Thursday, February 28, 2013

Moving forward . . . with a giveaway!

How is it possible that January and February have draggggggged on forever, but also sped by so fast I can't believe it is March 1st tomorrow?  My two months of daily blog posts have been a fun experiment, and as they come to the end I have been tossing over plans for the coming months.

Continue with daily posts?  Back off to a three or four a week?  I have enjoyed being in the habit of writing, and feel like I have accomplished what I set out to do with daily posts.  But life has been getting very busy.  I have had more than one person ask me, "How do you have time to do your blog?"  And the truth is, with the sewing and other writing that I want to do, I have decided that it is time to end my daily posts.

I am a little bit afraid that if I slow down, I'll stop altogether again, but fear is not a very good reason to keep going.  Now that I have done daily posts for two months, I know that I can keep on track.  At this point, I would like to have a little extra time to reflect on what I am writing.  A post a day can end up being a frantic "What am I going to post today?!" and that is not what I intend for my blog.  As I move forward, I do so with the intention of being more purposeful . . . more thoughtful of what I want to put out there.

I can tell you who will be glad that Mama is not going to do daily posts anymore . . .






Totally little girl hair, not toddler hair!


John and the kids have been very gracious and patient as I have had a busy couple of months with blogging, painting the bathroom and hallways, and sewing up a storm.  Taking a few days a week off from blogging will make these kidlets very happy!

So here we go, moving into a new month.  I will still be here, blogging away, it just won't be every day anymore.  To celebrate new beginnings and the coming spring (Soon, I hope!), I have a March 1st giveaway to tell you about.

Two lucky readers are going to win a new toilettries/pencil bag!  That's right, not just one, but two!  All you have to do is become a follower of my blog or "like" Ad Libs on facebook.  Want an extra entry?  Share a link of your favorite post that I wrote over the last two months on facebook, and be sure to tag me so I know you get an extra entry.  I will draw the winners at 7 p.m. tomorrow night (March 1st) . . . good luck!


The gray and red asymmetric bag is my favorite . . . which one would you like to win?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A custom touch

Today I finished my most recent sewing project, two bench cushions a friend hired me to make.  No tutorial here, but I wanted to point out a few "extras" that anyone can add into a sewing project to give it that custom touch.  There are already a plethora of tutorials online for any of these techniques, so check out youtube if you decide to try any of them on your next project.

The cushion is a two inch high-density foam, a durable and resilient foam that will stand up to being used on an entry-way bench.  To make a functional cushion cover, all you need is enough fabric to cover the top, bottom, and sides, plus a seam allowance.  And you can make it that simple if you want.  But if you want a cushion (or pillow) with a little more of a pop, then read on!


First step, don't forget to prewash your fabric prior to starting any project.  Nothing worse then finishing a sewing project and having it warp the first time you wash it because your fabrics shrink differently in the wash!  This fabric was purchased from the Fabric Warehouse . . . beautiful designer fabric for a fraction of the retail store price.


Piping is the fabric encased tube that you see above, outlining the edges of the cushions.  Very simple to make, and it gives a piece that tailored finish.  Key thing to remember is to cut your fabric on the bias, not on the grain, so that your piping will curve around corners easily.  Half a yard of fabric will yield about seven yards of piping.


Put in a zipper!  Easy enough to do, and then when your kid spills ice cream on it, you can take the cover off your cushion/pillow, and throw it in the wash.  Here you can see the stitching I did on either side of the zipper to reinforce and give it a tailored finish.


I would have loved to use invisible zippers on these cushions, as I do when making pillows, but I needed a zipper that was at least 36 inches long.  No invisible zippers that long.  Ultimately, though, an upholstery zipper (such as I used) is a better option anyway, as it will be sturdier in the long run.  What to do to hide the zipper pull?  Make a flap of fabric to go over it!  The pull tucks right in, and won't be waving all over with the potential to scrape the bench or snag someone while they pull their boots on.


Line the cover.  You can get a basic white muslin for $1 / yard at Joann Fabrics with a coupon, and that will work just fine.  Your cover will be sturdier, with less chance for warp or damage over the long-term.  (As long as you remember to wash and dry everything before you start your project!)

The last touch I did with these covers was to serge the seam allowance on the inside.  It doesn't always happen that your project can look as pretty inside as out, but it does here.  If you don't have a serger that will cut the excess and do a cover stitch, just trim off the little frayed edges yourself and use a zig-zag stitch on a regular machine.


See how pretty the inside is after running it thru the serger?  These covers will last a very long time because of the piping, lining, zipper, and serging.  Well worth the effort!


And the finished products . . . give me a shout out if you have a custom project you want me to tackle, I'd be glad to give you a quote!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The usual morning in the Libby house goes something like this:

Kids play in their room from 7 - 8, then I roll out of bed (or come in from my run), and head to their room to get them up, banana and diaper in hand.  MUST NOT walk into the room without a banana, or Jude turns into raging wildebeast, fighting his diaper change with all of his 18-month old strength.  He is a wiry little guy, but VERY strong.

Hand Sophia undies and clothes, and instruct her to go potty and get dressed.  Repeat instructions about 17 million times as Sophia hides in various locations upstairs.

Get Jude dressed.  Give up on Sophia getting dressed, and head downstairs.  Three minutes later the Snuggler wanders down, in some state of dress.  Or not.  Tell Snuggler to wander back upstairs and come back down with clothes on.  Pronto.

Put Jude in his high chair and attempt to get cereal out as fast as he wants it.  FAIL.  Realize that the honey nut O's you got the kids for a treat have almonds in them and will kill your first-born.

Make oatmeal for Sophia.

Make more oatmeal for Jude when he spots Sophia's and decides he MUST HAVE OATMEAL NOW OR DIE!

Chug down half a cup of tepid coffee left over from the day before, or else surviving the morning madness will be questionable.

Dive back in . . . GAH!  How could I forget Jude and Sophia's milk cups?!  "I am getting it, Jude, you can stop flipping out now."

