Monday, March 31, 2008

As They Say in Texas, "I'm Fix'n To Get Ready"

I spent some time this weekend searching for easy and free quilt patterns and directions. I found this under the heading of "easy."

I am considering it for the I Spy Quilt. Forget the Asian nature of the prints, what I like (and I think kids would like) is the boxy feel. I think I would use navy instead of black and of course the "bottom" of each box would be one of the kid friendly prints to spy. There are easy directions on how to make the blocks with those mitered corners on this website.

I liked this idea so much I was almost ready to cut, then I stumbled on this...
and I can not get it out of my head! If this isn't the cutest thing I have seen...maybe ever! Plus, it comes from a really great blog called Two Straight Lines which I had not read before.

I think the piecing on this one is trickier and I may have to stick with the pattern above. Still, I am feeling very inspired by the colors and the playfulness of this. Maybe the next one? OK, so I should finish start the first one before I plan a second! It's just that the car and the colors and the white.... it makes me giddy!

Oh! And, as of today...I am officially out of the Crayon Box for a month! Whoo Hoo! So, I am already a bit giddy.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

One For The Hope Chest

page of sew your own fabric book
I wish this picture wasn't so blurry. Grr! I found this fabric panel that makes up into a Lord's Prayer book and fell in love with the illustrations. I bought enough fabric to make up two books and I may go back for more.

I can't remember if I have shared this story here before, but I do not work with any white children. Before we joined my awesome church (which is really diverse), I could go weeks without seeing a live white child. Instead, my life is filled with my beautiful golden, mocha, mahogany, brown and black "Crayons." It's funny how you get used to what you see around you.

I have gotten so used to my students that white kids look so...pale. In fact, when I went to see a friend's newborn baby, I came home and told Cliff that I was concerned. "The baby was very pale." To which he responded, "Well yeah, it is a white baby!" That's when I realized that when I think, "baby" I no longer automatically see a white baby in my mind. Thinking aloud I said, "Oh that's right. We would have a white baby!" Cliff quickly replied, "Look if it's not white, I'm the one who is going to be surprised!"

Pale as our child would be, I do want my own biological child. Frankly, I want to delight in a mini Cliff. He is such a cartoon that I can not even imagine how much laughter a little version would bring! And, I am sure a mini me would keep him on his toes! Which would also make me laugh!

That said, I am warming to the idea that this might not be our path. Maybe that beautiful girl with her gingham table cloth and red dotted curtains looks more like my future daughter than I know? If the sandwich had been a grilled cheese I would have considered it a real sign from God! Still, no matter how the cards fall, one copy of this book will go into my "hope chest."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Just A Few Things

I drive past a Good Will store each day on my way home. I try to stop once a week or so. I am looking for an old cupcake pan. My plan is to make a variation of these felted sweater cupcakes for Bella and the Pink Kitchen. Oh yes, I plan to have a playdate real soon and of course, I don't want to show up empty handed. I have the thrifted sweaters to make chocolate cupcakes and I plan on making calico tops that velcro on so that Bella can "frost"them herself.

I haven't found one of those cupcake pans yet, but I have discovered that after school thrifting has it's advantages. It seems that sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 is when they bring out the new stuff.
Thrift Goodies

I found this Dooney & Burke bag for my mom. It's in excellent condition and was only $6! She likes a medium sized purse and that isn't always easy to find. This should be just right. I think a quick trip to the shoemaker and this could be polished up like brand new.

It's funny how they price things at Good Will. The leather purse was $6 but the craft and spa books were $3 and $4 each. That's more than I would have liked to pay, but I do like the books and they are in good condition. Also, since the purse was so cheap, I guess it all evens out in the end. Good Will prices are very high for thrift stores. However, this particular store is in the neighborhood where I teach and I know that the jobs provided are important to the community. Unlike some of the other thrift stores in LA, this one is not manned by volunteers. So, I don't mind throwing a little coin back into the neighborhood.
I Spy Quilt Fabrics

I spy a fireman's hat, a four leaf clover, water melon and my big toes! These are the fabrics I have been slowly collecting for an "I Spy Quilt." Making a quilt for the Linus Project was on my "Champaign List" for this year and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Starting April 2, I will once again be "off track." My students are going on the second half of their "summer" vacation. I am really excited to have more time at home. Here is my list of projects:

Catch up with the Purse Project
Finny & Donks Sew Along Table Runer
Sweet Goodness Swaps Spring Time In Paris Swap
Get a good start on I Spy Quilt
Work on Mother's Day projects?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WFMW: Ancient Chinese Secret

Easter Table

Ok, so it's not ancient, nor Chinese, but I should have used Calgon because I have stained this thrifted table cloth a few times.

