Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm Joining Bout of Books!

I love reading, so when I found out about the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon, I decided to sign up!
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
Since I have a few weeks to prepare, I am going to start collecting a stack of books to get me through the week. Usually, when I am on a book binge, I can read one good-length book in a day. So here are my goals for the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon:

My Goals
  • To finish reading the books on my Summer Reading List.
  • To make some progress toward reading all of Charles' Dickens novels before I'm 30.
  • To give my normal reading binge a purpose!
Books to Read

Code Name: Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson
A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

I think that my current record is five books in one week, so I don't think a goal of six is too ambitious. I will update my progress throughout the week of the read-a-thon. If you like to read, you should sign up, too!

Bout of Books

Monday, July 29, 2013

DIY T-Shirt Applique

My son will start kindergarten in less than a month! That means I have 4 weeks to get caught up with all my good intentions. I intended to teach him to tie shoes, but instead we got velcro ones. I intended to teach him to tell time, but haven't gotten around to it yet! We have worked on upper & lower case letters, as well as following instructions. I never realized how complicated a color-by-number could be for someone who is not used to following instructions no matter what!

Anyway, one thing that I have wanted to do for a while is embellish some solid color tees for him. I took him school shopping and let him choose a few shirts he liked, but then I also picked up some solid color tees for projects.

This is the first time I have done appliqué and it was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be! I sort-of followed the tutorial found on Sew Mama Sew to appliqué woven fabric onto a knit shirt. It turned out great!

My biggest mistake was cutting out my dinosaurs before ironing it to the fusible web. Don't do it that way unless you want to scrape web off of your ironing board afterward. Iron the fusible web onto the back of the fabric, then cut the shapes out! This way, you can do the fusing without fusing it to your ironing board, and the shapes will be easier to cut without any fraying.

After fusing the shapes to the shirt, I stitched around each shape. I made sure to stitch around the outside of each shape so it wouldn't peel off, then did a few of the details that weren't too small.

Here's my handsome boy modeling the finished product! Despite his protests that dinosaurs are not cool, he still ended up liking it by the time it was finished.

{Linked on Piggy in Polka Dots, I Should Be Mopping, This Gal Cooks, Sumo's Sweet Stuff, All Things Fee, Uncommon Designs, Serendipity & Spice, Craft & Repeat, Be Colorful, Ninth Street Notions, DIY Home Sweet Home, Keeping It Simple, Craft-O-Maniac, Carrie This Home, Endlessly Inspired}

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Washi Tape Bookmarks

This was a super easy and super fast project that anyone can do! I made several different designs, just trying different things and different paper/tape combos. Here's a quick how-to:


Cut a piece of card stock 2x6 inches out of the color of your choice.


Create your washi tape design. I tried taping vertically (on the burgandy scallopped one), diagonally (on the green and copper one), horizontally (on the notched one), and both vertically & horizontally (on the chalkboard one).


Once your taping is complete, punch a hole in the center of one end. Thread a ribbon through and tie off as you like.


Trim corners and edges to add more interest if you like. Of course, you don't have to. My favorite of the ones I made is the one I didn't trim at all.

Please link up your washi tape projects in the comments because I would love to see your ideas as well!

{Linked on Tatertots & Jello, Be Different...Act Normal, One Artsy Mama, Truly Lovely, Happy and Blessed Home, The Stitchin' Mommy, The Wondering Brain, A Little Claireification, Sincerely Paula, Carrie This Home}

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fitness Friday -or- Cycling Is Not For Sissies!

I got my start with cycling by going to spin classes at my local gym. The first spin class was excruciating, but for some reason, I wanted to go back. Spin class is the most intense workout I have ever done. At the end of class, the teacher estimated that those who stuck with the ride (not me) had burned around 700 calories. If you haven't ever done it, try it out, but be prepared for your backside to hurt! It takes a week or two for your rear to get used to sitting on a bike seat, so stick with it!

As I've blogged about before, at the beginning of 2012, my hubby and I decided to do a sprint triathlon. We gave ourselves about 4 months to train. Since I didn't own a bike, I shopped around and splurged on this beauty:

I had not ridden a real (not stationary) bike in at least 4 years, so it was pretty scary at first. My first few rides were restricted to the paved trails near my home so that I wouldn't have to worry about cars. After my first ride outside, I came home with a big smile on my face, exclaiming to my hubby "that was fun!" Once I felt comfortable with shifting gears, I decided to venture out onto the road.

