend to be rather easily annoyed and selfish and short-tempered.

But what are these blog tag thingies for if not frivolous responses? I wish I were better at photography, baking pretty desserts, knitting, and interior decorating. 4 things.

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Okay, now I’m supposed to tag more people and provide more questions. Meh, I’m not going to tag anyone. If you want to answer these questions, either on your blog or in a comment, consider yourself tagged! My questions are . . .

1. Since I admitted my celebrity crushes, past and present . . . go ahead and name one (or two, or three) of yours. Male or female. Heaven knows I have plenty of each.

2. What’s your favorite book?

3. What are your 5 favorite TV shows?

4. Guilty pleasure?

5. Any goals you’re currently working on?

6. A trend or style you’ve wanted to try, but been scared to?

7. A skill you’d love to learn?

8. If you had a day to yourself with unlimited money to spend and no obligations, what would you do?

9. A person (living or dead) you’d love to meet?

10. If you weren’t doing the career you’re doing now (being a stay-at-home mom counts as a career), what would you want to be doing instead?

11. What are the names you want/wanted to give your kids until your meanie-pants spouse vetoed them?

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Monday, February 27, 2012

30 Minute Baby Lounge Pants (from an old t-shirt)

I’ve re-fallen in love with sewing lately. It was hard, for a while, to get excited to sew when that meant lugging out a clunky sewing machine that was so tired and sick and senile it could hardly get through 2 or 3 inches of stitches before getting stuck or tangled or just slipping quietly into a coma. But the new machine I got for Christmas was sent straight from heaven, and I’ve been having such a great time starting projects I’ve put off for months and rediscovering a favorite hobby that had almost been ruined by an uncooperative machine.

One quickie project I’d wanted to try for months (but wasn’t willing to sacrifice to the old demonic sewing machine) was refashioning an old long-sleeved thermal top into baby pajama pants. My sister (who graciously gives me all her old thrift-store-bound clothes so I don’t have to go buy them back from the thrift store) gave me this old shirt, thinking maybe I could use it for a project. It looked to me like it would make the perfect pair of comfy-cozy baby lounge pants. And 30 minutes later, it was a pair of comfy-cozy baby lounge pants!

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If you’ve seen many of my sewing projects, you know that my favorites are the super-fast, super-simple, low-fuss ones. Sure, it’s fun now and then to sew something a little more fancy and intricate, but my very favorite things to sew are almost always the simple, quick projects that don’t require much time or skill. I sure love instant gratification. Part of the reason I put this project off for so many months is because I kept trying to make it more complicated than it needed to be—first I thought I’d use the sleeves as legs, then use the body of the shirt to make a matching pajama top . . . and after months of setting it aside, I finally said to myself, “Self, cut it out. Just make it a simple project and be done with it.” I can be so wise sometimes.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a pair of cute and quick baby lounge pants:

- an old t-shirt or thermal top

- a pair of pants that fits your kid to use as a pattern piece

- elastic

- sewing machine, matching thread, etc.

1. Start by turning the top inside out and laying the pants on it, lining up the bottom of the legs with the shirt’s bottom hem (make sure the front and back layers of the shirt are even and flat). These Spongebob pants were getting a little short on Forrest, so I left a little space between the pant legs and the shirt hem to make a longer pair. (I took this picture before I realized the shirt should be inside out, so ignore that—make sure the top is turned inside out!)

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2. Cut around the shape of the pants, through both layers of the shirt, about 1/2” away from the pants along the legs. Cut further away from the waistband on top (about 1 to 2”) to leave room to make a casing for an elastic waistband. Don’t cut the bottom hem of the shirt off—by leaving it intact, it works as the leg hem so you won’t have to do that part yourself. Yay! (If you want wider, yoga-style pant legs, just cut further away from the pants. I was going for tight-fitting, legging-style pajama pants, so I cut the fabric pretty close to the pants.)

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3. Pin the two shirt layers together along the outer and inner legs. Don’t pin along the waistband or the foot opening at the bottom.

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4. Sew the layers together along the outer leg and inner legs, using a 1/2” seam allowance. Don’t sew along the waistband or the bottom of the legs.

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5. Now we’ll make a casing for an elastic waistband. Fold the waist of the pants down about 1/2”, like so, and press: (the pants should still be inside-out, so you’re folding toward the wrong side of the fabric, or what will be the inside of the pants)

DSC_0527 . . . then fold it over again so it’s a tad bigger than the width of your elastic:

DSC_0528 And pin it in place.

6. Sew along the bottom edge of the fold:

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. . . and stop sewing before you get back to where you started, so you’ll have an opening of about 2 inches that you can use to insert your elastic:

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7. Cut a piece of elastic so it’s about an inch smaller than your child’s waist size, and insert it through the waistband opening:

DSC_0531 And sew the two ends of the elastic together:

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8. Now just sew down that last inch or two of waistband that you left open, and you’re finished!

