Thursday, September 18, 2014

Project Run and Play: Penny Rocks the Color Block

I am sliding this one in just under the wire, but I managed to finish my sew along entry for week 1 of Project Run and Play. The first theme for Season 10 was 80's cartoon inspired outfits and to say that is a wide field is to really understate the obvious. I was a child of the 80's and can remember watching those cartoons on Saturday mornings, though admittedly I watched a lot of old Looney Tunes as well. For this week's theme, I wanted to create an outfit for the Monkey Shine that was casual and could be worn on a day-to-day basis. I immediately thought of Penny from Inspector Gadget. Penny was smart and resourceful, using logic and futuristic technology to solve the cases that her bumbling uncle could not. She had only one outfit that I could recall but it included color blocking and some rad green pants - what's not to like there? Without further ado, I present my Penny inspired items!


(I apologize for the lighting. I literally took these pictures at 7:30pm so it was dark outside!)

The shirt is made from two old maternity tanks that I have been saving for a while. Matching Penny's shirt exactly seemed like it would veer into costume territory so instead I color-blocked the shirt by doing the front and sleeves in a solid color and using a coordinating stripe for the back. I started with Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee pattern in a 3T as my base and flared the side seams and created a slight high-low hem. The front, sleeves and neckline band are all from a lightweight red knit. The back was cut in two pieces on the bias to achieve the chevron pattern down the back. I won't lie - matching those tiny red stripes was a bitch and involved using almost every pin I own. I left the bottom unfinished (because it's a knit and I could) and finished the sleeves with bands. I also reused a pocket from the striped tank on the front of the shirt to unify the color blocking and because MS loves her some pockets. The 3T is a little big but will hopefully fit her through the winter and will look super cute with leggings.

Look at that stripe matching. LOOK AT IT!
Color blocking.
Party in the back.

The pants are also a modified Rae pattern - the Parsley Pants. I cut a size 3T for my tall but very slight 2-year-old so that I could achieve a baggier, skater-style pant. The pant legs were separated into a front piece and a back piece and I added traditional jean-style pockets instead of using the pouch pockets from the pattern, mostly because I just like that style better but also because after the pattern is modified I find them easier to construct and keep neat looking. They are made from a very old fine wale corduroy from my stash and are dark olive green in color, which I thought might coordinate with more stuff than the original bright green pants worn by Penny. In keeping with Penny's look, I added kneepads that are the same corduroy with the wrong side out. I used bright pink thread for the limited top-stitching (I may add more later) and lined the pockets with a small-print floral (also from my stash). The hem is really deep so that I have a chance of letting these out later. Finally, I chopped the waistband allowance off the top of the pattern and added a separate waistband, again because I just like the look.

With lint from the sewing table, because I take pride in my work.

I meant to hand her a book and a watch but I was really cutting it fine on time and she was almost at meltdown stage. She did very graciously allow me to do pigtails, though, so 1 point for me!

The Bribe.
Bribing her with gummy bunnies. -100000 mom points for me.

I will post more pictures of the individual items later, but hope you enjoy seeing an actual finished object (or 2!!!) for a change!

Be well,


Monday, July 28, 2014

I have a blog?

Well, time has made a fool of me again (10 points if you can identify my paraphrased quote) and now it is almost the end of July. How is the summer closer to the end than to the beginning? Since our kids are still little and we work full-time, summer has less of a significance than it otherwise might, but we have still been trying to enjoy it as much as possible. Visits to the neighborhood pool are frequent and our never-ending quest to discover new parks in the Boston area has yielded some winners (the kids really like the Frog Pond in Boston Common and we love Alden Park at the intersection of Oxford and Sacramento in Cambridge - terrifyingly amazing climbing structure) and some losers (is it me, or is Beaver Brook spray park a concussion waiting to happen? Local peeps, back me up here). We are looking forward to August and hoping that the weather continues to be good, though a glance out my window is currently revealing torrential rains.

Some things that are currently making me happy:

1. My new red Sauconys. I love these shoes and every time I wear them I remember the incredibly politically incorrect conversation between Grandpa Howard and an unseen police officer regarding the disappearance of Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles. And then I laugh. Because I am un-PC like that.

