Thursday, August 30, 2012

Meg vs. The Nursery: Sporty Bunting

Sorry this is a little late in coming...

I used the rest of my old crib bumper and wall quilt to put together a little bunting decoration for the nursery wall, since it is still completely bare. It was really pretty easy, and the thing that took me the longest, as usual, was getting around to putting it up. But I finally remembered while the little guy was awake today, and so here it is:

I am really pleased with it, especially considering that it was fast and FREE. There is a good tutorial over here at Make it Do on how to make your own, but I have to admit that I was a lot lazier with mine, didn't make a template for cutting the triangles, and didn't pin anything. That's how I roll. Which is why I will forever remain a beginner seamstress. I am fine with that most of the time, though I felt a bit sheepish when I saw this bunting on the same blog.

But hey--I am a beginner who is one step closer to having an actual nursery, and not just an empty room that happens to have a crib in it.

P.S. See that chair in the corner? I stood on it to hang the bunting, and it totally broke. That makes a pregnant girl feel really good about herself. I should have known better; it is our second cheap Ikea chair to break and I think the others are on their way out...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Meg vs. the Bedroom: DIY Gathered Headboard

As I hinted a week or two ago, this project started a while back and was going nowhere (in part because I realized our staple gun was several hundred miles away and had to be sent to us, but mostly because I was angry with my sewing machine, er, my lack of sewing patience), so I bagged it for a while. It is so hard to pull out a project once you put it away! But I forced myself to do it. It helped that the alternative was doing the dishes and cleaning the house. I will always avoid that.

Background story: We bought a mattress, a box spring, and four wooden feet at Ikea when we got married. We figured any real bed we could afford would not survive the moves we knew we would be making during our first few years of marriage (sure enough, it has been five years, and we have moved 7 times or so--I'm losing track). We never really decorated beyond a couple of propped on our dresser or on shelves (I never felt like making holes only to fill them a few months later). Now that we have our own place, I am itching to make it feel like we have settled down, though for all I know we may be moving again in a matter of months. So I had to make something easy, inexpensive, and portable.

Enter seven bazillion headboard tutorials on Pinterest.

I actually think that number is a low estimate. Apparently everyone makes their own headboards these days. Why not me?

I decided I wanted something soft (no old window panes or barn doors) that had some visual interest but wasn't overwhelming, since I am going for a calm, neutral, airy feel.

My materials:

*1 plywood sheet, cut to 4 feet by 5 feet (we have a queen bed, which is five feet wide, and I decided I wanted the headboard four feet high. I actually think I might have liked it better a little lower, but perhaps I just need to adjust to having anything there at all.),
*1 piece of upholstry foam, 2 feet by 6 feet, bought at the only fabric store in town.

*2 yards of silvery grey fabric that I initially bought to cover a bulletin board in our church nursery, until the nursery leader decided she wanted to do something different.
*Spray adhesive
*Staple gun and staples

I wanted to sew ruffles at regular intervals across the fabric, and had read about a thousand different "super easy" ruffle tutorials so I thought this would be relatively simple. Not so. For the life of me I could not get this very large piece of fabric to gather nicely when I did the pull-the-bottom-thread technique, and then I couldn't get it to stay ruffled when I tried to go over it again to fix it in place. My matching thread was apparently junk and kept breaking, so I would have to start over again. I don't really know how to use my sewing machine, so I kept messing things up. Finally I just went with the only idiot ruffle technique that I can manage. The down side to this technique is that you can't control the final length of the ruffle. The up side is that I can actually pull it off. And I lucked out that it gave me just the right width, which was a little more than half of the original width of the fabric.

I have no pictures because I was far too angry at the universe and was wanting to trash the whole thing, so I apologize for that. Here is the technique:

1. Set the tension on your sewing machine as tight as you can (my tension dial goes up to 9, so I set it at a 9. I don't really know what that means, and have never cared to figure it out).
2. Set your machine to the longest possible stitch.
3. Feed the fabric through like normal, and the machine will do the ruffling for you.

