Readin’ – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The historic district in our town recently held their first holiday open house, and my sister, niece, and I went to visit our favorite antique stores.

I was in the market to find a side table for my daughter’s bedroom which I have been working on painting and re-decorating (I’ll blog about that later).

Jacci's Room (6)

Here is the side table that I found. Perfect size. Perfect color.

The interesting thing about this trip to the antique stores was not finding the perfect side table, however.

Before we went shopping, I had been preparing to write a blog post on the book, Charlotte’s Web.

Why?

Well, every year or so, friends publish their top 10 favorite book lists. I have published mine a few times, and I have only been able to pare it down to a top 12 list. Some of the items on the list include an example of my favorite book in a genre so it really is even more than my top 12.

Here is my list:

  • Joy of Cooking by Rombauer, The Fanny Farmer Cookbook by Cunningham, & Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Child & Beck. I have an entire bookcase of cookbooks as that is one of my passions, but these three I cannot live without and use almost every day.
  • Webster’s Dictionary. I have 2 shelves of dictionaries, thesauruses, and other books like The Chicago Manual of Style. My favorite is the oldest, most tattered dictionary because I can always find the word and definition I am looking for in it.
  • The Holy Bible. I have 2 shelves of bibles, old prayer books, and reference books from my 4-year Biblical Studies degree which is why I know that the brand of fundamentalist Christianity out there right now is not Christ-like.
  • The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias. I’ve had this book for decades. It is what I used to break the cycle of poor financial planning modeled by my parents, and it is how I achieved financial independence. The book is based on common sense, and I have given copies to my children.
  • The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and most older science fiction (love Isamov). This is what I read in high school and college, and it provided me an escape from real life. I love fantasy and science fiction literature and movies to this day.
  • Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Anything by Charles Dickens, but this is a love story and social commentary in one that is timeless.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This story haunts me to this day.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Read everything he writes, but I am an avid reader of dystopic and apocryphal literature and this is an example.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. A must read for every woman.  Love everything she writes.
  • Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. We literally wore out copies of this book reading it over and over again to our children.  We buy it for friends having babies.  Other favorites include The Piggy in the Puddle by Pomerantz because it speaks to remembering to have fun (we had to buy the book because we checked it out of the library so much we were prohibited from ever checking it out again) and Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes because it speaks to being authentic and true to yourself.
  • Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. We read a LOT to our kids, but this was the last series read aloud to them (into middle school).  Love the book and the movies, but most of all love the memories of snuggling with my kids.
  • Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.  Our favorite Christmas book.  We all have bells that we hang up at Christmas time.

You’ll notice that Charlotte’s Web is not on my top 12 list. But it should be.

Why?

Because this is the book that turned me into an avid, life-long reader.

When I was in 3rd grade, some 49 years ago in 1965, my teacher, Mrs. Allensworth, read this book aloud to us every single day. Well, every single day that we were good and completed all of our work. We had a lot of work in 3rd grade. We learned multiplication tables and long division. We learned to write in cursive.

But if we finished our assigned work, Mrs. Allensworth would read a few pages of Charlotte’s Web to us. I was transfixed. She added life and passion to this story, and I could barely wait to hear more.

So, I decided to write about this defining event in my life, and I was researching the origins of Charlotte’s Web.

I learned it was originally published in 1952. I learned that it continued to be one of the most read aloud books to 3rd graders in 2004, nearly 40 years after I was a 3rd grader listening to this story. It routinely appears on teachers top 100 books of all time lists.

So, when we were going through our favorite antique store, I ran across a booth filled with old books. I always stop and go through piles of old books in antique stores. Mostly, I find those few week wonders in the piles. Biographies of celebrities and politicians and old, fad diet cookbooks. Not antique books.

I spent awhile going through the books when I ran across a 1952 edition of Charlotte’s Web in near perfect condition including the dust jacket and all.

CharlotteWeb

The book was selling for $3.00 so I scooped it up. I mentioned that it was an original edition to the woman who checked me out, and she said that she didn’t realize that. Apparently, it was in her booth.

