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?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Complaints Box is Full

I have spent an enormous amount of time and energy complaining about California. There is nothing too small that I can't find a way to blame on this place that I find myself in. Let's be clear - there are many things that are worthy of complaint around here....too many people, too many internet companies, too many pieces of real estate that are overpriced, not enough buses, not enough water, not enough food priced in the reasonable range. The list is limitless. Catch me on a bad day and see how long I can actually go on about what stinks about California. And if the weather dares to be anything less than perfect, California is a complete fraud, claiming to be full of sunshine and happiness when it really isn't. I have done my very best to deny that anything truly positive could result from a move to California. And time has passed and here we sit, still in California.

A few weekends ago I headed off to Napa for a girls weekend. We had been planning it for several months and I was really looking forward to the time with friends and wine. And it was everything I hoped it would be, with much laughter and fun, lots of wine, and a simply perfect landscape as a backdrop. Did you know Napa is in California? I was shocked, too! I can't complain about Napa. Not one thing. It is such a lovely place....and it is firmly attached to California (I guess until the next Big One. Something to complain about for sure. Earthquakes kind of top my list.) I fully expected to spend most of my time missing home but every time I tried to work myself into a homesick frenzy, I couldn't do it. And the ladies on the trip were comforting and sweet and understood my journey, as most had similar experiences, and - all was good. I love these gals. I can't wait to see them again. A WIN for California - Napa.

Cathy, Shannon, Janet and I
Add Lou and Renzo to the mix for an awesome day of vineyard hopping
PN, or Post Napa, I have been a bit more content. I have been less likely to hate on San Francisco, and more likely to take it in. Last week we had a perfectly lovely Friday and the kids were so excited to try the backyard pool. Yes, I somehow still find a way to complain about a backyard pool. I am embarrassed. But having not grown up going to the pool regularly, or even being that comfortable in the water, the idea of a backyard pool is tough. We almost didn't get this particular house because of it, but a sturdy fence around the perimeter has helped put me at ease. The water has been like ice - but I was willing to let the kids give it a try. And boy is that nice! A pool in the backyard is fun. I'm sure I'm not the first person to discover this but it is news to me. We had a fabulous afternoon and we will be inviting friends to join us soon. Another WIN for California - pools.

The little elves are happy again

Kevin travels way too much for work. It is getting ridiculous, the back and forths to the East Coast. He was gone for another Sunday and I was fully prepared to keep the kids in and clean the house. It is easy. A new friend here suggested we drive the kids down to San Jose and enjoy the day at the children's museum. Sounded - awful. Drive somewhere unknown and far away? Pay more money for another museum? Deal with the kids in a large space? Pack lunch? UGH! But I adore this friend and her children and I figured it would be good for us all. And it was. What a fantastic little place for a fantastic adventure. I felt so grown up - taking on the big adventure without Kevin to drive me or plan it, which is how it usually works. And all of us enjoyed the company of friends. Another WIN for California - endless adventures and great new friends.

Crafting at the museum
I actually have a legitimate complaint about this "wonderful" place. I have not been able to sleep. I have suffered from pretty awful insomnia. I have trouble falling asleep. When I finally fall asleep, I can't stay asleep, and I find myself awake at 2AM, reading the most boring things I can find to make me drowsy enough to crawl back into bed. It usually doesn't work and I end up reading for 2 hours, then getting dressed and heading out to an early morning workout. I'm up - I might as well do something, right? I have tried stretching and tea, lavender spray and lavender oils, drinking no water after 8pm and eating no food after 7pm. I've banished the iPhone and screens from my view a 1/2 hour before bedtime in hopes of settling my mind. I've tried - a lot. I even resorted to using ZzzQuil. It worked like a charm the first few times I took it, but then my stubborn brain won out and even if I took it, I could stay up despite the drugs. Initially, it didn't matter so much but then it started to catch up on me. I was literally stumbling through my days, snapping at my children, struggling to keep my eyes open during homework time. I was beginning to fear driving because I knew I was sleepy. And then I was fearful of bedtime, because I knew I wouldn't sleep. Sleep poorly for 3 months and life is hard no matter where you live. 

One of my new friends here was witness to my struggles. She offered suggestions and much sympathy for my plight. And then she read an article about insomnia and took action. She ordered me a coloring book and ordered me to try it. It couldn't hurt. Earlier this year she successfully cured my son's pink eye without any medication so I am very amenable to anything she suggests. And it was an incredibly thoughtful gesture. I climbed into bed, after stretching and lavender spray and no screens, borrowed my son's colored pencils, and set to work. 

It was fun. I liked listening to the sound of the pencil strokes and taking my time to color in the lines. And I didn't get very far before my eyes started to droop and I was ready to put it away. And then I slept. For more than 6 hours straight. I woke up, but was able to fall back asleep until my alarm had me up for my early morning workout. I had a great workout. And I had a great day. And I think it was because I had a coloring book. And I wouldn't have had that coloring book had I not met a great new friend....who happens to live in this place called California. Even if the coloring does not work in the future, I still have the great friend that gave me the book in the first place. That certainly can't hurt my life here on the West Coast. Another WIN for California - compassionate friends and restful nights. So while I could continue to complain about this place, it sure feels like I just shouldn't. The complaints box is full, its contents have been taken into consideration, and I'm feeling better about whatever comes next. But now let's keep our fingers crossed for no earthquakes. I know I will complain about that.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Project Run and Play - Buddy Bag

After an unintended month off from the Project Run and Play sewing challenges (my March entry was totally solid, too), I am so pleased to be submitting my April entry ON TIME! This month, we were asked to re-imagine a reversible sling bag from Sugar Bee Crafts. I made her a little bag with a buddy to keep her company.

I love corduroy. I think I made 10 different types of overalls for my son out of corduroy. And I have lots of it just waiting to be used. The pink fabric is just a simple cotton/polyester. I knew I had better do something pink so that Rae would attempt to like it.

I added a bow to hide the seams on the strap. Kinda love the bow.

I spent a ton of time trying to find a nice mocha shade for the dolly's face and body. Without getting too political, it can be difficult to find toys, dolls, books and other images depicting the unique skin tone that is my little Rachel. I knew that if I didn't find what I needed in my stash, I would go buy some appropriate fabric, which violates one of my Project Run and Play rules (always use what I already have at my fingertips). But I found some corduroy (yeah) that is just the right color. And I made the hair "curly" so it looks like Rae. The eyes and mouth are thick thread; the hair is yarn.

Rachel loves undies. She thinks they are so funny. When I fold laundry she likes to line up all of the pairs for each different family member. She giggles when she sees the undies on her little dolly!

And how excited was I to be able to make something reversible AGAIN?? And on the reverse side, her little buddy is taking a nap under an eyelet blanket. And her blanket is actually a little pocket as well.

I did not use opposing fabrics on each side as the pattern suggested but I made that center panel out of the same fabric, just turned on the diagonal.

The bag itself did not take long to put together once I had the right size for Rae. The doll took several hours since I stitched on the features and the hair. With the extra time I decided to make a simple shirt that matches her bag. She said the shirt is comfortable and looks like a big "marshmeadow" (that is marshmellow, in Rachel speak).

My son took many of the pictures for this month's entry. He basically chased Rachel around the playground, but he did capture quite a few decent shots that were also in focus. It felt good watching Rae run away from someone else for a change. She hates a photo shoot. I had to give him some recognition for his hard work. Thank you Ben!

"Get your own photo shoot, buddy..."