Is anyone still reading this?

This year has been kind of crazy and one where I have neglected my blog. I’m maintaining the list of books I’ve read this year, and have posted a couple of reviews for some Net Galley books (2 more to come soon!); but other than that, I’ve been really bad about the blog.

My wedding is 3 weeks from today, so it’s probably safe to say I won’t be on here much between now and then. We’re going to Disney World for our honeymoon :) (I think we might be more excited about the honeymoon). It has been a long time since either of us has been there, so we’re super excited. We’re staying at a Disney resort, have our FastPass+ set up, and our dining reservations with the dining plan — we are in good shape! (And we got our Magic Bands earlier this week!!)

In addition to blog neglect, I haven’t done a lot of knitting and sewing either (you can check out my knitting and sewing pages to see pictures of the projects I have completed — I haven’t done posts for everything, but still posted pictures on those respective pages). I am working on knitting a pair of socks. They’re my first “real” pair, so I’m curious to see how they’ll come out. It’s slow going because I’m only doing a little at a time. But I’m hoping to bring all that back after the wedding/honeymoon.

We started a vegetable garden this spring, I’ll do a post on that later (with pictures). We’ve had a million tomatoes (I’m pretty sure that’s not an exaggeration.) We keep giving some to family and people at work because we can’t eat them fast enough. I’m planning to make homemade pasta sauce. Maybe I’ll try it this weekend while fiancé is off on his bachelor party weekend.

I had my bachelorette party weekend a few weekends ago. My girls surprised me with a trip to Newport, RI. We had a lot of fun. The weather was beautiful and we did a winery tour and tasting, did some wandering, some shopping, hit a few bars; not a super crazy weekend and I loved it! (I also had the best home fries for breakfast.. they were unbelievable!) Apparently Newport is the place to go for bachelorette parties because we saw a ton of brides and bridal parties (one guy even commented that I was the 19th bride he saw that weekend!)

Let’s see, what else? Not a whole lot more is happening other than finalizing everything for the wedding, but I also don’t want to be one of those people who keeps talking about all that stuff ad nauseam, so I will leave you here. :)

REVIEW: The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

The Book of Strange New Things
Michael Faber
NetGalley ARC (e-book)

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I received no compensation for this.

I had to think about this story before I was ready to write a review. I liked the mix of faith, religion, and science fiction. At first, I was a little concerned that it might be one of those books that shoves religion in your face, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was intriguing to see how faith and religion played a role and changed throughout the story.

Let’s back up for a minute: Set in the future, The Book of Strange New Things is the story of Peter Leigh, an evangelist who gets hand-picked to go on a mission to bring the Word of God to an alien race. (However, let’s remember that Peter and the other people from Earth are the real aliens, visiting a distant planet — a distinction Peter is quick to point out after his arrival there). The idea of the space travel is a fascinating one, and even more mind-blowing is that they had developed a form of communication between this distant planet and Earth. Peter and his wife were able to email each other! As I mentioned, I was a little hesitant that this book might be too preachy, but it was not. Religion and faith were almost like other characters to the story. (In reading reviews on Goodreads, there was one post that I thought did a great job of summarizing the story without giving away too much detail. Check it out here.)

Being able to read the correspondence between Peter and his wife was good because you could see how their relationship was affected by their separate experiences, distance, and time. Their relationship and faith were put to the test. You could feel Peter’s helplessness when he heard bad news about home (home=planet Earth). You could see his struggle to be able to sympathize when he was so far away and unaffected.

Peter’s relationship with the natives, called the Oasans, is a really cool aspect of the story. I liked how the author showed symbols when they were speaking; a good reminder that though they were learning English, they were still not human. The Oasans were such a humble, gentle race and I thought they were really interesting characters.

The cast of characters was colorful, especially the natives (no pun intended — if you read it, you’ll understand why I say that).

I wish the story went on a bit longer than where it ended because I would have liked to see what happened next. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I will not say more than that.

After taking time to think about it, I would recommend this book.

Patriotic Golf Ball Pouch

So last weekend fiancé asked if I could make him a zippered pouch for his golf balls. (I mean, I’ve made club covers, a golf tee pouch, and a golf shoe bag, so why not one for the golf balls, too?)

Anyway,last weekend was also Memorial Day Weekend, so he picked out a patriotic fabric. I made it Sunday so he was able to take it with him golfing on Monday morning.

