Friday, May 18, 2018

Enna turns 5!

Actually, Enna turned 5 on February 14th, but since life was so crazy, I am writing about it many months later.

At five, Enna loves pretty, fancy, beautiful things.  She enjoys making necklaces out of beads.  She wants clip-on earrings for Christmas.  She loves it when I put her hair in braids and ponytails.  She wants to be a ballerina when she grows up.  (And wants me to put her in ballet classes so that she knows HOW to be a ballerina.)  She loves Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy books, but also enjoys Geronimo Stilton and other fantasy books just like her brother.  She loves to pretend she is a baby animal.  The animal changes daily, but is often magical in some way or another.  Despite liking very "girly" things, she also has a big brother and so enjoys playing games with the boys at preschool. 

She is thoughtful and smart.  She currently can easily read books with short vowel sounds.  Her preschool teachers often remark about how bright and studious she is.  At the moment, she is at the tricky stage where she wants to write and read more than she can.  She frequently asks me to spell all the words and it is frustrating a bit for both of us. 

She is sensitive and gets upset easily.  (I feel like I relate a lot.  I remember being the same way.)  However, she calms down easily too.  It is hard to remain strong when her big eyes pool with unshed tears of utter sadness. 

Due to Mr. F being gone the week of her birthday and then Enna also wanting to have a birthday party, we had an extended celebration.  They day before her birthday, She celebrated in preschool.  (They had a Valentine's party on Valentine's Day and they didn't want her birthday overshadowed.)  On her Birthday, I made her requested orange and cranberry muffins with colored sugar on top.  She also had flavored yogurt--something the kids have only on rare occasions. 

The weekend after her birthday when Mr. F was back from his trip, we had her birthday dinner and cake and family gifts.  For her birthday meal she requested meatloaf (which she eats with loads of ketchup), mashed potatoes, and cauliflower.  For her birthday cake she wanted, "vanilla cake with pink vanilla icing and white lettering and sprinkles."  I made this cake.  I used my 6" cake pans which makes a lovely small double cake with half the batter of a normal cake recipe.  It ends up being the perfect amount of cake for us.  For gifts she was asking for legos, books, a mermaid costume, and fancy stuff (headbands and hair bows.)

And finally, she also wanted a birthday party.  I really tried to discourage this as I really dislike the idea of hosting a kid birthday party (this was our first one.) But she would not be dissuaded.  We ended up throwing the party two weeks after her birthday.  The theme was "Princesses and Dragons."  I spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest and came up with the following:

  • Foam crowns to decorate.
  • Plastic goblets to decorate with adhesive jewels.  Used as water glass for refreshments
  • Play "Pin the flame on the dragon"
  • Play "Slay dragon with foam swords"--jab at balloon tower until balloons are all gone with foam swords which kids got to keep.
  • Play build castles with blocks and tiles.  Take straws and try to blow q-tips from them.  (Most kids did not really have the lung capacity to do this successfully.)
  • Fire-breathing dragon craft (glue dots are your friend for this.)
  • Refreshments: cupcakes (same as birthday cake, but now in cupcake form), grapes, strawberries, pretzels and water.
  • Open gifts

And then collapse after running around for an hour and a half.  The kids had a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work even with keeping it fairly simple.  I told Enna that she could invite 5 kids.  We tried to be clear that this was a small party and to keep mum about it around preschool.  However, word got out (from a loud parent), and I had a mom come up and ask me why her daughter wasn't invited. Ugh.  That was unpleasant.

I love my little my little friend.  She brings a lot of joy and laughter to our family.  I love how she becomes more of a person with each year, but also sad that she is growing up and not a baby anymore. 


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Sewing: Enna's Quilt

Picture taken in our old rental.  The quilt looks so much better in her new room!
Back in 2015 after I finished sewing Finn's quilt, I said I would give myself a year or so before I tackled Enna's.  *laughter at my crazy optimism*  Three years later, I have Enna's quilt finished. 

The fabric for both quilts was purchased at the same time.  Enna's fabric was a Robert Kaufman collection called Little Kukla.  You still can find some but not all of the prints in the collection.  I am so glad that I purchased it when I did because I adore all of this fabric: dolls, churches, buttons, birds, and flowers.  The slavic feel of the prints takes me back to my time in Ukraine.  It also seems perfect for a girl's quilt, and I love how it incorporates so many colors not just your pinks and purples. 

