Baby’s Gift to Big Brother: Latches Board

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A couple of months ago, I was feeling a little guilty about having another child — for my son’s sake.  His near first two years of life were perfect: mom and dad all to himself, a big yard in which to play, going to Gymboree and the park, and walks in a stroller — the non-double kind.  But then Elliott was on her way and I knew life, as Griffin knew it, was over for good.  A little sister meant mom would be busy, all the time.  He’d have to learn to share, which is the biggest curse word in a toddler’s vernacular.  And he’d have to deal with constant crying and not being able to be picked up because mom’s hands would be full of baby. Sooner or later, Griffin would come to realize what goes through every big brother’s brain at some point: sisters stink.

Hoping that Griffin would avoid that realization for just a little while until Elliott was settled in, Big N and I decided to make an extra special gift from Elliott to her big brother that she could “give” to him when we brought her home from the hospital.  Griffin is into all sorts of things now but he especially loves figuring out how to open and take things apart with his hands.  At the family restaurants, when he’s given a box of crayons and paper to draw on, he casts the paper aside and spends 2o minutes taking the crayons out of the box, only to put them back in, over and over again so he can rearrange them just so.  (I hope this isn’t a symptom of OCD).  He also loves to be dad’s helper when he’s working on honey-do projects around the house.

After searching around, I found a few possibilities for his special present: the Melissa & Doug Latches Board seemed cool because it would allow Griffin to figure things out with his hands, but it wasn’t special enough.  I spotted a hand made latches board on Etsy and knew I was on the right track but it was $75 and I thought I could do better.  So I took a trip to my local True Value and scoured the aisles for some cool hardware.  Then I went to Michael’s and picked up a thin wooden board.  Of course, I ended up spending about $85 when all was said and done but whatever.  Can’t win ‘em all.

I enlisted my husband and his drill to put it all together (I could have done it myself but it was a fun way to spend some time together outdoors), and added the stamped finishing touch to personalize his board.  We then hid the comleted board until Elliott was born.

When we brought Elliott home from the hospital Griffin walked around with a worried look on his face, understanding that something was different but not really sure what or why.  He was curious about this new baby that seemed to be permanently affixed to his mother, but he also seemed a little lost.  We knew it was time to pull out his “special present from Elliott.”  It was an instant hit.  He said a quick “tank yoo” to Elliott and immediately sat down on the kitchen floor with his new latches board.  And it seemed to work.  He was fully transfixed by his new puzzle and all was right in his tiny world again. latches-board-7-of-7

Since then he’s been a wonderful big brother, kissing and hugging Elliott, and telling her goodnight before bed.  He’s had a few “moments” as well, but to date he has only chucked one jar of lotion at Elliott’s head.  I convinced myself it was an accident and gave him the benefit of the doubt…for now.

Bright and cheery: Elliott’s Nursery

You may recall this post where I revealed my mood board for Kidney Bean’s nursery.  Well, Kidney Bean turned into my daughter Elliott Marlene, who is a month old today, but this mood board was not destined to morph into her nursery.   Somewhere along the way I scrapped the muted whites, dusty plums, and aquas and went in a totally different direction.  I decided, since I only got to do this once, that I wanted something brighter, cheerier…funkier!  I kept just one thing from my first iteration: the swan end table, and dumped the rest.

I started with crib bedding.  Unfortunately, with the move to our new home and the fact that my craft room is a hot mess, I didn’t have time to make the bedding myself.  Thanks to Etsy and the folks at Modified Tot, I was able to select fabrics to create a custom one-of-a-kind crib set in a palette of lime green, plum, and teal.  I bought a blanket, crib bumper, crib skirt, pouf, and even window valences in this awesome ikat fabric (I may have gone overboard).