I went out Saturday looking for a new spring colored table cloth. Did I look at Bed Bath and Beyond or Linens N Things? No, I tortured myself by going to two different Ross Dress for Less stores and KMART. All the crazies were out. To prove that point I saw several of my students.

Anyway, discouraged because there was nothing at any of those bargain stores, I went into Sur La Table and Anthropologie. Maybe sales? One can dream. I found this and another that looked like this! After fantasizing about the beautiful tables they would make, I came home and got real.

To cover up the stains and to make the tablecloth fit my table better, I folded it like this...
Thrifted Table Cloth

Then I used a table runner I already had to cover up the folds and the stains too.

Using what I have works for me!

More creative solutions at Rocks In My Dryer...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cold Quiche, Warm Hearts

Bunnies In A Row

I managed to get my bunnies in a row and prepare our brunch. It was a perfect day in spite of the fact that it wasn't.

The weather was beautiful and sunny, church was awesome, and the company was delightful. However, my Real Simple rubber band eggs were only soft boiled-yuck. And, unfortunately, I served the quiche before it was really hot. Poor Cliff's piece was cold. Even the grapes were sour. Still, none of that mattered. We had a really great meal in spite of the mishaps.

Rubber Band Eggs

The kids at Saturday School helped me color them. Softie that I am, I let them keep all the best ones. We made some with several color stripes by taking off some rubber bands and then double dipping. Definitely, a fun project.
Easter Table

To look at these pictures, you would never know that we live in sunny California. Even with all the lights on and the blinds open , this corner of the apartment always looks so dark! Fortunately, it only seems that way in pictures. In real life it's actually quite cheery.

I tried something new this year. At the last minute, I invited our church secretary. She too lives far from family back east and I learned on Friday that she had no plans. So, right then and there I invited her and her boyfriend to join us. Holy Week is really stressful and hectic for the church staff. She had to be at and perform in both services today. So, I told her she didn't need to RSVP, just come if she felt up to it.

I am not usually that "last minute" and while I like to entertain, having loose ends is not usually my style. But, I want to be the kind of person who always has room at her table. So, I went with my gut. I set places for six and then when it became clear that they weren't going to come, I simply removed the plates to make more room for the rest of us. I left the silverware just in case. As it turned out, her boyfriend had a flat tire on the way home from the 9 o'clock service and she had to stay at church very late. They just decided to call it a day.

It wasn't a perfect meal. Not everyone could come. Still, it turned out just right. Like Easter, it was a day for celebrating life and God's grace.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Check This Out! Great Paper Folding Toys

Every year when I was little my mom would buy us these punch out Nativity books. My brother and I would be busy building these little Nativity scenes and my mom could get a few things done.

I still love the idea of folding paper tabs to create stuff.

Recently, I was invited to join stumble by someone who reads my other blog and what fun it is!

It recommends websites based on your interests. It's an amazing time waster.

And, in my case, a great way to procrastinate writing a grant that my principal gave me on Wednesday afternoon. It's due tomorrow. Her exact words were, "I'm going to be gone all day Thursday, but your such a great writer, you can come up with something and we'll work on it Friday."

Anyway, I digress, back to cute folding things.

So, I stumbled upon this amazing vintagey paper folding site where you can print and cut out all sorts of adorable goodies. There are even goodies for Easter. I can't show you any pictures here yet. I am going to be printing, and folding tomorrow night. Tonight, I am still under the illusion that I might work on that grant.

I was thrilled to discover the designer Marilyn Scott Waters, is an Angelino. I feel like when I discovered another local artist, Ramona Otto. The only difference was that I stumbled upon Ramona's work for real, in real life, at the Craft & Folk Art Museum.

I am thinking of printing this for my Easter table. Maybe, you prefer sophisticated butterflies?

I want this too.

I am so glad we just got a new printer!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Second Thought, I Will

rubber band eggs
Easter has been in my mind for a while. I volunteer at church each week, so I am around the preparations. I wrote for the Lenten Devotional months ago. Still, I was surprised to learn that Easter is already here.

Sunday Cliff and I talked about what to do for Easter. He really doesn't want to do anything other than church. I am working six days a week now with Saturday School and he wants me to have a day of rest. I love him for that. He never begrudges me a day on the couch with my woobie. In fact, he wants that for me.

Still, while I was at Joanne's preparing for a puppet lesson, I bought the cutest Easter pick. It looks just like a foil wrapped chocolate bunny.

At Target I debated buying a few chocolate lambs to put on our Easter plates. After all we have to eat too, right? I didn't though. It just seemed like a bit much for just the two of us. I looked for a new spring table cloth. There was nothing. By the way, what happened to the Shabby Chic table linens?

