Thursday, March 29, 2018

This One's For You

I am the worst blogger. I have great ideas for what I could post about. I have cute pictures of all of the fun things I have done related to sewing and my kids. I type fast. I have above-average spelling and editing skills. What more does it take? Oh - yeah. I might need to actually LIKE blogging. And I guess I just don't. It was fun when it had a purpose, like for that Project Run and Play competition. But now that there is no obvious reason to journal and post my thoughts, I just don't. And I'm pretty certain nobody cares. But for that ONE follower out there that is waiting on the edge of their seat to find out whatever happened to me, and my Etsy shop, and my angst and hatred in California, this one's for you.

Sewing. I actually have been doing a lot of it. In fact, a group of friends from my kids'e elementary school came up with a brilliant idea - I should teach them how to sew. A few of them had machines and barely used them. Others had never sewn before. I even had one member who had received a sewing machine as a wedding gift - over 10 years ago - and had never really used the machine. We started getting together around my dining room table, learning basic skills and practicing on different projects. We even took a few field trips in to the city to learn about fabrics and selecting patterns and all sorts of necessary sewing miscellany. My sewing improved and members of the group now regularly proudly parade around in their creations. We even mailed off a box with 15 pillowcase dresses that we created for a worthy charity that donates dresses to third-world countries. We have built a solid friendship network and though most of our field trips now end up being about the dim sum, not the fabric store, we are still sewing and creating and enjoying the journey. I am so proud of this group and what we have done together. A BIG WIN for life here in California.

Etsy. Yeah. This won't take long. I made a few dresses. I sold a few dresses. I started to slowly hate the process. It felt inauthentic to just sew something and wait for someone to come and get it. I much preferred to have a project that was assigned to me, like a specific costume or a specific outfit for an event, than to just generically sew items that sat in the closet. I gave my inventory away to friends. A few of the dresses my daughter can still wear. I'm continually in awe at the creativity and energy of the people who run successful Etsy Shops (and I'm fine not being one of them). And I am totally happy without the shop. Halloween costumes this past year were all kinds of awesome.

So was the Daddy/Daughter Dance dress that I created (without a pattern and for less than $20).

I won't offer up pictures of the dresses, curtains, reversible duvet cover, sling bags, baby gifts and more that I have been sewing but just know that sewing is still an enormous part of my existence these days.

California. It doesn't completely suck anymore. I have evolved. It must be me - California certainly hasn't changed. It is still far too expensive. The weather is so random but it is generally very pleasant. I have come to accept that San Francisco probably used to be an awesome place but that now it is suffering from too many people who can't afford to live here colliding with too many people who can afford to live here, but neither side is very fond of the other. The city is quite a mess. And while the row houses and the restaurants and the views of the Golden Gate Bridge are enchanting, I won't ever find the streets of San Francisco, with its public urinating, homeless camps, trashed subway stations and dirty thoroughfares, enchanting. That's ok. I can choose not to go into the city. I often do. I am truly biased but I prefer my Washington, DC and I still miss it. But over the past now 3 years, we have found that we are connected to the people here more than we ever expected. We have built really strong bonds with neighbors and friends. If and when we leave this place, I will be a mess all over again because I will miss these folks who have become family to me.

Life. Up and down. Lots of travel. Lots of weekend adventures. Lots of California coastline has been enjoyed. A few speed bumps for me personally, like hip surgery 2 years ago and heart surgery just last December. Our family joke is that I might not leave our heart in San Francisco but I got it fixed here! A big shout out to the people at Stanford University and the Adult Congenital Heart Program. The kids and the husband are making their way in the world and somehow we all still get along.

So there you have it, oh, lonely little blogger follower. I will not promise to do better. I will promise to keep this blog in mind when I have something say, just in case I feel like putting those thoughts out there in the world. This blog is for you - for anyone who still feels like reading it once in awhile. This life I live - the sewing and the friendships in California with all of its ups and downs - is for me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Where Did the Time Go?

