Hearts to Newtown

December 17, 2012

Friends, I'm just popping in for a minute today.  I have a few sewing and cooking projects I've been meaning to post about, but this is more important.  Like most of you, my heart has been breaking for the families in Newtown.  Hopefully unlike most of you, I have family in Newtown.  Mr. Carlee's oldest sister lives there with her husband and 5 kids.  Thankfully their three elementary aged children attend the other school, but several of their friends lost children on Friday.  I'm not eloquent enough to express how I feel about this terrible tragedy, but I wanted to share one small way that you can send a little bit of your love to this small New England town.  My sister-in-law's friend is working on a project for her town called Hearts to Newtown.
The idea is simple: spreading love, goodwill and cheer through the heart of a child. We are calling for elementary-aged children's art on paper hearts of all sizes, to be plastered all over Newtown, CT. Include child's first name, age and state. With these hearts, we hope to spread a tangible expression of the love felt by so many people, all sharing in grief for those suffering. Send your paper hearts to:

P.O. Box 754
Bethel, CT

My boys and I will be sending our hearts to Newtown along with our thoughts and prayers.  

Making Christmas Presents

December 8, 2012

This year, mostly in an attempt to save money, but also in an effort to limit commercialism, I decided that the gifts I gave my kids would be homemade.  I also limited myself to only using the supplies I had on hand.  No buying expensive fabric! 

Luckily, my kids are only 2 and 5, so their expectations for Christmas gifts are pretty low.  Santa will still be bringing non-homemade presents, or at least the kind he makes in his workshop (ahem Amazon.com).  I just finished the presents today, and thought that I'd share.

For my two year old, I made little placemats for the play kitchen.  She is always getting my fabric napkins, laying them out, and setting out an elaborate meal, so I thought that her own set of placemats were in order.


I cut up an existing piece of pre-quilted fabric intended to be bound into a baby quilt.  It had sweet little "blocks" just the right size for mini-placemats.  The fabric is a stiff polyester, I think salvaged from my mother-in-law's stash.  It was too stiff and scratchy to be used for wrapping a baby in, but perfect for making little placemats.  After cutting rectangles, I bound the edges in bias tape (my first attempt at machine sewn binding), and called it good.  I think my daughter is going to love these.
For my five year old, I made an apron.  I had made her one when she was two using this awesome pattern, but it is a bit small for her.  Besides, the little sister needs to wear an apron too.  Since I last made the apron, the pattern has been updated to give a size for 5 - 8 year olds.  Perfect!  I used pink fabric from my eternal source (see here and here), and embellished with some retro Strawberry Shortcake pieces.  I think this fabric originally came from our Grandmother, Mary Frances, but it came to me via Carlee.  I am also sure that the new apron will be well-loved too.
What about you?  Are you making anything for Christmas?  What will it be?  Do share!  I am thinking of making one more small thing for each, but haven't decided what yet.  Any suggestions?



Pumpkin Costume

November 20, 2012

I know Halloween has been over for weeks now, but I wanted to show you what I made for the Baby Girl this year (pumpkins are still seasonal, right?).  The boys went as Spiderman and Batman this year.  I made a few cool leather masks for them to wear (based on these here, but with leather of course), sewed a quick cape, and called it a day.  Batman already had a shirt and wore some black pjs for the rest of his costume.  Easy.  Spiderman wore a crazy-tight (one size too small) store-bought polyester suit a friend lent us.  Of course he loves it and wears it everyday.  I'm over it now, but it took me a bit to embrace the tackiness that is still somehow very adorable on a cute three year old boy.

Anyways, back to the baby.  I had an idea for a rainbow (which is funny because I've seen a few pop up online after I started thinking about it), but I didn't have everything I needed at home the night I came up with the idea and wanted to start work on it.  While digging through my fabric, I found the softest orange cashmere turtleneck that politely asked me to be made into a sweet little pumpkin costume for the Baby Girl.  Of course I said yes! 

I decided to go with a pretty straight forward pumpkin hat.  I used the turtleneck portion of the sweater to make the hat.  The stem is a green felted sweater rolled up and sewn into the top.  I made the leaves by sewing two layers of the same green sweater together, stitching it to look like the veins in the leaf.  I kind of love how the leaves turned out.
 After I finished adding everything to the top, and sewing a little strap to the bottom edge to keep it from falling off, I wasn't completely happy with the overall shape of the hat.  I decided to sew some elastic thread into the back edge to tighten things up a bit.  To give the front some shape, I folded the bottom edge under until it formed a sort of soft brim and hand stitched it into place.  I like it at first, but I really loved it after I made these two little changes.