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You’ve got yourself a really fast, really simple pair of cute baby lounge pants.

DSC_0542 You can’t put a man in lounge pants and expect him not to lounge. Forrest watched The Cat in the Hat in total comfort, thank you very much.

DSC_0546 We take our relaxing seriously around here. Brother was completely uninterested in this photo business.

DSC_0552But I think he looks awfully cute and snuggly in his little lounge pants.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crochet Sweater Love

Isn’t it appropriate that I only start feeling the urge to crochet a sweater at the tail end of winter, when it’s bright and sunny outside with mild 5o-degree weather? My inner granny is obviously a little bit senile and disorganized. (She’s the one who loves to crochet so much, and felt absurdly excited just now to receive an email from the library saying the book I put on hold this week is ready for me to pick up—I blame my many old lady tendencies [like my legally blind vision, intense dislike for rowdy youths, and early bedtime] on her, the poor thing. Let’s call her Matilda.)

One downfall I’ve found with crochet, despite its many wonderful qualities, is sweater inferiority. Knitting definitely wins on that front—despite my love for crochet, I’ll admit that knit sweaters, in general, tend to have a superior look to crochet sweaters. But I’ve found quite a few gorgeous crochet sweater patterns recently that certainly give knit ones a run for their money. Take a look . . . here are some ladies’ sweaters that I think are lovely:

ladies sweater collage 1: Eva Shrug, $7.99       2: Ladies’ Shrug from Mon Petit Violon, $3.99       3: Aqua Aloha Top, free pattern       4: Diamond Eyelet Wrap from Rachel’s Crochet, $5.95

Aren’t those all just so pretty? I especially love the Eva Shrug (photo #1)—it is downright beautiful and would transition so nicely into spring. And baby crochet sweaters are particularly darling . . . I just love all of these sweater patterns for munchkins:

baby sweater collage 1: Varsity Sweater, free pattern      2: Candy Pink Cardigan, $3.99      3: Shortie Sweater from Holland Designs, $4.99      4: Fisherman Sweater, $4.99

I actually printed out the Varsity Sweater pattern (#1) before Christmas to make for Forrest but ran out of time . . . isn’t it adorable? I’d still like to make him one, although the Fisherman Sweater is so adorably miniature-grandpa-ish, I can hardly resist it. I can 100% envision my grandpa wearing that one, and I’m very tempted to start it for Forrest, too. My child needs multiple handmade winter sweaters to wear into spring, right? And the little girls’ sweaters . . . I’m literally squeeing over them. They are just so sweet . . . it’s official, I’m going to need a daughter next time around.

Have you ever crocheted a sweater? Any favorite patterns you’d recommend? Am I too late in the season to make one (or 5) for Forrest?

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

This week . . .

