04-12-15 produce bags-07 8.44.14 PM

Reusable Produce Bags

I suppose I could have shared this project in my last post about bags and purses, but I completely forgot about them.  I’ve made produce bags in the past but recently stumbled upon another style that I thought would be the perfect birthday gift for my mom.  It’s a great way to use up fabric scraps too.

My parents traveled to Europe recently and left on my mom’s birthday, so I gave these to her ahead of time, packaged with some treats.  My mom said they would be handy for packing her things, too.

When she actually used them for fruits and veggies, part of the mesh in one of the bags ripped, but she said she had put something prickly in there.  So… if you decide to make them yourself, I’d say look for a sturdy mesh and/or be careful what you put inside.  Some things – like melons or other large produce – I don’t bother putting in bags.  With my own bags, I often keep the produce in them once I get home, so I should really make more so I have extra.

To make these, I used The Hobby Room Diaries’ tutorial, though instead of making a buttonhole for the ribbon casing I used some small metal grommets I already had on hand.

Seeing the netting is making me think of another project I have pinned – a shell-collecting bag that would be great for Summer.

buttercup bag collage

The Buttercup Bag

I used to be intimidated at the thought of sewing a purse, but it’s actually quite simple.  I think of the pattern like a recipe, making sure to read it through so I understand the process and take it one step at a time.  Once I understand the construction and how it’s supposed to come together, I can tweak it and put my own spin on it.

I have yet to make a bag for myself, but I’ve made a number to sell and to give as gifts.  It can be hard to be creative and come up with fresh gift ideas every time a special occasion comes around, and since I try to give handmade whenever possible it’s even more of a challenge.  So I’ve been trying some new things here and there.

One of my nephews had his first birthday recently.  Since he’s one of seven boys, I know there are lots of things they don’t need considering the amount of hand-me-downs and toys they already have, so I like to check with my sister-in-law and see what they could really use.  She suggested a backpack he could grow into… and maybe a farm animal to go in a wooden barn that she was getting for him.

I scoured the internet for toddler backpack tutorials and finally settled on Hart & Sew’s School Backpack Tutorial.  Earlier in the year, my sister-in-law had pointed out the doggy fabric as one she liked, so I knew I wanted to use that and ended up choosing it for the front flap, back piece, inner pocket, and D-ring anchors.  I used a complimentary teal-ish fabric for the outer pocket and inner lining, upcycled denim for the outer pieces, and black and white polka dot for the trim.  For structure, I used felt and found some orange-red webbing at the fabric store for the straps.  I was concerned about putting in the magnetic snaps but they were a cinch to use, and both those and the D-rings were a gunmetal black, which I thought went nicely with the design.  I think the only real change I made to the original pattern was to make the inner pocket sturdier and eliminating the pencil holders.  In case you’re interested, here are some more backpack tutorials I’ve pinned.

One of my brothers is getting married soon, and his fiancee is from Russia.  She’s very sweet and often sends gifts and souvenirs for the family.  I decided to make her a version of my zippered clutch to send her as a “thank you.”

Instead of a bow or gathered front I made a pleated ruffle in the corner.  Her favorite colors are black and shades of blue, so I took that into account.  Not pictured, the back is upcycled denim. There’s an inner divider and a pocket.  I love putting funky fabrics together!

One of Gwen’s friends had a birthday recently, and I decided I wanted to make her a little purse.  I happened to have a few plastic purse handles and wanted to try them in a project.  Most of the tutorials I saw used some sort of round handles, but mine were flat on the bottom, so I wanted to make sure it would work.

I wasn’t crazy about the shape of the bag in the original project, so I altered the pattern piece so the sides wouldn’t slant in so much.  Also, since I added a pocket to the lining, it’s not reversible.  I had a few hiccups along the way, but love how it turned out.  When Addy saw the pink and purple bag, she kept saying “Addy’s purse, Addy’s purse,” so I ended up making one for her for Easter, in lieu of an Easter basket.  She chose the bird and flower fabric and I gave her options to go along with it.  For each one, I made a tassel to hang on a handle (one from felt, another from leather).