The green zebra rug from Zinc Door came next.  The chair I recycled from Griffin’s old nursery (he didn’t need it anymore now that his nursery is packed toddler playroom), and added finishing touches such as jade milk glass drawer pulls on the changing table, shelves featuring silver heirloom baby dishes (a gift from Aunt Jane) and handmade creations (I made the aqua pinafore dress hanging from the shelf, see my dress how-to post here), and birth announcement artwork, also purchased on Etsy from graphic designer A Lovely Detail.

I still lust after this bird’s nest chandelier from my mood board, but have had to let it go because it’s now sold out, boo! elliotts-nursery-3-of-7

Mom and Me The last detail we added was the dandelion wall decal, also purchased from Etsy.  This brought the personal touch to Elliott’s room.  The dandelion represents all of my wishes for her happy and healthy future, but more importantly, it reminds me of my mother Marlene, after whom I named my daughter.  This was the last picture we took together as my mother died soon after this was taken.  Elliott will never meet her grandmother, but the dandelion is a reminder that my beloved mother will always be a part of my beautiful daughter (and I think Elliott has my mother’s eyes).

Elliott had been staying in her bassinet next to my bed for her first month, but we moved her into her nursery last night.  She slept for 5 hours straight.  I think she likes it.

Elliott in her crib Elliott in her crib



Guest Post: Imprintalish

Have you seen this cute guy on Pinterest and

That’s Fin, and the Happy Stacker ring toy I made a little while back.  You might say it’s been making the internet rounds.

Today, my Happy Stacker tutorial is featured on the delightful craft, lifestyle, and photography blog Imprintalish, Imprintalish

for Lish’s fabulous Kick Off to Christmas extravaganza!

Go join in the fun, and scope some great ideas for holiday gift giving.
One, two, three…. GO!

Baby Shower for H: Just the Accents

Enamel bottles

For a planaholic like me, is there anything more exciting than planning a baby shower?  I know not, especially when the guest of honor is a bestie who has been waiting 4 long years for her miracle daughter to arrive.  Unfortunately, I am not the only bestie in H’s arsenal, so I was not bestowed with a planning monopoly on this particular shower (I’m not good at sharing).  But I was in charge of a few key elements: center pieces, and of course, DESSERTS!

For the center pieces, I decided to go with the enamel bottle idea once again, this time choosing a color palette of coral, pink, and white.  I filled them with gerbera daisies and baby’s breath to keep them bright and cheery, like H herself.

Bottle center pieces

As for desserts, I ordered another lovely cake from Jill’s, and made a few different types of bite size treats.  The guest count for this shower was about 70, so I spent the better part of two days baking.  I made another batch of brownie pops, decorated with pink chocolate and sprinkles, gluten free mini donuts (because 1: gluten intolerant people deserve sweets too, and 2: the donut recipe from this cookbook is absolutely fabulous even though it’s gluten free) which I decorated with coral and pink icing with sprinkles to keep with the color palette, and raspberry macarons with raspberry jam frosting (a recipe I adapted from this cookbook).

The pops were a hit with the young guests, everybody loved how cute the donuts were, and as for the macarons, I overheard one guest saying, while eating my macaron and staring at it in wonder, “this is the best cookie I have ever eaten.”  *Sigh*  Compliments like that make me swoon.

Butterfly stuffed toy

Finally, the present.  Everybody knows the goal is to make the guest of honor cry and the rest of the ladies “ooh” and “ahh” over the cuteness of your particular present.  I sort of blew that opportunity by giving H the special basket full of my handmade creations before her actual shower.  I needed another spectacular present!  Scrambling, I made a butterfly stuffed toy for Addison in delightful pinks and greens to match her bedroom.  The stuffed toy wasn’t too complicated a project for the last minute and jingles as you shake it- babies love that.  You can find the instructions in Amy Butler’s project book, Little Stitches for Little Ones (it also includes a darling lady bug toy but I didn’t have time to make one of those too).