2. Sewing. I actually managed to bust out a couple of completed projects for Kids Clothes Week which I will post eventually. I also have three more projects completely cut out, interfaced and marked that I am hoping to finish this week. A friend and I had a sewing day last weekend and it was GLORIOUS to spend 5 hours with no kid interruptions, drinking wine, eating bread and getting shit done. GLORIOUS. We plan to make it a regular thing.

3. My kids. They are both super funny right now and the incidence of fights, illnesses and night wakings is at an ebb. We are officially done with pacifiers and bottles and are beginning to learn about action figures. Currently on our reading list is Rosie Revere, Engineer and Dragons Love Tacos, both of which I enthusiastically recommend. There have also been a number of un-prompted incidences of politeness - please, thank you and excuse me are starting to enter the daily lexicon of both kids which makes me believe that we may just succeed at this whole parenting thing. I am choosing not to remember the times that "excuse me" was mostly hidden in giggling after a bodily noise. Selective memories make me a happier person.

4. Cherries. I eat my weight in cherries about every other day. Well, not really, but I do eat a lot of cherries. The firm, dark red ones are the. best. thing. And due to the sheer amount I consume, I am both getting better at discreetly spitting out the pits and despairing that there isn't a more polite way to consume them without spending ages pitting them first. Because then I eat them all while I pit them and the cherries that were intended for lunch have now become a midnight snack so I have to take un-pitted cherries for lunch after all. It's a vicious cycle.

5. Idle Fancy. Mary Danielson is smart, funny and has opinions that seem to almost perfectly align with my own. Plus she is a prolific seamstress and produces lovely clothing that I find myself wanting to re-create. Her Project Sewn creations were beautiful and as a bonus, her first week's entry was inspired by Doris Day, whose movies I grew up watching and upon on whom I have always entertained a girl crush. Her blog frequently displays not only amazing clothing but also some great insights on being a woman (this post comes to mind) that make me want to stand and clap. If you don't read her blog, you should. Right now. I'll wrap up so you can click over.

Be well,


(The quote is from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, spoken by Albus Dumbledore to Harry. Did you get it? I am a giant HP nerd - books, not movies - and sometimes I just can't suppress it.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Freeze frame: Winter 2014

Oh winter, will you ever leave us? The past few months have gone by in a haze of white and even though it is in the 40s today (heat wave!) we still have almost 2 feet of snow and ice in our front yard. The snow pile made by the plow in our cul-de-sac is unlikely to melt until at least May but thankfully our mail delivery is no longer suspended due to the mail carrier being unable to reach our mailbox. I love snow but even I am ready to cry uncle. Bring on the spring!

There is so much that is new with the little people and so much that is the same as it always was.

The Numa

The Numa turned 4 at the end of 2013 and immediately had some sort of existential crisis. For about a month he was fragile and emotional and rebellious at every turn and to top it all off, he chose this time period to start learning the subtle art of lying. He still isn't very good at it, having not yet grasped the fact that lying is most effective when no one witnessed the crime you are denying, but he is working hard at improving this new skill. I am of two minds about this: I hate that he is lying to us but I am also pretty proud of his efforts, which are improving daily, and his doctor insists that it is a sign that he is a bright kid. I am clinging to this morsel of hope with much the same intensity that I am holding on to his wanting my help with anything. More and more he wants to do things by himself and he has recently begun picking out his clothes and putting them on before coming downstairs in the mornings. In fact, the other day he chose not only his own clothes but his sister's clothes as well, an act which literally drove me to tears because of its sweetness. He was enormously proud of that outfit and she couldn't have cared less than her yellow striped pants didn't match her pink kitty shirt. They continue to be the best of friends when they aren't taking each other's stuff. Then they scream (her) and whine (him) and I have an existential crisis.