I ended up doing half of the gathers with my matching thread, then going back and fixing all the broken spots and doing the rest with my more sturdy white thread. Luckily the clashing thread isn't too noticeable.

Next I got out my board and put it together. This took all of about 10 minutes, in part because, as you will see, I did not pick up the toy room before I began. What can I say? I have no shame.

I sprayed both the top of the board and the back of the foam with adhesive and stuck them together, like so.

Next I pulled the foam around the sides and stapled it down thusly,

resulting in this:

I draped my gathered fabric over the top (it has character, doesn't it? [That is poor code for it is crooked and poorly done]),

I stapled the fabric around the back,

added a few staples at the bottom on the front, and ta-da!

I hauled it into our room and shoved it between the bed and the wall. At some point we will probably secure it to the wall, but it isn't as wobbly as I would have expected.

 Now remember, our bed used to look like this:

Now it looks like this:

Better, right? The effect would be superior if I took a broader picture of the room, but I'll just come out and say I didn't feel like cleaning so I just cropped it out. Still, don't look closely; I think you can see some shoes and a baby hoodie halfway under the bed. Headboard! That's what we want to see!

I honestly don't think this is going to be a keeper in the long term just because the sewing job is bad and the gathers will come undone over time. But for the now it fits the bill, the price was right, and I am really happy that it actually came out just as I envisioned it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meg vs. Myself: Weekly Goals August 27-September 1

Sorry to the three people that read this for not posting all week. As you can see, I have been keeping up pretty well on my projects, but have been a terrible blogger. Reasons? For one, I can't seem to get my house clean enough to take any non-humiliating pictures. Also, once the main projects are done I lose a little motivation to do the finishing touches (e.g. It took me until last night to finally iron the clothes I got at the thrift store so I could post them, and I still haven't gotten to actually hanging up the bunting with anything but painter's tape). And now who knows where my camera is in my mess of a house.

I was just thinking to myself that, three years into being a stay-at-home mom, I still have not managed the adjustment to home life as I would have hoped. I am terrible at doing things without an external deadline, I still hate housework and will latch on to any distraction to avoid it, and I am still terrible at going to bed at a reasonable hour. There is a lot more on that list, but those are the most obnoxious ones right now. The one thing I have gotten good at is not caring about how everyone else is doing in comparison, and appreciating life. I have it good and I'm grateful for the gifts of time and means to make it better. Change is wonderful as long as it is in the right direction.

So who knows? Maybe I'll actually blog next week.

August 20-25
Monday: Go thrifting for frames, etc. Had a better-than-usual trip, and will post about it some time.

Tuesday: Buy backing fabric and finish putting nursery bunting together.

Wednesday: Clean and sand kids' doors for painting. Probably just as well I didn't blog this. Not very exciting.

Thursday: Get blackboard paint tinted. Start painting magnetic layer on the board. This paint is a pain in the rear and reeks to boot. It made me sick. Not sure why I didn't make my husband do it. But I am going to make him pick up the paint thinner to clean up the mess I made...

Friday: Rake, mow, water the lawn. Also, found a wasps' next on the side of our house. Sa-weet.

Saturday: Tackle the headboard project again. Try again next week...

August 27-September 1  (What? September? Not possible. 4 weeks to d-day!)
Monday: Finish the sewing for the headboard (let's try for a less ambitious goal, shall we?).

Tuesday: Put the headboard together.

Wednesday: Sand, then paint the chalkboard layer on the board.

Thursday: Buy molding for the chalkboard.

Friday: Attach the molding to the chalkboard. Make the hubs figure out how to hang it safely. Clean house because Mom is coming! (Don't worry, Mom, I'm sure I'll leave some dishes, just for you.)