I also wanted to give Addison something personalized, so I worked with a wonderful design artist on Etsy to create a custom poster with Addison’s birth time, weight, length, and a few other unique details (blond hair, four years in the making, etc.) in beautiful baby colors.  Once we perfected the layout and colors, the artist sent me a high resolution image (all for $8), and I printed and framed it.  The present was a big hit with H- who cried when she looked at it (success!) and can’t wait to hang it in Addison’s room.

H opening her present

Everybody, especially H, had a lovely time at the shower and Addison behaved like a perfect angel as all the guests passed her around for a little cuddle time.  Though I didn’t have full rein to plan the entire shower (the other hosts did a spectacular job with food and games), it appeased my plan fetish for the time being, that is until H decides to adopt her next bundle of joy.  Then I might have to take over.


Clean out the fridge project: Enamel bud vases

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My favorite kind of project is the “instant gratification” project where I invest maybe an hour of time and then I’m done and I have something I can use that’s pretty.  This is one of those.  I wish I can take credit for this fantastic idea but no.  Martha Stewart deserves the credit, again.  She’s Martha Stewart.  Who can compete with that?  I saw the idea on which linked me to this blog post.  (P.S. if you love crafts, or even just like them a little, you must check out this website.  It’s foodgawker but for crafts. Pics link to blog posts for fun and gorgeous craft ideas.  Love it).  Ok, enough credit sharing. Let’s get down to cases.

So, this project takes one day of prep, and about one hour of work.  Plus drying time.  That’s it.  Simple as can be.

Enamel paint You’ll need:

  • Clean, dry glass bottles and jars
  • Enamel paint
  • Gloves
  • Rags
  • Acetone
  • A place to dry the bottles where you can drip paint and not care

Step 1: Clean out your refrigerator!  Especially the condiment shelves.  Collect all those old jars of marinades and jams you’ve had in there for more than a year.  You know you have a stockpile of it.  Dump it!  You’ll feel better.  My favorite bottles are jam and syrup bottles.  They come in all sorts of cute shapes.

Step 2: Wash the bottles and remove the labels.  If the labels are stubborn, soak the bottles in water for an hour, then scrub off.  Or use olive oil.  That works too.

Step 3: Let them dry overnight.  You need them to be bone dry, otherwise the paint won’t adhere evenly.  I learned this the hard way but that’s ok.  It just makes for a more rustic finished product if they aren’t bone dry.

Enamel vases Step 4:  Take your enamel paint.  1shot brand works well.  A little goes a long way.  Wear gloves.  Work in a well ventilated area.  Pour the paint inside the bottle and swirl to coat evenly.  Dump the remaining paint back in the tin for reuse.  Take your time and drain well.  Wipe the rims and outside with a rag soaked with acetone to clean up the bottles if you get paint on the outside.

Step 5: Let dry.  These take a few days to dry thoroughly.  Finished.

Step 6: Add beauty.  I stamped some tags and tied them around the vases using ribbon and a glue gun.  These became the centerpieces for a dear friend’s 40th Surprise Party.  She loved them and took them home with her to enjoy.  I made sure to use colors that she loved and would match the decor in her house.

Clean fridge.  Recycled and re-purposed glass bud vases.  Instant gratification.

Enamel vase center pieces

Craftastic: Baby Shower Thank You Notes

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It’s T-minus three weeks until the Bambino arrives and I am officially on maternity leave (the sabbatical I’ve been anxiously anticipating for the last several years)!  Waking up sans alarm clock with no preplanned agenda has been quite an adjustment for a gal used to working 50+ hours a week and cramming everything else I need to get done, like family time, errand running, blogging, photography, sewing, baking, shopping, etc. on the weekends.  Now with all this time on my hands I’m spending most of my days in the house starting projects that I have every good intention of finishing before the big day.  And of course one project always leads to another, so I’ve been planning a gazillion future projects because I have these utopian visions of sewing and crafting while baby sleeps soundly in the next room.   I’ve been told (ad nauseum as a matter of fact) that the first 3 months caring for an infant doesn’t leave a new mom time to shower much less time to hobby-craft and that I should keep my expectations for free time low.  But I do hope I can manage to squeeze in a few fun things that will make my home confinement after baby arrives a little more bearable.

