Recent Creations

1. I thought this pattern for baby boots was the cutest thing ever, and they did turn out pretty well. The big downside is that they don’t stay on M’s feet for more than a second. I thought they’d stay in place, since the tops of the boots can be tightened around her leg, but nope. As soon as she takes a step, they start sliding down and bunch up under her heels. I’m not sure why / what the solution is. They’re borderline too small for her (the pattern only goes up to size 5, which should be okay for M, but my seams might have been too generous), but it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t just slip off more quickly if they were bigger. Shoot!

2. I haven’t done much screen printing, but when I’ve made screens in the past, I’ve always used drawing fluid and screen filler. When I took it out the other day, both bottles had dried up! The bottles of photo emulsion seemed okay (they all came in the same starter kit a few years back), so I tried that method for the first time. I cut out the shapes from card and taped them to a large piece of glass, and then I used a dry-erase marker to make the little dots. I wasn’t sure the screen had exposed properly (I used one of my big CFL grow-light bulbs) because the emulsion didn’t really change color. But it washed out perfectly! I did some test prints on canvas last night, and I quite like it. I could use some more practice with the printing process!

3. My grandma got rid of some of her old sewing patterns a while back, and I now have McCall’s pattern 6322, which has a few different stuffed animals. I just had to try making the duck, and it’s very duck-shaped! I’m not sure I’ve ever used a pattern for a stuffed animals that wasn’t basically doll-style. This one was quite clever, and I had fun picking out the fabric from my stash. M will get it for Christmas.

I do most of my sewing/creating on the weekend or after dinner, but it’s pretty much always while M is awake and playing. She’s (usually) so good at playing independently, although I’ve been naughtily letting her disorganize things to get a few more minutes to finish projects here and there. The family room is a little bit shocking right now — she figured out how to get to the DVDs, so she’s done a thorough job of inspecting those, and she’s about halfway through sorting out the box of fabric scraps she found. I had filled a basket with baby toys that she’d outgrown, but I didn’t get it put away into storage yet, so of course she found those, and OF COURSE they’re now the funnest toys in the house. But never mind. She’s happy, and it can all get tidied up later.

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Our Day

I squeezed some extra little tasks into our usual morning today. Made some bread that’s okay-but-not-amazing. What I’d really like is a no-fail, idiot-proof bread machine — is there one of those? I got this to rise nicely by putting it in the oven with just the light on, but it wasn’t amazing after being baked. I’d love to be able to make our bread and get away from all those plastic bags, but it would have to be good sandwich bread (and usually I make bread that’s only good for toasting).

I tried to organize the pantry a little, while M actively undid the previous day’s organizing. It’s hard to want to stop her, though, when she seems so methodical and enthusiastic. Oh well!

I made mini quesadilla triangles and some fake chicken for lunch, and we both had guacamole. On the whole, M has been doing a lot better since she had the procedure to stretch the narrowing in her esophagus (back in July). But there are times when she’ll have trouble swallowing foods that I know she’s had no problem with before. I think it’s just a matter of how well she chews her food during any given meal. Today was a bad-chewing lunch, and she had a hard time getting her food down. I try not to short-order cook for M, so I don’t offer alternatives when she simply doesn’t WANT to eat something, but it’s different when she’s trying to eat and having trouble. So she wound up having a LOT of guacamole for lunch, plus a fruit and veggie pouch. And a few nibbles of crackers. The ladies at Tobies think it’s so funny that M likes guacamole — and, of course, it’s best eaten with one’s hands. So M had a rinse in the bathtub after lunch.

The rest of the day (when we weren’t snuggling) was spent working, of course, while M napped or wandered around the living room and kitchen. She’s been so busy lately, and it’s interesting to see what grabs her attention. She gets so absorbed in her books and can ‘read’ quietly by herself for quite a while.

In the photo of Nova on the little rug, she was carefully positioned in front of a furnace vent. Once, I caught Bear lying right on top of one, and I can’t blame them for soaking up the warmth. It’s been chilly! Bear and Birdy are still on alternate schedules (when one is free to roam the house, the other gets locked up) because Birdy won’t stop being mean. But Beany is much more accepting, as you can see!

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Our Weekend

M is turning into such a kid! Earlier today, I wanted to move (and to move her) from the hallway to her play area in the family room, and I was able to just take her hand and lead her there instead of picking her up. I still enjoy carrying her around, but it’s fun to walk places with her.

We had a really nice weekend — my mom spent Saturday night and was here most of the day beforehand. M loves playing with her grandma! And I was able to get the new cabinet (Rob says we should call them ‘cupboard toppers’) into place and attach the trim. I still have a little more caulking and painting to do, but it’s really starting to look like it did in my head.

M is starting to get a little better with a fork — she usually uses a small toddler fork with metal tines and a rubbery handle, but I gave her mine today when I finished eating. There’s a LOT of concentration that goes into trying to get a piece of food onto the fork. She’s quite nimble about putting the fork in just the right spot, but she still hasn’t mastered the stabbing motion. She did a good job with the eggs and potatoes we had for lunch today, though, especially the bits she discovered were hiding in her bib pouch.

