Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again

Time for my annual post of New Year's Resolutions

I used an address from the last General Conference to help me in planning my resolutions this year. It was an address by Pres. Uchtdorf entitled "Of Things That Matter Most". It talks of the importance of focusing on the important basics. But, I couldn't stop myself there in making plans. So, my resolutions have been assigned high priority and lower priority standing this year. So, here they are:

2011 New Year's resolutions

Do better at following the golden rule, especially to my family. Be more sensitive to needs of others and seek out opportunities to serve. Show greater love and respect for my spouse. Limit computer time. Be a consistent and proactive parent.
Daily Routine
Have meaningful personal prayers that focus on receiving the spirit. Spend time each day studying the gospel. Have unrushed family dinners and daily family gospel study. Consistently keep up with the laundry. Practice a daily cleaning routine. Exercise four times each week. Regularly practice tap and piano. Eat lunch with Cyrus. Read and do preschool with Cyrus. Follow through on chore checks. Eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day. Find personal reading time.
Have Family Home Evening. Work on church calling work. Have a date with dh. Attend church. Study Eastern Cultures with kids
Have individual dates or talks with children. Find time for quiet time for personal reflection. Review personal progress. Call and talk to extended family members. Sew.
Monthly family fun day, trip to UT, 2 other family trips, quarterly visits to temple, romantic getaway for anniversary, do 14 days of Valentines for dh, participate in the Trek
Work on 72 hr kits and food storage, clean up and organize home, family history- create connections for children, service such as Sub for Santa, find ways for children to develop relationships with extended family.
Some of these I don't really need to improve on. For example, we go to church every week that we aren't sick. But, I include them to maintain focus on their importance. I organized them in a way that I hope will help me apply them in my life, including planning a schedule that will incorporate as many as possible into my daily and weekly routines. Because I truly believe in the power of routines. Official start time will be Sunday. I plan to post my daily schedules and my progress in keeping them. At least for the first week.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thread Sketching Tutorial

A friend of mine asked me if I would create a tutorial on how I did my thread sketching. I don't think I am going to have any time soon to pull out my machine to do images, but I think I can describe the process pretty well without them.

Another tutorial with images can be found by Gina at Clutterpunk. That is where I actually saw this kind of thing for the first time and used what she did as a launching pad to explore more. Thank you, Gina!

Step 1: Decide on an image.

If you freehand draw really well, you could probably sketch the image you wish to draw either directly on the fabric with a fabric pen or pencil, or even directly with the needle as you sew. It can be a little hard to see what you are doing while drawing directly with the needle, though it can be done. When I did my pear and partridge tea towels I followed just the applique edges, plus a few landmarks I sketched on with a fabric pencil to go by. If you are concerned about messing up good fabric, having an image already prepared can be really helpful. Another option is to practice stitching on a pre printed fabric image. Or, some people will paint the image they wish to have directly on the fabric and stitch it more as an accent. To learn how to prepare an image, go to step 2. Otherwise, pre draw your image, if you wish, and move onto step 3.

Step 2: Apply image to stabilizer.

To create an image I could use as I stitched, I used a product called Sulky Water Soluble Solvy Stabilizer. It is a stabilizer that dissolves in water. There is also a product called Paper Solvy that I would like to try next, if I can find it. It comes in paper like sheets you can print directly onto with your printer. It also dissolves in water. The stuff I used is too flimsy to put in the printer. To make it printable, I cut out sheets of freezer paper to 8 1/2" by 11" size. Then using a warm iron, I ironed the shiny side down onto the solvy. Then I carefully trimmed the solvy (which comes in a roll) down to the size of the freezer paper. My printer has a photocopy option that I used to photocopy images from a bird book I have onto the solvy/freezer paper sheets. I could also have just printed images off from my printer. You could also try using a tear away stabilizer, but I was concerned that with the detail of the stitching on these particular images that I wouldn't be able to tear it all away or the stitching might be damaged by the tearing.

Step 3 Prepare fabric and image for stitching.

If you are stitching something that will be washed later, be sure to pre-shrink your fabric. Dry and press it so you have a smooth work surface. Lay the larger ring of a small embroidery hoop on the table, top it with your fabric, then the image on Solvy if you are using one, then insert the inner ring of the embroidery hoop and tighten it all up. Basically, you are assembling the embroider hoop upside down, compared to the way you would do to embroider by hand. Even if you aren't using an image printed on solvy, you may need to use a stabilizer, depending on the nature of the fabric you are stitching on. My first attempts were on a heavy canvas material, without using a hoop or stabilizer, but I think a hoop would have been useful even with a fabric that heavy. The stabilizer you choose to use can even be one that goes on the back side of the fabric and will stay permanently unseen behind the image.

