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Can it be December first already?  I’ve been purposefully avoiding this space, as it eats up time I do not have! Since I don’t want you to think I dropped off the face of the earth, however, here are some highlights from the past couple months:

In September, we ended the camping year with our annual trip to Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire. We always enjoy seeing the animals, the tractors, and various events.  It was fun, but hot and tiring!  I was ready to get home and take a shower when it was all over.

Among the fall fun, you have the obligatory Jumping in the Big Pile of Leaves.  Usually I set it all up and make the kids wait to jump in till I have my camera ready, but this time they dove right in.  Last year we got our hands on an old fruit press that belonged to Phil’s grandfather… or great-grandfather… I can’t remember.  We made one small batch of cider, but were determined to try it again this year.  Phil called around to some of the local orchards, and we ended up getting a good deal on cider apples at Knight Farm.  We got six bushels of apples, and kept looking at each like, are we crazy?  We needed to use them up before they went bad – especially since a number of the drops already had bruises and soft spots – so I spent most of my time in the kitchen making and canning crock pot apple butter and applesauce, apple slices, and apple pie apples.  Oh, and of course the apple cider.  It was worth it!

When I was growing up, we had a tradition of going to the same restaurant for my birthday. We didn’t make it every year, since it’s a bit of a drive to get there, but we’ve had many happy visits to The Old Mill. It became a tradition because, the day before my twin brother and I were born, my parents took a scenic drive and ended up stopping at this restaurant for lunch.  The rest is history!  On the way, we stop at Brown & Hopkins Country Store for a gander around the shop and a bag of penny candy.  We hadn’t been since I was pregnant with Gwen, and that was seven years ago!

We’re not big celebrators of Halloween, but we still like to have fun! Every year I hem and haw over spending money on costumes, and this year I decided up on some [relatively] simple DIY-ers.  I already had Addy’s angel wings and halo that I used for some first birthday snapshots.  The last time we watched “The Incredibles” Josiah kept pretending to be Dash, so I put together a Dash-inspired costume consisting of some black pants, long-sleeve black shirt underneath a red t-shirt, on which I had sewn a felt logo. A black mask finished off the look.  Gwen’s outfit was… a bit more complicated.  She’s positively enthralled with Elsa from “Frozen” – what little girl isn’t? – but I didn’t want to pick the fad character. Another favorite princess of hers, one that she’s been mistaken for in the past, is Merida from the movie “Brave.”  I found a green velveteen dress and a cream-colored nightgown at a consignment store and put them together with some other materials to create a dress for her.  Since we don’t get any trick-or-treaters for Halloween and I don’t want to buy candy only to have to eat it all myself, we do our own thing – driving around to some homes of friends and family and going out to eat.

The kiddos’ birthdays – both in November, two days apart – were fast approaching and I had to figure out if I wanted to have a party or just give them cake for breakfast and call it a day.  In the end, Mommy guilt prevailed and I decided on a Brave-themed party to get some more use out of Gwen’s Merida dress.  It was quite a bit of work but I had a lot of fun putting it together.  We had a whole bunch of friends and family over, which made their special day even more so.  Feel feel to take a look at my Brave party Pinterest board to see where I got some of my inspiration.

Our Thanksgiving this year was a bit quieter than usual. We were all a bit under the weather; nevertheless, we got into the festive spirit and spent the day with Phil’s parents and grandmother. I made cranberry sauce, roasted root veggies, and some chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies (aka “moose plops”).  After we ate, the dads and kiddos got to fixing a Lego pirate ship – a highlight of Josiah’s day, no doubt! I have so much for which to be thankful!

Those of you who know me will know how long I’ve struggled with weight (and other) issues.  There have only been a few times when I’ve lost a significant amount of weight – in junior high when I decided to stop eating (unhealthy), just out of high school when I was waitressing and exercising multiple times a day (unrealistic), and shortly after giving birth to Josiah when I changed my eating habits (healthy, but haven’t been able to replicate).  I’ve been at my wit’s end, extremely discouraged and not really knowing what to do.  After hearing about The Virgin Diet, I decided to try it, see if it helps with weight loss and other possible underlying conditions.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

We’re on week fifteen of Heart of Dakota’s Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory curriculum.  It’s amazing how much I learn right along with them! So far I really like it – it’s all laid our for me with little prep work involved. I used to sit at the computer for hours, trying to find materials and different resources, requesting books from the library and printing things out.  Now, I have most of my books and materials already assembled in a bin, ready to go, and I just need to make sure I request a few books from the library here and there, maybe come up with some activities if I feel like it, and have some math and phonics workbooks.