Today after school, I decided. I need Easter dinner. If I am going to decorate and make a feast (small albeit) I want to share it. I want to entertain.

I will shop on Friday after school. I will cook and set the table on Saturday after school. So really, all I have to do on Sunday is heat up the food and serve. Easy! I am even going to use the same menu as last year- quiche and fruit salad. It's tried and true.

Aren't those eggs above great? They are from Real Simple. Of course, I should probably skip dying eggs. It's a hassle I don't need.

Hey, as I type this I'm getting the idea to dye eggs at Saturday School. It's not "test prep"and I'd probably get in trouble.

The fact that I am thinking about entertaining after working a six day work week shows that clearly, I like trouble.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Old Faithful

I had been feeling a bit unmotivated craft wise in the past weeks.

I may have burnt myself out a bit in the month of February with so many new projects. Or, maybe it's the same creative energy that I am spending instead, with the Slice of Life Writing Challenge in the Crayon Box?

In any case, when I was called to donate a raffle prize for a church event, I fell right back on my old standby, tote bags.
House coat to beach bag
They only take me a couple of hours to make and the materials are already in my stash.
Flowered House Coat

I suppose at one point, a housecoat was sort of an "old faithful" outfit. Well, creating bags out of housecoats, dresses, and sheets has become my "old faithful" project for last minute gifts.

I like to make bags because they fit women regardless of their clothing size or home decorating style. It seems like an easy gift to give and receive.

Still, I would like to branch out a bit. I had thought of making some baby bibs to donate. There were ten babies born last year at church so it seems there would be a market for them.

What are some things you make for last minute gifts or donations to raffles and the like?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Can She Do It? Yes, She Can!

smart and final

In NJ I helped with the Inter-religious Fellowship for the Homeless dinner at my Former Awesome Church. In Bergen County, New Jersey a partnership of many churches and temples of all different faiths joins together to feed and shelter homeless men and women who are in a transition program. Most are working. By staying in church/temple program they are able to save money for a deposit and first months rent on an apartment.

Every Tuesday in October we hosted about 12 people for dinner and then they also slept over in the church. In the morning they were picked up and taken to jobs or job training classes and other programs at a main shelter. I really enjoyed being involved in this innovative program.

In November I had an encounter with a young homeless boy. There are thousands of homeless teens in Hollywood. Anyway, this particular boy kind of got to me and I vowed to get involved again with this issue. I agreed to co-coordinate this month's dinner for PATH Homeless Shelter here in Hollywood. My Awesome Church sponsors a dinner there three times a year. My jobs were to grocery shop and to supervise the cooking. Other volunteers would transport the food and serve at the shelter.

The budget for homeless missions at my church is shrinking rapidly. Our weekly Tuesday feedings have expanded over the last few months from about 100 people to upwards of 140+. The increase is becoming a financial problem. So, I was charged with making a cheap meal for about 75 people. Yikes!

I have been reading Like Merchant Ships and Frugal Hacks for a few months now and trying my best to internalize the frugal mind set. I think it paid off. While I cruised the aisles of Smart and Final (a smaller non-membership Costco knock off) I thought to myself "WWMD?" What would Meredith do?

I think I did a pretty good job. I bought supplies for baked ziti, salad, brownies and lemon aide. I used ground turkey in the meat sauce to save money. We bought enough for 100 people so that there would be plenty of extra for seconds.

The manager of Smart and Final was super nice and gave me a ten percent discount. I met Teo last week when my class entered a coloring contest at the store. He had called to say that he had some candy for my class. It turned out to be five *huge* cases of Valentines candy. My hatchback was completely filled to the top with Nerds, Sweet Tart Hearts and Fun Dip. Teo also said he would call me again after the "holiday of the bunnies" to get more left over candy.

I passed on some of the candy to my church. We made a big basket of candy to take to PATH.

My grand total at Smart and Final was $73.04! I then spent another ten dollars on bread to make garlic bread, a dozen eggs, and some oil.

We were able to use paper plates, utensils, napkins, butter and spices that the church had on hand. There was also a big drum of ice cream left over from another function that was used to make brownie a la mode. Those items would have added a lot to the bill.

My partner bought a few extra things as well, but in the end, we came in around $100! I think it was a pretty nice meal for a dollar a person! To think back in November when I met that homeless boy outside of Ralph's, I spent $1.25 on an apple and some Gatoraide.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Madmen and Glad Woman

Spoon & Fork

I love vintage stuff from my Grandmother's day. The cheery designs and innocent depiction of life occasionally make me wonder... was I born in the wrong age?

