Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kitchen Curtains: Progress

So I bought fabric for the Kitchen Curtain Project. (Thanks to those who are clearly more creative than I am, and offered suggestions and ideas.) I'm still not entirely sure where I'm going with it, but I didn't want to let that little detail stop me from indulging in a bit of fabric shopping.

I'm not a fancy fabric shopper. Since JoAnn's closed, I'm limited to two fabric shopping options: Hobby Lobby and a local shop with Good Fabric. Since the ladies at the Good Fabric Store are usually stuck up and irritated by my children, I stick with the minimal selection at Hobby Lobby and make the best of it. If you go in looking for coordinating fabrics, you don't have to do any footwork - they have it all laid out on the racks with coordinating fabrics side by side.

But I needed at least eight fabrics that coordinated. And you can't get that at Hobby Lobby. So I had to suck it up and brave the cranky old ladies (and the terrifying prices) of the Good Fabric Store.

This is the sort of store that abhors small children. There are signs everywhere demanding that you keep constant control of your children, to the point of actually making threats. I think they actually have paid employees to follow around those darn women who dare to bring in their children, barking at the kids each time they touch anything. Really? If your fabric is going to disintegrate if my child just touches it, do I really want to buy it? I fabric shop the same way I yarn shop: I do a lot of fondling. My children, having learned from me, do exactly the same thing. Who can blame them?

But anyway. My kids proved to me today that I've not completely failed them when it comes to teaching them how to behave in public. They sat and played quietly in the children's area for forty five minutes. They didn't bother anyone, they didn't have to go to the bathroom, they didn't scream or fight or yell. They behaved exactly like good little girls ought to. Omgoodness, it was absolutely thrilling for me, let me tell ya.

So yes, it took me forty five minutes to choose eight fabrics. I realize that's ridiculous, but the moment I walked it the store my heart started racing, my palms started sweating... oh, it's all so overwhelming! You want a rusty-burnt-orange sort of color? Sure, just check that rack over there... and these two racks here, and this row over here, and, oh, don't forget about those racks in the back there. Heh. Yeah. Out of about eleventeen-hundred viable options, I managed to narrow it down to eight. I feel mighty accomplished.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Help! - with my kitchen windows

Okay, so here's the deal: I'm Interior Design Challenged, and I know it. I decorate my house in the same way that I dress myself: I use what I love, with little regard to what is stylish or fashionable. I'd love to tell you it's "shabby chic", but it's really more of a "yard sale/thrift store/hand-me-down chic." I've always been perfectly okay with that, because I'm surrounded with things that really make me happy.

But I have A Problem. See these windows?

That's the kitchen eating area. There are few architectural elements of my home that I truly adore, and these windows top that list. I love that I can sit at the kitchen table and see every inch of my backyard, where Two Little Girls spend three fourths of the year. I love that they add a feel of airiness to what is probably the second-smallest kitchen on the face of the planet. (The smallest kitchen was in my first apartment. This one vies for a close second.) I truly enjoy summer mornings spent drinking coffee in the warm sunshine and gazing out at the lushness of the garden.

What I don't love is that there are no window treatments. Because, while I know I'm Interior Design Challenged, I'm just flat-out helpless when it comes to window treatments, and this being my favorite part of my whole house, well, I don't want to screw it up. I get little glimmers of ideas that could probably become something great, but I never know exactly where to take those ideas to come up with a finished product.

Here's my bit of a glimmer:

I love this apron*. I love the patchwork, I love the linen, I love the lace. I also realize how completely non-functional it would be as an apron, since I'm a messy cook and off-white linen would only serve to advertise that fact. But can't you imagine this as kitchen curtains? And if I did it this way, I could try to incorporate the peach color of my horridly ugly kitchen cabinets (that I'm still attempting to embrace for all that they are.)

