Things I Like.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

We've been having some technical difficulties at our house, everything from seemingly interminable computer backups that make photos unavailable for weeks on end to expensive plumbing issues that give me great appreciation for a working washing machine.  In fact, today we are having the main water line to our house replaced and keeping our fingers crossed that the big, beautiful trees in our yard will not suffer from the disruption of some roots.
Since I have not been able to access my photos, how about a post devoted to blatant consumerism?  Sometimes I find things so wonderful that I think everyone should know about them.  Here are a few of my recent finds.
Japanese Towels
Our bathroom is at the very end of our linear ranch home, so it gets very little air flow and is not well ventilated.  This means that towels do not dry.  I've struggled for years with sour-smelling towels.  And although this former cloth diapering mama is quite good at vinegar rinses, Oxy washes, original Dawn washes, and all the other tricks used to strip stink from absorbant fibers, I get very tired of having to do all that.  But I've found the solution!  Japanese towels!
These have changed our lives.  Seriously.  They're very different from plush, enormous American towels.  One side is a soft woven fabric, and the reverse is an extremely soft terry with more space between the loops than you'd ever seen on American towels.  These things feel great -- they're unquestionably soft enough to snuggle a baby in -- and they dry quickly.  We double them over and put two on one towel bar, and they actually dry.  Best towels ever!
As with so many things, quality comes with a hefty price tag.  These are not cheap, and sales are hard to come by.  But, in my opinion, they're worth every penny.

I've bought Kontex towels and Yoshii towels (the polka dots are my absolute favorites!) from Rikumo and Lekker Home.  Great experiences all around.  I've also bought some polka dot ones from Viva Terra that are quite nice.
Custom Serger Thread Rack
I don't know why it's almost impossible to buy a hanging thread rack for serger cones.  I looked everywhere and couldn't find a thing.  So I went where I always do in that situation -- Etsy.  I found the nicest couple at Butterboo's Crafts to custom make a rack for me.  Kara and Buttermilk (yes, Buttermilk!) did a fantastic job.  I now have a steel, hand-welded rack of serger thread hanging in my sewing room.  And that means I have a drawer available to use for other things.  Yay!
That rack hangs just below a Gutermann thread rack that Mr. Great gave me for Christmas.  Although he's quite patient and understanding about my weekend thread emergencies, I think he's had enough trips to Jo-Ann to last a lifetime.  Would you believe that he showed up at Jo-Ann, coupon in hand, at 6:00 a.m. on Black Friday to pick this up?  He's Great, I tell you.
Clover Seam Ripper
If you thought all seam rippers were created equally, think again.  This one is so comfortable and easy to use.  I should know, I rip out A LOT of stitching.  This one's a winner.
Music Practice Charts
This one is free!  The Practice Shoppe has some really fun downloadable practice charts here.  Just color it in after each practice, and soon it will look really pretty.  These would work for all sorts of chores and things, not just music practice.
That's all I've got, folks.  Hope you've enjoyed it. 


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I still can't believe my son was born on Christmas Day.  It makes for quite a day in my family.  Lots to be happy about, lots to celebrate.  This Christmas baby just turned four.  Four! 

He's a sweet little guy.  Full of love, gives knock-you-over hugs, still happy to snuggle up for a few minutes before being called to save the world.

He's curious and enthusiastic, imaginative, inquisitive.  A smart cookie.

He likes action, doing, experiencing the world though his whole body.  

He's very strong.  He's quick and agile.  Everything a superhero should be.

He's determined, doesn't give up easily, strong-headed and strong-willed.

He does his best to keep up with his sister.  He pushes her to be more courageous and adventurous.

He knows how to let her feel like she's the boss.  But he also knows how to push her buttons and get his way.

The truth is that these two love each other like crazy.  They also like each other.  Mostly.

More than anything, this kid is fun.  It's hard not to smile when he's around.

We give him a big thumbs-up.

Photos courtesy of Amy Kate Photography.

This kid is going places.  I'm honored to be along for the ride.