Sometimes things happen that feel like a sign. Like I was meant to find this book.

When I got home, I researched how much this book might be worth. Turns out this isn’t an original First Edition, it’s an original Book Club Edition. A regular First Edition is worth between $1,000 and $4,500. This Book Club Edition is only worth about $35. The book along with the dust cover are in almost pristine condition, and it was printed before I was born which means it’s very old. Ha.

Which I think is very, very cool.

I love books. I love e-books. I love library books. I love borrowing books. I love sharing my books. I love owning my own books. I love the smell of books.

I love going through bookshelves in libraries, bookstores, and antique stores (apparently). I like to look at my friend’s bookshelves, including electronic ones like Goodreads, to see what they are reading.

But, most importantly, I love to read, and this book spoke to me when I was very young resulting in a life-long love of reading.

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

 

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What’s Cookin’ – Thanksgiving Recipes and the Almost Empty Nest

As our nest gets emptier, our holidays continue to evolve. For the past several years, our daughter who lives in California has come to visit on Thanksgiving and our daughter and son-in-law who live in Arizona come at Christmas. Our middle daughter lived away from our home town for a few years, but moved back this past year. So, for the past few years, we’ve seen all of our kids at the holidays. Just not all on the same holiday!

This year all of us will be together. At the same time! In the same place! Six of us will travel to Arizona to spend Christmas with our oldest daughter and son-in-law. We will continue our themed Christmas which will be . . . Southwest. Can’t wait to see how creative everyone will be with this theme this year.

Our five girls and their food babies

Thanksgiving 2011 – the last time all of us were together at the same time in the same place!

But before Christmas comes Thanksgiving. My sister, who lives three blocks from us, will be hosting the holiday this year. It will be a quiet holiday with only 8 of us there. And that is all right with me. We will not be those parents who insist that their children spend every holiday with them. We love spending time, including the holidays, with our children, but we have known too many people for whom holidays were stressful because of overbearing and demanding relatives. So, we will be respectful of our adult children’s decisions regarding holidays (and other matters, too).

This has made our holidays so much more fun for everyone. They are casual. We have good food. We play cards and games. And our children feel free to come and go as they maneuver in-law’s and boyfriend’s holiday schedules.

My sister, niece and nephew, and I decided on our Thanksgiving menu last week. My sister ordered the fresh turkey and is in charge of roasting it this year. Hopefully, the sink won’t detach from the counter, fall into the cabinet, and create a massive water leak and mess at the crack of dawn like last year. Yes. That happened.

My niece and nephew are in charge of side dishes except for the regular rolls, cranberry sauce, and desserts. My niece and sister have Celiac Disease so they will also provide their own bread.

I am in charge of the pies (including homemade whipped cream), cranberry sauce, and yeast rolls.

Our three kids who will be with us at Thanksgiving are in charge of beverages. We used to provide sparkling grape juice, white and red, for the kids. I think it’s safe to say that the grape juice will be of the wine variety this year. At least until we start having young kids around again.

Yesterday, I bought the cranberries to make my homemade cranberry sauce.

Cranberries 3# size

Last year this 48 ounce bag cost me $4.97. This year the price was $4.98.

Making homemade cranberry sauce is frightfully easy. You can see my recipe and tutorial here. The beauty of this recipe is that you can (and should) make your cranberry sauce a few weeks in advance. You can make it and refrigerate it for up to two weeks, or you can process it and keep it on the shelf for up to 12 months. Making it a few weeks before you serve it allows the flavor to completely mellow.

Cranberry Sauce Ready to Eat 2012

Homemade cranberry sauce.

My kids LOVE cranberry sauce, and I used the canned stuff for many years, but the homemade version is so much better and so easy I guarantee you won’t go back. I make a plain and a spiced version (using orange, cloves, and cinnamon), and this is one of my most visited posts on my blog. This is so easy to prepare that I make extra to share with friends. Kind of an early Christmas gift.

Cream of Mushroom Soup ready to use

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup.

