Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Preparations

I have been plugging away like a mad woman at my Easter and First Communion party planning. Party of 35 or so. Sewing, baking, cleaning, home improving. And so it goes…
I have made what I can ahead of time, including some very cute Easter egg cookies using my favorite recipes (found here). I used my newfound color puddle technique from the baby shower cookies and made some chevron/zigzag cookies along with the ever-fun polka dots. Amazing what a toothpick can do, no?
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Of course I had to make some REAL Easter cookies too, since we are actually celebrating the fact that our eternal souls have been redeemed by amazing grace, and not, in fact, egg-laying rabbits:
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After whining recently about things I have NOT done, I am very happy to report that much progress has been made on many a house project.

  • I am glad to report that we have installed 6 of the 7 necessary wood floor transitions! While I was at it, I planed down the top of the master bathroom door… and now the door closes ALL THE WAY. Privacy: worth the hype. And I also (finally) installed the missing trim and painted both bay windows! And made an Easter sign from scrapbook paper because I just couldn’t help it.
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  • The design wall for my sewing room (currently in guest room mode) is up and fabulous! DIY coming soon.
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  • I hung up a LOT of artwork. My choices were either move the boxes of artwork downstairs (and have to eventually move them back up), or open them and find homes for the contents. I took the easy, feel-good path.
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  • The half bath is closer to being completely done with some help from Target brackets and Home Goods crates (and a wicker fish basket I had around). Finally, storage that works for me. My man needs to swap out the faucet and fan, but we’re just trying to survive to Easter, so he can deal with that some other day! In the meantime, I can’t hide the ridiculous mount of noise that the fan makes, but I did paint the cover white to mediate the dated-ness of it.
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  • The First Communion dress project has been a big fat Catholic success. As I mentioned, I chopped up my wedding dress and converted it into a new dress for my second daughter to wear for her big day. I am so proud of her, and so glad to pass along this important garment. Here is a teaser from our little “hair testing” photo shoot. I’ll share more about this soon. With real pictures :)
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And I am still working determinedly at baking and cleaning for Sunday’s festivities. I am tired… not gonna lie. But I am loving all the motivation of hosting a large gathering, and I would bore you to tears with all the little things that are being done to make this house a home. Happy details for me, and I know that, while I will not be able to move on Sunday night when it’s all over, I will wake up happy on Monday morning knowing that I can take a well-deserved vacation from home improvement and enjoy a Spring break at home with my kids. Hopefully in some sunshine.
I am looking forward to celebrating Easter, and I hope you are too! Many blessings to you and yours for a wonderful weekend of rejoicing! Happy (early) Easter!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

An Acute Case of Project Inertia

I have been treading water lately in so many areas of my life… home projects, personal projects, blogging, cooking, planning and living. Now, I am no psychoanalyst, but I feel it *just might* be related to the big move from which we are not yet fully recovered (and I have also been trying to cut back on caffeine and sugar… two of my very best cheerleaders!). I am overwhelmed by the amount of work left to do to get the new house to where I feel really comfortable in it and proud of it when we have company. There are still so many boxes that need to be unpacked, tons of unpacked boxes that need to be Craigslisted, and a hearty number of home improvement projects that I have started but not actually finished for a variety of reasons. Not to complain here… I am VERY HAPPY with all the work we accomplished in a very short amount of time… but the honest truth is that I have been in a depressed funk for about 3 months now. Only now - now that we have seen some sun and teeny tiny bit of warm weather – am I feeling ready to tackle some major projects again. But there is a lingering inertia that is holding me back, and I am hoping that by sharing it with you I will feel empowered to move forward. Let’s see how it goes…

Here are some of the unfinished projects filling my brainspace, in no particular order:

  • Finish and install some transition pieces I have for the hardwood floors throughout the house. We refinished 6 rooms of floors waaay back in December, and I am ready for this to be done. I think I could bang it out in two days (one for applying 3-4 coats of water-based polyurethane, and one for installing them). But I also need to paint the living room window in the photo below, and its friend in the dining room. Sadly, it needs some new trim and (really) a replacement picture window too, so it gets complicated. The wallet says no, so I’m feeling mentally stuck. Do the work now and have to redo it later? How far out is later?