Instead of making a puffy pumpkin body, I decided to just sew a simple sweater dress hoping that she will get a bit more use out if it this winter.  It is cashmere after all, so it is warm and cuddly.


This sweater wasn't felted and I was really worried that it would stretch a ton as I worked with it.  To combat this I sewed pretty much all the seams with a piece of scrap copy paper underneath to make sure my feed dogs fed it through properly.  It worked like a charm!

The dress came out exactly as I imagined it.


My favourite little detail is the sweet little vintage orange button.  I was too scared to try and make a button hole, so I sewed the button to the top and added a slide closure to the inside.  

Brown Top for KCWC

November 17, 2012

I realize this is at least two months late, but I really did a tiny bit of sewing for KCWC this fall.  The day before we arranged to do our annual cheapskate family photos, I decided to whip something up for Baby Girl.  A few weeks earlier I hemmed a dress for a short friend, and kept the scraps from the brown gored skirt.  The fabric was nice and I thought it would be perfect for a quick skirt or top for the little one since the bottom edge was already hemmed. 

I ended up making a little swing top (could be a short dress with some bloomers for the summer).  It was not quick, mind you, but you know how these things go.  I always wildly underestimate the amount of time it will take me to sew anything.   

I made the pattern by tracing a jumper in her size, and drafting the puffed sleeves based on the arm cycle and guessed at how puffy I wanted them to be.  My first round with the sleeves wasn't puffy enough so I added another piece under the arms.  As usual, I started this at night after all the kids were asleep.  This has many advantages, but this time I was sad I couldn't try in on her earlier on.  Somehow it came out a little too tight across the chest.  I had to do some tricky maneuvering with the back, but eventually I got it to fit sometime the next morning (not too long before we left to take pictures). 


So yeah, not quick.  But cute, right?  I really love the vintage cream button in the back, and the crochet lace trim (also vintage) on the front. 


I really love this lace.  I think it's so sweet.  In addition, I inherited it from my grandmother (Mary Frances of course) when she passed away, and that makes me love using it even more.  It's such a good feeling using bits of trim or fabric that she collected and saved over the years.  I wonder what she had in mind when she bought this particular lace?  I think she would be please to see it on her great granddaughter.      

Rag Rug, or It's Okay to Give Up

November 8, 2012

I started working on this rag rug back at the beginning of September.  I had a lot of pink fabric, and thought that a cute little rag rug would be the perfect thing for my girls' room. 

It started out as an easy project.  I cut three, three inch strips - I think I had nine feet of fabric.  I did that again, sewed the two strips together, and had three really long fabric strips.  These I braided together; it was pretty easy up until this point.  From here, I was supposed to hand stitch the rug together.  It turned out to be trickier than I imagined.  The fabric was too thick!  I was breaking thread, bending the needle, breaking the needle, and really hurting my fingers.  Eventually, I gave up and put the project away.  A few days later, I had a revelation:  I could hot glue the rest of the rug together!  When faced with the idea of never finishing the project, or just doing a half-job, I thought that I should at least finish it!

Okay, if you look really close, you can see a bit of hot glue bursting out.

And here we are!  A hot glued rag rug.  At least it is finished.  It looks cute, and it is a fun place for my girls to sit in their bedroom.  Will it hold up?  Who knows?  But at least it isn't sitting in the corner of my sewing room, barely completed, and never to be looked at again.  I gave up, and it's okay.

Little Ghost Trick-or-Treat Bag

October 27, 2012

Last year I sewed up this simple trick-or-treat bag for Halloween.  Mr. Carlee and I sketched the ghost together.  Since it was such an easy and cute project, I want to share the pattern.  I intended to post it at the beginning of October, but somehow October has gotten away from me.  Did that happen to you too? 

In any case, I have the pattern all digitized for you now.   I don't have a full picture tutorial, but I promise it's so easy to put together.

You Will Need:
  • Little Ghost Trick-or-Treat Bag Pattern
  • 1/4 yard white fleece or felt
  • scraps of black fleece or felt
  • 14 inches of one inch wide grosgrain ribbon (I doubled up on my ribbon to make it a little stronger, so if you decided to do this, you will need 28 inches of ribbon)
  • thread, scissors and sewing machine.

Step 1: Cut out pattern and tape together on the dotted line.

Step 2: Cut out 4 main body piece from white fleece or felt, two for the front, and two for the back.

Step 3: Cut out the eyes and mouth from black fleece or felt.

