February 28, 2010

My Mount Everest (well, one of 'em)

Like many of you, I grew up as the daughter of a very talented mother. She could sing, dance, cook, bake, play multiple instruments, sew clothes for her family, earn money from home, chauffeur, direct a choir, teach little kids, and my siblings and I were particularly proud that she could eat breakfast AND nurse a baby while driving the kids to early morning seminary... in a stickshift.

As the 6th of 10 kids, I didn't get to benefit from any of my mom's signature hand-made clothing (showers and laundry were more of a priority), so I really didn't have any idea about how good she is with a sewing machine. I spent many a Saturday over at my friend Shannon's house, whose mother is an interior designer and decorator and therefore had a workroom with a half dozen different sewing machines that rivaled the local downtown LA sweatshop. Shannon, being the fearless talent that she is, learned to sew on them from a young age and intimidated me with her mad scrunchy-making skillz. I remember being crazy jealous at the time, but didn't act positively to my jealousy until I was about 14. I told my mom I wanted to make a pair of pajama pants - a project I decided on because I figured if they didn't turn out well, I was only wearing them to bed anyway. So we bought a pattern and thread and she helped me begin. In my naivete, however, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to begin sewing on a knit, and to begin with a pair of pants, even if they did have an elastic waist. The result before I even got to the waistband was a pair of "pants" that MAYBE a human-sized penguin could wear, but would probably be very embarrassed. I didn't know what happened! But in my frustration and embarrassment, I threw the whole thing away and didn't look at another sewing machine until I was much older.

Fast forward to a post-mission love affair and suddenly I wanted to make a sassy patchwork quilt for a boy. Love makes you do crazy things. Like revisit a black spot from your past. Well, by golly, the quilt turned out just like I wanted it, so I started to teach myself how to make pillows to match it - with my own piping! I had no idea at the time that I was making progress because I sure did break a lot of needles.

Rather than jumping off from that point, the boy and I broke up before I had a chance to give him the goods, so I kept them for myself and to this day, they adorn our guest bed in what Ted likes to call my "boudoir". With the boy gone, and me back at college and without access to Mom's machine (and never thinking to ever ask or save for one), sewing went by the wayside, and after several years, I began to be in awe of others' talents and claim I didn't have any sewing know-how to speak of. Yes, I am the epitome of burying one's talents.

Then our move to NC with a 6 month-old meant I became a stay-at-home mom, and I spent her naptimes (and much of what should have been my own sleep time) FINALLY reading one of the several thousand crafty blogs out in cyberworld. This particular one belonged to a girl I knew in my old ward but was afraid to get to know better because I was so intimidated by her many talents and personality traits. At the time, I remember wanting to be just like her (a common feeling for me regarding many people who excel in areas I don't...yet) but didn't know where to start. It took me a few weeks, but I read that blog from beginning to end, and with such a concentration of creativity and goodness, I was inspired to get over my sewing fears, stop telling myself I didn't know how, and deal with any discouragement or disappointment along the way.

It all began when we were having a meeting with all the leaders of our church's girls' group. We were planning a Halloween activity that required some "gunny sacks" to be sewn out of thick fabric, and none of the four leaders piped up. I sheepishly volunteered, but said I didn't have a machine (thinking that would get me off the hook). No dice. Another leader had a machine, but didn't know how to use it. Turns out the other three had less experience with a sewing machine than I did, and that ain't sayin' much.

I made six gunny sacks, showed up with them all cute and what-not to the activity, then during the first race, two of them popped open at the bottom, allowing huge feet to sprout forth. I was SO disappointed. I wouldn't allow them to go into storage at the end of the activity until I fixed them, so I took them home and reinforced the bottoms of ALL the sacks. We'll see if they work next year.

After that debacle and the fixing of it (I hope), I decided to revisit this sewing business for good. Basically, I told myself "there's absolutely NO reason why I can't do this. It's a learnable skill, I am a learned person, and I even taught others how to learn, so I can teach myself this." I borrowed books from the library on the subject, visited a fabric store or two, found a pattern I loved for Tessa and made sure it had the word "Easy!" plastered somewhere on it, and proceeded. I laugh at myself when I think I brought the pattern and pieces of the dress to various church activities over the next few weeks to try and corner anyone I knew who could interpret the hieroglyphics that is a sewing pattern. Pockets, bias tape, zippers - what the F? But I did it. I didn't give up - I conquered my mountain. And here is the fruit of my labors.

Tessa opened it up on Christmas morning in front of my family, and the people who were most proud were my mom and my used-to-make-a-living-as-a-seamstress sister-in-law. I'm going to pretend it's Tessa's favorite thing to wear.

