Married to the Empire

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Learning to Sew: Reversible Bags

My grandmother was a seamstress.  My mom and sister sew like champs.  I didn't want to learn to sew as a kid (bad experience in Brownies involving plastic canvas, which was sewing, as far as I was concerned), so now I'm doing everything late and the hard way.  *sigh* 

I bought a book a few months ago called Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time by Deborah Moebes.  It arrived during Morning Sickness, so it sat for a few months gathering dust until this week.  I pulled it out and got started on making the Reversible Bag with Flat Bottom. 

Oh my word!  This book is awesome!  Moebes gives very detailed instructions, and there are tons of pictures for every step of the process.  I'm a visual learner, so pictures are very important to my understanding of directions.  I actually understood what to do!  My goal was to make a bag for my adopted camper at church.  (We do Adopt-a-Camper each year where you choose a kid going to youth camp and send him or her off to camp with a bag full of snacks and other goodies, along with the promise to pray for him or her all week.)  I wanted to make a test bag first, though.  I started with fabric I had leftover from making bed pockets for me (for camp) and my nieces.  Then I followed the instructions, and VOILA!

Not too shabby for a first-ever attempt!  I was really impressed by just how easy this project actually is!

Next, I pulled out some fabric from my stash in my camper's favorite colors.  (She said she likes blue, yellow, green, and orange.  Orange is the only color I didn't include.)  The denim is leftover from an ugly Goodwill dress I cut the bottom off of, then covered the rest in duct tape for a Halloween costume.  The plaid is from... something.  I bought the fabric a long time ago, and I can't remember why.  The second bag turned out even better than the first, in my opinion!  I even managed to match the plaid at the seams!!!

I spent probably 2.5 hours making the first bag.  The second bag took maybe 1.5 hours, so it's truly an easy project!  Even better, I didn't spend a dime to make either bag!  Just used scrap fabric I had lying around.  A frugal craft project, for sure!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mini Getaway and No-Obligation Weekend

Steven's company does part of the website for Omni Hotels, and it's Steven's main project.  His project manager had a voucher for a free night's stay at any Omni, but she couldn't use it before it expired, so she offered it to us.  We wanted to stay in Fort Worth, but they were booked up, so we opted for the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas.  It's a beautiful hotel, and we were given a gorgeous and huge room.

We had a great view of the canal and downtown Dallas in the distance.

The hotel is a mere 4 miles from Pappadeaux, my favorite restaurant, so we had dinner there Saturday night. 

There's really not a lot to tell about our weekend.  We didn't run off and do touristy things, as we live in the area.  It was just nice to go somewhere else to sleep, as it gives the feeling of vacation without having to really go far.  We didn't even need to get catsitters!  Steven wound up watching that new show on TNT called Falling Skies.  (I expect he'll be ordering that through Zune on his XBox, as we don't have cable.)  We took a late-night walk along the canal.  And I stayed up late to finish a book.  That's vacation, as far as I'm concerned. 

We also made this one of our rare No-Obligation Weekends.  That's where we only do what we want to do.  In other words, no obligations.  We did eat with friends both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but that's fun for us, and not an obligation.  We were heathens who skipped church, though.  Church is often work for us, seeing as Steven is the youth minister, and I sing on the praise team nearly every Sunday morning, so part of getting away is not attending church.  I suppose that sounds bad, but it is another job in some sense, and everyone needs a vacation from their jobs.

Even if you can't get away, I highly recommend No-Obligation Weekends if you're as busy as we are.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Seeing as this hot mess is supposed to become the baby's room, I really need the nesting instinct to kick in!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Paw Prints and Portraits

A friend I went to school with in Norway sent me a special gift quite some time ago: two picture kits that come with frames, mats, and the stuff for making paw prints of your furballs.  I'm bad about dragging my feet on projects.  We made the paw prints of Calvin and Doogie back in November, but I didn't put the frames together until June. 

My name is Anne Marie, and I'm a procrastinator. 

The frames came with boring white mats, so to jazz them up I painted them with the fabric paint I used when I did my bedroom curtains.  And to further let you know just how in-stages I did this project, I painted the mats when I had a craft day with my niece in May.  I had the mats, the photos, the paw prints, basically everything, but didn't put it all together until last week.

See previous statement about being a procrastinator.

I am so pleased with how these turned out!  Calvin got the green mat, which looks fabulous with his eyes, brown fur, and green-printed bag he tangled himself up in.  Doogie got the blue, which beautifully sets off his gorgeous gray-and-white fur.  I had/have some very handsome boys!  I also went with personality shots, rather than true portraits, but I prefer capturing and remembering them in action.  My apologies for the lousy photos, but it's really hard to take a picture of something behind reflective glass!

