Recently (8Oct2014)

There’s not been a whole lot of blog-worthy creating happening because I’ve primarily been reading in my spare time — books are fun to Instagram, but don’t make for interesting blog posts since I’m not a book reviewer! But I do have a few non-book things to share….some made by me, others gifted to me. I’ll start off with the cool things gifted to me.

This was the sweet birthday package I received from my friend, Julie.

bday pkg from Julie

The cross-stitch is an ode to my Tumblr icon. When I opened the package and saw the cross-stitch, I immediately thought of my Tumblr icon, and that was before I’d read Julie’s note, so she definitely was dead-on with that! This is now hanging in my embroidery window, next to the Dean-n-Cas cross-stitch Julie stitched for me last Christmas =). My selection of specialty flosses is slowly growing, helped in great part to contributions from my stitchy friends!

This was the sweet birthday package I received from my friend, Kristi.

bday pkg from Kristi

Now, I’m typically one to use things people have made for me, but I’m holding off on using these washclothes because I want to have something tangible to refer to when I putter around with practicing crochet (which I actually do every so often). It’s soooo helpful to have neat and pretty crocheting to refer to, to be able to get a better idea of how my stitches should look. (The color in my photo is a bit too light — this photo in my IG feed is more accurate — the colors are very saturated and gorgeous!!) And, yay, more specialty floss!

My and Julie’s birthdays are less than a month apart, and this was the package I sent her. (Straight-on shots of the postcards are here and here.)

bday pkg for Julie 9-2014

I made the magnets using a self-covered button kit, which had flat backs rather than button-style backs. Super fun, and super easy, to make! I was at a bit of a loss to come up with a gift idea because (a) I’ve been in a stitchy funk, primarily because of some vision hurdles which are causing stitching to be more challenging than fun, and (b) the machine-sewing project I’d planned didn’t quite work out because of a “duh” cutting moment on my part. But one evening I was trolling through my office bookshelves, looking for something crafty to read or putter around with, and I came across my set of Secret Garden postcards, by Johanna Basford. I had so much fun puttering around with coloring the postcards that I decided to make a couple for Julie. The “potting bench” postcard was colored with my Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, and the “floral” postcard was colored with my Prismacolor colored pencils.

I was having so much fun coloring the postcards that I ended up coloring a few more “just because”. I love the color combo in the petals of the single flower!

secret garden postcards 9-2014

I also started coloring one of the pages from the Secret Gardens coloring book, but I petered out on finishing it. I used colored pencils on this one because the paper is thinner than the postcard paper and the markers tend to show through on the backside. I took advantage of having a wider variety of shades in my colored pencils set than I do my fineliners set and used multiple shades of one color per topiary. (There’s a better picture with truer colors in my IG feed.)

secret garden topiaries 9-2014

This is the project I started on last night and will continue to work on while I continue my Friday Night Lights marathon.

flower power mug rug 8Oct2014

The Flower Pow Mug Run pattern is by Diane Gilleland aka CraftyPod. I’ve not done English Paper Piecing before and this seemed like a good beginner’s project. I also snagged Diane’s adorable Halloween snack mat, which looks to be another beginner-friendly EPP project. My fabric stash is teensy, and composed primarily of medium- to large-scale prints, none of which would play well together in close quarters, so I was thinking I was going to have to buy fabric for the mug rug……but the lightbulb came on last night and I realized this particular fabric (in the photo) might be able to be fussy cut in such a way as to yield 4 different fabrics which coordinate nicely. Last night I spread the fabric open on the sofa and eyeballed several different options of fabric combos and finally settled on the option I think I want to use — I laid the templates out and snapped a pic with my phone so I will remember which fabrics to cut out for which templates when I work on this later tonight. I’ll share the finished product here, but in-progress pics will land in my Instagram feed.


Unrelated: These days, I do very little posting of comments on other people’s blogs if the comments option doesn’t allow me to comment by keying in only my name, email address, and/or blog URL, without forcing me to use my WordPress account or Google account or an Open ID account. Most of my internet reading and socializing is done via my smart phone, but I don’t log into my WordPress account or my Wren&Stitchy Google account via my phone….Open ID won’t give the option to comment using my blog’s URL without the word “wordpress” in it, which is a problem for me because I pay for my blog’s URL to be “wordpress”-free — Open ID defaults to having “wordpress” in the URL and won’t let it be removed. Since I seldom read blogs when at my PC (which is where I sign into my WordPress account and where I compose blog posts), the end result is that blog-commenting on my part just isn’t happening as much as it used to. I don’t see foregoing my blog any time soon because I love having it as a resource for my own use, but I’m definitely more active socially on Instagram. For me, it’s easier to post photos there and to comment there….not to mention, I’m finding it a great place to keep track of what I’m reading which turns out to be handy when I’m ready to update my Goodreads account. So, if I used to comment on your blog but I don’t any longer (or only do rarely), it doesn’t mean I’m not still reading, because I am!! I use bloglovin’ as my blog reader service, and I read posts most every day via my phone — but if commenting means I’ll need to wait and comment until I’m at my PC, then commenting either doesn’t happen at all, or doesn’t happen for several weeks. Accessing sites and social media via my phone means I’m not tied to my PC when I’d rather be elsewhere in the house =).