I pulled out M’s crayons (a Melissa and Doug set) for the first time in a while this afternoon. Before today, she hadn’t really gotten the concept of making marks with them. But I drew a heart for her today, to show her how they work, and then she was off and running. She had to take every crayon out of the case, of course. There was quite a nice collection of different-colored lines when she was finished. There’s nothing better than watching her realize what new thing she’s capable of doing!

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– We got a ‘little bit’ of snow on Monday! (M is in her snow pants in the second photo — we had to go check out the snow.) It’s hard to tell how much, exactly, because it always drifts so badly out here. There are places where I can see grass poking through and others where the snow comes up to above my knee. I’ve decided to be relentlessly positive about winter this year — no complaining from me. I’m just trying to enjoy the beauty of it. And the coziness of being inside.

– In my free time, I’ve been building the cabinet (shelf? — I can never decide what to call it) to go above the short run of kitchen cupboards. It needs one more coat of paint and then can go up. I’m still intimidated by the nail gun, though, and I’ll need to use that to attach the trim.

– In my not-free time, I’ve been proofing the sequel to this book. I really enjoyed that one, but I’ve been really enjoying this new one. The author has such a knack for creating words and elaborating on concepts. This was the first book of his that we published — I love that one, too. I never really talk about the books I’m working on, but maybe it’s interesting? Yes/no? Depends if you like books, I suppose.

– Yesterday, while I was putting M’s left sock on, she was busy trying to put on the right one. She managed to find the top of it and stretch it open to get her toes on, but the coordination for the rest eluded her. I was impressed, though! She’s also started patting my shoulder when I’m holding her and calling one of the pets — I guess because I pat my leg to get them to come over. It’s funny what little kids learn even when you’re not going out of your way to teach these things.

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What M’s Up To

I’m not planning to continue ‘formal’ monthly updates for M now that she’s a year old, so I’ll probably just write posts here and there to mention what she’s up to. Here are just some little bits and pieces:

– M is big into putting lids on containers right now. She figured out how to screw the top onto the little bottles I used to freeze milk (we accumulated a load of them in the hospital!). We were at my parents’ house when she started doing it, and my mom and I would cheer ‘YAY!’ for her each time she put the lid on the bottle. After one big cheer, she tried and couldn’t get the lid off, so she decided to act as though she’d successfully put the lid on again. She held it up and gave a big ‘YEEEEY!’ — we weren’t fooled, but she was very happy for herself.

– We just started using the mei tai back carry every now and then. Usually M is happy playing on her own while I do chores, but every so often she wants to be with me or gets fixated on doing something she shouldn’t, so it’s handy to strap her on my back. She loves it. I’m a little surprised we never tried the back carry before now, but it makes it easy now that she can stand up behind me to get in. It would be really tricky to get her wrapped up like that if we were out of the house, though. I thought maybe it would be easier with the Ergo, but it was actually MORE challenging — and less comfortable. I don’t think I have a very ergonomic body.

– Now that M uses her straw sippy, she’s much more amenable to the idea of those squishy pouches of food. She’s pretty much always been ~0% interested in having me feed her with a spoon, so purees and cereal haven’t played much of a role in her diet until recently (which is kind of backwards). There is ONE fruity pouch she likes (Ella’s Kitchen Pear-Mango-Papaya), and right now she loves having baby oatmeal from a reusable pouch in the morning. I mix up two servings with just a tiny bit of brown sugar and cinnamon, and she’s so excited when I bring it over to her at the table. Same with yogurt.

– I took these photos after putting M’s hair up. First I asked her to brush her hair (the top photo) and then to brush mine (she’s reaching out to brush me in the second photo). She doesn’t always love having her hair brushed, just because she has better things to do after a bath, but it’s always more fun for her if she gets to brush my hair (or Kitty Cat Doll’s hair) afterwards. Oh, and she’s not actually a redhead, as these photos would suggest!

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I’ve mentioned several times how apathetic I’ve felt about food/cooking both while pregnant and since M has been around. Part of it has just been down to my energy level, I’m sure — it’s hard to want to stand around chopping vegetables (or even to think up creative meals) when you’re super tired. I’m also starting to wonder what role hormones have played. M is drinking cow’s milk during the day (with a bottle of pumped milk from the freezer before bed — until it runs out in another ~10 days), and suddenly I’m feeling like I want to eat real food again. That’s real food as compared to the zillions of grilled cheeses and bowls of macaroni and cheese and plates of chips and cheese (noticing a pattern?) I’ve eaten in the past 1.5+ years.

I didn’t feel particularly hungry this past year, but I had to eat a LOT to stay at a sensible weight (obnoxious but true). I thought it would be hard to give up my calorie-burning super power and return to eating like a normal person, but it’s actually feeling like a big relief at the moment. I sort of wonder if my desire to eat carbs and cheese (and donuts — let’s not forget all the donuts) was really a craving for calories in their most convenient forms.