Enter Sophia, fully dressed, with some sort of ridiculous breakfast demand.

"Can I have popovers?"


"Can I have cheerios?"

"They'll kill you, eat your oatmeal."

"Can I have my heart candies?"


"Can I have chocolate milk?"

"No.  If you eat a good breakfast, then I will make you some for snack.  A good breakfast equals all of your oatmeal, and some fruit."

"I don't want chocolate milk."  Pout.

"Eat your oatmeal anyway."

"I don't like oatmeal."  Pout.

"You seemed to like it yesterday when you ate it down without a complaint in about two minutes.  What changed?"

"I don't like it."  More pout.

"Tough.  Eat it."

Pout.  Slow eating.

Time for morning meds.  Nixing the applesauce in favor of Sophia swallowing her med has been a great addition to our morning.  Dropping the little granules out of the capsule onto the spoon was a pain in the butt.  "No, don't turn your head away when I just pushed down on your inhalor!  Great.  That's great.  Did you even get any?"

"I don't like my inhalor."

"Well, Dr. T said you have to take it."  (This is not throwing Dr. T under the bus . . . Sophia loves her, so when I say Dr. T said to do it she thinks it's great.  Hopefully she never rebels against Dr. T or I'm in trouble.)

Morning meds more or less in, time for another gulp of coffee, just as Jude announces:


"All done" is usually accompanied by chucking whatever he doesn't want anymore on the floor.  Sophia and I simultaneously call out "No throw, Jude!" and I race over to grab him out of his chair, dancing around whatever breakfast is now all over the floor.  What is it with this age and the necessity to throw things on the floor?  I could literally be holding his hands, ready to get him out, and that little stinker will struggle away, on a mission to chuck one last cheerio on the floor.

One last Herculean task and the morning routine will be complete . . . Sophia's hair.

You wouldn't think that putting her hair in pigtails would be too terrible, but it usually involves threats of timeout, at least one "Don't run away from me, Sophia!", and saying "Hold still!" many many many times.  If the wiggle worm would just get that it would take a fraction of the time with cooperation hair time would be a much less bloody battle.  (Figuratively bloody, people, I don't rip her hair out or anything.)  I would love to go back to her cute little crop, but the Snuggler insists "I want hair down my back, like Bianca."

Oy.  It's a miracle we all survive this routine.

Last night I decided to try something new . . . going to bed early (by 10 p.m.), and getting up early.  You may have noticed . . . the above scenario doesn't leave any time for me to even get dressed, so I am usually running around sweaty in running tights, or just rolled out of bed in pj's.  My thinking was that being fully dressed and having a couple minutes to myself might make the chaos more tolerable.

And it totally did!  I got up at 6:30, dressed, got my face on, and was downstairs with a cup of coffee in hand 15 minutes later.  John and I chatted briefly in the kitchen, then I settled down to have my quiet time in the living room as he ate breakfast and did his quiet time at the dining room table.  We heard the kids wake up and start playing, and when I headed upstairs a little early to get them at 7:30, I was feeling calm and together.

The whole calm and together thing only lasted a few minutes, but somehow the morning chaos was doable.  The thing to note is that the kids were as crazy as ever, but having those few minutes to myself and starting off with a nice calm quiet time made the chaos pretty much bounce right off me.  Mostly.  And Sophia's hair?  We french braided it, people!  Double braids!  With no sadness!  Or running away!

That settles it.  One morning in, and I would say my experiment was a grand success and worth sticking with.  Tomorrow morning is a running day, so now all I have to do is convince my running partner she wants to get up that early, too . . .

Monday, February 25, 2013


As the mother of 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year olds, I feel like there is a certain amount of craziness that I have to allow.  Sophia invents new dangerous games on a daily basis, so I figure I need to let her have at it with the lesser of many evils.

So we allow jumping off the couch.  Onto cushions, and mostly just under supervision.  (Not under supervision = when I walk into the living room and find Sophia quietly jumping on her own, with a carefully constructed cushion pile.)  No jumping on the couch itself . . . I don't think my $125 craigslist special would stand up to that for long.

There are some boundaries to the craziness.  You want to have a screaming contest with your brother?  In the living room, please, not in the kitchen where I am.  Time to run around the house like banshees?  Do it quietly.  At least when you come thru wherever I am.

Hmm.  I guess my boundaries mostly have to do with noise.  Climbing on the furniture is sort-of ok, but I am not a big fan of high volume accompanying said climbing.

I guess I mostly figure they are going to climb and run and be crazy, so why bother being bothered.  I have other battles I prefer to fight . . . everyone has to choose their battles!  I would rather fight the "clean up your toys" or "set the table" or "be polite" battles instead.  Otherwise I would end up having to put the kid in timeout 20 times a day for jumping, and Jude would be right there behind her.

Welcome to Crazytown!

As I write this it's "naptime," and I hear suspicious jumping sounds coming from Sophia's room . . . no holes have been bashed in the walls, though, and there haven't been any broken bones (knock on wood), so I pretty much just pretend not to hear it.  Naptime is too sacred for me to interrupt it with refereeing!  Lest you are fooled into thinking that I am Uber Zen Mama, let me tell you that there are plenty of times I do nip the crazy in the bud . . . one can only take so much crazy per day, after all!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Random thoughts of growing children

I was looking back thru my blog archive today, and came across this post about playing "Monster" with Sophia when she was a little younger than Jude is now.  I always think of Jude and Sophia as being such different little people, but I guess they have both gone thru some of the same stages.  "Monster" has morphed into "Chase," and the Snuggler and Cuddler both love to play.  They run around the circle of our living room, dining room, and kitchen, laughing wildly as I chase them, growling and grabbing at them.

Jude is still terribly slow compared to his big sister, and does more laughing than running.  I mimicked his flailing run a couple nights ago when we played "Chase," and he and Sophia both thought it was pretty hysterical.  I remember when I used to compare Sophia's run to that of Jack Sparrow . . . now Jude has the Jack Sparrow run and Sophia's is a little more grown up.