The one thing I’ve found aggravating with the last couple of zippered items I’ve made is that my needles keep breaking on the zippers. The first couple I made went perfectly fine with no problems, but now all of a sudden I’m having trouble. (I do use a bigger sized needle for the zipper part so I don’t think that’s the problem — maybe it’s my sewing speed? – any thoughts/recommendations?)

Not much more to tell, so here are the pictures:

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REVIEW: The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters
Michelle Lovric
NetGalley ARC (e-book)

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I received no compensation for this.

To start, a brief summary:

Seven sisters growing up in poverty in Ireland in the late 19th century. They are fatherless and live in a small town called Harristown. Rumor flies that they all have different fathers, but their mother, Annora, sticks to her story of the same father who only visits in the night, on occasion. All of the girls have flowing locks of different shades, from blonde to black. Their hair tumbles down to their feet. The oldest sister, Darcy, decides they can make money by charging people to see them sing, dance, and let down their hair because long hair was a wonder at that time. This story follows the seven sisters over a number of years and their travel from poverty to fame and everything that surrounds that: shady businessmen, deception, envy, riches, gambling, and more.

To be honest, it took me a little while to get into this book, but I stuck with it and I’m pretty glad I did. The narrator, Manticory, seems to be the most sane of the entire clan. Darcy, the eldest, has the blackest heart and absolutely no redeeming qualities. Her rivalry with a Harristown local, “the Eileen O’Malley” made me chuckle when they were younger because of the taunts and barbs they would throw back and forth at each other. However, Darcy was much worse that the words that rolled off her tongue. Upon finding out that people, men especially, were entranced with their hair, she decides to force her sisters to sign, dance, and as their big finale, let down their hair for audiences in Harristown. They are able to make enough money to finally have regular meals and buy shoes. Not so bad, right? Well, enter the conniving businessman, Mr. Rainfleury. He ingratiates himself with most of the sisters (causing a bitter rivalry between twins Enda and Berenice, who are always at each other’s throats to begin with), but Manticory is wary of him, but no one listens to her. Darcy signs them into a binding contract that apparently has no way out.

Along the way they encounter other men trying to get rich off of them. There are many things that happen that I found so appalling, but I suppose at that time, women had little control, but when you have a person like Darcy, it’s that much harder to make things right. One thing that did bother me was how much power Darcy really had and how none of the sisters ever stood up to her. I mean, Manticory had a good head on her shoulders and knew that they were being exploited and taken advantage of, yet she felt like her hands were tied. Why did she not speak up to her other sisters to band together against Darcy?

I did enjoy the story more than I thought I would. It was well-written, and after that first bit, I wanted to continue to reading and learn more about the story. Did they really all have the same father? Who was he? Would they ever see him again? Would they get out of their contract? Would anyone stand up to Darcy? Would Darcy get her comeuppance? Would Mr. Rainfleury get his? What would happen to the sisters if they did escape the contract?  All of these questions (and more) pushed me to continue reading and were all eventually answered. Some answers weren’t as happy as others, and some were quite satisfying.

According to the author, there was a clan of seven quirky sisters in America on whom she very loosely based this story. (At the end of the book is an “author’s note” in which she explains more about them; they really aren’t all that similar, but I can see where she got the inspiration for her story.

I can see how this book may not work for all readers, but I do encourage people to give it a shot if they’re fans of historical fiction. (though the obsession with hair seems a bit crazy, but who am I to judge? Maybe it really was like that back then.)

The Return of the Changing Pad & Diaper Pouch…

Yup, I made another one!

A co-worker, J., is due in mid-June and we’re having a baby shower for her tomorrow at work. (there is a good chance she’ll deliver early). She’s had to work from home recently, so it’s not a surprise because we needed to make sure she could come in for it. What she doesn’t know is that I collected donations from our group at work to buy a group gift and we collected enough to get 2 items off her registry. My work BFF, C., and I went to Babies R Us on Friday after work and had a field day. We couldn’t stop cooing over the cute baby clothes. It is so easy to spend money in that store!

We determined that we think it’s all so very cute, but we’re not ready to have babies ourselves yet.

Here’s part of a conversation we had:
Me: “this makes me want to have a baby…but just to dress up”
C: “yeah, a baby we could give back”
Me: “so what we really want are dolls, right?”