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  • Mount the DIY design board on the wall in my new sewing room (full details to come sometime soon… I love this room!). I took this room back from chaos and planned out my long-fantasized-about sewing area about 6 weeks ago. I purged and organized and consolidated and donated and made/installed some new things to make it a small but multifunctional space. I have the design board made, but it is big and bulky and I probably need to enlist my handsome husband to help me. I have already started pinning stuff on it so that is a small complication, but it needs to happen. I need the space (did I mention the room is 10’x10’? It is currently taking up 4% of my floor space). I also need to put up a repurposed metal shelf to hold my magnetic canisters of sewing supplies. Both of those would fit into an hour if I had the supplies. The picture below doesn’t show you much, but it is my happy place. Enjoy the nerdy sketch I made whilst plotting my haven.

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  • Find or make a couple shelves for behind the toilet in my newly-reclaimed bathroom (the half bath), find new pocket door hardware that can fit this door, and update the grout with a coat of colorant to refresh it. I got really angsty about the cave-like windowless beige-y sponge painted room last Monday and, in a bout of hormone-fueled motivation, I started ripping down the wallpaper border in my pajamas without a real plan in mind. Now, 12 days later, it is a new room (painted walls, painted vanity, new light fixture, new potty-training-friendly toilet seat, new towel/TP holders, hung up some artwork). I am also waiting for my handsome husband to install a new faucet (the old one looks like it should be operated with your feet, see pictures below) and exhaust fan (sounds like an airplane taking off when you turn it on). He had already updated the outlet plugs and light switch to bring them up to code (and look better!). This progress is a huge morale boost, but I really want it to be done and MOVE ON with my life.

Half bath before, and still in progress:

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  • Finish a First Holy Communion dress for my daughter… by Easter. Our parish does first communions on Easter Sunday, so I’m running low on time here. To make matters more complex, I am using my wedding dress for the bulk of the materials in this dress. I have been amazed at how emotionally un-attached I am to the dress itself. I had no qualms cutting it up. But now I need to cut it into the new dress pieces and it’s like trying to start a sketch on a blank piece of paper. Fear that it won’t turn out, and I only have one shot at it. I have made a muslin of the bodice and altered it for extra length (my petite girl is growing taller but not wider, it seems!). Tonight (last night, since I am pre-writing this) I really need to buckle down and cut out the pieces. I am starting with Simplicity 1814 - I am basing this dress on view A since I like the sleeve details, but the dress will be longer in the bodice and the skirt, and will (hopefully) have a deep-hemmed organza overskirt in place of the multiple layers of tulle. I haven’t decided about other embellishments yet (belt/sash? flowers? beading?), nor have I finalized the tiara/crown/veil/glove questions either. It’s crunch time.

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  • Make window treatments for the whole house. Yep… I have a lot of work to do here. Fortunately, I have most of the fabric (gorgeous silk thrifted curtain panels) and all of the hardware to make oodles and oodles of roman shades (we have baseboard heaters, so it was either highwater curtains or some sort of shades… easy choice). I am looking forward to this but it is not scheduled to happen until after I finish the first communion dress, fix and paint all the hallways and entry, and have a plan for the Easter party we are hosting. Which is now 2 weeks away. So… this one gets relegated to the bottom of the list, though hopefully I can git-r-done before the light starts affecting everyone’s sleep. We’re currently using post-move hardware store boxes in some windows, and nothing says “well-to-do” like a flattened “ortho weed-b-gone” box in a front window. Priorities, people.

So there you go… a portion of the stuff weighing me down right now. It feels good to have laid it out there. I don’t usually rest on the laurels of my past successes –to my mental detriment, sometimes - so I am also going to show you a few things I have been working on lately, other than the house stuff mentioned above.

  • I made a baby dress and diaper cover for a dear friend having her 4th munchkin this Spring. I wanted it to be “vintage modern”, and I love how it turned out. The fabric was a pre-embroidered linen and I added some vintage lace trim for the neckline and hem. AND, even though no one will ever notice, the inside is perfectly finished too. There was hand sewing involved. Secret pleasures of sewists. I took this photo with the dress pinned to my design board (and now you want one too, right?! DIY post planned!).

