Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Island Doings

Part 2 of my vacation update (and the final one for those of you who are sitting there all *yawn*). When I tell people I go to LBI they say "Well, what do you DO there? There's no boardwalk!" No, there isn't. But there is plenty to do. And aside from your typical shore-town t-shirt shops there are quite a few artsy-craftsy oriented places to explore. Not to mention things to eat. Food doesn't have calories when you're on vacation. True story.

And it's a good thing....because I ate a lot. There's a sweet little outdoor eatery called The Sandbox Cafe located not too far from the house we rented. It may quite possibly be the most "me" restaurant on the face of this earth.

Though it looks shady and cool (which it was) all the tables were located outside with a ceiling of colored umbrellas. Everything was bright and colorful and quirky.

I had a super yummy chicken salad with grapes sandwich that had grass on it. I was informed upon their removal and my "yucky" face that they were sprouts. I may have ingested a few and did not suffer any poison-related side-effects, so they must be edible...

One of our family traditions is to have breakfast at Kelly's restaurant at the tip of the island, with the bay on one side and the sea on the other.

It's one of those perfect old-timey cafes with a screen door that bangs shut behind you and old wooden floors. Despite the longish drive just for breakfast food I love going there. It'd feel like something was missing if we skipped this.

There's not really a bad seat, as no matter where you sit you have a great view of 'Old Barney--'

We went out to dinner one night (we usually cook ourselves my mom and aunt do most of the cooking) towards the end of the week. I had some delish scallops over succotash, which sounds gross, but it's really just corn and beans, with a creamy sauce. Super yum.

I ate the beans thinking they were lima beans, forgetting they were fava beans and that I wasn't going to eat the fava beans because it reminded me of Hanibal Lecter. I'm kind of glad I forgot I didn't want to eat them because they were quite good.

When we're on vacation my dad gets crazy excited about having a clam night. I'm super serious, guys. He practically skipped in the front door when he bought them. He doesn't do anything fancy with them. He chills them for a while--

--splits those suckers open--

--adds some bacon and seasonings and puts them in the oven. Super simple but super yum.

OK, enough food. We passed a shop I had never noticed before called The Firefly. It was filled with handmade goodies. Nothing crazy outstanding, but there was a painting I fell in love with. It's by a local artist named Collen Attara. She's got some bright, fun quirky bits in her shop. But this snapshot will have to suffice as it's way out of my price range.

In the courtyard of this shop was a table and chairs set I wanted to eat cake and drink tea at--

And aren't these guys insanely adorable in a weird way?

My cousin and his girlfriend rented bikes one day. It looks fun, sounds fun, but they had "saddle burn" and I tend to ride a bike like I'm riding a sit-down-keep-one-foot-on-the-ground-to-shove-yourself-along contraption, so it's best I stay on my own two feet. There is something adorable about bicycles leaning against a fence, though, eh? You know what made me fall in love with his girlfriend in a totally platonic way? When she said "I really wanted a pink bike but they only had white for girls."

One night we went to Bay Village, an outdoor conglomeration of shops and kiosks selling all things over-priced and beachy. I do love walking around and looking at everything, though. And tsk-tsking over how much nerve they've got charging that for a change purse... Outside is a giant ship that serves as a great landmark/meeting place--

There are usually only two things I come away from the Village with--fudge and ice cream. One in a paper bag and one in my belly :)

I had red velvet cake ice cream. It was really pretty in the cone but I couldn't take a picture for fear that my ice cream would hit the ground and leave me with an empty cone and a sad face (it was seriously top heavy).

On the way home we passed Fantasy Island, a small amusement park full of rides and games and a kiddie casino. It used to seem much larger years ago, but the ferris wheel still serves as a beacon of sorts--

I relaxed to such great depths on this vacation that I feel I'm still climbing the energy ladder to 'normal.' I literally sneered at my phone at work this afternoon when it rang--not because of who it might be or what they might want, but because I had to reach over and answer it and that was just too much physical exertion. You really do need to recover from vacation sometimes.

I have been highly unmotivated to switch on my sewing machine, but I've been stiching away at my paper-piecing project. I'll get some pics of my progress and show you soon. See you later!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Put the World Away for a Minute

Hello, you lovely lovely folks!! I don't know who noticed but I was absent last week from my little bloggy corner. We had our annual vacation, and I'm not big on announcing when the house is empty :) and I forgot to schedule any posts so there you have my excuse note.

We left Saturday morning for Long Beach Island, NJ and made such excellent time my sister and I didn't want to jinx anything by calling attention to the lack of traffic. We had perfect perfect weather all week. I actually wouldn't have minded one rainy day to work on my paper-piecing project, but ah well. Sunny days abounded. And massive amounts of relaxation followed. And I do mean massive. I'm not a napper, but I could have curled up every day and slept my head off. I took a ton of pics (with my wee point and shoot--I didn't bring the new camera because I would be sick if something happened to it) so I'm going to break it into two posts for you.

