Friday, December 30, 2011

Hello, Again

Whoa!  Where in the world have I been, all five of you ask? I guess you could say I was on a vacation of sorts.  I had a party to put together for Alex - a superhero party, no less - and Christmas to get ready for.  To be honest, I was afraid to write a post because I was afraid whatever I wrote about was not going to be very interesting to read.  I guess I have to remember that the thing about blogging is that you write what you feel, whatever you want to write about, and people will read it if they want to.  That is a hard concept for me to grasp I suppose. 

So...I guess since we just finished up with Christmas, I can start with that.  We had a good Christmas.  But, let me back up and start with Christmas Eve first.  Benny had one last fling swinging from the living room ceiling fan.  What a treat that was for the kids to wake up to!  And let me tell you - I was all about doing the Elf on the Shelf thing this year, but man it is hard to come up with something different for him to do each morning!  I am a little happy (on the inside) that he has been packed away until next year.  Adios Benny!

We put out milk and cookies for Santa and of course some carrots for the reindeer before we put the kids to bed.

Then it was time to wrap presents.  I have a love-hate relationship with wrapping presents.  I hate to do it, but I love it when it is finished. 

We have these special Santa bags that we put the kids presents in and I love them.  I remember after we had Alex just how special it was for me that our new "family" start some traditions of our own.  These bags will always be a part of that tradition and I plan to drag them out every year until they have holes in them.  I want my kids to always remember these bags and all of the special things that we do around the holidays.  I always want to them to remember what it feels like to be "home."   

(You can purchase the Santa bags here, although I think they are a seasonal item:

Even at 33 years old, I still get so excited the night before Christmas.  Of course, when I was younger, it used to about the presents I would be receiving.  But now, I am excited for a different reason: for my kids' excitement.  It is so neat to me how, after you have kids, your excitement gets passed down, so to speak. 

So now, Christmas morning is, and always will be, so much sweeter thanks to them. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

From Our Home to Yours

So, we finally decorated our Christmas tree on Friday night.  I know, I know - we are a bit late getting it done, but at least it is done and now we can sit back and enjoy it. 

The Before...

The kids were very excited about it...or maybe more so about the popcorn I put out to munch on while we did it.  Mallory could have skipped decorating altogether and just had popcorn, I think.

So...back to the decorating.  I was very excited to let the kids help hang up ornaments - although they could only handle the non-glass ones and we had to go behind them and make a little space between them, since they tend to think that ornaments look best hung together, like grapes on a vine. :)

Benny the Elf was hanging out and observing, just like he always does. 

And the end result - I like to call it our "Christmas Corner."

And just some more decorations that I took photos of during the DAY - something that is possible while kids are napping! 

I love our little entryway decor (my husband made this table, by the way)...

Remember those Christmas pillows I showed you how to make?

And this is another Christmas pillow I made.  It was so easy and I love it!

Love these holiday vinyl decals on our stairs! 

Also loved the idea of using a party prop from Mallory's birthday party to display our Christmas cards.  SO cute!

And one last look at the outside entryway...

I hope you all have a great time decorating your homes for the holidays! 

(I would also like to thank Chuck for putting up 98% of these decorations! Love him so much!)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sewing Project: Custom Baby Blanket

OK, so Christmas is coming up SOON and I thought I would share this fairly easy tutorial on how to make a custom baby blanket for any moms or babies in your life this year.  Once again, the pictures are not the best quality due to my night sewing, so I apologize.

Materials you will need:
3 different types of fabric of your choosing - For example, I used polar fleece, flannel and a linen-type material.  For your main fabrics (which will be the front and back side of the blanket) you will need 1 yard of each.  For the third fabric, you may wish to use either 1/4 yard or less or possibly a remnant.  This fabric will be used to make the initial that will customize your blanket, so you will not need a lot of this fabric.

To start, I always pre-wash wash and dry my fabrics (and iron them if needed).  This will prevent shrinking and disfiguring after you have made the blanket.

Cut your main fabrics into 33 inch squares.  Not sure if you can tell from the picture, but I went with a navy blue with small yellow dotted flannel and a light grey polar fleece.

Now, you need to cut out your initial for the blanket.  I found a font that I liked through Microsoft Word, blew it up as much as I could and printed it out.  It still wasn't quite big enough for me, so I added a little width to it and then cut it out to use as my pattern.  Now, my letter was a "k" so when I was tracing the pattern onto my fabric, I made sure to trace it backwards.  I did this so that the pen I used would not show up on the right side of the letter when I flipped it over to sew it onto my blanket.  You do not have to do it this way, but this is how I chose to do it. 

Cut out your letter and...viola! 

Now, you need to sew your letter onto one of your fabric squares - whichever one you have chosen to be the front side of your blanket.  Pin the letter to the square to hold in it place.  I decided to put my letter in the corner - something just a little bit different and unique.

Now, sew your letter onto the square.  I chose to use a decorative stitch to do this.  This makes the sewing job look nice as well as helps keep your letter from fraying around the edges, depending on the stitch you choose.  If you do not have many stitch options on your machine, you can always use a zig zag stitch to do this.

The hardest part is done!  Now, you will need to put your squares together, with right sides facing towards each other.  Pin them together and sew around all of the edges, making sure to LEAVE A 4 TO 5 INCH OPENING so that you will be able to turn the blanket inside out. 

You are now ready to turn your blanket inside out, but before you do, remember to cut your corners!  This will make is easier to poke your corners out once the blanket is turned right side out.