Saturday: Make decisions about framing projects, pick up paint, and start painting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meg vs. Toddler Entertainment: Cardboard Kitchen

Last week at Costco, my little cook spotted a super awesome kitchen that I would never ever buy for him. He couldn't take his eyes off of it, and kept asking to go back and look at it. For a second I thought, "Maybe I should get him one on Craigslist." Then I remembered all of the cardboard kitchens I had seen on Pinterest, and decided we could be a little creative and have a lot more fun with it. So I told the little Mr. that if he did a good job then we could make him a kitchen during little brother's nap that afternoon.

He was most definitely on his best behavior! As soon as the little fellow was down, we jumped right in and got to work. We still had a couple of moving boxes left in the garage, and we took them apart and turned them inside out so all of the print would be hidden. Add plenty of clear packing tape, a few old CD's, a couple of milk lids (I'll add more as we collect them, which should only take a few days in this house), some twist ties, and a little paint marker, and ta-da! Instant oven.

Cooking commenced immediately.

 Next we made the sink cabinet. Here are the action shots that my 3-year-old took of the process:

Later we picked up a plastic bowl and a frying pan from the dollar store, and we were all set.

Of course the kitchen was not complete until it had a refrigerator, and my little chef did not let me forget it. Luckily I found two diaper boxes that fit together just right, so we added that to the array the next day. Here is our finished kitchen!

The little Mr., his little brother, and their cousins cooked up a storm all weekend. I would say that my total time investment was maybe an hour, and the total cost was $2, approximately 1/60 of the cost of the fancy new play kitchen. And we love this one more because we made it together.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meg vs. Myself: Weekly Goals August 20-25

This week's report:

August 13-18
Monday: Clean the tiling tools that aren't being used. Straighten up the pile of equipment in the living room and put away as much as possible.

Tuesday: Sand and touch up patch job in the front bathroom. Spray on texture.

Wednesday: Attempt to turn the crib bumper into a rail guard.

Thursday: Dust off and paint another coat on the changing table attachment.

Friday: Buy fabric and start bunting for nursery wall.

Saturday: Clean and sand kids' doors for painting.

I ended up spending my project time on Friday and Saturday making a kitchen for my boys. Post to come on that soon.

And next week:
August 20-25
Monday: Go thrifting for frames, etc.

Tuesday: Buy backing fabric and finish putting nursery bunting together.

Wednesday: Clean and sand kids' doors for painting.

Thursday: Get blackboard paint tinted. Start painting magnetic layer on the board.

Friday: Rake, mow, water the lawn.

Saturday: Tackle the headboard project again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Meg vs. The Nursery: Curtain Extension

Thursday goal? Ha! Let's forget any goal that requires me to move anything in the garage or reach anywhere awkward...indefinitely. But the day didn't go to waste! I had a problem with the curtains I had for the baby room:

These red stripey curtains were one of the first things I made for our first apartment after we got married, and I purposely picked something that would coordinate with a sports theme because I knew that was what John would want for any boys we had. Clearly our windows were shorter. I dug through my pile of nursery things to see how I could alter the curtains instead of chucking them, and I came across this beauty:

A wall quilt we have never used. With stars on the back.

Aaaaand now those stars are on the bottom of my curtains.

Patriotic, don't you think? If you are ever at my house, please don't look at the actual stitching. I am such a lazy seamstress, and I did a terrible job. But my toddler doesn't seem to care, and I don't think #3 will care when the room becomes his.

The quilt also left me with a nice length of blue starry edging that I am going to use for my bunting. I did go shopping for fabric, but I didn't find anything I liked, so I am planning on using scraps from the bumper and wall quilt to do the job. I figure it's economical, and it will all match! It is nice to feel like one room in the house is coming together, even if I have zero idea what to do with the rest of the house.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Meg vs. The Nursery: DIY Crib Bumper to Rail Bumper

Wednesday: Attempt to turn the crib bumper into a rail guard.

Let's just forget about that Tuesday goal. I did as much sanding as I could reach, but the dust, the sauna that is that bathroom, and my belly were not all getting along.

