27 August 2008

Olympic doll quilts

I finished the three doll-size quilts for Savannah's Olympic dolls and they are cute! It's hard to pick a favorite but I think I like YingYing's the best - she's the Tibetan Yak doll. It's fun to experiment with colors and patterns I would never use otherwise. Doll-size is sometimes just right for trying something new!

Here they are all tucked in together with their matching quilts.




Daddy's home

After a long month in Beijing, Daddy has finally come home. Savannah's excitement has already worn off as Kev's already too busy dealing with his separation from the Air Force to play pirates with her or listen to her read all day long. She loves the presents he brought back though. He brought her HuanHuan, the Olympic Torce doll, JingJing, the Panda doll, and Nana and Grampa sent her YingYing, the Tibetan Yak. She loves them so much she requested that I make each of them matching doll-sized quilts and made room for them in her bed tonight by kicking out my childhood bear (who I thought I was never going to get back even though I remind her it's only on loan). Fortunately, I do have some Asian fabric in my stash that match her dolls since she wants each to have its own matching quilt. Today she said, while waiting for the Torch doll's quilt in my project room, "Mom, I really love it when you make nice things for me and our family." Of course this was followed two minutes later by, "Mom, sometimes when I'm waiting for you to make something for me, I get really tired..."

HuanHuan, the Olympic Torch doll

Thank you Nana & Grampa!

Thank you Nana & Grampa for YingYing, the Tibetan Yak doll!

Loves for her new family of Chinese dolls.

I also received some wonderful gifts, which is rare since Kev maintains that I'm very difficult to shop for mainly as an excuse to never get anything for me. (I don't think I'm hard to shop for; I love good chocolate and good tea and every country has one or the other. I also love yarn, fabric, books and stationery and for the totally hopeless, I have my ongoing Amazon list.) This time I got lucky! Kev brought me some green and jasmine tea, some small rice bowls in my favorite blue and white porcelain, which I can't wait to use as soon as they pass the lead-free test, and two pearl necklaces, one of which is long overdue, since it was supposed to be my engagement gift years ago instead of a ring. The necklaces were made just for me and are also my birthday present. I'm just glad I can wear them now! I'm a pearl necklace kind of girl. I will wear pearls with anything and for any occasion.

Today we made matching scrappy fabric bracelets, which was fun even if it didn't match my pearls.

I'm also working on knitting a top-down shrug that I put down at the beginning of the summer. I guess I'm feeling the need (or guilt?) to finish what I've started these days. There have been times where I've had so many projects in the works that I've had to go out and buy a third pair of the same size knitting needles, simply because all my others are "busy" holding onto projects I'm not working on. Ahh, I'm getting better with age though and perhaps that's all that matters, progress.

25 August 2008


It has not been my first choice or what I imagined myself doing but today I realized, I am homeschooling my daughter. She is considered highly gifted and didn't do well in the regular preschool program that we tried last September. The Gifted Development Center in Denver recommended that I try homeschooling her until she's old enough to test into a higher grade level, maybe in 1-2 years. A few weeks ago we started the Distar Reading Program at home simply because she was so excited about letters and sounds and words and spelling things. By Lesson 7 she was reading words all by herself. Now we're on Lesson 25 and she's reading the level 1 easy readers from the library. In fact, she's reading EVERYTHING she can get her hands on; signs while I'm driving, my books, flyers on the door, the pizza box, everything. Half of her sentences all day long start with either "Mom, I can read the word ___!" or "Mom, I know how to spell ___!" She's started every morning the last week by waking up and opening a book and not waking me up until she's finished the book of the morning.