They'll hang in the master bedroom.  They're not there yet because of the whole procrastination thing. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Graduation Cards

I went simple with my cards this year, as I just don't have the energy to do anything elaborate.  It helped that I found some mortarboard stickers in my ancient sticker collection.  I used the students' school colors for the cards. 

I cranked out 5 of these this year.  I'm enjoying making the round things.  (Yo-yos? Not sure what they're called.)  Super simple with a single strip of paper and a scoring board. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Graduation and Author Signings

Saturday was eventful.  Our seniors graduated from high school on Saturday.  *sniff sniff*  While we could have spent all day at the coliseum at the University of North Texas to attend all 3 graduations, we opted for just the first one in the morning.  (I pulled the pregnancy card on that one!)  The young lady we saw graduate has been in our youth group since she was a 6th grader, so it was definitely a bittersweet moment.  While I'm always happy for our graduates, I feel sad that they're leaving us. 

By the time we took pictures post-graduation, I was ready to gnaw my arm off with hunger, so Steven and I stopped at Subway for a quick lunch before heading to downtown Dallas.  The Dallas Museum of Art was having a book festival, and they'd brought in a ton of children's book authors to do signings, including Norton Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth), Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Fever 1793), and Rick Riordan (The Percy Jackson series).  I was so excited to go to this!  Steven had no interest whatsoever, but he's a sweet man, so he went with me.  (Although, I did mention that I go to All-Con with him every year, and this year I was alone for most of it while he volunteered or went to panels I didn't care about and I was miserable with morning sickness!)

Because I chose our graduate over books, I missed the window for getting my Phantom Tollbooth book signed by Norton Juster.  We did make it in time for Rick Riordan, though.  Oh my word, the line for his signing was a mile long and wrapped around the building!  And did I mention the signings were outside in tents?  It's been very hot for early June--like near 100 degrees hot.  We hopped in line, and I wanted to melt.  We were still in graduation clothes, so it was extra miserable.  Steven had remembered to bring a t-shirt to change into (I wasn't that smart), so he went back to the car to get into a cooler shirt. He was kind enough to come back with a water bottle and an umbrella for me to give me some shade.  He also ran into the museum for me to get a book I wanted.  Have I mentioned that he's a sweetie?

In spite of the heat, the wait wasn't too bad.  We were in line with some really nice people whom we chatted with.  At one point, I got out of line to hop into Laurie Halse Anderson's line.  We spent close to 2 hours outside to get autographs, but we did get them.  Both authors were very nice, although Rick Riordan couldn't chat since he had hundreds of fans to get through.  Anderson offered to let me get into the photo I took with her, but I told her I was too hot, sweaty, and pregnant to have my picture taken at that moment! 

Author Laurie Halse Anderson holding a cold drink to her head, showing how very hot it was outside

Rick Riordan signing my Lost Hero book
There was more going on at the museum, but at that point, I was too hot, miserable, and swollen to attend anything.  We went home where I took a bath and spent the evening relaxing on the couch.  In spite of getting overheated, it was an awesome day!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Silly Songs

My furballs all have songs.  I can't look at them and not compose songs about them.  (Well, I use the term compose loosely, as I basically just change the words to existing songs.)  Ninja is the latest victim of this particular quirk of mine.  There was one evening after he'd been with us for only a few weeks, and he was crying and upset because I went to the bathroom without him.  (What is it with cats wanting to be with us when we're in the bathroom?!)  He was wailing outside the closed door, so I started singing a song to him from some Charlie Brown special. 

Poor little Ninja Cat.
You don't know where you're at. 
Who could love you?
I do, that's who!
Poor little Ninja Cat. 

He's also got one based on the "Weenie Man" song.  (Go here, if you're unfamiliar with this camp classic.)

I know a Ninja Cat, his fur is shiny black
He's really naughty every da-a-ay.
Someday I'll make him good
Have him acting as he should
Oh, how I love my Ninja Cat!

Calvin's main song was brought about because he was 1.5 years old when Steven adopted him.  Apparently, he'd had a family, and they got rid of him.  We went through some spraying issues with Calvin early on (those years really tried my patience!), so my guess is that he was doing something like that with his former family, which led them to dump him.  (Poor, sweet baby.  He really was a good cat.  We eventually learned what was causing him to do that, and it was a litterbox issue.  Once we got that resolved, no more spraying ever!)  Anyway, his song is sung to the chorus of Avril Lavigne's "Sk8r Boi."

He was a naughty cat, they said, "We don't want you back!"
He wasn't good enough for them.
Now he's a little prince, given his every wish
He says, "They suck!" and he's happier now. 

Doogie, oddly enough, is my music lover who doesn't have much by way of songs.  He enjoys his brothers' songs, but he never really liked what I sang to him about him.  (There's something about the vowels in his name that prevents me from finding a really good song for him.)  I used to sing from Snoopy, Come Home to him, but he never liked it.