On to today! I actually did it! Since the doctors of the universe have turned anti-bumper, I thought I would repurpose ours to hide the crib scars from our baby beaver protect the next child's mouth and gastrointestinal tract:

As you can tell, my kids have a lot of teeth.

So I started with this lovely fellow.

There were seams at each corner of the crib, so it was easy to figure out where to cut so that I would have a strip long enough for one side.

Before cutting, I picked the piping off of the next section with a seam ripper so that I could fold it down and use it to cover that exposed edge, like so:

Then I sewed down the edge, spread out the ties (I only needed one tie on each side now instead of two), and I was done!

Repeat for the other side, then tie that bad boy on. Ta-da!

P.S. This bumper was actually part of a set, but little brother refuses to sleep on anything that isn't minky soft just like his blankie and so the non-sporty sheet. And I have no clue where the matching crib skirt went; I'll have to find it before I finish this nursery makeover. I am so stinking organized I kill myself sometimes.

P.P.S.S. I also started a headboard project today. It was one disaster after another. Good thing I had this project to post, because until I started writing I was very crabby. In fact, I think John is still afraid to talk to me. I should probably go apologize now. Now if my room never has a headboard, you will know why.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Meg vs. The Living Room: Monster junk pile

Monday: Clean the tiling tools that aren't being used. Straighten up the pile of equipment in the living room and put away as much as possible.

While John was working on the bathroom, we moved the bench into the dining room to accommodate the boxes of tile and extra equipment we borrowed. And, of course, over time that pile grew into the monstrosity below. I labeled it for your viewing convenience.

Ridiculous. So I set about getting it pared down to what it was meant to be, which meant getting some things ready to return (I left a subtle hint for John by putting that cement board on the front porch...), putting things not related to the bathroom out in the garage, and just cleaning in general. Sadly, this did take me all day, though I also did most of my normal daily chores as well.

Much better. Now instead of being a pile of junk haunting me, it is back to being a pile of tiling things haunting my husband. Hee hee.

He is currently swamped with school and not planning on doing much more until after his first block of exams. He kindly suggested that I take the kids to my mom's place for a few days at that point so that he could get the bathroom done for me. I kindly reminded him that I would be 12 days from my due date and there was no way on earth I was driving 4 hours alone with two toddlers. He kindly said he would do his best to get it done here. What a good husband I have!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Meg vs. Housekeeping: Cleaning chart

A few weeks back I found this cleaning checklist on Pinterest:

This came from Kierste over at Brown Paper Packages. I thought it was super cute and a good way to try to keep the mess that is our house under control. The creator offered it up for download, so I copied it and then put in my own cleaning tasks. I threw it in a document frame so I could check things off with a transparency marker (harder for the boys to wipe off), which works pretty well as long as I can keep the littles from getting that coveted marker in their hands.

I think it's going well, don't you?

It will be a miracle when I actually get everything done on this list on time, but it is motivating me to try.

p.s. If a 20-month-old gets this marker all over his hands then rubs it all over his face, it wipes off pretty easily with a baby wipe, since it is water soluble. Maybe I am the only one that needs this tip.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meg vs. Myself: Weekly goals August 13-18

I'm back! I was debating whether to start doing my weekly goals again now that John is back in school and our bathroom project is on hold, but without it I am not getting things done as I would like, so it can't hurt, right? I have been having lots of braxton hicks contractions lately as well as some lower back pain that can get a little intense, so I am trying to take it easy on myself, and some days I can barely get the bare minimum done, but we'll just see how this goes.

August 13-18
Monday: Clean the tiling tools that aren't being used. Straighten up the pile of equipment in the living room and put away as much as possible.

Tuesday: Sand and touch up patch job in the front bathroom. Spray on texture.

Wednesday: Attempt to turn the crib bumper into a rail guard.

Thursday: Dust off and paint another coat on the changing table attachment.

Friday: Buy fabric and start bunting for nursery wall.

Saturday: Clean and sand kids' doors for painting.

Let's do this!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Meg vs. Productivity: Deep thoughts about Pinterest.

