Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag

Wow. Sorry, it's been a while! We all got sick, stomach bug sick, at the same time, and it has taken a while to feel better and then to feel caught up on all the stuff that didn't get done while everyone was sick. It was one of those times when you need to wash everything, kids included, but everyone felt too sick to do anything.

PJ jokingly offered to wash the baby.... in the washing machine! Meanwhile, Joshua is about to turn SEVEN months old and Lydia is needing paperwork turned in to register/apply for Kindergarden! (I'm torturing myself by keeping several options open, which meant several forms needed to be completed this week)

I have not had the time or the energy to craft anything. Even Lydia's Valentines will be store bought this year, which suits her just fine as they are REAL Disney princesses. While I haven't been crafting, I have put a considerable amount of brain power into finding a brand new "mom bag". I was getting really tired of having a purse, a school bag, a lunch bag, and then there was the diaper bag! I got the idea to look for a diaper bag that looked like a purse. That way, when the diaper bag is with the baby and I go to work, I'm carting something purse like, but after work and on the weekends I don't have to switch bags. I looked around and quickly identified Timi and Leslie as a brand to watch.

All of the bags that I have found by Timi and Leslie are these beautifully purse like on the outside, but with diaper bag like pockets and extras on the inside!

Timi and Leslie bags come with a lot of extra accessories; like stroller straps, a changing pad, an insulated bottle bag, zippered bags for wet clothing, a clutch for your wallet and keys when you don't need the whole bag, and sometimes even a "feel better' bag for medicines and creams!

Unfortunately, they also come with a large price tag and reviews on that ran hot and cold. Either people loved the style and versatility of their bag, or they complained of cheap fake leather and a terrible smell. The funny thing was, even the girl who said her bag smelled like rotten fish was upset because it was SUCH a cute bag, she hated that the smell was keeping her from carrying it. (One review theorized that there might be a batch of cheap knock offs that were passed off as the real deal creating the problems........ and the odd smells).

I decided to check eBay just to see what I could find and thinking that for a low enough price, I might not mind if the leather didn't hold up. (If it smelled, though, I was totally sending it back!) The bag that I found had zero bids and did not list a style name. (Names like Rachel, Marilyn, and Marie Antoinette make it easier to search for a favorite bag.) A little research quickly revealed that the bag I liked was a Ruby in patten leather. My bag was missing several accessories (it came with the clutch and one wet bag) but it also had a really low starting bid.

I won the auction and my bag arrived while I was home sick. I've now had a week to carry it around and so far I am really happy with it. No weird smells and it is even large enough to hold my laptop and class materials at school!

My only complaint is that it is SO big that if I am not careful about which pocket I put things in, it can be hard to find things. So far it is holding my purse stuff and some diaper stuff but it looks nice and has room to spare. I couldn't ask for more...... Unless maybe I was asking for a second bag.... Like this amazing yellow and white bag in the newest line of Timi and Leslie designs!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When Skies Are Grey....T-shirt Turned Dress

The inspiration for this dress was actually a pillow. I was thinking of doing something similar and thought an old t-shirt would make an easy pillow form that could be written on with a bleach pen.

I found this super soft long sleeved grey shirt at a thrift store.

Somewhere between buying the shirt and starting the pillow, I saw this red and white outfit in a catalog and decided that the grey shirt really wanted to become a dress for my daughter.

I found one of her knit dresses and used it as a pattern.

Originally, I was just going to do a sleeveless tunic, but the skirt on the dress that I used to make the pattern was fuller than the t-shirt. So I decided to use the sleeves to add to the skirt volume.

I just turned the sleeves upside down so the widest part was at the bottom. When I cut then straight at the bottom hem, the little bit of extra fabric was the perfect shape to make a little sleeve.

A few seams and a gathered waist later, and here is the finished dress shape.

Now for the FUN part!

I decided to write lyrics from You Are My Sunshine because I love it AND because of the whole "when skies are grey" part seemed to fit well with the grey dress. I also got an idea to work a bright sun into the design somewhere.

