Garden Helper

Saturday morning, the hubby and I set out to do some yard work and the task at hand was to cut back some seriously overgrown hedges in front of the house. Since I am fat and whiny pregnant, he took on the hard job of doing the pruning and all I had to do was rake up the scraps. As I was raking I noticed this little guy hiding out. Can you spot him?

He's right there! OK, I can't blame you for not being able to see him without being zoomed in. He was so well camouflaged that it took me several minutes to find him again after I came back with my camera.

I love finding critters like him while we're working in the yard. Snakes and ticks? Not so much.

Nursery Fan

Over the weekend we completed the last of the major nursery projects - we replaced the ceiling fan.

There was nothing "wrong" with the existing fan, but with its 52" span and wood tones I thought it was too large and dark for our bright little nursery.

Apparently, the previous owners of our house used the nursery as a man cave - complete with surround sound - and I'm sure in that situation, this fan fit the bill. But it's all wrong for a baby's room so it had to go. One feature we kept was the wall mounted double dimmer switch. Since we used the existing wiring we are still able to adjust the light and fan levels, perfect for late night diaper changes.

Now in its place is a bright and crisp 42" model, much more appropriate for the size of the room. See how the white on white layering helps it to recede into the ceiling? Much better, if you ask me.

I am also loving the crisp lines and simple details - much more my style.

The icing on the cake is that we were able to sell the old fan on Craigslist so the new fan project wasn't expensive at all!

Nursery Art: Part 3

After all my rambling about mobiles and embroidery hoops you'll probably appreciate this post because it's short and sweet!

My friend and co-worker Cydney made this adorable bunting for Peanut. Doesn't it look cute above the door?

I can't resist a detail shot...

I just love having handmade gifts! Every time I look around the nursery I can see how much love our friends and family already have for the Peanut.

Nursery Bedding

The crib skirt is finally finished! I say finally because I have had the fabric since early March and the crib skirt just made its way onto the crib. Now don't go thinking that I have some crazy, complicated crib skirt that took 3 months to construct. Nope, I'm just terrible at sewing and had to wait until my back-up (aka Brettany) could come help me. She did all the hard work - I just did the SUPER important things like measuring and ironing. Seriously, I can't even be trusted to pin a hem.

But enough about how lame I am. Let's marvel over my crib skirt!

Yum. It's crisp and clean. The fabric is fun and kid-friendly without being tacky or overdone. Let's marvel at the close-up:

That, my friends, is a pattern from Amy Butler's spring collection. What nursery doesn't need a little Amy Butler?

But wait, there's more! This simple crib skirt has some tricks up its sleeves. Bedding can have sleeves, right? Because my crib is adjustable, the crib skirt has to be adjustable too. As baby gets taller the mattress platform can be lowered to offer more containment protection, which means the crib skirt has to get shorter. Yes, I could re-hem it each time, but then I can't re-use it for baby #2 further down the road.

Enter my dear friend velcro. Instead of making a traditional crib skirt that is built like a dust ruffle, we made 3 flat fabric panels - left, right and front - that are attached to the mattress platform with velcro squares. Then we added additional "receiving" velcro on the platform so I can move the panel inward, effectively shortening it without having to cut it when it's time to adjust the mattress height. So simple.

I should probably point out that I could have done this project, on my own, without a sewing machine if I used iron on hemming tape, but that isn't as durable after multiple washings. Since it's always a safe bet that anything in a nursery will need to be washed at some point, I took Brettany's advice and had her sew it for me.

Brettany, being the wonderful friend that she is, had set aside a whole day to help me sew and after the crib skirt was complete we still had plenty of time and fabric to use. The original plan was to make a crib bumper, but we realized those take a lot of work. And they might not even be necessary.* It just seemed like too much trouble for something that may or may not be purely aesthetic, so we scrapped that idea.

Not wanting my fabulous and expensive fabric go to waste, I had the idea of buying a wicker basket and creating a simple liner to turn it into a laundry hamper. So that's what we did. We picked up a Smith & Hawken basket (on sale!) from Target on our lunch/errands break and, with less than 2 hours of sewing, we had a laundry hamper in no time!