Another one of the kiddos’ friends has a birthday this week – the sister of the one who received the plastic-handled purse.  Apparently, the really likes the purse, but I wasn’t able to find anymore of those handles.  So, I decided to pick another pattern for her.  I settled on the Buttercup Bag, which I’ve had pinned for a while now and which – apparently – is very popular.

Gwen helped me pick the fabrics and I think they go quite nicely together.  It came out so well, I think I’d like one for myself!  My changes: made the inner pocket a bit bigger, added fleece to lining pieces for structure, added button and loop instead of a snap, sewed the handles inside the bag rather than on the outside.  I stuffed a few gifts inside and can’t wait to to see how it’s received.  Here are a couple more girl purse tutorials.

Do you have favorite purse or pattern?


Half the year is shot

Phil is an early riser.  When he goes to work, he gets up around 5:30 to take a shower and shave (the latter is mandatory for his job), pack his meals, do his devotions.  On his days “off,” he likes to get going by 7 or so.  If we get up later than that, he proclaims that “half the day is shot!”  It always makes me feel so lazy, because my normal time to get up is 7:30, and I won’t argue with 8 o’clock.  I remember the good ol’ days when “sleeping in” used to mean getting up around noon and having lunch!

When the last thing you wrote about was New Year’s and it’s almost June… well… half the year’s shot!  It feels like I have [almost] nothing to show for it!

We finished up our first official year homeschooling with Heart of Dakota’s Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory curriculum.  I had to send a letter of intent to the local school district, give them Gwen’s information (we assigned her to first grade, even though I feel grade levels are arbitrary), and then crossed my fingers that the year would go well.  We don’t follow the public school year, and I kept right along with our curriculum schedule, so we didn’t end up taking many breaks or holidays.  If something was going on during the week, we made up for it on the weekend.  But it’s not like the kids sit at a desk all day.  I have more of an “unschooling” mindset, giving my kids lots of freedom while working in some structured learning time.  I love what Albert Einstein said:

play is the highest form of research

I have to remind myself, when the kids are playing with LEGOs, coloring, building houses out of furniture and blankets and laundry baskets, creating their own games, running around outside… all of thst is so much more important than sitting down with a workbook.

Since the school year was, in my book, a success and the curriculum an easy, open-and-go system, I decided to stay with Heart of Dakota and use their Bigger Hearts for His Glory next year.  I already got the set secondhand from Homeschool Classifieds – love that site! – and am somewhat prepared for next school year.

My sweet Adeline turned two in February.  It’s so bittersweet watching my children grow, especially when it’s the youngest.  With each one, I wonder, will we have another? so in the back of my mind there’s always the possibility that I won’t experience all of these stages again.  I so miss the newborn stage!  Luckily, Addy is a little cuddle bug and likes to be held, but it’s just not the same as cradling a wee babe in your arms (one that doesn’t talk your ear off, too.).

For her birthday, I got Addy a tin tea set on sale and made some pretend tea bags using fabric scraps and weighted with grains of rice.  I had some leftover minky from another project, and showed Gwen my idea of making one of these for Addy, and she got so excited at the prospect.  She ended up helping me pick fabric and putting it together, calling it a “color monster” and naming her Wonderful Wilma.

birthday collage

Another project on my list was a peek-a-boo sack.  I had gotten some clear vinyl on sale and I finally decided to whip one up to store Addy’s tea set.  It was perfect!  I love how it came out.  I discovered when it was all done that I had melted a tiny hole in the vinyl when ironing the edge of the fabric, but then I found a way to fix it…

peek-a-boo bag

See the heart in the corner?  Yup, that’s covering the hole. I love creative fixes, and I love that it got me to add a heart to the front, something I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

We harvested some early spring honey from our beehives. It tasted so good, and cloves came to mind.  Phil hit the nail on the head when he said it tasted like maple, though – we think that’s where the bees were getting their nectar that early in the season.  So we took to calling it maple honey!  It was a pale yellow, much lighter than what you see in stores.  Can’t wait to taste it later in the season!

