Monday, July 27, 2015

The Fine Art of Momming: Letting Yourself Go

So there are plenty of articles out there about how socially unacceptable it is that your average kid-toting Mom has "let herself go", meaning that she no longer engages in regular showering, attractive clothing, or makeup, and is likely a few (or many) pounds heavier than she was pre-kids. Apparently, we should all pick ourselves up, hire a sitter, buy a new wardrobe, spend time on our hair and makeup, and have some Pride in Ourselves for once. How incredibly insulting... hinging our supposed self-worth on some unrealistic image of what Mothers should look or act like while we are busy crafting the life experiences of our little ones.

The media definitely does nothing to help the situation, continually showing us "inspiring" images of hot celebs who worked their tails off to recover their post-pregnancy figures thru personal training and diets. I'm sure there are admirable folks who do it all on their own, or have bodies that recover more readily than average. We are all so different! Let's not waste time getting down on ourselves for not fitting a certain mold. Graciously congratulate those who look amazing after childbirth, and have a heart for those who don't.

Before my kids I was an athletic size 4 (US) who enjoyed hiking, camping, dancing, attending festivals, and hula hooping. I never was much into hair and makeup, but at least I looked put together on a daily basis. Things were clean and shaved. Hair was up.

Well, life goes on. Two beautiful children later, I am a new person. Size 14 and holding! Despite eating right and working out, my body tends to hold on to the baby weight for at least 18 months after childbirth. Something tells me that waiting until my mid-thirties to start my little family may have contributed to a harder physical recovery. Why should I have to apologize to the world for that? I'm proud and endlessly grateful that my body was able to bear two healthy children Earthside, and is now taking their continued abuse in stride! LOL

I lost my entire shoe collection in this deal due to spreading feet, not to mention I am still wearing my pregnancy clothes because nothing else fits yet. I don't have the funds to simply replace my ill-fitting clothing with attractive new things that make me feel beautiful right now. AND THAT'S OK. I'd rather spend our hard-earned money on the kids, their clothing and fun times. There will come a time when the kids are in school, I'm working again, and a new wardrobe will be a wonderful treat. Kind of a "congrats, you came out the other side of this toddler thing alive" shopping spree. But for now, I am absolutely fine wearing the same 3 things over and over. First world problems, right?! Gratitude for what we DO have can take us far.

Being a present, caring, engaging Mom (or Dad) is a fine art. It takes creativity, passion, and self-sacrifice. Maybe I haven't showered in a week, but my kids are clean and in dry diapers. Win! Maybe my hair looks like I slept in that ponytail (which I probably did) and I have no makeup on and I'm heading into Wal-Mart in my yoga pants which haven't been washed since the baby spit up on them. But you know what? Those kids are getting ALL of me. Every last bit, from 2 AM feedings to fun activities and trips to the park. Much like an artist that neglects their own needs while working on a masterpiece, we tend to put ourselves second to our children. AND THAT'S OK. No one needs to make you feel guilty about selfless acts of parenting! We are the painters and our children are a blank canvas. Filling those canvasses with joy and meaningful life experiences is so much more important than what anyone else thinks of me, personally.

I choose not to stress out about how I look or feel at this stage in life. Putting pressure on ourselves to be all things to all people is a major cause of anxiety for Moms. Husbands and boyfriends need to be understanding participants in the journey, not add to our stress with unrealistic expectations and needs. After two and a half years of late nights walking the baby and toddler meltdowns, my husband is in need of a shave and a haircut himself! AND THAT'S OK TOO. This time is brief and fleeting, when it's gone it's gone. When the kids are older and I have time to care again, they won't remember how haggard Mom & Dad looked when they were small. Yoga pants and messy hair will fade into the background in the wake of amazing experiences and unconditional love. They will hopefully have lasting memories of the fun moments we participated in together, and the love they felt from us as parents. My kids will probably never even notice how much I let myself go... They're too busy singing "Let it Go".

Also, I will destroy all truly unflattering pictures. LOL

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cliff-side Living: Our Cute New Fenced Yard for Toddlers

Recently I had children, and the previously romantic reality of cliff-side living became a little more high-stakes to say the least. Chasing an energetic toddler with a baby in my arms while she teetered on the edge of oblivion picking flowers was a potential heart attack situation. I quickly determined I would be needing a YARD. Fenced, safe, and friendly for the next few years of tiny feet.