It is really May. It is really just past mid-May, soon to be late-May, soon to be June, which means that 2016 is half of the way over. Before we know it, we will be dragging back from summer holidays, racing through the craziness that consumes everyone during the fall with school and sports and Halloween. And then the holidays! Yikes. Time just doesn't wait for anybody.

I feel terrible that I haven't blogged in so long. Honestly, I haven't had much to say. And as for sewing, there has been more than I can handle, but not really anything I can post or discuss at great length. Yes - you guessed it. I'm involved in a top-secret sewing circle that works exclusively on sewing bow-ties for the Mafia. Or, flannel pjs for famous white-collar criminals. Or coats for dogs. Who are homeless. Sadly, it is nothing quite that exciting, but it is an exciting new chapter in my sewing life. Actually, thanks to my sewing entries and blog traffic last year, I was contacted by a lady in a neighboring town who is launching her own custom baby carrier company. She needed a seamstress to assist with production and she hired me! What started out as just a few carriers every other week has turned into 7-10 every week. This sewing for her takes away all of the time I was using for sewing for me. I've made a ton of carriers, but dresses for my Etsy shop sit unfinished, along with the pants to hem and the buttons to fix and the trim to add. And just when I think I have the sewing under control, that darn thing called LIFE demands my every attention and here we are in May. MID-May. Soon to be LATE-May.

Life has been good, by all accounts. The kids are just delightful, until they aren't, but we'll focus on the delightful times. Benji is running full speed ahead to the end of 1st grade. He has started the countdown and seems to believe that getting to 2nd grade is entirely contingent on him doing his very best these next few weeks. He loves school and the work is a breeze, but I never told him he might not get to 2nd grade! I'm sure his teacher planted that seed in order to keep everyone focused as summer approaches. That's fine with me! He diligently checks his homework and practices his spelling words. He is smiley and social and the picture of "sun-kissed" if you needed a visual!

In Hawaii, Rachel did get to wear a Minnie dress I made her
for the trip. She almost had to wear a baby carrier...

Rachel, too, is doing her part to make life interesting. She is finishing up her last year in preschool. I am not sure what I will do with all of the kid-free time once she is in T-K from 9-2 each day. And having both kids on the same school calendar and in the same place will make for a very content mama around here. Rachel's latest adventures include starting to play piano and learning to read.

Enjoying chocolate ice cream with Auntie Joyce
What would a blog update be without any mention of our latest adventures? Kevin went to the Super Bowl! For a life-long sports fan, it was a dream come true and it didn't disappoint. His childhood friend from Colorado, who happens to be a HUGE Broncos fan, made the weekend trip out. They were like two kids in a candy store. 

The whole family has been back to Santa Cruz a few times, at least. We went to the beach a few times, too. We made our first trip to Lake Tahoe and tried our hand at tubing. Cold and wet, we still enjoyed the beauty of it all.

We traveled to Atlanta to see the grandparents.

We have found our way into the city, both with kids and without kids, to explore new neighborhoods and enjoy great food. We are all quite fond of Delores Park. And the parents in this house are all about Good Luck Dim Sum in the Richmond neighborhood. It is not a "fine dining" establishment, but it is the best dim sum in town!

We had Auntie Joyce and Auntie Emma and Uncle Jason visit. Emma and Jason will be back for a Memorial Day weekend trip to Napa with us.

We have had dinner with friends, old and new. We went to Vegas for a kid-free weekend. We cheered for the Washington Capitals and cried when they lost in the 2nd Round of the playoffs. We went back to Aulani and enjoyed a Hawaii vacation together. We are very much looking forward to another summer on the East Coast with family and dear friends in DC and Atlanta.

Life is good. Life is busy. We have crammed a whole lot of LIFE into this first part of 2016. I regret not blogging about it, but if I had been busy blogging, who would have been out there enjoying all of that life? No promises for the coming months. I'm going to keep sewing and keep learning to enjoy San Francisco. I'm going to try and keep up with the kids. And time will go by. I guess that is just about the way it should be.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reaping What I Sew

This ALWAYS happens! I get so caught up in other stuff that I just don't sit down to write about it on the blog. So, months have passed and there is far too much to catch up on and the year is ending and - well - it is what it is. Nobody cares about what I'm up to anyway, so I'll summarize.