If I wasn’t already completely in love with Forrest’s babysitter (possibly the most adorable teenager I’ve ever known), she won over whatever little part of me was holding back when we came home after a date to discover that she had tucked the little guy into bed like this:
DSC_0520 In case you don’t recognize it, he’s cuddled up under the blanket I crocheted for him. It would bother me if he just didn’t care for this blanket—I am severely wounded by his burning hatred for it. An arrow through my heart, I tell you. Simply not loving it is not enough . . . the  child throws a fit every time it’s presented to him, and angrily tosses it off if I try to put it over his lap while he’s watching TV or reading a book. But his deep love for his babysitter (which, in all honesty, makes me feel a little insecure . . . he’s way more excited to see her than he ever is about me) is enough to cross the great divide, and he didn’t utter a peep when she unwittingly tucked him into bed with The Blanket of Doom. Never mind that it was on the floor outside his crib when we got him up the next morning. I’m sure that was an accident.
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This is a pair of “cowboy shoes” Jeff brought back from Argentina almost 7 years ago—I laughed long and hard at the poor fellow for wearing these shoes that he spent 3 pesos (about $1) on. I told him they were the stupidest-looking shoes I’d ever seen (I believe I may have called them “grandpa shoes”), and he insisted that everyone wore them down there, they were so comfortable, blah blah blah. But they look kind of familiar, don’t they? I think TOMS is enjoying the last laugh now as we all jump at the chance to spend $40 for a pair of their $1 Argentine cowboy shoes. They’ve even won me over—the very style I once made fun of Jeff for wearing is starting to look pretty darn cute to me.
DSC_0523-1 I’m slowly but surely (emphasis on slowly) building up a stock of crochet accessories for my booth at the upcoming Queen Bee Market this April—a handmade marketplace running alongside Snap Conference at Thanksgiving Point here in Utah. I can’t decide if I’m more excited about it (an entire market of handmade goodies! my own booth full of my own items! a chance to meet some of the fun and creative ladies whose blogs and shops I admire!) or scared silly (what if my booth is the one ugly sore thumb that looks like it was decorated by someone’s blind and senile great-grandma? what if no one buys any of my crap? what if I can’t make enough to fill my booth and it looks empty and ridiculous? what if I finally meet all these bloggers I’ve emailed and chatted with and they totally hate my stinking guts?). Deep breaths. Iiiiiiin. Ooouuuuuut.
DSC_0526 My sister and I were googling “baby depression” the other day because Forrest was being so lethargic and grouchy . . . can a toddler be depressed? Google says yes, but his Exorcist-esque rocketing of cottage cheese-y vomit all over the car an hour later led us to reevaluate our diagnosis. After two days of lying on the couch downing a steady stream of apple juice and watching non-stop Monsters Inc., he seems to be feeling all better now. But don’t those sad sicky eyes just break your heart?
DSC_0524-1 I’ve spent weeks searching for the perfect homemade wheat bread recipe—mine always comes out crumbly and dry, but I’ve finally struck gold thanks to Janssen and her delicious recipe. It’s soft enough for sandwiches and spreads, easy to slice without dissolving into a pile of crumbs on the counter, and so tasty. Thank you, Janssen!
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I just finished reading The Diving Bell and the Butterfly this morning and . . .  wow. Just wow. The true memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, it tells of his life with “locked-in syndrome” after a devastating stroke at the age of 44. He woke after a 20-day coma to find himself with a fully-functional mind in a paralyzed body—his only way to communicate was through blinking one eye.  I often find this sort of book—the story of someone overcoming their hardships, triumphing against all odds—to be gimmicky and tired. I’ve heard it before, and I don’t want to read yet another tear-jerker inspirational tale . . . but this book was different. It was so powerful and real and simultaneously simple and awe-inspiring, minus all the schmultz that plagues so many “triumphant” stories. Give it a go. I’m glad I did.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Turning Bootcut Jeans into Skinny Jeans

I’ve come to a sad realization lately: my closet kind of sucks. I played along last month with Freckles in April’s winter fashion challenge—each day, Kayla gave a theme or an idea to inspire us to put together an outfit. The goal was to help us look at our closets in a new way, try new clothing combinations we hadn’t tried before, get out of a style rut and go for something different. While most participants commented throughout the challenge about how inspired they were and how much they were loving all the new possibilities they found in their closets, I’ve gotta tell you that an unfortunate lesson I learned was how little usable clothing I have. It was definitely helpful and fun to have a push to put more effort into my appearance and experiment with style, but I hadn’t realized that I own almost nothing with color or pattern or personality, not to mention that hardly anything I own really fits or flatters me. Quite sad.

The first big problem with my closet that I decided to address was a lack of pants that fit well. I hadn’t fully realized until I was taking a daily outfit photo that all of my pants look like clown pants. What I really wanted was just one pair of great-fitting skinny jeans. I remembered a pair of jeans I’ve had for a few years—I used to work at Maurices, where I once scored a pair of Silver jeans (which sell for something like $75-100+) for less than $10. Only problem: even though the fit was great, they had really big, goofy flare legs. Bootcut jeans are one thing, but these were in a league of their own. It’s going to take a lot of convincing to make me feel okay about wearing bellbottoms, so even though I’ve owned these jeans for at least 3 or 4 years and really love the way they fit, I’ve only worn them a few times.

I’ve seen tutorials here and there to turn bootcut or flared jeans into skinnies, so I decided to give it a try with my underworn Silvers. I read a lot of tutorials and instructions on how to make the switch before I got started, and they were all so different and left me a little confused about what to do—some of the tips and instructions listed in certain tutorials were specifically mentioned as “don’ts” in others; some were incredibly involved and laborious while others seemed deceptively simple. It was pretty confusing . . . I didn’t want to potentially ruin the only nice-fitting pair of jeans I own, so I thought it might be helpful for others who have thought about McGuyvering their jeans to hear what I did and how it turned out. None of these ideas/instructions are my own . . . I pieced them together from a few different tutorials I found online (the ones I found the most helpful were these instructions from Mmmcrafts, this one from Borderline, and this post on hemming jeans from Sew Much Ado). I read many more sets of instructions than those, but those are the tutorials that I found the most useful and practical.

DSC_0468 (The finished product!)

I started by putting the jeans on inside out and pinning the fabric along the outer seam, starting about mid-thigh and working down toward the ankle. This was a point of confusion for me—some tutorials said to only alter the inner seam, where your changes would be less noticeable; some said to only alter the seam that isn’t topstitched (usually the outer seam); and some said to alter the fit equally along both inner and outer seams. I decided that altering the outer seam made the most sense to me . . . I knew I couldn’t replicate the look of the heavy topstitching on the inner seam, so I didn’t dare touch it.