I was honored to have an article published about my little crafting hobby/business in the November issue of RI Local magazine. I’m bummed because I wasn’t able to track down a copy myself, but a number of people told me they saw the article, and Phil was kind enough to take a snapshot of it, asking for my autograph.  Hehe.

Speaking of crafting, I’ve managed to get a few things done here and there, but can’t seem to find big blocks of time to sit down at the sewing machine.  Many of the things I’ve made have been for gifts and special occasions.  Pictured: mini bowling sets, tissue covers, dancing ribbons, car carriers, kinetic sand set, photo necklaces

Well, I think this should hold you over for the next few months!  I managed to track down the Little People advent calendar and put it on the wall today, but we never did get around to actually doing it! One day this week we’ll take out Christmas decorations and play some Christmas music.

Latest Projects Show and Tell

Our desktop is a few years old, which means “ancient” in technological terms.  Anyhoo, it’s having its fair share of quirks.  Phil, being the official bread-winner around here, needed a computer that actually works and picked up an HP laptop not too long ago.  I’m just sayin’, but I’m not too crazy about the new interface/browser that comes on all these new-fangled computers.  (pause)  I often voice my concern to Phil about what I’ll be like when I’m actually an old fart talking about “kids these days” and “remember the good ol’ days,” not being able to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Given the state of what has now been relegated to “my computer,” I pretty much only use a computer when Phil leaves his laptop at home because it takes the normal amount of time to get stuff done.  Aaaand I don’t get around to posting here because it involves wasting an entire day downloading pics onto my desktop computer files, taking a million gajillion  years for the computer to cooperate, stop shutting itself down, and unfreeze so I can edit said photos and upload them to my server, etc. etc.  It gives me a headache just thinking about it!

Well… I’ve got the laptop, the desktop is somewhat cooperating, and I’m updating while the kids are in bed!

So… can you believe the year is more than half over?  People think I’m kidding when I feel like I’m always preparing for Christmas, but as soon as one Christmas is over, it’s almost the New Year, which means almost Spring… which is close to Summer… which is very short as we all know… and then preparing for a new school year… and before you know it the whole Holiday Season is upon us and… Christmas!  So get ready for Christmas folks.  Especially if you’re the one in charge of shopping and cooking and cleaning.

But, I digress.  I wanted to share my latest crafts!  As soon as I dropped some of my things off at Mills Creek, Alyssia at Tula Tinkers requested some more items.  While I like to sew (and craft in general), when I’m working at it non-stop and feel pressured to finish already, it’s not quite as enjoyable.  Just like I’ve always liked to cook and bake… until I had to do it 3+ times a day just to keep a whole bunch of people alive.  Oh, and stay within a budget.  And make it healthy.  And yummy.  And not the same ol’ thing every day.  I really like pizza take-out.  We decided to limit it to once a month. *sigh*

On with the “show” part of this show-and-tell…

So this first one isn’t actually mine, but Phil does such wonderful work I had to show it off.  Someone requested a checker board, but he got carried away making a chess set and these were the results.  These pics are actually of two different boards – I want to say walnut and cherry, but I’m not 100% sure.  We looked around for nice chess pieces made in America, and while we found some that fit the bill, it doesn’t help to keep the cost low.  So, they’re really nice sets.

On my to-do list for a while now has been a pillowcase dress for Gwen.  This ended up being my need-a-break-from-my-other-projects project, spurred on because my mom sent me a link to a tutorial and asked if I could make some dresses for her Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes this year.  Figured I should try it out first!  I put together my own spin on two tutorials, first making a dress for Addy (the one on the right) then tweaking it to make the one for Gwen.  My preferred tweaks, in case you’re interested: 1) Instead of making patterns for cutting out the armholes, follow the cutting directions for the corners, then simply seam the edges.  2) After finishing the armholes, make channels around neckline for elastic and sew it in.  Making a channel for a tie to go around the whole dress is cute, but I don’t think it looks as nice or fits as well – though it is adjustable (I used this method for the righthand version).  3) Use some contrasting fabric for DIY bias and finish off the armholes using this super-easy method except I like to finish it off by stitching in the ditch since I think it looks nice and clean.