Easy Peasy Cloth Wallet: Bumblebees version + Other Stuff (24Aug2014)

So, it’s only taken me 2 months since revamping my office to finally get around to actually getting some sewing done!! After being in my office for most of the day, come eveningtime I generally do not want to spend any more time in there even if it’s to sew or stitch or otherwise futz around with hobby stuff. Instead, I’ve been doing lots of reading in the evenings.

But yesterday I woke up and had the itch to sew. We had no away-from-home plans, hubby’s been painting the exterior of our house, and our teen would be busy doing his own thing, so I decided the only thing I would have on my To-Do List would be to sew =D.

Bumblebees cloth wallet 001 24Aug2014

Earlier this month we had a get-together with some of my family, including my grandma. Back in 2009 I’d made her a cloth wallet with a velcro closure, which she loved. (I used this Craftster “Easy Peasy Snap Wallet Tutorial”.) At the get-together, she told me she was still using the wallet (five years later!) and loved it and asked if I could make her another one because the velcro tabs on the one she has are coming off. She has macular degeneration so she may not have noticed the entire wallet is looking worn, but I noticed; I told her I’d love to make her a new wallet =).

This bumblebees wallet is NOT for my grandma — this is a trial-run version.

It’d been so long since I last made one of these wallets I figured it’d be smart to run through the tutorial once before making my grandma’s wallet. And it was a good thing I did, because I made a few oopsies along the way, but nothing I couldn’t work with. On the plus side, my cutting and sewing skills are substantially better this time around than they were back in 2009….although I did still find hand-sewing in the velcro tabs was just as frustrating this time around as it was last time (but since Grandma’s vision is not great, velcro tabs are a far better option for her than snaps). I also used the decorative stitches feature of my sewing machine for the first time since purchasing it……in 2007!!

Grandma asked if I could make her new wallet slightly roomier, so I added a bit of length and width to my fabric measurements, and I’m very happy with how that worked out. In the photo below, I have my ID + debit card + a couple bills, which is about how much she’ll be carrying in her wallet at any given time. Plenty of room. (After I took this pic, I stuffed all the cards from my wallet in there and they fit just fine, so I’ll end up using this as my wallet!)

Bumblebees cloth wallet 002 24Aug2014

(Not thrilled with the visible stitches around the velcro, but I’m not sure how to avoid that??? Also, you can see one of my oopsies in that picture — I sewed 1 right side against 1 wrong side, instead of right sides together. But for this project it was not a big deal, certainly not big enough to warrant ripping seams!)

Some comments about changes I made to the pattern, or will make in the future:

~ I cut the 2 fabric pieces at 8-3/4″ L x 5-3/4″ W, to allow for 3/8″ seams all around.

~ I cut the 1 interfacing piece at 8-1/2″ L x 5-1/2″ W, to be just slightly smaller than the fabric pieces, so there’d be less bulk to sew through.

~ I only applied interfacing to 1 of the fabric pieces this time. I think for my Grandma’s wallet I will apply interfacing to both pieces of fabric.

~ I used a midweight interfacing.

~ I used a decorative stitch to sew closed the hole I’d left for turning the fabric. My machine has a loop-de-loop stitch that would be super cute on this fabric, but I don’t have black thread and didn’t want to make a trip to the store, so I opted for a stitch that would show up better with the light-colored fabric. I love the option of using a decorative stitch in that area of the wallet since the stitching shows when the wallet is closed.

~ I folded the bottom up 3″, to create a 3″ deep pocket.

~ When I use velcro tabs again, I need to move them up just a smidge higher (not so near the bottom edge of the top flap) — particularly important if the wallet will be holding lots of things and thus will be fatter.

This coming week I’ll work on getting my grandma’s wallet made — I love the fabric I found for it, and am excited to get it made for her.


~~~ This past Thursday and Friday I watched chunks of Diane Gilleland‘s T-Shirt Quilting class on Creative Live. It was an AWESOME class, and I ended up buying it so I can go back and watch it from start to finish. (I purchased while the class was airing live and got a sweet price break as a result. Not sure if that’s how they typically do it, but it definitely made buying the class much more affordable for me!) From just the parts I was able to watch live, I picked up soooo many tips and nuggets of useful info…..not just about quilting, but about sewing in general. I can’t wait to dive in and watch the entire class, and then have a go at making something. I’m thinking I’ll start with thrift store t-shirts made into a dogbed-sized blanket, and if that goes well then I’ll brave using some of my teen’s saved t-shirts to make him a quilt.

~~~ That Creative Live class was such a good experience that I signed up to watch Malka Dubrawsky’s 10 Ways to Love Improvisational Quilting class, which will air live on October 8th & 9th.

~~~ I borrowed “First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting” by Christina Cameli from the library and like it so much I’ll end up buying a copy. In addition to FMQ how-to’s, there are also projects which appeal to me and which I feel like are beginner-friendly enough that I can be successful if I attempt them.

