Friday, November 13, 2015

7qt: Halloweekend and Other Better Late Than Never Things

The boys' favorite cartoon had a movie come out this summer, so, in honor of that, they went as Shaun the Sheep and Bitzer the Sheepdog. Bean was very particular about getting all the accessories screen-accurate. Peanut just liked the excuse to "baa" at everyone and everything.
Having tails for a day: also a big hit.
I wanted to dress up, too, but I wasn't really feeling the full-on costume thing, so I went for something a little more subtle (the only time that word will ever be applied to this outfit). I forgot to take a picture, so until I update the post, here's a handy infographic:
I didn't wear it with the matching accessories, but we have tickets to opening day, so maybe then? (Too much for a matinee?)

For All Saints we kept it pretty simple, but we did switch out our usual evening prayers to the Litany of the Saints, with a Communion of Saints joining us, thanks to our lovely blocks from Almond Rod Toys (she's going to be closing up shop soon in order to fill her Christmas orders, so if you want anything, head over there soon!)

Our family All Souls' tradition is to go to the noon Mass that the bishop always says at the Catholic cemetery, and take a prayerful walk around the grounds before dad heads back to the office. We had amazing weather this year, and both of the grown-ups had made it to Confession recently, so plenary indulgences for us! Pretty fantastic!

We've been scrambling to get our grilling fix in before it gets too cold, so we've had spareribs (This is my go-to recipe, which we tinker with quite a lot. This batch was a franken-sauce of half-bottles from the fridge, with hickory chips on the grill.), burgers (with these buns; easier than running to the store, and surprisingly good even a couple days later), and pork chops (no recipe needed, just make sure they're over an inch thick and don't cook them past 145°). I think we're well-satisfied and ready to start soup-bingeing instead.


Both boys have been very into letters and numbers recently, with Bean reading his first few words, so I seized the moment and snagged this box at JoAnn, let Bean paint the inside his favorite color ("reddish red"), and poured in a layer of salt for him to trace letters in. Feeling very Montessori for the $3 and not-too-much time we put into it.


A photo posted by Emily MacMichael (@emilynd06) on
Had a bit of Amazon birthday cash, so I finally got the pasta machine I've been dreaming of. (When I opened the box, I think I heard angels singing.) The Bean was even more excited than I was for something with "machine" right in the name to be showing up at the door. Our meatless Lent game just got upped exponentially. The best part is that The Bean is just a little practice short of being able to do it all himself.

For more quick takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

{p,f,h,r} Post-vacation edition

What's the quickest way to kill your router? Get a phone plan that relies on Wi-Fi for your data (I love it otherwise, though!). It means my computer time has been spent on catching up with what others are sharing, rather than writing myself. But until we get things up and running, here's a little picture dump for you!


The house is far from pretty after two weeks of vacation, but these are all straight from my garden, so I just go and stare at them instead of the laundry. The gladiolas are almost as big as my hand!


Every couple of years, our hen-and-chicks attempt to contact the mothership.

Bean tells me this is his, "Hey, this tea is not sweet!" face. Welcome back to the North, kid.


We recently had this clock passed down to us from my husband's family. Having the hours chimed reminds me of being back at Notre Dame where the Basilica bells were always in earshot. Time to teach the troops the Angelus!
It's amazing what two weeks of neglect will do for a garden
This pumpkin plant was maybe a foot across when we left; yesterday I had to pull over a foot of it out of the lawn and back into the garden!


What's good for the goose is good for the gander, as they say, so the weed situation is getting more than a little out of hand. Not pictured: any interior shots. Those are a little too real right now.

Pictured: Not something I planted, standing next to a good-sized pepper.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

{p,f,h,r} That Little Bit of Summer Before I Wilt Edition


The "peony plumps", as Bean calls them, have finally burst into bloom, and the first two flowers were lying on the ground, so I felt no compunction about cutting them and bringing them inside. The bushes are a literal heirloom variety, having been taken from my grandmother's.


Coffee ice cream. I'd been making mostly Jeni's Splendid recipes, and I'd kind of forgotten the wonders of custard. Now I just need a friend on a diet to pawn off all these egg whites on.

Sighting in the new definitely-not-a-toy, which a friend managed to snag for Bean. Looking forward to a night clear enough to see Saturn!


 When Mom won't set up the 'scope inside, you improvise.

Two Thanksgivings ago, we planted a bag of tulip bulbs from Aldi. These were stowaways. None of the tulips came back for a second year, but these are going crazy. I'll take it.


This was growing not only next to the house, but actually up under the siding. Add to that the mushrooms and wasps, and you'll forgive me if it seems the yard is out to get us this year.