We added some more plants to our yard.  In addition to the fruit trees we already have, we added an Asian pear tree and a couple more blueberry bushes, in addition to some herbs and peonies that I picked out for Mother’s Day.  There are a whole bunch of fruit buds already on the trees and I’m so excited at the prospect of eating our own, homegrown, fresh fruit!  We’ve already harvest green onions, spinach, and salad greens from the raised beds.  I feel like I eat healthier this time of year and wish it weren’t so expensive to do year-round gardening.

So I’m not pregnant, but it seems like everyone else I know either recently had a baby or is expecting!  I’ve been whipping up burp cloths, bibs, baby booties, blankies (everything starting with the letter “B,” apparently).  I’m particularly happy for my twin brother and sister-in-law who will be having their first baby in November.  I laughed when she told me her due date, because Gwen and Josiah both have November birthdays.  I can’t wait to get started sewing for her little one, but want to know what flavor they’ll be having so I can plan accordingly.  Even before they thought about having kids, I knew I wanted to make this plush seahorse for Jenn; she lives in Florida and loves all things beach-y and sea-related.  I found some dark blue velvet material and set to work, cursing all the little pleats that I had to sew but loving how it progressed and actually looked like a real seahorse.  It came out smaller than I expected, but I love it.


I mailed it along with an expectant mama care package, including a pregnancy book, pregnancy tea, cocoa butter stretch mark lotion, granola bars, ginger candies, mints, crackers, and a story book.

Now that we’ve finished school, we’ve had more time to focus on other things.  We’ve been putting off camping since money has been going other places, but Phil took some time off work and we spent a few days having a sort of staycation.  We went hiking, had a couple picnics, walked along the rocks at Beavertail, got ice cream, went to Mystic Aquarium (my favorites are the Beluga Whales and the sting ray touch tank) and Village (Mango’s Wood Fired Pizza is yummy and I always browse Bestemors and Franklin’s General Store), watched “Home” in the theaters.  I wish it didn’t have to be a special occasion to spend time together!  I feel like everything goes so much more smoothly when we’re altogether as a family, rather than trying to hold down the fort all by myself.

I love trying new recipes, and spend a lot of time looking up ideas.  I don’t spend time taking pictures of all of the food I make or posting about every single meal I eat, but I’ve tried a bunch of new recipes that I thought I would share.  I can never make something as-written, preferring to play around with ingredients, add less sweetener, use coconut milk or yogurt for milk, try non-grain options, etc. but you can still get an idea of what we’ve had (all of these are from my Pinterest boards).
meals:  white chicken chiliskillet mac & beefchicken broccoli divanchicken carbonaraItalian spinach & chicken casserole, tortellini soup
bread: dark chocolate & walnut banana breadstrawberry walnut breadbanana & molasses toffee chip breadpeasant bread, 30-minute rolls
dessert: rhubarb & cinnamon cakepineapple upside down cakeflourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
sauces/seasonings: easy blueberry jamdiy Italian seasoningdiy condensed cream of chicken soup

Well, I think this will do for a 6-month recap, don’t you?  When the kids go to bed, I like to watch a show on Netflix while I fold laundry or catch up on other things, and recently I’ve been watching The Following, starring Kevin Bacon.  I like crime dramas, but really my tastes go all across the board.  Other shows I’ve re-watched/watched/continue to watch and love or like: Friends (of course), Drop Dead Diva, Switched At Birth, The Paradise, Bates Motel, Damages, Helix, Gilmore Girls, The Fall, Call the Midwife, The Bletchley Circle, Parks and Recreation, Once Upon a Time, Criminal Minds, Lost Girl, Sherlock, Law & Order, Firefly, Nikita, Revenge, The 100, The Pioneer Woman (gotta throw in a cooking show)… wow, I’ve folded a LOT of laundry!  Off to watch another episode; maybe I’ll be back around Christmas?



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.

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.

fabric necklaces - 1

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!