Monday, May 21, 2012

A Sewing Hiatus

I've been sewing a bit lately - projects you've seen here mostly.  And I've got a few ideas for things around here that need doing.  Sadly all sewing projects are on hold for the immediate future.

Here's why:

Did this:

So I need a new one of those.  Apparently an important piece of a sewing machine.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


About 3 years ago I saw a box at BJs Wholesale club that allegedly had 2 lilac bushes in it and it cost about $12.  I love lilacs so I snagged the box.  When I got home, I opened it up and found 2 sticks and some dirt.  I was skeptical but I stuck the sticks in some pots with some nice potting soil and watered them regularly.  :Lo and behold, the sticks sprouted leaves and new branches and over the next few years they grew and prospered.  Then a frost killed one and I was left with one little lilac bush.

Fast forward to last weekend when Jason & I busted our bums to get the veggie garden in, and remember that Jason got all manly and dug up stumps and whatnot.  Well the corner of the garage where we once had some weird scrub tree was the perfect spot for the lilac shrub!

Today was the first day this week that the weather was nice enough to do some work outdoors.  I started out using a shovel to dig the edges of the new bed.  I wanted it to be rounded at the corner of the garage and extend straight over to the veggie garden and then down the side of the garage toward the door.  For now it's just a little bump in that direction.

Then I turned up all the dirt, pulled up clumps of grass and encountered a few obstacles.  First off, the corner section still had a TON of roots from the old tree that was there.  I went at it with the pick-ax.  In addition to the roots, I dug up a few bricks and found even MORE bricks.  I'm not exactly sure why there are bricks buried 4" underground, but I think it has something to do with an ancient patio.

After turning up the soil, I dumped in a bit of bagged garden soil we had leftover in the garage.  I turned that in.

Then I made a hole in the ground deep enough so that the top of the dirt from the lilac bush was an inch or so above level with the ground.  I filled in with dirt and then spread mulch over it.

I need a bit more mulch to finish it off, but here you can see where I'm going with this.

The other part of the garden here is that I've prepped a bed for some blueberry bushes!!  I think I'll be able to fit 2-3 in that space between the garden and the corner.  How cool will that be?!?

Here you can see how little this looks in the grand scheme of the back yard.  Please excuse the ugly lawn.  I blame the beagle.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day to ME!

Happy MD to all the moms out there (biological, adoptive, foster, surrogate, etc)!   You're all amazing.  We are all so wonderful and I hope you all enjoyed your weekend of appreciation as much as I did.  Some mamas might spend their weekend doing pleasant things like Girls' Night Out or the always popular mani-pedi with wine.  Here MD was active and dirty.  Jason asked what I wanted for a gift and after thinking for about 15 seconds I said - a bigger veggie garden.

We put in our veggie garden the summer after we moved into this place.  It was serviceable - especially for 2 people coming from an apartment.  Two 4' x 4' boxes seemed like tons of space for us.  Wow - we were so wrong!  For years we've been dealing with overcrowded tomatoes, shadowed peppers, and not enough space to plant lettuce.  So this year, I told the old boy that we needed to expand and Mother's Day weekend was the perfect time.  Here's what we started with (before spring cleaning):

First off we planned our attack.  My initial hopes were to expand enormously.  To create a little farm with rows upon rows of delicious fresh produce.  But common sense intervened and instead we decided to merely double our garden.  The plan was to move one square closer to the garage and to enclose the space between the 2 squares as our new space.  Easy peasy right?  Well sort of.  It wasn't "hard" so much as it was laborious.

Day One (Saturday) began with a walk through and some serious digging on Jason's part.  Aside from our two sweet veggie patches, our back yard had once been home to some weird fence.  The weird fence was gone, but alas the concrete footers remained.  In addition, our back yard also once had some weird scrub tree.  Last year I hired a local landscaper to come in and cut it out, which was awesome but there was this pesky stump leftover.  So Jason dug out two enormous concrete footers and one pesky stump.  He's awesome and manly when he does stuff like this.  I baked him brownies as a "thank you".  This was also the day where I started digging up the grass between the two beds.

