Thursday, April 2, 2015

Another Sewing Post....

So - I bragged for a few minutes earlier this week about the cute little pj's I made for the new baby.  Well, I was inspired!!  I've been seeing cute little dress patterns and wondering if I could make them myself.  My plan was to try out the pj's and see how it went.  If I liked it, I'd try out something a little larger/more complex for Abby.  If not - well, no harm done.

**She really does like it...I'm not sure why I got the grump face in this one but she SO looks like me in that picture.

Anyways - after my attempt at the baby pj's I decided this was WAY outta my league...BUT, I was headed home this weekend so I enlisted my Mom to make this cute little dress for Abby.  Didn't it turn out great??

I got the pattern here and we just picked some cute fabric from Joann's so I'm not sure who the designer was but I think it's perfect.  I love the placket (a new word for me this weekend) and the contrast stripe on the sleeve and bottom.

The pattern says it's for advanced beginners which I am clearly NOT, so getting mom's help was a great idea.  We printed and cut the pattern, picked out fabric at Joann's and got to sewing.  Well, Mom got to sewing, I got to knitting (I've got a new pattern in my brain and need to finish the old one before I can move to the next...that's my rule!!  Otherwise hobbies get out of control quickly!!).

I still need to go back and add two little buttons for the top but I wanted to show off mom's handy work to you all today.  I'm thinking if it's warm enough that I might have her wear it for Easter.  We'll see.  It's funny - as mom was making it she said "this dress looks like you".  HA!  I suppose it's the blues - which I can never get away from - and the fact that it's not overly frilly or girly.  It's just a nice comfortable tunic dress that I can send her to daycare in and not worry about it getting messy.  It's an everyday dress for a little girl who loves to run and play.  I love it!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

You Guys....I Made These!!

It's no secret that I've added quilting to my list of "old lady hobbies".  I've been posting about the quilts I've been making for over a year now and most of you are probably tired of hearing about them.  But guys - guess what I tried this past week?  Sewing clothes!!  Honestly I've never really been interested in sewing clothes because I've always had both my mom and Ellyn on that front.  My mom used to make us Pj's every year and I'll never forget our yearly trips to Joann's to pick out our Halloween costumes.  We'd look through the pattern books picking the perfect costume and then move onto fabric.  I remember gauzy girly costumes like a witch and genie for my sister and warmer ones for me - like a pumpkin and a scarecrow.  I was no dummy!  October is ALWAYS cold in northern Illinois.

Ellyn is a great seamstress as well.  I think she's retired from it now but she used to make all the costumes for the local play house and has been making Halloween costumes for Erin and Ryan since they were little...and yes(!) we still rope her into making our costumes as adults....I'm no dope - I don't turn down good help when I can find it!

All that being said - a few months ago one of the bloggers I read posted this pattern and I was hooked.  Well, it actually took reading another post from a different blogger I follow making them before I decided I'd try them for myself.  Course, having a little one of my own on the way played a huge factor as well.  I'm not sure if I'm going to get a quilt made for this baby before he/she arrives but I'd be damned if he/she didn't' have something handmade from me!

Oh and I was trying to live by my own words.  I've been teaching two friends to knit lately and both were tentative to start anything harder than the normal knit/purl.  After some convincing I've got one doing cables (which really aren't hard) and the second working on some secret project with semi complicated stitches....they both asked me how I learned to knit and the answer was "I just tried".  I watched YouTube when I didn't know how to do something and I put my mind to figuring it out.  I decided to do the same with making some baby clothes.  The internet is a magical can learn how to do ANYTHING if you really want to.

Cute fabric motivates me as well.  I mean, come on. vintage campers?!?  If you know us, you'd know that had me hook, line and sinker.  These were relatively easy to make and I'm sure if I had more experience with sewing clothes they would have been much simpler.  If I'm being 100% honest I had quite a hard time getting started.  But I had a lot working against me.  There were a lot of first involved here:
1.  First time sewing clothes.
2.  First time sewing with knit fabric (it's stretchy and that leads to its own issues).
3.  First time using Stretch Thread (to go with the stretchy fabric).
4.  First time using a double needle.