Though there are tons of cute baby girl clothes, I still think baby boys clothes are the cutest (I mean, a teeny tiny “suit” or sweater with elbow patches? come on!). We each got some clothes for the baby (as separate gifts from ourselves, not the group), and I decided to also make a changing pad and diaper pouch, too. Conveniently, I had the materials I needed as I had originally purchased the stuff quite some time ago to make this for someone else, but then never did. Whoops.

changing pad diaper pouch collageI’m pretty pleased with the way this came out, though I forgot how thick the home decor weight fabric can be once there are a few layers! I hope J. likes it!

I think she is going to be surprised by the gifts :)

 

Summertime Clutch

In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that I bought a new fabric from the remnants bin at JoAnn’s. Well, I decided what I could use it for: a summertime clutch! (I still have some leftover fabric, so I don’t know what else I’ll  make yet…)

I used the Glenda Clutch pattern from Sue Kim’s Bags, the Modern Classics. (this is the same book where I got the pattern for the beach bag I made last year).

I have a “crafty” photo album on Facebook and so I posted a picture of this there .. I have already received comments asking for some! (from my sister and one of my best friends) — so I see a bit more bag making in my future :)

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I’m pretty pleased with the way this turned out. However, there wasn’t a guide for the seam allowance, so I went with 1/2″. I had a little trouble sewing around where the magnetic button is on the flap; probably due to both the size of the button as well as my seam allowance. I can just adjust either (or both) of those on the next iterations.

It makes me smile :)

Okay…One Challenge…

Okay, you caught me … I’m signing up for one challenge: What’s In a Name 2014.

This year it has a new host: Charlie over at The Worm Hole

 

Please save this image to your own webspace

click to go to the sign up page

This year’s categories are:

  • A reference to time
  • A position of royalty
  • A number written in letters
  • A forename or names
  • A type or element of weather

Bonus category:

  • A school subject

I’ll make posts for each of the books I read, and link them to my challenge page as well as on Charlie’s official Mr. Linky for each category (each category on my challenge page is hyperlinked to its respective Mr. Linky at The Worm Hole so you can check out other bloggers postings and reviews)

Note: you can also get to my challenge page by hovering over the “2014” tab in my top menu bar.

January Round-Up

So apparently I drafted this post in early February, but then I dropped off the blog and completely forgot about it! So, better late than never I suppose…. But I won’t be doing this to recap all the other books I’ve read since this list!

 

I’ve been really slow this year in getting the blog up and running. For January, I’d like to do short reviews of the books I read during the month (total of 8).

1. Let’s Talk Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris
More humorous essays from hilarious David Sedaris. I got this for Christmas. It had been a while since I last read anything by him, so I was looking forward to reading this. (I own just about all of his books). I really enjoy his story-telling and voice

2. The Summoner, Layton Green
This is a book that had been on my Kindle for ages, and I finally got around to reading it. It wasn’t a terrible story, but it was kind of weird with the whole cult thing. I began the second book with this character, but have only read a couple chapters, and I wasn’t really into it so I stopped reading and read a few other books instead. I wouldn’t be surprised if I never got around to picking it up again, to be honest.

3. Someday, Someday, Maybe, Lauren Graham
Yes, this is the same Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood fame. (I do enjoy both of those shows; loved the Lorelei character and her interactions with people, especially w/ Rory). Anyway, I could kind of see a similar echo of the Lorelei in the way the character talked.  It was a bit predictable, but an enjoyable enough read.

4. Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King
I borrowed the Different Seasons collection of short stories from the library but only read Shawshank (my plan all along). This was one of the rare times I enjoyed the movie more than the book – but this could be because it’s one of my favorite movies and I’ve seen it a bazillion times. (plus I love Morgan Freeman in this). I couldn’t stop noticing all of the discrepancies between the two and I kept picturing Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, etc. Which do you prefer?

5. The Rook, Daniel O’Malley
I’ve wanted to read this for a long time, forgot about it, and then rediscovered it again (it had been on my Amazon wishlist for ages). I finally got around to borrowing it from the library. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but it grew on me quickly and I really enjoyed the dry humor and quick wit. Really liked the post-amnesia Myfanwy, though I wish we saw her in the first person, rather than third. Pre-amnesia Myfanwy was a good character that seemed to develop on her own through her letters. I guess I understand why both weren’t first person narratives, but I found it kind of distracting that post-amnesia Myfanwy was third person. It was definitely an interesting premise and there were some curious names.

