Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In a Bethlehem stable

The past two nights we journeyed back in time to Bethlehem.  I played Mary the mother of Jesus,  Hubby dressed as Joseph, and Miss M was a mostly-well-behaved angel.  Our new little man was, of course, the star as he played Baby Jesus.  It was a big hit with the children visitors to have a real baby Jesus!

One little boy brought the flute he made inside the "market" back out and asked if he could play a song for Jesus.  Who could resist such a request?!

My little angel procured her own fan club over the course of the two evenings. She did all the activities at least three times and received special treatment from all the "shop keepers."  It was good for her ego since she saw her brother getting so much attention.   She has no modesty whatsoever (which I'm not concerned about at this age) and when people told her she was beautiful angel, she simply replied, "Yeah, I am!"

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity...there won't be another Christmas where we'll have a newborn baby to play Jesus!  We had a lot of fun, despite the chill.

I made Miss M's costume (sans wings and halo) from some white flannel I picked up at JoAnn's on Black Friday. It went like this...  Buy fabric Friday morning.  Wash fabric Friday afternoon.  Cut out pattern Friday night.  Sew costume Saturday.  Wear costume Sunday and Monday.  I used pattern #6, the "Dolly Dress," from Ottobre 6/2008, which I had already traced in size 74 width and 86 length. I added 9 inches to the length and left out the elastic at the wrists.  When I go to make this pattern "for real" and not for a costume, I think I'm going to need to add an inch or two to the sleeves. Miss M has long arms!  I plan on letting her wear it as a nightgown once it's thoroughly washed.

Miss M is much more angelic asleep than when she's running around like a spoiled diva!  I'm so glad she has a brother now and I hope to temper some of her strong will -- or at least help her learn to use her strong will in a way that is more becoming.

Incidentally, my biceps are sore from holding the baby so many hours in a row!  I usually put him in my mei tai when I'm going to be holding him so long.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Announcing the birth of my son!

The little man was born at 9:17 p.m. on Thursday, November 12. He weighed in at 6 lbs. 8 oz. and 20 inches long.  That pound and a half difference between him and his sister at birth made for quite a different delivery experience, but both mama and baby are doing fine and mama made it without any pain medication. (C'mon, I have to boast a little!)

I'm delighted to say his Going Home Outfit fit him perfectly -- especially the sweater which I had my doubts about!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Going home outfit

Miss M was born at 36 weeks and 3 days...which means that this little guy could come at any time since today is the third day of week 36.  With that in mind, I whipped up this preemie sized Going Home Outfit.  I used Ottobre 6/2007 (which I just got as a back issue four days ago), pattern #3 "Overall for a premature baby" in size 45 cm based on the length my daughter was at birth.

It was my first time using rib knit binding and my first time to use a double needle.  It's not perfect, and sadly the wonkiest parts are front and center, but it's not too noticeable and on a cute newborn, I doubt even the most particular seamstress would notice!

The onesie is a preemie sized one I got at a thrift store for a few cents.  It was kind of coincidence that it goes so well.

I finished up the last 6 diapers I needed to complete my newborn stash of 24 and 3 covers, so I think I'm all ready for the little guy!  As long as he's healthy, he's welcome to come any time now! :-)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Enchanting Woodland Fairy

I had most of Miss M's Halloween costume done a while back...just never got around to taking pictures of it until now.  It's based loosely on McCall's 5732, but I really only used the pattern for the vest...and even then I modified it.   For the shirt I used an Ottobre raglan pattern (I'm not even sure which one), but added width so it'd be a bit fuller.  I made it out of light green silk.  The vest as made of darker green twill and lined with brown flannel for warmth.  I patchworked together a bunch of faux suede pieces of various shades of brown for the pants and kind of made up the pattern as I went...based on the McCall's pattern style, but not using their pattern pieces and making it a separate rather than a one-piece with the top.  I used elastic in the legs and a drawstring at the waist so she can keep wearing it as dress-up clothes for a while.  I completely made up the pattern for the wings and they turned out amazingly like what I envisioned and far better than I thought I'd actually be able to pull off!

I took pictures of her in the fallen leaves in our backyard.  Somehow, looking at them on the computer, I would have sworn the entire thing was fake...fake grass, fake leaves, printed backdrop. It all looked too perfect.  But, it's not fake! It's real!  Those are real fall leaves under our sycamore tree and there was a real nippy breeze blowing as I snapped some quick shots.  She blends in so nicely...exactly what I was going for, but not at all expecting to actually be able to do!

I know I'm completely biased, but I think she's just the most enchanting creature I've ever laid eyes on!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Cinderella dress

After going through two prototypes (here and here), Miss M's Cinderella dress is finished!  Her birthday isn't until mid November, but I really wanted to have it done as soon as possible since we don't know when this baby will decide to arrive.  If he's on the same schedule Miss M was on, it could be as early as next week!  (And as long as he's healthy like she was, I wouldn't mind a bit!)