If you have friends or family who are gluten intolerant, many holiday recipes present challenges when it comes to using canned “cream of” soups. I started making my own Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom soup. You can make these gluten free or not by using all-purpose flour rather than rice flour. There are three reasons to make your “cream of” soups homemade: #1 The homemade versions are so much better tasting, #2 they don’t require a lot of extra effort or time, and #3 gluten free canned soups are very expensive.

The standard size on canned soups is 10¾ ounces or slightly more than one cup so be sure to measure the homemade soup for your recipes. And eat the rest as regular soup. Seriously, would you ever eat the canned cream of whatever soups as regular soup? I know I wouldn’t, but the homemade cream soups are so, so yummy.

Green Bean Casserole ready to eat

My version of the iconic Green Bean Casserole.

If you like Green Bean Casserole, I have a homemade version that is also really, really good. I saw a version of this on Cook’s Country and re-created it in a gluten-free version as This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Green Bean Casserole.

Cranberry Salad ready to serve

Some other recipes that I love for Thanksgiving include Cranberry Salad. This recipe is from my friend, Cathy. It is very good, but if you want it for Thanksgiving dinner, you need to start to prepare it two days in advance. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, and it is easily halved for smaller gatherings.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

My version of Nantucket Cranberry Pie.

The other cranberry recipe that I love is for Nantucket Cranberry Pie. There are a lot of versions of this recipe out there, but this one, from The Pioneer Woman, is the one I use. I admit that I use more than two cups of cranberries. I use an entire 12-ounce bag (about 3 cups of cranberries). The recipe calls for 2 heaping cups and that is just not enough.  Think cranberry cobbler – easy to make and so good to eat!

Turkey Cookie step ready to eat

Turkey Cookies.

Finally, here’s a fun Thanksgiving treat to make and share – Fudge Striped Shortbread Turkey Cookies. My kids loved these cookies when Grandma made them when they were younger. I made them a few years ago and plan on making them again this year because even older kids love them.

I hope that your Thanksgiving plans include time with friends and family who you care about and who care about you!

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DIY – Curtain From A Linen Tablecloth & Bathroom Remodel

My sister moved back to our home town about a year ago after her husband passed away from battling cancer for 2 years. She bought a new, old home about three blocks away from us. Now we not only get to speak to each other every day, but we get to see each other every day, too.

roxiebailey

Funny story – My sister’s two dogs, Bailey and Roxie, move freely back and forth between our two new, old homes. Roxie stays with us most of the time, and Bailey is attached to my sister. Very attached. My sister decided to proceed with some home renovations and left the house one day to run an errand while the contractors were there. They inadvertently let Bailey out of the house, and he ran off.

Meanwhile, DSH was working outside at our new, old home when Bailey appeared at his side. We were baffled and tried calling and texting my sister, but there was no answer. In the meantime, the poor contractors were scouring the neighborhood trying to find the escapee.

The little “Shit-zhu” (That’s what I call him – he’s a Pug / Shih Tzu mix, and I also tell him that if he weren’t so cute, he’d be dead.) had managed to find his way the three blocks, across a very busy road, to our new, old home looking for my sister or escaping from those nasty old contractors. He wanted nothing to do with those guys!

Bailey

My sister started the renovations on her new, old home by converting the screened in porch to a true three-season room. Her second renovation involved changes to the upstairs bathroom. She wanted to make a few minor modifications which turned into a more involved project than expected. Isn’t that always the case?

What they discovered is the pan to the shower was cracked and had been leaking for who knows how long resulting in a little mold problem. The entire shower had to be torn out as well as the wall board which was replaced with the correct type for bathrooms. A few day project lasted a little longer, but, thankfully, she has a bathroom in the basement. She got her stair-stepper exercises!

After this problem was found and repaired, she was able to get back to the minor changes including adding new tile to the shower and around the vanity to match the existing black and white subway tile on the floor. She also replaced the top on the vanity which was a converted antique dresser. They removed the wood top and added a piece of black granite.