We went to the Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii. Aulani is Hawaiian for "awesome". If that is not the direct translation, it is a close second. Getting to Hawaii was on my California bucket list. It is still a long journey, but only half as long from this coast, so we went for it. Enjoyed the people, the resort, the spa, Pearl Harbor, the food, the family time and more.

 We came home, started school and soccer and piano and gymnastics, and then headed right back out for another holiday with that darn mouse on a Disney cruise. From Vancouver to San Diego, it was a smaller boat and a shorter itinerary, but fun was had by all. Personally, I think a cruise is a better way to enjoy the Disney magic than schlepping around the amusement park. I'm sure when the kids get older and well beyond strollers, we will go to the park but for now, the cruise is pretty wonderful. This was our 2nd Disney cruise and I can't imagine going with another cruise line. The hospitality is tremendous, the boat is impeccably maintained and clean, the kids are entertained and we have time each night for date night as the kids enjoy time at their kids club. We extended our vacation with trips to Legoland and SeaWorld (don't judge - we love the animals and support the people educating others about them).

Fall was all about soccer. Good grief do I hope Ben decides he likes art. Soccer mom is not a role I enjoy. But we survived. And my little people were adorable for Halloween, don't you think?

I went to New Orleans for Danielle's bachelorette party. I'm not 24 anymore.

Chris and Tjaarda drove across the country and visited us. That was awesome!

I went to DC for Danielle's wedding. So honored to stand by her side as she marries her prince.
And then it was birthday time!! Two kids, two November birthdays, one huge birthday bash. Can you believe we got 46 kids in our living room? Magic Dan brought down the house. Then sisters and mom came for Thanksgiving. We got booted from our beds once again since we are without a guest room. But it was cozy and dinner was yummy, thank you very much.

And now Hanukkah.
And next up - Christmas. In addition to all of that, I boot camped in the mornings, hosted my sister-in-law twice, organized the preschool book fair, organized other preschool events, and started doing some paid sewing work for a start-up baby carrier company. I told you I was busy. But all of my activities, social and otherwise, are a welcome intrusion on my life. I am busy. I am running from day to day, juggling the "need to get done" with the "would like to get done" and sort of embracing the challenge. I have social engagements that I turn down. I haven't finished a book since my last plane trip. My favorite piano songs are rusty from lack of practice. Last year, this time, I was primarily home, tidying the house or sewing, bemoaning the loss of all things in Virginia. A year later I'm on the move. I'm entertained, and entertaining. I'm still bemoaning the loss of all things Virginia when I have time but fundamentally, I just don't have the time. I am still here. I have made connections. I have traveled. I have gotten involved. I have tried to not just be IN a new place but to be a part of a new place. And it think it worked. We really do reap what we sow. Next year I will blog more, eat less, read more, cry less, dance more, drink less, sew more and fret less. And I will try my best to enjoy San Francisco more and miss DC a little less. Here's to 2016!!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Project Run and Play - Big, Bright, Benji Beach Cover-Up

The August challenge for Project Run and Play is to take any old pattern we want and add some form of hand-embroidery or embellishment to it.

 This contest is killing me. Yet again, I have to pull some idea out of space and then pull the embroidery pattern out of space and then create something. WHERE is the guidance? WHERE is the pattern to follow? Can you sense that I crave a bit more structure with my sewing (and my life)? Well, my son has desperately wanted to be the "subject" of one of my challenges so I thought this was a great opportunity to include him. He selected the soft, bright (brightest, I should say) orange batik fabric and approved of the tunic design that I modified from Sewing For Boys.

Sewing the tunic was the easy part. Benji loves the open front and the fact that there are no buttons or tags to itch him. And of course, he thinks the fabric is simply perfect.

As for the embroidery, I decided to try and find a design that would somehow speak to our upcoming trip to Hawaii. I found some traditional Polynesian tribal patterns and selected one for the collar that means fish.