Step 4: Sew eyes and face to one of the ghost pieces.

Step 5: Pin the two front pieces together and the two back pieces together.  Edge stitch around each (you will end up with one front piece and one back piece that is two layers thick).

Step 6: Making sure to leave a large opening on the top of the ghost's head, edge stitch around the sides, arms, and bottom of the body.

Step 7: Fold your ribbon in half lenghwise (if you are doubling up on your ribbon) and sew along the edges.  Sew the ribbon on each side of the opening.

Step 8: Take Trick-or-Treating and fill with candy!

The finished bag will be 10.5 inches tall, and 7 inches wide.  Obviously this is a pretty small Trick-or-Treating bag, but I think it's perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, or even for my Kindergartener.  My philosophy is that a smaller bag means that you fill it faster and then you don't have tons of candy to worry about later. 

I actually have a few more Halloween posts that I am trying to put together, so you may hear more from me over the next few days.  But maybe not too, since the weather man is telling me that we are having another crazy pre-Halloween storm this year.

P.S. Do you like our Jack-o-Lanterns this year?  The boys wanted scary ones.  The small pumpkin that is being eaten by the bigger one actually had a face carved too, but I came outside yesterday to find a squirrel had just eaten it's face off.  All those pumpkin shreds on the ground are bits of his face.  Creepy!  Kid 2 was so scared by this that we turned the pumpkin around so he didn't have to see the missing face. 

Mass Production Feels Good

October 15, 2012

Over the last few weeks I've been really cutting into my leather stash.  Since I made my first pair of baby shoes five years ago, I've collected a sizable leather collection.  Most of it has come from thrifted coats, skirts, pants, etc, but I've also bought scraps and even a whole piece from a tannery in Salt Lake when we used to live there.

After making all those leather masks last month, I thought I would just keep going with the mass production of leather items.  I have made a few pairs of these little leather moccasins for gifts and for my own baby girl, but each time I've had to make some adjustments to my pattern.  I decided to just make a few more pairs to work out the kinks.  And then once my pattern went together properly, I just decided to stockpile a few pairs while I was at it.

The result was 9 pairs of shoes in a week.  Now I just need to get a few of those wrapped up and mailed off to some babies!  Oh, and clean out my sewing machine.  Sewing with leather, and suede in particular, is very dirty.   

Even though it can be a little bit tedious to make the same thing over and over, there is something very satisfying about making a pile of shoes.  And making a few pairs at a time make the whole process much faster.  It's also a bit of a relief to have a few baby gifts ready to go in case I don't have time to make or find something for a baby shower.  I seem to go to a lot of baby showers these days, so I don't think my little pile of shoes will last long at all.

Oh, and in case you are wondering if I'm ever going to make or show you anything other than leather masks or baby shoes ever again, I actually made a little top for Baby Girl that I just need to take a picture of.  I love how it came out and I'm excited to show it off.

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

October 8, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving friends!  In the 11 years since I've lived away from Canada, I've always hosted or organized some sort of Thanksgiving celebration.  Typically, I would host a dinner and invite other Canadians to share it with me.  This year Thanksgiving crept up and surprised me.  I didn't realize it was Thanksgiving weekend until yesterday.  I didn't have enough time to round up any fellow Canadians, and I don't eat meat, but I tried anyways to cook something appropriately themed.

Today's Menu:
roasted sweet potatoes with fresh rosemary and kosher salt
mashed baby red and yukon gold potatoes with roasted garlic
spinach and butter lettuce salad with roasted beets and toasted pecans
oven poached salmon with fresh ground pepper and lemon
sage and cranberry crusty bread

The bread was the show stopper, although the potatoes with roasted garlic were also amazing.  My friend Lynnette taught me how to make this bread last week, and I've already made three loaves.

I have never made bread this beautiful before, and I bake bread often.  It's a no-knead bread similar to the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, or Jim Lahey's of Sullivan Street Bakery, but I prefer it to both.  Pretty, right?

Dessert was noticeably absent from my menu since I'm taking inspiration from Emily and limiting my sugar to just one day a week (Sunday).  With all the other yummy food I made, and the bread in particular, I didn't even miss the sweets.    

What was on your table this Thanksgiving?  And more importantly, what are you most thankful for?  My family, my religion, and my friends top my very long list.  And by the way, thanks for reading!  Emily and I are having a nice time blogging here, and we love that you share this space with us.      