This is when I learned that road cycling is not for sissies! My first few road rides were terrifying. I was keenly aware of my vulnerability as I rode along with traffic. Drivers are not terribly conscientious around cyclists, so I learned early on to make myself as visible as possible. I ride in bike lanes whenever I can, I hand signal my intentions, and if I feel there is not enough space on the shoulder of the road, I move over so that I am in the lane of traffic so that drivers won't buzz right past me.

Since then, I have become more brave (not holding my brakes down big hills) and more confident. I've learned that safe road cycling is mostly about communicating with drivers by signaling and making eye contact. And it really is fun. Cycling makes me feel a certain level of freedom that nothing else I've found does.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Matryoshka Craft Round-Up

Last year, I did a lot of reading focused on self-discovery, mental and emotional health, and life changes. One of my favorite books that I discovered during this time is Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor. In the book, Sue Monk Kidd discusses some of the symbolism of the matryoshka, or Russian nesting doll. I loved the idea so much that I gave both my grandmother and mother their own matryoshka for Christmas, along with a quote explaining the significance.

"Our mothers are the first word we know, the source of our lives and stories. They tie us to the great web of kin and generations....we're not only connected through blood, tissue, and female likeness, but through feminine heart, memory, and soul. Inseparable but separate - a mystery."

Ever since then, I have been in love with the matryoshka crafts I have seen around the blogosphere. I decided that it is high time I do a round-up of these great projects! Enjoy!

Russian Nesting Doll Card
This nesting doll card idea from Jessica at Zakka Life is perfect! She even provides a printable template so you can make your own.

Matryoshka Fabric Ornament
It's a bit early for me to be thinking about Christmas decor, but I plan to make one of these fabric ornaments using the tutorial on The Chipper Snipper.

Matryoshka Quote Poster
If you're looking for a wonderful gift for a little girl's room, ReStyle Shop on Etsy is the place to look!

Sewing Matryoshka
This matryoshka sewing kit from Vanessa at Tried & True is amazing! She provides a tutorial on how to turn a matryoshka doll into a pin cushion & tape measure holder. Fun and functional!

Tooth Fairy Pillow
I'm not completely sold on the idea of a tooth fairy pillow, but if I decide to embrace it before my kids start losing their teeth, this matryoshka pillow from Dragon & Phoenix is super cute! She even provides a PDF template for this project.

{Linked on My Girlish Whims, Sew Much Ado, Sugar and Dots, Lil' Luna, Mostly Homemade Mom, Content in the Meantime}

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Washi Tape Blog Planner

My blog is just about 4 months old now. It took me a little while to get into a good blogging rhythm and one major help was this:

I got the idea from Jessica over at Lovely Little Things. This blog planner has been a life saver! Or maybe just a blog saver. Each week has its own spread dedicated to it. I use this to compile my inspiration for each week, as well as to track my social media stats. I track blog views, bloglovin' followers, facebook likes, twitter followers, Pinterest followers, and Google+ followers. It has been extremely helpful (and enlightening) to see these numbers climb each week and helps me focus my goals for the following week.

I also try to choose a fellow blogger to encourage. This has been fun and has led me to discover new blogs and other new bloggers. I make an effort to read their blog at least once during the week and leave a well-thought-out comment. I also try to pin something from their blog.

The rest of my weekly spread is dedicated to scheduling blog posts and checking things off my to-do list. I don't always adhere to the schedule, but it helps me have direction and variety in my posts.

Of course, a notebook needs a cute cover. My notebook is one that I found on clearance at Target. I paid less than $2 for it, but it was a little too flowery for me. So I covered it with washi tape. It was a quick and easy project that gets a lot of use.

How do you keep track of your blogging schedule?

{Linked on The Princess & Her CowboysNew Nostalgia, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Hope Studios, Funky Polkadot Giraffe, Adventures of a DIY Mom, Today's Creative Blog, VMG206, Ladybug Blessings, Him & Her, Nap-time Creations, Fluster Buster, The DIY Dreamer, And Sew We Craft, Dandelion Wishes, Gingersnap Crafts, Endlessly Inspired}

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fitness Friday -or- Relax With Yoga

About six years ago, I fell in love with yoga. The year before my son was born, I signed up for a class titled "Yoga for Stress Relief." At the time, I was dealing with infertility and it was stressful! I needed some exercise, but didn't want anything too intense, so this yoga class was perfect for me. Ever since then, I have tried to make yoga a regular part of my exercise routine.

Recently, I have been dealing with different types of stress -- the stress of having two young children, the stress of inexplicably gaining weight, and the stress of postpartum depression. Obviously, I need some yoga in my life! Luckily, my hubby found an app so that I could do yoga workouts at home whenever I have time. It is called All-In Yoga.

There are many yoga apps available, so if you're interested in trying yoga at home, you are in luck!