After the contractors were done with this work, my sister proceeded to do the painting and decorating. She decided on pink for the color theme for her newly updated bathroom, and it turned out really cute!

Linen tablecloth drapery 1

While we were out visiting antique stores one day, I spotted this beautiful linen tablecloth with pink flowers embroidered on it. It was in pristine condition and was listed for $14. I felt it would make a beautiful drapery for her new bathroom.

Linen tablecloth drapery 2

I added a rod pocket using some fabric that we already had and . . .

Linen tablecloth drapery 3

Voila! A beautiful linen tablecloth has been re-purposed into a beautiful drapery for my sister’s new, old bathroom.

Linen tablecloth drapery complete

Here it is installed. We used a very light pink sheer that we re-purposed from one of my daughter’s old bedrooms. It is draped on one side and the linen drapery nee tablecloth is draped the other direction. The tie backs are pieces of silver costume jewelry that belonged to my sister’s mother-in-law.

Bathroom mirror wall 1

My sister has an antique mirror collection that used to reside on the wall of a bedroom in her old home. They look perfect in her newly remodeled bathroom.

Bathroom mirror wall 2

I love the little sign that goes with them! So whimsical!

Bathroom Hall Tree Wall 3

The contractor made an error in cutting the corner piece for the shower, so my sister re-purposed it as a corner shelf next to the old-fashioned freestanding tub. There is a jar of shells from her travels as well as two old ceramic pieces from her mother-in-law.

Bathroom Hall Tree Wall 1

She put an antique hall tree in the space on the other side of the tub. It includes an antique plate holding an antique curling iron. She also has a place to display a Chinese fan given to her by a friend.

Bathroom Hall Tree Wall 2

My sister had this sampler from many years ago, and it fits perfectly over the tub.

Bathroom Sink Wall 1

Here is the antique dresser which was in place when she move into the house. She replaced the top with a piece of black granite and a black and white backsplash carried over from the tiling in the shower. Both features tie in nicely with the black and white subway tile flooring.

She added a new mirror that blends old and new styles. What you cannot see is that she painted the insides of the drawers with a bright lime green color. The bright color adds whimsy and also makes the insides of the drawers easier to clean.

Bathroom Sink Wall 2

The glass shelf to the right of the vanity mirror holds my sister’s husband’s baby cup containing some Q-tips, and another antique mirror ties the theme from the other wall. The jar is full of black and white hat pins which is something that my sister collects in homage to our paternal grandmother and her sisters who owned a millinery shop in Chicago in the early 1900s.

Grandma D Christmas 1959

Here is a picture of our grandmother wearing one of her fascinating hats. I talked about the millinery shop and my grandmother here.

Master Closet Door 1

The upstairs bathroom includes a doorway into the room that was converted into a master bedroom closet.

Master Closet Door 2

My sister tied back the sheer with an old handkerchief, embroidered in pink with the letter “D” for her first name. So, so cute.

Master Bedroom Closet Sink

One of the nice features of my sister’s master bedroom closet is an extra sink which she can use if someone else is using the one and only upstairs bathroom. Love the use, again, of an antique dresser for a vanity.

We are really enjoying re-using and re-purposing stuff we already own or find in our new, old homes, and I really love my sister’s newly remodeled and decorated bathroom, don’t you?

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DIY – New Seat Cushions for Old Patio Chairs

I finished a few DIY projects this past summer for my sister who moved back to our home town about a year ago and bought a new, old home three blocks from me.

One of the first projects I worked on was for the shirt pillows that she placed on a porch swing in her newly remodeled three-season room.

Shirt Pillows on porch swing

This former screened in porch is on the back of her new, old home and is the rear entry. The problem she had with this room was that it provided little in the way of protection from rain and snow which resulted in people (and the dogs) tracking in all sorts of stuff directly into her kitchen.

The solution was to change out the screens for real windows, adding walls, and a real locking door creating a more useful room which can now be used for more of the year and serves as a mud room before entering the house.

