One of Baby Girl’s favorite things to do is “play puzzle”. Puzzles have been big with all the kids, but this is really her thing these days. We have plenty, but I wanted to get her a new one for her birthday.  In my quest, I discovered there are few choices in the 50-60 piece range and a lot of puzzle illustrations are kind of ugly. Is that harsh? If they aren’t ugly, they are boring. Seriously, where are all the cute puzzles? I did see this set, which I LOVE, but 4 pieces per puzzle isn’t going to cut it. If I were artistic or a better photographer, I would have a puzzle made.

I ended up ordering a layered puzzle from Moolka.  It is a clever little puzzle that shows sunflowers in different stages of growth (i.e. here are kids planting the seeds, look the stalks are coming up, hey those sunflowers are taller than the kids now).  I thought that the layers would add a challenge even though there aren’t that many pieces.  Wrong.  She loves it but she can put it together in about 30 seconds.   Sigh.

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Who can I petition to get a 60+ piece puzzle made from a Petit Collage piece or a Charley Harper illustration? There is a definite gap in the market for stylish puzzles.

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We all survived Baby Girl’s birthday party. We shoveled out the house (the main level, at least) and I finally came to grips with the fact that preschoolers don’t need gourmet meals. Apparently, something short-circuits in my brain when it comes to birthday party planning. I can’t handle the pressure. My rational mind can’t seem to overcome the panoply of “shoulds”.

I think I should:

  • identify a theme for the party
  • make the invitations by hand to fit the theme
  • send the invitations with several weeks’ notice
  • make all of the favors (and fit the theme, of course)
  • make the house spotless and inviting to kids, all at the same time
  • provide fun and stimulating games and crafts (did I mention the theme?)
  • serve healthy, homemade and delicious food
  • make the cake from scratch

Instead, I slapped together invitations 5 days before the party. No games or crafts. As for lunch, I added peas to the mac and cheese. That’s healthy, right? I ordered the cake. Couldn’t even muster cupcakes from a box. Sigh.

I managed to put a small amount of effort into the favors. I made a batch of play dough and some blank books.

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The books were just A2 folded cards from Paper Source and halved printer paper for the pages. I pamphlet-stitched them together with waxed linen thread. Fancier than is strictly necessary for the under 5 crowd, but a satisfying project nonetheless.

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Before people started to arrive, I was hanging up Baby Girl’s fabric bunting (I made it for her 1st birthday and hang it up each year). Baby Girl pointed to one flag and with mild displeasure in her voice asked, “why did you do that to my shoes?” Huh? It took me a second, but then it dawned on me that she recognized the Alexander Henry print. She just couldn’t figure out how I had gotten the animals from her shoes onto the fabric bunting.

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Quite an eye, that girl! No wonder she is so good at Memory

I was greeted yesterday morning by a small and very funny girl announcing, “Mommy, I’m these many today!”

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It was a bittersweet moment to admit she was right.  Three?!?  How can my little peanut by three already?  Somehow the warm bundle I wore everywhere has become the epitome of independence.  She is a self-proclaimed Big Girl, with strong opinions about everything, especially regarding what she wears.

Fortunately, the mama-made clothes are often on her short list.  For her birthday, I made her a new Oliver & S Tea Party Sundress.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love this pattern.  The instructions are clear and easy to follow.  The details are clever and produce a tailored garment, yet they are simple enough for the advanced beginner.

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The printed fabrics are “Just Dreamy” from Riley Blake Designs.  The green is a Kona cotton.  Now that I’ve traced the pattern, I may just have to sew a couple more.  I think she’ll like that.

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Happy birthday to my silly, little peanut!  You may be getting bigger, but you will always be my Baby Girl.

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Three of the hens are laying now.  Miss Red, here, is the most consistent layer of the brood.  Everyday by 10am there is a large brown egg waiting for us in the box.  With two of the other hens laying, we average 2 a day.  The eggs have moved beyond novelty to staple.  We didn’t get to the store this weekend, so I had to survey the kitchen and think on my feet to come up with dinner.  Eggs on the counter + veggies from the CSA basket = quiche for dinner.

Maybe the novelty has yet to wear.  I’m still pretty excited by our small sliver of urban sustainability.

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Nothing feels as fleeting as cleanliness.  A large part of my day off was spent sweeping, washing, tidying, and scrubbing.  The kids arrived home to spread a cup of sand from the playground and a granola bar all over the floor.  I should know to enjoy it while I can.

As the school year was coming to a close in June, the month of August looked a lot like the Illinois horizon – stretching on forever without many points of interest. Color me shocked that it has flown by so quickly. I guess an unexpected change in jobs and a big road trip helped repaint the landscape a bit.

The big kids start school next week and I’m trying to reform the way I deal with lunches. I hate to admit that the kids ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks and a piece of fruit for 90% of their lunches last year. I’m not one to make lunches the night before. I really don’t like the texture of sandwiches that have been in the fridge, so I never think to make them for my kids. After reading about Melissa’s plan for school lunches, I was inspired to expand my lunch-making repertoire this year.