Step 4 Prepare sewing machine for stitching.

I used a darning foot on my machine, but others have done thread sketching with a regular pressure foot. I mainly use a regular straight stitch setting, although zig zag stitching can be used to create texture and shading, especially if you vary the width so that you get tapering of the zig zag as you sew. With the darning foot you can stitch with the feed dogs either up or down. Either way, you will be manually controlling the movement of the fabric and hence the length of the stitches. Some freehand quilter's feel that keeping the feed dogs up somehow makes their stitch lengths more consistent. With a regular pressure foot, you can keep your feed dogs up, but it may be easier to have them down. I haven't tried it. To insert your embroidery hoop, you probably will need to remove the pressure foot first and then reinsert it after.

Step 5 Stitch your image.

It is probably best to use a thread that contrasts highly with your fabric, but you could go for a more subtle contrast on purpose. One beautiful piece of work that I loved uses more than one shade of thread. I like to plan out my general path of attack before I start stitching, but you can't always plan it perfectly. It is okay to go back and stitch over areas you have already stitched. You can even do so on purpose, not even trying to stay exactly on the lines. This is a drawing technique called contour drawing. The brain sees the various lines of the drawn edge and automatically chooses to "see" the one that makes the most sense. My pear and partridge are done this way.

When you are starting sewing, insert the needle into the fabric, catch the bobbin thread and pull it up on top of the fabric. Hold the bobbin thread and make a few stitches in one spot to secure the end of your stitching. This may make a thickened spot, so keep that in mind when you choose where to start. Holding the bobbin thread up will help you not make a messy knot underneath which may cause you problems as you sketch. I like to keep a small pair of embroidery scissors close at hand so that I can snip the thread as soon as I can, so I don't stitch it into my design.

Using two hands, smoothly and slowly move the hoop as you stitch your image. Try not to rotate the hoop, as doing so could cause enough tension on your thread to snap it (the thread). When your stitching is completed, or if you need to move to a new location to stitch, do a few stitches in one spot again to secure the end.

Step 6 Dissolve Your Solvy.

Once you are done with your sketching, remove the fabric from the machine and the hoop and head to the sink. If you used printer ink to make your image, be warned that the ink can bleed onto your fabric and stain it. I like to carefully snip off as much of the solvy as I can first, then hold the sketched image upside down under running water to dissolve off the rest. That way, the ink is washed away from the fabric. Then just dry and press and your work is done!

To see the pillows I recently made with this technique, look here.

And check out Tara Badcock's photo stream for inspiration on what can be done with this technique!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thread Sketching

I finally finished making new pillows for our family room. We are really hard on throw pillows and I end up needing to make new ones every few years. These are my favorite ones yet. I learned a new sewing technique called thread sketching over the holidays and decided to use it on the pillows. My MIL gave me some beautiful fabric to use. It is the Natureology line from E Studios.

It is beautiful, modern and all about nature and birds. So, of course I decided to stitch birds. My inspiration also came from Tara Badcock. LOVE LOVE LOVE her work! Mine doesn't even compare, but it was fun to try.

My first attempts, a partridge and a pear to go on Christmas tea towels:

The finished pillows:

To do it, I iron the shiny side of freezer paper onto water soluable solvy. Which I then run through my printer, photocopying the image I want to sew onto the solvy side. I then peel the solvy off the freezer paper and using an upside down hoop and the darning foot of my sewing machine, do the sketching. Sounds pretty easy, but it took me forever to figure out how to do it!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rethinking My Approach to Food Storage

I really have spent far too much of my life thinking about this, but once again I have changed my plan for our food storage. At least for our 3 month supply of foods we typically eat. Previously I had based my storage on 12 weeks worth of menus. It was great, because except for some perishables I never figured out how to store, I pretty much could cook anything I wanted to, IF I had my storage complete. Unfortunately, because it was what we usually eat, I never seem to manage to keep it complete.

Now, I'm thinking that wasn't the best approach to begin with. Since the idea is to have enough food for 3 months in the event of a crisis, I really should be storing 3 months of our usual CRISIS foods. In other words, if my world is falling apart around me, I'm not going to be making Korean potstickers and Bolgogi or Southwestern egg rolls, or anything else that is time or effort intensive. So, I am going to pare down my menu. It will now only contain meals that are:

1. Completely storable with no dependancy on perishables.
2. Simple and easy to prepare.
3. With an emphasis on Freezer Meals. Because freezer meals in a crisis are heavenly.