Healthy Raspberry Peach Crumble

October 2, 2012

For the month of September, I attempted a refined sugar free diet.  I say attempted because I wasn't vigilant with every food, and mainly tried to avoid sweet treats with loads of sugar in them.  I also let my hair down a few times and enjoyed treats on three specific occasions over the month.  I liked this way of living and think I will continue.  My theory is that sugar is not evil, it should just be limited and reserved for special occasions.

I have a major sweet tooth, so I had to work a bit harder to get my sugar fix this past month.  I ate a lot of fruit, but had a few other baked staples that I will continue to make.  This Oatmeal-Raisin Breakfast Cookie recipe is awesome, and this Simple Gourmet Granola is a staple at my house. 

Since October 1st was the first time I was allowed a sugary treat, I indulged and made dessert.  I made a Raspberry Peach Crumble, something that is still healthy enough, I ate the leftovers for breakfast.  I could have made it last month had I substituted the sugar in the topping for maple syrup.  I served it with ice cream, but I think it would taste awesome with a creamy thick yogurt.

Raspberry Peach Crumble
(from the Usborne Healthy Cookbook)
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 T butter
1/2 c. ground almonds
1/4 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. oats
14 oz. canned peaches with 4 T of juice reserved
2 c. raspberries
1. Mix the topping together.
2. Mix the fruit in a 9x9 pan.  Pour 4 T of peach juice over the fruit.
3. Spread the crumble over the fruit.
4. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes.

September Thrift Store Finds

October 1, 2012

Happy October everyone!  Now that I have one child gone all day at school, I'm back to my regular thrift store route.  I went a little over the summer, but taking three kids to a thrift store is not my idea of fun.  Two seems much easier somehow.

I had some sucess finding some new shirts and pants for me, but my best finds were for my kids (of course).

A few years ago I saw a Stokke Tripp Trapp chair at the Saver's, but I decided not to buy it.  I've had a little bit of thrifter's remorse ever since then.  Especially since Kid 2 refuses to sit on a booster seat at the table, and he could use the extra height to reach his food.  Lucky for me I found another one last week for only $5.  Yippee!  Kid 2 loves his new chair, and thinks it's so cool that it is shaped like an upside down '7'.

Can you see my sewing table at the back of my dining room.  I love the new arrangement.
I also picked up this pretty Vera scarf from the Salvation Army.  I love that place so much.  I paid $1, and it's so pretty.  I'm slowly building a nice little Vera collection of scarfs, hankerchiefs, and napkins.


This last find was actually something I bought years ago at a DI when we lived in Utah.  It was one of those baby girl things that I had to buy even though I had no idea if I'd ever have a little girl to wear it.


I love the new tags.  It's funny how some things like food were much cheaper years ago, but prices for clothes haven't changed as much as you would think.  Years ago it was much more expensive to make clothing, and much of it was made in North America.

Have you found anything good lately at your favourite thrift stores?

Outdoor Fairy Party

September 29, 2012

It has been an unintentional birthday party month over here at The Mary Frances Project.  Don't you love the masks that Carlee made?  If only I could convince my daughter to have a super hero party....

We celebrated my daughter's 5th birthday last weekend with an outdoor fairy tea party.  It was a beautiful day (especially for September!), and we had so much fun. 

I loved all of the birthday party tips that Carlee gave, and I want to share a few more highlights and tips from our recent birthday party experience.

Ask for help.  I was lucky to have a few of the other parents offer to stay and help with the party.  It was great to have some extra adults around.  When one of my friends arrived, she said "Hand me your camera.  I'll take the pictures."  I loved having a "photographer" to document the party, and take pictures of all of the little details (like our wooden fairy path below).

Play games.  I think the classic kids party games are pretty fun.  We played pass the parcel (the gift inside was a teeny chocolate), and bean bag toss.

Keep the food simple.  We served a fruit tray, a veggie tray and honey sandwiches.  Everyone could find something that they liked, and it wasn't too difficult to prepare or messy to clean-up.
Serve mini-cupcakes.  I have a set of mini silicone cupcake liners and I love them.  Most adults only want a taste of cake, and most kids don't finish a whole cupcake anyway, so I think that mini-cupcakes are the way to go for little kids parties.

Give a gift suggestion.  Many people will bring a gift to birthday parties, even if they told that they don't have to.  This year, I included a note that said, "Please don't feel obligated to bring a gift, but if you would like to bring one, I know that my child would love _____."  I think that most people want to give a gift, and want to bring something that they know will be liked.  I gave the suggestion of art supplies, and my daughter ended up with some great art supplies, books, and a few other really lovely things.