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  • I have baking some amazing bread for the past couple months in my new kitchen. This is the olive oil dough recipe from “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”. Not exactly helping my figure (or helping it too much?), but it keeps the people happy here. And that feels good.

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  • Yogurt. Another figure feeder. But I have been making gallon-sized batches of mildly sweetened whole milk vanilla yogurt every few weeks (in my electric roaster, recipe post coming soon) and I have been enjoying it thoroughly. Easy, kid-friendly, healthy, cheap! A win all around. So good with homemade strawberry jam, which I just finished. Is it strawberry season in Michigan yet? I. CANNOT. WAIT.

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  • And I have been unpacking and finding homes for lots of things. It’s not really notable, but it takes time and it is definitely something I have been doing in addition to feeding, clothing, and nurturing the people who call me mom. Also not notable but another very important part of my existence. Life must be lived, whether or not we are ready to do that. At this point, after the insane winter foisted upon our geographic area, plain survival feels like a real win too.

My life. But now I need to go and get down to business with that First Communion dress… time’s a wastin’!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Apple Pizza Pie

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I will start out by admitting that my family is not really a pie family. We generally prefer non-fruit desserts – cake, ice cream, cookies – but sometimes apple pie must be made. I had a few apples around that needed to be used up, and I found this recipe on foodfamilyfinds.com for an apple dessert pizza. It looked tasty so I used it as a starting point for my own. Turned out beautiful and delicious, and my oh my was it easy. It is a dairy-free recipe (make sure your crust doesn’t use butter), so I took half of it over to a dear friend who avoids dairy for the sake of her little nursing baby… sometimes you have to share the love!

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Apple Pizza Pie

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 unbaked refrigerated pie crust (or make your own!)
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

2. Peel core and cut apples into ½ inch wedges

3. Toss apples with sugar, cinnamon and flour.

4. Spread apples over the center of the pie crust on a pizza baking sheet, leaving an inch of dough around the edges.

5. Fold dough towards the center to create a crust around the apples.

6. Bake 25-30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

7. Serve warm or cold!

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Don’t you just love that red tray? My Grandma painted it… she passed into eternal life 2 years ago today, and I love having this little memento of her life and talent. She was always warm and comforting, just like apple pie. I miss you Grandma! I pray for you and I am sure you are praying for me too!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Iced Sugar Cookies

Now that we have a house again, I have been truly enjoying cooking and baking again. Some might say too much. Some might casually suggest that I am baking instead of unpacking (or blogging). I can neither confirm nor deny such allegations.

In that vein, I recently made some cookies to be used as baby shower favors for a family friend. The colors were lime and lavender. I think they turned out sweet and a nice complement to the rest of the shower d├ęcor. This was my first time doing polka dots… for the canopy, I dropped dots of colored icing onto still-wet white icing. It all flattened together and dried wonderfully cohesive, and I would certainly use that technique again!

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The hostess of the shower packaged them in a simple cellophane bag with ribbon and some starry garland.

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Since decorating cookies is a time-consuming process, I decided to make some more while I was at it to minimize the overall effort per cookie. I made a bunch of gift cookies to be used for favors for a teacher appreciation luncheon at my kids’ school, and a tray for my husband to take to a work event. The concept here is nothing new to me… bake a rectangular cookie, ice with one color, then pipe on the gift wrap. I love to add coordinating sprinkles for a polka dot paper look (I guess polka dots are my thing right now?).

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If you want to make your own favors like this to gift to your favorite teachers, feel free to use the label I designed. My tags were approximately 2” squares, but you can resize to suit your needs. I printed mine on cardstock, 12 tags per page.

Teacher Appreciation Tea Bag Tags by TheJuneBride

The exact glassine bags I used can be purchased here, and the pearl cotton twine is here (Amazon affiliate links).

I show you how to fold the tea bag shape from the envelope in this previous post.

Happy procrastinating baking!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Almost a Renaissance Woman

Welcome, 2014!