And I want a generator to keep my freezer going if the power goes out. (Is that a sign of finally being an adult if the one material thing you really want is a generator? Or maybe a power washer. I can't decide which I want more.)

By paring down my menus, I'll have fewer different items I am storing and trying to keep tracked of and up to date. I narrowed it down to a 6 week menu, which I am going to triple, so we have 18 weeks worth of food, or slightly over 4 months. That way we aren't below the 3 month target the very next time we have a meal.

I'd like to say I have finally figured it all out. But, I know I will come up with another revision to the plan. Anytime now, in fact.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No School and Homeschool

The phone just rang to announce that there is no school tomorrow. Again. This will be the 5th day of no school in the last 5 days of scheduled school. (We had a week-end in the middle.) Now I am wondering if there will be a token day of school on Friday, or if this will turn out to be an 11 day long mid winter break. If I had known, this would have been a great opportunity to take a special trip somewhere. Out to UT to see my family and take the kids skiing. Or someplace warm. I'm not sure I really remember what warm outside weather was like...

On the bright side, we have been very blessed in these storms. We only lost power for a few hours, while many, even a short distance away, have been without power for days. Electricity seems to influence almost every activity we do anymore, so we really feel its loss. We do have a gas fireplace for warmth, and a propane camp stove for cooking, so we wouldn't be completely without survivability. I would miss hot showers and dishwasher, though!

We have had lots of opportunities to perform service. Mostly pushing stuck cars, but also things like straightening Daddy's shoes and baking him cookies. And we've worked on Faith in God, Personal Progress, Scouts and Duty to God. The kids think I am evil for it, like they shouldn't have to do anything on this bonus vacation. Which only reconfirms my knowledge that homeschooling would not work for me.

At least not for the older kids. I've been homeschooling Cyrus and Elsie for preschool and love doing it. I've done this with all the kids, trying various things. I think what I started doing this year is my favorite. We are doing a literature based program through Sonlight. First, we spend 20 to 40 minutes each day reading. Me to them, and Elsie to me. We read poetry, scripture stories, literature books, and nonfiction science and social science books.

Elsie learned all her letters playing at when she was 3, so I started teaching her to put them together and read. I use the Teach your Child to Read in 100 Lessons. It is a helpful book for progression, but sometimes proceeds at a pace that is too fast or too slow. So, when it seems like it is getting burdensome or too tough, we pull out supplemental reading material: Bob books, Dick and Jane, and other readers I saved that the older kids brought home from school. Actually, I always include them and she chooses which. After spending some time on some easier stuff, she often then feels up to the challenge of progressing further with the lessons. She just finished lesson 67.

We then also have table time. We have been working on fine motor skills with cut and paste books and coloring books. During this time we also use Developing The Early Learner, The Nursery Manual and The Friend magazine, Handwriting Without Tears, Saxon K Math and Speechercise for Cyrus' speech. I have seen a lot of progress in them so far.

I started to homeschool preschool with my kids because we couldn't afford out of home preschool. But now that I can afford it, I still don't want to. I know how quickly this period of their lives passes and I want to cherish this time with them. Ideally, I don't think kids should be pushed into learning things before they are ready and I don't think I do that. Elsie and Cyrus get to choose every book we read and when we stop reading or whether we continue working on other things for the day. I think kids really thrive in a child led learning situation, where I provide materials and guidance and they enjoy and progress at their own pace. I don't think that is so easy to do in a group situation.

A perfect illustration of this happened last week. Elsie has been taking gymnastics in a class of about 8 children. Because of the impending storm, Elsie was the only one to show up on Friday. So she had a one on one lesson with the teacher. Because she didn't have to wait for other children to have their turn with the teacher, she progressed through the entire normal class curriculum in a fraction of the time it usually takes. They then spent the entire remainder of the time trying out every single piece of equipment in a very, very large gymnastics center. She says there are 5 trampolines alone. It was her favorite lesson ever!