Both kids LOVE it when I hide around a corner and jump out with a roar just as they come dashing into the room.  Sophia will actually order me to scare her, and then is legitimately surprised 10 seconds later when I pop out.

Lately I've been bemoaning the fact that Jude has gone back to his old clingy self, and loves to be with me all the time.  Not just with me, but attached to me.

I was thinking about that today, though, and realized that Sophia actually went thru this phase, too.  Not so much physically clingy, but I remember a short little time around 18 months that she would cry when I took her down to nursery at church or left the house to run errands.

Now Sophia has suddenly turned into a little girl.  I noticed it sometime this week, when her slightly younger cousin was over.  I have been thinking of her as a toddler for so long, but it just struck me that she really wan't a toddler anymore.  I'm not sure exactly what it was that hit me, but I mentioned it to John and he said he had noticed, too.  Something about her attitude, or growing ability to reason, or maybe the surprising things that come out of her mouth.  Somehow she just seems so grown up.

I'm a little bit bothered by the whole thing.  I don't really want her to move into the next stage yet, but don't have a way to stop time.  It's not that I want to have a toddler daughter for posterity, but I'm just not sure I'm ready to deal with little girl issues . . . seems more complicated then what we have had going on till now.

"Chase" is still as popular as ever.  I don't know when you outgrow that one.  I guess as long as Buddy Boy wants to play Sophia probably will too.  Watching these two kids grow and change and morph into real little people makes me glad for this blog.  I'm glad to be able to go back and remember what was, and see how Sophia and Jude are alike but distinct in their own ways.  My memory is too poor to rely on.

I'd like to say that looking back has made me feel nostalgic and appreciative of the stage Jude is at, but I had a migraine today and am mostly feeling tired.  I know I'll miss it when he isn't his clingy little self (though I don't think any future missing will induce a desire for a #3, so don't get any ideas), but sometimes knowing a thing doesn't necessarily translate into action.

Tomorrow is a new day.  I'm sure we'll be playing chase, and having big girl conversations (because Sophia carries on REAL conversations now . . . crazy!), and dealing with clingy Jude.  And I won't have a migraine, and will have a nice cup of coffee in hand, and I'm sure I'll have a more positive outlook on change and more appreciation for where things are now and are going in the future.

I guess this post is more like a journal entry than anything else.  No particular "beginning, middle, end" as a well-rounded essay might have.  But it's what I have been thinking about, and as this blog is my "journal" I'm going to go with it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


A mom friend of mine summed it up . . . "Life gets busy.  We get used to not seeing each other, and then forget how much we need our friends."

It's kind of like cooking a lobster.  If all of a sudden you moved across the country and couldn't see your friends and family after visiting with them every day, you would feel that absence terribly.  But when life gets busy and you slowly lose touch with one friend, and then another, and another, their absence isn't as noticeable.  With the advent of facebook, you don't even realize that you have switched real flesh and blood for the occasional electronic exchange.

Until one day when you look up and realize that your existence has become so isolated it's like you live on another planet.

I have been enjoying my non-resolution to be more purposeful in my relationships.  Reconnecting has been good all the way around . . . it improves my lookout on life, refuels me to be more patient with the kids, and gives me an appreciation for this life God has given us.  I feel energized, and am reminded that there is more going on than my kids, my husband, my life, my problems . . .

Today I had a spur-of-the-moment visit with an old friend.  Is there anything better than old friends?  All friends are wonderful in their own way, but those friends you have had as long as you can remember are special.  They have seen you at your best and worst, and still love you.  Doesn't get much better than that.  There isn't the effort to impress, and if conversation lags it's okay.  It's nice to just be together.

Jude has been lethargic and sickly for a the past 24 hours with a fever and the occasional puke.  He hasn't wanted to do much except for hang out on me when awake, so out came the Moby.  You know what the litmus test is for who constitutes an "old friend?"

If you tell them your kid has the pukes, but they can come on over.  And they do, and you have a sink full of dishes and your hair is a wee bit crazy, but neither of you care.  There's no need to run around cleaning when you get the "I'm on my way!" text.  Instead, you keep sipping your coffee and eating your noontime breakfast cookie(s).  And let your hair be crazy.  And sink full.  And then you have a wonderful visit, cranky sick baby in the Moby and all.

I'm going to keep this reconnecting thing going right into the evening by sitting down with my hubs to watch a movie.  Who knows, we might even pause it every now and then to *gasp* . . . talk!  "Date night in" . . . we haven't been seeing much of each other between his work, my work, and 'oft sick children.

Here's to saying an in-person hello (not facebook!) . . . cheers!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Awesome Mom

Every once in a while, I get inspired to be Awesome Mom.

Who is Awesome Mom, you may be wondering?

Awesome Mom is the mom version of Proverbs 31.  She makes three course lunches, bathes the kids daily, bundles everyone into the car for a weekly trip to the library (never screwing up which day is storytime), keeps the house not only tidy but clean, makes sure everyone sits down for family dinner every night, and is generally all around Awesome.

Awesome Mom does not forget to do her daughter's hair all day, ever lose patience, let her children watch television, or drink too much . . . . . coffee.

Most importantly, Awesome Mom is cool.  She is always planning the next fun adventure, whether it be a nature walk, trip to the orchard, a simple playdate, going to the fair, or something really cool like a scavenger hunt.

The problem with trying to be Awesome Mom is that when you try too hard, the attempt is doomed to fail.

Check out this past Awesome Mom adventure . . .



You're probably wondering what adventure these pictures of 20-month old Sophia outside in a stroller (in a snowy landscape, no less) could possibly be documenting.

Why, the first ice cream of spring, of course.

I had just read this post my favorite blogger had written about making memories with your children, and how she and a friend took hers to the orange grove.  The pictures were so beautiful, and the description of their time was just magical to me, and so it happened.  Awesome Mom decided we just had to go on an memory-making adventure.

What Awesome Mom forgot is that we live in Maine, not Florida.  So the fact that the ice-cream stand is opening that day does not automatically mean that you should walk the mile-plus there (and back!) while five months pregnant with a toddler in the stroller.