Find more {p,f,h,r} posts at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Friday, May 1, 2015

7qt: Car Sadness and Taco Happiness

This is what happens when some teenager fails to verify that he has a green arrow instead of a plain ol'green light before turning. Yay for not being at fault, I guess, but boo to not having a particularly drive-able car (the driver's seat belt is locked up) while everything gets sorted out.

My plan for tomorrow was to go to the farmer's market to get plants for my garden, and then take the boys to Free Comic Book Day (there will be Stormtroopers at our store!), but the other car is occupied, so I guess I'll stay home and sort through stuff for next weekend's garage sale, instead.

Anybody want a bunch of '90s era Praise and Worship CDs?
In my purging mood, I also hid pretty much every toy with over a half-dozen pieces. I don't want to get rid of the puzzles and blocks entirely, but the fact that they are no longer getting dumped and abandoned has increased my sanity sevenfold, even as the hallways fill with boxes as I hunt for things to sell off.

Bean's bedtime book for the past few weeks has been "Winnie the Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner". For a wonderful exposition of why you simply must read the books, see Kathryn's wonderful post. Meanwhile, I've been reading Milne's poetry to the boys on-and-off during the day. If you have yet to discover When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, do pick them up. There's a bit of Winnie-the-Pooh, but lots of other fun imaginitive tales and musings from Christopher Robin's nursery, along with doses of those tiny delightful naughtinesses that every child needs from time to time. ("If only I were King of Spain,/I'd take my hat off in the rain./If only I were King of France,/I wouldn't brush my hair for aunts.") Milne just got kids, man.


Next on the docket is Charlotte's Web, presuming it arrives. The tracking info looks something like this. But at least it's finally admit it was missent, so... progress!


Is anyone else's garden on a super late schedule this year? Because I'm starting to think that last year's tulips just decided not to be perennials. At least it's going to be a good year for the lilacs.
Also for the dandelions...
Sangria not optional
It's grilling season, and pork was $1.39/lb at Sam's, so it we made the family favorite Tacos al Pastor this week. If you use the guajillo chilis, they really aren't spicy at all, so it's a great family recipe, especially with the pineapple (except both my kids refused to eat the pineapple. Weirdos.) The epiphany I had this time was that the sauce is only enough to braise 3 lbs of meat at a time, but you can do as much as you want in batches (You'll probably want to skim some fat at the end, though). So there's another batch in the freezer for a day when it's too hot to simmer anything for two hours, but perfect weather for a quick sear on the grill. Yum!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Butterick 5850 (with Nursing Mods!)

Perfect for chilling poolside.
The time has come to think about sundresses (Easter is my Memorial Day, as far as wearing white is concerned), but the parade of lovely frocks can just look depressing if they're impractical because you've got a little one who's nursing. With that in mind, I'm sharing some pattern modifications I came up with last summer to make Butterick 5850 nurseable (this method should work, mutatis mutandis, for most faux-wrap style dresses.) This tutorial is a combination of things I actually did, with a few things I wish I'd done. So you might notice it looks a little different from my pictures.

Butterick 5850 is pretty obviously emulating ModCloth's Awards Show Stunner Dress (it's also very similar to the lovely Front Perch Swing). The combination of retro style and an easy nursing conversion was too much to resist, so when Buttericks were on sale, I snagged it along with some linen my favorite shade of teal (I only see the orange colorway on their site right now, but they still had the teal in my store as of a couple weeks ago.) The bodice lining is just a muslin from the quilting section, though if lawn or all-cotton batiste were more readily available, that would be better.

The first thing to note about this conversion is that you'll probably have to keep the sash. The front corner of the overlap is just kind of there, and needs something to cover it up attractively. The sash also helps keep the front pieces nicely in place if one of the snaps should come undone. The other thing to note is that this conversion adds some bulk at the side seams, but I have some suggestions for dealing with that in the notes.

Here's Piece 1. To draft the underlay, you want to trace from the center front along the bottom edge, up the side seam, around the underarm, and along the shoulder, continuing straight along the shoulder line until you are even with or a little past the circle for your size. Then lay a ruler along the center front line and draw that line straight up until an inch or two below the fold line. Draw another straight line from that point to where you ended the shoulder line.

You can get creative with the underlay at this point, if you have specific ideas of how you want your openings
, but here's what I did: First of all, hold up the pattern piece and mark where you want the opening to sit. The bust apex is marked on the pattern piece by a circle with a cross through it, but your bustline may sit higher or lower. Draw a line horizontally across the pattern piece, through the point where you want the opening. Lay the center front on the fold of the fabric when cutting out this piece. For the top pieces, determine how much you want the top to overlap the bottom, and mark that line as the bottom of the piece. You will cut two of these pieces (one on each side), adding a seam allowance to the center front. Mark and sew the darts on these pieces, as needed, hem the top neckline edges (the line from shoulder to center front), and hem or otherwise finish the straight horizontal edges. Press those darts up, instead of down, to make the side seam less bulky.

