Thursday, October 29, 2009

Felt birthday garland

"Begin to weave, and God will give you the thread." (German proverb)

As you can see, it was a very felty birthday celebration for Sam. My final handmade touch to the birthday celebration is this felt garland or banner--again, another idea I've seen all over craft blogs for years. This was a quick and easy project anyone could do (even you, Amy!) Even better--like the crown--it was made completely from stash materials.

I cut the triangles out of brightly colored felt (from recycled sweaters, but you could use regular craft felt). I made them 5 inches across and 7 inches deep. Then I used stick-on felt letters leftover from this project. Then I sewed them together with jumbo-sized red rick rack, reinforcing back and forth in between each flag. You could glue the rick rack if you don't have a sewing machine (or I could do it for you, Amy). It used less than one package of jumbo rick rack.

Add a few helium balloons and the Moon Festival lantern still hanging from last month and you've got instant party atmosphere. The new red chairs add to the bright decorations. (Yes, those funky wood squares are topped by an incredibly ugly 80s floral wallpaper, but it will be awhile before we redo the walls in the dining room.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Felt birthday crown

"Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possess you." (Andrew Gide)

My favorite gift to Sam on his birthday was this birthday crown I made from felt from recycled sweaters. I'd seen these throughout blogland and wanted to start the tradition with our family. I also wanted decorations that weren't plastic and covered with characters marketing to children. I know it's the thing to have theme parties these days (Thomas the Tank, Elmo, etc.). I know our kids will insist on that someday, but for now the theme is just "birthday."

I used this tutorial from Frontier Dreams and went with a sun/moon/stars theme and used all my bright colors from my stash (now organized in a dresser in my new craft room. Pictures of that soon!) I blanket stitched around the shapes and to hold the outside and inside together.

My favorite part is the fabric-covered elastic in the back. It makes the whole thing look so neat and finished. Also notice that I went with the initial "S" instead of spelling out "Sam" so that Sophie can use it too. Good thinking, huh?

I was afraid Sam might not want to wear it so we practiced a few days before and he loved it. When he wore it around the party, everyone thought he was so cute. The perfect little birthday boy.

One more birthday craft to share tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Crayon cars

"What do you plan to do with your one, wild precious life?" (Poet Mary Oliver)

Today was Sam's 2nd birthday, and we celebrated with a party of 65 people (including 26 kids) at our new house. I went with easy food: hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, deli potato salad and chips. I made the cake (from a box). But I did manage to get creative with a few touches.

I wanted to offer something nice in the goodie bags without going overboard. Then I saw this idea for crayon cars on Craft Apple. I ran out to Target and got the car cupcake pan, bought some dollar-store crayons and started peeling them. I had no idea the party would get so big, and ended up making 24 of them. That's a lot of peeling.

But they turned out so cute! I dropped them in these cute blue robot bags from the Target $1 area, with a Halloween pencil, box of raisins, package of fruit snacks and a handful of Dum Dum pops.

Luckily I have a few left over for Sam.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The hunt for red chairs in October

"A quiet patience has taken us this far." (Adrienne Rich)

Because we didn't have a dining room in our condo, we didn't own a dining room table and chairs. In our new house, the dining room is the literal center of the home--and I wanted it to be the figurative one too. So I didn't want a formal dining room set. When we discovered that the previous owners had left a beat-up but solid dining room table in the basement, we brought it upstairs. I had visions of refinishing it, but decided not to when Sam started pounding on it with his silverware.

But we needed chairs. I have always loved the chairs at Starbucks, which look a lot like the "Schoolhouse Chair" from Pottery Barn ($200 apiece). I even like the mismatched color look. I considered trying to collect mismatched chairs from garage sales, thrift stores, etc., but wouldn't you know: once you're looking for something specific, you never see it.

I tried Ikea. Nothing good there. Craig's List? I found one nice set, but they were already sold. I went to the unpainted furniture store (where the owner was SO helpful) and found exactly what I wanted (I could stain/paint them whatever color I wanted--by this time I was thinking black would be nice), but even with a "buy one, get one half off" sale, it would have cost over $500 and taken 4 weeks.

Then last Thursday night, I was checking out the Chicago estate sale listing, peeking at the photos of sales I couldn't go to because I wouldn't have a car that day--when I discovered one in my neighborhood. And the first picture was of four red chairs. EXACTLY THE ONES I WANTED!

So the next morning, I got up and walked almost 2 miles in the rain (the bus never came) with my son in the stoller, wondering the whole way how much they'd be. I had decided I'd like to pay $100 but would be really happy with $80. That is, if they weren't gone already. I arrived 15 minutes into the sale and grabbed them immediately! They were $65. For all four.