As you can see, it's nice and roomy but it's not too big for a baby-sized laundry pile. The liner bag is a 5-sided cube with just enough wiggle room to fold the top over for a nice finished edge. Plus, the liner is removable - and washable - in case we get some seriously dirty laundry going on.

And how cute is the "laundry" tag? The little placard came attached to the basket and, with no more than some acrylic paint and a tiny brush, Brettany had this labeled in only a few minutes! No, I'm not completely helpless, but her handwriting is much nicer than mine.

Here you can see my adorable hamper in its new home next to the changing table.

So there you have it. My DIY crib skirt and laundry hamper that only took an afternoon of sewing!

*I've read lots of (potentially fear mongering) articles about how crib bumpers are just evil things waiting to strangle or suffocate your helpless baby. Yes, they help prevent baby from bumping his head on the crib rails, but once baby is mobile enough to be head-bumping he is also mobile enough to detach the bumper and fall prey to its evil powers. I don't really know how I feel about all that, but I wasn't so attached to the idea of a bumper that it seemed worth it to me. If it's really a problem, I'll buy one in the future.

Nursery Art: Part 2

Remember when I told you that the bunting for my shower was made from scraps from another project? Well, the time has come to reveal why I bought all that fabric in the first place...

I made an embroidery hoop display to hang over the changing table! Much like the tea towel calendar, I wanted something soft and lightweight on the wall in case some super squirming causes things to fall down.

First I hit up the fabric store searching for fat quarters and boy was I picky! The fabrics had to be gender neutral, have coordinating color palettes, have a consistent level of "busy-ness" and all live up to my insanely high standards. In the end I found a beautiful collection of fabrics - I am loving all the ways I have managed to use pattern mixing in the nursery.

Creating this project could not have been easier. I bought 7 inexpensive wood embroidery hoops from a craft store, stretched the fabric in the hoops then trimmed and glued the fabric on the back to give it some long-term holding power. But since I can never leave an easy project alone, I upped the ante on a few of the hoops and embroidered a little something fun (more on that in a minute).

In order to figure out the spacing I moved the hoops around on top of the changing table - this was perfect because I wanted to center my composition in that horizontal space and it gave me a good reference for the vertical spacing as well.

After I was satisfied with my arrangement I stretched a level line using thread and 2 thumbtacks. I marked 2 points on the thread, one directly above each edge of the dresser, to represent the bottom corners of the dresser. This made placing my nails super easy. I measured the vertical and horizontal distances from the dresser corners then I could duplicate that spacing by measuring from my reference "corners" on the thread.

That little technique made hanging these a snap! Also, the placement wasn't an exact science so it didn't matter if I was off by a little bit. In the end it only took me about 15 painless minutes to hang all 7 hoops.

Now for the extra embroidery part of the project. To tie in some of the navy accents in the room, I bought solid navy fabric for one of the hoops knowing I would use some fun details to jazz it up. I used little scraps from the other hoops and scraps from the bunting to make this sweet little birds on a wire scene.

Again, this wasn't an exact science. I drew out my bird shapes on paper, cut them out and played with the arrangement before I committed anything to fabric. Then I just traced the outlines onto the fabric, cut them out and tacked them down with a simple whip stitch.

Voila! More custom art for very little money! Stay tuned for more nursery decor on the cheap!

So Now I Need A Watch

Yesterday I wrote a post about yellow watches, and it was supposed to be just for fun. But then I remembered I had lost my practical, everyday watch and needed a new one.

After some thought my initial idea was that I wanted a simple, all-black watch. Nothing too flashy or attention grabbing. These two fit the bill, and at just under $100 each the price seemed reasonable.

While I was browsing The O, I found this red and tan watch that was nothing like I was looking for, but fun none the less.