I also enjoyed that O’Malley included reading suggestions at the end of the book as well as a recommended soundtrack for parts of the story — I’ve never seen the soundtrack before. I thought it was fun, especially his description of when the songs were appropriate.

I really enjoyed his writing and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

6. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
I guess I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this book. It was alright, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if I hadn’t read it. I really don’t have much to say on, to be honest.

7. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
I really enjoyed this book. I had a feeling it would be a tear-jerker, given the premise, but I wasn’t expecting so much humor and quick wit. I loved Gus and the conversations he and Hazel had together. It was a really great story that highlights the suckiness of terminal illness but also the ability to still live life and enjoy the time we have.

8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber
Definitely did not realize this book was SO short! I started it on the train on the way home and just a couple train stops later I was done. I thought I got a sample instead of the real thing! I was definitely expecting a lot more to this, a deep dive into the Walter Mitty character. I figured if I ever saw the movie, I’d recognize some of the daydreams, but now I’m wondering if any of them make it in the movie? I wonder how they made a full length movie out of such a short piece of work!

Remember me?

Why, hello there! Remember me?

So much for wanting to post more regularly! The beginning of this year has been pretty busy. Here are brief outlines of what’s been going on. (and as much as I want to say I’ll be better about posting, I don’t want to make any promises since we all know how well that’s been working!)

Books
Of course I’m still reading! I’ve read 23 books so far since January 1. Most were really good (I think only one 5-star Goodreads rating so far, but quite a few 4 stars). Check out my 2014 page to see the list.

Finally got settled with My Reading Buddy! This is his last year in the program, so it’s a little bittersweet. I can’t remember if I mentioned anything about it in earlier posts (and frankly, I’m too lazy to go back and look) but there is a new program coordinator this year and it just doesn’t seem as organized as before. Anyway, we’ve only met a bit more than a handful of times based on weather, holidays, vacations, etc. In all that time we’ve only read one book: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Man that main character is a terrible role model! Anyway, we finally finished that book and then A. wanted to read another one, so we started the Wimpy Kid book that came before Dog Days (yeah A. doesn’t care about reading things in order..ahhh!) Anyway, it’s been good to meet with him, but I think we won’t meet for the next couple of weeks due to school vacation and some testing they have going on. Before we know it, it will be the end of the program & he’ll be “graduating”!

Crafts
I actually wasn’t as productive with crafty things, either. After making the Kimono dress I didn’t make anything else until very recently. I’ve knitted a couple of blanket squares for baby blankets at work, but only took a picture of one (I forgot to take a picture of the other one before turning it in).

I finally finished the apron for my sister — her Christmas gift! (I finished it on Easter) I needed more of the bias tape for the edging and took a while to get it, and then got lazy. But I finally sat down to the sewing machine for the first time since January 2 and really got into it and finished the apron. I’m really pleased with it, and my sister loves it!

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Sonny wanted to make sure the neck strap was comfy enough

Then while taking a quick (yes, actually quick!) trip to JoAnn Fabrics (to get a cushion) we saw — Bruins fabric!!! They finally released the licensing rights, so without any idea of what to make, I grabbed a couple yards of each print available. When we got home, M. asked for a zippered bag for his golf tees. To make it interesting, I used both fabrics. Voila:
(UPDATE – I actually made 2 of these, the same way with the 2 different fabrics)

golf tee bag Collage

Now I’m back in a sewing mood and want to make more things! While at JoAnn’s I found a really cute fabric pattern in the remnants bin and had to grab it. I think I might make a small springy/summery clutch with it.

Wedding
Well, we’ve been busy with wedding plans and have done a lot! We’ve sent out our save the dates, we’re finalizing our invitations to order them, we started our wedding registry, we have an appointment in a couple of weeks to have a menu tasting for the dinner, and I got my dress!! (alterations to follow a bit later in the summer)

A lot of people said “oh you’ll just cry when you find the ONE”, and being an emotional person, I was expecting it to happen. But I didn’t cry, I was just happy with my decision :) I tried on maybe 8-10 different dresses (something like that). The one I ended up with was actually the 4th or 5th one I tried, and it was at the top of my mental list and even though I tried on a few more after that, it just solidified my choice. The funny thing is, going in, I had an idea of what I wanted: a strapless dress and loved the idea of the tea-length, shorter dresses. I didn’t want a train. Well, I ended up with a long, strapless dress with a train! It’s a simple dress, flowy, and most importantly: comfortable! (many people did tell me that I would probably walk out with something different than I had pictured; they were right!)