Apparently my sister Kristin was also on some wise-decision-altering substance as well, because she decided to come along with her brood of five kids (stroller #2).  To give us a little credit, it was a very nice day for March.  The sun was shining and the snow was melting, and everyone was very excited to taste the first ice-cream of spring.

We started out very optimistically, despite Kristin having to run back to put their dog in the house.  We marched off confidently, my nephew pushing the other stroller until Kristin caught back up with us.  What fun . . . we chattered pleasantly as the sun warmed our faces, anticipating that first sweet lick of ice cream.  The time it takes to walk a little over a mile at a five year old's pace, however, is plenty of time for it to change from cool but pleasant to downright cold and snowing.  Funny how the first ice-cream of spring is not quite as exciting when you are shoving it in as a blizzard sets down.  The walk home was not so chatty, with a little crying thrown in instead.

Hence a few pictures of Sophia before we set out, with none mid- or post-adventure.

Turns out Awesome Mom is not very practical.  She seems to have some idea that adventures have to take place outside to be real adventures (despite the whole Maine not Florida thing).

Awesome Mom struck again this past December.  Again inspired by my favorite blogger (this time to create traditions), I decided we just had to go on a walk to check out our neighborhood Christmas lights.  Do you need a rundown on all the reasons this was a bad idea?

1.  It is cold in Maine mid-December.

2.  We live in Auburn.  Only about 10% of the houses have lights, and there were just two really awesomely lit houses in our 'hood.  Most of them were a single strand wrapped around a porch pole, or else just a random blowup Santa in the yard.  Why go on a walk to see lame lights when you can drive to see great ones?  In a warm car!

3.  Cold.  December.  At night.  FRIGID.

Yes, cold counts twice.  Because it was that cold the night Awesome Mom decided that we had to go see the lights.

It was a Saturday night, just before dinnertime when we set out.  (See how impractical Awesome Mom is?  Who goes adventuring on an empty stomach?)  I couldn't find Jude's mittens, so I decided we'd just bundle him up extra in the blankets.  Coats weren't going to cut it, so we lined the kid's wagon with one blanket, while reserving another for on top of them.

FYI, getting the blankets you are planning to keep the kids warm with out of the car just before you leave on your walk is stupid.  Not very warming, but a great way to make the kids extra frigid.

Frigid blankets in the equally cold plastic wagon we have been storing outside?  Check.  Underdressed kids tucked into said frigid blankets?  Check.  Time to start walking.

We started out at a nice sedate pace.  "Ooo, look at the pretty lights!"  Walk past another ten unlit houses to pause at another lone strand . . . "Yay, more lights!"  This got old pretty fast as Jude had immediately untucked his hands from the blanket upon being placed in the wagon and it was about -27 degrees outside.  So he started crying, and all of a sudden our Christmas Light Walk was more of a run, and involved a break at my sister's house to warm the kids up before venturing the final 1/8 mile home.  (Ahem, the final 1/8 mile of a 1/4 mile walk.  Pretty cold.)

After each debacle of an adventure, Awesome Mom decides that being Adequate Mom is just fine . . . until amnesia sets in and off we go again.  Having been a few months, I'm just waiting for the next inspiring pics from sunny Florida to get things cranking . . . perhaps a picnic in the park?  Nice, mud and cold.  Or we could attempt a little hike, maybe get lost or break a leg?

Awesome Mom can be a lot of fun, but I'm starting to figure out that it's better to just enjoy the everyday moments instead of trying to manufacture artificial great times.  So today's adventure was an extra long storytime, by the end of which Jude was sitting on my lap "reading" to himself as I read Sophia and her little friend A some Sandra Boynton books.  Not very exciting, but much more refreshing than chasing all over town for out-of-season fun.

I do have some adventures planned for the next few months, and into summer.  One adventure is a road trip with the kids next month.  Adequate Mom is going to make sure that Awesome Mom tempers those plans with a little common sense, and I'm sure we'll have some tales to tell!


Don't forget, the March 1st giveaway is coming up!  One lucky reader will win a one-of-a-kind pencil/toiletries bag.  Just become a follower of my blog or "like" Ad Libs on facebook to automatically be entered!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The bathroom reveal . . .

Welcome to the reveal of the Libby Bathroom Makeover!  The bathroom is the very last room in the house to be painted since we bought our house four years ago.  Our bathroom is such an awkward space.  If you add the square footage from the main bathroom and dressing area together it equals about 90 square feet . . . not too shabby.  There are much smaller bathrooms out there.

But add in the slanted ceiling above the sink that makes you have to bend over to see in the mirror and the fact that there is a big wall dividing the two spaces, and all of a sudden it is a pretty small space.  Then add in a nasty mustard color along with sketchy DIY stuff from the previous owners . . . not a very nice little bathroom!

Remember this?


And this?


And who could forget this lovely closet/dressing area?
You can just see the nasty carpet in the corner of the pic . . . 


And finally, the lovely wannabe linoleum that was under the fabulous carpet.  Shudder.


But now, after three coats of Benjamin Moore's White Dove in flat on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim (and a whole lot of sweat equity!), plus all new flooring, we have a brand new relaxing and inviting bathroom.






There wasn't a ton of natural light today with all the clouds, but this picture is true to the color we painted . . . some of the shots look a bit yellow, but this one is right on!

I paid $3 cash for this shower curtain at Kohl's.  (It was on sale, plus a coupon, plus the last few dollars from a Christmas gift card.)  I had scoured the internet and found nothing . . . this was exactly what I was looking for: a bold geometric that I could build the rest of the bathroom around.  It totally un-borings all the white, while still being restful.  I LOVE it!


John and I were shopping in South Portland last October when we found this rug on clearance for $7 at Target . . . soooo me.  I put it in the upstairs hallway, but it has been commandeered for the dressing area now.