~~~ For hobbies which are new to me, I’m a big fan of kits. Last month I signed up for Wendi Gratz’s “Cuddle Club”, and this weekend I received my first kit. I don’t think Wendi’s revealed yet on her website which critter is in this month’s kit, so I’m gonna keep mum about that, but I will say that I was giddy when I opened my package and saw what it was =D. This month’s cuddle critter will definitely be one I keep for myself!! The fleece is sooooo soft and feels good against the fingertips. The Cuddle Club kits come every other month, there’s no sign-up fee, and you can discontinue being in the club at any time. Click that link above to get to Wendi’s Cuddle Club page if you want more info. I’ll post pictures once I get this month’s critter made! (which will be after I finish my Grandma’s wallet).

It’s Owly Around Here! (22July2014)

I have a couple small projects I’ve finished recently. It’s actually a coincidence they both turned out to be Owl-themed!

This pair of owls are from a pincushion kit. Vanessa (the shop owner) walked me through making the bigger owl, then I made the smaller one on my own. She has some really cute kits put together, which can be found HERE. (I really love the sheep pincushion kit!!)

owl pincushions 22July2014

The smaller owl was a little harder for me to put together because my short, stubby fingers weren’t super great at working with the smaller pieces of wool, but Vanessa had told me I could increase the pattern, which is something I’ll definitely experiment with doing. These two owls are stuffed with ground walnut shells (pet bird litter!), which gives them a good weight, but a lighter-weight alternative would be to use polyfill.

My other owl project was an addition to my “Love”-themed pillowcase. This is a pillowcase I add to every once in a while when I get the itch to do some basic hand embroidery but don’t have anything in mind I want to make.

owl pair (pillowcase) 22July2014

The design was a freebie online Valentine’s Day coloring book page which I found HERE — there’s also another owl-couple design at the same link. This is my main pillowcase because it’s so worn-in and soft, which is one reason I’m so pokey-little-puppy about adding to it . . . I’d rather sleep on it than be stitching on it ;-).

Floss Notes: DMC 975, 976, 3706, 3708, 740, 741, 742, 995, 996, 94 variegated (for the leaves), and 355 + 356 together (for the branch). Backstitched with 4 strands in most places; 2 strands in tighter areas.

My Office/Sewing-n-Crafting Space (21July2014)

Other than a few minor tweaks, the makeover of my office and crafting space is complete . . . and I *love* the end result so very much!!!

I now have two worktables: one for work and one for sewing & crafting. I’ll be able to leave my sewing machine set up 24/7 and there’s room for my big cutting mat to stay out on the table.

office 001 21July2014I purposely left the two main walls bare. I want to have room to add things like mini-quilts, wool applique projects, small shelves for supplies, and so forth. Maybe a big mirror over my office desk.

And then this is what you see if you’re at the opposite end of the room:

office 003 21July2014

and this:

office 004a 21July2014

It all functions so wonderfully. I have easy access to my work files and supplies, I still house my clothes in this closet (I’m obviously not a clotheshorse, lol), and anything crafting-related is at my fingertips. I opted to bring only two of the bookshelves back into the space, to give me some elbow-room. But, other than a handful of cookbooks, everything that was in the space before is back in here! And, of course, there’s still room for a dog bed, which is typically occupied by at least one of my shadows =).

Okay . . . the window.

office 002 21July2014I really did not want to put curtains back up. We have privacy film on the window, and I asked my hubby to put up plantation blinds to give me 100% privacy at night (our neighbor’s house is within spitting distance, thus the privacy film). I decided to do a hoopla window rather than a hoopla wall, using my two biggest hooped stitchies to anchor each end of the window frame — I added ribbons to the bottom of those hoops (idea from here) to kind of soften the top corners of the window frame. It just happened to work out perfectly to use all the hooped stitchies in this spot! I’d like to add a strand of small white lights around the inside of the window frame, for nighttime or cloudy days, and I’d like to add a small bunting or something across the header of the blinds to soften that area up a bit. And I’m sure I’ll continue to add smaller projects down along the outer sides of the window frame.

One thing I’ve done differently this time around is to use only pushpins for hanging things (the tv and round mirror are the exceptions), and I’m going to be as diligent as I can about continuing with that as I add things to the walls. I don’t mind filling holes, but our walls are pretty dang solid and there’s no need for long and/or fat nails or screws the majority of the time. Lesson learned!

As for the technical details — THIS is what the space looked like before repainting. I still love that blue(!), but it’s a nice change for the wall color to now be serving as background rather than being a focal point. I used Valspar Ultra Paint + Primer in Satin finish and it only took 2 coats to get full coverage over that blue. That was AWESOME!! I waited at least 24 hours between coats, but that was more a middle-aged-and-not-used-to-painting thing rather than being an issue with the paint ;-). I also decided to repaint the trim while the room was empty, and used Olympic ONE Paint + Primer Latex Enamel — 1 coat worked great on the trim that was already a light color, and it actually covered pretty well on the trim that was darker but I can see some brush marks on the previously-dark trim so will add a second coat when I’m painting the trim in our son’s room later this month. My hubby put 2 coats of the latex enamel on the pre-primered door — he said 1 coat looked pretty good, but the second coat took care of some brush marks that were showing from the first coat.