On the approach to the beach in many many previous years, you would see grassy dunes on the sides of the paths, and then beach. They reworked the shoreline this year, and the approach to the beach was a longer walk that looked like you were about to step off the edge of the world and dance amongst the clouds--

If you looked left or right you would see these huuuuge expanses of sand that looked like the end of the world from some movie or another--

But if you walked a half dozen loping-sized steps more you'd see that all was right with the world--

That bench is where we sat every night after the lifeguards had gone home and the beach was almost deserted. The air was cooler and the breeze just enough to make you want a sweatshirt. The sun set behind us in the bay so there was no glare trying to sear your corneas. It made it easier to take pictures like this:

Any time and any place that the sky turns pink is my favorite spot to be. Those brief moments of the sky painted with a box of watercolors are so fleeting that I must stop and gaze, whether it be winter or summer that it happens.

Each morning seemed to start off a bit cloudy, but then the sun would rear its head and chase the clouds away.

The long shadows that come at dusk are my favorite. Everything is softer, and warmer, and tinged with gold. It is my favorite time of day, and starting to come earlier now (have you noticed the shift?)

I took a picture of my mom and I sitting on the bench, sea-gazing. It's the only one I could get her to approve for blog-posting, silly girl. If you look just left of center you'll see us--

Of course we didn't just sit and stare out to sea, though we could have. There was sea-shelling--

Sweet-treat beach eating---

--and sand-castle building and smashing.

Z-man is so good with littles, which surprises me for the simple fact that he's an only child who has always been surrounded by adults. As fast as he set those turrets she knocked them down, but he was good-natured about reconstruction. The energy that this kid has astounds me--hours upon hours in the ocean, playing football and paddleball, ready to keep going. I should take my cue from him as I'm sure I would have lost a few pounds last week as opposed to gaining a couple.

And let's not forget napping. Some were better than others at this, as the others were nosy and chatty and hot and then chilly and then hungry and then needing to trek back to the house for a loo-visit. Actually, there is no 'some,' there was only one who managed to sleep like a baby--

This little guy was so good it was a dream. Except for the night he spit up down the back of my shirt. That wasn't fun. I guess that's what I get for being a baby hog. But if I wasn't constantly bothering this kid then I wouldn't get pictures like this--

I can't believe I have to go back to work tomorrow. It hardly seems fair to make me return to my desk.... I'll be back with some pics of 'happenings.' Ta for now!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Finally Finished

A few long term projects around here came to a conclusion recently. Some were so beyond long-term they were new projects, and others were months in the making/doing.

In my project box for a few months (my now EMPty project box, thank you very much!) was a giant hunk of twill. My mother had seen something here or there on how to cover milk crates, and wanted me to make a few for my sister's house. She's short on storage as it's not a huge house, so she thought these would be helpful in controlling some of the clutter that just seems to grow out of nowhere (unless you're a nun in a strict-possession-control-convent). I finally got around to making these. I used this tutorial. It's totally something I probably could have figured out, but sometimes I get all "Gah!! I need instructions!" and this was one of those times. Especially because I always forget about ease, and she reminds you in the tut to leave room for the fold-over part so I'd have had no excuse if they didn't fit. I made 3, each one with a different colored contrast band top-stitched down for a little visual interest.

The one with the brown strip is a little bit snug, but I convinced it to get its act together. The other two slipped on with no trouble. I even got the insides nice and neat--

I used an inset bottom, which can be kind of tricky to make look tidy. I have a tote I made with this kind of bottom, and I desperately need a new one (it's several years old and I use it every day so I think a new one is in order). Look for a tut coming your way, probably in September, for this tote and these corners.

My sister Alicia has had a project going on for I don't even know how long now. She's been growing her hair in preparation for donation. They need ten inches. Do you know how long ten inches is? It sounds like nothing, but that's some loooong hair. The other day was the big day--and she's still got a good length of hair on her!

I have no idea why her hair is that color (actually, 2 colors) on the left because on the right is her true hair color. It must be such a tremendous relief to not have all that weight on your head. I know when mine gets too long a ponytail gives me a wicked headache, so I can only imagine what this would feel like. I applaud her for this--I could never get my hair long enough to donate. I'd get frustrated, give up, and write a check instead.

The final project is 30 plus years in the making. First, I must tell you that our basement is a basement. Duh, right? What I mean is it's not finished, there's no play area, the floor is concrete, etc. My dad's workroom and the laundry area is down there, as well as the furnace and a bunch of stuff we're hoarding :)  Tucked in the corner is a half-bathroom. It's never worked, I don't think. Ever. Plus it was really gross. And scary.