She re-purposed the bamboo window shades which were on other windows in the home (they fit perfectly!). She added a wood floor over the sub-floor and painted it in the two shades of green that she used in her kitchen. Don’t you love the diamond pattern? The walls are a subtle shade of yellow.

It’s the perfect room to hang out for morning coffee!

Except that she needed a table.

She found an old metal patio at a local resale shop for a very reasonable price. I’m sure it was so reasonable because the chairs were the old style ones with removable seat cushions with not-so-lovely fabric covers.

They had to go.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (1)

Since I am the one who likes to sew, this became my project. I have never recovered patio seat cushions or sewn anything with a fabric cord edge although I have recovered leather seats for kitchen chairs. Same principle, but more sewing was involved.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (2)

Here is the seat cushion. The plan was to remove the fabric and use it as the pattern for the new covers.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (3)

This involved removing the staples holding the fabric to the wooden frame.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (4)

Here are the pieces all taken apart. The wooden frame was good on three of the chairs, but broken on one of them. DSH had a guy at work cut a new one to size. We re-used the foam, but had to buy some new fabric cording since these cushions were so old that the fabric and cording was falling apart. The cording cost less than $5.

My sister had part of a bolt of thinner, slightly stretchy denim which we decided to use to cover the cushions. Since the table will be inside, the fabric did not have to be waterproof.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (5)

I laid out the pattern, pinned, and cut four sets of fabric for the four seat cushions.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (7)

Here are the pieces cut out. Two pieces per chair – the seat and the edge.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (6)

Make sure to iron the wrinkles out of the fabric. It is much easier at this stage then later on.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (11)

Using another seat cover as a guide, I pinned and sewed the pieces together. The trick at this stage was to start pinning at the center of the front of the cushion and work around each half to meet in the middle at the back. You want to hide the seam at the back of the cushion and work with any issues there rather than in the front.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (9)

I also started sewing in the center of the front and worked around to the back. So you will sew half and then go back to the front and sew the other half. Again, this was so any issues that you needed to work with would be in the back of the cushion.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (13)

Sewing the fabric cord edging was actually not as hard as I expected. It involved an extra sewing step along the side edge of fabric. I just followed the design used on the original seat cushions although I suspect there is more than one way to do this.

Again, I worked from the center of the front of the cushion which meant I did half and then went back to the center front to do the other half.

Closing the back edge was the most complicated part of the sewing. My first attempt was not my best effort, but since this part is at the back of the cushion, it is not readily visible and most of it is hidden under the seat back.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (11)

Take the completed seat cover and place over the foam. Then turn upside down.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (12)

The hard back will be the underside where you will staple the new cover onto the old cushion. Start at the corners and pull taut working back and forth from opposite side to side until fully stapled. We kept turning it around to make sure that the edging was along the edge and not being pulled off to the side too far.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (18)

And old and a new seat cushion side by side. I’m sure the yellow flowers were beautiful in their day. The new look is definitely more modern, but still in keeping with the style of the new, old house.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (24)

And here is the seat cushion back on the chair. What a difference! And they are very comfortable to sit on, too.

Patio Chair Cushions Recovered (19)

Here are the chairs with their new seat cushions. I love the round, blue rug on which the table and chairs are centered.

I can’t wait until my sister gets the rest of this room decorated so I share the final results, but it’s already a nice place to sit and share a cup of coffee in the morning.

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DIY – New Lampshade Covers

I’ve been working on several DIY projects this summer. They have been for my sister who moved three blocks from me late last year. We both now live in the historic district of a small city, and we love it!

The first DIY project was for shirt pillows (I blogged about it here).

My sister’s plan was to place the shirt pillows on a porch swing in her newly renovated porch. She converted a screened-in porch in the back of her new, old home into a true 3-season room. It’s not quite complete (because I have one more DIY project to complete, and she’s still working on accessorizing it), but it’s going to be gorgeous!

My sister is really good at mixing old and new along with items that have sentimental value and those that include a little bit of whimsy, too. I’m enjoying working on these projects with her. And, yes, we are talking about getting some projects done at my house, too.