Here's the front if the dress in process. When I saw pink on the edges, I decided it had probably done all that it was going to do.

And here is the front of the dress after I washed off all the bleach. I never guessed it would turn pinkish red!

I added more lyrics to the bottom of the dress but need to decide where else I want to add them. I also still intend to add a sun somewhere, but now I might rethink the colors I'll use. It may be awhile before I have time to play around with it again. I'll keep ya posted!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Easy Embellishments for Creative Valentines

Today was another segment of WBIR's DIY on the Fly. This time Margot Potter and I were making Valentines Day cards. I made paper pinwheel embellishments to add to my cards. Here's the how to!

Start with a square of paper. I'm using a piece if origami paper here.

Cut the square in half.

Next, you are going to accordion fold both halves. I realized AFTER I did this set that it was WAY easier to place one piece on top of the other and THEN fold the two together.

The goal is to get both folded up and down.

Glue the two folded papers together so it makes one long zig zag folded piece of paper.

Tie a string around the middle.

Begin opening up the pinwheel and glue the edges together.

If you want a plain pinwheel, tie the strings so the knot is on the back and you can be finished. I chose to tie the knot in front so I could add an embellishment.

I threaded a button through the strings and tied it behind the button.

The pinwheel is now ready to attach to a card!

You can even layer the pinwheels by making multiple sizes and stacking one in top of the others. I just glued these together and then added them to a card.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2012 Year in Review

In a lot if ways, 2012 was a year if anticipation. We began the year by sharing the exciting news that we were expecting.

Very shortly after we announced our pregnancy to family and friends, PJ and I started a working on what would eventually result in our appearance on Craft Wars. Over the winter, we taped videos and submitted and edited and submitted more. I was fascinated by the process, such a long secretive process, but I couldn't tell anybody!

Speaking of secrets, and also in February, I threw a mustache themed surprise party for PJ's 40th birthday.

By March we knew that Joshua was going to be a boy. I planned a bee themed gender reveal as part if our regular family Easter dinner. We even hid the news as part if the Easter egg hunt.

By March we also knew that we had been selected to film Craft Wars, but we were not allowed to reveal that information to anyone. In fact, by Easter (when we revealed Joshua's gender and name) we had already flown to LA, competed in the show and WON.... But we couldn't tell anyone!

By the spring, I was busy planning for my maternity leave (writing 9 weeks of sub plans for 4 classes is NO FUN) and attending some extra doctors visits to prevent a premature labor like I had with Lydia. (At this point I was taking weekly hormone injections, yuck!) meanwhile, PJ was hard at work on a playhouse for Lydia, since we did NOT get to keep the one we built in Craft Wars....Of course I couldn't share pictures of either playhouse because we still weren't able to talk about being on the show or how we did or what we made! I could talk about the tree that fell and narrowly missed our house.

The school year ended and the summer began with swim classes and a trip to the beach. Before I knew it, the end if June brought The Lydia's actual birthday on a Monday, Craft Wars aired on Tuesday, I finished projects and filmed my vintage circus nursery for a DIY decorating contest on Friday, we hosted Lydia's party on Saturday,...... With all that going on is anyone REALLY surprised that I went into pre-term labor a few days later?!?

Joshua decided that the Fourth of July was so exciting, he didn't want to miss it. It was so exciting that he didn't bother to turn head down! His excitement was met with a c-section and a visit to the NICU. Thankfully we both recovered quickly from the ordeal.

The next four months were a blur of maternity leave and baptisms and family and school starting, but not for me! Thanks to our Craft Wars win I was able to stay home until early November, which means that the last two months of 2012 were a blur of catching up after three months of being gone.... All while sleep deprived and over stressed!

I hope that working and caring for two kids and nursing and pumping and crafting will at some point settle into a routine that makes it all manageable. For now I am constantly reminded that things are going to be harder while I am sleep deprived and feeling over stressed. Thankfully I have this blog to look back at the last year, but also at life five years ago, when I was excited and exhausted with Lydia as a baby and i know that it will be all right. Here's to looking to the past with an eye toward tomorrow!