 These two spent plenty of time outside in the shade, taking in the beauty of their surroundings and learning to love nature.
 This outdoor carpet keeps the deck friendly for bare feet and picnics. It gets great shade most of the day. This year has been so dry, the mosquitoes haven't been bad! These are the little things that make summer great.
Some scraps of outdoor carpet over the gravel walkway help us get from the stairs to the deck, yard, or sandbox. The fence behind the little house is incomplete, but will be closed soon. New grass surrounds the little house, which also has a charming stone doorstep.
 I like to sit on the lawn chair and watch Clara play with the kitties in their plush kennel.
We replaced the rotten bottom step of the stairs with some wood that happened to be blue, LOL. We'll have to paint that brown. Thank you for visiting our little cliff-side oasis this summer, may cool breezes and lovely shade be in your plans this month!

Monday, December 15, 2014

How To Make a Barbie Doll Quilt

My daughter loves to put her Barbies to bed. For Christmas I made her a full sized toddler quilt and a matching lap quilt in Frozen movie themed colors to go with her posters and toys. It's her favorite movie right now, she loves to sing all the songs and enjoys anything Elsa and Anna related. With the leftover tiny scraps I decided to make a Barbie sized quilt to match. This is a fun and easy project to do with your little quilt scraps.
These are the leftover squares from making the larger quilts, they were originally cut as 4 1/2" squares to allow for 1/4" seams.
After considering how to get the most tiny squares out of my scraps, I cut the 4 1/2" squares into 1 1/2" squares. That allowed for 9 tiny squares per block.

 After cutting as many 1 1/4" squares as possible, I used my quilting grid to lay out my squares in a pattern. I always start with the boldest color and then fill in around it.

 I used the main pattern of my daughter's toddler bed quilt so they would match, and I had already spent a lot of time working out the pattern to look like a snowflake starburst.
 Next, I folded over the second row on top of the first, then stacked the pairs from bottom to top to be fed through the sewing machine in that order, sewing the right edge on each pair. This helps me keep the blocks organized.
 Here are some of the paired rows sewn together in long strings, like those Mexican flags. You can open the pairs up and press them with an iron before continuing.
 Next I sewed the pairs together in long columns. There was one column of three at the end because I used an uneven number of rows. Try to iron in between each step, it makes the seams come out more evenly.
 After I sewed the tall rows together, I needed a few more inches to make it Barbie bed sized. Since this was my first doll quilt, I really didn't know how big to make it. You could add a few more rows of squares, or several borders, depending on your taste. I had some long skinny strips left over that fit perfectly.
 I used the finished, ironed top to measure out a backing piece. I also had leftover material from putting the backs on the bigger quilts.
I sewed the top and back together with right sides facing, leaving a hole about 3-4 inches long in one side to flip the whole thing right-side out later. In a similar manner, I used the measurement just inside the outer seam to cut a piece of extra batting. This could be made of felt, or skipped altogether for something as small as a doll blanket.
 Now it was time to flip! My mom always told me to roll the edges inward and that helps keep the batting in place while you push it through the hole.
 To flip everything right-side out, stuff it all through the hole you left and carefully spread it out, pushing the corners out and straightening any clumped batting inside. Hand-stitch or machine sew the hole closed on the edge.
 Here's the finished quilt! Some people use embroidery floss to make little ties at the corners and keep the batting in place, or "quilt" the top using "stitching in the ditch" in certain areas, and the more skilled quilters do elaborate swirls and such. I doubt the batting on a doll quilt is going to move much, but I stitched a few lines around the middle square and outside of the pattern to keep it all in place.
 I think the two doll quilts turned out super cute! The doll bedding will match her toddler bed and lap blanket perfectly. She seemed very happy when I handed them to her, and that's all I care about. What a great use for those tiny scraps... I'm sure I will be making more in the future!

Thanks for reading! Quilts and other fun costumes & accessories can be found at my ETSY shop, Isles of Day. Join me at Isles of Day on Facebook & Pinterest, and keep up with my blog at Deep Forest Groove! Blessings to you.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Color Boxes for Montessori Toddler Sorting & Sensory Activities

Last year I was browsing through an educational toy catalogue when I discovered the color boxes. There was a set of 4 primary colors, created out of sewn fabric boxes, and filled with objects representing the colors (In the yellow box, a stuffed banana, sun, lemon, etc.).
Of course, I had to go really wild with the idea. I found small cardboard boxes at the craft store and painted them 8 shades of the pastel rainbow using acrylic paints, with 8 shades of the jewel toned rainbow represented on the insides. I lined the inside of each lid with coordinating colored felt so the lids wouldn't stick when closed.