Okay, these headbands were actually in my last batch of crafts but I didn’t get around to organizing the photos.  Apparently, some local photographers were picking them up to use in photo shoots.  I love to see them in action!  Babies make them look so much better.

When Addy was still a baby (*sniff sniff*) I got a wonderful nursing/teething necklace from KangarooCare on Etsy (and later a teething toy).  I had seen these fabric necklaces floating around and decided they couldn’t be hard to make, and I was already sewing, so why not?  I made one for myself, made a few for gifts (some with flowers on them), then started to whip up a batch to sell at Small Circle… and then Small Circle closed and I was heartbroken.  Well, interest has revived, I ordered some luscious new fabric, and made a whole slew of them.  The one I’m wearing is the one I initially made for myself; the colors are amazingly versatile and go with so many outfits.  It’s so simple, really, but I get compliments every time I wear it.  I want one in every fabric I have!

I love me some baby sewing! It is a tough reminder that I no longer have an official baby in the house, though.  Aside: recently we were at the dinner table, I looked around at the kiddos, and crestfallenly remarked, “I’m so sad that all my babies are growing up.”  Phil looked at me and said pointedly, “NO!”  Me (innocently): “What?”  Phil: (knowing look)

So, baby shoes… things just do not want to stay on those little baby feet.  When they start walking, it’s just as well, because bare feet on the ground is good and natural for little ones.  But until then, those darned socks and actual-shoe shoes for kiddos who don’t even walk in them are kind of a waste of money.  My mother-in-law gave me two sets of baby booties – a pair of hand-me-downs and another that she bought at a craft fair.  Adeline lived in those booties!  I was so sad when she finally outgrew them.  But dude… I can make my own!  These were the first two pairs I made.  Since Addy was walking by then she got them good and dirty and I got sick of washing them; now I use them as slippers for her.  I wanted to try a pair of moccasins, buuuut I’m still perfecting those.

Next on my list: car carriers.  Lots of cutting little pieces and detail sewing, so I procrastinate.  Get your Christmas orders in now!  Good thinking, Heidi… my cousin knows to ask ahead of time so I have enough time.

I will be taking a brief sewing break to do some kids’ crafts for VBS next week.  Our theme is based on 2 Peter 3:18 about growing in the grace of the Lord.  It’s a nice springboard for garden-themed activities, and the theme verse for my craft is about the vine and the branches.  This week I’ll be putting together supplies to make a cluster of grapes magnet and Phil’s going to help me with a grape vine display so all the kids can hang leaf-shaped name tags on it.  Keep your fingers crossed for me – I’m a little nervous!  All those kids… it’s hard enough being in charge of the three that are my own!

Natural

Now that it’s Summer (and the big kiddos are out of the house and the littlest kiddo is napping…) I finally have some time to sit down for a bit of an update!

It only took me, let’s see… three months?… to finish up a wholesale order that the lovely Kate Bussey purchased to stock her wonderful little store in Charlestown.  I made some purses, car carriers, crayon rolls, and rainbow wands.  Fingers crosses that they’ll do well!

We’ve passed Mills Creek Natural Market a few times before but never stopped.  In fact, when we drove there the other day I specifically remember telling Phil that I wanted to stop sometime and walk around the area!  Kate’s house is right next to the shop and her son was kind enough to bring us into their back yard to meet their three goats.  They were so sweet, and since we’ve been thinking of getting dairy goats it was nice to see how good-natured they were.  FYI the goats come from Silk Tree Farms, which also sells soap at the store and at various local farmers’ markets.

Kate’s shop is right up my alley. It’s very similar to Tula Tinkers in that it caters to local, small-business, handmade, one-of-a-kind items.  But it has its own eclectic array of items, so much fun to poke around!  I wish I had taken some pictures, but there are a bunch of photos on their facebook page.

