Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Bowerbird Shift Pattern Review




I tested this cowl neck dress or top pattern back in October.  It is a lovely design, with a flowy feel, a flattering tie-waist, and pockets (even on the shirt version!). 

Lindsey from Sew To Grow is the designer. I have tested a few of her other patterns (The Bondi Top, The Noosa Shift), and once again, I was impressed.  Lindsey is thorough in her instructions, so that even a novice sewist could handle this construction. 


I made the dress first, and liked it so much that I decided to make a top as well.  Every time I wear this dress, I receive compliments on it. 

Did I say how much I love that it has pockets??

I used a light rayon print for this dress.  I found similar here and here



For the Bowerbird shirt, I used a synthetic grey knit (similar here).  When I make another dress or top, I will use a knit again. I really love the way the cowl neck naturally falls with the knit fabric. 


To purchase this pattern, go here:

or 










Thursday, January 5, 2017

Chalkboard Ideas for Every Season





A LONG while back one of my sisters requested that I do a blog post with ideas for chalkboard designs and messages.  Over the past 3 years, I have been snapping pictures of the chalkboards I have in my home each time I change the design, with a plan to one day share them.  

Now that I have an good number to share, I am finally fulfilling my sister's request. 

I made my chalkboards from thrift store pictures and chalkboard paint a few years ago, but they can be found just about anywhere. I have a small board in the kitchen (similar here), a larger one in my dining room (similar here); and I also use a tall, skinny one as a menu board. 

I have tried out the chalk markers that your can buy nowadays. This one writes beautifully, but if you plan to change your board very often, I recommend classic crayola school chalk. It is dirt cheap, and is super easy to wipe off and change often.

Be sure to pin or bookmark this post, because I will continue to add photos to it as I add new designs in the coming months and years!
This was from this past Christmas. My talented 13-year-old son drew the Santa. 

 I kept this one up for several months. Here in rainy WA, I need a reminder of all the bright spots in my life!

 Newsies. I hope you are singing and dancing now.

 Valentines Day. Or just because.

A little reminder for each of us as we leave the house each day. 

I did this one for a bridal shower and wedding reception. 

In the kitchen.

Halloween

I love layering my chalkboards in with my other decorations. 

More kitchen fun.

I did this for the first week of the art class I teach.

Another Christmas design. 



Friday, October 14, 2016

Home Tour: Fall and Halloween Decor



Happy Fall, Y'all!  

I frequently get asked about my handmade fall decor, so I decided to share a few areas of my home and how the decorations came to be.  I have a kid-friendly house, so nothing is fancy or expensive.  I like decorating (especially handmade stuff), but I LOVE how excited my kids get when they see that I have added fun festivity to our home! It makes me smile, too. (:

MY SIDEBOARD
 (pictured above), located in my dining room 
  • Autumn Grasses. Purchased at JoAnn's, similar here and here
  • BOO letters. I spray painted them with a warm white, then painted the rims gold. Find the letters here
  • Chalkboard. Made using a second hand framed picture from Goodwill, using this tutorial
  • Fabric Pumpkins. Handmade using this blog post


DOOR WREATHS




  • Wreath form purchased at Joann's (similar here).  After trying several kinds of forms, I now have a pretty strong opinion that the kind made of pressed, shaped straw wrapped in plastic is the most sturdy. Just my 2-cents.
  • Burlap and fabric flowers made using tutorial found here and here
  • Feathers made from yarn and liquid starch. Tutorial found here


FOYER

  • Floral pieces and Pumpkin from Joann's. 
  • Thankful board: 1x4 wood, painted light brown, then sanded around edges to distress. Vinyl "thankful."
  • Sitting scarecrow: This was a hand-me-down from my mom. :)


DINING ROOM




  • Table: Tray and metallic balls from Pier One.  Leaves from JoAnn's. Vintage lace table runner made according to this tutorial
  • Mini mason jar floral arrangement:  These are the Atlas Mason jars that Classico Pesto comes in. I always save them. They make excellent small drinking glasses for my kids, and they are adorable in decorating.  I painted these with a warm white spray paint.  Floral pieces are from JoAnn's.

FIREPLACE



  • Painting (of Colorado Rockies in Fall) available here
  • Wool Ball Garland made using these.
  • Fall Feather Garland tutorial found here.  
  • Letterboard is "The Poet" from Letterfolk.



Monday, September 26, 2016

The Bondi Top Pattern Review



I have a friend named Lindsey Rae who designs patterns, and I have been a pattern tester for her in 
the past (see my Noosa Shift Dress Pattern Review). Her patterns are amazingly simple, well-written, thoroughly tested, and flattering on any figure. 

The Bondi Top was the pattern that really launched her career as a designer, so I have been excited to try it out. I finally made my first Bondi Top a couple of weeks ago, and I loved it so much that I made myself 2 more!

Why I love this pattern: 
  • It is downloadable (available HERE from Etsy). Pattern downloads are super easy to store and replicate if you want to make new sizes. 
  • It is adjustable for size AND length. I have a long torso, so I added 2 inches to the length and loved the result!
  • It is a tad bit longer in the back than the front, which makes for a flattering fit. 
  • It has a contrasting fabric option. Don't you LOVE the additional print design on each of the shirts?! 
  • And probably my favorite feature: It requires NO notions. No zippers, buttons, ties, or hooks. Just fabric and thread. 