After doing my first yoga workout using this app, I remembered why I love yoga so much. It is so individual, so calming, and it really is hard work! Two days later, my abs are still killing me.

If you're new to yoga, I suggest taking a class from a certified instructor first. They can help you learn the proper forms for the poses and the proper breathing technique. Once you get the basics down, it is easy to incorporate yoga into your fitness program at home.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Patchwork Skirts

My two-year old daughter, Violet, recently decided that she is a pirate princess (thanks to Jake and the Neverland Pirates). This created a bit of a problem at our house because she only owned one skirt that is not a dress. Several days each week, she refuses to wear pants, but says "No! I want my pirate princess!" So I decided to make a few skirts for her.

For the first one, I used the Zig Zag skirt tutorial from Moda Bake Shop. Since my skirt needed to fit a thin two-year old, I had to modify the measurements. I also didn't want to buy pre-cut fabric since it's more expensive and there's a smaller selection. So I made it up as I went.

I bought my yardage, then cut my squares into my own charm pack. Then I pieced them together as instructed until my skirt looked big enough to fit around my daughter with a little fullness. I followed the rest of the tutorial as written. Here is how it turned out:

I really wanted some different colored skirts for her, so I found some great remnants at Hobby Lobby. This time, I decided to modify the pattern to use squares and rectangles. The concept is basically the same as the zig-zag skirt. Piece your shapes together until it is the right size, then add the waistband and hemline. Instead of simply hemming this one, I added a ruffle around the bottom. Here is how it turned out:

Featuring the pirate princess herself and her magical rainbow wand.
This method is really simple and turns out very cute, so I plan to make at least one more of these skirts for Violet. I just need to restock my elastic supply first.

{Linked on Ashley's Dandelion Wishes, Fluster Buster, Someday Crafts, Daisy Cottage Designs, We Like to Learn as We Go, DIY Crafty Projects, Gingersnap Crafts, Handy Man Crafty Woman, Trendy Treehouse, 52 Mantels, Eclectic Red Barn, Sew Can Do}

Monday, July 15, 2013

Clothes for Kids

Since kids' growth never matches up with the seasons, I am always looking for way to repurpose my kids' clothes so they'll last longer. I'm always on the lookout for the faux layered type t-shirts for winter so that I can easily shorten the sleeves in the spring. Lately, I've been looking into new ways to change up old clothes. This inspired this round-up of great kid clothing tutorials. Enjoy!

This cute key-hole top was created by Jess at Craftiness Is Not Optional. I have big plans to use this tutorial to transform some of my son's t-shirts into more feminine shirts for my daughter.

Caroline at Hungie Gungie crafted this beautiful tee for her daughter from a thrift-store find. It doesn't get much cuter than this! 

This easy Captain America Tee was hand-painted by Cheri at I Am Momma Hear Me Roar. I have never painted a shirt before, so I am intrigued by this. I think I'm going to try it for my son.

Ashley from Make It & Love It has a ton of great tutorials for repurposing for kids (and adults). I think this could be another great way to take a boy's tee and make it more girly. I plan to give it a try.

I love this tutorial from Christie from A Lemon Squeezy Home. As you may have noticed, I am on the lookout for ways to shorten sleeves and I love that this one is not super feminine. I'm going to try it on one of my son's shirts so he'll stop wearing long-sleeve shirts during July!

Shauna from Shwin & Shwin gives wonderful instructions on altering a larger tee into a slim-fit tee for boys.

Do you know of any other repurposing ideas for kids' clothes? Link them up in the comments because I would love to see them!

{Linked on Nap-Time Creations, New Nostalgia, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Funky Polkadot Giraffe, Adventures of a DIY Mom, Ladybug Blessings, VMG 206, Him & Her}

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cake Decorating

When I was growing up, my mom made a lot of cakes. She made birthday cakes for all the kids in the extended family. She made wedding cakes, too. When I was a teenager, I started learning how to decorate cakes, too. Now I love to make fun cakes for my kids for their birthdays. I'm thinking of developing my skills a bit more by taking a cake decorating class. For now, here are the birthday cakes I have made over the past few years:

Curious George
Lightning McQueen

Minnie Mouse
Winnie the Pooh
Side detail of Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thinking Thursday -or- Board Books That Adults Can Enjoy Too

Let's face it: board books are not known for being particularly profound. And it's true, some of them are pretty lame. But when I happen upon a board book that I love, I consider it a fantastic discovery. Because if I'm bored reading books to my kid, they're not going to love the books either... right? That is why I have put together this post of my favorite board books that adults will enjoy, too.