I decided to start slow and just cut the fabric for one of these little guys (the orange one) and see how it went.  The first two nights were a complete disaster.  I tried all of the "new things" at once.  New thread, new fabric, new needles and that was a bad combination!  When I ended up with snagged and snarled thread I wasn't able to pin point what to change because everything was new.  After MUCH testing I eliminated one "new" at a time until I finally found a combination that worked.  Knit fabric, regular needle, polyester thread (not stretch).  By that time I was just glad to have something working right for me and to be moving in the direction of a finished product.  

After getting the orange one all sewed up and complete I went back and did the remaining three all in one large batch.  I wasn't surprised that batching them together went much faster.  And the fact that I'd already made one helped too.  

Yes - there is one "girly" fabric in there.  Ryan and I have chosen not to find out the gender of this baby, just like we did for Abby, so that one was a little risky.  I just couldn't help myself.  I think this baby is a girl (I guess we'll know if I was right in a few months) and those little flowers just called my name.  Plus with 2015 being the "year of the baby" I'm sure that I can find a cute newborn baby girl to gift it to if I end up being wrong and we have a boy.  I have a feeling finding someone to take it off my hands won't be hard!

So, what do you think?  I'm super proud of them!!  I'm not sure that I'm going to start sewing all the kids clothes...I'm not THAT motivated but I am glad I tried something new!  

Oh - and the hats!  I made those using this pattern if anyone is interested in making them too.  The pattern is a little, how shall I say it, funny looking, but they were really easy to make and turned out super cute!  My mom said they look a little big and I have to admit my memory of how tiny newborns are is a little fuzzy so I'll report back on that come July.  If you're making them for yourself though you might want to consider scaling the circumference down a bit...just a heads up.  They do seem big.

Friday, March 27, 2015

1 Family x 12 (March)

We hit up the Dells this past weekend and of COURSE I forgot my camera!!  Luckily Jamie came to the rescue and we got our family picture taken care of for this month.  Complete with a real smile from both Ryan and Abby!!

I'll be doing another post with more water park pictures once I snag Jamie's SD card....for now, happy March!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Abby's Big Girl Room

Well - like I said, we've been busy in the McGrath household.  Not only have we been working on the kitchen and finishing up a list of never ending projects in the basement, we also finally tackled Abby's big girl bedroom.  

When we built out the basement we knew we'd eventually be needing both bedrooms upstairs for kiddos so we included a guest bedroom in the plans for the basement.  This room, off the main hallway on the first floor used to be the guest bedroom, but a few months ago we moved out all of the furniture and started fresh on Abby's big girl room.  Ryan always teases me that I can't get away from grey's but you'll notice the walls are clearly browns (with a grey rug of course).

I love how this room came out.  It's clearly a girls bedroom without being all Pepto Bismol pink threw up in there.  I think it's a room that can grow with her as she transitions from a toddler into a little girl.  I'm not naive enough to think that it will stay this way forever, I'm sure she'll have an opinion about how it's decorated at some point, but for now, I got to make the decisions :)

You can tell that she's not quite living in here yet, but we wanted to get it set up so we could start working towards that.  I've got those ugly toddler rails (they make the bed look like a hospital bed) already bought and I know once we move her in this room will be cluttered with toys and the things that Abby loves most...but I couldn't resist these perfectly staged photos!!

We chose to go with a twin bed after MUCH deliberation.  I really wanted to use a double so that her quilt I made would fit on the bed but the room just wasn't big enough and I wanted there to be room for her to spread out and play in there.  Her quilt will fit on the bed, it just hangs down to the ground so we'll likely swap out this cute Princess and the Pea bedding for her quilt through the seasons.

Note:  I think that Pea pillow is her favorite part of the whole room!