Shirt Pillows on porch swing

The shirt pillows look great on her porch swing, don’t they? Every time we look at them we think about my oldest daughter’s Hawaiian themed wedding.

I can’t wait to show you the porch once it’s complete!

The next project I worked on involved updating lampshades for old lamps.

My sister loves old lamps. She has a collection of old and new lamps some with lampshades and some without.

She has learned how to re-wire lamps because most of them either don’t work or just don’t seem safe to use.

While she’s re-wiring lamps, I was tasked with recovering some old, yellowed lampshades for a pair of hobnail milk glass lamps that belonged to her in-laws.

There’s plenty of sites out there where you can learn how to do this. Here is what I did and learned about recovering old lampshades.

DIY Lampshade Cover 1

First of all, you have to make a pattern. We had some leftover packing paper, but you could use a paper bag or newspaper.

For this step, you will need the lampshade, the paper, a pencil, and scissors. I simply rolled the lampshade and ran the pencil along the paper to create the pattern adding an additional ½” around each side for the overlap seam. Then you can cut out your paper pattern.

DIY Lampshade Cover 2

After cutting out the pattern, you will need to cut out the fabric. You will need pins and scissors along with your fabric for this step.

Pin the pattern to your fabric and cut it out. The important thing about this step is that you will have to be careful about any pattern or bias in the fabric. You will have to make sure that you match the cut-out pattern if making lampshades for a pair (or more) of lamps.

DIY Lampshade Cover 3

Here is the cut out fabric ready to go. You can see one is done and still has the raw edge on the top and bottom.

DIY Lampshade Cover 4

I ironed the fabric so that there would be no wrinkles once they were adhered to the lampshades.

DIY Lampshade Cover 5

To adhere the fabric to the lampshades, you will need spray-on adhesive and fabric glue. I used the spray on adhesive outside because of the fumes.

DIY Lampshade Cover 6

It is important, at this point to determine the exact center of the fabric and the center of the lampshade which is the front opposite the seam. Line these two centers up for each lampshade to ensure that any pattern or bias on the fabric will match for multiple sets of lampshades.

DIY Lampshade Cover 7

Spray the side of the fabric that will be attached to the lamp. In other words, the outside of the fabric will be on the opposite side and you will be spraying on the inside of the fabric. This was a towel so it’s hard to tell which side was front and back on these pictures.

After spraying, turn the edge down on one side so you won’t have a raw edge left at the end.

DIY Lampshade Cover 8

Then you simply roll the lampshade onto the fabric going first one way from the center and then going back the other way from the center. Take the sealed edge and place it over the raw edge side. Press the fabric carefully and firmly onto the lampshade and allow to set for the amount of time specified on the adhesive.

DIY Lampshade Cover 9

The lampshades are now covered and the top and bottom edges need to be glued into place.

DIY Lampshade Cover 11

For this step, I used fabric glue to ensure that the fabric is solidly and tightly attached to the lampshade.

DIY Lampshade Cover 10

The bottom edges are glued. Allow it to set for the time specified.

DIY Lampshade Cover 11

Glue the top edges making sure that the fabric is taut. Allow them to set for the time specified.

This entire project took about an hour after subtracting time I spent analyzing the process to make sure I understood how it was going to look.

DIY Lampshade Cover 12

Here is a picture of the front and back of the lampshades. You can see how the pattern curves due to the conical shape of the lampshade. This is why it’s important to be careful when cutting and gluing the fabric onto the shade so that the pattern matches in the back and especially if doing multiple shades.

DIY Lampshade Cover Complete

Here is one of the two antique hobnail milk glass lamps that used to sit on a dresser in my sister’s in-law’s home with the newly covered lampshade. They are now sitting on an antique dresser in her guest room. They are a nice blend of old and new and much better looking than the old, yellowed lampshades. I love the choice of fabric which adds a soft and feminine texture against the white glass.

I love that my sister and I are being creative and learning new things together. I love that we are re-purposing things we already have and saving money updating and improving things for modern use. And I love how we are working together to create our new homes filled with things that are not only useful but are meaningful, too.