So almost every morning after breakfast (and before her cartoon) we sit down and do a reading lesson together. It takes 10 minutes. Since she was interested in doing more, we bought some school supplies and a Hello Kitty school supply box that she brings to "school" everyday with her learning folder. After the reading and writing lesson, I ask her if she's interested in doing more and she always says "Yes!" Sometimes I give her a color by number challenge or a connect the dots, sometimes a maze to figure out, or a shapes project that involves tracing, writing, coloring, cutting and finding the shape all over the house, sometimes she's matching what's different and alike, or counting and practicing her numbers, etc, etc. So, now she's doing two of these additional worksheets a day after her reading lesson (two only because that's my limit, I don't want to push her). You can see why today it occurred to me that I'm home schooling my daughter, not talking about it or learning about it, I'm actually doing it.

(Four of my favorite online resources for preschoolers or homeschoolers are: TLS Books, PBS Kids, the BBC's CBeebies, and Activity Village.)

Savannah hard at work at school this morning. Today we had a reading lesson, and she practiced writing the letters "d" and "n", read me some new sentences, learned about rectangles, and did a color by number, all in Hello Kitty style.

Because I'm a craft-minded person we do an art project a day. Right now she's into jewelry making. After wearing her new bracelets to karate class today (of course she had to take them off for karate) she is now going to make bracelets for the three "divas" aka the triplets in her class, Sydney, Sloane and Cici.

Plus, she's decided that she wants to make or help make all of her own meals. I told her I thought that was a good thing since she has to eat everyday. So she's helping me in the kitchen to get her cereal or oatmeal in the morning, to make her sandwiches and slice fruits and she's still helping me set the table, a chore she decided to start doing when she was just 2.

The best and the worst part is, I LOVE having her home. I love being able to teach her new things and then to fold the laundry together, run an errand, give each other hugs, go for a walk around the block, weed the yard, and work on a project. And I love having her read me bedtime stories now! I worry about the social aspects but she does have a regular social schedule (karate 2x a week, Thursday night concerts with Gracin, weekly play dates, and usually another class like music, dance or swimming). Part of me knows that socialization has just as many drawbacks as it has advantages, but still whenever it is finally time for me to let her go to some other teacher, it's going to be very, very, very hard.

24 August 2008

A day for crafting

Savannah woke up today with the idea of making a bracelet for her cousin Abby, probably because she rediscovered the bracelet Abby made for her in New York. Savannah wanted to cut out a butterfly and put it on a pipecleaner for a bracelet. We make bracelets like this sometimes at home and sometimes at the Butterfly Pavilion's storytime, BUT I tried to convince her that we should try some other materials since the paper might rip in the mail and the metal in the pipe cleaners sometimes poke. So, one trip to the craft store later we'd returned with all sorts of beads she'd picked out to make bracelets for everyone! She had lots of fun stringing them on in different patterns. I'm not usually interested in jewelry-making, or in jewelry that much, but I even made one for myself and for $1 in beads, it turned out pretty well.

Savannah's bracelets, one in yellow with sparkly beads and another in purples.

Her bracelets to her cousins, all wrapped up in origami paper.

While Savannah was busy stringing together her bracelets, I decided to make a zafu pillow for myself. It's a meditation pillow so while you're sitting and breathing, your butt doesn't get too sore (and of course, it aligns the spine and helps open the chest for better breathing). I found a great tutorial for it online but I decided to add one extra feature, a handle. I've been waiting to find a project for my Amy Butler lotus fabric (yellow lotus pond) and this seemed the perfect use for it. I'm really pleased with the way it turned out but I wish I had stuffed it slightly less. I'm used to the zafus that you sort of squish into and mine's a little more firm. Maybe I'll have to break it in, which is really the point afterall. I didn't have barley or buckwheat hulls to fill it with and rather than taking the time to order the proper filling, I made do with a combination of shredded bamboo that I had leftover from another project and the polybeads that are used to fill bean bags. Those polybeads were a nightmare to clean up and as Savannah said, "Well, Mom, I guess you learned your lesson about that!"

My first zafu pillow.

The handle I added for function.

Isn't it a beauty?

Favorite summer salad

My favorite summer salad is so easy to make, especially after a trip to the Farmer's Market.