I used 3 different types of fabric for my shirts: lightweight cotton for the yellow and blue shirt above; rayon for the next shirt pictured; and a woven cotton/poly fabric for the third shirt. 

Similar lightweight cottons to those in my yellow and blue shirt can be found HERE.

 This silky rayon is dreamy to wear. It was more time-consuming to sew because I had to pin more since the fabric is more slippery, but it was worth every minute. Similar fabric can be found HERE

This was such a fun fabric. It has that Aztec/Peruvian blanket or poncho style, but is less heavy. Similar woven fabric can be found HERE. The contrast fabric is a woven cotton linen/twill; similar (but without print) found HERE.

My colorful and original jewelry is from one of my favorite charities, African Promise Foundation. I know the founder and can vouch for this organization's commitment to bettering the lives of the less-fortunate through beautiful hand-made jewelry sales. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Better than Trader Joe's PB & J Bars



If you like Trader Joe's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars, I promise you will LOVE these! They are wholesome, gluten-free, surprisingly filling, and downright YUMMY. 

Not to bag on Trader Joe's bars. They are good. My kids will eat them, as will I. But in a side-by-side comparison, these are tastier.


One thing I LOVE about this recipe is that it makes a TON, so you get a big reward for your relatively short time investment. They will fill a large cookie sheet or 9x13 AND 11x15 baking dishes. These bars keep for days (if you can keep hands off), and they are tasty served cold, medium or warm. 

The recipe involves an oat-based peanut-butter cookie dough on the bottom, your choice of jam, jelly or preserve in the middle, and more of the peanut-butter cookie on top! 



A couple of notes for the preparation process. This recipe has baking soda in it, which is the spreading leavener (baking powder is the rising leavener). So when you put the top layer of peanut-butter cookie dough on the jam layer and you see a ton of holes, no worries!! The dough will spread a it cooks.  (Before-baking pictures above; After pictures below)



Now, on to the recipe!

Better than Trader Joe's 
PB&J Bars
Makes 72 bars

Ingredients
3 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1.5 cups natural peanut butter
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups oat flour (4 cups oatmeal pulsed in blender or food processor until smooth)
3 cups oatmeal
2 cups jam, jelly, or preserves

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray large cookie sheets or baking pans with cooking spray. (This recipe will make thick bars on a 14"x18" cookie sheet, or thinner bars on more pans. I like to use one 9x13 and one 10x15 baking dish.)
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add peanut butter and mix until smooth. 
3. Mix baking soda into wet mixture. Stir in oat flour, then oatmeal. Dough will be thick, but still sticky. 
4. Spoon half of the dough into prepared pans. Dip the back of a spoon or your fingers in cold water and spread the mixture so it is covering the bottom of all your pans in an even layer.  Set the other half of the mix aside. 
5. Spoon the jam on to the bottom layer in small spoon fulls all around. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it in an even layer. 
6. Cover the jam layer with the remaining cookie dough by spooning small amounts all over the top. (See the pictures above for reference)
7. Bake 30-40 minutes, until edges are brown and top is light brown. Middle will still look wet and bubbly, but will settle as it cools. Cool completely before cutting into bars. 






Friday, September 2, 2016

Keeping Kids off Screens Printables


School is back in session, and as a mother of four school-aged children, I have made some New (School) Year's Resolutions. Shamelessly, I will share them here: 
  1. I will actually open my children's backpacks each afternoon and see what is in their take home folders.
  2. I will read school emails (including attachments!).
  3. I will take and enforce measures to limit my children's screen time.
  4. I will implement a plan to help my children exercise every day, even when the weather is bad.

If you don't struggle with any of the above 4 items, then a big pat on the back to you for being a more responsible mom than me.  I usually start strong, but by mid October I deserve about a C+ in any of these subjects. This year I am determined that I will be better. And one way I am taking action is by displaying these posters in my kitchen. I am truly enforcing the rules of what must be completed before screens.  





I began this quest by making these handwritten signs (shown below). I used scrap cardboard and glued some flat magnets to the back. My husband loved the idea, and suggested I make digital files he could print and laminate for me to make them more durable, so I did!  I went ahead and made my handwritten signs into digital files as well because I still kinda like the homemade look.

I amended the "Before Screens" page from the handwritten to the digital to say "Read 30 Min+" instead of "Read Scriptures 10 Min+."  I did this because while I do want my kids to read scriptures daily, they also enjoy reading other books. The 10 minute amount for scripture study is a challenge we made as a family, so I will include that as part of their 30 minute requirement.



I helped my 6 and 9 year olds go through these exercises yesterday afternoon. I over-estimated how many sit-ups they could do and how long they could hold planks and wall-sits.  I told them (and I'm now telling you) that if you can't do the amount shown on the poster now, just do as many as you can, and you can work up to the amounts here over time.  We turned on a fun Pandora station (I recommend "Everything is Awesome Radio"), and soon they were sweaty little bootcampers in our living room! We put a timer on in the kitchen so they would know when 30 minutes was up, but by about half-way through, they were so into the exercises, they weren't concerned with the timer. :)

Ideally, I want my kids to enjoy exercise outside playing pick-up soccer games in the cul-de-sac or riding bikes and scooters, but unfortunately that doesn't always work out. This way they can stay active, get stronger, and learn to enjoy exercise even when it is not perfect weather.