The paint color is one we’ve used in our kitchen, living room, and dining room, and will be using in our son’s room, the master bedroom, the hallway, and the bathroom as we repaint those. I no longer have the original swatch and don’t remember the color name, but I do have the formula and I make sure to keep up with that. The trim color is straight-from-the-can White.

For reference purposes, photos of all the above products are below, along with a snapshot of the doorway trim before painting so you can see how dark the trim on the hallway-side of my office doorway was. (We’ll be repainting the paneling in the hallway with the same color I used on my office walls.)

office walls July2014 Paint + Primer combo used on the walls



office walls - paint formula July2014Formula used on the walls



office trim July 2014Paint + Primer used on the trim



office trim - color formula (straight from the can White) July2014Formula used on the trim (it was straight from the can; nothing added)



office trim - beforeJust to the left of the light switch is part of the trim for the office doorway. The paint + primer combo covered that dark pinkish-beige pretty well with just 1 coat, but I’ll add a second coat to cover some brush marks that are showing through.




I took a whole week to do all the repainting, and it was sure nice to work at a slower pace. Most days that I painted, I was doing the painting after work. This was my first time to paint trim and I found it incredibly relaxing! I just cranked up the radio and worked at a snail’s pace ;-). We’ll be repainting our teen’s room later this month, and I hope to get the master bedroom repainted within the next couple months. Then all we’ll have left will be the hallway, which is paneling, and the bathroom. My husband and I are both excited to get the hallway and bathroom repainted — those are the only 2 rooms we’ve not painted at all since buying this house 11 years ago, and both desperately need some freshening up and lightening up.

As for crafting, I have a couple projects I recently finished and will share pictures of those this week. As of last night, I’ve completed all my WIPs, so now I’m looking forward to blowing the dust off my sewing machine and doing some quick-n-easy beginner’s projects to reacquaint myself with using it!

Right Now: 10July2014

This week I’m repainting my home office, and when I put it back together it’ll be a combo home office / sewing space. I’m so excited!! I am, however, less excited about the fact that everything that was in my office is currently shoved/stacked/wedged into any available floor space throughout the rest of our house ;-). But it’s nice to take the repainting slowly, rather than rush-rush-rushing through it which is how I’ve typically painted in the past. I used a paint+primer combo and it only took two coats to cover up the deep blue that had been on the walls before!! (For comparison, when I painted the walls blue, I had to do two coats of primer plus two coats of blue in order to fully cover the green that had been in there.) Since all the furniture+stuff is out of my office, I’ve decided to go ahead and paint the trim, too. I bought a latex enamel paint+primer combo for the trim, so I’m hoping I’ll get by with just two coats on the trim. (I’ve been posting before, during, and after snapshots on Instagram.)

In This Room . . . We moved the table out of the dining room so I could temporarily set up my office in the dining room. Our living room and dining room are open concept, so I’m able to see out our front windows when I’m sitting at my temporary workspace. While I love having our spare room to use as my home office, I’ll admit it’s been very nice this week to be set up so near the front of the house! (But I’ll be glad to get moved back into my space over the weekend!)

I Am Thankful . . . my cranky-from-painting lower back didn’t prevent me from filling in for my hubby in his + our teen’s adult-kid bowling league this week. It was loads of fun, and I don’t think I caused my hubby’s average to drop TOO much ;-).

I Am Creating . . . My creative focus for the next week or two will be on setting up my office/sewing space, and then the latter part of the month will be dedicated to repainting and making-over our teen’s room. However, the owl embroidery on my pillowcase is still a WIP, and I do have a pincushion and scissor fob to make, both of which are from kits and can be worked on while watching tv, so it’s entirely possible I might get one, two, or all three of these projects completed this month. That’s my goal =).

I Am Reading . . . (fiction) Always Emily, by Michaela MacColl; (quilting) Little Quilts, by Sarah Fielke & Amy Lobsiger; and (quilting) Savor Each Stitch, by Carolyn Friedlander

I Am Watching . . . I’ve not been watching much of anything at all lately; however, I did end up watching “13 Going On 30” last night, not once but twice in a row ;-) because it was running back-to-back on one of the cable channels. It’s one of those movies I enjoy watching every single time I come across it (especially the Thriller dance scene!). I think Jennifer Garner is wonderful in it — she did such a good job of capturing being a kid again, much as Tom Hanks did in “Big”. Also, every single song in the movie takes me back to a specific point in time, and I love when music does that!

I Am Listening To . . . the air conditioner trying to beat the Texas-summer heat ;-). Actually, I’m caught up on Nerdist, Modern Sewciety, and While She Naps podcasts, which are my current go-to podcasts, so it’s time for me to start trolling around for other podcasts. I have a list going of podcasts to check out, but I’m always open to suggestions, if y’all have any!