Pile a plate full of your favorite lettuces, add some diced cilantro and tomatoes. Slice the corn off a fresh ear and add that to your plate (raw corn counts as a vegetable while cooked corn counts as a starch). Add your favorite warm beans to the top (I usually make pinto beans but black beans are actually better for you with their higher fiber content). I like to serve mine with crumbled chips on top or with a vegetarian tamale. Delicious and filling!
Variations: sliced purple onions, diced green onions, diced Anaheim peppers, sliced avocado, cheese or sour cream, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and squeeze of lime on top.

22 August 2008

Humus snack attack

Savannah wanted a snack today and the choices I gave her, carrots or cherries, didn't appeal to her today. "I know Mom, how about we make humus to eat with our carrots?" So we did.
We like to eat our humus with carrots, pita bread or chips and when we have them, fresh cucumbers that are thickly julienned.

Savannah tested and approved! Someone LOVES her hummus. I like to use it on open-faced sandwiches in place of mayo.

Humus recipe:

1. drain water into cup from 1 can of chick peas
2. add to food processor:
- chick peas
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1Tb of lemon juice
- 1Tb of tahini
- 1Tb of olive oil
- bunch of freshly chopped cilantro
- pinches of salt, cumin, coriander, fresh black pepper

3. Pulse until combined adding additional saved water from humus and salt until desired consistency and taste are reached.

Also, look who we found in our garden today. We haven't looked it up yet but this is the first time we've seen such a creature. It was longer than my hand, so 5.5-6 inches long. Yikes!

Southlands Concert

Savannah LOVES the summer concert series here and I love watching her dance it up. So, after a busy day of lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant, bowling with Mommy, and playing with the neighbors, we met the Mallorys for a night of music and rascally business for the kids. Savannah and her friend Gracin are cute little dancing buddies that keep me laughing with their mixed styles. Check out Gracin's famous arm air guitar...

Guitar hero, superstar!

Jayda, Savannah and Gracin dancing.

Savannah and Gracin doing the white man shuffle???

Azia and her girlfriends playing some Nintendo games all together to pass the time...
The girls had a sleepover so Kiersty had six kiddos under her roof!

Cute little cherub Jax who is NOT eating the flowers, well, not too many of them anyway.

Savannah has extra loves tonight for Kiersty, lucky lady!
Savannah snuggled up to her until Jax decided he wanted his mommy back.

Jayda finds a girlfriend to dance with and they both ham it up to country.

Dance party for the girls. Savannah joins Jayda and her friend.

Somebody wants a little brother of her own!

19 August 2008

Images from Albany County, New York

I guess I'm still feeling too stressed out about my recent trip to NY to write much about it. I need time to process everything mentally and emotionally. My brain's rich mode is hard at work but doesn't always share its insight with my linear mode until it feels like it... stubborn creative half! Moving is very stressful in general plus add in all the other life changes our family is going through now and in the next few months and it's a recipe for, well, either the loony bin or a meditation class. Thank goodness I have crafting to help me unwind and serve as an outlet for my creativity. I'm in the middle of sewing another quilt for a little boy cherub and knitting a hat/mittens/socks set for a newborn (no baby in mind in particular, just needed something to calm my mind down!) Some day I would love a garden big enough to stroll through, or a zen garden to bring me back to the present but in the meantime, I'll settle for being closer to my best friend Maggie. Here are some images from our recent trip.
Mommy sow with her tired piglets at the Altamont County Fair.

Baby goats sitting on the laps of their human mamas. Such cute little creatures! They were all so soft, clean, and sweet. I couldn't help thinking how much Savannah would love a baby goat to sit on her lap, Kev would love it to mow the lawn, and I would love it to fertilize my garden.

A scarecrow supporting the Olympics. Go Daddy!

Savannah with her painted face and butterfly craft.

A fabulous quilt I loved at the fair. I wrote down all the names of the crafters of my favorite things so I would know who to call when we move.