I recently dipped my toe into the world of Martha Stewart, whose book the Encyclopedia of Crafts was given to me by my mother-in-law.   The Enclyclopedia contains “how to” instructions for every project imaginable, from decoupage to silk screening, to candle and soap making.  For my first project I started with something easy: rubber stamped stationery.

[Read more…]

Tamara’s First Quilt: Brick Path Quilt by Amy Butler

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Had I known exactly how long it would take to sew my first quilt I probably would not have bothered in the first place, but now that it’s complete (mostly), I’m glad I mustered up the effort.   Before I started I envisioned scenes from “How To Make An American Quilt,” overly romanticizing the process and the ease with which the women in that film quilted.  The oversimplification was like watching “A River Runs Through It” and suddenly believing you can catch a trout on a fly rod in Montana.  Hardly. 

Unphased, I began this undertaking by taking a half-hookie day from work to visit the Michael Levine fabric store in the garment district of Downtown Los Angeles.  I walked through the seemingly endless rows of fabrics, and piled bolt after bolt into my arms, selecting over 16 patterns from among Amy Butler’s mod designs.  As the cutters snipped my yards from the bolts, I saw them eyeing me with suspicion, acutely aware that I had no idea what I was doing.

Knowing my limitations, I searched around for a *very simple* pattern, and with glee downloaded Amy Butler’s Brick Path Quilt (it was free!).  After washing and ironing the loot, I laid out each yard of fabric on my sewing room floor and selected 11 for my quilt project, with a little help from Big N, who has a keen eye for design.

I then proceeded to painstakingly cut, using a rotary cutter, 198 (yes one hundred and ninety-eight) rectangular bricks.  I then arranged them in a pleasing pattern on the floor and began to sew the bricks together in rows.  Several days later, I had 18 rows, enough to make a quilt for a full size bed.  I then sewed the rows together off center so the brick pattern could emerge.  Next I sewed the simple cotton underside, and cut the cotton batting to fit.  The batting adds weight and warmth.  I arranged all of the layers carefully and sewed them right sides together, then turned them inside out to form the blanket.  Finally, I was ready to “stitch in the ditch,”  which means that I sewed each of the rows again through all of the layers to get that nice shabby chic puffiness.  For a first time effort, I think my quilt came out quite nice, even though my rows weren’t exactly even from top to bottom. I’ll work on that for next time.


Here is where I stopped.  I am still debating about adding a border, or maybe some decorative pom poms to the corners as shown in the pattern.  Since the project took several weeks to complete, once I got this far all motivation left me and I haven’t yet decided how I want to embellish and finish my quilt, so it lays on the bed in the guest bedroom unadorned and 98% complete.  Some day soon I will finish the darn thing, pom poms and all.  Until then, here it is, Tamara’s first (and 98% complete) quilt.

Homemade and Eco Friendly Holiday Presents: Dinner Napkins

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In these tough economic times, there ain’t nuthin wrong with a homemade present, as long as it’s not a tea cozy.  For the holidays this year I made for a few of my girlfriends reversible dinner napkins.  Using funky fabrics and a simple design I sewed sets of four.  Not only do the napkins look darling on the table, but using them instead of paper disposables saves a few trees here and there.  napkins-1-of-5

The napkins are easy enough to make, it’s just a square afterall. But believe it or not each set of four takes me a couple of hours, what with all the ironing, measuring, cutting, sewing, ironing again….you get the idea.  So even though I had hopes of making 8 sets or more to give away, I only ended up with 4.  As I always say, having a job really gets in the way of my hobbies.  Next year I’ll have to start sewing my presents in September.