One Of My Favorite Things . . . is the quietness of nighttime. I love sitting on our back steps at night, when there’s little to no street noise, and all the nearby air conditioners are cycled off at the exact same time, and it’s just Q-U-I-E-T . . . and dark =). (While I do get cranky when there’s a lack of sunshine, I’m truly a night owl and far prefer the moon, stars, & a night sky!!)

Three Things I’ve Bookmarked Recently . . . (1) the Buttonholes Quilt Pattern by Wendi Gratz — a good quilting pattern for beginners (that’s me!); (2) 16 Cool Sewing Tools, blog post by Sara Lawson — be sure to read the comments for more ideas; and (3) iHeartOrganizing’s post about painting cabinets & trim – not so much the info about painting cabinets, but rather the info about painting trim — this is where I discovered enamel paint+primer combo! Another hint I picked up (also mentioned on the Young House Love blog) is to use a good-quality, short-handled trim brush.

Here Is A Picture . . . of a cute owl pincushion I made last weekend!

owl pincushion 5July2014I’ll post more info about the owl pincushion once I get the second one made (they came together in a kit).

Right Now: 30June2014

I changed my blog theme, and have been taking advantage of it by doing some blog housekeeping. This new theme has social media buttons, which are located under my header — I have buttons for my Instagram, my Flickr, and my Pinterest. It makes me so happy when I see these buttons on other people’s blogs, and it makes me happy to now have them on mine! (Yep, that saying, “It’s the little things…”, is oh so true.)

I’m new to Instagram and I love it so much!!! So much inspiration in eye candy format. I don’t blog often because it takes me forever to compose a post, and because, these days, I typically only blog when I have a completed project to share, and completed projects have been far and few between in recent years. But Instagram? That’s another story! I’m finding it a great way to keep track of what I’m reading, and I like being able to pop up snapshots of projects in-progress, my doggies, and so forth. (I still cannot manage to snap a selfie (lol), and my fellas are pretty quiet on social media so I do make an effort to respect that and keep pics of them private, so family snapshots will likely be the exception on IG, not the norm.)

Okay! Now on to the Right Now part of the this post =).

In This Room . . . (my home office) I’m about to finish up today’s work (I work from home). Our doggies are hunkered down in their dog bed under my desk. No matter the time of day or night, if I’m in my office, one or both of them are usually in here with me. I find that very comforting.

I Am Thankful . . . for air conditioning, and that we can afford to use ours to keep our house at a comfortable-to-us temperature during the hot summer months….especially since we’ve been experiencing higher-than-typical humidity levels.

From The Kitchen . . . I’ve been nom-nom-nom’ing on Breyer’s French Vanilla ice cream.

I Am Creating . . . another embroidery for my “Love” pillowcase. An in-progress snapshot of the owl pair I’m stitching is HERE. (The other two things I’ve stitched on the pillowcase so far are HERE. I’m stitching the owl pair on the other side of the pillowcase.)

I Am Reading . . . Along for the Ride“, by Sarah Dessen.

A Series I Am Watching . . . is the “Wishes Quilt Along” video tutorial series by Fat Quarter Shop, on their YouTube channel (which is full of all kinds of video goodness!!). I’m hoping, in about a month’s time, to have a sewing space in my home office, so that I can leave my sewing machine set up 24/7. Once that happens, I plan to learn how to quilt!

I Am Listening To . . . the Modern Sewciety podcasts. This has quickly become one of my top 5 favorite podcast series. I’ve been working my way back from the most recent podcast to the oldest, and am about halfway, thus far. Stephanie Kendron is the podcast host and I love listening to her discussions with her guests. I’m now following such an inspirational bunch of quilters and sewists on Instagram and Bloglovin’ as a result of listening to these podcasts!

One Of My Favorite Things . . . is having a big ole stack of library books next to the couch, which I currently do! (as seen HERE)

Three Things I’ve Bookmarked Recently . . . (1) The Cottage Mama Studio blog post, for inspiration for how I can set up my office to be both a home office and a sewing space; (2) Once A Month Meals’ website, as something to consider trying out for a month or three; and (3) Epic Reads’ post, “30 Books That Will Change Your View of The World“, which I used as a reference to grab me a stack of YA fiction to read.

Here Is A Picture . . . of a shirt I embroidered for my son back in 2008. The reference on the shirt is one of our favorite episodes of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, which is still one of my favorite cartoon series EVER!! You can see the “Hot Rod Flames / Bunnies” debate in THIS clip (it’s less than a minute long).

foster's shirt whole shirt 08-2008

Father’s Day Artwork (20June2014)

I like to gift something handmade to my hubby each Father’s Day, but the older our boys have gotten (they’re 15 and 27 now) the more challenging it’s been to come up with handmade-gift ideas. One of the (many) things I love about social media and the internet is stumbling across an idea which you immediately know will be perfect for your own use. Such was the case with this year’s Father’s Day gift.