Still, the red and tan didn't seem very practical for daily wear. I popped over to Fossil and found this S+ARCK collection which was to die for. Sleek, modern, architecty (it's a word) - what more could a girl want? Oh yeah, a smaller price tag. Admittedly $150 is not an outrageous amount of money to spend on a watch, but it's more than I have at the moment.
Realizing I needed to reign it in a bit, I decided to check Amazon to see if they had anything interesting. While not the most original watch in the world, I couldn't help but be charmed by the simple form (and $10 price tag) of this utilitarian Casio.
So readers, what would you choose? Simple black, fun red or high design? Or would you just get the Casio and save your money for a splurge down the road? Let me know!

Coveting: Yellow Watches

A yellow watch is the perfect pop of color for summer, don't you think?
Clockwise, from bottom left:

Nursery Lamp

I love, love, love this lamp. It used to live in our bedroom but it's so much more appropriate for a nursery, don't you think?

This little darling came from Urban Outfitters several years ago and I'm so glad I snagged it when I did. I didn't have a use for it at the time, but it's so perfect now I can't imagine not having it!

Nursery Art: Part 1

After hanging the mobile I knew I wanted some soft art to hang over the crib - nothing heavy that could fall on the baby! - and that same day I read a blog post about how tea towel calendars are making a resurgence. I just love when my brain dovetails so well with the inernet!

I decided a tea towel calendar was just what I needed - they are lightweight, soft and I could mark the baby's birth date and keep it as a memento of the big day.

After some digging I found a blank calendar on Etsy. The seller provided me with a linen tea towel with a screen-printed 2010 calendar and an empty box at the top for personalization.

Being the crafty gal that I am, I whipped out my embroidery hoop and stitched this elephant family - complete with a trumpeting Dad!

Once the baby is born I will go back and stitch something around his or her birthday to further personalize this sweetie of a calendar.

Summer Braid

I thought I would give you a break from all the nursery posts to show you my 'do today.

It's nothing fancy, just a simple french braid along my hairline. Every so often I sport this look to keep my hair off my face. I am growing out my bangs* and they are almost long enough to tuck behind my ears, but not quite. So they flop in my face all. day. long. You might also notice my lovely bedhead look. You see, when it's as humid as it is today there is no point in straightening my hair because it does whatever it wants as soon as I step outside. So I just run with it and do the scrunched, disheveled look.

*Do any of you actually wear bangs for long periods of time? Every time I get them I immediately hate them and start growing them back out.

On a side note, I just wanted to say I adore the shirt I'm wearing today. It's made of incredibly soft jersey and the color is quite flattering, if I'm allowed to say so. When I bought it, it was a very clingy, but very on-sale knee length maternity dress. A few scissor snips later and it's a less clingy, very cute maternity top. Bonus: jersey doesn't fray so it was a no-sew makeover!

Nursery Mobile

What is that light and airy thing hanging over the crib? It's a mobile! And not just any mobile, a mobile made by yours truly.

The budget for our nursery project was tiny, so I knew if I wanted a mobile I would have to make one myself. After doing some browsing I fell in love with the pinwheel mobile by Dosta Beba. Gorgeous, yes, but there was no way I was going to pay $70 for a mobile that I could make with my own two hands.
In fact, this project is simple enough that I am writing this post as a (kind of) how-to. You can follow along with my pictures, but there are so many ways to vary the process and make your mobile your own!
With a healthy dose of inspiration, I set about designing my pinwheels. My first decision was what to use for the pattern - scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, starched fabric? After much deliberation I decided to go with something more personal. I chose to draw my own patterns rather than use something store bought. Then, instead of paper or card stock I chose vellum for the pinwheels to add to the light, ethereal feeling.

First I picked 4" for my pinwheel size and cut out 7 squares of graph paper, each 4" x 4". Then I drafted each of my patterns onto the graph paper. Some just came to me, some required some tweaking. I definitely made some mistakes, so I would advise working first in pencil or cutting some back-up squares. Once my designs were final I went over them with pen to make them more visible.

Next I broke out my Prismacolor markers, left over from my design school days, to trace the patterns on the vellum. If you don't have any of these (pricey) markers, there's no need to rush out and buy some. You can use anything you want to make your patterns - paint, colored pencils, colorful masking tape. Heck, you could even skip the hand-drawing and print a design with your printer!