Anyway, I just worked my way down the leg, holding the outer seam as flat as possible and pinning where I wanted the new seam to go. I took the jeans off and used a pen and ruler to mark a straight, gradual line along the pins that I could follow, and started sewing (make sure to use a heavy-duty needle!). I started at the bottom of the leg and worked my way up. I think the most important point to take away from the many tutorials out there is to make sure your stitch line is smooth and gradual, and to blend it as smoothly and seamlessly as possible into the original stitch line when you reach the point along the thigh where you began pinning.

DSC_0457 This is what my pants looked like with one leg skinnified. (And yes, I’m standing on a bucket in my bathroom. This is why you don’t keep your tripod in your baby’s bedroom . . . he’ll inevitably be napping when it’s project picture time. It’s also a good lesson on the importance of buying a full-length mirror next time I’m out.) You can see, about mid-thigh, where I didn’t do a very good job of blending the new seam line into the old seam line—there’s some awkward puckering and bulging along the outer seam a few inches above my knee. I went back and sewed it again, making a longer, more gradual stitch line that blended less noticeably into the original seam, and it looks much more natural now.

DSC_0462 Here’s what the stitch line looked like from the inside. One point I was confused about when I began was the “bowleg” issue. Many tutorials recommended using a pair of skinny jeans as a tailoring guide, and lining up the inner seam of the skinnies with the inner seam of the bootcuts, then marking along the outside of the skinnies to get our new seam line. My confusion was that this causes a sort of curved leg—unless you’re taking material off both sides of the jeans, matching up the inner seams will leave you with a skinny leg that curves inward as it follows the inner seam of the flare (as you can see in my picture ab0ve). Maybe a professional seamstress would notice the difference, but in my case, I can’t tell (nor do I care) that the legs are curved at the bottom. Once you’re wearing the jeans, they’re straightened out over your legs, so it hardly matters and no one will ever notice. Sew on!

Try the jeans on after sewing before you cut off the extra fabric to make sure you like the fit and can easily get your foot in and out. If something doesn’t look or fit right, adjust. If you like it, cut off the extra material  and zig-zag stitch over the raw edges. Instead of fitting and pinning for the second leg, I just folded the first leg over the second one and used it as a guide.

DSC_0460 I had never realized before just how long these jeans are! I used Sew Much Ado’s hemming tutorial (which uses the original hem for a more natural look) to take them up so they hit just below the ankles—a good length for flats and heels.

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(Since I get a comment asking where these shoes are from every time they sneak into a picture . . . I got them a few months ago at KMart, of all places. They were on clearance, so they might not still be there now, but it’s worth a shot!)

You can see the new, altered seam pretty well in that last picture above—the old seam at the top of the leg looks more “original,” and my new seam line comes in just above the knee.

DSC_0496 Overall, here are my thoughts on skinnifying bootcut jeans:

- I’ll never hem jeans any other way—Sew Much Ado’s method is fast, straightforward, and leaves the hemline looking very natural and unaltered. Definitely give it a shot if you have some jeans that need to be hemmed!

- Although I can tell that these jeans look altered now, I’m very happy with how they came out, especially considering how little time and effort I spent on them. At some point, alterations don’t feel worth the work to me . . . if I’m going to be spending very much time, I’d rather just go buy something new that won’t need any work done. But this project was pretty quick and simple—just pinning and sewing with a few little modifications afterwards to adjust any odd spots—and I’m not at all bothered by the look of the new, altered seam. I was worried that they’d come out looking too “homemade” and I’d be embarrassed to wear them, but I’m definitely happy with how they turned out . . . I’m not sure anyone would ever notice that they don’t still have the original seam on the outer leg.

- I would definitely do this project again. It turned a pair of jeans that had been neglected and ignored for the past few years into my new favorite pair. They fit like a glove and I’ve worn them almost every day since I altered them. That’s a success in my book.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

From One Great Forrest to Another: How Our Baby Got His Name

When I was little, I had the idea that naming a child after someone magically imbued him or her with the personality and qualities of their namesake. I remember deciding once during a playdate that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her after a certain friend of my brother’s, a little girl I adored and thought was nearly perfect. If my daughter shared her name, surely she would turn out to be just as pretty and funny and smart and kind as that friend—simply carrying the same name, I thought, must mean that they also share identical qualities and characteristics.