Little Cinderella

I wasn't originally going to make the dress lace up in back, but I'm too cheap to use a zipper.  A zipper = $4 or so and you can buy a whole spool of ribbon for $0.50!  Besides, I'm going to use some scraps of the blue satin to make a cord for it...and this way it'll fit her longer because even when she's a little too big around for the dress, I can just tie the laces a little looser et voila!

The other change I made to the pattern, besides getting the fit of the bodice right, was to add an underskirt or crinoline of bleached muslin and tulle to give it extreme poofiness.  I think I went a little overboard because it is ridiculously poofy.  She is absolutely adorable in it!  Sometime between now and November 19th, I guess I need to buy some black velvet ribbon for a choker and find a suitable pair of "glass slippers."  I'm thinking some of the silver sparkly shoes I saw at Target will work just fine.

Does it ever bother anyone else that when you watch Disney's Cinderella the dress the Fairy Godmother makes for Cinderella is so obviously silver and is only tinted blueish because it's nighttime?  But somewhere along the way Disney decided that Cinderella's dress is blue.  It bugs me.  A lot.  Hubby just laughs at me though and tells me to just go with it.  Besides, how can I convince Miss M that Cinderella's dress isn't really blue when every illustration she sees has Cinderella in a blue dress!?  So daughter and husband are happy and I'm the odd man out.  I don't really mind though...at least it's not pink!  And she is seriously adorable!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Second dress prototype

My first Cinderella dress prototype was a big hit with Miss M, but unfortunately it didn't fit her properly.  I scrounged up some more fabric scraps my mom gave me a while back and came up with a second prototype.  This one fits much better!  I also took the time to do a few details that came to me a bit late in the making of prototype #1, namely tucks in the skirt, eyelet lace peeking out from the hemline and echoed at the neckline, and a lace-up back.  (I do need to get a more appropriate bit of ribbon since this sheer stuff is a little too fragile for an energetic toddler.)

Making these is dangerously fun!  I have a feeling there will be more incarnations in the future.  Why, oh why does everyone I know have boys instead of girls!?  How many princess dresses can one little girl handle anyway?

Oh, and yes, it was raining when I took the pictures...and the cement was quite chilly for bare feet!  But Miss M thought it was the best fun she'd had all week to go out in the rain.   I could hardly get her to come back in.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dress prototype

Miss M has been promised a Cinderella dress for her birthday.  Knowing that McCall's and Simplicity patterns tend to run super wide for my slim daughter, I decided to do some pre-measuring and a prototype before cutting into my "good" fabric.  As suspected, it came out wide...but it definitely passes the 2-almost-3-year-old test.  She declared quite vehemently, "I'm going to keep wearing it. It's clothes."  (Can you tell she is frequently told to put "clothes" on and not stay in her pajamas all day?)  I haven't even hemmed it yet...and it's too wide so the sleeves slip down her shoulders giving it a decidedly naughty look -- not the look I'm going for on my toddler!  But, for this evening, she's a happy peasant-princess.

Miss M loves to dress up.  Today she told me she wanted to be "a super" with a cape and a mask.  She frequently plays as a magician, a princess, a butterfly, a bird, or a ballerina.  That's when she's not busy being a Mommy to her "baby brother" doll.  (She's still doesn't quite grasp the concept of brother/sister, so all her dollies came out of her tummy and are her baby brother...even if they're girls. Tee hee!)

Since this dress doesn't really fit her, I'm thinking about listing it up on Etsy...any tips on how to improve it beforehand?  More embellishments?  Obviously I'll hem it.  Should I add an underskirt trimmed with some of the same lace that's on the front of the bodice?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ninja baby!

After finishing 18 cloth diapers, I was a bit tired of them -- the repetition gets boring after a while.  I wanted to sew something else, so I traced off Ottobre 1/2009 numbers 1 and 2, the Nuppu wraparound jacket and Nunnu knit pants.  I cut them out of cheerful green double knit I got a Hancock Fabrics a few months ago.  I used size 50 (the smallest size) and the finished product is comparable to the 0-3 month store-bought outfits we've been given.

I couldn't decide which pieces I wanted to be stripes and which solid, so I enlisted Hubby's help. Turns out he had very strong opinions about which parts should be which, so it's a good thing I asked!

 He was also quite adamant about wanting a ninja embroidered on the front (once I shot down the Gears of War logo and Batman symbol).  This little guy from How to Draw a Cartoon Ninja fit the bill nicely.  I got an awful kink in my neck while working on it, but I'm pleased with the end result.

I sewed it with the triple stretch stitch on my sewing machine...no walking foot or anything, just the regular ol' foot and lots of patience.