Day Two (Sunday) began with some Mother's Day awesomeness.  I got to loll around in bed for a bit.  Jason and the kids brought me my everything bagel and cream cheese and some cards.  It was nice.  Once I did get up, it was time to rock and roll.  I sent Jason out front to play with the little guys while I went to town on the remaining dirt in the garden.  This took way too long.  I'm not a landscape superstar, but it did get done.

Next up was moving the square toward the garage.  The box was just sunk in the ground and held in place with dirt, so freeing it up was as easy as digging.

The sides of the new rectangle (between the 2 boxes) are made of the same pressure-treated 2x10s that we had built the boxes from before.  Jason trimmed the board to the precise length with a skill saw.

It was a little tricky to get the different components lined up & level, but with some digging and adjusting, we got things working well.  He attached everything together with some 2 1/2 inch deck screws.

I always like to till in a little new soil each year - maybe some day we'll have our own compost to add, but this year we went with a yard of peat moss and some garden soil.  The peat helps lighten up the soil and the garden soil has fresh nutrients for the plants.  It's not a required step, but I think it helps.

Turning this stuff in only took about 20 minutes with a shovel and I used a rake to smooth it out.  Then it was time for planting!

We have hills of watermelons on the left.

Then in the center we have 4 tomato plants across the back,  4 hills of cucumbers in the middle and a row of lettuce in the front.

On the right we have a few hills of zucchini and a row of beans.  We're planning on putting in corn at some point too.  Hopefully later this week.

So there it is - my Mother's Day!  What a weekend - so satisfying!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Back Door Herb Box

I love garden fresh produce and one of the easiest things to grow is your own herbs.  They'll grow all summer long and you'll save tons of money at the grocery store.

Think about the food you cook and what kinds of fresh herbs you buy at the store.  If you buy fresh dill once every other year, then it's probably safe to leave that out of your plans, but if you love cilantro, then definitely include that!  Herbs are available at your local garden center ready to go in pots and for my plan I chose cilantro, flat leaf parsley, and lemon thyme.

In past years I had used a small aluminum oval shaped bucket from Ikea as my planter, but my herbs were always too crowded. This year, I decided to take advantage of the raining on the back porch and I went with a window box.

I picked up a black wire window box planter with a liner at the Christmas Tree Shop.  I snagged my plants at Home Depot.

Now a garden center might be a better place to choose a planter.  There are several styles to choose from - flush mounted, mounted to the top, hanging baskets, etc.  But the one from Christmas Tree Shop was about $8 so I just grabbed it when I saw it.

There was no hanging hardware for the planter I chose, so I decided to hang it with simple hooks screwed into the wood railing.

Because of the angled shape of the planter, it hangs sort of crooked.  I placed a block of wood behind one side to even it out.  A few screws will hold it in place.

Using a quality potting mix, I filled in the planter box.

Using scissors, I unpackaged each plant and tore through the biodegradable containers to help water drain.  I put the pot in the planter and back-filled with more potting soil.

I hung the planter back on the hooks and watered.

Easy peasy!

A few things to note - I waited a few weeks after getting the plants before actually putting them in dirt.  This is a bad idea.  You risk accidentally killing your plants (mine have rebounded quite a bit in the few hours since I watered them).  Also, it looks like the cilantro has a little frost damage.  Oh and I think we may rethink how we hang this bad-boy because it's still slanted and it makes me sad.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Making A Little Art

Maybe I'm too picky, but I never seem to see artwork when I'm out and about that sets my heart aflutter.  I see tons of stuff on other blogs, I see stuff on Etsy, and in magazines, but never when I'm at HomeGoods/Ikea/etc.  Like I said, maybe I'm picky.  Here's the thing - I'm 100% ok with being picky - why should I have to compromise on something like a picture on the walls of my house?  I only have so many walls and many spaces to put stuff, so I want to make sure that I truly LOVE what I do choose to display.

So what's a girl to do when she can't find the right thing to bring some color and whimsy to her world?  DIY it of course!  I'm no artist, but I do have some ability so I decided to go for it with a nice chunky block of watercolor paper and some watercolor paints that I received as a gift a million years ago.