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The Final Stretch

We have five kids.

Three are grown and flown.

Our babies, our twins, are getting ready to enter their last year of college.

KJbirthday08101992

Our twins on their birth day.

I was smiling in this picture, but inside I was terrified. I knew how much work one infant could be, and now I was going to have to take care of two plus the two older ones, and I still had a full-time career job!

One of the first things we did was to decide that I would leave my job (and my career as it turned out). This decision did not come easily. In fact, I waited until the absolute last minute to decide and then I had to choke the words out to my boss that I would not be returning – to a job I loved working for a great company with great people.

I spent the next three years agonizing over the loss of my career. A career that I had worked hard to build and where I had spent many years since my twins were born when I was in my late 30s.

That is, I agonized over it in between the many sleepless nights and the endless feedings and non-stop poop patrol.

Having children over a 10-year span meant that just about the time I thought I was done with breast feeding and diapers and potty training, it started all over again.

I remember thinking I would never get them off the breast and out of diapers and all of them into school.

I remember wondering if I would ever be able to go to the bathroom alone again or take a shower without a kid watching me or get a full night of sleep. Or have uninterrupted sex with my husband again.

Yes, I went there.

These are vivid memories even as my youngest two turn twenty-two.

Having babies, though, is only the beginning of the journey. There are many times, as kids grow up, that you long for the simpler days of non-stop feedings, burpings, and diaper changes.

The challenges of parenting don’t go away once you leave the baby and toddler years – they just become different.

You have to learn to navigate kids going to school, friends and bullies, homework, extracurricular activities, sex and drug education, learning to drive, dating, snarky teenagers, high school jobs, college visits and applications.

Parenting challenges never seem to end. They just evolve into newer, different, and potentially more life changing challenges.

Oh, and sleepless nights return once you have teenagers. Teenagers have a way, similar to babies, of putting a damper on your love life, too.

Yes, I went there AGAIN.

Just about the time our lives started calming down, we added a fifth child to our family. Our niece came to live with us permanently when she was 13. She came to us through the Division of Family Services because her birth parents were not taking proper care of her.

Our family dynamics changed dramatically as we shifted bedrooms and our lives to accommodate another smart and beautiful young girl into our home. She fit neatly, chronologically, in between daughter #1 and daughter #2. In many ways, the transition was smooth. The most difficult part of this journey was dealing with the shenanigans of birth dad and step mom who did everything in their power to sabotage her success and happiness (but that is a story for another day).

So, we ended up with five kids.

My 5 Girls too

Our five girls in 2010.

It is true that good kids can come from bad families and bad kids can come from good families. We have plenty of evidence of that in our extended families.

We have five really good kids. We are truly blessed that they love us and each other. We have a good family.

We have worked hard to provide our five girls the best possible chance for success. It has not come without a little luck, but it has come mostly through a lot of hard work on everyone’s part.

Each of our girls left high school and college with a good education, a strong work ethic, and a lot of family support. They have all entered adulthood with good jobs and good futures ahead of them.

So, we are in the final stretch. As our babies enter their last year of college, we can rest more easily because they have already secured their futures after graduation.

One of our babies has already received a job offer from a company that she loves doing work that she enjoys! The other one is working on graduate school applications and has the support, advice, and encouragement of some really awesome college professors.

cropped-KJ-Move-into-College.jpg

Our babies move into college three years ago.

We are almost done with paying college tuition. One of the last piles of going back to school food and supplies for the girls is sitting in our living room waiting to be loaded into cars.

We have gone through fifteen straight years of high school and about the same number of years of college. Wow.

That’s a lot of sleepless nights, diapers, school supply lists, backpacks, shoes, back to school nights, school conferences, orthodontia, piano lessons, homecoming and prom dresses, fender benders, high school plays, track meets, band concerts, boyfriends, laughter and tears, and graduations.

As we look toward a totally empty nest, we are starting to set new goals for just the two of us. Travel, hobbies, retirement (maybe some weddings and grandchildren), and, yes, even romance.