I eventually outgrew the magical notion that the name itself carries a person’s character or encapsulates their essence, but I still believe there’s something to be said for passing on a meaningful name, for choosing a name for a child that represents who and what you hope they might become, for teaching them about the character and values of the person they’ve been named after, a person you hope they’ll look up to and admire. Every now and then, we’ll get comments on our son Forrest’s name—young couples will compliment us on choosing “such a unique name,” middle-aged men will (maddeningly) ask if he’s named after Forrest Gump and drawl about boxes of chocolates, and older ladies seem gratified that we went with something classic and traditional. To be honest, none of those thoughts were much of a consideration in selecting our Forrest’s name—we weren’t trying to be cute or different, we certainly weren’t naming him after a character, and although I do love its strong, classic sound, we weren’t trying to hearken back to a simpler time in picking an old-fashioned name, either. Our Forrest is named for his great-grandfather, Forrest Allred.

Forrest missionary call 1948I’m sorry to admit that I didn’t know my grandpa Forrest as well as I wish I did. He passed away when I was in middle school, and we always lived states apart. Visits were infrequent and short, but they were enough to make an enormous impact on my young heart and mind. I remember his excitement to see his grandkids, the way he’d sing and dance around the room with each of us one by one, and laughing as he told the same silly jokes during every visit (“I’ll see you in the spring if I make it through the mattress!”). I remember how he talked to each of us, the individual time he’d spend with every child in the family, his efforts to make everyone feel special and loved. I remember thinking as a little girl that I must secretly be his favorite grandchild—surely he didn’t talk to each of his 53 grandchildren the way he talked to me, or mail little notes and poems to all of my cousins, or tell each one how smart and special and pretty they were. I wouldn’t be surprised now if I learned that each of his grandkids thought they were his secret favorite, too—he had a gift for making everyone feel important and deeply valuable.

Forrest and Emily Allred

It was only years after his death that I learned more about him and the person he was beyond the silly jokes and old tunes and twirling with grandkids around the living room. Although I only knew him as my affectionate, funny, cheerful grandpa, I learned that he had spent much of his life struggling with bipolar disorder, battling clinical depression while trying to provide for the wife and nine children who so needed his presence and support. I learned that when his first deep depression hit when he was just a young boy in elementary school, he was so crippled that he couldn’t complete the school year. I learned that he spent his childhood struggling to catch up with his classmates in school, working  his way through college, and eventually providing for his family while fighting off his illness. I learned that the man I had always thought of as just my funny, smiling grandpa had undergone years of therapy, drug treatments, and often ineffective medical care to keep his disorder at bay and allow him to be himself and live his life without the weight of mental illness.

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Despite (or perhaps because of) these struggles he faced and the daily fight against bipolar disorder, he was one of the most exemplary people I’ve ever known. He had a firm faith in God, a testimony of the gospel, and a deep love for the Savior. He believed in a Heavenly Father who loved him and would help him through his trials, both the mundane obstacles of normal, daily life and the debilitating pain of his depression. He found meaning in his illness as a way to draw closer to and rely completely on the God who had created him and given him that specific trial to bear.  He had bipolar disorder, but he had a full, rich, happy life . . . a vibrant faith, a career as a teacher that allowed him to inspire and educate others, a loving family, a passion for knowledge, good books, writing, and music. 02-16-2005 10;34;55AMAlthough I didn’t have the chance to get to know him well before he died, I’ve always felt a certain bond with my grandpa Forrest. Beyond a connection through the hobbies we share—a love for reading and writing, singing and music, theater and the arts--I’ve felt inspired by his unwavering faith, his devotion to his family and his beliefs, and his strength and courage in facing and overcoming his struggles. I’ve loved hearing stories from my mom and her siblings about growing up with him—from the hilarious absentminded antics he’d pull (like accidentally boarding the wrong plane and only realizing his mistake when he’d landed in the wrong state) to the simple fun they had together (putting on family plays and concerts), and the lessons and values he taught them about treating others with understanding and compassion. I admire his accomplishments in life (though they may be humble by worldly standards, they are huge to those who love him), his determination to conquer the daunting struggles in his life, his genuine love and concern for others, and the purpose and meaning he searched for and found in his unique personal trials.

Forrest Allred young boy So when Jeff and I learned two years ago that a little boy would be joining our family—the very moment the ultrasound tech said the words and we knew our sweet little peanut was a he—we said, “That’s our Forrest.” Early in the pregnancy, we had briefly entertained a few other options and tried out a few different names to see how they felt, but we always came back to Forrest. We wanted our son to have an example of perseverance, spirituality, strength, love, and kindness, and we hope that sharing a name with his great-grandpa who possessed so many wonderful qualities will be an inspiration to him. Yes, his name is rather unique. He might not run into many other Forrests in his life, and I suppose he could end up on the receiving end of a few Forrest Gump jokes. But he’ll always have a reminder--whatever he does and wherever he goes--of the strong, loving, wise, faithful man who left an undeniable impression on those who knew and loved him. I think my grandpa Forrest would be very happy about that.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Organizing with Clipix

