Monday, April 27, 2009

Jeans Transformed

Some of you know that my mom is a champion garage saler. If you want something, you can put in an order with her and she will find it. Last summer, I mentioned I wanted an ice cream maker, and we found one later that week - a Cuisinart for $10! My blender broke and she found me a hardly used Kitchen Aid for $5. And clothes! She finds the cutest, most fun clothes for the girls.

While I was going through a tote of size 4s that Nora outgrew long ago, I found a pair of jeans my mom had gotten her at a garage sale. They had sunflowers embroidered all over them, and a cute yellow snap. Unfortunately, the knees were worn out. One had a big hole and the other was one fall away from disaster. Clearly Nora had loved these jeans, but they weren't going to work out for Dana. So I decided to turn them into shorts. I grabbed my scissors, pins and some fabric leftover from my owl pajamas and went to work.

They came out a bit long, like Bermudas, but I figure that the weather is rarely HOT here, so Bermudas are perfect.

To make them, I cut two pieces of fabric that were twice as long as the diameter of the leg opening. Does that make sense? I hemmed one edge and basted the other. Then I pulled the basting to gather the top edge and pinned it to the shorts. After stitching the ruffle in place, I steamed it down and top stitched. It took like an hour to make these shorts and two purses.

Yes, purses. See, when I cut off the legs above the knees, I realized that there was a long section that was just fine. So I cut the knees off again and used the cuff of the pants to make two purses, one for each girl. Because I didn't tell you yet that Nora also has these jeans in a 6, though the knees are still intact.

To make the purses, I cut 2" wide strips of the yellow fabric, then pressed them twice to make bias tape. I sewed this around the top raw edge of each purse, sewed wide ribbon handles on, and sewed the bottoms together. Voila! Two purses and a pair of shorts in one hour. Awesome morning!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Job Board

I have been meaning to post about this for a while now!

For the last few months, I've been trying hard to enforce certain chores, mostly for Nora, but a bit for Dana, too. Running a household of four requires cooperation, and we are trying to teach the girls that we must all work together as a team to run this house. It sounds a little bit cheesy, but that is OK because us Ackers really do love cheese. Some of us even want to make our own cheese, but that's a different topic...

A few weeks ago, Soulemama posted about the job board she made for her family, and it inspired me to make one for us. Of course, ours is tailored to our specific family and needs, but I definitely got the idea from her. For example, I am a little crazy when it comes to grocery shopping, so I do not have a grocery list or meal plans on our board. Nope-I actually have two Excel spreadsheets in which I do my meal planning and grocery listing. The grocery list has a column for each aisle at the grocery store we go to. That's how crazy I am in that department. But I digress. Actually, that is why I need the spreadsheets for those two tasks: they keep me on track.

Anyhow, the job board. It was really very easy, and Nora, Kevin and I worked together on it.

First, I took a piece of fabric large enough to cover our cork board and sewed a pocket to the bottom, the same width as the board. Then I stitched the height of the pocket in four spots to make the one pocket into five pockets. Next, Kevin used the staple gun (and a hammer) to attach the fabric to the cork board.

While all of this was going on, Nora illustrated jobs onto index cards, which we then laminated. She also illustrated the specialist classes at school, two of each. More on that in a sec.

This is what the finished product looks like. Pretty cool, huh? Yeah, Kevin thinks it looks a bit like a Christmas present. And he might be right. In my defense, though, I was just trying to coordinate with our paint and curtains in the livingroom. And our livingroom does not look like Christmas.

Here's a closer shot of the pockets. The empty one is for when Dana starts elementary school, for her specialist cards. So what the heck do I mean by that? Well, there are four specialists at school, and they work on a rotating schedule. So one week, Nora has music on Monday, gym on Tuesday, library on Wednesday, art on Thursday and music again on Friday. To keep track of this (mostly because we keep forgetting to return her library book on the right day), Nora made two cards for each specialist, and each Sunday we pull down the last week's cards and put them up in the right order for the upcoming week.

The $ pocket has jobs the girls can earn money for, such as putting silverware away or folding socks. Or pairing up socks. You know what I mean. They can earn $0.25 per job-nice! And, of course, the D pocket has Dana's jobs and the N pocket has Nora's jobs.

So, each morning I tack up each girl's jobs. As she completes a job, she untacks the card and returns it to her pocket. By the time dinner is done, her cards should all be back in her pocket. See how easy that is? Also, if she does jobs for money, she puts those cards into her pocket, too, so I can keep track of what I owe her.