There were some beautiful carved, wood-burned combs and I really want to get one for Addy.  I pointed out some whimsical gnomes and little rock houses to Gwen; they would look so cute in a fairy garden!  For the life of me I can’t figure out why taking care of air plants is so hard for me, but there were some hanging sea urchins with air plants inside – so pretty!  The 3-dimensional stained glass stars were gorgeous; keeping them in mind for gifts.  Actually, I think I could find something for everyone in there!  I picked up some local honey, which always seems to be on my grocery list (if I didn’t already have a honey stick I would have been all over that).

Yes… I did say we’re thinking of getting goats.  Isn’t it enough that we keep bees?!  We’ve slowly been turning our yard into land that will be more self-sustaining and we keep thinking of ways to improve upon what we’ve already done.  This year we added raised beds to our garden, fruit trees, and bee-friendly flowers.  We’ve talked about the idea of getting chickens, but we’re not too crazy about having their poop all over the yard, so we’ll stick with getting fresh eggs from our neighbors.

I’m hoping that, eventually, we’ll be able to do most of our shopping at the farmers’ market – or through other local sources – and that I won’t have to step foot in a grocery store (is that realistic?).  Next on our list is purchasing meat in bulk from a local farm that raises grass-fed beef.  Perhaps we’ll supplement our veggies through a CSA program?

It’s always been hard for me to lose weight, but it seems like after having Adeline, it’s been harder than ever.  I tried intermittent fasting, exercising every day, cutting things from my diet, and the scale just isn’t budging.  Even if I’m not losing weight, I feel that I must be healthy, since we keep making healthy food choices.  More and more I’ve been leaning towards a paleo way of eating; not to be trendy or eat like cavemen, but because it seems natural.  Recently I read Sexy by Nature and I really appreciated some of the insights author Stefani Ruper had in her argument for the paleo “diet.”  Buying quality meats, fresh eggs, making my own full-fat yogurt and buttermilk and sour cream, growing fresh produce…  it feels so good when we’re able to make these kinds of choices for our family.  We haven’t been able to do it all at once but, little by little, we’re making a difference.

Handmade Gifts for a New Mama

My sister-in-law just gave birth to her seventh son and she pretty much has everything she needs, but I still wanted to give her something special.  I asked her what she wanted and apparently she gave away her nursing cover (maybe she thought she was done having kids??), so that was her request.

Her last cover was the typical apron-style nursing cover that, in my opinion, doesn’t offer the best coverage and tends to scream “I’m nursing a baby!”  And while nursing a baby is nothing to be ashamed of, I for one prefer a bit more subtlety and style.

While pregnant with Adeline I purchased a bamboo nursing poncho and fell in love with it.  If I had known how simple the construction was I would have made it myself!  I have the mauve color, which I think goes with lots of things, and while I don’t wear it as well as the model, it’s very versatile and stylish.

I wanted to try something similar and purchased a silky jersey/rayon blend material in a pretty light blue.  I basically followed the tutorial for this DIY Modern Nursing Shawl, adding a bit of an allowance for seams on all sides and buttons along half of one side.

Since I wanted my sis-in-law to have options, I also made an infinity scarf that can double as a nursing cover.

Another of her requests was a set of clips that can turn any blanket into a nursing cover, used later to turn a towel into a bib, whatever.  Similar to these, I turned a set of mitten clips, D-rings, and some fabric into this little contraption:

These, in addition to a fabric nursing necklace I gave her at her gender reveal party, make some fabulous gifts for nursing mamas (in my humble opinion, of course).  A great go-along resource and the only nursing book I have is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

Wanting to add something just for baby, I tried my hand at some baby shoes.  A pair for her little guy, then I kept on going with a larger pair for Addy.  See the little buttons on Addy’s floral pair?  She ate two of them while I was going through my button stash.  Oops.  I know at least one made it out the other end!

I love how they turned out!  On my to-do list, another pair in leather.

To top it off a wooden teether toy:

I love making things for babies!

What’s your favorite gift to buy, make, or receive for babies?

New Wooden Pretend Play Sets

For a while now I’ve been wanting to expand my handmade items to include wooden toys.  I have made wooden birds and other wooden things, but those are mainly for decoration.  My husband uses his woodworking skills to create beautiful game boards, and even though I don’t know how to turn and drill the wood pieces myself, I love the idea of working with the material.