I agonized over the flooring choices . . . or lack thereof.  Just ask my mom.  I finally "settled" on this vinyl tile, on sale for $.84 a square foot, and couldn't be happier.  It was a one-day project, and it is wonderful to have the same mellow flooring in the main bathroom and dressing area.  So much better than dingy old tile and peed carpet!


I decided to go with glass knobs to tie in with my planned soap dispenser project.  A more visible knob would have been way too much with what is already going on with these doors.  Plus the glass knobs give kind of a vintage vibe, which I love.  Brings back memories of my childhood . . . I had the same knobs on a dresser back in the day.


Favorite thing in the bathroom?  My funky new towel rack!  John and I were doing some Christmas shopping at TJ Maxx when I came upon this piece.  I had to have it, and just happened to have exactly enough to cover the $14.99 and tax left on a gift card.  Add a couple of freshly dyed towels . . . it brings some personality to the new bathroom.



This mirror had a tragic oak finish, so I gave it a few coats of a hammered silver spray paint to freshen it up.  And finally hung it after having it sitting on the floor for three years.  How nice to be able to see more than just our knees on down!


So happy with my new soap dispenser!  I'd say "one-of-a-kind," but with all the tutorials out there I'm pretty sure one in ten homes has a Ball jar dispenser now.  And if you don't, you should.


Now for upcoming projects . . . I am planning to sew a grosgrain ribbon stripe or two onto the closet curtains to give them a little bit of a tailored look.  I just haven't decided between two or three horizontal stripes on the bottom, or one vertical stripe down the outsides.  The curtains themselves were super economical at $13 for 11 yards of muslin after a 40% off coupon.  (I find that Joann Fabrics has a pretty high price point for mediocre fabric . . . but you can get a good deal with their coupons!  Otherwise it's Marden's or Fabric Warehouse all the way, much better quality fabric.)

The window curtains are sheers that I stole out of our bedroom and hemmed to fit.  We have regular curtains hanging as well, so didn't really need the sheers.  (Starting your renovation "shopping" in your own house can be a great cost-cutter!) 


ART NEEDED!  I have an idea for the space over the towel rack, but am taking some time to let it mellow into more of a plan . . .


I need a place to store Sophia's hair ties and our cotton balls and Q-tips, so am going to be putting some little shelves over the toilet . . . still working out the kinks in my plans.  Also deciding what to use for storage containers . . . probably some sort of Ball jar project.  (Anyone have some extra zinc lids lying around?)


This is the "before" . . . I am going to paint this bookshelf something fun.  A little pop of color in the corner behind the door.  Now if only I could decide what color exactly, I could get cracking!  It's also clearly in need of some de-cluttering, so I am going to rearrange our storage to make it work a little better for us.

Now the part of the before-and-after that I always want to know . . . how much did it cost?  And will it break the bank if I try to duplicate any part of it?  No bank-breaking here!  This was actually one of our costlier room makeovers since we moved in, if you believe it, but it still came in pretty low all things considered.


Is this my dream bathroom?  No.  Am I satisfied with my low-cost, high-return makeover?  Absolutely 100%!  When I finish a couple more of the projects I have planned for the space, this bathroom will be as good as it gets without a total gut job . . . and I can be very happy with that!


Want to see more?  Check out  We'd love to help you make over your space on a budget.  I am also available for custom sewing projects, tailored to fit your individual needs . . . shoot me an e-mail or facebook message for more information!

Last but not least, don't forget to become a follower of my blog for automatic entry in my March 1st giveaway . . . more information to come!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bathroom teaser

I promise this will be the last bathroom teaser!

Today I finally got around to a project I have had on the back burner for a while.  Remember my blue Ball canning jars with zinc lids?


See, there on the right?  Well, I'll be needing something else on top of the living room bookcase now.  I got them off eBay with the intention of making soap dispensers about a year ago.  If I had realized how super easy (like 5 minute project easy) it was I'd have made them months ago.  I found a great tutorial that didn't involve any drilling (the part I had been nervous about), and whipped them up today while Sophia watched.



The left dispenser if for the kitchen, and the right will be in the bathroom.  More to come soon!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Last week was kind of a crap fest.  I tried not to complain too much, but being on the phone with tech support in India for several hours a day was kind of draining.  Add in that I still couldn't get my computer and running watch that I got for Christmas to communicate, and I was pretty much ready to throw all electronics out the window.

This week has been a breath of fresh air.  My cell phone is up and running, I haven't had to talk to India since Saturday, and with a final software update today my watch and computer are finally talking to each other.  Funny how unmoored you can feel without a cell phone, when really, they are a relatively new addition to our modern life.

Today has been a good day for counting my blessings, and really noticing those things that brighten the day and make me laugh.

Firstly, I am happy to report that it seems Sophia is going to take after her mother and grandmother with the decorating gene.  As we were pulling into the driveway tonight, she told me "Wow, that's yellow (*the house*).  I think we probably need to paint the house."

"Why do we need to paint the house?"

"Because the rest of it is blue!"

Yes, the foundation is still blue.  I ran out of steam last fall, and didn't get it painted the cream color that we painted the trim.  This year!

Earlier today Sophia felt that the dining room chairs needed a little something extra, so she brought all four couch pillows in to decorate.  They get her up to just the right height!


We have been listening to the Prince of Egypt soundtrack all day, everyday (hooray, it replaced George!), so of course Sophia and Jude are now Moses and Aaron.  With an occasional Miriam and Princess of Egypt for good measure.  Today Sophia made "the Egyptians" some food.


The tears came out in full force when Jude destroyed the "food" several hours after I took the picture (she specially requested I take a pic . . .).  Destructo Boy!

Then there was the general craziness.  Sophia loves having me take her picture at the moment, and she likes to pose.  These are not Plain Jane poses, either . . . no, Sophia is Fancy Nancy all the way!






It's a little bit hard to capture Jude's happy moments these days.  Two reasons . . . he is usually crying if I am not holding him (flashbacks to newborn times!) and when I do try to take his picture, it ends up being a picture of him running at me for a hug or because he wants to see the picture.  I have captured lots of giant-toddler-dome-two-inches-from-the-camera-lens pictures lately.