This was the perfect opportunity to try out my new double needle (I finally remembered to buy one the last time I was at JoAnn!), but I only had a teeny tiny bit of green thread left...not enough for two needles!  So I did all the hemming with a small zig zag instead.

In other sewing...

Yesterday I finished three diaper covers, two fleece and one from a felted sweater to go with my diaper stash.  I used Katrina's Quick Sew Soaker Pattern.  The preemie size seemed most appropriate for my newborn sized diapers, but I plan to make some of the newborn ones too, just in case.

Almost two weeks ago a friend of mine was here for a visit and mentioned that she wanted to applique a number 5 to a t-shirt for her daughter's fifth birthday.  I decided to undertake the task myself, only I decided to do a whole dress instead.

My mom had given me this very girly fabric and it was perfect for this project! It was a big hit with the birthday girl!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Newborn size cloth diapers

After making the decision to cloth diaper, it took me a bit of time to get going on the sewing side of things.  But...a little over a month later...I've got my first 18 newborn sized diapers finished! I plan on making 6 more to have a full 2 dozen, plus 2-3 covers.  I'll get started on the covers today.

As you can see, no two are exactly the same.  Although, three of the green ones come pretty close.

Once I finish the set, I'll wash 'em all real good a time or two before baby arrives.  I'll probably do an absorbency test too, just for the sake of curiosity.

Then it'll be time to resize the pattern again for when baby outgrows these!  Ahh, the sewing never ends...  :-)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Completed Fall SWAP

I finished my SWAP according to the September 21st deadline and am just now finally getting around to posting the complete ensemble here.  I really enjoyed the entire process.  It was especially great once everything was cut out because when I had a few minutes to sew, I could sit down, grab something, and sew!  I'll definitely be using this method again in the future.

I'm so glad I didn't try to do full length pants (except for the leggings) because Miss M seems to be sprouting up overnight these days.  I had to go out and buy her a package of new socks because her feet are getting too long for her old ones...and I had to get them from the little girl's section, not the baby department!  She's got long and narrow feet like me.

I'd still like to add two pairs of leggings (off-white and dark green) and 2-3 pinafore dresses for layering.  I have fabric already, I just need to do some other sewing first.

Hubby's work had a surprise baby shower for him on Friday.  Going through a bunch of new baby things has made me feel like the new baby's coming is a lot closer.  Right now I'm at 32 weeks and Miss M was born at just over 36 weeks; if this little guy keeps to the same schedule I've got about a month left.  So I'm going to put in some time sewing baby diapers and maybe a few sleep sacks.  Oooh...wanna know what's really scary?  I had a doctor's appointment on Thursday and he specifically instructed me not to get the swine flu vaccine and to stay away from anyone who gets it for the first 2-3 days.  He said that he and his staff won't be getting it, that it's a nasal spray that contains live virus and could be dangerous to pregnant people, and that they don't want to risk exposing their patients to it.  YIPES!  If that isn't enough to make your skin crawl...  And this is something the government wants us to give to our children?  He said I could get the regular flu shot, but I probably won't...I've never had it before and haven't gotten the flu since I was in high school and my immune system was already compromised with mono.  Plus, I'm really not out and around people all that much, so there's not a great chance for exposure.  I am taking a vitamin D supplement since there are some convincing studies out there about it's use in preventing flu.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mini Tree Quilt

My grandma recently sent me two huge lawn-and-leaf bags full of fabric, eyelet, lace, trims, buttons, well, a whole bunch of wonderful supplies!  There's a huge piece of polar fleece, that I suspect is at least partial wool content (my nose tells me so, but I haven't done a burn test yet)...super soft and cuddly!  And scraps of Thinsulate -- the perfect size for making a coat for Miss M or the new baby. Also doll making supplies -- joints, eyes, hair, long doll-making needles, etc.  I probably won't use them, but I'm sure someone somewhere would be glad to trade for something I would use.  So, as a thank you for her thoughtful gift (I'm just 1 out of her 8 kids and 33 grandkids, so I'm sure she could have passed it all on to someone else!), I decided to make her a mini tree quilt.

It's my first time ever doing a quilt binding and while it didn't turn out perfectly, I'm quite pleased overall!  I'm planning to make three slightly larger ones to hang on the walls in Miss M's room.  I just have to do some other things first...like finish sewing diapers and her halloween costume.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The beginning of Fall

Miss M and I went on a short walk into the nearby park and took a few pictures.  We thought we'd share!

According to my wildflower book, this sunny yellow fellow is Oxeye.

The thistles are going to seed, see the fluffy thistledown?

There were busy honey bees everywhere! Which is good because the local bee population has been suffering the past few years (or so I've been told).