Hamsters Holding Hands by Kass Reich

This simple counting book is made more fun with silly hamsters and nicely rhyming text. My 5-year old got a kick out of this book.

The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson

A beautiful poem, beautifully illustrated.

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton

I love all the Boynton books I have read so far. This one, subtitled "A book of moods," is a great read for kids who are learning to name their feelings.

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

My son loved this book so much as a toddler that our copy is held together with tape. I love that the story is told in pictures.

Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton

Another of my favorite Boynton books, this one cracked us all up. It's a simple color book, made more fun by a crazy turkey who can't get anything right.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw

We received this as a baby shower gift before my oldest was born and after five years, I still love it. There are several other "Sheep" books by Nancy Shaw and they are all equally fun.

Llama Llama Wakey-Wake by Anna Dewdney

I love rhyming books, so I really enjoy the Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney. This one is a simple story about Llama's morning routine and could be great for kids who are about to start preschool or kindergarten so they can learn about routines.

Love is You & Me by Monica Sheehan

I probably enjoyed this book more than my son did, but it is very sweet and teaches about love.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

We first encountered this book during a "story walk" at our local library. There is a picture book version as well as the board book version. The illustrations are wonderful in this book.

The Goodnight Train by June Sobel

A fun, rhyming story about the goodnight train's trip to dreamland. The illustrations are lovely and give you a lot to talk about in addition to the story.

What are your favorite board books?

{Linked on Happy and Blessed Home, Truly Lovely, Tatertots & Jello, The Thriftiness Miss, Wait Til Your Father Gets Home}

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Personal History Printables, #6

This is the final installment of my Personal History Printable series. Pack #6 includes pages dedicated to jobs, spouse, and children, as well as many generic templates for including more detail. Click the image to open the free printable!

{Linked on New Nostalgia, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Hickory Trail, Adventures of a DIY Mom, Today's Creative Blog}

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Girl Can Dream

We have lived in our townhome for six years. This is the second-longest I have ever lived anywhere (including my first 18 years of life). I get really antsy, though. When we bought our home, we intended to stay for five years before upgrading. Of course, then the economy tanked, so we're still here with no signs of that changing soon.

While we really do love our townhome, there are several things that we dream of someday having. So I decided to share some of the details of my dream home (to view the source, click the image):

Craftsman with a big front porch, front not dominated by a garage.
A bright front door with windows in it.
Bold interior colors and architectural detail.
A bright modern kitchen with a window. I also love the grey cabinets.
A dedicated master bathroom with dual sinks. Modern design would be a plus.
Useable outdoor space with trees.
A fenced back yard with space to plant and room for kids to play.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fitness Friday -or- Learning to Run

I am not a runner. I don't enjoy running. It's true. And yet, I try to make myself run on a semi-regular basis. I started learning to run to prove to myself that I could if I tried hard enough. I ran my first 5K back in 2007, when I was about 5 or 6 weeks pregnant with my son. I "ran" that race in about 45 minutes. If you're doing the math, that is a 15 minute mile, which is how fast most people walk, I think. Not terribly impressive.

Then I was busy being pregnant, having babies, and getting fat. That took up a lot of time and didn't leave much time for doing excruciating things like running. After my daughter was born, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression, which sucks. Luckily, I was quickly put on anti-depressants, which, unluckily, made me gain weight at an unprecedented (for me) rate.

At this same time, my hubby was steadily losing weight. I joke that he just thought one day "huh, I should lose a few pounds," and they magically fell off. He'll tell you it was a bit harder than that... but it doesn't seem like it to me. Last year, we decided to do a sprint triathlon -- Dave because he had lost 60 pounds and felt great -- me because I wanted to prove to myself that I could if I really wanted to. (On a side note, I probably need therapy to resolve this constant need to prove things to myself.)

We trained. Unfortunately, a sprint triathlon involves running. I helped Dave with his lap swimming and he encouraged me to keep running. He promised it would get easier. I didn't really believe him, but I kept at it and learned he was right.

Here is what I did: Start with walking/jogging intervals. Walk 5 minutes, jog 2 minutes. Slowly (over weeks) build up your jogging time and diminish your walking time until you can jog 10-15 minutes straight before walking 1-2 minutes. This seemed to be the turning point for me. Once I could run 15 minutes, I was halfway through the 5k distance. Depending on your deadline, keep running 15, walking 1, running 15 for a week or two. This will help you get really comfortable at this distance. Increase your running time if you feel up to it. If not, don't fret. Walking 1-2 minutes of a 5k is nothing to be ashamed of.

The sprint triathlon was actually pretty fun. My running time wasn't great, but I finished the race in a reasonable amount of time. Mission accomplished.