So far, it's working pretty well. They like the cards, they like the fancy tacks, and they like earning money. And I like being reminded of Christmas all day long. Just kidding. You should click on this photo to enlarge it so you can see Nora's fancy illustrations. I particularly like "clos in the landre", with the clothes hanging in thin air above the hamper.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Proof that I wore a fancy schmancy dress.

From left: Alyx (my sister), Tara (the bride), Linh, me, Charity, Jodi.

Dresses...Ta da!

I know each and every person who reads this blog has been on the edge of the seat waiting to see the completed fairy dress. So, without further ado, here it is!

This is the front. Remember, I copied the bodice of a dress Nora has that fits her well. Also remember that my sewing skills are borderline acceptable, so the fact that I even attempted this, much less succeeded, is nothing short of miraculous. Needless to say, I am pretty proud of myself.

The bodice fabric is from the same line as the skirt fabric, but it isn't the exact same blue. So, to tie it all together, I made my own bias tape out of the leftover skirt fabric (can you believe I did that?) and sewed it around the arm holes and neck line. It really did bring everything together.

Here is the back of the dress. See the buttons? On Friday I went to my friend Tracy's house and used her machine to make 2 buttonholes. That afternoon, at home, I sewed on the two buttons. When Nora got off the bus, I gleefully held out the finally completed dress, thinking she was going to be thrilled, and she could hardly give me the time of day. For real. I finally got her to try it on, just to see if it fit, and she loved twirling in it, but she informed me it was not fancy enough to wear to a wedding. My eyes almost bugged right out of my head. I tried to explain that the very reason I made this dress, out of fabric SHE HERSELF hand selected, was for Tara and Dan's wedding. She did not care. I spent some time trying to convince her to wear it, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.

I was disappointed at first, but then I got over it. After all, she is only 6. And her view of a ball gown did not match mine. Oh well. She will wear it to places less fancy.

Also on Friday afternoon, Jim called from Midwest Vac and Sew and said my machine was done. He told me he took off all of the covers so he could watch the parts move. He oiled one part. He has no idea how or why, but it now works. He did not repair anything. He didn't see anything wrong. But it works, so that is all that matters for the moment. I am just crossing my fingers that it actually is fixed, like he somehow unwittingly unstuck a part that was sticking. Because there is nothing worse than an intermittent problem. At least he witnessed the crazy behavior with his own two eyes before the miracle fix.

So on Saturday morning/early afternoon, we ran a couple of errands as a family. Fun times! One of the stops was to pick up my machine. And who knew how important this little stop would be!

See this black dress? This is the dress I wore to the wedding. I know-I can't believe I wore that, either. I am not sure I have ever worn something quite that fancy. Even when I went to prom with Kevin, my dress was nowhere nears this fancy.

So anyhoo, my dress. Do you see that lovely satin ribbon under the bust? It's pretty wide-I am guessing about 2 inches. It goes all the way around. And its number one job is to make zipping the thing up one step below impossible.

Now, I need to clarify here that this dress fits me. It is not too small. I swear on all things holy. However, at 4:05pm, precisely 10 minutes before we were to leave for the wedding, I asked Kevin to zip me up. The zipper is on the side, and there is just no way I could contort my body to zip something up to my armpit. He was having trouble with that ribbon, so he was using much force to try to zip it. At the precise moment I opened my mouth to tell him to stop, he said something like, "OH NO!" OK, this was not my finest moment. I didn't even look at the damage. I just said something like, "I can't believe you just ripped my dress!" And I stomped up the stairs. Very adult like. But by the time I got to the top of the stairs, reason had begun to return to me. I know-I, too, was surprised this happened. I just found myself some black thread and went back downstairs. It took me about three tries to remember how to sew in a zipper, but suddenly it all came back to me and I fixed that dress all up! I was oh so proud of myself. I totally rocked that zipper foot. And then I put the dress on and we left.

Halfway there I realized how lucky this all actually was. Because clearly that zipper was not sewn in very well, and what if it had undone itself while I was dancing? That would have been a disaster. The fact that it ripped out at home was actually a blessing in disguise. And I am oh so very glad that we picked up the machine on Saturday. Otherwise I would have had to wear jeans or that green skirt with the owl patch. And I would have felt dumb. And we can't go around feeling dumb.

I do not have a photo of myself in that black dress. I will try to get one to post to prove that I wore it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vegetarian Burrito Filling

My sewing machine is broken again. Or still. I am not sure. I have never used the manual buttonhole feature before, so maybe it never worked. I will never know for sure.

At any rate, it is back with the repairman, who is not sure he can fix it. The machine does the zigzag stitch just like it should, but in buttonhole mode it does straight stitch. If you can con it into zigzagging, it refuses to do the sides in a narrow stitch and the bar tack in a wide stitch like it is supposed to. He said something about never seeing a problem quite like this before. I am just trying not to think about it. Now is not the time to buy a new sewing machine, particularly when I am dying for a serger.