It took a while to identify these berries.  At first my dad thought they were hackberries, but I wasn't so sure since the arrangement on the branches didn't seem quite right.  So I kept looking and I'm pretty sure they're coralberries.  Whatever they are, aren't they pretty?!

The leaves are just starting to change on the trees around here...this must have been one of the first to fall. Isn't it stunning?  I'm afraid my photography doesn't quite do it justice.  I do believe fall is my favorite season!  What's yours?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I finally made a mei tai for ME!

This is the fourth mei tai I've made from Kristen's Scandi Mei Tai tutorial.  I love every one of them!  The first three were gifts for friends and cousins having their first babies.  I finally made one for me! Here it is being tried out for the first time by hubby and Miss M. (Just imagine me trying to carry her around while 7 months pregnant...nah, I'll let hubby do the heavy work!)

(You can click on it to see it a bit bigger).

You can see how neglected Miss M is when I sew...that pathetic falling-down ponytail!  Oh well, at least she kept herself busy with stickers (you should have seen my pant legs)!

Here's some shots of the ones I gave away.  I hear they are much loved!

These two were for two of my cousins.  My other cousin picked out the fabric and I did the sewing.  Funny, I just realized that all of these were for boy babies!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The decision to cloth diaper

When Miss M was born, we lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment.  The on-site laundry facilities consisted of a single coin-operated washer and two dryers.  Whenever I did laundry, I always washed the adult clothes first so the final load of baby stuff would have as little "contamination" as possible -- particularly the residue of other people's laundry detergents and fabric softeners.  Miss M had such bad eczema that her tiny baby cheeks would bleed on her crib sheets at night.  Prescription ointments didn't work.  I wonder now if cloth diapering would have helped with her sensitive skin, but it really wouldn't have been feasible for us what with the time involved and the expense of coin-operated laundering.  We finally discovered Aquaphor by Eucerin; it helped keep the worst of the eczema at bay until she outgrew her hypersensitivity.

This time around, however, I have my own washer and dryer (hallelujah!) and have decided to cloth diaper the new baby.  It was a bit of a mental dilemma to come to the decision to cloth diaper.  See, it's a giant Unknown.  I've never been around anyone who has cloth diapered.  I haven't seen it done in real life.  I've read quite a bit about it online, but I just don't have any real life experience with it, no matter how indirect.  (Okay, so my little sister was cloth diapered, but I was only 5-6 at the time and I really don't remember anything other than the plastic pants she had on).  So it was a matter of me deciding to take a leap into the Unknown.

One night it came to me that this isn't the first Unknown I've met and surmounted thus far in my life.  College was an enormous Unknown.  My mom hadn't gone to college and I didn't really have anyone to guide me as I struggled through college applications, financial aid, registering for classes, etc.  I felt so overwhelmed my first year of college as I tried to navigate the world of academics, not even knowing what questions I needed to ask to get the information I needed to have.  (I consciously made the most of being a "Freshman" because I figured by the second year I would be expected to know how it all worked...at least as a Freshman I had a bit of an excuse for my stupidity).  Thankfully I spent my Freshman year at a private university...the personnel there were much more pleasant and helpful than at the state university I attended later on.  Slowly the Unknown became the Familiar and I learned to successfully navigate the bureaucracy.  Once I realized it was only the Unknown holding me back from cloth diapering, it was easy to decide.

I hate disposable diapers.  Not only do I hate how rough and "unnatural" they are (I couldn't bear to put anything other than Pampers on Miss M when she was an infant because they were so much softer than anything else I tried -- don't even get me started on the Costco-sized box of Huggies some one gave us!), but I hate spending the money for them!  I hate knowing that they go into a landfill.  I hate being dependant on the stores to have them in stock.  And silly as it seems, I hate having characters on them -- Sesame Street, Disney, etc. -- if I have to go with disposable diapers, I just want to have plain ol' diapers!

Having finally made the decision to cloth diaper, I went about searching the internet for patterns and materials.  Hubby and I went to a few thrift shops this weekend (Labor Day sales made it a bit of a zoo) and I spent a whopping total of $17 for an armload of flannel sheets and wool sweaters.  It may not be enough for the duration, but it's definitely enough to get started on...and possibly enough for the first year.

I printed out the Ottobre diaper pattern, read some reviews on it, made a few minor adjustments, and whipped up my first cloth diaper.  It turned out to be about equivalent to a size 4 disposable (with the changes I made).  So I re-drew the pattern to make it approximate a newborn size disposable and whipped up my second cloth diaper.  I love them both!  They are so soft!  They won't go into a landfill!  They're soft!  They cost mere pennies to make!  Did I mention how soft they are?  And cute to boot!

That's a newborn size disposable in the last frame for size comparison.