I didn't even have plans to work on this quilt quite yet despite having the fabric hanging around.  I was going to instead focus on making myself some wardrobe staples.  However, every time I went to look through my fabric, I saw the fabric for this quilt staring up at me reproachfully and taking up a lot of space.  Also, I realized that if I waited any longer, Enna might be the age where she would loose interested in a quilt made with that fabric. So, I put my other sewing plans on hold and tackled this instead.

I started this early October of last year.  I decided I wanted it done by the time my in-laws visited for Halloween so that I would have help basting the top to the other layers--by far the worst part of quilting, and the most problematic step.  This quilt came together so much quicker.  The three extra years of sewing practice became quite apparent.  However, I am still not a very good quilter.  I have the hardest time making everything come out square.  And I really want more than a quarter inch seam allowance!  I quilted this on my machine using straight horizontal lines just like I did with Finn's. 

I finished the quilt in January 2018 making it almost exactly three years after I finished Finn's.  Whew!

Below is a picture of Finn's quilt shortly after it was made.  Look at my little babies!  They are so grown up now.  *Sob!*

Monday, April 30, 2018

Hello from a new zip code

Alternatively titled: proof that making goals is pointless venture.

In October, I felt inspired to live life more intentionally.  I perhaps had read of some remarkable accomplishments made by couples who routinely set goals and wanted to also achieve similar remarkable accomplishments. In general, I don't formally set goals: I find that for various reasons (i.e. life) these goals are never realized, and then I feel depressed.  However, I felt compelled to change my ways.  Specifically, I proposed to make small changes to our rental home of two years to make it feel more permanent: finish unpacking all of our boxes, downsize our belongings even more to fit in the small space, and plant a vegetable garden.

I was most excited about the vegetable garden.  I contacted our property manager to ask for permission to put raised beds in the backyard.  I specifically asked if the owners were planning to sell in a few months when our lease expired as I didn't want to go through the work of construction only to move them.  I received word that we were allowed to put in the raised beds, and Mr. F. got to work building them.

Three months later, at the beginning of January, we received notification from the property manager that the owners were considering selling the property at the end of our lease (end of March).  However, the property manager downplayed the likelihood of this actually happening as her experience had shown that many owners choose not to sell after meeting with a real estate agent.  We proceeded with life with cautiously.  However, we chose not to fill the raised beds that we had built (although it was the time of year to do so.)

It was late February, and Mr. F. had just hung pictures on the wall.  Pictures that had been packed away for two years.  Uneasy in not knowing whether or not we had to move, I again contacted the property manager asking for an update.  "Did we need to move?"  The answer came back affirmative: the owners were indeed selling.  I joked to Mr. F., "You cursed us by hanging up the pictures!"

Although I had been following Zillow and the rental market for two months at this point, we had made no action, hoping that we could stay.  Now that we actually needed to move, we saw very few options.  In the end, there were two houses that were reasonably priced and in acceptable locations.  One house was a similar distance from Mr. F.'s work but in a very suburban neighborhood of older houses and subdivisions.  The elementary school rating was o.k. at best and the building itself looked quite utilitarian.  Plus, it was in a different school district.  The second house was farther away by 15 minutes in a quaint little town next to the sound.  The school was the best in our current district and surrounded by a wooded area with trails.  The house had been updated with new paint and carpet and was on a well-kept street facing the water.  Both houses were the same price--which unfortunately was a bit more than our current rent. (In the two years of our living here, rental prices have increased by at least $200.)

We settled on the second option: the nicer house with the longer commute.  The owner let us sign a two-year lease, giving us a a bit more stability.  Our lease overlapped by a few weeks so that we had time to move and clean our previous rental.

In writing, things worked out quite nicely.  Yet, I am still bummed about the lack of a vegetable garden, and the upheaval that moving brought to our comfortable routine.  Life has a way of rapidly changing and trampling on all of one's best laid plans.  Instead of living super intentionally and achieving remarkable accomplishments, I have instead spent the past few months putting out fires.  First there was the stress of the unknown: will we have a house?  Do we even need to look for a house?  Then there was the stress of finding a place to live: What could we afford? How small of a place could we live in? Where would we be the happiest? How far away from work did we want to live? Why were there not any houses to rent?! And once we had found a place to live, you might think we would have felt some peace.  But instead there was the stress of packing, moving, cleaning, and then unpacking.  And amidst this chaos there were birthdays to celebrate, parties to plan, and life to live.

So this is all to say, "Hey, we moved and life has been super busy since I last posted!"  *waves* But also to ask truthfully how people/families actually make goals and accomplish them, because every time I try, life gets in the way.

Pictures are from the neighborhood beach of our new location.  So, yeah, I guess I shouldn't grumble too much, eh?