But today I sort of got a picture of Jude . . . first of these adorable little rainboots I found for $8 at Mardens (Sophia has some with pink and white stripes and pink ladybugs, so cute!!!  Yes, there are still lots left at the Lewiston Mardens.), then an actual pic of Jude.  Made me smile, so here it is!



Time to go make some cheese nachos with peach salsa and sour cream.  Mmmm, I'm smiling (and drooling) already!

What's been making you smile this week?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Must . . . win . . . the war!

Forget all the lovey-dovey stuff you see in the Huggies commercials on TV.  When you become a parent, you are drafted into a war.  Of course there are many times of truce, when everything is all sunshine and rainbows, but you always have to be prepared for the next battle.

The first conflicts are just minor skirmishes . . . the baby doesn't want his fingernails cut, your six-month old won't settle down for the night, or your one year old decides she doesn't like bathtime anymore.  These kind of conflicts are pretty easy to work thru, and you move on.

But all of a sudden that baby is a toddler, and it turns out that those little skirmishes were just practice runs for the real battles.  Now there is strategy involved, and these battles actually count for something.  If there is one thing a toddler wants, it's control.  Control over meals, and bedtime, and toys, and clothes, and anything else they can think of.  So you give them some control.

"Do you want to wear the red socks or the blue socks?"

"Would you like to have oatmeal or cold cereal this morning?"

"Do you want to start clean up with blocks or stuffed animals?"

There.  They have a choice, get to feel like they have the control they want, but those scenarios keep the parent firmly in charge.  Control within boundaries.  It's when they start claiming control outside the boundaries you have set up that things get tricky.  That's when you have to think outside the box, because as the parent you HAVE to win the war.  They might get you with the occasional battle, but you must prevail in the end!

This past fall, Sophia decided she was done cleaning up her toys.  She was all about dumping them all out and playing with everything, but when it came to putting them away, she was boycotting.  At first I gave her a little grace . . .

"She's so little, she's probably tired."  (Never mind that she had been consistently cleaning up with parental direction for a year.)

"She has a cold, I don't want to exacerbate her asthma."  (In what world does cleaning up toys = asthma flareups?!)

"I think she just needs a little cuddle, she's still getting used to Jude."  (Hello, he'd been around for over a year now!)

After a week or two of the cleanup boycotting, I finally clued in that the problem was not going to go away on it's own.  I would tell Sophia to clean up, and she would slump onto the couch or floor wearing a pouty expression.  Again, "Clean up time!"


Cajoling didn't work.  Kindly explaining that we always have to put away our toys when we are done with them didn't work.  Telling her that some little children in Africa would be happy to have this many toys to put away and that they would do it joyfully didn't help.  

(I know, why did I think that rationalizing with a three-year old was a winning strategy?!  Hindsight, people.)

"Alright, if you don't clean up, you're going to have consequences."

Oooooo, consequences!!!  Please, no consequences!

Erasing checks on the chores chart?  Who cares.  Timeout?  No biggie.  Spending time in her room by herself?  More toys to get out!  

Finally, I had it.  I was so DONE cleaning up all the toys, and giving in to a whiny little toddler.  

"Sophia, if you don't clean up when I tell you to, your toys are going away for a few days.  You have been warned.  Clean up your blocks, Sophia."
"Okay, I will clean them up."  I pitched the blocks in their container, but instead of putting it on the shelf in the living room, I took them in the kitchen and put them on top of the pantry.

"Clean up your little people, Sophia."
"Okay, I will do it."  Little people in their box, into the kitchen on top of the pantry.

"Clean up your stuffed animals, Sophia."
"Don't take them away!"
"Then you have to clean them up."
"Ok."  Stuffed animals into a trash bag, on top of the pantry.

The living room and dining room had been quite a mess.  By the time we had moved on to the play kitchen area and miscellaneous toys, those rooms were looking pretty good (I just might have done a happy dance because I finally had a clean house), and the pantry was loaded right up.

And that was when Sophia asked "Can I have my toys back now?"

"No.  The toys are going to stay up there for three days, and at the end of that time, if you are ready to clean up what you take out, you can have them back."

Reality set in then, and the Snuggler was not happy.  At that point all that was left were Jude's toys, the books, and coloring supplies.  She was a good sport though, and made do quite well.  Those three days actually inspired a deep clean and purge, because I saw how happy she was with less toys.  At any rate, Sophia learned her lesson about cleaning up, and we haven't had to go that route since.  She still has a tough time occasionally when I ask her to clean up the blocks, but I have to cut her a little slack because it is most often Jude who pulls those out.  A simple little reminder of the consequences of not cleaning up usually does the trick.

Every time Sophia (and now Jude!) throws down the gauntlet now, I am reminded of the Cleanup Battles.  How sometimes we have to get creative to win the war.  It serves as inspiration for me when we need to come up with other outside-the-box ideas . . . and reminds me to never give up.  As parents we have to win the war for the good of our kids.  I figure that giving boundaries is one way we show that we care . . . if I didn't care about my kids, then teaching them responsibility wouldn't matter at all.  And when it comes right down to it, winning the battle keeps us parents sane.  Winning, and a nice big carton of Cherry Garcia.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Non-resolution resolving

I'm not much for New Year's Resolutions.  I pretty much flunk at keeping them, and don't like to set myself up for failure.  There are a few things that I have decided to try to do on a more regular basis this year.  Please note, they are NOT resolutions, but just a few "I think I'll try to __________" ideas.  Maybe it's lame to need an out, but this way I won't be all judge-y on myself if I flunk again.

1.  Making the bed.  I never have been good about making the bed, but as it takes up a full 50% of our room, it really does make a difference in how tidy things look.  A made bed can trick the eye to think the room is tidier than it is!  Plus, I have to make the bed before climbing in at night . . . heaven forbid the blankets not be even, my Type A self can NOT deal with that.  I have accidentally punched John in the nose more than once making the bed with the two of us in it.  In my defense, once my contacts are out I can see nothing, so it's really his fault for sitting up while I was pulling up the covers.  I would say I'm about 3-1 right now, with making the bed in the lead.