I used a quarter inch seam allowance, sewed right sides together, turned and topstitched; rather than the way the pattern has you sew wrong sides together and serge the edges...both for neatness and to make it turn out a bit smaller since the reviews I read said the pattern runs large.  I can't wait to get started on a whole supply!  But I'll need some more velcro soon...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Essence of Etiquette is consideration and love

I was recently given a few old books by a neighbor who is moving.  Lovely copies of Treasure Island, Rebecca, and an old book on etiquette called Social Etiquette, or Manners and Customs of Polite Society published about 1900. (I discovered that you can read the full text online for free since it falls outside modern copyright laws). There is much in the book that is no longer applicable in today's society such as how and when to leave calling cards and when men should lift their hats in greeting.  However, the core premise of the book, the very essence of etiquette, is something that will be appropriate for all peoples, at all times, in all places. Truly good manners, truly good breeding come from cultivating goodness from within. If we try to "put on" good manners when we go out or for special occasions "they will fit but illy, as borrowed plumes are wont to do" (p. 20). And all this is based on one thing: the Golden Rule from Scripture which says, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets," (Matthew 7:12).  True etiquette doesn't mean following a list of rules or using some stiff old-fashioned language, it means considering other people's feelings and needs and accommodating them out of love -- love for them, but most of all, love for God who first loved you!  People tend to think that if someone treats them poorly, it gives them an excuse to be rude and unkind back, but since good manners ultimately stem from our love of God, such behavior is inexcusable.  I remember taking an etiquette class at church when I was an early teen, but I somehow never got that it's all based on our love for God, that was a bit of a revelation to me.

I really enjoyed this list of the "Rules of Etiquette" given in the first few pages of the book.
1. Learn to govern yourself and to be gentle and patient.
2. Guard your temper, especially in seasons of ill-health, irritation and trouble, and soften it by a sense of your own shortcomings and errors.
3. Never speak or act in anger.
4. Remember that, valuable as is the gift of speech, silence is often more valuable.
5. Do not expect too much from others, but forbear and forgive, as you desire forbearance and forgiveness yourself.
6. Never retort a sharp or angry word. It is the second word that makes the quarrel.
7. Beware of the first disagreement.
8. Learn to speak in a gentle tone of voice.
9. Learn to say kind and pleasant things when opportunity offers.
10. Study the characters of those with whom you come in contact, and sympathize with them in all their troubles, however small.
11. Do not neglect little things if they can affect the comfort of others in the smallest degree.
12. Avoid moods, and pets, and fits of sulkiness.
13. Learn to deny yourself and prefer others.
14. Beware of meddlers and tale-bearers.
15. Never charge a bad motive, if a good one is conceivable.

Number 2 seemed especially appropriate for women who somehow think their monthly period is an excuse to "bitch" and be all around disagreeable.  Number 8 and 9 are important for me when Miss M is fussing and whining non-stop. That doesn't give me an excuse to speak harshly back to her. I must remember to be gentle and speak kindly.  Number 12 seems to apply to many situations -- teens, adults, ME!  And number 15 would solve much of our propensity to gossip if we would simply assume the best in people, even knowing we are likely to be wrong a portion of the time.

I don't know who decided along the way that children no longer need to be taught good manners, but the result is clearly evident anytime you go into public and interact with people.  It won't be easy, but I pray I can raise my kids to be well-mannered, considerate, loving people that are a pleasure to be around.  It'll start with me. I must first cultivate etiquette in myself that I may be the best example to my children.  Then we may stand together and shine like a city on a hill that people may see our good deeds and praise God in heaven.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Another SWAP progress update

Hubby said this is the best thing I've ever made...in fact, he said it looks like something you'd buy at Dillard's (which is the most expensive place he knows of, so that was a major compliment)!  I bought this stunning cherry blossom fabric on eBay a few years ago and loved it so much that I couldn't use it for anything. I finally got over that and this was the perfect project for it.

I used the "Pink Daisy" overalls pattern from Ottobre (3/2009 #8) for the dress, but modified the lower half to be a skirt, rather than pants.  The main fabric is a nice heavy green twill I had left over from a baby carrier I made my cousin.  It's fully lined with the cherry blossom quilting cotton...I had originally planned to line only the top half, but I'm glad I lined the whole thing. It makes for a nice, warm jumper for fall/winter/spring!  I wasn't sure what to do for buttons, so I snagged some navy blue ones from my stash, covered them in fabric, et voila! matching buttons! (By the way, they are non-functioning...didn't think it was necessary with the long zipper and wide armholes).  I prefer taking pictures in daylight, but hubby forbade me from putting it on her till he came home so he could see too.  The close-up of the buttoned shoulder is most true to life.