Doo-oo-oo-gie, Doo-oo-oo-gie
You're home, Doogie, you're home.  (You're home, you're home.)
Doo-oo-oo-gie, Doo-oo-oo-gie
You're home, Doogie, you're home.

This little cat will race to me from across the house when I sing (he's my biggest fan!), but he always made it clear that he didn't care for that song.  So, I started just inserting his name into the Star Wars anthem, and he seems to like that.  I wish I could come up with something better for him, but his drama-free life just doesn't give me the same song material as his naughty brothers' lives do/did. 

I expect that once our baby boy arrives, new songs will start, and someday I'll totally embarrass my kid by singing silly songs about him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Whirly Twirly

Steven has taken to calling Ninja Whirly Twirly.  It's a fitting name, as this cat just can't sit still.  He tries; he really does.  He'll settle in for a snuggle when Steven gets in bed, but within moments, Ninja is hopping all over the bed, attacking knees, biting toes, diving under the covers, stealing bookmarks.  He just can't help himself.  He's full of energy, and he loves life.  He's fun to have around.

Then again, he's a challenge.  He likes to take a flying leap into my lap, but instead, he often lands on my stomach.  That's uncomfortable in normal circumstances, but when there's a hard little knot of a baby in there--OOF.  I keep telling him not to step on the baby, but he doesn't understand. 

Cutting his claws is difficult.  I refuse to always have to have it be a two-person job, so last week, I attempted it on my own.  I managed to get three paws done, but he would not sit still for that final fourth paw.  I finally had to let him go.  He decided that instead of running off, he'd settle in the sink.  Um, okay.

Nevermind that the water was running and getting him wet!  (I'd turned it on for Doogie.  It was his little treat for letting me cut his claws.  He loves to drink out of the sink.)  But you know what?  The novelty was such that he let me cut the claws on that final paw.  Whatever works!

He loves watching the birds in the backyard.  A bird landed on the window sill, and it was just killing him.  Look at the blur of a tail, as it twitched like mad!

He's driving poor Doogie nuts.  Ninja loves to chase and wrestle.  Doogie likes those things, too, but he's an old man these days, and I think his kidney disease is progressing.  (It doesn't help that he prefers Ninja's regular cat food to his own renal-diet food.)  I also think he's got some arthritis, as he limps a bit some days.  Ninja doesn't understand Doogie's limits, so he attacks indiscriminately, which can lead to some major anger on Doogie's part.  I have to break up fights every once in while.  Yep, one of my many hats is Cat Referee.

But every once in a while, they have their sweet moments together, and I feel blessed when I manage to catch them.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flowers for Her Hair (or Her Clothes)

I've started making flowers from fabric.  It's a slow process, as I do it all by hand, but it's easy enough.  I started with some red ones that I wore on Easter, but these pink ones I'm about to show you were for my niece Emily's 10th birthday. 

First, start by tracing circles onto the wrong side of a man-made fabric, like polyester.  (You want fake stuff, not cotton or other natural materials because later, the fabric gets melted.)  I like to use 4 different-sized circles for each flower, and as I was making 2 flowers, I traced 4 circles of each size.  That would be 2 circles of each size per flower. 

Cut out circles.

Next is the fun step of burning the edges.  All you want to do is lightly melt them, so don't hold them in the fire too long.  It's best to use some sort of fire from oil, like one of those butane lighters, but that hurts my hand after a while, so I used a candle.  The problem with candles is that they can leave a smoky tinge on your fabric if you're not super quick about it.  Fair warning. 

The circles curl up a bit.  That's a good thing.  It adds to the overall look once assembled.
The next step is to stack the circles to form the flowers.  As I said earlier, I use 2 circles of each size per flower, so that's 8 circles total.  Start with the biggest on the bottom, and stack them until the smallest circles are on top.  They do not need to be perfectly stacked.  In fact, they look nice when the circles are slightly off center from each other.  Then stitch the circles together.  (I like to make a little X in the center with matching thread.)

Once that's all stitched together, I then sew a bead onto the center. 

See?  It looks like a flower now!
Now, at this point, you could just choose to stitch or glue a barrette or pin to the back of the flower.  However, I like to leave my options open for the flowers to be used as barrettes and pins.  So, I cut a circle out of matching felt.  Then I cut a little rectangular piece of felt, which gets stitched onto the center of the felt circle.  Then, the entire felt circle is stitched onto the back of the flower. 

The reason for all that is because I want the option of slipping a hair clip into it or a pin.  An added bonus is that the felt adds a little something that helps the clip to stay in fine hair.  (Very important to fine-haired me!)  For gift-giving, I slip both a pin and a hair clip into the back so the recipient can decide for herself how she wants to wear her flowers.

All finished and placed in a box for giving as a gift. 

These turn out very pretty and impressive-looking for very little money.  I received so many compliments on the ones I made for Easter Sunday, and my niece really liked her pink ones.  Now I just need to make some pink ones for me