Monday, January 29, 2018

2017 in Review: Sewing

This is my first year reviewing my sewing projects, because this is the first year I have actually sewn for myself (beyond a couple of items) and have sewn regularly.  (2015 actually doesn't look too shabby.)  Since this is the first time reviewing my sewing, I put together a timeline.  In August of 2013, I decided that I wanted to learn how to sew clothes, and I sewed my very first article of clothing as an adult: A dress for Enna.

2013 (2)
Dress for Enna
Pajama pants for Mr. F.

2014 (3)
Weighted Blanket
Grey and Yellow Dresses for Enna

2015 (26)
Quilt for Finn
Red Riding Hood Cape for Enna
11 pairs of shorts for both kids
Pants and 2 shirts for Finn
First shirt for me
2 pants for Enna
2 dresses for Enna
4 pairs of yoga pants for kids
skirt for me

2016 (17)--moved mid-year
2 shirts for kids
Apron for Enna
Robe for Enna
2 scarves for kids
2 trick-or-treat bags
3 dresses for Enna
2 pairs of pajama pants for Enna
4 pairs of pants for kids

2017 (31)
4 fleece pants for kids
2 scout tees for me
2 cappuccino tunics for me
4 shorts for Finn
2 hiking pants for kids
3 Esme shirts for me
8 pajama bottoms
1 swim shirt
1 swim suit
3 metro T's for me
Apron for me

It took me a couple of years to get my groove, so to speak.  I didn't make anything for me until 2015 at which point I made a shirt and an undocumented skirt.  In 2016, we moved earlier in the year which also hampered any sewing projects.  But 2017 was the year!  Before I made the list, I thought that I predominately sewed for myself, since those projects took proportionately longer what with the billions of muslins that I had to make.  However it turns out that I made 11 items for myself and 20 items for the kids (almost half of those were the pajama bottoms that I batched sewed.)

2017 was a year of learning how to fit shirts.  I made numerous muslins.  I learned that I have a broad back (mostly upper), sloping shoulders, an upper rounded back, burly arms (snort!), and a shorter than average distance between my shoulders and bust.  I also decided that I prefer a darted bodice vs a more relaxed boxy look.  I realized that the biggest factor in learning to make clothes that fit is practice.  Practice, practice, practice.

2017 was a year of sewing with new-to-me fabrics: rayon challis, linen, supplex (nylon-like), wool jersey, and swimsuit fabric.

Looking back, I am super proud of how much I have learned in a fairly short period of time!  Kids clothes are great practice, and I have learned a lot from some really well-written and well-drafted patterns.

Life Lesson: you just have to put in the time.  And the more time you practice, the better you are.

Sewing goals for 2018: Keep on sewing.  Learn how to fit pants.  Make a button-down shirt.  Fill in those clothing holes in my closet.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

2017 in Review: New Recipes

Photos from original sources linked to below.
I don't talk as much about food as I used to on the blog.  Cooking has become less of an enjoyable hobby and more of a necessary chore.  Not to mention the quantity of food that I have to make and prepare has increased.  However,  I am still obsessed about trying new recipes.  Below are recipes that were new to us in 2017 that I have already made more than once.

Dietary updates: Mr. F. is avoiding some dairy due to some advice from our Naturopath.  This means we still cook with butter and cream (and even some sour cream), but avoiding cheese and yogurt.  This is to help with some seasonal allergies.  Therefore, the most popular meals at our house are one's that can be easily adapted to be dairy free.  We also are trying to increase our greens intake.  Mostly that means that I have started eating sautéed vegetables  or salads for breakfast, but I like to add more to meals too.

Italian Chopped Salad (3): this was extremely popular this summer when I less inclined to cook.  I don't follow the dressing as I find it too strong for my taste.  I had actually forgotten about this salad until looking stuff for this post.  I am inclined to put it on the menu again soon.

The Best Sloppy Joes (2): the first time I made them as is (with the handmade barbecue sauce that I made with reduced sugar).  And it was yummy but still quite sweet.  The second time I swapped tomato sauce for the ketchup which made it less sweet.  However, my kids actually preferred that so yay?  Enna is the one to make a request for this.

Slow Cooker Korean Beef (2): I reduce the soy sauce by half and also the sugar.  The first because of Mr. F.'s need for low sodium food and the second to balance with the salt.  This is good, but not fantastic.  This might be due the fact we have to reduce the salt and sugar so much.  However, it is easy enough and still tasty enough to be included into the recipe files.  I have made it both in the crockpot and pressure cooker.