I have a personal policy for my blog, and it goes something like this: I try to only write things I would also want to read. This means a minimum of posts about, say, zit developments on my face, but plenty of posts with fun projects or cute babies or nifty ideas or real-life favorite items. This little policy of mine is particularly handy when it comes to paid, sponsored blog posts . . . it's awfully easy to say no to offers to post about something like prescription programs or gardening tools, because I would have very little interest in reading that post. So when I do write the occasional compensated post, I feel okay about it because I only say yes to the ones that I think I'd like to read about, and would have wanted to tell you about even if I weren't being paid to do so. So I hope you'll forgive me for writing sponsored posts every now and then, but I promise, I only write about stuff I honestly use and enjoy and think you'll use and enjoy, too.

Whew. With that little disclaimer behind me, I was pretty interested to learn about  clipix, and I am enjoying myself far too much on this site. It's a new, free organizational website where you can create boards to clip and save favorite images and items on the web. Maybe it sounds similar to another site you've probably heard of, which I am expressly forbidden to use as a comparison in this post? It is similar . . . but here's the honest-to-goodness truth . . . after a day or two of using both, I actually, really, truly prefer Clipix. Didn't see that one coming, didja? (Neither did I!)

Here are my reasons.

1) Private or public clipboards. Whatever it is you feel like clipping, it's nice to know that you have the option of keeping some clips to yourself, whether they're gift ideas for friends that you want to be a surprise, a baby clipboard for a pregnancy you haven't announced yet, self-improvement articles you want to keep personal . . . whatever. A little privacy is definitely a good thing in my book. You can make all or some of your clipboards public if you prefer, but having the choice to keep some to yourself is great!

2) Multiboards.This, right here? This is gold. I love saving style and beauty ideas--cute outfits, skin care routines, makeup ideas, hairstyle inspiration--and they used to end up jumbled together into one confusing mega-board. With multiboards, you can link related clipboards together while keeping separate, individual clipboards for each topic, making it about 10,000% easier to find and actually use individual clips . . . in my case, this means one Style + Beauty multiboard with sub-boards devoted to haircuts, makeup tricks, outfits to replicate, clothing on my wishlist, etc. I still have individual boards for each theme, so the clips are easy to search for and utilize in real life, but they're joined together to make one happy, well-organized multiboard family. Very, very nice. (This would also be perfect for recipe organization--have one Food Multiboard with sub-boards for main dishes, side dishes, desserts, etc. So simple, right?)

3) Syncboards. Get together with some friends or family and contribute together to group clipboards that get updated in real time. This would be so handy for party-planning, group activities, clubs, and classes.

Here's a peek at one of my clipboards--a style inspiration clipboard of outfits using clothing I actually own, part of a bigger Style and Beauty Multiboard:

style clipboard

I've really been enjoying using Clipix--I think you'll like it a lot, too . . . it's definitely worth a visit to sign up and take for a test run! (And although I don't have an iPhone, there's an app for it so you can use it on the go.)

What would you use Clipix for?

(Check out this video if you want to learn more!)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

3 Step, $3 Infinity Scarf

First things first: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts (and your gratuitous, giggle-inducing compliments) on my blogging identity crisis post. I really felt a little confused about why I’m blogging in the first place and what (if anything) I should be focusing on, and you guys gave me a great reminder of what I’m doing here: sharing my passions, my thoughts, my hobbies, and my everyday, real, unglamourized (not a real word) life so we can connect and laugh and be inspired and improve ourselves together. The consensus of thought in the comments seems to be that while we all enjoy a good crochet/craft post, most of you seem to just enjoy having a good ol’ internet buddy that you can chuckle and commiserate and create with. And I love being that buddy. So I hereby resolve to never again waste time worrying about what I should be writing, or meeting anyone’s expectations, or keeping up with Susie  Blogger over there with her daily inspirational words of wisdom and groundbreaking tutorials and 50,000 diehard fans. If I feel like crafting, craft post. If I feel like whining, whiny post. If I feel like showing off pictures of my gorgeous offspring, you bet you’re gonna see some gorgeous offspring. We’re just going to let it all hang out over here, for better or for worse. Here’s to real, honest blogging! (Yaaaaaay!)

Second things second: Newlyweds on a Budget is giving away 3 patterns of your choice from my shop right now . . . head on over and enter to win!

Third things third: Have you noticed the animal print trend happening lately? I follow a few style blogs and have really been loving the dose of animal prints in some recent outfits . . . whether it’s a big, look-at-me splash of leopard like in this adorable outfit from The Pretty Life Anonymous, or just a teensy touch tossed in, like the shoes paired with this look from Merrick’s Art, I’ve been enjoying the spunk and sass and flair that a little animal adds to an outfit. It seems to instantly perk up an outfit and give it more personality, which is always a good thing.