The patterns on the sleeves are for mountains. I wanted the patterns to be very simple and absolutely look hand-made. I tried not to worry too much about lining things up or keeping it uniform....and it shows. It was sort of what I was going for...

A little fish is at the hemline. Initially I thought I'd do the entire border this way....
and then I realized that was crazy talk.
And it being for a boy, I didn't want to do too much embroidery, though in retrospect, I wish I had done more because it is very hard to see the little work that I did. And this little bit of work took a ton of time! Kudos to those who enjoy spending the time on embroidery. I have a house to clean. And suitcases to pack.

We are taking this beach tunic to Hawaii with us. I hope he enjoys wearing it in the sun.....and attracting the attention of a few planes that pass overhead. Ben proved to be a much better model than Rachel. Just two days ago he lost a front tooth and last night, he had a random allergic reaction that made his top lip look like Donald Duck. Despite that, no diva moments, no snacks or breaks required and no attitude!

Thank you, Benji! You look marvelous.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Finding My Joy

So much time has passed since my last posting, yet it feels like - so much time has passed since my last posting! We made our journey back from the East Coast and now we are settling back in so reflections about our trip are just waiting to be shared. And as for sewing....did I tell you about the summer vacation I took with the kids?

Traveling alone with the kids was not something I was terribly excited about. I assumed the worst - delayed flights, feisty little people that I must claim as my own pulling at my ankles, lost items, missed trains, dented rental cars. You name it, I assumed it was going to happen. But it didn't. We actually had a perfectly lovely trip. I can't call it a vacation. A vacation is when you go away and relax for a few days and need not worry about your duties or life at home. A trip is when you TRY to do those things, but the kids that tagged along keep reminding you that there is never a vacation for parents! Visiting familiar things and faces in DC was far less tragic than during the holiday season, with fewer tears and happier send-offs. The kids were on their best behavior for travel, staying put in lines when asked, keeping peaceful on the plane, and going with the flow when things required a bit of patience. I was very proud of us. And there was much patience needed, as we literally bounced around from home to home, staying different nights with different people in order to see everyone and do what we wanted to do. I actually am not interested in doing that again. The next time we come all of the way across the country, we are staying put in one location and people will just have to come to us. That only seems fair. 

With Auntie Emma in NJ at the Turtle Back Zoo parakeet enclosure

With Grandma Gloria at Dutch Wonderland
Tackling Auntie usual
Loving each other for the moment
Two weeks in the DC area, with weekend trips to Amish country and New Jersey to see more family, and I was ready for a semi-permanent home in Atlanta for three weeks. I can't believe I was looking forward to spending time with the in-laws! True confessions, I think it was easier being with them than with my own family. In Atlanta, I no longer was responsible for all of the driving, all of the meals, all of the activity-planning, all of the entertaining. More often than not, the grandparents or Uncle Jared were ready and willing to feed them breakfast first thing in the morning, watch tv shows with them, take them out for several hours of the day, or your name it. Time in Atlanta was never hectic or hurried, characterized by lots of lazy pool days, evening trips for ice cream, and late nights catching fireflies. We even "enjoyed" the power outage caused by the stunning thunderstorm one evening. I had time to read a book, take a run around the lake, go shopping, and catch up on the last season of West Wing (yes - I was just a few years behind but its just as good no matter when you watch it!!)

With Uncle Jared on top of Stone Mountain
As for sewing, I bailed on the last few Project Run and Play challenges simply because I knew I wouldn't have the time or access to everything I would need for them. But I do have a sewing machine in Atlanta and I did get a chance to use it. Dear Grandpa Carl shared his office with me for the weeks I was visiting so that I would have a comfortable place to sew. I brought a few unfinished projects from home. I attempted (and failed) at sewing myself a knit dress. I hate knit, even more so now that I know I can't sew with it. I cut two sundresses for myself, and they have now become my latest "unfinished projects", destined to sit on my sewing table here at home for a minimum of 2 months.  