Savannah enjoys a ride with her hands in the air. Daredevil!

Cousins Nathan, Savannah, Abby and Emma visit.

Savannah with her whack-y noodle hugging cousin Abby in the pool. Despite their age differences, these girls are two peas in a pod. Both share similar personalities; advanced with language from an early age, very sensitive, considerate of others, snugly, creative, attention-loving, and 100% love bug.

The silo from a 12 acre farm I liked. The farm used to be dairy. You can barely make out the shed beside it, which is covered in grape vines! Ahh, country life!

17 August 2008

From English to French

Our house in Colorado is on the market right now (I know, what market!?) and even though we've had lots of potential buyers view our home, we have heard twice that our backyard is too small. It was professionally landscaped and I'm of the English garden aesthetic, where nature is allowed to grow and overflow its containers and be itself. So I have a lush and private backyard. I thought it might be wise to prune for potential buyers so the yard looks bigger. Two enormous bags of greenery later, I've pruned back the yard and it now looks to me much more like a French garden, everything perfectly shaped and trimmed as if it had been sculpted from concrete rather than free-flowing from a seed. In English gardens plants are allowed to spill over their containers; in French gardens the plant is the container.

While out there clipping and trimming, I found a small wild bee clinging for its life on one of the hedges. Its wings were wet with rain and it had lost the strength to fly. Every time I trimmed branches around it, it lost its balance and hold on the leaf, so I placed it on a garden chair beside a dragonfly that was also too wet to fly. It pained me to cut back my rose bush, but I'm still enjoying the fragrance of the roses that were cut off.

From this...

to this...

(Both images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

In the meantime my gardening assistant had removed her gloves and cut herself on some of our tall grasses, which despite their delicate looking form, are more like gracefully curved swords like thinly bladed cutlasses. After being bandaged in Scooby Doo and rose petals, she decided to sit on the steps to keep me company with her songs. Savannah made up a song about her favorite words, "My favorite word, my favorite word, I have a most favorite word and objection is its name..." Objection? Is this further evidence that she's going to be a lawyer when she grows up? I'm not even sure where she read or heard this word but she wanted to sing its praises for five long minutes.

Everyday she reads whatever she can, street signs, the safety literature on the airplane, menus, words from the books I'm working on. On the airplane her new words were: raft, life, vest, help, exit, slide, landing, front, and crash.

More news on our trip to New York later.

16 August 2008

Quilts are still useful...

Kevin thinks my quilting is old-fashioned and that my end products are undesirable. But now that it's been so rainy in Denver, my quilts are turning out to be just the thing we need. Savannah loves her picnic quilt, which she asked me to make exactly like one she saw on Strawberry Shortcake when she and her friends have a picnic. She uses this one both outside and in. It has really thick batting so it's cushion-y on the grass. It also helps to cheer up a rainy day or snow day by having a picnic inside.

The Strawberry Shortcake Quilt - Ahh! Savannah loves it!

Savannah has a super cute country shabby-chic quilt that I made for her bed. I quilted it with a much thinner batting, Warm & Natural that was recommended by Eleanor Burns (my favorite quilter to learn from). It was much easier to quilt and I used this tutorial on free motion quilting provided by one of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Jean from Crazy Mom Quilts.

My Shabby Chic Log Cabin Quilt for Savannah's bed. I followed Amanda Jean's tutorial and did my first free-motion quilting on this one. Once I had the right foot, it worked out well!

There's a new baby boy due due in a few short months to a friend in NYC. I'd like to make her something for the little guy but I'm not yet sure what... They are matching Pottery Barn people so that makes it especially difficult. Maybe a play quilt in baby Einstein colors to stimulate the little one's mind.

Here are some baby quilts from the recent past:

I really liked the contrasting colors in this one. Easy nine-patch with sashing.