So, I am really excited about the show Madmen. It aired on AMC but we watch it on DVD. There are many characters in this show about 1960's ad men in New York city, but the main character is the era itself.

I could drool over the clothes and the sets. Charming! To be the set designer for the series! What a dream job!

But, the reality that this show portrays is less than cheery, bright, or innocent.

It was a real eye opener for me to see just how far women have come in the last 40 years. I have a whole new appreciation for my grandmothers.

In one scene, a young woman goes to the gynecologist to get a prescription for birth control pills. Along with the prescription the doctor gives her a truly insulting lecture about becoming a slut.

The sexual harassment the young secretaries endure is appalling by today's standards.

Absolutely everyone on the show smokes.

While watching the show, I can hardly turn away for a second for fear of missing some subtle detail about life back then. Truly, I am transfixed by this show.

Yet, I am really relieved to live now.

I am thankful to collect Pyrex refrigerator glass, but to have plastic as an option.

I love to wear an apron and slow cook a meal, but thankful to have the option to order out or to microwave a something quick.

I am thankful to have the option to have a woman doctor.

I am thankful that smoking is not the norm. With my allergies, I would be constantly ill.

I am also thankful for the long distance phone calls, the internet, for email and the community of blogging. Women in the 50's were so isolated in many ways. I am so thankful that it is easy and affordable keep in touch with family and friends spread out across the country.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Recharging My Mojo

The past few weeks have been pretty busy for me. I had lots of grant stress mid month. Also, I just finished parent conferences and a ten week Saturday class I have been teaching.

And, this month marks the three year anniversary of trying to have a baby. I don't talk about it much here, but we have been through a rough bit. We are at a crossroads that has been wearing me down.

So, Cliff decided it was time *now* for a little get away. Using a gift certificate we got for Christmas, he booked us a night at the Channel Road Inn.

Now, we have been to quite a few B&B's thanks to Cliff's parents. They have all been so nice, but when I opened the door to our room and saw this...
Red Chair
and this...
Red Chest
I felt right at home! Love me some red, yes I do!

The Channel Road Inn is I guess mostly Victorian, but with a relaxed beachy vibe that's easy to settle into.

We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening. We went to a small local place for dinner and after a while we were the only ones at the restaurant! I felt a bit like Lady and the Tramp.

The next day we rode bikes on the beach. I wrote about that here on my other blog. It was a lot of fun.

I highly recommend vacationing in your own area. Without driving far we could really enjoy so much more time at the inn. Also, we didn't feel compelled to see everything. My desire to make the most of every minute on a trip can backfire sometimes.

I did feel a wee bit guilty about taking a day off to play hooky. Now that I feel so much more relaxed, I know I did the right thing. I needed to refuel.

Ahh, Mental health, a gift that keeps on giving!

Sew Fun

It's been a while since I can say, "I had an awesome weekend!"

I worked a full day on Saturday and when I came home I wanted to just relax a bit before going to a birthday party. I planned on making muffins to take as a small hostess gift, but we were out of eggs. Rather than drive two blocks to Ralphs, I decided it was easier to make the birthday girl a bag. That alone says a lot about how far I have come with a sewing machine!

House Coat Bag

I have made enough of these that I can whip them up without stressing. This one was a ratty, ratty house coat that I got cheap at Jet Rag. I really love how it came out.

As I was cutting the bag, I thought about how much nicer it was as a bag than a house coat. So I made up a little story about how the bag was made from a housecoat that dreamed of going to the beach.

I typed up the little story and used Wonder Under to stick it to some fabric. On the front I wrote "Recycled Vintage It's more fun the second time around."

Anyway, I was really pleased with the result and so was the birthday girl. She thought I had bought it on Melrose! High praise, I'd say!

I think I will write up little stories about all the old clothes I turn into stuff.

The party was a lot of fun. Cliff's friend, Aleve*, lives in the canyons of Beverly Hills. Cliff loves the hills and canyons. Normally, I really don't like the hills or the canyons. I hate the tight winding roads. They seem over crowded and all I can think of is mudslides and fire dangers. But this street was nice.

Aleve's house is a small Spanish style house from the twenties. She has filled it with cozy furniture and lots of art. Her house is very inviting and so perfectly her. I love when you finally see a friend's house and in every way it just matches them. For me, seeing a new house is half the fun of a party!

*Remember that commercial where the women are walking in a charity walk and the girl talks about sharing her Aleve so much that the other walkers start calling her Aleve. "Hey, Aleve!" The Aleve girl, 'cause I am all about name dropping.

Tomorrow more about my weekend and playing hooky!