BUT. But. What kind of curtains? I'm rather smitten with the idea of cafe curtains, except that then I wouldn't be able to look out those lovely windows, and I think it would really close in the area. So valances? Can I do valances in a kitchen without it looking weird? Cafe curtains with valances? But then where would I use patchwork, and where would I use the linen, and would it be too much in such a tiny space?

You see my problem? How on earth do I make these decisions? If you were me, oh lovely blog readers that I hope are more inclined toward interior decor than I am, what would you do?

*The apron pictured is from the book A is for Apron by Nathalie Mornu - my current fave craft book.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Singer

I love antiques. I don't love them for their monetary value, but for their historical value, the idea of where they've been and who has used them. I love what they stand for: an earlier, simpler time, a time when things were made to last instead of to be replaced when a new model was available. Most of the antiques I have, I use. My cheese grater is the old box metal variety, made before 1940. When my (newfangled) pastry cutter fell apart when I was making biscuits, I remembered there was a perfectly good old wire one hanging on my wall. I have and wear aprons made as early as 1910 - they still wash and wear beautifully. Old canning jars line my counter tops, storing dried fruits, spices and seasonings.

Two days ago, my aunt gave me an incredible gift:

Her fully operable antique Singer sewing machine. The serial number and a bit of research tells me it was produced between 1913 and 1915. It's in amazing shape, when you consider the fact that it's nearly 100 years old. Of course, it's also cast-iron - it won't be wearing out any time soon.

Of course, I couldn't see any good reason not to use it.

Have you ever tried sewing on a treadle sewing machine? It's sort of like riding a bike and sewing at the same time. Or rubbing your tummy and patting your head, with your feet rocking the treadle while your hands guide your fabric. It certainly takes some getting used to. I managed, though, after looking up some tips and hints on the best way to use it.

Sewing my first seam was thrilling. Sewing my first straight, neat, even seam (about 20 tries later) was even more thrilling. Now that I've (mostly) got the hang of it, I can't find too many reasons to go back to electric sewing. The treadle definitely gives you more control over every stitch. Of course, there is the fact that it lacks a zig-zag. And a button hole option. And the other 40 fancy decorative stitches that my electronic one does. But for most sewing, I think it's perfectly feasible to use this one. I like that it is quiet, that it fits conveniently in my living room, and that it doesn't need to be set near a plug. Mostly though, I'll use it because I just love the idea of it altogether.

Of course, since I figured it out, I've been sewing obsessively. Which is nice, considering I haven't been in the mood to sew for months. I made an apron:

Smock-style, copied from a vintage one I bought at a yard sale, but altered to fit me a little better. For good measure (and because I couldn't decide on fabric) I made it reversible:

After that, I felt a little more confident in my ability to really control the machine... but only a little. So I made another apron:

Sewing all that bias tape around all those curves on a treadle sewing machine? Not the easiest thing I've ever done, but maybe the most tedious. I almost gave up, until I reminded myself that a good housewife in the early 1900's could make an entire Victorian gown on one of those machines, so there was no reason I couldn't manipulate a bit of bias tape.

This one is "The Waldorf" from the book A is for Apron by Nathalie Mornu, with my own hand-drawn pattern because I didn't want to pay to have the one in the book copied and enlarged. I'm giving this one to my aunt, as a way of thanking her for the machine and letting her know it will certainly be used.

And then I'll go back to the fabric store, because making aprons on a treadle sewing machine is apparently quite addicting, and I'm pretty sure I don't have enough aprons yet.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The first seeds are IN!

My order from Pine Tree Seeds finally came. I say finally not because it took too long, but because I lack any sort of patience when it comes to things like seed orders.

Littlest One helped me plant the onions and the broccoli on the fancy-schmancy growing table my sweet hubby set up for me in the basement. (Probably because he got sick of trying to eat at a kitchen table covered in seedlings last year.)

The seeds are in, watered, and being warmed gently by the heating pad. I'm about a month late with the onions - I hope they decide to grow fast.

Now, we start stalking the mail man again, this time for the tomato and pepper seeds from Totally
. I've never ordered from them before. I hope I don't regret it.