2.  Flossing my teeth.  Having had a cavity filled recently, I decided that I was going to crack down.  I figure if I floss my teeth every night between appointments, and still manage to have a new cavity at my next appointment, then it really won't be my fault.  So far I am about 6-1, flossing most nights of the week.  That dental hygienist will not have any reason to yell at me in July!

3.  Planning out the week's dinner menu in advance.  EPIC FAIL.  Not much to say about this one, except that I'm just not there right now.  But I have the intention to get there, and in the meantime, I am making sure that our whole family gets their leafy greens, whole grains, dairy, a variety of fruit, and not too much sugar.  It's just more on the fly than my goal.

4.  Cutting down my sugar intake.  Speaking of not eating too much sugar.  Ahem.  I would be the culprit in our house on this one.  I'm not sure if I should be ashamed or proud of the fact that I use to down a pound of gummies at a time in college.  How could I not, with the magical Wegman's candy aisle right around the corner, where every candy you could imagine was available to buy in bulk?  I don't eat gummies in those quantities anymore, but am pretty sure any reasonable person would consider the amount of sugar I consume "too much."  EPIC FAIL!

5.  Be more intentional to get together/communicate with friends.  I basically dropped off the grid last year, but now that I have texting on my phone I'm pretty sure this one will be easier to keep.  I have at least one playdate a week scheduled this month!

Those are the ones I have actually thought thru more than once in the last month and a half.  John and I have goals for our family that are separate, but these are my little not-quite-resolutions that I am attempting to do something with this year.  I do have to say, as far as my sugar intake goes, I had some super yummy carrot cake and ice cream at a birthday party tonight, and then DID NOT have a second dessert when I got home.  Which may seem obvious to you, but there is a half gallon of Green Monster Mint ice cream in our freezer that is calling my name.  And I did not respond!  So maybe it's not such an epic fail after all.

Anyone else have any non-resolutions?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

John and Laurel's Top Ten Movies of All Time

I LOVE the movies.  I enjoy watching them at home or in the theater, by myself or with crowd of friends.  In college we had an awesome Dollar Theater about 15 minutes away, and it was often a highlight of my week to head to the theater, candy secreted somewhere on my person, to enjoy a relaxing evening of movie watching.  I'm pretty sure matinees and Tuesday nights were $1, and the other nights were $2.  Affordable price for a cafeteria dish-scrubbing college student!

John also enjoys watching movies, though perhaps not as much as me.  Between the two of us, we have watched a LOT of movies.  Putting on a good flick is one of our favorite ways to relax in the evening after a busy day.  Now we have come up with our "Top Ten Movies of All Time."  This list has been scrutinized and thought over for at least two minutes, so I am sure it is perfect in every way!

Without further ado, and in no particular order . . .

John and Laurel's Top Ten Movies of All Time

1.  "An American in Paris"

This is John's favorite movie EVER.  We watched it together early on in our dating relationship, and I'm pretty sure if I hadn't liked it he would pulled the plug on us.  Fortunately, I did like it (had seen it before, in fact), and our relationship flourished.

2.  "Les Miserables" (2012)

If Anne Hathaway doesn't win an Oscar for her turn as Fantine, I am going to boycott the movies.  Ok, that's an exaggeration.  It would take far more than that to make me boycott movies.  But as someone who keeps the soundtrack to the Broadway version in the car, so that I can blast it and sing along when I am driving by myself, I was in raptures watching this in the theater.  The Entertainment Weekly reviewer who gave it a horrible review must be a crack-smoking hater of musicals.

3.  "Nacho Libre"

Another John pick, but I can agree.  Quoting from Nacho is like belonging to a secret club . . . only a select few know what you are talking about.  "Get that corn out of my face!" or "These eggs are a lie, Steven, a lie!!!"  Can't go wrong with Jack Black (Oh, except for "Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny," not good.)

4.  "Anne of Green Gables"

The Megan Follows version, of course.  Who could not fall in love with Anne from the moment she appears, reading aloud from Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot?"  I have cheered for and agonized with Anne MANY times over the years, reading the books every year and re-watching "Anne of Green Gables" and "Anne of Avonlea" more times than I could count.  Of course, John and I honeymooned on PEI so I could walk where Anne did (I know she is fictional!), and our daughter's middle name is "Anne . . . with an 'e.'"  One note, "Anne of Green Gables, the Continuing Story" (put out in 2000) is a complete non-starter, and a kick in the face to any true Anne fan.  NOT worth your time.

5.  "Princess Bride"

I'm pretty sure I watched this movie once a week in high school.  "Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die!"  'Nuff said.  (Please pardon his French at the end of the linked clip!)

6.  "Kung Fu Panda"

John and I saw this one together on the IMAX big screen . . . pretty sure it was the highlight of our summer in Michigan.  "Kung Fu Fighting" is the first song on any running mix I make, pretty much right behind "Chariots of Fire" as far as motivating goes.  Great to dance around the kitchen to as well!  And of course, it's another Jack Black movie . . .

7.  "Life is Beautiful"

Pretty much a sob fest, whether you watch it in the original Italian with subtitles or dubbed English.  It's the love story of a Jewish man (Guido) married to an Aryan woman in Germany during WW II.  She follows him and their son to the concentration camp, where Guido does his best to keep them all alive, and reunite them in the end.  And funny!  Guido is a character . . . he keeps up the charade with his son that the camp is a competition, and the winner gets a tank.  You will laugh and you will cry.  This one got eight Oscar nominations, with wins for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Actor . . . not often that an actor from a foreign film wins Best Actor!

8.  "Big Fish"

A wonderful fantasy adventure story about the reconciliation of a father and son at the end of the father's life.  Amazing cast, including Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, and Helena Bonham Carter.  A must-see!