So I’ve had my eye out for cheap, cute animal prints lately and have been a little disappointed at my meager findings. I truly can’t overemphasize what a cheapskate I am—I decided against a $14 leopard print scarf the other day because I thought that was too much to spend for a scarf. I’ll always have meager findings as long as $14 for a scarf feels like a rip-off. A part of me knows that this is not an unreasonable price, but a louder, more obnoxious, penny-pinching part of me b****-slaps that part into silence. But at Joann’s the other day, I spotted a cute, lightweight, gauzy zebra print fabric in the red tag clearance fabrics—score! At $7 a yard, it didn’t seem like a fantastic bargain, but I figured I wouldn’t need much to make an animal print scarf for myself . . . I only bought 15 inches of it (which was plenty of fabric for a double-loop cowl/infinity scarf, and rang up to less than $3).DSC_0452 Now, there are plenty of infinity scarf tutorials out there already, and you can google around and find them if you prefer a more in-depth, professional approach and finished project. Here was my issue with the tutorials I found:

1) Many just did not make sense to me. I’ll admit, I can be a bit of a dummy when it comes to following instructions, so maybe my pattern-following issues are just my own problem that needs fixing. But I read through quite a few infinity scarf tutorials and ended up scratching my head, going, “How does this work? Fold what? Sew where? Hand stitch? No sir.” We’re going for simplicity here.

2) They looked too labor-intensive. Honestly, I spent less than $3 on fabric; I’m not going to spend an hour sewing pieces by hand and hiding every seam and finishing every raw edge and perfectly ironing each fold. Sim.plic.it.y. I didn’t turn on the iron, and I was even moaning about having to get out the pins. I considered not swapping out the hot pink thread from my machine. Keepin’ it simple.

So this is my imperfect, one-seam-visible, 3-step infinity scarf tutorial. It seriously took like 15 minutes to make . . . I spent more time editing the pictures than sewing the stupid scarf. If you want a perfect, store-bought, professional-looking piece, I would encourage you to follow someone else’s instructions, because my version does end up with one seam line visible from the outside. I am 100% fine with this, especially since I’m keeping it myself. For 3 steps, $3, and 15 minutes, I will gladly live with a visible line of stitches. Here’s what I did to make my scarf:

Step 1: Fold fabric in half lengthwise (a hot dog fold . . . is that how your teachers taught you in elementary school?), pin along the long edge, and sew. If applicable, make sure you sew the right sides of the fabric together . . . I couldn’t tell if my fabric had a right or wrong side, so I didn’t worry about it.

DSC_0444Step 2: Turn this tube right side out (so the raw edge and seam will now be on the inside of the tube and the right side of the fabric, if you have one, will be on the outside) and fold one end of the tube’s raw edges to the inside. You can iron this fold if you aren’t feeling lazy. You guessed it . . . I was too lazy. $3 project, people. Minimal effort.

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Step 3: Making sure your fabric tube is flat and not twisted (unless you want your scarf to have a twist, that might look neat!), bring the other raw open end of the tube up and tuck it inside of  the folded end from the previous step. Pin the layers together, making sure you’re catching both folded layers and the inner tucked layers, and sew ‘er shut (this is your one visible stitch line).

DSC_0448 DSC_0449 Boom. (Would you be surprised if you knew I really say “boom” when I finish quick projects? I think that just bumped me up by about 10 notches on the cool scale.) Infinity scarfed. I think it looks rather fetching looped twice around the neck for a close fit:DSC_0459

But I also feel significantly more stylish than I really am wearing it long and belted over a simple sweater:

DSC_0450 Low cost and even lower effort for a chic, stylish animal print scarf. I like it!

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Are you there, Blog?

You know what always cracks me up? When I see a blog post that starts with, “I am SOOOO sorry I haven’t posted in like 4 whole days!!! I’m still alive, I promise, LOL! Don’t worry!!!” As if every reader has been gnawing at their fingernails, constantly refreshing the page to check for updates, wondering if they should send out the search and rescue squad to solve The Mystery of The Missing Blogger. I have rarely, if ever, noticed when the bloggers I stalk have taken a little break, so I’m going to assume that no one noticed (or fretted over) my week-long absence here.