Fitness
I began training for the Calle’s Miracle Run 5k in January and while the beginning training went really well, I got sick (you know, winter time and all), had to stop and then never really got back into it the way I wanted to. However, I still beat my 5k time from last year by almost 9 minutes! I did run more than last year but still had to walk for some of it. So my goal for next year is to cut my time down by 5 minutes and run even more of it!

After some encouragement from my friend Darcel (check out her fitness blog here), I started a 21 Day Fix plan that has daily 30 minute high energy exercise routines as well as an eating plan with special containers to categorize and portion meals. (that was a really high-level overview of the plan). I love the idea of it and started off really well, then I started slacking. I stuck with the exercising longer than the food plan. I really need to get better self-discipline going here! I’ve decided to re-start the plan this upcoming weekend. The daily exercises are great. As soon as I start feeling like I can’t do much more, they’re over! Definitely work up a sweat and have that great sore muscle feeling that lets you know you got a good workout. I just need to get over this mental bump to really push myself to do this consistently and well.

In conclusion…
Just kidding. But really, that’s what’s been going on with me. How are you?

 

Easy Kimono Dress (Pattern Runway)

I’ve completed my first dress for 2014: Pattern Runway’s Easy Kimono Dress! A little misleading, perhaps, since I began working on it in December. I first made a test piece of the top and then I spent about an hour cutting out the real fabric and ironing the interfacing.

I started sewing it on January 1 (and finished it on January 2). In total, it probably took me about 8 hours. It would have taken less time if I didn’t have such trouble with the rouleau band. I could not, for the life of me, flip it right-side out. It seemed to be too narrow to do it. The suggested way (using needle and thread) was no help at all, and the other way I tried was taking too long and then I couldn’t flip it all the way. Argh! So I ended up making a new rouleau band, slightly wider, and used a knitting needle to flip. And it took no time at all!

I’ve discovered I’m not really a fan of hemming, but it has to be done.

In the end, I was happy with the work I did: neat, clean, and well done (in my humble opinion), but I just don’t like the way it looks on me. I even tried it with a belt so it would cover up the seam between top and bottom and also pull it in at the waist a little more, but I still didn’t like it. I think it’s too boxy at the top for me. I felt like I was wearing a hospital gown or something. Maybe it’s just my body shape…

I think it looks great on the hanger, though!

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I love the color and the material (Milos stretch poplin royal blue—the picture is slightly misleading as it’s a bit darker in real life). It’s a thinner material, so it would definitely be for warmer weather. But it has a nice stretch. However, it also seems to be easy to wrinkle but I’ve learned it’s easy enough to iron!

I have material left over, enough to make something else, so I’d like to use it for something else. Suggestions?

How did 2014 get here so quickly?

UntitledI can’t believe that 2014 is literally tomorrow. The year has flown by and so many things have happened (I’m only focusing on the positive): tons of engagements (most notably, mine :) ), births, weddings, starting our wedding planning, finally getting my driver’s license…

So with that, I’d like to share my goals/resolutions for 2014

Go to the gym 3 times a week (minimum) 
I can make this work — there’s a gym on the first floor of my building at work, and I have a membership!

Eat healthier
This is where I really need to step up — I need to stop being afraid to cook!

Save money/Set a budget
I need to be more mindful of my spending and stop spending money on things I really don’t need.

Sew more!
Make at least 5 wearable garments.

Knit more!
Not sure where to go with this — just want to do more!

Read at my own pace
I’m not signing up for any challenges in 2014. I think I’ll be busy enough with wedding planning, and focusing on my other goals for 2014. I don’t want to be stressed out. I’ll read at the pace I want (but hopefully slow down some from this year. As I’ve mentioned, I feel like I’ve been reading so fast and I don’t really remember the books I read earlier this year).

Blogging: Post twice a week (minimum)
My goal is to have 1 book-related post and 1 craft-related post per week. I’d like to be more present on here (I have been reading posts, just not posting any of my own). I like connecting with all of you, and love to get feedback and comments on things that I’m writing/doing; especially getting tips and feedback on the crafty things I do from those of you who are so good at crafty things!
What are your goals/resolutions for 2014?