We did get a chance to see Pixar's latest creation, Inside Out. It is the story of Riley, a little girl who moves to San Francisco and has to deal with all sorts of emotions as she confronts new challenges. We get a glimpse inside her head, getting to know Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger as independent "people" who pull the triggers to make Riley respond to the outside world. It was way over the heads of my little ones, but they still enjoyed it. I adored this movie. I could relate to absolutely everything that Riley was going through. And I attached myself to Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler. She was hilarious. I cried through most of it, even the funny scenes, because I felt like the people at Pixar nailed it. They captured, in one silly little movie, all that has become of me and this transition to a new place. I was stunned at the accuracy, scene after scene. And I was so thankful, because I felt like others who couldn't understand how I felt could now get a clear picture. No more "oh, she is just being dramatic" or "its not really that bad" stuff. Someone could see the movie and then say to me "wow....I had no idea what you were going through", which is really what I've wanted folks to say all along, I guess. I was a bit melancholy after the film and I grieved a bit all over again for what we lost, but I hopped on the plane and came back home to California, happy to reconnect with friends, happy to greet the morning clouds, happy to be in my new space. 

I decided that I just need to embrace all of the emotions, and remember that Joy is always with me - though significantly less vocal and present than the other emotions, it seems. Well, that's not entirely fair to say. I have found much Joy, especially this summer: gossiping with my sisters at the dinner table, embracing dear friends and recounting the events since I have been gone, laughing with my son on a roller coaster, watching my daughter tackle her first Lego set, and independently creating a summer vacation full of great memories. I have Joy. And even back here in California already, I found much Joy reuniting with new friends, and watching my kids do the same. I haven't lost her. I guess I just need to remind myself that she is always with me, even during the harder times. My "Summer of Joy" will continue. We just returned from a weekend getaway to Vegas - a REAL vacation without the kids. And soon we will head off to Hawaii. If I can't find Joy there, I must not be looking hard enough!! I'm so happy (or should I say joyful) our trip went well. I'm excited about our other trips to come. And I thank you, Joy, for sticking with me through it all. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

This is My Fight Song

My son is SO excited for Kindergarten to be over. He told me that he is completely ready for 1st grade and that it really doesn't make sense to spend so many more days on this easy stuff that he has been doing. I can't imagine him as a first grader - he's still so little!

And he is totally pumped for our summer journey back to DC, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Atlanta to see family and friends. I am - not quite as thrilled. Due to a crazy work schedule, Kevin is unable to travel with us. That leaves me as the responsible adult who has to herd the cats through the airport, onto a cross-country flight, into a rental car, around town, including a train ride as well to NJ, and back again, over the course of 5 weeks. I am certainly not heading into enemy territory - the East Coast is home - but I typically do not take on these solo journeys because they rattle me to no end. And while I so wish everyone we were visiting had a planned itinerary for our stay, the majority of our adventures will be dependent on me and my planning. Oh - but let me not forget to give a much-deserved shout-out to my sister-in-law Emma, who, as a fellow Gemini, has absolutely planned our weekend visit to include beach and shopping and park time and wine time and kid time and - whatever else she planned. Go Emma!

The poor kids. They are stuck with me as their tour guide. Even for my own honeymoon, I sat back and followed my husband around. While I had been planning the wedding (which I kind of liked, but for the planning part of it), he planned a lovely holiday in Italy. I had little input and that was just fine with me. He is able to navigate activities and destinations and pick great hotels and find awesome restaurants and keep us busy but not frantic, relaxed but not comatose. It is a very fine balance. Heading back to Washington I certainly have an advantage - I know the place. But now I have to figure what to do each day with my little beasties at my side. And it will probably be a lovely 100 degrees with 100% humidity...probably payback for bad-mouthing California weather so readily.

I think I'm afraid plans will fall through. Or I'll just be so frazzled getting us out to the zoo that by the time I get there, I won't want to stay. I don't know. I plan everything else in my life - menus, workouts for the week, clothing for the kids, parties at the house, sewing projects and the order in which they should be tackled - why is this such a trap? Either way, it is sure to be quite an adventure. And along with other challenges that have come my way, I'm assuming that while it may not be pretty, I'll get through it. I try to remind myself that if I can get through this move across the country, I can do just about anything because NOTHING could possibly be harder than what I've already done.