Before Pinterest, I had no ideas so I couldn't figure out what to do. Therefore nothing got done.

With Pinterest, I have too many ideas and I can't figure out what to do. Therefore nothing gets done.

I am starting to think it is me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Meg vs. Maternity Wardrobe: Easy skirt updates

In the interest of getting started on my 30 by 30 list, I tackled a couple of maternity skirts that I rarely wore because I didn't like the fit. I knew they were easy fixes if I just took a little time with the sewing machine, but of course I put it off until 2 months before baby is due! Regardless, it is nice to have a little change in my limited maternity wardrobe, and if I can do this, anyone can.

Makeover #1:

(Note the appearance of toys on my bed in the after shots. It was futile trying to keep them out.) This was technically not a maternity skirt, but when I bought it I needed something quick, it had an elastic waistband, and it was on clearance for about $4 at Target; the perfect storm for buying something I didn't really like and that was really the wrong size. Since the waist fit comfortably, I just decided how far in I wanted the bottom of the skirt taken in, pinned it and made sure that I was taking in the same amount on both sides, and sewed a straight line from the waist to the hem. I also took the opportunity to lengthen the skirt a smidge by letting down the original hem as much as possible--a little over an inch. Serious improvement, right? No more saggy, baggy, shapeless blob skirt here.

Makeover #2:

This skirt fit fine, but I was just tired of the shape, and felt like it made me look wider (again, one big, bumpy blob). Plus I had seen lots of maternity pencil skirts and was on the verge of coveting one. This skirt is essentially constructed of a series of triangles, so all I had to do was take in each seam to make the bottom narrower, like this:

Now to tackle the rest of my clothes pile!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Meg vs. Strawberries: What to do with a whole flat!

I couldn't resist a $12 flat of strawberries at our local fresh market, even though we still had strawberries in our freezer from the last time I couldn't resist. They are so delicious! As soon as we got home with them, my boys polished off the first basket in a matter of minutes. After that I had to ration their consumption since they are still in diapers, if you know what I mean. (If you don't know what I mean, be glad.)

When it was clear that we weren't going to eat them all plain, I got to brainstorming on how to use them all and waste none. First I tossed a batch of jam in my breadmaker (when I first saw that it had a jam function, I laughed, but as it turns out, it is awesome). Here is the best picture I could get of the jam being made with no work on my part:

I love that it has only four ingredients: crushed strawberries, lemon juice, a small amount of sugar, and pectin. It is heavenly on toast and pretty good in a pb&j, too. So much more strawberry flavor than the store-bought variety, since there is no corn syrup drowning out that strawberry tartness. Since I'm not yet domesticated enough to can jam, I gave half to my sister and kept half in our fridge for use in the next couple of weeks.

Little brother approved.

Next, I tried to replicate this fabulous find from Pinterest:

Oven-dried strawberries anyone? They seemed like an awesome snack, so I ventured a try.

Before drying:

And after:

I left them in about 45 extra minutes and they were still a soggy mess. Not anything I would want to snack on. Fail! I think any future attempts will require a legitimate dehydrator, and I will forget about this keep-my-oven-going-for-four-hours-during-the-summer business. (P.S. Mom, can I borrow your dehydrator?)

In the interest of avoiding wastefulness, I tossed these in a baggie in the fridge and may try to chop them up and toss them in muffins or something. If they don't gross me out too much when I pull them out again.

My last project was by far the easiest and quickest: popsicles! The boys love them, and the store-bought ones have a surprising amount of junk in them. Here's my recipe: 1 to 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries, 1 ripe banana, 1 ripe pear (cored). Blend, freeze, and enjoy!

The sweetness of the pear and banana balance out the tart strawberries. Pure, guilt-free, fruity goodness.

Only one warning: you or your loved ones may require a bath following consumption.

The remaining strawberries were either eaten or frozen for smoothies, and I am happy to say that not a single one went to waste! I wonder how much the strawberries will be this week...?   =)