(image from Google Images search)

(image from Google Images search)

Year in Review: 2013

pocket-calendar-2013

Reading

Number of Books read: 82

Number of 5 star ratings: 6

Reading challenge progress (% complete)
What’s In a Name 6: 100%
Historical Fiction: 100%
2013 Reading Goal: 109% (goal=75, 82 read)

Crafts

Completed Knitting Projects: 4 (visit my Knitting Projects page to see)

Completed Sewing Projects: 13 (visit my Sewing Projects page to see)

What’s Ahead in 2014…

(stay tuned for a Goals & Resolutions post coming up a bit later today with more details)

Reading

Originally, I wanted to keep my reading goal at 75. I was pumped I surpassed that goal in 2013. But then I was thinking that I’ve read so many books and so quickly, that I realized I wasn’t really remembering the books from earlier this year all that well. So I’ve decided to just read at my own pace, however frequent it may be. (I’ll still set a goal on Goodreads, though!) While this is a different approach from the last couple of years, I also have other commitments to address throughout the year (mainly planning and preparing for my wedding later in the year.) However, as I mentioned in this post, I kind of like the idea of doing a post of mini reviews and then selecting one book per month to do an expanded review.

Crafts

Knitting: I’d like to get a few projects done in 2014. At least one item for myself. The crafters group at my work has decided to collect hats and blanket squares (to be donated to local charities) on an on-going basis, so I’d like to make a couple of hats for that next year.

Sewing: I’d like to complete a few articles of clothing, including 2 dresses and at least 1 top. Also, I’d like to make random, fun things, too. (whether they’re gifts or for myself doesn’t matter— though I do love being able to give homemade gifts!)

Get Fit!

Even though I decided to get rid of this segment, I’m sure I’ll write about things related to this throughout the year. I really do want to get in shape, feel better, have more energy, and just lead a healthier life overall. I know I can get the support I need from family and friends, it’s just a matter of self-discipline that I really need to focus on (especially when it comes to sticking to an exercise routine and eating better).

Homemade Gifts

I’ve always thought homemade gifts were a great idea. When little kids give you something homemade, it’s adorable (even if you’re not quite sure what it is.) As an adult, though, you kind of have to hold yourself to a higher standard…

Since learning how to knit and sew my goal has always been to give some homemade gifts at either birthdays or Christmastime (basically, any gift-giving time). The winter I first learned to knit, I was a broke college student. I only knew the knit stitch, so you can bet I made a dozen basic-knit scarves for family members for Christmas. (they all claimed to love them…) But I never really got beyond that for homemade gifts.

I can make excuses (that I ran out of time — which is true, but mainly because I was lazy and waited until the last minute), but really, I just need to be dedicated to doing it; I need to make the time for it throughout the year so that by Christmastime, the gifts would be ready.

Last year, I ended up making only 2 gifts. The 2 gifts went to 2 of my cousins (one had just had a baby and the other was due a few days after Christmas). So I made the diaper pouch and changing pads.

This year, I planned to make 5 homemade gifts: initial pillows for my niece, nephew, and my 2 cousins’ children (recipients of the diaper pouch and changing pads…moving forward they will also be called niece and nephew, to make it easier to type and read) and a (still) secret gift for my sister (I ran out of bias tape that I need to finish, so I haven’t been able to give it to her yet—and in the off-chance that she reads this, I don’t want to give it away!).

I ended up having to finish the last 2 pillows on Christmas Eve (surprise!), but all 4 were ready for Christmas day. I was excited to give them to the kids, and everyone loved them. Some people were surprised when I said I made the pillows. (I always like to surprise people – in a good way).

In addition to the initial, I personalized it further with the fabric. My 10-year-old niece likes sparkles and things, so I chose a fabric that had different shades of pink flowers with sparkles on a black background:

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My 4-year-old nephew LOVES all the superheros and currently his favorite is Spiderman:

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My about-15-month-old nephew LOVES Mickey Mouse. He loves watching the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV show and whenever he sees Mickey, he starts saying “hot dog” because of the Hot Dog song at the end of every episode. So getting Mickey fabric was a no brainer:

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And last, but not least, the pillow for my almost 1-year-old niece (she’ll be 1 tomorrow!). My cousin sometimes calls her “her little monkey” so I found cute, soft monkey fabric that I thought would be perfect:

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I had been thinking about making these for a long time and at first searched for patterns to follow. However, I couldn’t quite find something that mimicked what I saw in my brain. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that my first thought wouldn’t work out so well, and decided to go a bit easier: find a font that I really liked and print it out on large paper so I could use it as a pattern. So I browsed fonts and came up with ones that I liked. I wanted to do the letters lowercase and some fonts looked better than others depending on the letter, so I’ve used a few different fonts to make the pillows.