I decided on these shades of blue and green to compliment the wall color, but not match it exactly (much like the wallpaper on the dresser).

Here you can see some completed patterns, which are just traced copies of my pen-on-graph paper originals. I found it easiest to draw the pattern on the paper, then cut the perimeter and corner-to-corner lines. If you aren't sure where to make your cuts, a simple spin around Google should clear things up.

The next task was to turn my squares into pinwheels. I used 2 different glues to make these, rubber cement and tacky glue, both of which are available at most craft stores.
I applied a thin layer of rubber cement to the end of every other point (the part that gets glued down) and to the center of the square (where the points are placed). Rubber cement works best if you let all the glue dry for about 30 seconds, or to the point where it feels sticky and no longer looks shiny. Then I folded the glued points onto the center and pressed to bond the glue.

The second step secured the bond and gave the pinwheel a more finished look. I applied a small dab of tacky glue to the back of a button and pressed it onto the center of the pinwheel. I had to hold it for a bit to let it set, but tacky glue dries quickly so that didn't take long. Both rubber cement and tacky glue dry clear so I didn't worry if I got some excess around the middle.

Now that the pinwheels were complete it was time to construct the mobile. I cut a 1/4" round dowel into 3 pieces, each 12" long. Next I drilled a small hole in the center of each dowel and 1/4" in from each end.

Now I needed to decide how low I wanted my pinwheels to hang from the supports - I decided on 6" for the center pinwheel and 4", 6" and 8" (2 each) for the outer pinwheels - and cut my thread accordingly. I doubled the length (you'll see why in a minute) then added about 8 extra inches to give myself some wiggle room. I used white sewing thread because I wanted it to recede visually, but you can mix it up with some colored string or even use clear fishing line.

Using a thumb tack, I poked a hole through each of the 4 button holes, making sure to pierce through all layers of glue and paper. I used a needle to "sew" the criss-cross through the button, with two even lengths of thread hanging out the back of the pinwheel. I tied the two pieces of thread in a knot at the base to create a double strand.

Next I attached the pinwheels to the dowels. I used a needle to pull the thread through the drilled holes, wrapped the thread around the dowel a few times and tied it off. I chose to use a bit of glue to attach the loose ends to the dowel, giving the thread a stronger hold and a more polished look.
After all the pinwheels were tied onto the dowels it was time to glue the 3 dowels together. After much trial and error, I found the easiest way to do this was to make friends with gravity. I cut a 10' long piece of thread, folded it in half and used my needle to run it through the first 2 dowels - the one with the 3 pinwheels must go on the bottom - then tied the whole thing to my ceiling fan to give me some hands-free support. I eyeballed a 60 degree angle between the 2 dowels and glued them in place. After that dried, I added the third dowel and glued it in place using the same method.

After letting the whole thing dry overnight I installed a small hook in the ceiling and hung the bad boy up!

Here's a Peanut's-eye-view:

So what do you think? Can you see yourself making a mobile for a wee one in your life?

So, I've Been Wondering...

Do you organize your blog reader? If so, how?

I read blogs. Lots of blogs. I have - no joke - almost 100 blogs on my reader. Normally, when I accumulate more than 10 of anything I feel compelled it organize them.* But the question is how?
*Seriously, even my shoes are overly organized. Frequently worn shoes are on open shelves. Less worn shoes are stacked - still in boxes - according to height from flats up to 3" heels. Each heel height is sub-divided into closed toe and open toe.

My first thought was by topic, which seems like an obvious choice. I'd have the basics: home decor, fashion, crafts, humor, babies, etc. But what about blogs that cover more than one topic? Even my own blog - which is on my reader so I can keep up with which posts have been published - doesn't neatly fit into one category.

Then I thought to sort them by priority. You know, some blogs you read before all the others because, for whatever reason, they connect with you on a stronger level. I tried to do this, but my priorities change based on my mood so that ended up being more confusing than helpful.

In the end I stuck with alphabetical by title.

So what about you? Do you organize your blogs? Do you even bother?
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