This quilt is the bright hopes quilt for kids and I made it from a free pattern I found online. It uses a neat technique of sewing a partial seam so the squares can be sewn flat. I'd like to make this quilt again in different colors. I made this one all from quarter flats from JoAnn's and used every last bit of fabric in the binding. A truly economic quilt!

08 August 2008

Handbag tutorial

This is my first tutorial for an easy handbag or purse. I hope I give clear instructions! I’m really more of an intermediate sew-er, not advanced, but if I forget something, just ask and I’ll answer by updating the tutorial.

These bags were made in small sizes for my daughter and nieces but are also a great size for an evening out when lined with a smooth, slippery fabric like satin. My daughter uses hers to hold her tap dance and ballet shoes so we don't lose them. As a variation they can be made much larger, just increase the size of the handles, or rounder by using a larger diameter circle.

1. Cut four rectangular pieces of fabric, all the same dimensions. Two pieces are for the lining of the bag, and the other two are for the finished outside of the bag. For the bags in my pictures, the dimensions of the rectangles are approximately 10.5 x 15 inches, but the size can be varied as you like.

2. Place one piece of lining fabric and one piece of exterior fabric rectangles right sides together.
3. Press the fabric if you haven't already. Using a pin or chalk, measure and mark halfway (the middle) along both of the short sides. This is 5.25 inches in my case.

4. Next sew with your favorite seam length (1/4 inch, 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch are all fine, just be consistent) from one pin to the corner, then down the long side and to the second pin. Repeat for the other lining/exterior rectangles. Now you have two sides that look like half pockets.

5. Now comes the tricky part! Place one side down on a flat surface and fold back the half of fabric that is loose. Place the other side on top of it, lining up the exterior side and the lining and the pins/chalk marks in the center. You will have something that looks like this. My lining fabric is on the right side (blue polka dots) lined up together and pinned halfway through.

6. Use a plate or something else round to make the corners. I used a 6" plate for these. Trace the plate with chalk or a fabric pen. Since this is the lining side of my bag, I will leave 2-4" open in the center so I can eventually turn the bag right side out through the lining. Do remember to leave that opening or you'll have to undo the stitches in the center to make a hole like I had to do when making this tutorial!

7. Trim away the excess fabric to reveal your lovely curved corners. Then flip the top and bottom flaps of the bag over to make the curved corners on the other side.

8. Line up the center again with a pin or chalk and trace the same size curved corners on this side of the fabric. This time, sew all the way around (no need to leave an opening on this side of the fabric) then trim away the extra fabric.

9. Now for the fun part! Using the hole you've left open in the center of the lining, turn the bag right side out. Use whatever you like to smooth the seams open all the way. I sometimes use my fingers and sometimes I press a chopstick along the insdie fo the seams. Press the fabric to keep those seams looking nice.
10. Fold in the edges of the open fabric and sew this closed with an 1/8 inch seam using thread that is invisible or the same color as the fabric. You could also do this by hand, but I'm far too lazy for that.

11. Poke the lining back down inside the bag. Now you have something that looks like this below:

12. Almost done! Fold down one top flap of the bag so that it will fit over the handle with some extra room and use chalk or pins to manke this line. Make a similar line on the other side of the bag. Now you have a choice - sew the handles in by hand or use your machine. I always use my machine because I like fast and easy. Using one handle, begin to fold the fabric over it so the fabric reaches the line you marked. Sew the handle in slowly, adjusting the fabric and flattening in out as needed to make it match the line you've marked. I like to stitch forward and backward near the edges to make them extra strong.

When you're done with one handle, you'll have this. Then repeat on the other side, pushing the extra fabric and handle out of the way. Just a note: if you find that you have slightly more fabric on the top seam when you near the end of the handle, simple fold it under so they are even. No one will notice since the fabric is all bunched up around the handle anyway. This is a very forgiving bag, which is why it's so perfect for me!

Snip those loose threads and you're done with your super-cute handbag!

Unless, of course, you want to make a matching tissue holder...in which case you might want to visit this tutorial.