Between that huge dresser and the closet I think she's got plenty of space to grow into.  I considered adding a book case or toy box to the room but I think we can make some of the shelves in her closet work for that at least until she gets bigger and her clothes start to take over.  Right now I think I can fit all of her tiny clothes into two of those drawers.  It's not that she doesn't have a ton, the grandmas's make sure she has's just that kids clothes is so tiny!!  HA!!

We've been trying to spend more time in here and I've been reading lots of stories on that bed with her before bedtime.  She's even asked to sleep in there once or twice but without the rails up I've been cautious and we've kept to the nursery so far.  Soon enough though Peanut, soon enough!!

One funny story - this past weekend we went to the Dells with two other families.  We stayed in a condo so we were all together and Abby called the hotel room "everybody's house".  Pretty accurate I'd say.  One of the families has two kids - a toddler Abby's age and a newish baby.  I was trying to explain to Abby that we'd be having a baby at our house soon too.  She told me "Mommy - the baby stay at everybody's house??".  HA!  Wishful thinking kid.  Sorry to say that kiddos coming home with us!!

She's certainly skeptical of the whole process.  She'll show you this room if you ask to see her big girl room but she will quickly tell you "my beds in here" and take you to the nursery.  I think she thinks ALL of the rooms are "Abby's room".

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kitchen Remodel

Get ready for a long one people....there're about 8 million pictures headed your way.  Back nearly 3 years ago when we moved into this house I quickly added the kitchen counters to our to-do list.  They were made out of tile....yep, tile.  Like grouted tile.  I hated them from the day we moved in and have been looking forward to this day every since.

Just to remind you, here are some pictures from the day we closed on the house.  See that car seat on the counter there...I think there might just be a tiny 5 week old baby in there!!

About a month ago now things finally started to get real.  We'd finally ordered out counters and it was delivery day!! See those open cabinets along the wall....yep, we are finally doing something with the awkward eat in kitchen space and extending our counters...adding more cabinet space.  Nothing is ever easy though and we couldn't find matching cabinets at the store anymore.  Luckily for me, I'm married to a carpenter and he was able to build ones to match our existing cabinets.

We were lucky in that respect.  The cabinets that came with the house were in really good condition and not dated looking at all so we were able to keep them helping to greatly reduce the cost of this project!

See ya later crappy tile counter tops!!  Out with the old and in with the new!!!

What do you think?  Aren't they great?!?!!  We added about 10 inches to the end of the island making enough room to add a third stool there.

Plus all that extra space along the windows.  The picture is's too dark but that's what you're getting for today folks.  I'm too tired to take another one :)

The cabinet right next to the dishwasher is actually a pull out garbage/recycling area.  Then next to that is three pull out drawers (we need a filler for the door space still).  And then a bank of drawers along the wall.  You can see from this picture that the walls are still torn open.  We've got electric work to do including under cabinet lighting and pendant lights for above the island but we're getting there.  Once the electric is done we can move onto the back splash and I simply can not WAIT to show you what we have picked out.  It's amazing!

Oh and this often forgotten but highly used space got a face lift too.  When we moved in, this area right off the garage (right) and kitchen (walking towards the camera) was the laundry room.  We moved that to the basement and added these awesome cabinets a long time ago but I don't think I ever blogged about it.  We originally added a simple laminate counter top but got lucky and there was just enough granite left over to do this space as well.  So it's all tied together now and looks great!!!  Do you love it?  I sure do!

We've been working hard on some projects around the house lately including Abby's big girl room.  I'm waiting for a few prints for the walls and then I'll be back to share that new room with you as stay tuned for more house updates headed your way!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Birds of a Feather - Quilt

This past weekend I went to a baby shower for a sweet friend of mine, Christine.  We'll technically, I'm not sure I can call her "mine".  Christine and Ryan rowed together in college and were quick friends.  Now, however many years later Christine is one of my few quilty friends.  Yes, as my husband is always quick to point out, I have gravitated towards "old lady" hobbies and I have few old lady friends so outside of the many blogs I read, I have very few actual friends that enjoy the same hobbies as me.  Which makes being friends with Christine all that much more fun for me!