When you assemble the lining, place the top underlay right sides together with each lining front, lining up the armholes, so that the shoulder seam is caught in between the lining pieces. When attaching the lining to the bodice (step 8), You will have the lining and the top underlay pieces right side together. Lay the fashion fabric with its right side against the wrong side of the underlay. Stitch the armholes.

The long seam along the front edge will not involve any of the underlay pieces, but you will need to modify it to turn your faux wrap into a real (partial) one. Sew the gathering stitches along the bottom edge in the fabric and lining separately. Gather each section until it is 2½" long. Stitch the lining and front together along the bottom edge, starting at the center front, to the front edge. Pivot, sew the front edge as shown in the pattern instructions, pivot again, and sew to the other center front.
(If you would like the front to open further, you may start closer to the side seam than the center front, but take it from me that if you go too far with this, your skirt front will start to sag.) Clip the seam allowances up to each edge of this seam before turning and continue as instructed.

When you stitch the side seams (step 21), you will be catching the edges of the underlay (top and bottom). Pin or baste the tops and bottom together at the side seams, overlapping the top over the bottom. The underlay will be between the two lining pieces as you stitch the side seams.

When you attach the skirt to the bodice, hold the bottom underlay as one along with the parts of the bottom front seam allowances that are still free (up to where you clipped). Sew to the skirt as directed.

To finish the underlay, sew the center front seam, joining the two top pieces. Pin the top pieces over the bottom with the proper overlap, and topstitch across the center of the bottom edge with a seam long enough to hold the pieces firmly together, without encroaching too much on the nursing opening. You may do the same at the sides, if you like. Overlap the front bodice pieces as they would be when wearing the dress, and mark the placement for a snap or other fastener at each corner to keep each piece in place. The left piece, which lies beneath, will fasten to the underlay, and the right piece will fasten to the left. and ... Ta-da! You're ready to go!

A couple of notes: With all these layers (and the JoAnn's linen being more medium- than light-weight), the dress can get rather heavy, with some bulky seams. One way to combat this is to make the sash an entirely separate piece, rather than sewing it into the side seams (gathered, no less!). This should make the zipper lie much more nicely, if nothing else. Sewing it into the side seams also restricts where you can put the bow; if you tie it off-center, as shown in the drawings, you end up with one tail quite a bit longer than the other. If you are sewing it in a medium-weight fabric, you might also consider cutting the skirt a bit narrower than called for. It's very full, and can get rather heavy. The pieces are just rectangles, so it's an easy modification. I also recommend adding in-seam pockets, because what mom couldn't use pockets?

Other than the sash, I really only have a couple of minor quibbles with the pattern. One is that the armholes are cut a bit low for a sleeveless dress, so I'll raise those and redraw the curve next time I make it. (And be sure to do the same to the underlay!) The other is that having the zipper closed at the top makes it a little difficult to get into the dress, and also has created a stress point that has already started to tear. I think when I repair it, I'll move the zipper to the top of the seam and add a hook and eye instead.

Monday, April 6, 2015

What We Wore Saturday: Handmakes and Bargains Edition

We went to Easter Vigil Mass this year, so no pics were taken the day of, since we weren't exactly running early, and didn't get home till 1:30 or so. But, DH is working late tonight, so it was a prime opportunity to pull out the tripod and torture the kids for a few.
Dress: Vogue 1302
Sweater: Ann Taylor
Shoes: Kate Spade (via eBay)

When this Vogue pattern came out, my very first thought was how it had great potential to be converted to a nursing dress (there was no way a non-nursable outfit would fly for a three-hours-at-bedtime Mass). There was a bit of origami involved in getting an opening in both the bodice and lining layers, but I think it was my most successful attempt at such a conversion yet. I had a couple of issues with other aspects of the construction, but the shrug mostly has those covered. The hat was one of three I made for Holly's wedding out of various Etsy components:
The shoes were a NIB eBay score from earlier in the week. Even at a huge discount from retail, they're close to the most expensive shoes in my closet. I'm trying to move towards buying fewer, high-quality pieces, though, and these will replace two or three pairs of shoes that I wasn't in love with, but couldn't get rid of because they were the only ones that matched a given outfit. So far, I'll say that they're way more comfortable than my usual Kohl's or Macy's heels, so I'm feeling good about shelling out.
"Don't mind me because I am totally NOT dragging my brother towards the wall by his jacket collar..."
Shirt: Gap
Shoes: Jumping Jacks
Jacket: Burda 9781 (OOP, replaced by this)
Tie: pattern here
Pants: Butterick 4002 (OOP)

Peanut (who seems to be doing his impression of "My Son John" here):
Shirt: Janie and Jack
Pants: mashups of various vintage patterns, but view C here is a similar idea
Jacket: OOP pattern (similar to the Eton jacket here)

If there's one sure way to get Bean dressed, it's to offer him something red to wear. With that in mind, I whipped together a pair of red pants, and a matching bowtie (out of real, mill-end bowtie fabric!) I convinced him that suspenders were the way to go, thus getting myself out of making belt loops. His jacket has been wearable for a record three holidays, though I did lengthen the sleeves a tad before Christmas.