Numa continues to love school except in the mornings before we go. His teachers are incredible and he has a little group of besties who are just as loud as he is. One of his new favorite things is playing games and his current favorites are Bingo and Memory. His Aunt E and Uncle K got him a fun animal matching game from Turkey and he wants to play it all the time. He is pretty good but gets frustrated if anyone else finds his favorite animals before him. His classroom has a Thomas bingo game that is seeing a lot of play time and the Nums is super bossy about how it is played and which card he needs. He is starting to get really interested in learning his letters and so far has mastered S, E, e, O, i, l, R and r. Whenever we read him books we now have to stop and spell some of the words, with him pointing out all the letters he knows. He tells long stories with a huge amount of depth and detail and wants us to do the same. When he goes to bed we draw pictures on his back or tummy but where we used to be able to do a car or a plane we now have to do the plane AND the airport AND the jetway AND the people AND their bags, tickets, faces, etc. The things we do...

I am in the process of yet again weeding out his clothes as most of the 5T and even some of the size 5 pants he wore in December are too short for him. He wants all of his shirts to feature pictures of rockets or trains or dinosaurs and loves it when the Monkey Shine has those things on her shirts as well. He is getting much better about our one bite rule* and rarely pitches fits about trying new things, though he still dislikes "combined" foods like soup or casseroles. He would eat everything salad bar style all the time if he could. His favorite foods are much the same (berries, hot dogs, rice) and he has recently discovered hard-boiled eggs, which is a nice new addition to my lunch food arsenal. His current favorite books are The Day the Crayons Quit, The Circus Ship, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and our older version of My Big Animal Book, which he loves to flip through so we can spell the animal names. We read the Crayon book (which is wonderful if you haven't already read it) at least twice a week and I do different personalities for all the crayons. I decided at one point that Purple Crayon is probably British and proceeded to do a terrible British accent while reading his letter and now Numa wants me to read the whole book that way all the time. He doesn't know any Brits so for now I am safe.

He continues to say things that in turns make me laugh out loud and tear up. On one of my recent bedtime trips to see what he needed we had the following exchange:

Numa: Mommy I neeeeeed something!
Me: Buddy, what do you need?
Numa: Mommy, do you know what animal makes this sound? (He then proceeds to make a series of short, sharp sounds almost like a gatling gun)
Me: What? (Said in confusion, not as a request for him to tell me which animal makes the very loud sound he had just demonstrated.)
Numa: A dolphin. Get it?

I laughed so hard I cried.

I had to travel in February and was gone for about 4 days. The night I got home I was putting the Numa to bed and he stood up, hugged me and said, "Mommy, I'm glad you're here." I'm glad you're here too, bud.

The Monkey Shine

The Monkey Shine's language has exploded since last fall. She understands nearly everything we say and has mastered more words than I can count. She also does short sentences, along the lines of "Where's Numa?" and "Bay Bear sleeping," and she imitates all of our words and phrases. She LOVES to talk (which she totally got from me) and she sings to herself and babbles almost constantly. You can tell that she is so proud when she finds the right word for an object or action because her face just lights up and she will repeat her word over and over. She and the Numa watch PBS kids some mornings and she will now request her favorite shows (Wild Kratts and The Cat in the Hat, which she calls Go-Go because of the song) though she rarely watches the whole thing. Her current most used phrase is "bottle milk" because we are STILL caught in the hell that is bottles. We are planning to phase them out in March so hopefully that will go well.

Monkey Shine and I have spent lots of quality time together since the beginning of the year because she has had 3 nasty ear infections in the last two months, plus a number of stomach bugs, eye infections and colds. Thankfully it seems that we have emerged on the other side of virus season with no lasting ill-effects (other than my alarming to-do piles at work and at home) and she is once again her happy and energetic self. During the first of her three rounds of antibiotics we discovered that she loves applause more than she hates taking medicine, so our new routine for getting drugs into her is that we all put our hands in the air and shout "I'm ready!" and then we clap and yell like crazy people each time she takes part of the dosage. She eats it up (the attention, that is; the medicine she chokes down) and I am becoming more and more convinced that her future lies in the dramatic arts.

She has really gotten into reading and we do a couple of books with the Numa each night at bedtime. Her favorites right now are Listen, Listen and any of the Bear books (my faves are Bear Snores On and Bear Feels Scared). Her Grandma P got her a stuffed bear for Christmas and both she and the Numa adored it so much that we got the Numa one of his own and we got a second one for her so that we have a backup. She named them "Bay Bear," which we think is actually baby bear, and she carries him everywhere and sleeps with him most nights. She loves pointing out bears in books and will delightedly squeal "Bay Bear!" at the sight of any bear, real or plush. She puts him to bed using whatever fabric is handy for a blanket and will whisper "night night Bay Bear" before she yanks off the dish towel and does it all over again. She is also very excited about the cats these days, which Radar is fine with but Saoirse has reacted to by becoming more and more paranoid while she eats. Poor kitty.