I added 2 whole inches to the sleeve length of the Garden blouse (Ottobre 1/2008, #6) and it's still a tad on the short side. I always have to roll up Miss M's sleeves anyway so she doesn't get them in things; now I won't have to.  I also changed the collar to a mandarin collar; I thought it fitting for this print.  I was intimidated by the pin tucks, but they turned out to be so easy that I just had to laugh at myself for ever sweating it!  (By the way, you can click on the pictures to view them bigger. This blouse shows off the cherry blossom print so nicely!)

I wasn't sure if I'd like the back pockets on a dress as well as if it were actual overalls.  I had some trouble with the binding on the pockets.  You're instructed to gather the tops of the pockets (both front and back) to the length of the binding, but the binding is the same length as the ungathered width of the pockets!  Once I got the binding on the pockets (I shortened them by about an inch each), they were still longer than the pocket placement marks, so I ran a piece of 1/8" elastic through the binding and pulled in the fullness that way.  It turned out very nice, but next time I'll see if I can shorten the binding enough to make the elastic unnecessary.  Did anyone else who has made this run into the same problem? Or did I do something strange when cutting out?

My SWAP will be complete after just two more garments!  BUT...I am definitely going to add some more leggings and some pinafore dresses for layering.  I'll see what I can use from my stash.  I am also thinking about another jacket for playing outside on chilly days.

No-spend week outcome

Our no-spend week turned out to be an exercise in both self control and negotiation.  I'm not sure hubby was quite as sold on the idea as I was to begin with, especially for the weekend.  All day Saturday he said things to me like, "You don't have to cook tonight.  We can just go out.  You deserve a break.  Wanna just order pizza?  Let's just go order from the $1 menu." etc., etc., etc.  I made a conscious effort to not be frustrated at his attempts to sabotage our no-spending his unwillingness to cooperate. Instead, I tried to understand why he was being this way.  I was first tempted to say he simply lacked self-control.  My husband was raised Catholic which instilled in him a strong sense of "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission."  In other words, his natural inclination is to do what he wants and deal with the consequences afterwards, like going to Confession Sunday morning after partying all night Saturday.  I, on the other hand, was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home (and school) where great emphasis was placed on "spiritual discipline" which translates to personal, internal strength of will.  So maybe he just doesn't have the discipline -- the strength of will -- to make a plan and stick to it.  But I realized this wasn't a very fair assessment of him either.  It's more accurate of his parents -- in the almost-5-years we've been married, hubby's dad hasn't kept a job for more than 6 months at a time.  Hubby is much more disciplined than I am when it comes to things like exercise (he runs 3 miles a day on the treadmill), music (practicing on his saxophone), work (he gets up every morning at the crack of dawn to go work at a boring job), even budgeting (we're currently living debt free, thanks to him!).  So maybe he and I are disciplined in different areas, which I think is definitely accurate and not necessarily bad; we compliment each other.

I think the real reason is that hubby simply didn't want to do a no-spend week.  He agreed to it because it sounds like a good idea (spending less money always sounds appealing!) and because I wanted to.  But he was never really dedicated to it.  When I came to this conclusion, I was faced with a decision...force him to continue through the weekend, or negotiate a different ending.  We decided to end our no-spend week early, both because he never really wanted to do it in the first place and because we realized that no-spending for both days of a weekend is not very practical for our family since we do live a distance away from the shopping centers.  For example, I've been waiting for felt-by-the-yard to go on sale at JoAnn's because I need some to finish a Christmas project.  It went on sale this weekend and the sale runs through this week.  We could have completed our no-spend weekend and gone to JoAnn's some night this week.  It would be the same cost for gas and take the same amount of time to drive there and back, but it would take place at a different time of day, with much lower levels of energy and patience...overall, it would be less pleasant for all of us to do it on a weeknight rather than a weekend.  The same is true for any errands we want or need to run.  So Sunday we lifted our no-spend ban, went to JoAnn's, ate Chinese takeout, and enjoyed the gorgeous cool weather together as a family!  It wasn't the outcome I was looking for, but it was a very satisfactory one anyway.

I'm not sure we'll embark on another no-spend week anytime soon.  I think a better method for our family might be to set spending limits.  We could set aside a specific amount from each paycheck for "fun stuff" (which for hubby usually involves food! Ha!) in addition to our set amounts for putting into savings.  We basically started over financially a year ago when we moved to Missouri from California.  The cost of moving wiped out our previous savings and we've had to spend a lot on "extra" things like a bed, a kitchen table, and some costly car maintenance.  But after a year, we're well on our way to our two-part goal of having a 6-month "float" and saving for a house.

Many thanks to Eilleen for prompting this no-spend week. It's been a wonderful learning experience for our family!