Monday, January 7, 2013


I have been happily using my iPhone as my sole camera for a year now. Watching my mom, who just got her first iPhone (which is also her first smart phone) begin taking pictures with hers made me very aware of all the extra apps and techniques that help me get a big camera picture with my little phone camera. I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Above is a pretty decent picture of my daughter. Rule number one is: an app can only work with what you give it! I took a BUNCH of pictures of my kid to get this picture. I only started shooting because the light coming in the window was hitting her face and looked really nice (that's rule 2: good natural lighting helps a LOT! You want the light ON your subject, though, NOT behind them!)

So my kid was watching TV (that should be rule 3; looking up or off in the distance or giving you a side glance is often WAY better than looking right at the camera and smiling) and the light was good, so I got down on the ground (rule 4: get on your subject's level) and shot and shot and shot! Above are the out takes!

All of the pictures were vertical rectangles to start with. In this case, a square seemed the better choice (and I wasn't really planning to print this image) so Instagram seemed like the easiest/best choice for enhancements. Below you can see the original image cropped to a square compared to the final Instagram image.

For my mom, who has heard of, but never used Instagram, the site has several preset filters to alter a photo for several different looks. Of all the editing that I do, it is the easiest because the work is mostly done for you. Instagram does have a social networking component where you "share" your photos, initially on Instagram but they can also go to Facebook and Twitter, and other people can see, "like", and comment.

My favorite app for when I really want to edit a photo, similar to how I would edit on my laptop using photo shop, is photogene2. At one time I had the actual adobe photo shop app. It was free and I e en paid for an upgrade with extra frames and options, but I found it limited. I wanted to be able to adjust the exposure and saturation like I could on the laptop. It just wasn't the same. Photogene2 allows me more if the options that I was used to on photo shop. I was SO happy when I found it, I did a whole separate post about it.

I'm still really happy with the photogene app and it is my go-to editing software for pictures that I intend to print. I especially like that when I crop a picture, I can set the size ratio to match the final print size that I want (usually 4x6).

Here's a comparison of an unedited image and the final photogene2 image. I read somewhere that when photographing kids, zoom in really close and then go one step closer. I had that in mind when cropping this picture. I had to decide that seeing the angel wing wasn't as important as those sweet angelic faces. Besides, I think you get that they are angels, even without the wings!

But wait, there's more! I recently found (or the iPhone genius app search found for me) the Big Lens app. It claims to turn your iPhone photos into DSLR look a likes by letting you blur the background to enhance the depth of field (or some sort if photo jargon).

Above are two photos that are only different in the use of Big Lens to blur the background. Unlike Instagram, that blurs in a round or rectangle shape only, this app has an advanced mode that allows you to selectively mask and separate the foreground from the background. It also has filters that correspond to different aperture settings in a "real camera". Below are a few "before" and "after" comparisons with both blurring the background AND using the Big Lens filters AFTER an initial edit in photogene.

I think I used the two different "lens flare" filters in Big Lens for additional manipulation in both of these examples.

My newest favorite, Snapseed, may just end up combining the best of my favorite apps in one neat package! It seems to have more preset filters than Instagram, but you can adjust each and every feature of each filter AND you can select various parts of the picture to alter, similar to photogene and Big Lens. I haven't played with it as much as the others, I just discovered it this week, but the possibilities seem endless!

Here is a before and after showing one image that I manipulated with Snapseed.

Now that you have all these great edited photos, what should you do with them? As mentioned before, I still love the Walgreens app for uploading and developing pictures directly from your phone to any Walgreens. However, I am also having a lot of fun sending photo cards electronically using the Red Stamp app.

Red stamp has tons of preset layouts just waiting for your photo and personalized sentiments. Once designed, the e-cards can be emailed, sent as a message, posted on Facebook or saved as a photo.

I had some fun on New Years Eve designing cards and am currently using one of these as my profile picture on Facebook! I have also taken a few pictures of the kids with gifts and designed and sent thank you cards electronically.

Hopefully this post helps you have a New Year full of great memories AND great photos!