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Pink, Silver/Grey

I placed them all in a larger white cardboard box, also found at the craft store for about $5.

 I sealed them with a coat of non-toxic clear acrylic. These should not be used with toddlers that like to chew on things... my two year old no longer does.

 Inside, I glued the felt circles of coordinating colors so they wouldn't stick when closed.

A beautiful display! We love finding treasures of all colors to place inside the boxes. Additionally there could be a brown and a black box added to the collection.

Hope you enjoyed this idea, please continue to follow us on Deep Forest Groove, or visit our Facebook at Isles of Day! Blessings to you!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Make a Barbie Bed for Under $10

As a consummate fool for DIY, it is difficult for me to pay full price for an object I know I could make. My daughter has an obsession with putting her dollies and stuffed animals to bed. She covers them with little blankies and says "close your eyes" and tells me they are sleeping. So I knew it was time to give her Barbies a proper place to lay their nappy heads.

I shopped fruitlessly for a sturdy looking, affordable bed choice for the dollies, and concluded that I was either going to spend $20 on some sub-par plastic garbage from somewhere in Asia, or $30-$50 for a hand-crafted wooden model. For a doll, this was too much. I knew immediately I had to make it myself.

Upon reading several tutorials about making one out of a cereal box, pencils, & colorful duck tape, I hit the local Michael's Crafts to see what I could find. Lo and behold, in the unfinished wood aisle I came across two shallow wooden boxes that nested perfectly within each other, for under $10 combined!

The important thing is to find a base that is at least 12" long, to fit the height of the Barbies. Even if you do not find two boxes that nest perfectly, if you can find something as wide or slightly wider that you can butt up against the base as a headboard it will still work.

I measured the headboard box (which was 10" square) at the 3 1/2" mark and cut it with a skil saw set on it's shallowest depth to reduce splintering. If you do not have this option, perhaps you could find two shorter plaques to use as the ends, or leave off the footboard.

The next step was to wood-glue the ends on, clamping them with simple kitchen bag clips for a couple hours until the Tacky Glue dried. 

See, doesn't Barbie look comfortable? Oh wait, maybe she needs a mattress or something! LOL 

After painting the entire thing navy blue (the flash brightened it up) with basic craft paint, I wood-glued a sheet of sequins to the inside of the header & footer for interest, topped with a row of acrylic jewels to fill the gap at the top. 

The white you see showing behind the sequins is actually wet glue. It will dry clear in a few hours. I painted hot pink behind the jeweled sheet so anything showing through would match. And because, well, Barbie!

After the paint was dry (and I may go back and add a layer of clear with glitter in it to seal it later, we'll see...) it was time to make this bed a little more comfortable for the fake plastic ladies who would inhabit it. (And maybe someday, Ken if he's lucky. Although I may have to make a couch for him. Or a doghouse. LOL)

I used fabric scraps to make a little mattress and pillows. Using the size of the bed base for a measurement, I cut the pieces 1/2" wider all the way around to allow for the 1/4" seams. I sewed it inside out, leaving a hole in one end to stuff it with batting. Then I flipped it and stuffed it with flat batting. You could use a piece of flat foam or a scrap of bubble wrap if you don't have any batting, lots of things could work. Then I simply sewed the end shut by rolling the open part over once and zig-zag stitching. The pillows were made the same way.

I found a couple blanket scraps I liked and made both a thin navy and a thick pink blanket for the bed. I suppose the thin one could be used as a sheet if your kiddos are old enough to get that concept. I did hem the edges about 1/4" all the way around to give it a finished look. If you are sewing by hand and using fabric that doesn't fray, you could get away with skipping that step and still be fine. make sure to measure a little wider than the bed so the blankies drape nicely over the sides.

At this point you could really do anything with this, paint little designs or stencils on it, embellish it with those wooden painted hearts or flowers they sell in the wood aisle at the craft store, cover it with acrylic jewels, whatever your little girl would like best. I tried to keep it simple because my daughter is still really young, but if your child is older perhaps including them in the process, or making a little quilt together for the bed would be fun.

Hope this tutorial helps save you money and give you the perfect custom option! Join me for other costume and crafting fun at Isles of Day on Facebook!