Friday, August 28, 2009

No-spend week update

Well, we made it through our no-spend week weekdays...just two weekend days left.   Those'll be the hardest!  I convinced hubby to pick up his video game on his way home from work Tuesday instead of coming home first and going back out for it (he likes to have us with him when he shops).  So he didn't need to fill up his gas tank this week!  But we had a major blowout today...McDonald's was kind enough to provide our supper...for a fee!  Actually, hubby called me on his lunch break today and asked if he could go to Dairy Queen for lunch.  "Didn't you pack your lunch?!" "Yeah, but I feel like eating something hot."  Anyway, I convinced him to just eat the lunch he packed, but he insisted we go out to McDonald's tonight.  I must admit I was secretly glad because it meant I could sit at my sewing machine a little longer instead of getting up to make supper.  Plus, Miss M didn't take her nap today and was in need of special love and attention before bedtime.  Still...if we can get through the next two days without anymore frivolous spending, I'll consider the week an overall success!

If it's as beautiful out this weekend as it was today, maybe we'll take a walk to the park together -- that doesn't cost anything!  If we do, I'll be sure to bring my camera along.  We always run into some sort of wildlife around here.  Last night it was a big ugly opossum.  The other day it was a whole flock of wild turkeys!

Yes, those are two young cats down in the front of the picture.  They don't belong to anybody, but the local Cat Lady feeds them here every day. It may have been the pans of cat food that attracted the turkeys.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More completed SWAP garments

I've finished up four more garments for the Ottobre Fall SWAP (sewing with a plan).  I'm really pleased with how wonderfully this whole sewing plan is going!  I've done most of the "easy" garments and am starting in on some of the more complex items.

The fabric I used in the Muru tunic (Ottobre 1/2009 #6) was taken from an old t-shirt cardigan of mine that magically grew shorter and shorter on me.  I even re-used the ribbing and buttons.  I swear, I had a bad case of preggo brain when sewing it because I must have ripped out every seam at least once. It wasn't the pattern, just me.  In fact, the pattern was really quite simple and I enjoyed making it!  I nixed the whole clear elastic thing though 'cause the knit was so tender and the elastic so stiff...it just wasn't working.  I gathered it with old fashioned basting threads.  I'm not sure if I'll try the clear elastic again next time I make this pattern; it will probably depend on how sturdy the fabric is.

I haven't decided how to fasten the Ladybug vest (Ottobre 1/2008 #5).  I would eventually like to invest in a snap press, so I may go ahead and do that now, or I may just do buttons. I was even thinking of doing some sort of toggle-button closure. Any suggestions?  I think it's kind of funny that it's made of green polka-dotted fabric in the magazine and I ended up making it out of green polka-dotted fabric. I originally thought about making it out of polar fleece (no contrast panel, of course), but the green polka-dot twill just insisted this is what it wanted to be made into.  Who am I to say no to strong-willed fabric?

I made the Candy pants (Ottobre 1/2008 #9) once before and knew I liked them. I used cheap calico then and they wore thin in the back pretty quickly. I'm sure this twill will stay nice much longer and be warmer for fall.  I tried them on Miss M before turning down the waistband since I had a feeling I'd need to turn them down a bit more than called for to keep the crotch from hanging too low. I'm glad I did. I ended up almost doubling the amount I turned them down and am very pleased with the way they fit her.

The leggings are my own pattern.  I made them just a bit too long on purpose 'cause I know a growth spurt between now and spring is inevitable.  Since they're made of rib knit, I also made the front and back identical. The ribbing stretches enough in the back to fit properly and isn't too loose in the front. That way Miss M can dress herself without getting them on backwards.  I'll definitely be making more of these.  They're so easy, so comfy, and so versatile!

Miss M's grandma and auntie bought her this pair of brown shoes -- they  haven't even seen her fall wardrobe plan yet!  Aren't they perfect? A little more casual than the ones I bought...which is perfect and between the two pairs she should be all set for fall and spring. She may need some boots of some sort for winter though.  Not that I mind...shopping for cute boots will be great fun! Tee hee!

Here is my current SWAP plan, and the other garments I've completed so far.  Next I'm making the Pink Daisy overalls (Ottobre 4/2009 #8) as a dress rather than pants.  Do you think I should keep the pockets on the back, or just the front ones?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eating Nilaga and Playing in the Rain

I'm happy to announce that the nilaga turned out quite well...sufficiently like my mother-in-law's to pass the critical "Hubby Test." It makes enough to feed an entire clan, so we'll be having it again a few more times this week.

I based mine off of this recipe.  I added one seeded jalapeƱo from the garden 'cause I know my mother-in-law does.  It only stayed in while the meat cooked (which took way longer than the 1 hour the recipe says!); I took it out before adding the other vegetables.  Miss M only ate rice and broth, no veggies or meat; hubby ate a plate of rice with veggies and meat, but no broth; and what you see above is my bowl before I added rice.