Back in October when I found out she was expecting I knew I'd be making a quilt for her little one.  Here's the thing.  Quilts take time, money and most of all love!  They aren't quick and they surely aren't cheap so not just "anybody" gets one.  I've only got so many hours in the day!  The thing I've learned about handmades is that when you're a "maker" people rarely gift you hand made things.  I'm not sure why?  Maybe they think you don't need them because you can make them yourself.  Or maybe they are afraid you'll judge their work since you know what to look for....or maybe it's just a time thing.  Whatever the reasons, I just don't subscribe to them.  You see, nobody appreciates the time and effort it takes to make handmades more than a fellow "maker".

Anyways, long story short, I counted down the days until Christine announced if they were having a boy or a girl.  Actually, if I'm being honest, I ordered this fabric even before officially finding out.  I fell in love with it and figured if I couldn't use it for Christine's quilt I'd find somewhere to use it along the way!

Back to the quilt at hand.  The pattern is nothing fancy.  Just half square triangles that I attempted to use fabric contrast to create a pinwheel affect.  My fabric choice may not have been perfect for the look I was going for but who cares!  I love how it turned out anyways.  The squares were 6x6 cut and 5.5 x 5.5 squared up with a finished block size of 5.25 x 5.25.  Phew that's a lotta math for a Monday morning!!  The final quilt measured 40 x 50 and though that's a bit big for the teeny tiny baby that's due to arrive at the end of May, if there's one things I know for absolutely certain, it's that tiny babies grow so I'm hoping this quilt will grow with her into toddler-hood.  I flip flop on the "perfect size" for a baby quilt.  I made Abby a little quilt at 36 x 40 and it's the perfect size for her right now.  She can drag it around with her and it covers her completely when she's sleeping.  But, they grow!  And boy do they grow I'm still debating the right size for a baby quilt.  The nice thing about this larger size is that it SHOULD tuck into the crib mattress when it's time to convert to a toddler bed...which is nice.

I used Petal and Plume by Bari J for the fabric and I think it's just perfect for Christine.  She is a animal lover by nature and occupation.  She worked at the Shedd Aquarium for many years before moving this winter to Boston where she's working for another aquarium (starting tomorrow!!).

I've officially decided that 2015 is the Year of the Baby.  I've already begun work on the next baby quilt on my to-do list and have just started dreaming up the pattern/fabric ideas of my own quilt for our little peanut due early July.  I'm still up in the air if I want to wait until this little one is here before committing to anything since we aren't finding out the sex...but not having a quilt for my own little one when he/she arrives seems sort of unfitting!!  We'll see how much time I've got!  Three-ish months and counting down the days!!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

You guys, I have a serious problem....

If you know me at all you know I am an avid reader.  I go in spurts where I read and ton and then fall off the wagon if the book I'm reading can't keep my interest or I'm heavy into other projects but I ALWAYS have a book I'm reading and a few (or a ton!) in the que waiting for their turn.  In fact, my "to read's" stack up faster than I can actually read so my list is always changing.  Back last summer I decided to do a series called "What on my Kindle?" because god knows I love reading what others are reading and I thought you guys might want to see what I was up to.

Well - my addiction doesn't stop there.  You see, now I've got a little one (nay, soon TWO little ones) to read to) god knows they don't give a hoot about the 300 page books I'm into.  So, I've quickly realized that my personal love of reading has carried over to kids books as well.  The best part?  Kids books don't take days or weeks or months to read so it's easy to justify a "new" book (at least that's what this addict is telling herself).  Of course, our membership to Amazon Prime only facilitates my's all too easy to order in two seconds and they show up two days later on my doorstep.  It's like Christmas morning!!