Father's Day artwork 2014This was *not* painted by me! My drawing skills are of the stick-figure caliber ;-). I commissioned this from Ariel Blair, of Newspaper Balloon. I stumbled across Ariel’s work when I was looking through a friend’s photos on Facebook (the moral of this story is to look through your friends’ FB photos!!), and I immediately knew I wanted to commission a piece for my sweetie.

I skimmed through Ariel’s blog and saw some of her other custom orders (and here, as well), and then I read about how to place a custom order (here and here). Her prices (as of the date of this blog post) are posted here.

Since all three of my fellas enjoy fishing, I wanted that to be the common theme. And then I opted to add one more hobby for each of them: guitar for our oldest son, photography for my hubby, and bowling for our youngest son. And I opted for a beach background, since they all love the beach.

All four of us are SUPER happy with how the painting turned out!!! I love that we have another piece of original artwork on our walls, and especially one which is so personal and captures a specific moment in time.Ariel was wonderful to work with, and I wouldn’t hesitate to commission another piece from her. In fact, I quite like the idea of having a painting of the four of us and our motley crew of dogs! Maybe as a Christmas gift to ourselves =).

Raffle Basket Goodies (26May2014)

My local Embroiderers’ Guild of America chapter is putting together a basket of goodies to be raffled off at the EGA Seminar in Louisiana next month. The raffle is a fund-raising opportunity for our chapter and 100% of the monies from raffle ticket sales goes into our chapter’s coffers, so the idea is to include goodies that will make people attending the seminar want to buy lots of raffle tickets to win our chapter’s basket!

The general idea is to include “supplies,” but we’re using a very broad definition of that term — not only things which can be purchased, such as scissors, floss, linen, and so forth, but also things we’ve made which can be put to use by the winner of our basket. For example, one of our chapter members made a gorgeous beaded needlecase, and another planned to tat some small items which can be used as embellishments on projects. I decided to make buttons =).

raffle basket buttons 26May2014I did a lot of experimenting with embroidery and cross-stitch, and above are the three designs I liked most. I also made fabric-covered buttons using some fun fabrics which were easy to fussy-cut for these buttons. (I really love the cat fabric!)

The hearts are stitched with NPI Silk #502, which is SUCH a gorgeous red!! Several months ago I signed up on NPI’s website to receive a couple free samples of their floss, and this red was one of my freebies. It was my first time to use NPI Silk and I fell head over heels for it….it’s just SO soft and lush!! The heart pattern is from Storyland Cross Stitch, by Sophie Simpson (aka What Delilah Did), as is the crown pattern. The crown and fish are stitched with DMC stranded cotton (although I was really wishing I had NPI Silk for those, too!). All were stitched on 25ct “Summer Khaki” Lugana.

I wanted to include a few other things in the raffle basket, so I added the Storyland Cross Stitch book, a couple button-making kits, and a couple pieces of 32ct linen which can be used for making buttons.

raffle basket items 26May2014Some things I figured out as a result of this project:

~ Because the Lugana is thickish, it’s better to use a larger button size…say, 7/8″ or larger…or else the fabric on the back side of the button will be too thick for the back piece of the button to snap on. (The heart buttons are 7/8″, and the fish and crown buttons are 1-1/8″.) Linen or cotton would be better choices for the smaller button sizes. Be sure to take into account how much thickness is added if your stitching carries over to the back of the button. I experimented with completely covering a small bit of Lugana with stitching in a striped pattern and then I tried to make a 5/8″ button with it…..hahahaha, that was a big ole NOPE!! ;-)

~ When making a button for which you want to center a design, look for a button-making kit which contains a clear, rather than opaque, mold. I used Dritz brand, which comes packaged like THIS. The round white thing in the upper left corner is the mold…it’s what you fit the fabric in wrong side down, and then you put the button top into the mold over the fabric. If you’re not trying to center a design on the button, the white mold works just fine. But if you’re trying to center a design (as I did with all the buttons I made), the white mold is a pain! Once the back has been fitted onto the button, you cannot take the button apart. So if the design is not centered and the back is already on, you have a button with a design that’s not centered. (You can see that I had that happen a couple times.) When I went to the fabric store today to pick up a couple more button kits, I stumbled across some Dritz kits in which the mold was clear, so I bought those and will use those molds from now on.

~ I highly recommend the set of Dritz button templates. They’re small enough to keep in a purse or bag, so that if you’re at the fabric store and find some fabric you want to fussy-cut into buttons or magnets,  you’ll know which size button kits you’ll need. I’ve used the heck out of these things!

I had a blast making the fabric-covered buttons!! They’re so quick and easy that I’d make them (buttons or magnets) til the cows came home ;-). The cross-stitched buttons, however, were not so quick…although part of that was the learning curve on my part, combined with the time spent finding teeny-tiny patterns. I did experiment with embroidery, as well, but didn’t like the results at all; however, I think if I’d used a silk floss rather than cotton, I might’ve had better results. Probably if I’d used bigger buttons, too!