There are two things that I think kids get in a group preschool situation that they don't get through homeschool preschool. One is socialization skills. I remember in college one text said that was the main purpose of preschools. I think with having four siblings, nursery, play dates and playing with the other kids during our exercise group, they get plenty of opportunity for that. The other thing is the ability to functional in a institutional or group setting. Elsie gets some of that by going to primary and gymnastics or swimming class, but she may have to learn skills that the other children have already learned once she starts school in the fall. But, I think that her academic base will be strong enough that she can focus her resources on learning those types of skills. And learning those types of skills is easier to do as a 5 yr old than a 3 yr old, anyways.

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I didn't turn my children over to the school system at age 5 and kept homeschooling them. They seem to have almost all lost their enthusiasm for schoolwork as they have gotten older. Although Maddy hasn't completely yet. But, then again, it is much easier for me to get the littler kids excited about doing chores than the older ones. I fear it would be a constant battle to get them to do their work. Plus, I just don't think I have the organizational skills to keep up on all the different levels of schooling needs.

But, that is my fantasy. Spending days with my children, walking through the woods identifying trees and observing wildlife behavior, sketching wildflowers, counting acorns and reading great literature together on a quilt in the shade. Yeah, right. As I look around at the mess my house has become by this time of day whenever we have a snow day, I know that is truly a fantasy!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Recap

I can't believe January is already over!

Healthy Eating

I picked up the Jan/Feb issue of an interesting magazine called Clean Eating. I wanted to add more healthy recipes to my cooking repertoire and tried a whole bunch from the magazine. I ended up cooking with a lot of things I never have before:turnips, rice milk, quinoa, leeks, even tofu. (Which my family still doesn't know I served them!)

Unfortunately, most of the recipes weren't well received by the family. I did learn ideas from cooking them to make small adjustments to our regular recipes to make them healthier. And the recipes for Squash and Chicken Casserole, Amazing Baked Apples and Apple Grilled Cheese were all yummy.

I'm not sure the family was very happy with my little experiment. Emily had to type up her new year's resolutions at school and wrote, "Eating healthier, because that is one of my mom's resolutions and she is dragging us all down with her."

As a consolation for being such good guinea pigs I decided one day to make them a from scratch turkey pot pie, complete with a traditional unhealthy homemade crust. I did make sure I put in plenty of vegetables, 5 to be exact. Two different family members walked in as I was prepping the veggies and asked, This isn't another new vegetarian recipe, is it?" I promised them it wasn't. Then, ironically, after putting the finished pie in the oven I realized I had forgotten to add the turkey to it. It was still good added after.

I did also try to add some other fun treats, such as making cinnamon rolls and bread pudding. Because I think that healthy eating doesn't require eliminating all special foods, just having them in moderation. I checked out Martha Stewart's Healthy Cookbook from the library and am planning on trying some of those next.


I set out with the goal of downsizing and organizing the whole house. Didn't happen. I did manage to get a lot of it more organized than it has been in a long time. My kitchen and pantry, the art cupboard, my desk area, my closet, under my bed, the whole nursery, the downstairs hall closet, the blanket closet, the video/camera equipment, the books and my sewing stuff all got addressed.

We put away the Christmas decorations and pulled out all the winter decor. Mostly a bunch of snowmen stuff. I got paper whites on clearance after Christmas and forced them into bloom. They are so pretty! The are often described as "fragrant", when actually they stink. Which is why I don't do them very often.

Maddy, Elsie and I cut out a bunch of snowflakes out of coffee filters. We leave the undecorated tree up through Maddy's birthday on the 4th of Jan. This year we covered it with the snowflakes and it looked so pretty we kept it up till my birthday on the 18th. Now the snowflakes are hanging in the windows.

We also started a new chore schedule. I decided I was tired of reassigning chores all the time and not knowing whose turn it is to do what. So, we started a monthly rotation. Each of the older children has a meal chore (such as clearing or washing dishes), a bathroom to maintain and a "zone" or area of the house to maintain. Then we rotate through them on a monthly basis. It seems to be working out well. I have seen a sense of ownership over areas and a pride in cleaning an area really well that I didn't when our cleaning was more randomly assigned. I just wish that having kid's do chores didn't require so much oversight and consistency on my part!


I created a sewing area so I no longer had to drag all my sewing stuff out from the basement. Everything I need to sew with is now very accessible. I love it! I started doing prep work on our Christmas stockings and making new pillows for the family room. I am using a new technique called thread sketching in them. I will have to post pictures when I am done.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Wildlife is Hungry.