My plot was suddenly foiled when I couldn't find the dang paints.  So I sat on the couch and sulked for about 5 minutes and then it was like a light bulb went off right above my head - MARKERS!  My silly Sarah had gotten a sweet set of markers for Easter - like a set of about 40 gorgeous fine-tipped Crayolas. Love 'em!

This might seem silly/cheesy and maybe I wouldn't recommend markers if you were doing a landscape or a portrait of your poodle, but for this it seemed to work great!  Back in college (and high school and middle school probably) I was a bit of a doodler.  I'd sit in class and draw geometric designs in my notebooks (not during important classes, Mom & Dad).  So when I decided that I wanted to add some new artwork to the living room, I figured maybe some variation on these designs would work well.  My old notebook pics were always pen on lined paper, but since this would be on display, and because I wanted to bring some COLOR to a mostly BROWN space, I picked out 6 perfect colors (plus black) and started in on my design.

I didn't take progress pics, but I can describe my overall process - start out by outlining a few large shapes.  Don't be afraid to make them BIG to cover a lot of real estate on your page.  After you've gotten a few areas defined on the page then go back and start adding in details a little at a time.  Move around to different areas on the page so that the whole picture develops rather than just a single corner.  It think that helps it stay balanced.  You're finished when you say you are - but remember you can always add more, but it's hard to take some away so resist the temptation to cover every inch.

What do you think?  I'm thinking of creating a gallery wall somewhere and having this be one of the pieces.  It should look ok among some black/white photos or some more monochromatic prints.

I'll try to update tomorrow with a better photo - stuff looks pretty washed out at night.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sewing: A Kid's Apron

I wish I had come up with a fun title for today's post, but I just didn't.  So here it is, a kid's apron.  I had a bunch of fabric leftover from making Sarah's Tooth Fairy Pillow (check that out here) and rather than tossing it into the box of random scraps that I have in the basement, I decided to think up another little project for it.  I wanted something simple that I could put together easily without a pattern - and an apron was just the thing!

First thing I did was measure up the one who would wear the apron.  I measured around her waist at the belly button, from her belly button to her collar bone and from her belly button to her knees.  This gave me an idea of how long, tall, and how big around to make everything.

If you haven't done so already, always wash/dry your fabrics and iron them before starting your project.  It's not a fun/glamorous step, but your finished product will look better if you do this.  Trust me.

I cut the following pieces:

  • Waistband (pink) - 4" wide and about 4" shorter than the waist.  
  • Waist Ties (pink) - 3" wide and about 20" long - cut 2
  • Neck Ties (pink) - 2" wide and about 20" long - cut 2
  • Skirt (patterned) - As wide as I could make it - turned out to be about 6" wider than the waistband.  And long enough to go mid-shin on her.  I left enough allowance for hems all around.
  • Bib (patterned) - About as wide as her torso and long enough to go just below her collar bone.  I tapered the sides of the top to give it a nice shape.

After cutting my pieces, I pressed everything into the final shape.  This was another tedious step, but you'll thank me.

  • Waistband - Folded it over and folded the ends in and pressed it (leaving a raw edge).
  • Ties (neck & waist) - Folded sides toward center (long ways) and pressed, then folded in half (long ways) and pressed again.  Then folded in one end on each tie and pressed that in place.
  • Bib - Folded in edges and pressed, leaving the bottom edge unfinished
  • Skirt - Folded in edges on the sides folded up the hem and pressed in place, leaving the top edge unfinished

Now's where the fun begins.  I started with all the ties.  I sewed each one lengthwise starting at the unfinished end, turning the corner at the finished end.

Then I did the bib, sewing down each folded down edge.

Then I did the skirt, sewing down each edge and then across the hem.

I attached the ties to the waistband by sewing a square - I wanted this to be nice and strong.

I attached the neck ties to the bib by sewing a "L" shape (following the seams of the bib edges).

I pinned the skirt to the waistband (lining up the unfinished edges) and created some evenly spaced tucks.  I sewed across the waistband.

I pinned the bib to the waistband (carefully centered) and top-stitched all the way across the top of the waistband.

After snipping all the loose threads we were DONE!

The ties are nice & long so she can grow and it will fit for quite a while.  Right now the ties are long enough to tie in front.  

She's been putting together "recipes" all afternoon since we wrapped this up!


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