I had a few revelations as I taught myself to run. Here they are in no particular order:

Run alone. 

Of course, only do this if you have a safe place to run. Carry your phone if possible in case anything happens. I am lucky enough to live in a very safe neighborhood... and I only run in daylight. I also make sure Dave knows my route and estimated time so if I am not back, he knows where to look for me.

The reason I like to run alone is that it makes it easier to go at my own pace. I used to try running with Dave. The problem is, he is 11 inches taller than me, so naturally, he has a longer stride than I do. It would take 2-3 of my steps to match 1 of his. I would try to keep up with him and tire out quickly. Now I understand that if you're running a 12-minute mile, you don't want a jogging partner who runs a 9-minute mile.

Wear a watch.

Even though it can be discouraging at times, having a rough estimate of your speed (or how long it takes you to get from Point A to Point B) really is helpful. You need to keep track of this so that you can see your improvement. Sometimes improvement comes slowly and having some hard numbers can help you stay motivated.

It gets easier.

It really does get easier as your body becomes accustomed to running. So don't give up after a week.

Control your breathing.

This was the biggest help to me in pacing myself. I hit a plateau where I couldn't run more than 8-10 minutes before I needed to walk. So one day, I did my run without my iPod. And I realized that I was trying to keep up with the tempo of the music. Without the music, I was better able to monitor and control my breathing and my pace. I realized that I had been breathing too unsteadily and it was making me winded a lot faster. So I did a few runs where I matched my breaths to my steps (inhale for 2 steps, exhale for 2 steps) and it helped tremendously. Now I can do this even with Vampire Weekend blasting in my ears.

Shin splints suck.

I went through normal bouts of soreness as I built up my running endurance. But I never suffered from shin splints until this spring. 

In an effort to encourage myself to keep running through winter, I signed up for a race in March. In some places this would not be an issue. In Utah, March weather is a little unpredictable. Three days before the race, the high temperature was 57 degrees. The night before my 5k, it got down to 22 degrees and snowed 6 inches. I was not prepared to run in the snow. But, the race was still going forward, so I bundled up as best I could and went for it. I picked up my packet, then sat in the car with the heater blasting until about 10 minutes before start time. Then I got out and moved around, trying to keep my muscles warm. Of course, it was only 30 degrees outside, so I was unsuccessful. By the time the race started, my feet were numb. I finally got feeling back in my toes at the 1 mile mark. I slogged through the cold, finishing in about 35 minutes, then quickly went back to my warm car.

Running through a winter wonderland.
Later that day, the shin splints began. My legs ached terribly. I thought this was just normal soreness, magnified due to the cold. But I was wrong. I left them untreated and I was sore for two weeks -- barely able to walk down stairs, much less go running. Eventually my legs felt better, so I went for a jog. It was painful. Now every time I run, I know my shins and calves will hurt for at least two days afterward.

The moral of this story: warm up, stretch out, treat soreness after running, and don't ignore unusual pains.

If I can learn to run, then pretty much any reasonably healthy person can do it. Of course, you should talk to your doctor about it first. And you should take it slowly and stick with it. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Washi Tape - Trial & Error

Last month, I finally jumped on the Washi Tape train by trying to improve the look of an ugly free notebook (check that out here). I wasn't completely satisfied with how that turned out, but I knew I wanted to try washi tape again.

This time around, I found a great wooden picture frame on clearance at Joann. I got some awesome washi tapes from The Creative Stash on Etsy. I decided to try covering the boring brown frame with something a little more interesting. Here is how I did it:

First, gather your supplies. I used a ruler, a pencil, and three different kinds of washi tape.

Next, plan your pattern. I wanted diagonal stripes, so I first place my ruler diagonally from one corner to the opposite. I drew a line there with the pencil. Then, I made all my other lines parallel to the first one. My washi tape is 15mm wide, but I left my spaces at 1 inch because I wanted a bit of the original frame to show through as part of my pattern.

Third, start placing your washi tape along your lines. I started with my burgundy tape, placing a strip on the right-hand side of each line. Then I lined up my periwinkle floral tape next to that, leaving the very middle space open for my copper strip.

Last, I sealed the entire taped frame with Mod Podge. This did not change the look of the tape at all, but helped it remain stuck to the frame. You don't have to seal it, but I found that my tape would eventually start peeling on the ends without a thin coat of Mod Podge.

And now I need to figure out what to put in my sweet new frame. I love the way it turned out and I feel much better about my second try at washi tape crafting than I did the first time around.

{Linked on Lil Mrs Tori, Kathe With An E, New Nostalgia, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Hope Studios, Hickory Trail, Adventures of a DIY Mom}