Now, once you have your blanket turned right side out, poke out your corners either with your finger or the end of a pencil (eraser end, not lead end). 

At this point, you may want to iron your blanket out, making sure to fold down the fabric at your opening and ironing it down as well.  Pin the fabric at the opening closed.

Next, you are going to make a straight stitch around your entire blanket.  This will add a bit more decoration to your blanket as well as close the opening.

And, your blanket is FINISHED!  Step back and admire your work.

Who wouldn't LOVE this custom, adorable, HANDMADE blanket as their Christmas gift??  And they will never know how easy it was to make!

I hope the tutorial was easy to follow.  Enjoy making all kinds of blankets now!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hello December!

I know we are already a few days into December, but can I just say how crazy it is to me that Christmas is LESS than 20 days away??  I am feeling the pressure - gifts to buy, things to sew.  Not to mention the fact that Alex's birthday was Sunday the 4th, Chuck's is the 19th and the father-in-law's is the 22nd!  Craziness! 

I also totally skipped over Alex's birthday!  When in the world did he turn FOUR?

It is so crazy how soon you forget what they were like as babies.  We adapt and get used to how they are "now" and those memories from the past are fleeting.  It is bittersweet - our kids growing up.  You want to stop time yet you want them to advance forward - learning new things and becoming more independent.  I do remember that he was a wonderful baby with wild, wispy blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes.  The hair has tamed down, but the eyes are still the same. 

And those eyes...when I look in them I remember. 

(Photo courtesy of Holly Kittle Photography)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sewing Project: Christmas Pillow Tutorial

(OK, first things first - I apologize for the quality of the pictures in this tutorial.  I have to do a lot of my sewing at night after the kids go to bed, so I had to use a flash or low lighting on the pictures.) 

Disclaimer: I am not an expert sewer.  I have mostly taught myself, minus the little bit I remember from watching my grandmother sew when I was younger. 

I'll start out with a picture of my sewing room:

Wait.  That looks like my dining room.  That's because it is.  I only wish I had a sewing room, but you do what you gotta do, right?

Now, I'll introduce you to my friend, sewing machine:

I got her for my birthday this year and it has been the best gift I've ever gotten.  I really do love to sew.

As far as the basis for this post, Chuck wanted some Christmas pillows for decorations this year, so I decided to see if I could sew some.  Turns out, I can (well, good enough for ME anyway :)).  I decided to post this tutorial for those of you who want to give it a try as well.

For this pillow, you will need:

3 different colors of felt (I have found that cut felt from the roll/bolt works better than the cheaper  individual squares): For the main pillow body, you will need 1/2 yard at the least.  For the ornaments, just 1/4 yard or less.
Polyfil or similar stuffing

Cut your main color of felt into two 18 inch squares.  (For my pillow I had one long piece, about 36 inches, that I just folded in half rather than cut into two squares.  You can do it either way.)

To start, cut out 3 different (or the same, if you prefer) patterns of ornaments from one of your 1/4 yard pieces of felt.  I found my patterns here:

After you have your patterns cut out, you can embellish them however you like. I chose to cut "stripes" out of a different colored felt, using the third 1/4 yard of felt.  I then sewed the stripes onto the ornaments in a coordinating colored thread.   (Now, I had already sewed on my ornaments before I started taking pics for this tutorial, but you can still see what I did.)

Then, place your ornaments where you want them on the pillow, pin them to it and sew around the edges of the ornaments onto your pillow.  I chose to stagger mine so they would look more like hanging ornaments.

Next, I used a pencil to draw a straight line from the top of each of my ornaments straight up to the top of the square. 

Now, it's time to get your yarn out.  For the next step, I used the biggest needle I had - with the biggest hole - to thread yarn through it.  It is not easy to get through the eye, but just keep trying.  Tie a knot in one end.  The yarn is not doubled. 

Your first stitch should start at the top or an ornament, as close to the edge of the felt as you can get.  Come through the backside of your square, like you see here:

Pull the needle back through the felt, right through the pencil line you made earlier.  You can make your stitch as long as you want. 

You first stitch should look something like this:

Now, for your next stitch, come back through as close to the end of the first stitch as possible.

Continue to stitch like this until you have reached the top of the square, making sure your last stitch is pulled through the back of the square.  Tie a knot in the end and cut the yarn.  Do this for all of your ornaments.

Now, it's time to sew your pillow together!  Put right sides together - it normally wouldn't matter with solid colored felt, but you'll want to make sure that your ornaments are facing in, rather than out.

Pin your squares together and sew all the edges closed, leaving about a 4 to 5 inch opening in the bottom. 

You will now need to turn the pillow inside out, but before you do, clip your corners.  This makes it easier to poke your corners out when you have turned the pillow right side out.

Now, turn your pillow inside out!  Poke out the corners and you are almost done!

Stuff your pillow with Polyfil as full as you would like.  Be sure to stuff the corners. 

Now, to close the opening, you can either sew it closed with your sewing machine or you can hand stitch it.  I chose to hand stitch it closed, so I would not have a seam.  (Note: You WILL have a small seam if you use your sewing machine to close the opening.)  I had not hand stitched before, so I used this tutorial to learn how to do it:

Here is what your pillow will look like with a closed seam (yours may look a lot better!):

And now, I have some pretty, HANDMADE Christmas pillows to use for decorating this year and each year after that.  I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and I hope I didn't leave anything out!