It's been cold and snowy. And I have felt too lazy to trudge through it all to fill the bird feeder. So, I had the brilliant idea of putting it in the little space just outside the patio doors, where the overhang keeps the snow from piling up. And where we could see the birds more easily anyways. I figured the chipmunks, squirrels and bears are all hibernating, so no problem, right? Last night as we sat on the couch and watched an episode of The Office, we noticed a couple of deer outside the window. Thought nothing of it and went to bed. This morning the bird feeder had been knocked over, the lid taken off and all the seed was gone. The deer tracks gave away the culprits.

They also showed that one of the deer "took the stairs" instead of walking up the hill. Maddy called it the civilized one. She also says they checked out their igloos and she thinks one of them slept in hers. I don't know about that. They are definitely hanging out at our house, though. Mostly because the snow has covered most of the food around, but our front jungle hill of broadleaf evergreen leaves seems to be quite tasty. On Christmas Eve, DH and I walked outside to go visit a neighbor and startled a mini herd of them down there.

We saw two new birds in the last couple days, too. Yesterday, a Northern Flicker woodpecker was digging in the snow, trying to get to the ground for some food. It made Elsie laugh the way he flicked the snow out with his beak. I wonder if that is why it is called a flicker?

We also had a Carolina wren hopping about outside the window cleaning up the seeds the deer missed. He was a darling, fat little fellow.

As much as I complain about the wildlife eating my garden, I sure enjoy seeing them up close all the time. That is one of the things I really enjoy about living here. (Between the deer, rabbits, voles and the chipmunks, there wasn't much vegetable garden left for us this year.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm Back!

I cannot believe that I have let my blog sit unattended for so long! Two posts ago was my 2009 New Year's Resolutions post, and here it is again, time to make new year's resolutions once more.

First to review last year's successes and failures:

Learn how to do my new calling and try to do my best at it. (And now I am trying to learn two new ones!)
Plan something fun for our anniversary.
Help Emily earn her Faith in God Award.
Help Marvin get his Teacher Duty to God Award and advance in Scouts.
Teach Marvin to drive.
Restart preschool with Elsie. (And it is going beautifully this time!)
Learn how to better help Maddy with her specific needs.
Wean Cyrus (Can you imagine if I had failed to do that one!)
Make the raspberry jam, finally.
Restock freezer meals. (Done multiple times)
Pay off a significant portion of the student loans.
Plant everbearing strawberries. (Which the bunnies and chipmunks thought were delicious!)
Paint pantry closets.
Continue to work on our year's supply. (I need to rebuild on this again, but did make significant contributions.)
Downsize and organize. Simplify my material environment. (Still in progress!)
Train for and run a 5k.

Do better in my personal scripture study.
Keep up with the SS study plan.
And fully read the church magazines each month. (The usual spurts in these 3 areas)
Do the 14 days of Valentines for dh again
Potty train Cyrus.
Find one and one time with each kid. (I did do better, but still not where I want it.)
Finish the 72 hr kits.
Finish renovating the kitchen.
Finish redoing the kid's rooms.
Blog more regularly. Make a blog book. (Ha ha!)
Participate in Book Club.

The successes are slightly longer than the fails, so that is good, right?

So, for 2010, I will try to...

Have daily personal morning devotional.
Grow enough in my calling to do it well. Rely on lots of prayer to manage this.
Help get the temple work done for dh's grandmother.
Attend the temple at least every 3 months.

Do a service as a family every month.
Have a meaningful fun family activity every month, even if that means skipping out
on other activities.
Go on a Church History Tour with my family and see the pageants. Watch church
history dvd's to prepare.
Go camping!
Go to Cape Cod
Have Pioneer Days again.
Start blogging again to record our family history.

Work with kid's every week on scout, D2God, FinGod and PP.
Potty train Cyrus.
Complete preschool with Elsie before summer.
Start preschool with Cyrus in the fall.
Help Marvin accomplish his eagle.
Make sure Marvin prepares for and takes the ACT and SAT.

Eat healthier, and learn to cook healthier meals for my family.
Do P90x with the ward exercise group.
Run another 5k when we are done.
Then continue to exercise regularly.

Provident Living
Pay off even more student debt.
Figure out how to make my garden grow better and survive the wildlife.
Finish the 72 hr kits.

Try to maintain a cleaner, more organized home.
Work on one room a month, doing painting and otherwise making it more beautiful
Seek fun meaningful moments, foods and activities to make our home a place of

Learn to draw better.
Complete one sewing project each month. (Including Christmas stockings!)

That is a lot to work on! I will be really happy if I get half of it done.