February 22, 2010

First Birthday, pt 2

I finally got my gloms on Ted's camera and therefore present to you the aftermath of the cake frenzy. I think the video is my favorite. Had she taken a more substantial nap before the festivities began, I'm sure we would have seen it in her hair and such, but even so, she ate that whole piece. She's my chubby love-bug.

A quick picture and a quick whisk into the tub. Note to self: chocolate cake looks like poo.

We gave her a present after she got all cleaned up. This was my first attempt at applique.

She woke up later that night with a serious sugar high, but I don't think she cared. Happy Birthday!

February 13, 2010

One year old today

I pulled out dessert stops for the birthday girl. We invited a few friends over to our place for chocolate chunk raspberry cake and ice cream. As planned, we stripped Tessa down to her skivvies so she could go as crazy as she wanted on her first whole piece of cake (which, mind you, was bigger than her mama's). I admit, I thought she would show a little more excitement at the sight of a fat load of chocolate than she did, but she was running on empty from lack of a nap. Still, she managed to gag it all down.

The light is bad in this next one, but it shows the goo of the cake. LOVE the goo.

Oops! Doesn't look like cake anymore...

Meh. Still edible. I used to think we were raising a bit of a foodie until I caught her one day, picking up milk curds she had regurgitated and shoving them back in her mouth. Maybe I shouldn't take her pleasure in my cake too much to heart...

I have to swipe Ted's camera so I can show the aftermath, but you get the general idea. Perhaps not piranhas on a whale carcass, but still frenzical enough for her parents' entertainment. Happy birthday, sweet puddin' pumpkin pie!

February 4, 2010

If I was still a teacher...

If I was still teaching, this week would have been one of my favorites. See, last Friday, the local radio DJs were basically warning their audiences of the impending doom that was sure to come from the sky later that night - a snowstorm.

North Carolina doesn't handle snow well, come to find out. We were admonished to "get to the stores and buy bread, milk, eggs, and canned goods before the storm hits" by multiple sources, including a couple of radio stations and TV news reports. Ted got emails from school, canceling a T.A. session and to be on the alert for any class cancellations the following Monday. An announcer on the radio even made the quip, "One day, you'll be able to tell your grandchildren that you survived the Great Winter of 2010" - a hilarious statement, yet he was completely serious. But my favorite was from an email I got. I signed up for a newsletter and specials from a local bead/craft shop, and their email again advised bulking up fridge contents, but also mentioned we might want to make sure we have enough craft supplies to keep us occupied for the few days we might be "snowed in." So come in and get your decoupage paper and flexible beading wire! Um, I have enough to keep me occupied, thanks. It's called LAUNDRY.

Sure enough, the snow started falling, lightly at first, and then in large, pretty flakes. We went out to eat to celebrate Ted's grades and Tessa saying "mama" for the first time (took you long enough!) and by the time we were done with our filet mignon, there was a legitimate snow covering on bushes, cars, buildings, and roads. And it was stinking cold. We drove home, got Tessa's full belly tucked into bed, and continued to watch the snowfall. Total damage? Six. itty. bitty. inches.

The next morning, everything was white and crunchy. It looked like a scene from some Norman Rockwell painting. Our neighbors in our complex invited us over to watch the Duke game and to bring our Cocomotion, so we spent a good part of the day being embarrassed by our team vs. Georgetown and drinking delicious, perfectly whipped, frothed, and heated cocoa. At one point, we started watching all the "closings" at the bottom of the screen, and commented that there sure are a lot of baptist churches in the area! Our bishopric cancelled church the next day, and then we noticed all the school closures.... ALL the schools, public and private, closed for Monday. Two days away! Monday came, and the sun was shining, some snow was melting, and Tessa and I went to run some errands. Lo and behold, they cancelled school for the next day, too. And the next! And today (Thursday), school is starting two hours later! THE SNOW IS CLEARED AND MELTED, PEOPLE!

However, if I was still a teacher, I would have been praising God for this week.

February 3, 2010

Creation: New Wreath

If your door is ready for Valentine's Day, does that mean you are? I wish, but there's a lot of chubbsy for me to lose in a week and a half before I can look hot in lingerie. I don't even have a menu for that night yet!

But the best thing to do with $5 for now was decorate my door. I got the twiggy wreath at that huge superstore that starts with a "W", and as a result, I felt guilty paying only $3 for such a good sized wreath. In my heart, I asked forgiveness from the 6 yr- old Chinese orphan girl who has swollen, bloody fingers for putting it together for me, then moved along my merry way.

I got the flowers from Michael's - they're selling red rose bouquets for $1.50 right now, and the ribbon came from the ridiculous stash I still have from our wedding.

Not shabby for a few bucks, and it sure beats a bare door.

The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...