Anyway, I pulled out Appetite for Reduction yesterday and went to the supermarket, and today I made the black bean chili and cornbread. I used extra olive oil in the chili, since neither I nor M need to have a low-fat/calorie diet. I’ve made this chili a couple of times before, and I really like it. And so did M! It has a tiny bit of heat from 3Tbsp of chili powder, but M still gobbled it down. In the few months she’s been seriously eating solids, she’s ‘always’ preferred assembled meals like this instead of a random selection of foods. So that’s more motivation to keep cooking!

Maybe next, I’ll see what M thinks of Thai green curry with tofu. I bet she’d like it!

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I posted this photo on Instagram and captioned it ‘YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT.’ — because if you decorate for the holidays in November, people are always all, ‘Noooo, not Christmas!’; ‘What about Thanksgiving?’; ‘It’s toooo early!’ But I don’t care. It’s a lot of work to put up all the decorations, so I want some time to enjoy them. And I just really like that Christmas-y, wintery feeling.

Anyway, I haven’t finished putting everything up yet, but I also have to take care of the small pile of lumber that’s sitting in the entry way right now. We’d like to extend the kitchen cabinets to the ceiling by building boxes that will (I hope) look something quite a lot like this. My plan is to try building one for the short run of cabinets over the microwave — if it feels doable, I’ll eventually finish the rest, but if it’s looks crappy and/or seems impossible, then at least I won’t have bought materials for the entire project.

I’d also like to build a small shelving unit for the mud/workroom. Kind of like this. I’d use 2x2s instead of 2x4s, but it seems like both of those are available only in construction grade, and I don’t love how they have rounded corners. And I don’t even have a table saw, so I can’t make my own.

What other crazy ideas were Rob and I coming up with? Oh yeah, I was going to build a room inside the barn — a finished, heated space for the workbenches, etc. And replace all the window/door molding in the house with something more like this. Which, of course, would mean painting all the fiddly woodwork around the windows white, too. MY FAVORITE THING. (Not.) But I think it’s going to have to happen sooner or later. Probably later, but not a distant later — not, like, twenty years from now.

For now, I’m going to focus on those holiday decorations and maybe work on the new cabinet box here and there. It turns out that the baby STILL can’t watch herself, and work STILL doesn’t magically get done on its own. Tsk.

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Kitty Cat M

Unsurprisingly, M was a kitty cat for Halloween. She loves cats. She didn’t realize that she was a cat today, of course, but we went out for lunch, and everybody enjoyed seeing how extra cute she was. And she enjoyed some cuddling with the baby cat:

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Review: Uncommon Goods

On M’s birthday, we received a really fun package in the mail! About a week earlier, I’d been contacted by Uncommon Goods to see if I’d be interested in writing a review. I don’t do many reviews, and sometimes I’m a little hesitant to commit to writing about a company/product if I’m not sure I’ll love it — but that wasn’t a concern in this case! Just reading a little about the store had me really excited: lots of handmade products, lots of items made in the USA, and lots of recycled materials. They’re dedicated to making responsible environmental choices AND donate money to charities. So I was on board from the get-go.

I spent a looong time browsing the gifts for babies section (here), of course. The company offered to send me a few products so I’d have something to review, and all I ever think about (it seems) is what M would like. But I also looked around the section here for gifts for women, as well as the stocking stuffers category. Mainly, though, I wished I had found the site before I’d bought all of M’s birthday gifts! There are just so many fun choices that are really different from what I’ve seen a hundred times a standard store shelves.

I wound up choosing a state dish towel for myself, since I like all (well, most) things Minnesotan. And for M, I chose the Stacrobats and baby tube socks. And honestly, for real-reals, I’m so impressed by the quality of this stuff! Everything is just SO perfect for gift-giving. The tea towel came in a little fabric envelope, which makes it feel really special. I had thought the cross-stitch border was just part of the print, but it’s real stitching. So nice.

M has really enjoyed her gifts, too. I had been looking for nice-quality knee-high socks for her a while back and never found anything — these ones are PERFECT! I suppose four pairs of baby/toddler socks for $30 seems pricey compared to really cheap baby socks, but M isn’t too tough on her clothes (yet), so it’s worth it to pay more for something that can hold up to frequent washing and still feel nice. I actually paid more for her Smartwool socks a while back — I feel like you shouldn’t mess around with keeping toes warm during Minnesota winters. I feel silly going on and on about socks, but these knee highs are just sooo cute, and the primary fiber is bamboo, so they’re super soft, too. I love that I’ll be able to put them on under M’s pants to keep her legs warm when it’s really chilly outside. They came in a tiny tin lunchbox, which, again, is just such clever packaging for a gift.

We both are goofing around with the Stacrobats a ton. M immediately started playing with the jingling balls — I think she’s had more fun with those than anything I gave her for her birthday! The carrying case (which is also the stage that the Stacrobats stick to) is really heavy-duty for a toy, and I think we’ll be toting these guys with us when we travel here and there.

I don’t want to sound too infomercial-y, but if you’re shopping for holiday gifts — for anybody, but especially for young kids — check out Uncommon Goods. Our little presents have been such a delight. I just love finding surprises for people that they’ll want/use but would never have expected, and Uncommon Goods really fits the bill!

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