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It's been a long few years around here. I opened my first Etsy shop about 6 years ago, at time when I was coming out a fog from having produced 3 beautiful babies in the same number of years. Life had been intense, and it was just easing up enough for me to need a creative outlet for my "free" time. Etsy answered that need handily, and if have enjoyed successfully selling my creations online for quite a time after that. In my brain, 2008-2010 are called, "The Fat Years".

But these past three years, 2011-2013, have been the sort of lean years that have left me craving a simpler life and more time to exercise my left brain. Lots of family demands with baby #4, a bad back, frequent house-sweeping illnesses, new extracurricular commitments, a major job change for my husband, and, now, a change of address as well. It has been beyond busy, with some days and weeks that have forcibly stretched my capacity for toil. That is not to say there were not also a lot of fun times and good experiences, but it has certainly not been the carefree craftathalon of my naive mid-twenties. My goal for 2013 was to enjoy the crazy ride I knew was coming, and I do think I made the most of quite a bit of our haphazard existence. I will consider that a successful effort.

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But it is days like today that get me thinking about the European Renaissance. A time of emergence from death and sickness, game-changing innovations like the printing press, scientific advances that gave a lot of people a lot more free time to make amazing stuff. So I sit here - in my new living room, surrounded by mountains of stacked furniture and unpacked boxes - and I breathe a sigh of relief that so much feudal struggling is behind me. We have come through 5 months of packing and prep to list our house, 1 month of moving out, 5 months of homelessness*, 1 month of working at a breakneck pace on the new house, and 3 days of intense physical exertion just to get all of our belongings and people into the new house. Sure, I still have a LOT of work to do. Sure, my kids are still going to bring home the current school plague weekly. We are not insulated from tragedies and auto problems and medical emergencies. But on the horizon I can see the glittering sunrise of a new phase of productivity. My fingers are tingling already...

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Like last year, I am not setting specific goals for 2014. I have no shortage of hopes and dreams and aspirations, but they are happily living in my own mind and bothering no one else at the moment. I will continue to do what I will do, as best as I can, and enjoy what work I find daily needs to be done. The only thing I can be sure of is that there will be a lot of it, so I plan to attack it with a will and a good attitude. I also plan to carve out time to just be a human being and enjoy the other human beings I live with and those I get to see socially. That is what life is all about, after all!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Keep calm, and carry on.

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*Not really. Living with my parents was definitely not at all like being homeless, but also not the same as living in one's own space and discretely containing one's own loud, dirty brood and one family's own ridiculous volume of earthly possessions.

{{Some of  the photos here are from today’s snowy tromp around my new yard. Thanks to my funny husband for the awesome photo of my “skeptical face”… I harassed him for shooting at an angle, but, combined with the beer bottle and wine glass, I think he has achieved photographic success in that moment.  I love you, baby!}}

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A House for Us

On a recent November day, while trying to find a family photo to send to my aunt for the annual family calendar, I stopped by this (my) little blog called Domestic Bliss: In Pursuit of a Happy, Heavenly Home.

I was suddenly struck by the title I had chosen a goodly number of years ago. Apparently I don't always read the fine print, even my own! The title caught my eye this time because, while I am certainly of the perpetual mindset to create a safe and comfortable haven for my family, we were, at that very moment, actually in physical pursuit of a happy, heavenly home...

We have been living with my (kind, generous, patient, & forgiving) parents for the past five months, in a sort of real estate purgatory (read: a great situation, but not our ultimate goal). We have been hunting property that entire time (and for months before!). In the course of our search, we made offers that weren't accepted. We saw listings for houses we loved that were snatched up before we could even get in to see them. I even fell in love with a house that was very much too small for our family, and grieved over that fact for a few weeks. I saw one particular house that I never ever wanted to see again the first time I went in. But in a twist of reality that has made me grateful that I am not the mastermind of my own life, that very same house is the one we just bought.

