Wednesday, November 20, 2013

DIY Puzzle Storage Mat

I love jigsaw puzzles, but ever since I had kids, I haven't really been able to put them together because we have nowhere to keep them. This year I decided I wanted to get some Christmas puzzles, so I worked up a solution for storing them. Enter the puzzle storage mat! You can buy storage mats from various places for various prices, but they all look basically the same. And after reading customer reviews, I realized that the mats are generally just made of felt. So I thought I should whip up my own. Here's a quick how-to:

What You Need
1 yd felt or flannel (I used flannel)
2 fat quarters in coordinating prints

What To Do

First things first... you'll want to figure out how big your puzzles are. This information is generally found right on the box. The largest puzzle I own is 30" x 38" (2000 piece), so I wanted to make sure my mat was large enough to accommodate that. My finished mat ended up being approximately 39" long x 24" wide.

I purchased nearly a full yard of light green flannel that was in the remnant bin due to some spots on the fabric. The flannel (or felt) will be the puzzle building surface, so you want a continuous piece.

For the back of my mat, I wanted to add a little pizzazz, so I pieced my coordinating fabrics together before attaching them to the flannel. My backing ended up a few inches smaller than my flannel, so I folded the edges of the flannel over, barely overlapping the edges of the backing. Then I zigzagged the fabrics together. Once the front and back were attached, I went back around the outside edges of the flannel with a decorative stitch which should help keep the edges from wrinkling.

Now I can build my new puzzle! And when I'm finished for the night, I can simply roll it up in the flannel and store it in a mailing tube.

{Linked on I Gotta Create, Life After Laundry, Embracing Change, Live Laugh Rowe, 52 Mantels, Joyful Homemaking, The Crafty Blog Stalker, The Girl Creative}

Monday, November 11, 2013

Easy Throw Pillows

My kids are really hard on throw pillows. After our last purchased pillows became completely flat and partially unstitched, I decided that it would be less expensive to just make my own. Of course, the best part about making my own is that I can choose my own fabrics and sizes.

The even better part is that I used fabric from Stampin' Up! My hubby works there so I got a great deal on it, but you can get a pretty good deal, too. They have discontinued their fabric line, so all their fabric is on clearance. (Click here to check out what they have.)

Now on to the throw pillows! All you really need to make a pillow is fabric and poly-fill stuffing. Choose your size and cut accordingly. Sew the edges, leaving a 4-5 inch gap. Turn it right side out, then stuff with fluff! Make sure you get the stuffing well into the corners and equally spread so the pillows don't turn out lumpy. On two of my pillows, I did decorative top-stitching around the edges to add a bit of detail.

I made several sizes, but kept them all square or rectangular so that I didn't have to sew any curves. The largest one I made is 15 inches square and I think it is a little small if it was going to stand alone on the end of the sofa. But grouped with a couple of smaller pillows, I think they are pretty cute.

And naturally, one of them already got messy toddler face prints on it before I got a chance to Scotch-gard it. I also think I will make slipcovers for each size in various prints so that I can change up the look without having a ridiculous amount of pillows to store in my tiny house!

{Linked on Huckleberry Love, Carrie This Home, Sew Can Do, All Things Fee, Serendipity & Spice, Our Delightful Home, Ladybug Blessings, Nap-Time Creations, Inside BruCrew Life, Cedar Hill Farmhouse, Coastal Charm}

The Thankful Project Day 11 - Something I Was Taught

Topic: Something I Was Taught

There are many things I could write about this topic, but I figured I should choose just one. And since today is my parents' 35th wedding anniversary, I want to write about what they have taught me about marriage.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home with both of my parents being present and supportive of my brothers and I. And most of the time, they made it seem like marriage wasn't hard work. Now that I've been married for over 9 years, I understand that marriage is hard work sometimes, but it's also tremendously rewarding. Now I understand the sacrifices my parents each had to make in order to keep our family together and strong.
My parents and I on my wedding day
So the thing that I am most grateful that they taught me about marriage is that it's about working together and compromising. My parents are both very unselfish and even though I haven't mastered that, I feel that I have been better prepared than some people are to manage the give and take of marriage. And even in difficult times, they taught me that instead of thinking about what is best for me, it's better to think of what is best for us. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Thankful Project Day 5 - Talents

Topic: A Talent I Have

This year I have been very grateful that I have a talent for sewing. It wasn't always this way... my mom tried teaching me when I was a kid, but I didn't have much interest in it until just a few years ago. Once I started trying to learn, I picked it up quickly. I've taught myself to do a lot of different types of sewing including hand embroidery, appliqué, and machine quilting. I've made Halloween costumes for my kids and gifts for my nieces and nephews. 

And now it is paying off... literally. I just started teaching a sewing class for kids and so far, it is pretty entertaining. The class runs for 12 weeks and I am hopeful that during that time, I can help my four students develop a love for sewing just like I have!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Thankful Project

Dave and I have been trying to figure out ways to teach our children gratitude and lessen their feelings of entitlement. This is a tough one, especially when you're dealing with a 5 and 2 year old. I decided that it's hard to teach your kids something you don't openly practice and so I am instituting a nightly discussion of what we are each grateful for.