The Monkey Shine hates skirts, dresses and overalls, which is hugely disappointing to her Gma B. She still loves shoes and is lately very excited about wearing her boots all the time. She has completely outgrown all of her 18 month clothing and is clearly going to be tall like her brother. She loves legos, trains, cars and anything the Numa is playing with. Her favorite foods are still eggs and Pirate's booty but she will try just about anything we put in front of her. She is doing great in her toddler class at school and can name all of her friends and teachers when asked who is in her class. Her hair is dangerously near mullet territory but we have recently discovered that she will tolerate pigtails (she calls them "ponies") which tame the party-in-the-back into something cute and respectable. She is spunky and dramatic and adorable and I cannot wait to see what she learns next.

Be well,


*We only have one food rule in our house. You have to take one bite of everything on your plate before you can have seconds of anything or before you can be excused.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

KCW January 2014: Pompom Tutus

I can hardly believe it, but for the first two days of the January 2014 Kids Clothes Week Challenge I have actually surpassed the goal of sewing for an hour each day! Hooray! Disappointingly, neither of my finished objects are for my children and, embarrassingly, they are (very, very late) Christmas presents. As a side note, I also just mailed the first batch of our Christmas cards. Merry Valentine's Day!

My niece got an American Girl doll for Christmas this year and I thought it would be fun to make matching skirts for her and her doll. I debated what kind of skirt to make and actually cut out a cute circle skirt but then I rediscovered this pin and scrapped the circle skirt plans. (The circle skirt hem was going to be a real pain due to the filmy fabric, so this was probably faster anyway.) A quick trip to JoAnn yielded some soft tulle in lavender, grape colored elastic (on clearance!) and three bags of assorted pompoms. Two evenings and a great deal of cursing later, I had these:

Tulle is a bitch.

I love the way they turned out but I have reaffirmed that I do not like sewing tulle. It is shifty and sticky at the same time, delicate enough that it tears and it attracts the cats like nobody's business. (The last one is clearly not the tulle's fault but it still pissed me off.) The original tutorial is in Dutch but has great pictures so I used that as my jumping off point and just improvised the waistbands.

Both skirts are essentially a long (long, long) piece of tulle, folded in half along the long edge to create a pocket. For the doll skirt, I gathered the tulle and then used a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to attach the gathers to the elastic waistband. I inserted the pompoms into a small opening before finishing the waistband seam. If anyone cares, I used an 11" piece of elastic, overlapped 1/2 to give a final waistband of 10" (this is super stretchy knit elastic). I used a 24" length of tulle and the skirt length is ~5". I don't have an 18" doll and free tutorials for their clothes are few and far between (I made my assumptions based on this size chart), so hopefully this will fit well and these numbers will help someone else. I will update with a picture of the skirt on the doll if I can.

Tiny pompoms.

For the little girl's version, I created a waistband casing that was the width of my elastic plus ~3/8", leaving an additional 1/2" seam allowance. Because I had a lot of my elastic, I actually inserted it while sewing to keep my waistband seam even, and then pulled out the excess to gather the waistband when I was done. This was likely not the best method and was quite frustrating to accomplish while keeping the elastic flat, but it eventually worked and I am standing by it. I inserted all the pompoms as I sewed the waistband in an effort to distribute them uniformly around the skirt. After joining the elastic and closing the waist, I evened out the gathers (which took FOREVER - btw, did you know that The Office is on Channel 38 in Boston at 11:30 pm and midnight? Neither did I but it sure made fiddling with the waistband less awful.) and then fluffed out the seam allowance to create a small ruffle at the bottom of the waistband.

Shut up that's cute!

They are both super cute, if I do say so myself, and I am so pleased with the end result. Here's hoping that the cuteness and the ability to match her doll distract my poor little niece from my inexcusable tardiness.

Be well,