I love, love, love them. And they really cheer up the old table and our dining room. I had hoped to paint that room a pumpkin orange, which won't go with these chairs. But on the other hand, I am thinking maybe red accents in the kitchen, when we redo it and include an eat-in area.

On top of that, the sticker on the bottom of the seat says Heywood-Wakefield, which means they may be antiques or collectible. The estate sale was for a former college professor (who had thousands of books) and his artist wife. I imagine she painted these "old chairs" to brighten their colorful house. And gave them several coats of varnish. They're nice and shiny.

This has to go down as one of my best estate sale purchases ever. (And I bought a few other things at the same sale too!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Owls and Moons

"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." (Abraham Herschel)

I made another felt owl as a birthday gift, this time for my godson Lincoln, who just turned 3. I paired it with the Caldecott Medal-winning Own Moon, a book a friend gave Sam when we first got him. Using my Borders coupons, I can pick up nice children's books for gifts.

I've been into owls lately, and I'm also into a moon motif. In fact, I'm thinking of a second tattoo--a moon. We got Sam during the Moon Festival in Vietnam, and now Sophie's name means moon.

The owl pattern is from Button It Up and calls for triangle buttons as "claws," but I can't find any anywhere. Suggestions anyone? I don't think these hearts work that well. (Lincoln's name is on the back.) I need to make one of these for Sam.

We're getting more and more settled into our house. Every day we try to do a little more unpacking and organizing. Tomorrow I have a very exciting estate sale find to share!

Vote for my sister's tote

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." (Cicero)

My sister, who is a librarian at Aurora University, has entered a contest sponsored by the American Library Association to design a tote bag to promote libraries. Although she is not a graphic designer, I think her theme is very clever. Would you please go to here to vote for her tote? You vote by adding it to your faves on Flickr. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's a girl!

Big news over at our adoption blog.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bungalow before

"With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown..." (Chinese proverb)

Here it is: our new home, as of Sept. 10. A beautiful red brick bungalow (read about Chicago bungalows here) with the original stained-glass windows in the octagon-shaped front.

The living room (with the previous owner's furniture--these are the realtor's photos). A Japanese-American couple raised four children in this house and lived here almost 40 years.

The dining room (check out that arch from the living room). The realtor claimed many who looked at the house wanted to keep the mid-century wood squares, but we're going to get rid of them. Ditto for the floral wallpaper above them.

The kitchen is the first order of business. It's quite small but has a pantry and back porch where we plan to expand. It will be a big project, but we hope to do it next summer. It will be nice to be able to make it the way we want it. In the meantime, I hope we get a dishwasher soon!

The "master" bedroom on the first floor will be Ed and mine--until we redo the upstairs. That's a longer-term project. There's a second bedroom on the first floor, where Sam is now, and two upstairs, but they need a lot of work. We hope to "dormer" up there someday and make a master suite with bathroom and office. Until then, it's our office and my craft space!

We love the vintage finished basement, complete with wood paneling, orange vinyl barstools and piano--all of which they left. There's also tons of unfinished storage space down there--and a small bathroom and separate shower. Hopefully someday there'll be a guest room down there.

View from the back. You can see the porch on the right that we hope to make into a bright kitchen that leads to a deck. It's a nice, city yard--takes about 7 minutes to mow!

We haven't done much except unpack boxes and arrange furniture, but I will slowly have some small steps of "after" to show soon.

Friday, October 09, 2009


"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." (Nobel Peace Prize Committee)

Kind of makes up for not getting the Olympics!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'm back

"The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part; the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." (Pierre De Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic games)

Well, it's been over a month, and I'm sure any readers I had left have given up on me. But I'm back. The good news is that we've moved into our new house, and we love it. The bad news it that it caused Sam to revert to not sleeping well--not going to sleep, refusing to sleep in the crib, and getting up multiple times during the night. And it lasted more than a month. I was exhausted.

So I haven't had a minute to do anything creative, except unpack boxes and start to put our place together. We' got the first floor in good shape in time for a visit from my in-laws last week, and on the second floor I get to have a craft room. I'll be posting some before, during and after photos of our house soon. And I may even pick up the knitting needles soon.

P.S. Yes, I was bummed about Chicago not winning the Olympic bid. Many Chicagoans opposed it, because they figured it would mean higher taxes. But I was excited about the possibility of a once-in-a-life experience of the world's diversity in our own back yard--for me and for our kids. Plus, it was a little humiliating (or humbling) to come in last. :(