Because we didn’t make it this far without a lot of love.

 

Posted in Faith & Family | 2 Comments

DIY – Shirt Pillows

In 2008, our oldest daughter got married in Hawaii.

LeahRyan Hawaii

We weren’t able to attend, but we had a Hawaiian themed reception for them when they returned home.

Magic House Reception 2008

All of us wore authentic Hawaiian shirts to the reception.

They have hung in the closet ever since. I have tried selling them, but could not bear to just give them away since they were so darned expensive.

Shirt Pillows 1

We had four of the adult shirts (on the left) and two of the youth shirts (on the right). My sister, my daughter, my niece, and I have each moved into new, old homes within the past year or so and have been trading furniture and re-purposing household items between the four of us.

My sister suggested that we re-purpose these shirts by making them into pillows. I thought that was a great idea so I Googled the idea and, sure enough, it had been done before by none other than Martha Stewart (click on her video link here).

It is really a super easy project that doesn’t take a lot of time. I’ll go through the steps here along with some tips and hints that I learned by trial and error along the way. The only special equipment you will need is a sewing machine and the ability to sew a straight line.

Shirt Pillows 4

The first thing you will need to do is to determine the size pillow insert to buy. You will need to measure the shirt you are converting to a pillow right at the narrowest part which is across the chest by the armpits. Your pillow insert will need to be 1 or 2″ or so smaller than this to account for your seam and whether or not you want to have a flanged edge, offset the button holes, or do an oblong or other than a square pillow.

Shirt Pillows 2

I had some leftover packing paper from moving which I used to make my patterns. I made 14″ and 16″ pillows. The pattern is about 1″ to 2″ larger than the pillow insert to account for the seam and the “fluffiness” of the pillow. Press the pillow form down onto the paper to ensure that you account for how full the pillow is with your pattern. Add ½” to that around all of the sides for the seam.

Shirt Pillows 3

Here is my pattern which I used for several pillows.

Shirt Pillows 5

BEFORE pinning the pattern, you will want to iron the shirt making sure that the plackets along the button and button-hole edges is laying flat. Do not skip this step. Pin the pattern to your shirt.

Shirt Pillows 6

Cut out the pillow cover. Martha had a fancy gadget and self sealing pad, but I just used my regular sewing scissors.

Shirt Pillows 7

Remove the pattern. You are not ready to sew the edges yet!

Shirt Pillows 8

You will need to place the right sides together being careful to ensure that you make sure the pattern of the shirt is going the same direction on the front and the back.

Shirt Pillows 9

Time to sew those straight lines leaving about a ½” seam.

Shirt Pillows 11

Here is the pillow cover with all four sides sewn together.

Shirt Pillows 10

If necessary, trim any extra fabric so the seam edge is all neat and tidy.

Shirt Pillows 12

Turn right side out and iron those edges. You can add a sewn edge close to the edge for a more finished look if you like or sew an even deeper flanged edge, but I liked the basic pillow cover as it was.

Shirt Pillows 13

Insert the pillow form and button up the opening.

Shirt Pillows 14

Before and after – shirt is now a shirt pillow!

Shirt Pillows 15

I made five of these, and it only took part of an afternoon.

Shirt Pillows 16

I had an extra insert and an old canvas tote bag and made one more pillow.

My sister plans on  putting these on her porch swing on her newly finished screened-in porch. It will add nice color and the Hawaiian fabric will always remind us of my daughter’s wedding.

Wouldn’t this be a wonderful way to remember someone? Make a shirt pillow out of a deceased loved one’s favorite shirt – what a nice way to remember them. Make a shirt pillow out of flannel shirts, denim shirts, or other soft fabric. How nice for a vacation home or a special space. You could make small, oblong pillows out of your baby’s outgrown footed pajamas to create a sweet memory and a small pillow for a toddler for their first “real” bed or for traveling.

This has been a DIY, re-purposing summer for us, and I hope to share more of what I have been making soon!

Posted in Food & Home | Tagged | 6 Comments