It had only been a few weeks into our new life in California when I was driving somewhere, probably lost, left with my thoughts and the nice navigation lady's voice to keep me company. This song caught my attention. By Rachel Platten, it is called Fight Song and the lyrics are all about being strong and rising above and doing what you need to do, even if no one else believes that you can. I kind of loved it immediately and waited for the radio to play it again and again. Then I broke down and paid the $1.29 on iTunes and added it to my library and the more I hear it, the more I identify with the message. I play it on my way to boot camp each morning and I remind myself that I can do it. Whatever it is. I think everybody needs a fight song.

I am looking forward to seeing family and friends that I have missed these past few months. I am looking forward to familiar landscapes and repeat adventures. With some hesitation, I am looking forward to seeing how I feel now that I have a new home in California and it doesn't quite hurt as much to think about the old house or the old favorites. I am looking forward to getting back on the plane at the end of 5 weeks and saying with sincerity "let's go home", with home being Burlingame, not Alexandria. I am going to have to keep planning, as ugly as it gets. I am shipping books of activities ahead. I am having my sister do a Michael's run for crafts. I am packing cards for the plane, loading up on snacks and preparing for a long, but good journey. I will try not to let a little bit of work on my part or unexpected events dampen the joy. I'll take care of myself and my kids and we will be a great little team. And I'll get back to California and keep on fighting for peace and a sense of place. Everybody needs a fight song. For the summer, this is mine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Project Run and Play - "Chevron Madness" Top

This month's challenge was to re-imagine a cute little chevron shirt, compliments of The Crafty Cupboard. I call this my "Chevron Madness" top because it was a completely maddening experience, this challenge for May. But I set to work and ended up with this chevron top.

This month's pattern just did not work for me....and I don't know why. I attempted it twice, in different sizes, but neither fit Rachel very well at all. On the brink of throwing in the towel for this month, I decided to try and pattern it myself.....I probably should have thrown in the towel because that took a very long time. FINALLY, I had a pattern that seemed to fit properly. In re-patterning, I changed the way the back top panels meet, I killed the sleeves, I adjusted the armholes to make them pleated, and lengthened the whole thing.

Then I had to figure out the chevron. I do not love chevron, but I wanted to use it as a learning experience. Since I refuse to buy anything for these monthly challenges, I found a great striped fabric and set to work cutting it on the diagonal to build a chevron-inspired design. I then had to cut the pattern just right so the seam ended up in the middle of the garment on each side. Not easy. Not perfect. Not too bad. Very maddening indeed. And bonus - - I have TONS of extra pieces of striped fabric cut along the diagonal if anyone needs it!

The two button closure on the back escaped me. I guess I wasn't in the mood to try and figure it out. I scrapped the whole thing and just did a traditional one-button closure. The trim is a wide velvet ribbon that I cut in half and folded into the seam.

I lengthened the top and dropped the elastic band several inches in order to get the blousing effect. It can potentially be worn either fluffed up a bit or straight down. If I had Rae's little belly (which I do, since she inherited it from me), I would appreciate the figure-flattering blousing effect!!

And, for the record, while the rest of the country enjoys warmer May weather, Northern California is FREEZING COLD right now. (Now that I live here, COLD = 60 degrees). So I just couldn't let her run around sleeveless given the chilly breeze. I didn't make the top....someone at Gymboree did.

This is NOT reversible. I didn't even try. I think this month took more of my mental energy than ALL of the others entries combined, and I'm not that jazzed with the result. I ran out of fabric, I was definitely out of patience and I refused to spend any more time on it.

Once again, my model-in-residence showed much disdain for the multiple pictures I needed. But this is the first time she has not wanted to immediately pitch the garment off when I told her we were all done. She played at the park for quite a while post photo shoot. So while I may not love this outfit, Rae seemed happy and comfortable, which is really what matters, right?