When I woke up this morning, the weather forecast said 90% chance of rain and while it didn't rain very hard, we did get a bit of a shower. Since there wasn't any thunder, I let Miss M play outside with her "bra-lella."

She's wearing her "Wendy" dress.  When I first made it and put it on her, she looked down and said, "I look like Wendy!" (from Peter Pan).  It's her favorite and always gets worn as soon as I do laundry. She also picked out her "rain boots" which are really boy's snow boots that I bought her last year 'cause they seemed so much warmer than the girl's styles.  She looked so cute I couldn't help but get out my camera.

I wanted to post pictures of the new garments I finished for my SWAP, but it's getting late and a thunderstorm is getting closer and closer, so I'd better hold off until tomorrow.  Rest assured, there are four new garments to be seen, I've taken pictures already, and I'll post them up tomorrow!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meal planning and grocery shopping

Today's the first day of our no-spend week. I did what I could this weekend to plan and prepare, so we'll see how it all goes!

But first...  We went to a parade Saturday!  Miss M has been begging to see a parade (and, in fact, "seeing" them in the most unlikely places), so when I heard there was to be a parade at the Parkville Days celebration, we decided we just had to go. There were two marching bands, clowns, a carnival, pony rides, and one very happy toddler!  You couldn't have asked for a more gorgeous day.

We got hungry, but opted to buy a small snack rather than spend an arm and a leg for carnival food that most likely would have been less than satisfactory portion-wise.  That saw us through the rest of our errands and we ate at home.

I made my meal menu that night. I doubt anyone plans meals quite like I do, but who knows, maybe my way could be helpful to someone else at some point.  Instead of planning specifically what I'll cook on each night of the week, I plan out a week's worth of meals, but then I decide exactly which one of those meals to cook sometime during the day. Here's this week for an example:

I got this nifty menu planner paper for $1 somewhere. It has a magnet on the back to stick right on my fridge...so handy!  (I have another one like it, but for making a shopping list; I jot down things I use up during the week so I can replenish my supply next shopping trip.)

Just because Wednesday says "Chicken Fajitas" doesn't mean I'm actually planning to cook fajitas on Wednesday...in fact, that's what we had for supper last night since my tomato was ripe and I needed to use it right away.  For me, the point is to have enough meals planned (i.e. enough ingredients on hand) to last till hubby gets paid again.  That's another thing...he only gets paid once every two weeks, but I only have 7 meals planned, how does that work?  Well, for some reason or another it just does! Whether we eat leftovers or get invited to eat with family or opt for "popcorn supper" on a hot summer night, I find that planning 7 meals gets me through two weeks quite well. There are only three of us, after all, and Miss M eats like a bird.

It really helps me, once I decide on a meal, to write out the ingredients needed for that meal right on the menu plan. I'll use that to make my grocery list. So "Arm Roast and Rice" (hubby's going to love me for this one!) lists the following necessary ingredients: roast, rice, onion, onion soup mix, red wine, garlic, salad. The roast is already in my freezer from a different week; I have onion from the garden; there's still some red cooking wine in the fridge; I have garlic a-plenty; so all that had to go on the grocery list for this meal is onion soup mix and a "bag-o-salad" (they were advertised in the store flyer for a good price this week).

I usually write out the whole menu first, along with the ingredients, and then when I'm done I go right down the menu and make up my grocery list.  Once that's done I think of other things not on the menu that we need to buy -- supplies for hubby's lunch, breakfast food, baking basics, paper goods, personal hygiene products, toddler food, and this time I added in bedtime snacks.  Hubby doesn't like much variation in his daily lunch, so that's pretty easy. Breakfast is about the same...unless I've baked some sort of pastry, hubby and Miss M will usually eat cold cereal and milk. I usually opt for tea and toast.

Our fortnightly grocery budget is $125 for the three of us. That includes paper products and personal hygiene products, etc. We usually do well staying in-budget, but we never before intentionally included bedtime snacks and since that's a euphemism for preservative-filled junk food, they're expensive and add up quickly. So I was totally stoked when we got out of the grocery store yesterday with $10 to spare! Of course, I did forget to buy hotdog buns (it somehow didn't make the jump from my menu to my grocery list), so we'll probably be having pigs-in-blankets instead of hotdogs, but that would have only added less than a dollar. (Or I may attempt to make hotdog buns...hmmm...)

We got home mid-afternoon, took a nap, and I threw ingredients for the week's bread in the bread machine. I use it to mix the dough for me, but I usually take it out and bake it in loaf pans in the oven so it's a more convenient shape/size for making sandwiches. Et voila! We're all set to embark on a week of no spending.

Hubby is home now, so day 1 is basically done -- no reason for us to go back out this evening -- so we'll call Day 1 a success! It looks like Eilleen, Eco-chic Mummy, and Voice of Many Colours are off to a good start too!