I then traced the letters onto pattern paper so I could test them out before using the real fabric. The original print outs were too small to my liking, so I made modifications to make them larger. Then I folded the fabric and traced the letter, pinned the 2 letters together, and sewed as much as I could except for an opening where I could stuff with the fiberfill. (I wish I had take pictures of this process, but I didn’t).

Originally, I had chosen a capital “G” but then realized I didn’t like the way it looked. I ran out of printer ink so I couldn’t reprint a lower case “g”. So I got creative: I took the “a” print out, flipped it, and stretched the hook so that it became a “g”! (I was so proud of myself for doing that — it’s the little things, people!)

Trying to figure out how much I could close up and still be able to flip right side out was a little trial-and-error for all but the “s”. (The “s” was pretty straight forward, just leave one end open!) For the “m” I figured out that I could stitch up almost the whole thing except for the end of the middle “leg”. For the “a” and “g”, I ended up sewing the whole outside shut, but had to leave the middle circle open. I first stitched the “g” and realized after I started stuffing that I could have handstitched some of the circle closed before I started stuffing. So I stopped stuffing to close the circle as much as I could. Then after I finished stuffing I closed it up. I took what I learned from the “g” and applied it to the “a” in the beginning: close up some of the circle first! (I thought the circles would be a pain to handstitch closed, but it was actually easier than I was expecting– yay!)

I’ll post about my sister’s gift once I’ve finished it & given it to her. :)

My homemade goal for next year is to make more special, personalized gifts for my friends and family.

Do you like to make homemade gifts? What’s your favorite gift you’ve made? What you’re favorite homemade gift that you’ve received?

Monthly Wrap Up: December 2013

monthly wrapupI’ve decided to do my December wrap-up early since I have a few other posts I’d like to get out before year-end and I don’t want them all posting on one day!


Reading

Number of Books read: 6
I’m currently reading 2 others, and since it’s mid-month as I write this, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’ll finish them by year end. So let’s say 8. (and that’s the number I’ll use below in the challenge progress)

Favorite book read this month: A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron (sequel to A Dog’s Purpose whose main character made it on my top 10 all time favorite characters list last year at number 4 but if I had to pick between the two, I’d pick A Dog’s Purpose)

Number of 5 star ratings: 1 (A Dog’s Journey)

Reading challenge progress (% complete)
What’s In a Name 6: 100%
Historical Fiction: 100%
2013 Reading Goal: ~107% (goal was 75 and I’ve read 80)

Reading Challenges Completed: ALL!
I’m excited – I finished all my challenges this year — but didn’t really do much blogging. I’m pretty pumped that I went over my 2013 reading goal, and am kind of amazed that I’ve read that many books this year!

Crafts

Completed Knitting Projects: N/A

Completed Sewing Projects: Initial pillows for nieces and nephews for Christmas! I don’t want to post pictures before Christmas so they can be surprises to everyone. (At this point in time, I’ve finished 2 of the 4 pillows, but 4 will be completed by Christmas.) Also planning to finish fabric gift card holders in time for Christmas gifts…and I definitely have enough time! Pictures will be posted after the holiday.

Get Fit!

I’ve decided to remove this section, but I will restart my way to a healthier me anew in January. I really need to in order to get in better shape, feel healthy/better, have energy, and look my best for the wedding in October!!!!

Monthly Wrap Up: November 2013

monthly wrapupReading

Number of Books read: 7

Favorite book read this month: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Number of 5 star ratings: 0

Reading challenge progress (% complete)
What’s In a Name 6: 100%
Historical Fiction: 100%
2013 Reading Goal: 96%

Crafts

Completed Knitting Projects: A baby hat for charity
Recently joined a group at work called the Charity Crafters. We will get together periodically to make crafts to be donated to local charities. This year we made hats and blanket squares. (we meet on Dec 2 to collect all of our creations)

Completed Sewing Projects: 0
Working on making some Christmas gifts, though!

Get Fit!

Number of Gym Days this month: 1

Personal Record: When I took an equipment orientation at my work gym, I ended up lifting 100lbs in a “Romanian” deadlift set of 8 reps (and it was the last set…the first set was 40lbs & the second set was 70 lbs)!