A Few Kitchen Tweaks (12May2014)

When I posted a few days ago about the futzing around I’d done in the kitchen, there were two tweaks I hadn’t gotten around to, which I took care of today. I’ve gotta say, those tweaks took the space into “Okay, now I love it” territory….which I never thought I’d be saying without having replaced the kitchen cabinets yet!!

I replaced the tablecloth on the worktable with one which is bright and cheery. In fact, I like it so much, I plan to get another one to use on my office desk (which is the same type of worktable as is in the kitchen).

Kitchen 001 - 13May2014It’s a vinyl tablecloth with a soft backing (which helps it “stick” to the worktable’s slightly-rough wood surface and not slide around), and was only $9.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I love using these type tablecloths which are designed for outdoor use, because it’s easy to wipe off after prepping food on the worktable.

See those two white mugs with candles in them? I filled them with whole coffee beans =).

Kitchen 002 - 13May2014It’s an idea I saw on the Cozy Little House blog. The candles are unscented, so when I light them there will not be a fragrance to take away from the delicious smell of the coffee beans (which you can actually get a slight whiff of even without having lit the candles).

The drought may mean I can’t have flowers on my porch this spring and summer, but I can sure have them in my kitchen in the form of my new tablecloth!!

Kitchen 003 - 13May2014

I also replaced the area rugs.

Kitchen 004 - 13May2014This room gets a heavy amount of human and canine traffic on a daily basis, not to mention any drips or spills that happen while cooking, so our prior rugs were gnarly. Target had these 4′ x 5’6″ area rugs on sale for $35 each, so I bought 3 and they covered quite a lot of the floor. I have a waterproof (or water -resistant?) cushy mat tucked under the new rugs, right below the sink, to catch any water drips that happen while washing dishes. The color of these rugs give the room a warmer look, and I love that they cover pretty nearly all of the kitchen area. The rugs look like they are not the same color, but they are! Depending on where you stand in relation to them, the color looks lighter or darker — it caught both my hubby and me off-guard, lol. (On my computer screen, the nearest rug looks like it has something red spilled on it — that must be a reflection or something that happened in the photo-taking process; the rug doesn’t have that IRL.)

I know it looks dark underneath the upper cabinets, because it is(!) — I have lamps all over the kitchen, plus a light above the kitchen sink, and I keep those on to provide task lighting and avoid us having to use overhead lights (I really do not like overhead lights…..I’m a natural light + lamps girl all the way!!). But I turned off all the lamps before I took the photos, so that’s why it’s dark from the fridge end of the kitchen — there’s no natural light shining on the sink side of the kitchen…..which is why I want those upper cabinets gone!

It feels great to finally love my kitchen!!!

Each month I’m going to take a little money and use it to freshen up a room, by way of replacing or adding accessories, lamps, rugs, blinds, curtains, plants, or things like that. I don’t have the stamina to do major overhauls of a room at the drop of a pin like I did in my 20’s and 30’s (I used to repaint rooms like it was NBD…..hah! nowadays it’s very much a big deal!!), but that doesn’t mean our space has to get stagnant! I spruced up the bathroom a couple months ago, the kitchen this month, and I’m thinking I’ll spruce up the master bedroom next month. Time to put on my thinking cap =).

Kitchen: Working With What We Have (9May2014)

This post is about how we’re ever so slowly taking our kitchen from closed-in-and-drab to open-and-fab. We’re still not quite to the “fab” end of the spectrum . . . getting to “fab” will involve new flooring and new cabinets, neither of which are in the budget at the moment.

It was only as recent as a couple months ago that I began bringing in a full-time income again, and that added income is allowing us to begin to save up money for home projects which have been on the back burner for ages. First up will be having the electrical system in this older home brought to current standards (including having additional outlets added to accommodate computers, video game systems, and other things which weren’t a concern back in the ’40s & ’50s!), and that project, unlike the kitchen, is a Need To Do, so takes priority.

We bought our house in 2003 and have made changes in fits and spurts ever since. I don’t have a picture of the kitchen from when we moved in, but the picture below is close. A leeeeettle bit cabinet-happy, wouldn’t you say?!!

DSC01065In the above photo, we’d replaced the dishwasher, which is why the carpet in front of the dishwasher is cut (we had to pull the carpet back & remove the padding to be able to slide out the old dishwasher). The wall on the far end of the room was a laundry area with a cabinet above it, which we removed. (We originally had our washer & dryer in the mudroom, just on the other side of that wall. But we moved them back inside when we bought a chest freezer a couple years ago and chose to put it in the mudroom. I’ll admit it’s *much* nicer doing laundry in a room with central air & heat!!)

As you can see in that photo, natural light was hard to come by. There used to be a window over the sink, but it was covered over at some point . . . which we have no complaints about because (a) the building next door is extremely close, and (b) the sun sets on that side of the house, which would make the kitchen incredibly hot in the summers. The lack of natural light + brown walls + being surrounded by plywood from floor to ceiling was, for me, depressing and claustrophobic.