I mostly haven’t had anything interesting to say or show you—the past week was an unusual mix of busy-ness (2 doctor’s appointments consisting of 3 long-overdue vaccinations for a very unhappy Forrest as well as some steroids for me . . . I can’t even describe the nerdy good-girl-turned-rebel glee I feel when I pop my steroid pills in the morning, even if it’s just to treat a wacky rash on my chest), and laziness (I read 3 books this week while languishing on the couch in a drug-induced stupor—what a nice change from watching Gossip Girl on Netflix). I even tried to crack a steroid joke with the pharmacist when picking up my prescription—I overestimated the extent of our friendship (I guess asking his advice on how to treat bronchitis because I didn’t want to pay for a doctor’s appointment a few months back did not forge as deep of a bond on his end as it did on mine), and he did not seem particularly amused by my ‘roid rage humor. I’ll win him over sooner or later, just you wait. I’m coming for you, Mr. Stony-Faced Pharmacist.

But there’s been another whisper of an underlying reason I didn’t post much this week . . . despite the busy-ness and tired-ness and rash-fighting-ness and lack-of-friendship-with-my-pharmacist-ness, I’d think about writing a post and realize something: I’m not really sure what my blog’s deal is anymore.

I mentioned that I often enjoy a little private laugh at bloggers who apologize for infrequent posting, as if they owe it to me, somehow, to be constantly dazzling me with new projects or amazing ideas or stylish outfits or gourmet recipes or hilarious anecdotes. Another blogger phenomenon I’ve giggled over in the past is bloggers posting some sort of poll or survey asking readers what they enjoy about the blog . . . “what kind of posts do you like to see? What keeps you coming back for more? What would you like to see more of here? What posts do you skip?” I used to see posts asking for such feedback and think to myself, “Good gracious, just write what you want. It’s your blog.” But I totally understand that now, and although I’m resisting the urge to make a survey and beg for your thoughts, I read through a few of my older posts recently and realized my blog has been going through a bit of an identity crisis—at first, all I posted was tutorials, sewing projects, my own craft ideas or other ladies’ projects that blew my mind. It was a craft blog and a venue to shamelessly promote my etsy shop (see how I resisted the shameless self-promotion there? no link!). I rarely wrote anything that was personal or not craft-related.

In recent months though, I haven’t come up with any new ideas or tutorials, and the only crafty projects I’ve shown have been things I’ve made using other people’s patterns/tutorials, but didn’t think up on my own. I feel fine about this—honestly, why come up with a new tutorial or idea when there are a zillion amazing patterns and instructions out there already?—but it almost leaves me a little uncertain about where this blog is headed, and where I want it to go. Do I want it to turn into a simple project gallery? Or a lifestyle blog with funny stories about my kid? Do I need to keep posting tutorials and craft ideas to keep readers coming back? Should I even care if readers keep coming back? And then there’s the occasional oddball post like my haircut pictures recently that gets, like, 400% more comments than anything else I ever write and I end up thinking, “Should I even pretend this is a craft blog anymore when the posts that get the most comments are about my hair?”

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not positive where this blog is right now or where it’s going, but I think I’m just going to let it wander where it wants to wander. I’ve seen creative bloggers mention feeling pressured or competitive—if they don’t have new ideas, original tutorials, large-and-in-charge content, big events or changes always in the works, they’ll fall behind and seem boring or behind-the-times or unexciting. I have somehow avoided feeling any such pressure to perform, and am kind of enjoying just writing whatever comes to mind, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit what I thought this blog would be when I began. I can hardly call it a craft blog anymore since there’s an undeniable lack of original craft ideas, but I’m not sure what to call it instead. Just my blog, I guess? Maybe it doesn’t need a category. When I think of the blogs I most enjoy reading, I sort of have a hard time categorizing them . . . sure, I appreciate and want to read good content, but the blogs that have remained favorites of mine in the long run instead of just popping up and then being quickly forgotten are the ones whose writing really grabs me. I do care, to a degree, what they’re writing about, but I mostly just love reading what they have to say and how they say it. Maybe that’s where my blog belongs . . . somewhere in the “Is that girl still blabbing?” category.

And, without begging for it, this is me quietly wondering aloud why you read this blog, exactly, and what you enjoy about it? Because I kind of have no idea what any of you are doing here, if I’m being honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad to have fun readers that seriously feel like real-life friends (no matter how many times Jeff tells me I need to air-quote “friends” when I’m talking about blog friends) . . . but I’m not exactly sure what makes you want to subscribe or come back for more.

And since you’re already here and, quite frankly, are probably bored to tears if you’re still reading this, I’ll reward you with some pictures that will be getting their own posts sometime soon . . . a quick and adorable scarf I spent a whopping 15 minutes and $3 on . . . I’ll share the 3-step how-to in a day or two:

DSC_0463 And my sister and I pretending to be much more suave, sexy, and sophisticated than we actually are in a mini photo shoot featuring the darling clothing section at Bungalow Boutique . . . more photos to come later. I’m still sad every morning when I open my closet and it only has my regular old clothes inside instead of these ones:

bungalow1 Over and out.

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