Then this morning, I stumbled upon a great idea from Kenzie at Chasing Happy. She started The Thankful Project on her blog. Here's what she says about it:

The Thankful Project will be 28 days of intentional gratitude and community. Each day, we'll write a post in response to a gratitude prompt. You'll also have the chance to link up your posts here on Chasing Happy, so we can share our thankful spirits with each other (and find some awesome new blogs to read in the process!). There will be a new linkup set up for each day, so you can write on as many of the prompts as you want and share your post each time.  
The motivation behind The Thankful Project is this: an attitude of thankfulness can help us push through and overcome just about anything. It can keep us afloat when our world crashes down around our shoulders. It can help us be content with who and what we are right now, at this very moment. It can boost our self-esteem, strengthen our relationships, give us motivation to persevere through tough stuff, and give us perspective when we're so busy we can't stop our heads from spinning. Being thankful, and taking the time to express that gratitude, makes us happier, healthier individuals. And by sharing our gratitude, we have the power to encourage and build each other up. We even have the potential to change lives. It might sound hokey or idealistic, but it's true. Intentionally cultivating an attitude of gratitude will change your life.

And so I've decided to participate, even though I'm starting a few days late. I'm not going to attempt to catch up by posting 4 posts today. I'll just start with the Nov. 4 topic. So here goes nothing!

Topic: An Experience

Those who know me personally know that I have struggled with various health problems over the years. But the first big health-related crisis I had in my life was a struggle with infertility. After being married for a year, Dave and I decided we should start trying to start our family. I suspected that it might take a while since my cycles were never regular. After a few months with no success, I started the awful process of daily temperature charts in an attempt to track my ovulation. Temperature tracking was a joke! Not only do I have a strangely low basal body temperature (to the point where I had to alter the charts I printed off that didn't go low enough), but my temperature never peaked.

After a few months, we had moved and both Dave and I had new jobs and we finally had health insurance. And so I started my seemingly unending series of visits to midwives and reproductive endocrinologists.  After my third cycle on fertility meds, I got a positive pregnancy test. I still remember that it was on a Sunday in February -- Super Bowl Sunday, I think. I was so giddy that it was ridiculous.

Sometime during the following week, we went to see the doctor for a "viability ultrasound." Just the name of that sounds frightening. It hadn't really occurred to me that the embryo would not be viable until I scheduled my appointment. In we went. Based on the timing, I should have been 6 weeks along. When we saw the embryo on the screen, there was no heartbeat. The doctor said that things looked okay otherwise, so we should wait a week and try again.

That week was the longest week of my life. When we went back in for another viability ultrasound, the doctor took one look before looking at me with sadness in his eyes. He showed us the embryo and how there was no heartbeat. The sac was collapsing. I would have a miscarriage within the next week. I have never been more devastated than I was that day.

After miscarrying, I needed to wait a few months before trying to get pregnant again. While we waited, I underwent a hysteroscopy to remove a septum in my uterus that could potentially cause miscarriage. And then we started over with the fertility meds.

A few months later, I was pregnant. I was much more hesitant to celebrate this time around. We made sure to schedule the viability ultrasound a bit later to make sure there would be no week of waiting this time around. And when we saw the tiny flutter of our baby's heartbeat, my emotions were so confused that I didn't know whether to be happy about this baby or sad for the first one.

Our baby "Smidgen" at 6 weeks gestation.
The morning sickness (which was more like all-day sickness) during my first trimester left me feeling miserable, but I felt horrible that I felt miserable after everything I had gone through to get myself to that point. I thought I should be grateful to be pregnant instead of wishing I wasn't sick. Ultimately, I confessed my misery to my midwife, who referred me to a counselor. I was ashamed that it had come to this, but I went and sobbed as I told her my story and then she said a simple, but profound thing: "You have permission to complain." She helped me understand that I needed to separate my feelings. I could still be sad about my miscarriage, happy about my pregnancy, miserable about the morning sickness, but I didn't need to feel guilty about my feelings.

And now, 6 years and two kids later, I am very grateful for this entire experience. Not only did it give me answers about what I needed to do to get pregnant, but it also gave me confidence when dealing with doctors, took away some of my fear when dealing with medical issues, and prepared me to be willing to ask for help when I ultimately dealt with postpartum depression. And now I am grateful for that as well because it has given me such empathy for others who struggle with infertility and mental health issues and I feel like I have been able to be a help to others.

June 2013, my family

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Applique Baptism Towel

My nephew is getting baptized a member of the LDS church today. In our church, kids can be baptized as members at age 8. In honor of the occasion, I made a personalized towel for him. Check it out:

As you can imagine, machine appliquéing all those little letters was time consuming. The CTR symbol was much easier. If you're going to attempt a project like this, here are a few tips:

  • Use a script font where the letters are interconnected. This may sound strangely specific, but my first attempt was a non-script font and my letters fell apart before I could get them sewn on! 
  • Cut your words into smaller segments. While it's good to have the interconnected letters, you don't want to try fusing a long word (like November) all at once. The reason for this is that the interfacing will not stay stuck for very long. Fuse 2-3 letters at a time, then hurry and stitch them on. I learned this the hard way, which is why "Andrews" on my nephew's towel ended up a little funny. I fused the entire word on and started stitching at the beginning. By the time I got to the "r," my remaining letters were loose.
  • Don't leave your letter cut-outs laying around where your toddler will find them. I had to re-do part of mine after cutting them out because my daughter got them and destroyed them.