And then, we sit back, and we wait for the heat. It's supposed to be 50 next week... if the snow melts and I can see the dirt, I'm putting in the spinach. I'm so sick of life without fresh vegetables.

Hooray for Girls

Every once in awhile, when I'm feeling particularly crafty, I feel compelled to make something that celebrates the fact that I am a Mother Of Girls. I'm sure there are lovely things to make for boys as well, but I don't have any of those, so we're gonna talk about girls here.

One of the best toys when you're a Little Girl is a doll. One of the funnest things to make when you're a Mommy of Girls is doll clothes. They're cheap (free), and provide instant gratification. (Well, almost instant. If you're lucky. Or you might sew and rip and sew and rip for three hours before throwing your hands up in disgust because doll clothes are often more complicated than a wedding dress for a grown human. Not that I've done that.) But anyway. Mostly, making doll clothes is fun, primarily for the look of adoration you'll be rewarded with when you present them to your Little Girl.

So I made doll jammies.

And, since I had the fabric and the patterns were included, I made a matching doll blanket, doll slippers, and a heart-shaped doll pillow. And Littlest One was thrilled (and she assured me that her doll was thrilled, too.) Then she came to me and said, "My doll says she wishes I had jammies to match her jammies so we can be like sisters." Oh. Well, if it's the doll that's wishing for them...

Okay, so my kids are spoiled. And they know how to play to my creativity to get what they want. It's alright. Some day they'll realize my making things for them is a physical demonstration of my love for them. Or something.

It must be said that these pajamas (the Little Girl ones, not the doll ones) are about the most ill-fitting pajamas I've ever made the child. I'm not sure if it was the pattern's fault or if I'm just a terrible seamstress, but the neck is huge, the sleeves are tight, and the whole thing just doesn't lay very nicely. Thankfully, when you're three, the fit of a garment is far less important than the novelty of matching your baby doll. She doesn't care how they fit, she just loves them. It's so gratifying, having someone to sew for that is so easy to please.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Creatures of Habit

My children thrive on routine. We have a strict daily and weekly schedule, and we rarely stray from it. But this is supposed to be a week off. We've earned it - six weeks of diligent school work and we're supposed to get a short break. But.. ugh!

They don't know what to do with themselves. On school days they get about two hours of free time. The rest is structured - school work, games, puzzles, crafts, but always directed and purposeful. With only two hours of free time, they make great use of it. They don't fight (much) and they don't come up and say, "I'm bo-ored. I don't know what to do-o." When there are unlimited hours of free time in the day, it's like they're overwhelmed with the possibilities. They flit from one activity or toy to the next, leaving a disaster in their wake. They grumble at each other, they scream and run and cry and... sheesh, I just can't keep up with it!

What amazes me is the noise level. For heaven's sake, there are only two children in this house! But you wouldn't know it by the way it sounds - surely they're hiding a couple of extra kids somewhere. Surely they can't be that loud by themselves. I remember my sister in law telling me that her mother would every so often proclaim a "Whisper Day" where everyone speaks in a whisper all day. My mother-in-law homeschooled four children. I think she was on to something with that one.

By the end of today we were all at our wit's end. The mess in the house was overwhelming for all three of us, neither one has relaxed enough to fall asleep yet, and the day ended with scolding and threatening. (The threats involved duct tape, and I'm pretty sure I was serious.)

And that's a day off? Ha! Give me structure and routine any day!

I told them we'll try one more day off tomorrow, and if it ends as badly as today did then they can just plan on going back to schoolwork on Wednesday. I don't think that was much of a threat - I think they'd both find it comforting. Apparently all three of us are creatures of habit.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

She's reading! (Because she actually wants to!)