9.  "Winnie the Pooh" (2011)

Ok, so this one is Sophia's pick.  She and I went to see this in the theater just before Jude was born, her first (and still her only) movie in the theater.  She was a wee bit scared of the "Backsoon," but was overall thrilled with her first theater experience.

10.  "Lincoln"

"Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter," that is!  I know, I know, you are all shaking your heads.  "What on earth, vampire hunter?!"  This is another Lincoln movie that came out in 2012.  It is rated R, but as might be expected, it is for violence, not sexuality.  There is a bit of violence involved in hunting vampires, after all!  Before you naysay it completely, let me tell you that the acting is great, relationships well-developed, plot well-reasoned (Everything actually seems a natural progression . . .), and cinematography amazing.  In what other movie have you ever seen a chase scene on horseback where those involved actually run on top of stampeding horses?!  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and John has now seen it twice, liking it just as much the second time.  (We watched it for Valentine's day!)

So there you have it, the definitive list of "John and Laurel's Top Ten Movies of All Time."  Now I am going to hurry up and post this before I think too much and it become the Top Twenty . . .

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shirt-to-scarf tutorial

Today the kids and I spent the day with a good friend and her kids, and fun times were had by all.  Of course, part of the day was spent crafting (I love me some crafty friends!), and my friend had the brilliant idea to turn our project into a tutorial.

What to do when a shirt you love is just too short . . . too tight . . . too whatever?  Turn it into an infinity scarf!  My friend had a shirt that didn't fit right, but she loved the color and fabric, so she came up with this brilliant idea.  Together we devised quite a cute little scarf.

We used a jersey knit shirt, but almost any shirt would work, with a little tweaking.  Even an old sweater!


First step . . . disassemble your shirt.  Cut off the sleeves as closely to the seam as you can, so as to preserve the most fabric you can.  Then cut apart the shoulder seams, and finally cut apart ONE of the side seams.

Cut out the seam of your sleeves, and lay them out flat one on top of the other.  Cut the curved edge of the sleeves off so that you have a straight edge.  Then cut the angled sides of the sleeves off so that the whole piece of fabric is the same width as the wrist cuff portion of the sleeve. 

In the picture above, the sleeves are at the bottom, fully prepped as described above, and the shirt has the side seam toward the top of the picture cut off.

Important note for this tutorial . . . set aside any Type A tendencies you may have, this does NOT need to be perfect to be cute! 


Unfold your shirt so that it is laying open, and fold the bottom up to the armpit.  See how the folding is not perfect?  That's okay!  Now cut the bottom off, using the bottom of the shirt as your marker.  See how I am cutting along that line?  If your shirt is long enough, you can cut off the bottom hem so your scarf is less bulky . . . my friend is quite petite and the shirt was small, so we decided to leave the hem on to maximize the finished width of the scarf.


Set aside the torso portion of the shirt, and sew the sleeves together on the long side, right sides of the fabric together.  Be sure to use a zig-zag stitch for knits if you are using a regular sewing machine so that it will have some stretch and give.  If you have a serger, bonus!  Serge away!  It's fine if you don't have one, it will turn out just fine with a nice zig-zag stitch.


Now move back to your torso length of fabric.  Find the middle of the short end (by folding it in half as you see me doing above), and match up the seam of the arms to the middle of the torso fabric.  Pin the two together.  The sewn together arms will most likely be wider than the torso portion.  That's okay, we'll address it later.  (Good grief, why can't I ever have patients with veins that POP like that?  That sucker is just begging for an IV!)


See?  Center of arms to center of torso portion.  Pin every couple inches along the whole width.


Sew the two fabric pieces together, again using zig-zag.  (I won't insult your craftiness intelligence by reminding you again . . . it will be zig-zag thru the whole project.)


Now lay your sewn fabric down, wider portion on the bottom, narrower portion laying on top.  Cut off the extra on both sides.  (Try to find a pair of scissors that are large than kiddie crafters . . . )  Now you have one nice loooong piece of fabric.  Ours was 56 inches.


Fold fabric in half along the length, right sides together, matching up edges.  Pin.




Sew together on the long side . . . using what stitch?  Yup!


Tie off your thread so that the stitches won't fray, and pull the tube of fabric onto your arm.


Keeping a grip on the bottom edge, pull the top (part up by my elbow) down over it.  Now your scarf is right side out.


Making sure your scarf is not twisted, line up the two unfinished edges.  You will sew them together part-way on the machine, and then finish by hand.


Pin the right sides together as far as  you can . . . it will end up looking something like this.  You will be able to pin 2/3 - 3/4 of the unfinished edges together, depending on how bulky your fabric is.


Sew the pinned edges together, and then tie off the strings where you started and stopped on the machine.  You don't want your scarf to fall apart!


Now you will have a little gap that looks something like this . . . 


Fold the edges to the inside, and pin the hole closed.  Thread a needle in coordinating thread, and get ready to do an invisible stitch!  Try to find a smaller needle than I had . . . bigger is NOT better when trying to do invisible ladder stitching.  At one point I had to bite the needle  to pull it thru a bulky spot!


To sew invisible stitches, tie off the end of your thread, and then sew lengthwise thru the fold on one side of the hole with your needle.  Pull the needle and thread thru, and sew thru a little of the fabric on the other side, directly across from where your needle came out on the first side.  Continue on until the hole is closed.  (If you need more of an explanation, watch this tutorial.)


Tie off the end, and voila, you have a new infinity scarf!  Iron out any little bumps, and wear!


Look how awesome the finished scarf is!!!(Try not to be distracted by the crown I added, but my hair was NOT done with the intention of being photographed today . . . I tried to find a more discreet "sticker" to put over my hair, but only has so many options . . . )

Thanks for coming up with the idea and playing photographer, C . . . we make a good team, but YOU are modeling next time!

Be sure to let me know if you have any questions that need clarification.  I want to see pics of any shirt scarves you make!  I think a scarf made out of a button down shirt (button left in!) would be so cute . . . wish I hadn't just taken one to Goodwill . . . sew on, people!
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