For me, our bedtime book routine needs to have books that I actually want to read too.  I can only do "Brown Bear Brown Bear" so many times before you've got it memorized.  Don't get me wrong, the Sandra Boynton books are great for babies but really?  Who takes a bath and THEN exercises before going to bed?  It just doesn't make any sense!!  I love finding the unabridged versions of the books we've all grown to love.  I mean, like the first edition Winnie the Pooh books where the stories are longer than 3 pages.  Short books have their place too (Abby and I can't get enough of My Mommy Hung the Moon) but sometimes I want to read something I'll enjoy too.

I think it all started when my sister in law bought Abby a hardcover set of Little House on the Prairie (of course I can't find a link my exactly copy....Erin, do you remember?).  Don't get me wrong, that book is WAY over her head and attention span but it reminded me that even though we're in that toddler stage, we can tackle REAL stories that I'd actually enjoy too.

So, without further ado, here are some of my recent favorites:

1.  The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh:  Come on?  Who doesn't love that silly old bear?  I love this book.  Each story is around 20 pages long and though we often can't finish a story in one sitting we do keep coming back to this one.  Abby calls it just "Pooh" and she's sneaky...she knows the stories are long so if she's vying to stay up a little longer she knows a request for "Pooh" will earn her a few more minutes.  My biggest complaint about this book is that at a whopping 3 lbs its heavy to hold/ready to a toddler but it's SO worth it to get the unabridged version.  You'll be hard pressed to find a bad review on this one.

2.  Beatrix Potter:  I don't necessarily remember this one from my childhood but the mischievous little bunny sure keeps Abby's attention.  We've just started into this one and the stories are around 15ish pages long.  Still a little above Abby's attention span but there are PLENTY of pictures to keep her interested.  The whimsical artwork is beautiful and the stories keep both her and I entertained.  Again, at just over 4 lbs its another big one to hold/read and my biggest complaint is that it doesn't come with bookmark ribbons but if you're looking for a great classic to add to your little one's library this could certainly be the prefect addition.

3.  The New Small Person:  It's not a classic or especially literary but this one fits the changes happening in our life right now.  As we're working on helping Abby understand the new baby on the way, Elmore Green and his concerns about the new small person in his life are hopefully helping Abby to understand the changes in store.  Elmore and his jelly bean licking little brother are cute and this book has a good message.  I know there might be little we can do to prepare Abby but I'm hoping every little bit helps.

4.  The Snow Queen:  Guys, Frozen is great....this is better.  It's a pop-up book and we're JUST learning how to not pull on the pages but the pictures/popups in this book are beautiful.  Abby's ruined her fair share of popup books already so I'm a little worried every time we pull this one out.  So far, it's still in tact.  There are even clever little pockets and pull outs with additional images/text.  That being said, I would NOT leave this one on the shelf for Abby to read alone.  One reviewer said it wasn't suited for children under 5 and I'm tempted to agree.  Buy it'll thank me.


6.  Beauty and the Beast: Did you check out the pictures below?  I mean, come's beautiful and dark all in one.  Another blogger wrote this and I couldn't say it better myself.: This retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg ranks as one of my very favorite children’s books ever written.  The storytelling is superb, and the scene at the end – where Beauty realizes her love for the Beast has grown into something profound – moved me to tears.  It is one of the most beautifully written love stories I’ve ever read.


7.  The Fairy Tales of Hans Christen Anderson:  Along the same vein as Beauty and the Beast (above) this is one I just added to my quickly growing collection this morning (and spurred this post...).  I can't give a review on it yet, but I have a feeling it will become a favorite in our household.  It was the artwork alone that sold me on this one.

So, what do you think?  Do you like posts like this?  I can keep doing them as I find more favorites if it's something you guys want to hear about.  If not, that's fine too...I'll just keep my little "problem" to myself :)  Also - a word of warning....if you're a parent with little ones and have a celebration coming up that I'm invited to don't be surprised if you find one my favorite kids books in the bag!  As the toys pile up around our house I'm valuing the staying power of a good book over a plastic toy or clothes they'll outgrow in a few months.