Our fairy party was a great way to celebrate my daughter, and have fun with friends.  She is my oldest, so maybe in a few years, I will see birthday parties a bit differently.  Over all though, I think that we hit on the essential elements for a successful party: friends, fun, and food.

Birthday Thank You Packages

September 26, 2012

I mentioned this earlier, but this year instead of handing out goody bags at the party, I decided to include a small gift with the thank you card.  I am no shining example of this, but I'm trying to teach my kids to write a thank you note when they receive a gift.  Emily is great at sending cards, and I think it's such a gracious habit. 

Since the party was superhero themed, I made little masks.  I know there are tons of tutorials/free patterns for masks, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here (although I can put up my pattern is anyone is interested).  Masks are pretty straight forward, which is nice when you are mass producing them.


I used leather for the front.  There are a few reasons for this.   First, I have lots of it on hand.  Second, I think it makes for a longer lasting and higher quality mask.  Or, in other words, leather seems fancier.

My one suggestion for making masks, or other small things with a front and back, is to cut out the front of the mask but not the back.  Sew the front mask shape to an uncut piece (for the back) and then cut it out after you sew.  This makes it easier to line everything up and is way easier to sew.

I gave my son free creative control with the thank you cards, and he decided to draw a picture of himself on the front, and on the back a little symbol.  I love the symbol.  I think it adds a nice touch.

He's still learning to write, so I wrote down the thank you message for him to copy.  I'm always looking for ways to encourage writing, and making cards is a great way to practice.


I also listed all the names of the children attending the party and he crossed off each name as he finished their card.

The party was a month ago, and he just finished making his cards today.  It was slow going, but I think it is such a nice gesture.

We hope our friends enjoy their masks as much as we enjoyed having them at our party!

Super Hero Party

This year, my five year old was wise to the the birthday party scene.  In the past we've been able to get away with a casual party for both the boys where we invite whole families.  Not this year.  Kid 1 really wanted to have a super hero party.  At this stage, he doesn't really know that much about actual superheros, we we were able to get away with a loose theme.

We invited a ton of friends and held the party at the park around the corner on a Saturday morning.  It ended up being a really fun party.  I am not one of those ladies that has an adorable spread of matching water bottles.  I like to keep things simple.  Even though it was low key, we got a ton of compliments on how fun the party was.  I'm certainly not experienced at throwing parties, but here are a few things that worked really well for us.  

I think the key to having a fun kid party (in the summer) is to have it outside where they can play.  If you have a good backyard, great, use it.  If you are like me and don't, choose a local park or beach.  I love having our parties in a public place so I don't have to worry about cleaning before, during, and after the party.  I don't know what I'll do when Baby Girl is old enough to have a party since her birthday is in the winter.  Outside parties are the best.

Keep it short and simple.  This is especially true for parties for young kids.  Don't plan too many activities.  We had a craft for the kids to work on while everyone was arriving.  This was pretty fun for most of the kids.  I cut out pieces of coloured poster board to make into superhero cuffs.  The kids decorated these with glitter glue, letter and star stickers, and crayons.  When they were finished, we stapled them onto their arms and called it good.  Kid crafts with staples are my favourite.


We also organized a few relay type games for the kids.  This ended up being a little crazy since there were about 20 kids there, but in a cute and adorable kind of way. 

Little kids love to dress up.  The parties that have been the very most fun for us have involved costumes (true for adults as well as kids).  I won some respect from our friends and my kids by showing up in super hero attire.  Sorry no picture!  I'm not quite ready to post a picture of myself in tights, and gold accessories.

Make a good cake (I made my new favourite Wacky Cake Recipe with chocolate frosting from the Cook's Illustrated book).

I always do a nice 2 layer round cake, and then make a batch of cupcakes to make sure I have enough sweet stuff.  The boys like to help, but aren't quite old enough to work on the big cake, so I put them in charge of decorating the cupcakes.  I don't worry about how they look, and this keeps the boys busy while I finish up any last minute preparations.


Bring wipes. Don't forget this, the wipes are very important!  They were indispensable for cleaning glitter glue and chocolate cake off of hands and faces.

If you do a goody bag, keep it simple and practical (I like that article that Emily linked to as well).  We've been to a few parties recently where the goody bags had very fun, and very inexpensive toys that broke within the hour.  This seems like such a waste to me.  This year instead of sending home goody bags we are sending out thank you cards (made by Kid 1) and leather super hero masks (made by me and more on that later).


 Looks like a fun party, eh?  It really was.    

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...