Black Beans, Rice, and Kale Bowls (3): The novel thing about this recipe is the marinated kale added to a typical black beans and rice.  I use a bit less lime juice as Mr. F. isn't keen on it.  I also don't make the avocado salsa verde opting instead for guacamole/salsa/or plain avocado instead.  Trying to time avocado ripeness to go with a meal is a crapshoot I find.

Quick Pasta and Chickpeas (2): Mr. F. isn't a fan (he needs more flavor to combat the lack of salt), but the kids tend to like it, and so do I.  I have to double or triple this for our family.  I use the Barilla gluten-free elbows for the pasta.  It works.

Honorable Mentions (made only once in 2017):

Pupusas: Made these again today, so I am sure this will be a keeper.  I make mine with homemade refried beans and cheese.  (Or just beans for Mr. F.)

Bacon, egg, and leak risotto: I loved this, but kids were ambivalent.  Super easy in the pressure cooker.

Chicken Gyro Salad: Made this again last week again, and I am sure will be more popular in the summer.

Update on 2016's Honorable Mentions:

I thought I would follow up on the Honorable Mentions from last year to see if they ended up being repeats, or not.  Of the six listed, three were duds, and three were keepers. See this post for links.

Lime Coconut Chicken: I made this a second time and didn't find it as yummy.  Haven't made it again.  Still on the fence about that one.

Artichoke gratin toasts: Not a favorite of the kids despite me really liking them.  Bummer.  Made these twice only.

White bean, Kale, Pancetta Pot pies: Haven't made these again, and it doesn't really sound interesting to me either.

Roasted Garlic Beef Sandwiches:  This is in regular rotation.  We have taken to blending up the garlic with the leftover broth to make a thicker garlic sauce that then mixes better with the shredded beef.  Very good.

Black Bean Nachos: We have embraced the occasional nacho night.  My family is a fan.  (Except Mr. F. who can't eat cheese.)

Crockpot White Bean Chili: This has become our default chicken chili since it can be dairy free.  (Kids can add cheese/sour cream after.)

Monday, January 22, 2018

2017 in Review: Favorite Books

In 2017 I read 69 books total, 5 of which I didn't finish.  I didn't feel like I was reading more than normal, but I read more this year than in the previous six: 2016 (39), 2015 (59), 2014 (52), 2013 (24),  2012 (52), 2011 (42).  Some of these were books that I read to Finn, which I don't think I included in previous years.

Mid-year, I decided that I didn't want to read books that didn't interest me (i.e. books for book club).  I found that I was just choosing not to read since I wasn't interested in the book I "should" read.  From this point on, I read much more.  The downside however is that 1) my reading is less diverse and 2) I am missing out on books that I might enjoy despite appearances. Have you ever been in this situation?  I like the social and community aspect of book clubs, but I quite dislike spending time on books that I don't enjoy when I know there are so many other books out there that I want to read.  I don't know what the solution is to this dilema.

Favorite Ten Books:

The Invisible Wall: This had been on my reading list for years, however neither the cover, nor the description called to me despite high praise from friends.  This year I listened to it was so good.  The story is told with so much child-like innocence that instead of being depressed by his circumstances, I felt hope for his future.  I feel like his experiences helped with his character instead of giving him adult baggage.

Salt to the Sea: A YA WWII novel.  So well done.  I loved how it told a story I was unfamiliar with despite the many WWII novels I have read.  I listened to this one as well, and the audiobook was just so well done.  The story is told through the perspective of multiple characters and the audiobook have different narrators for the different characters.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: This wasn't the best written book.  However, I keep thinking about so many of the ideas in this book: Being intentional with your life, writing down the stories of my life, etc.  I think I will need to re-read parts of this one again because there was a lot to unpack.

Bury Your Dead: Book 6 in the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny.  This book was just perfection.  No, you can't read it out of order since it won't make sense, but this was just an amazing ride of emotions.  I was laughing and sobbing.  I listened to these and they were fantastic.  I love the French Canadian accent and now I know how names are pronounced. 

Nanny Piggins: We started reading this series to Finn.  Oh my goodness.  It is so hilariously over the top and ridiculous.  I absolutely love this book--A circus pig turned nanny.  I was laughing out loud while reading this book to my son.  Mr. F. and I needed to fill each other on what happened because we didn't want to miss out on the days we didn't read.  (We take turns putting kids to bed.)

Today Will Be Different: I really identify with the women in Maria Semples novels--the midlife crisis that happens after you have survived infanthood and your children are in school.  The whole, "now what?" scenario. Listened to the audio and it was good.

Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom: Fantasy with the thrill of a heist.  What more could you want?  These two novels are a bit darker than the Geisha series.  However, I really enjoyed them.  Again, I listened to these.  It is another cast ensemble which was excellent.  It is the kind of book that you want to keep cleaning so that you can listen.

Blackout/All Clear: Just consider these two one book.  One massive book.  Luckily, I read this on my kindle which was good since I wasn't intimidated by the size.  This is an amazing time travel historical fiction story.  I really felt like I was there in WWII London.  I will be checking out more from this author. 

The Summer Before the War: This is just the perfect book for my wheel house.  I just really enjoyed this historical fiction. 

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: This is another family favorite.  We listened to all the books in the series that are out currently.  (The last one comes out later 2018).  I read the first book in this series a few years ago and like it, but didn't love it.  However, I listened to the audiobooks and fell in love.  This is such a fun series.  The audio version does all the humor justice (something I didn't appreciate to its fullest extent reading it.)  I listened to all of them, then Mr. F. listened to all of them, and finally Finn listened to all of them.  We now have inside jokes that we can refer to based on these books.  So fun.

Honorable Mentions

I also really enjoyed the following despite not fitting into my top 10.

A Night Divided
The Dry
Far, Far Away
Shades of Grey
The Westing Game

You can see my favorite books from previous years here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sewing: Swimwear for Kids

Here it is.  The last make of 2017 and the final post I wanted to write before I start all my 2017 reviews. 

Enna has long requested a "swimsuit that matches" --one with no sleeves and one piece.  Or at least a tankini that has matching tops and bottoms.  This is impossible to buy since she fits in 2T bottoms but has the length of a 4-5 year old.  In the past, I have purchased a swim suit and only used the bottoms or bought swim shorts and then purchased a rash guard separately to wear on top.  You can sort of see the setup below.

After a number of requests, I decided to try my hand at making a swimsuit.  I had her pick out a fabric she liked from The Fabric Fairy.  She surprised me by picking out the black fabric with moons, hearts, and stars.  Finn also needed a new rashguard (he doesn't like not wearing a shirt) and so he picked out some colors for me to make him a top.

For Finns shirt, I just used the Oliver & S school bus t-shirt pattern since I already had it.  I cut out a size 5 and added length to be an 8.  I didn't, however, take into account his shoulders which are as broad as an 8 year old.  Also, the neckline is quite small.  He has a *very* hard time getting it over his head. Next time I make this (either as a rashguard or a regular shirt), I will add to the shoulders and increase the neck opening.  I also might make the sleeves longer.  Despite these faults, I feel like this fits and works better than the rashguards we have previously purchased.  Those shirts are quite wide on him and really flap about in the pool.  He mentioned that he was able to swim better in this one.

Enna wanted a 1-piece swimsuit.  I, however, do not want to help my daughter go to the bathroom while she is wearing a wet 1-piece.  Instead I made a tankini.  For the top, I made Jalie 3023.  I asked around the internet and heard that Jalie makes top-notch swimsuit patterns.  The size range is super impressive ranging from toddlers to grown women.  I will be able to make myself a swimsuit using this pattern if I so choose.  For the bottoms, I wanted something with more coverage than a normal swim bottom.  I used 3247: low-rise gym shorts.  I think they work great.  I might in future pairs increase the rise a touch but so far, it hasn't been a problem as is.  To figure out the size for the top, I used the instructions for a 1-piece.  I picked the size for her hips/waist/chest and added the length to the top that I needed based on her length measurement.  For the bottoms, I used the width that corresponded to her measurement but added a bit in length.

I had never made a Jalie pattern before, so I was a bit disoriented as I figured out how the patterns were laid out and where the instructions were written (as they are written in both English and French).  However, once I started sewing, I had no problems figuring out what I needed to do.  Also, they have some helpful links to tutorials either they have created or links to other's tutorials for their patterns. 

Also, I didn't think that Enna's fabric was directional, so I didn't pay attention to how I cut out the pieces.  Doh.  Oh well.  I figure that no one else will be checking her suit out as closely as I am and notice it.

They pattern doesn't say to cross the straps.  However, I read other blog posts on this pattern and depending on the fabric and how it behaves when wet, the straps can loosen up and get baggy.  I preemptively took care of this by making them cross in the back. 

By the time I sewed Enna's swimsuit, I had received my Christmas present: a new serger!  The main seams I sewed on the serger and then sewed the yolk, straps, waistband, and hems on my sewing machine.  It was so delightful and easy that I was sad that I didn't have it when I was sewing Finn's top.  It would have been so much easier/nicer.

I was surprised how quickly all the swimwear came together, especially for this swimwear novice.  I think I will be making future more suits in the future. 


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