A few months ago my dad was all "I'm going to finish the bathroom in the basement."  We were all "Why?" and he was all "Because it's something I've always wanted to do" and we were all "Oh, OK, whatever." So he rewired/repiped/repainted it, and now there's a bathroom in the basement. I won't use it because I know the spider king is probably just waiting for me in there so he can kill me. I'm only half-kidding, you guys. ANYway, of all things my dad wanted a curtain for this room. My grandma had given me some fabric someone had given HER that she didn't want, and these little stunt airplane guys were saying "We don't mind being in the bathroom!" So that's where they are.

I think these would look fa-hab-u-lous in a little boy's bedroom, all retro and everything. But they're good here too.

I would just like to note that my dad's part of the project took over thirty years, and mine took about an hour. Just sayin'.... But I guess the length of time it takes yo to do something doesn't really matter, so long as the end you can say "I did it" as opposed to  "I quit it." Unless it's smoking. People should totally quit that :)

So yeah, I worked milk crates, a hair cut, an old bathroom, and a public service announcement into one post. Sometimes I pride myself on my efficiency :)

What's the longest it ever took you to do something? What was it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Baby Cakes

If you were to find yourelf on our porch on recent Sundays, you would have been witness to quite the number of odd phrases, such as:
  • Oooooooooo, who's a cutie wootie pootie tootie? and
  • Aiden....Aiden...Aiden...Aiden....pbltpbltpbltpblt (that's what raspberries look like when you spell them out), and
  • I'm gonna eat that little butt!!
  • I see somebody's tummy eye! (which is a belly button...don't ask. We're weird, we know it, and we're proud. At this point my mother/sisters/whoever is going "No, Bee, YOU'RE weird").
  • Wook at those wittle frog legs!
And so on and so forth. Yes, my friends, there is frequently a baby in the house as my sister comes over quite a bit with the little scooch and sits back while we fight over him. No lie--sometimes she has to intervene and I swear she's THIS close to putting us all in corners for a time out.

This little bundle of gurgles and coos is eight weeks old. Eight weeks!!! I can't believe it's been that long since I posted this. Blogging gives you a very good indication of how quickly time really does fly.

So I'm going to shush and show you some pics I took the other day while we were porch-sitting. Nothing fancy at all. No props, no shoving a baby in an overized wine glass, no touch-ups. Just a little face that makes me smile whenever I think of him. True story. However, if you'd like to see Aiden in a wine glass check out the comments...

See that duck on his shirt? He's got a butt duck too.

Do you think that's a duck or a chick? All I know is it's covering a sweet little tushy!

This little guy is so incredibly sweet. He gets a little fussy when he's hungry or messed, but is usually so mild-tempered and easily calmed. I could honestly just stare and stare at him all day. His little faces, his little scrunchy nose when he sneezes, his wee windmilling arms and legs like he's trying so hard to get somewhere and can't figure out why he's not getting far. I don't know how Rachel gets a thing done around the house. I would be all "Screw the laundry! I must gaze!"

And he will just stare back at you and "talk" and "talk." It is so incredibly sweet. We try to think of what he's trying to say, and it's usually "Look at these idiots sitting around and watching me poop." He loves to just lay on his back on a quilt and just look all around. Not that there's much to see but a bunch of our mugs hovering. Once Zach came into the kitchen when we were all being so enraptured and said "I bet if I laid on the kitchen table and pooped I'd get in trouble." Love that kid. It's always nice to have two loves in your life, eh?

My mom snuck a picture of me holding him on the porch swing. For once I don't look demented or wonky or under the influence of illegal substances.

I suppose you could say I'm drunk on love. Yes...indeed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In the End I Was Selfish About It.....

My little crocheted rosettes, in case you're wondering what I'm talkin' 'bout. I had a few comments as to what to do with them, both on-line and in "real" life. They were all great ideas, and I may do those in the future as I still have enough colorful yarn bits to make some more. But for now, they're MINE!! ALL MINE!!!!!

What did I do with them? Something kind of random. I've spent weeks thinking about just the right thing to use these for. I loved putting them all together into one big colorful, leafy bouquet and looking at the rainbow yarn explosion. Not that I do that a lot, it's not a bedtime ritual or something nutty like that. Sometimes I just sit and look and wait for inspiration to hit. Wanna see what I did? Here's a "hint":

It took two sticks of hot glue and one burnt finger, but I am madly in love with the outcome. In a super-geeky, odd, "I'm worried about that girl" kind of way, teeheehee.