Peanut's overalls were inspired by the ones in this post, and were made out of an old pair of men's linen pants. I had to work around a few spots and stains, but my only investment was about $2 worth of buttons! The jacket was all leftovers from other projects, and the shirt was an after-Christmas clearance find.

Both boys made it through all three Triduum liturgies (plus Easter Vespers) like champs. Bean got to hold his own candle at the Vigil this year, which was a significant help to his attention span (he still asked to go out for a drink of water three or four times, though). Peanut somehow managed to gnaw grooves in the varnish of the pew in front of us, but even he was pretty engaged in what was going on ("Oooh! Whatdis?"). I think it really helped to go to a historical church with lots of lovely things to look at, rather than our usual suburban eighties parish.

Though there was plenty of the usual writhing around the pew, Bean was definitely more engaged in the goings-on this year. For some reason, the Good Friday intercessions really caught his attention. He stood up straight the whole time, hands folded, and followed the deacon's chanted instructions to stand and kneel. Maybe he just really likes Catholic calisthenics?

On Easter itself, we slept in (as much as the kids would allow), and put Basilica Mass on the TV while I whipped up a steak-and-eggs brunch. Then we spent the afternoon soaking up the good weather (since gone) with some friends, and finished off with Vespers at the Basilica (more candles!) where Bean, who usually doesn't do any of the responses, chanted along with the Lord's Prayer, the intercessions, and lots of Alleluias. Maybe we'll have to make the effort to find inspiring surroundings more often.

Find more WIWS posts at Fine Linen and Purple!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

5Faves: Irresistible Outfits ... for Boys!

Linking up with more 5Faves here!

Okay, we all know that tiny girl clothes can be so charming that they just magically fall into your cart. (True story: I once bought a dress at Carter's just in case the baby I was gestating turned out to be a girl. Spoiler alert: Nope.) But it's really not fair at all. (Not that girls' clothing doesn't have its own issues...) Girls get lovely confections of cuteness year-round, and boys get ... another round of graphic t-shirts. If it's Easter, you can choose one of two preppy options that are just downsized menswear.

Really, though, I can't help but feel that if American clothiers just tried a little, it wouldn't be hard to come up with something every bit as tantalizing for a mom with a little clothes money to burn. They need to take a few hints from the other side of the pond.

1. Les Zigouis

This is how my kids dress in the alternate version of my life where we are in a movie that involves traipsing about the city, getting caught in the rain, and always having a baguette sticking out of my bag. For the price of these outfits, though, they'd better magically transform diaper malfunctions and spills into rainbows and fairy dust. (Seriously, just commission a tailor to custom-make these for you and you'll still come out way ahead.)

On a more practical note, can we bring back the shorts suit, please? I get one season out of boys' pants, presuming the knees don't end up faded, grass-stained, or worse before then. I think my record for a pair of shorts is three years. There's a reason they did it like that back in the day, guys.

2. Boden

More on the casual side, but shouldn't a kiddo be able to look like Paddington Bear while he splashes in the puddles?

3. Marie-Chantal

Suspender shorts kill me every time. Make them tiny bubble-butt plaid suspender shorts and it's all over. Throw in some herringbone and he's ready to be an extra on Downton Abbey.

Do the French know what they're doing or what? Their outfits always seem to have just the right amount of detail, without crossing the line into fussiness. I think I could just die of the cuteness of these overalls, and this dress shirt onesie seems perfectly practical, with the jersey bottom, a pleat for wiggle room, and a collar that's made for someone without much of a neck.

5. H&M
Allow Peanut to model for you.
I had to throw in at least one that's actually accessible. I know, it's like the Old Navy of Europe. Still, amidst some items that just make me shake my head for their sheer weirdness, they do carry things that are just a notch up, style-wise. One time, it was a tiny pair of striped suspenders that just somehow happened to land in my basket. Last time, it was this argyle sweaters. Also, striped caps and tiny wing-tips!

Okay, moms of boys: your turn: where do you like to find clothes? Or maybe you've got a collection of not-so-attainable looks you've been saving on Pinterest. I'm curious!