Anyhoo, my friend Tracy is kind enough to let me stop by later this week to sew some buttonholes and then play (Dana and her son play together), so I will at least be able to put Nora in the dress for the wedding, as planned. But I am not sure Dana will get her dress in time for Saturday. We'll just see how the week goes.

So I thought I would post a recipe. I make this about once a week, as everyone loves it at this house. And that is such a rarity that I have to keep it in high rotation. It's a vegetarian burrito filling. We think it is great!

Burrito Filling (aka beans and rice)

1/2 cup brown rice
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tomato, diced
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 can black or pinto beans
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
sour cream
etc .

Put the brown rice, water and lime juice in a rice steamer, or cook on the stove, according to directions on package (mine takes about 45 minutes in the steamer).

Put the vinegar and oil in a bowl. Throw the tomatoes, green onions and cilantro on top. Mix and let it sit while the rice cooks. This gives it a chance to soak up the flavors.

Do useful things as you wait for the rice, such as grating your cheese and setting the table.

When the rice is done, rinse the beans in a colander under hot water. Add them to the tomato mixture. Put the hot rice on top and mix it all together. The hot rice will warm the beans the rest of the way. It is a nice little time saver if you are running late on dinner, which I often am.

Spoon the filling onto a tortilla and top with cheese, sour cream, taco sauce, and anything else you like.

Roll up the tortilla and eat.

Sometimes, if there is leftover filling, I will throw it over romaine for lunch the next day. It doesn't even need dressing because of the oil/vinegar/lime juice combo. I love that it can be salad or filling.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dreaming of Dresses

I am almost done reworking Nora's fairy dress. I ended up copying the bodice of a dress that fits her really well. It is awfully cute, and I will post photos tomorrow. I just have to do the buttonholes. The problem is that I dropped my button hole attachment so long ago I forgot it happened. I tried to duct tape it back together, but I can't get it tight enough for the gears to catch. So my plan tonight is to relearn how to use the buttonhole foot on my machine to manually sew a buttonhole. (Have you ever seen the word "buttonhole" so many times in one paragraph?) Anyhoo, I will do that tonight and have Nora pose for some photos tomorrow. Dana is already asking where hers is. So I guess we will be going to the fabric store, too, in hopes that I can sew a second dress before Tara and Dan's wedding next Saturday (eight days from now).

In the meantime, I am already concocting ideas for more dresses. I found a bunch of posts on various blogs about how to repurpose mens button up shirts into little girl dresses. My girls are head over heels for Daddy, and they would get the biggest kick out of wearing dresses made from his shirts.

Also, I absolutely love this fabric! I want to buy it and knit the bodice and use most of one fabric for one dress, with a contrasting ruffle from the other fabric, making the girls mirror-image space dresses. Why, you ask? Well, Dana loves space. She talks about astronauts, space suits, space ships, and planets all the time. And Nora is studying outer space at school right now and is also fascinated. She paints watercolors of the planets, in order, with the astroid belt in the appropriate location. She loves to talk about planets, the sun, constellations and many other spacey things. So I thought this fabric was perfect. Also, I am ready to sew something cute and girly but not pink, purple or too frilly. I think a little ruffle at the hem would add just enough frill to make the girls fall in love. We'll see.

Isn't it funny how, two weeks ago, I was cursing the day I thought sewing garments was a good idea, and now I am dreaming of new things to make for the girls? And how the object I most covet at this point in my life is a serger? Life takes funny turns. Sorry for the lack of photos. I guess I just had some ranting to do. Big surprise.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bachelorette Party (G rated, of course!)

My good friend Tara is getting married in two weeks.

She didn't want one of "those" bachelorette parties. You know what I mean. So her sister (I think) came up with the most amazing party instead: a slumber party!

We went to Larsmont Cottages, which is incredibly beautiful. We had a three bedroom cottage for the night, shared by eight friends.

The living room of our cottage.
We loved the fireplace! Though someone
(nobody is sure who) turned the thermostat
to 84 degrees, and it got almost that hot before
we noticed. Oops!

Big surprise that I brought cupcakes. I made a vanilla buttercream frosting using vanilla I made from beans my parents brought home from Huahine two years ago. The pink heart platter was completely appropriate for this event.

Charity brought the most spectacular sparklers, which were incredibly fun! They lasted forever and were so very bright. That's Tara, the bride, on the right.

And some more sparklers. See how happy Charity and Tara are? They really were THAT FUN!

I can't wait for the wedding! I just need to find myself a dress...