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After dispensing far too much mental energy (with a hefty dose of financial guilt), I went ahead and ordered LunchBots. I got an Uno and Duo for each. They are really nice. The Uno is the perfect size for a sandwich. The Duo just right for a couple of sides. They both fit in the kids’ lunch bags, with room to spare.

But what about what goes in the bags? Good question. We made a list of main course ideas. Some of the kids’ choices, like tuna salad sandwiches, will need to stay cool.  The lunch bags we have are insulated so I think we can handle that. We’ve included rice and tofu as an option.  We’ll have to see how the kids like eating their rice at room temperature. Given their crazy love for rice and tofu (including a song and dance) I am guessing the temperature should not pose too much of a problem.

I’ve also been trying out some recipes for treats that might find their way into lunches. So far we’ve tested and approved PB balls and homemade Lara Bars. Next up on the to-try list is baked oatmeal.

We went to back-to-school night and saw the new site.  The kids were excited to see teachers and friends and the school looks great.  They are so ready to be back and I am looking forward to the return of routine.  Let’s hope I can get the hang of a new lunch routine, too.

A couple months ago I started knitting a ruffled dress for Baby Girl.  The ruffle was HUGE!  It was ridiculous.  After far more time and yarn than I care to admit, I ripped it out and started a different pattern.  A simple tank top.  A few inches into that one, I decided I didn’t like it and frogged again.  At this point, the ladies at knitting group were getting a good chuckle.

Per my knitting guru‘s advice, I started Monica (Knitty Spring 2007).  The only alterations I made were that I knit it in the round and made i-cord straps, instead of the garter straps the pattern called for.  I was a little careless in my translating from knitting flat to knitting in the round and didn’t notice the bottom of the ruffle was supposed to have a few rows of garter.  Damn.  It rolls.  It is  annoying, but I am going to ignore it as best I can.  I am not frogging again.   Do you hear that inner perfectionist?!?  I. AM. NOT. FROGGING. AGAIN.

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A couple friends mentioned making pickles recently and I just could not shake the idea.  Despite the fact that we are off on a 2000+ mile adventure soon, I insisted on going to the farmer’s market on Saturday to get cucumbers.  Must.  Make.  Pickles.

A lot of people I know would turn their noses up at the thought of bread and butter pickles.  Sweet pickles?  No way.  Pickles should be dill and garlicky.  I love a good dill pickle, but the sweet and tangy bite of a bread and butter pickle takes me back to my grandma’s kitchen in East Texas.

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Not having my grandma’s recipe, I used the recipe in Ball’s Blue Book.  The smell alone took me back 30 years.  I canned two quarts and they are supposed to “ripen” for a couple weeks before we use them.  There were a few that didn’t fit, so I had a chance to taste test.  Who needs a time machine, when you have a pickle?

For you dill pickle aficionados, never fear, the vinegar has been replenished and the other 5 pounds of cukes are all queued up with their buddies dill and garlic.

I signed up for the Gocco Swap on impulse.  It is hard to resist the promise of 11 people’s inspired work arriving in my mailbox.  The problem was finding my own inspiration.

The theme of the swap is one.  One image?  One color?  One print per person?  It was up to each of us to decide.  Having always loved broadsides (and lacking any drawing skills) I decided to print some text.  A not-so-broad broadside.

I looked through multiple books of poetry, but nothing felt quite right.  Alas, sometimes inspiration is right in front of one’s nose.  In my case, it was hanging on the kitchen bulletin board.  Rising to the top of the visual noise of the board was a quote the hubby pinned up a while ago.   I don’t know about you, but it is a sentiment I need to be reminded of regularly.

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Thanks to Hubby for finding the inspiring words and for being the ever-patient font master.

Skirts are an essential in my summer wardrobe.  The other day, I was wearing one that I made a few years ago.  It is a simple bias cut a-line, made from fabric I brought back from Hawaii.  Since it was sewn for a pre-baby #3 body shape, I decided I could use another similar skirt with a little added room around the waist.  I pulled out the pattern pieces and made some adjustments.  I’m sure my method of alteration was not the recommended way, but it seems to have worked.

As much as I love my skirts, I have noticed a severe deficit of pockets in the skirts I own.  I decided to add some in-seam pockets to my new skirt.  Here’s where I really went off the map.  I drafted a piece that seemed okay and added the appropriate seam allowance.  After sewing one side, I realized that the pockets weren’t deep enough.  Hello, seam ripper!  I have a love-hate relationship with my seam ripper.  Love that I have it.  Hate how often I use it.

Anyway, I was about to throw in the towel and sew it up without pockets, but girded my loins and tried again.  Success!  Next time, I might research the proper way to do in-seam pockets, since mine seem a little bulky.  Regardless of the bulk, I do love having pockets.

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As for the hem, I took a cue from Liesl‘s Lazy Days skirt pattern.  Instead of ribbon, I used a wide, single fold bias tape.  Makes for a far more even and cleaner hem than I tend to get by measuring and ironing and measuring and ironing.

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I’m guessing there are more of these in my near future.