From the very beginning, my sweet Oldest Girl has made a habit out of making me worry. Being as she was born early, that was pretty easy to do. I was afraid she'd never gain weight. When I was just about ready to take her to the doctor, she put on five pounds in a week. I was worried that she might not ever crawl. When I was ready to call her physical therapist back, she started cruising around the house. When, at eighteen months, she still wasn't walking, I got out the therapists' number again. She toddled across the room. And it didn't end there. When I was sure she'd never learn to add, that I was a failure as a teacher, and determined to buy a new curriculum, she proudly announced that two plus two was four. When I thought she'd never get up the courage to go down the slide at the park (at age six, mind you) she went down squealing and laughing the whole time.

It seems there a pattern there, doesn't it? Hmm.

So I was concerned that she'd never finish a chapter book on her own. Most homeschooled kids finish their first chapter books before they start the first grade. It's not that she can't. The child reads at a level that never ceases to amaze me. It's just that... well, she'd rather not. There are more important things to do, you know, like build Lego cities and mix up magic potions that will turn her sister into a magpie.

Ah, but tonight, she finally finished her first chapter book. All day I'd notice how quiet it was, and realize there was a Very Small Blonde Person following me around as though there was no one to entertain her... because her sister was busy reading. Ha! Reading! On purpose! O, the joy! And tonight she came to me and proudly announced that she'd finished her book. She told me all about every detail of it - ah ha! so that's where the magic potion idea came from (though the magpie intention was entirely her own.) The lucky book? "Ivy and Bean". From a "conservative mother" standpoint, I'm not all that certain I approve of the book, but I'm not gonna argue it now - she read a whole book!

I saved all my Babysitter's Club books from when I was a kid. They were my beloved, most treasured books. They've been in the basement waiting for some sweet little girl to read them again. I'd just about decided to give up on them, to wait to pull one out until Cora was old enough to read them. But maybe I'd better hold off on that decision - oh what fun it will be if she decides to take an interest in them! Or maybe I'd better start looking for the next book in the Ivy and Bean series instead... Either way, she's reading! Ha! I'm so happy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Because some people are just that nice.

It's been a heckuva two days. The flu showed up suddenly and in full force around 1 am on Sunday morning. Thankfully, it's only been me to feel it so far. I spent twelve hours sick to my stomach, wishing I could sleep but instead sitting on the cold, hard linoleum of the bathroom. Another twelve hours of writhing in bed, suffering miserable joint pain and body aches, fever and chills, exhaustion and dizziness, and I finally managed to get a few good hours' sleep and keep down a bowl of rice. Monday wasn't much better, hubby having gone back to work leaving me with the girls to try to care for. I'm lucky to have such good girls - they did make it easy on me. But oh, man, the flu really is misery at it's finest, like you're pretty sure you're not actually going to die, but you almost kind of just wish you would.

Or maybe not.

But anyway.

I finally sucked it up, forced my way through the dizziness and complete lack of depth perception, and tried to act like a mother again today. I even had the girls ready to go to dance class ten minutes early, therefore affording me enough time for a trip through the Starbucks' drive through. Because I'm convinced that a grande soy latte will cure any and everything that ails you. And when I got to the window? The lady in front of me had paid for my drink. Ha! I got Pay It Forwarded!

Before that, I was seriously re-thinking my decision to leave the house, my children were arguing in the back seat, all I could think about was how badly I wanted either a nap or a cup of coffee (or maybe both), and the guy at the drive-thru told me with a funny, happy little smile that the woman in front of me had paid for my order. How cool is that? I read about the whole "pay it forward" thing on Facebook all the time, even in the news once or twice, but I never really applied it to me. It was a funny sort of feeling - the first thing I thought was "I'm sure someone else deserves this more than I do," almost sort of guilty. But then I decided just to soak up the kindness - it certainly was a good day for it.

So, while I can't say for sure that the Starbucks made me feel any better, that sweet and thoughtful woman in front of me in the drive-thru sure did make my day a million times better.

Have you "paid it forward"? Or have you been on the receiving end of someone else's paying it forward? Do share your stories, I'd love to hear them. I'll definitely be passing along this treat to some unsuspecting soul soon.

"...freely you have received; freely give." Matthew 10:8