After playing with a random layout and a heart-shaped layout (my original intention), a simple circle seemed the best way to go. I bought a twelve inch square canvas, traced a dinner plate for a guide to place the flowers, and hot glued those lovelies down. Then I went back and did the leaves. I used those 3M Command Strip thingees to stick it up--those things are kind of nifty. You wouldn't think they'd hold something but boy do they ever!

There are very few projects that I enjoy every last minute of, and this was one of them. The flowers were quick to make, as were the leaves. And gluing it down took no time at all. The most difficult part was deciding what to do with my little bouquet. I'm glad I waited. This suits me down to my toes :)

That yarn sure did go far--I got a very generously-sized throw out of it, a wreath of roses, and still have some left. Sweet!!! If you were interested in making something similar you can give Lucy's pattern for the flowers and leaves a whirl. My pattern came from an older issue of Mollie Makes, but Lucy's produces a very similar result. The yarn is a sport weight (I believe that's DK in the UK?) but a thicker weight would work just as well. I may play around with yarn thickness and hook size with some yarn I have leftover from this cushion for some fall brooches, perhaps.

So that's what I've been up to. I had a very productive weekend--sewed a bit, cleaned a LOT, made the above, read (I have 10% of Les Miserables left, according to my Kindle), and held a baby. I've got some cute photos to share with you. You should get excited. See you soon :)

Linking here this week:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kinda Wild About This Bag

You know me. I'm for kitschy and cute and whacky and whimsical. I don't go for the typical, usually. So I've been pleasantly surprised to find I really do enjoy working with animal prints. They're not my usual style on the bolt, but once they're stitched into a bag I find myself wanting to keep it for myself and say to my customer "Why I have simply no iDEa what happened to your bag!" I would say this in a southern accent because it seems like it would work best for that sort of sentiment. However, with this one I had no time to dream up a fib--I almost literally no sooner said "Done!" then there was a knock at my door for pick-up.

You've seen this bag many many times, but I always show you what I make because different fabrics can make two of the same seem oh so very different. I also did a few things a bit differently--in case I ever need to remember what I did "that time" it's nice to have a reference.

First, I made this one bigger than usual. It's hard to tell, but it's about four inches taller than the usual version of this bag I make. I was contemplating going taller, but then I think you'd need to physically climb into the bag to get anything out of it that had gone to the bottom. It took me a bit of deep thought :) to pick just the right fabric. There are a gazillion leopard prints, all in different scales and colors. I wanted to make sure I had a larger scale because this is a pretty big bag.

Instead of being a bit plain like another print I've used recently (but just realized I haven't shown you yet) this is a bit busier, with a faux fur look to it as opposed to splotchy dots on a tan background:

For the handles I had been doing a bit of edge-stitching. In later versions I added another row of stitching. For this one I did five rows. It makes it a little bit stiffer, but as the straps are the most-touched part of the bag they'll loosen up a bit (but they won't be wearing out, that's for sure!). I like the neat quilted look the extra rows produce.

Every time I have made this bag I've done my interfacing the same way. I've ironed the interfacing to the bottom part of the bag, then sewn in the pleats. Then I've used sew-in fleece cut to fit the part I just sewed. The pleats come out very crisp, and there isn't much bulk. However--it took a lot of pins and fiddling to make sure everything didn't shift. So this time I fused the interfacing, THEN I fused fleece to it. I let it cool for a long time to make sure the glue was set really well. And then I did the pleats. There was a bit of bulk once I added the piping and the top band, but nothing my machine couldn't handle, and nothing that impacted that particular seam in any way. I really love the impact it had on the body of the bag, though--

The pleats are nice and soft, and not pressed flat where you don't really notice them. It makes the bag feel soooo much sturdier, too. For most of the other bags I make, using sew-in or fusible wouldn't matter as they're not pleated--it won't make a difference when it's essentially "flat" sewing. But I wish you could feel an earlier version as compared to this one--it is certainly a noticeable difference, and so much nicer. The prospect of all that bulk where the pleats are had previously made me skittish, but not anymore. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably say the only reason I tried it this was that I was out of sew-in and really didn't feel like going shopping for more.

For the lining, there's a fun pop of red (tomato red, to be exact) and some leopard accents to spice things up--

One thing I'm going to try in the future is how I do the tops of the inside slip pockets. They tend to feel a bit loose/floppy, so the next time I'm going to feed some elastic along the top--not enough to make it pucker, but enough to give it a little bit of tightness.

I was quite giddy with myself when I discovered I had actually written down the zipper casing measurements. It usually takes me a bit of time holding it this way and that way and figuring out what would be just the right size. Or I text my friend Lisa (who has a couple of these) and say "I need you to get a ruler and give me exact measurements for the following..." Both ways are annoying. When I saw my red ink note I clapped my hands a little, I'll admit.

So that's that. I'm off to soak up some more Olympic fun. I'm wondering what I'll be watching next week :(


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