We love natural toys (I could spend all day drooling over Waldorf toys!), so this came as a natural progression of my crafting process.  Since I’ve been in baby mode for a while now I made some wooden teething rings with fabric ties.  I made one recently to go with a baby shower gift and it was the icing on the cake!

Bunny Ears Baby Chompers

In addition to the peg doll gnomes I made recently, I also started working on some other projects inspired by things I’d see around the crafting community.  Since my kids love mini versions of real items – especially food-related things – I decided to start there.

Scoop the Rainbow | Pail of Eggs | Blueberry Breakfast | Nest of Natural Eggs

Gwen and Josiah helped me with almost all of the items – painting, sealing, and the all-important product testing.  As soon as the sets were finished they absconded with the pieces and had a “picnic.”  Phil and I looked at each other and joked, “Kid-tested, mother-approved.”

It’s important to me that I find a local – or at least American-made, ideally small-business – resources for my supplies, and I was lucky enough to find quality wooden pieces made in New England.  I fill in the blanks, personalizing the pieces with paint, sealing them with a beeswax polish and sewing cute little bags to store the items.  I particularly fell in love with the drawstring pouch that carries the multi-colored eggs and am trying to figure out how to work it into other projects.

These items (and more!) are currently available at Tula Tinkers in Richmond, RI.  Of course I’d love to take custom orders as well. :)  For more pictures of my handmade items see Gwendylicious.  

 

Shop Local

I was so upset recently when I found out Small Circle would be closing its doors.  Their shop was ruined when the pipes above froze and burst shortly after the holidays.

When Sarah Memoli initially contacted me through Etsy and inquired as to whether or not I would be interested in placing my handmade items in their store for the grand opening two years ago I was really excited. It was wonderful getting to know her and her husband John and sharing their passion for local, small-business products. I hope they open another location!

A bunch of my things got ruined in all the water from the pipes, but we still had some leftovers to pick up.  We came home with a load of unsold things.  Shortly after that we picked up some more of our things from Whimsies; they didn’t sell as well as we had hoped and the driving distance wasn’t economical.  I was so disappointed with the whole endeavor but decided to look into a lead that Andrea at Whimsies had given me.

She told me about a new place called Tula Tinkers in Richmond.  After a few e-mails back and forth with Alyssia, the owner, Phil and I drove there today to “hawk our wares,” as I like to say.  It was so nice to meet her and browse all the interesting treasures. It’s small, but the space is really maximized and has an eclectic array of items.  Tula Tinkers features over forty local artists (yay!), they have a variety of unique, locally handmade crafts, jewelry, gifts and more.

Alyssia loved our items and took the majority of them – keep your fingers crossed that people will love them and her shop will do well!  Shortly after arriving home I got an e-mail from her that a couple things already sold!  If you’re in the area, check them out; there’s always a holiday, birthday, anniversary, some sort of special occasion or “just because” around the corner!

GwendyLicious Branches Out!

I’m so excited – I’m selling my handmade goodies at another store!  I couldn’t believe it when Andrea of Whimsies in Warren contacted me a few months back, telling me she’d love to stock my items after seeing some of them at Small Circle.  At the time I was still pregnant and I knew it would take a while to sew up a batch of items, but I slowly got working on some inventory and finally dropped them off last week.

It was so nice to meet Andrea.  She has a cute little shop just off Main Street and sells an eclectic array of handmade items.  I love that she paints and restores many of the pieces, working on furniture as customers browse.

I always get a bit nervous about what kind of impression my things will make on people – they are, after all, an extension of me!  And I do realize that people have different tastes.  But I needn’t have worried – Andrea loved everything, and I already have some other ideas in the wings.

cedar sachets, aprons, cup cozies, therapy bags

Her favorite items seemed to be the mancala boards and orange spice wheat therapy bags.  Ironically, she sold one of each the next day!

I also made a drop-off at Small Circle – some wishing wands and dancing ribbons, which seem to be a hit.  Yay!

If you’re in the area stop by and check out the goodies and the wonderful people that own the stores.

*If you don’t live in the area and would love to purchase some of my items, browse my handmade posts and take a gander at GwendyLicious, where I have pictures of many of the things I make.  Then drop me a line!