White Elephant Gift.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mr. Great's office has a white elephant gift exchange each year.  For some reason, and I'm not quite sure why, we haven't quite gotten the hang of that sort of gift-giving.  When he brings a gag gift, it seems everyone else is exchanging wine and gift cards.  When he brings wine, everyone else is exchanging silly stuff.  This year I was determined to get it right.
Actually, truth be told, I was itching to make a cute little softie, and this was the perfect excuse.  But, seriously, you can't go wrong bringing a tiny white elephant to a white elephant gift exchange, right?

I used the Heather Bailey Effie and Ollie pattern, which is awesome.  It sews up quickly and easily.  Best of all, there's hardly any hand-sewing -- just French knots for the eyes and stitching up the underside at the very end.
I used a scrap of white corduroy left over from when I made Little Brother's baptism pants a few years ago.  To break up all the white, I put a touch of light green behind the ears and under the tail, and I used a light green felt star.
I think part of what I like best about this pattern design is the gussets.  There's a body gusset that connects the side pieces and an underside gusset that connects the inner legs.  Gives it great dimension.  Adds to the cuteness, I think.

I will warn that I don't think the French knot instructions are provided in the right sequence.  The pattern calls for adding the eyes at the very end, but at that point it would be impossible to begin on the underside, because the elephant would be all stitched up.  I put in the eyes after the machine sewing was finished, but before I stuffed or ladder-stitched the underside.  Worked well enough, but I think next time I might try sewing the eyes on the flat pieces, before sewing it all together.
I'm happy to report that this was Mr. Great's most successful white elephant exchange yet.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!  Happy Fresh Start!
As 2013 approached and began to settle in, I found myself looking back more than looking foward.  Although 2012 brought a great deal of joy and growth for me and my family, I can't help but feel a bit melancholy.  The world is not fair, and it's often not kind.  I saw too much of that in 2012.  We all did.  I think I'm happy to see 2012 go, to close out that calendar and begin anew.
A fresh start always feels good.  There's so much promise and hope, and we could all use a good dose of that right now.
I've been watching as friends near and far share their resolutions.  I've seen some great ones -- fresher breath; surrounding oneself with positive, aspirational people; developing a spending and savings plan; getting organized; eating more veggies.  I'm all for every  one of those!  Instead of resolutions, some friends adopt a theme word for the year, and I love that idea.  But oh the pressure to choose just one word -- accept, grow, give, reach -- how would I ever pick?!  It's all good!
I tried telling Mr. Great last night that I wasn't making any resolutions this year, because it feels like I'm rehashing the resolutions of previous years.  Laugh more, worry less.  Find the Good, accept the rest.  Balance my creative self with my professional self and my wife/mother self.  Take better care of my body, my home, my future.  Floss.  Sew for myself.  You know, the same stuff that comes up every New Year's Day.
Mr. Great wasn't having it.  He insists on resolutions.  He writes them down.  Sometimes he carries them in his wallet.  Sometimes he tapes them to the bathroom mirror.  It's not something to mess around with.  It's serious business.  And he's right -- it's good to identify and articulate a few things that will carry us through this brand new year.
I managed to stall, but I went to bed knowing that I need to produce some legitimate, heartfelt resolutions soon.  And they can't just be the same resolutions of years past -- no, they need to reflect where we are as a family and where we want to go, and how my personal development fits into that.  They need to show that I'm committed to making the most of the life I have, each precious day.
I didn't sleep very well.  It's a lot of pressure.
See, there's a lot I want to do with this life.  There's a lot I want to give, to my children, my family, my community, humanity.  There's a lot I want to experience and feel and learn.  I get a little antsy when I have to prioritize and come up with a short list.  And then I get antsy about what I haven't done, because I'm running out of time.
Today, purely by happenstance, I came across a poem about fresh starts in a new year.  It's not the greatest literary work every created, and I don't even know who the author, William Arthur Ward, is (Wikipedia indicates that he's a guy who created inspirational quotes).  But because of the timing, today this feels like the greatest thing ever written.

Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!
This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!

I'm not sure these words, which are not my own, will satisfy my resolution-loving man.  But I do think that they're a good summation of what I want in the next year.  To love and laugh and give, to grow and to try, to pray and to plant and to sing.  To live with zest.  Zest. 
I like that.
Photos courtesy of Amy Kate Photography.