The next change we made (2006) was to remove the part of the lower cabinet that jutted out into the space, and we pulled up the carpet, which was pretty gross. What was underneath was “interesting” . . . the squiggles you see on the flooring are where the orange carpet padding and the carpet glue had turned into some kind of impossible-to-remove gunk. Other than that gunk, though, at least I could clean this faded-green flooring, unlike the carpet which had been there!

Kitchen 10-28-2006See how much more open it looks, just making those two changes?!!

Over the next several years, down came the shelf over the sink, the cabinet over the stove, the microwave cabinet next to the stove, the cabinet over the fridge, and the huge pantry next to the stove. My hubby used some of the pantry wood to make me two sturdy worktables, one of which is now my desk and the other of which is a work surface in the kitchen.

In 2012, my hubby repaired the walls from where the various cabinets had been removed, and repainted the entire kitchen with a nice, light color. We also removed the faded-green flooring which, it turned out, wasn’t even glued down!! It was sheet flooring which had been nailed down, but there weren’t a lot of nails in it, so it was super-duper easy to remove. It’s probably the only DIY shortcut utilized by the prior homeowners that I appreciate :P.

kitchen floor 9-9-2010I don’t know what the stuff underneath that flooring is called — it’s smoother underfoot than plywood . . . some type of underlayment, perhaps? Whatever it is, it’s been our flooring for the past couple years and has worked like a charm. That said, it’s not intended to function as flooring, so we have area rugs in there, and I also have a thick water-resistant rug (not shown) in front of the sink.

On the right side of the picture is one of the worktables my hubby made from the old pantry. Since readymade lower cabinets are a smidge too tall for me, he made the worktable slightly lower so it’s comfortable for me to use. Yay for having a handyman hubby!!

But one thing I’d realized as time went by is that none of us often used that worktable for food/meal prep. Instead, we’d use the little bit of countertop between the fridge and stove . . . which defeated the purpose of having the worktable. So this past week I decided to completely get rid of that single lower cabinet between the fridge and stove and instead place the worktable there, giving us more than double the countertop space in that area.

kitchen 002 - 9May2014I love love love how it turned out!!! And it’s so much more functional. Even with my short legs ;-), the distance between the stove and sink is still comfortable. When we replace our cabinets, I want no upper cabinets on this side. Where the worktable is, I want a lower cabinet, to be approximately the same length as the worktable, and then maybe a short lower cabinet to the left of the stove (where the pots and pans currently are).

While I had the change-it-up bug, I decided to futz around with the cabinets on the opposite site of the room. I have a very strong dislike for these cabinets . . . I don’t like the style, I don’t like that they’re floor-to-ceiling, and I don’t like the color. Even though I knew I didn’t want to keep these cabinets forever, the yellow-brown tint of them has been my least favorite thing about this house, so we experimented with painting them . . . only to decide for a variety of reasons that, nope!, we don’t want to go that route with these cabinets!!

I ultimately want no upper cabinets on the wall area above and to the right of the sink. Those upper cabinets block what bit of natural light comes in through the window by the washer and dryer; with that bank of cabinets gone, more natural light would make its way into the kitchen, especially down by the sink, which is the darkest area yet is also the area where I spend the most time!

kitchen 004 - 9May2014To get an idea of if we could actually do without upper cabinets in that area, I decided to see how much of the pantry food could be stashed into the three drawers to the right of the dishwasher, and, to my surprise, most of it fit in just those three drawers!

kitchen 005 - 9May2014We don’t use our dishwasher at all, so when we replace our cabinets I want to forego a dishwasher completely and, instead, have drawers in that spot. I also want to have the lower cabinets extend to the right by a drawer width, to basically take over the space where the microwave cart’s currently located. And then I want the lower cabinets to the left of the sink to also be drawers. By making these changes, everything you see in the upper cabinets to the right of the sink would be able to be 100% stored in that long bank of lower cabinets.

As a concession to the fact we don’t plan for this to be our forever home, I would like to have an upper cabinet to the left of the sink, where our dishes are. But I want glass-fronted cabinets, to help retain the open and airy feeling.

Scroll back up to the very first picture, then look at the picture below, taken from approximately the same location. So much airier, with plenty of elbow room!!

kitchen 001 - 9May2014For working with what we have flooring-wise and cabinet-wise, this is about as good as it’s gonna get. I’m extremely happy with the fridge-n-stove side of the kitchen . . . I love using the worktable, I love being over there by the art, I love the sunlight that hits that area, I love the lightness of that side of the room. While I don’t love the cabinetry on the sink side of the kitchen, taking the doors off allows more light on that side of the room and visually gives you more “texture” to look at, and I actually smile when I walk into the space =D.

Most exciting for me is that the futzing I’ve done this past week has helped me realize how this space can be utilized in a way which jives with my desire for primarily lower cabinets. Having this information will make it much easier to get pricing for cabinets and countertops, so we can begin saving up for those, plus flooring, after our electrical work has been done. It’s crazy to think we will probably have lived here for twelve years by the time we get new cabinets, countertops, and flooring!!! Gosh, the time flies, doesn’t it?!?!!