Q: So, if I really don't like the house, why am I SO VERY EXCITED about moving there?
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The sellers of this house have lived there for almost 40 years, and have made the house their home in so many ways. They raised their children there. When a son passed away tragically, their friends planted a tree in the backyard in his honor. They have maintained and kept the house well, and were only selling now because the upkeep was becoming too much for them. They loved this place and their kids and grandkids and great-grandkids came back to visit them here. That is the future that my husband and I want. A house for entertaining friends and family, a space to be cozy and safe, and a place that our kids will want to come back to with their friends and (in the future) their own families.

Even though this house was unapologetically uncomfortable to me as a home buyer at first because of the sheer number of images of THEIR family and faith life literally covering the walls, refrigerator and mantel, I have come to realize that that is what we should have been looking for all along. We WANT a house full of life and joy - one that openly shares our Catholic faith and love of family with everyone who enters - and that is exactly what they were advertising. There was no home staging here, and clearly they did not attract throngs of interested buyers, but I believe this house was being saved for us, and we were waiting for it. I think we were as much a blessing to the sellers as they were to us.

I am thrilled that we will get to be the next stewards of this place, and I look forward to pouring on the energy and elbow grease to make it OUR home now. And, even though we will make many cosmetic and functional changes to meet our family's unique needs, I want to preserve the atmosphere of hospitality and generosity that clearly thrives here.

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I should have no shortage of material to blog about in the near future, but I have an inkling that there may not be quite as much available time until we are settled in. I guess we will see what happens. But I am committed to taking before-and-after pictures, and I might just make 2014 the Year of the New House. Prepare yourself, the work fun has already begun...

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Flower Girl Dresses for Two

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Both of my daughters were flower girls in my brother-in-law’s wedding, and I was so glad that the dresses I hacked stood up to the occasion. Their little brother wasn’t my project, but doesn’t he look handsome too? It was fun to see them so dressed up (we are normally the definition of casual).

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The bride and I trolled the interwebs for some inspiration, and came upon the dress above right. She loved it, and it looked pretty straight forward with tubular bodice and gathered A-line skirt. Lots of layers and overlays, but not complicated pattern-wise. I measured the girls and drafted skirts on the computer with Cochenille. I made a muslin out of an old sheet to get the proportions right, and making a side by side photo comparison like the one above really helped me to adjust the bodice length to match that of our inspiration dress. I ordered wide lace online (and I apologize that I am too lazy to look up from whence it came, since the details have since been packed up in our move or lost in the great Comcast Fail of 2013). The double faced 1.5” navy satin ribbon for the sash came from The Ribbon Loft on Etsy. The lining and skirt was taffeta in ivory from Joanns. The overskirt was ivory organza.

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There was A LOT of rolled hemming involved, since each dress had three gathered circle skirt layers. Practice makes perfect. They really turned out as well as I could have hoped (though there was seam ripping involved, to be sure). These dresses took quite a bit of time, but they were absolutely worth the effort. The sparkly pink shoes came from Target, the headbands from The Children’s Place Outlet, and the orchid pomanders were arranged by the amazingly talented Ruth Monteith at The Wedding Fairies in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Even lovely dresses and having an amazing photographer doesn’t guarantee that you can capture 4 kids smiling at the same time. Still, I appreciate having a real-life reminder of this very special day.

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I almost forgot… I also made a matching teeny 0-3 month baby dress for my adorable little niece from the remnants. I used the Baby Geranium Dress pattern from the very talented Made by Rae. Sadly, the lack of vent in the skirt made it impossible for her to get into the dress on the day of the wedding (I noticed this before I made it but ignored my gut instinct). The pattern is great and certainly worth sewing, but this combination of bigger girly and no dress egress was doomed from the start. It was still a fun project and maybe someday a treasured doll will get to wear it. Regardless, I’m over it, and glad I took pictures :)

I also made the fancy little man cuffed pants and suspenders (and bowtie) my little guy is wearing (he was playing baseball out back during the reception). So much cuteness. And he DANCED for us! Good stuff. I may eventually put up a pattern for the pants. Maybe when I’m settled into my own house again :)

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That about concludes the wedding details. I don’t know what I will write about next, but I have a lot of real life going on around here and we may need some less glorious subject matter after the elegance and style of this summery wedding. The wedding may be over, but the good times have only just begun…