Monday, March 31, 2008

one down, 39 to go . . .

So I have the half-triangle squares done for almost two blocks -- but all are done for this one. I think that I'm going to have to toss out some of my creams (the sweet pea one and the one with bright red), because they read as too bright, but other than that I'm pretty happy with it. I just have to decide which order (if any) I want the colours in the stars to go. I'm kind of inclined to make all the blocks in this colour scheme (I have several prints in each colour):

But then I could just mix them randomly, too. What do you think, Sharon? (the quilts are for her girls, after all) Because I'm doing the half-triangles by sewing across two squares and creating two blocks at once, I've decided to keep the orange with green and dark blue and the red with yellow and light blue. Things are just less confusing that way. Anyway, just finished ironing them flat, despite sick children and meltdowns due to Andrew waking up at 3 (yes, 3) am for the day, so I thought I would share.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Supper with Alexi Leonov

Yes, thats right. I had supper with the first man to walk in space today. And this morning I got some toast and tea for Neil Armstrong. Yesterday it was Yuri Gagarin who was drifting around our house, riding motorbikes (apparently a prerequisite for being an astronaut) and getting covered in playdough space ships. We are on a bit of a space kick here. It all started with the Backyardigans episode where they go to Mars. Which led to questions about astronauts and space. Then I found a volume of the Snoopy Science Encyclopedia in our basment (thank you library book sale - I got all 15 volumes for $10) and realized that a lot had happened since they were written in the 70's. So we trooped off to the library and found an Eyewitness - type book about the Lunar Landings. We don't actually read all the information on the pages (Andrew is only 3 and a half) but we look at the pictures and read all the little blurbs and talk about them.

I'm totally amazed by Andrew's memory for small details. He's going to be one of those kids who corrects the teacher during class lectures. This is what you get when you cross my imagination and curiosity with Dave's attention to details. Some people in our church are giving us their set of childrens' encyclopedias one letter at a time (their daughter is 31, and again they're from the 70's and pretty funny). I don't think we'll always be hearing "Andrew, brush your teeth so you can read your Encyclopedia" forever.

In other news, the Monkeys in a Barrell (Andrew's Easter present -- chocolate allergies do limit easter basket possibilities) also like toast. They have toasters attatched to the sides of their barrell house (so they don't fall out when we spill the monkeys) and they spend all day in there making and consuming toast. Sounds like our house some days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Too Short, or Too Long?

I can't decide.

It either needs to be long enough to cover the whole window or I need to hem it up into a cafe curtain. I'm considering doing the latter right now, becuase this window really does make a difference in the amount of light we have in this part of our house, and it does illuminate the one yellow wall. But then I would be kicking myself becuase I already cut 5" off the bottom, and I would have rather had 10 or 12" straight cut than two 5" strips.

What do y'all think?

Dear Winter:

We all love you dearly, and we're glad that you visit yearly with a lovely blanket of snow. But overstaying your welcome can be the death of any relationship. Does "First Day of Spring" mean anything to you? How abour "Easter Weekend." Nothing? No?

Okay, maybe I should try a different tactic:

Dear Spring:
I am once again unimpressed with your attendance record. In the four years I have been in this province you have failed to arrive by "The First Day of Spring" even once. If this tardiness continues I will be forced to complain to your supervisor.

This is my car at 9:30 am on March 24.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why I Should Have Been An Upper Class British Victorian

  • ankles were all the rage during parts of the Victorian era, having been hidden under long skirts for a really long time. I have great ankles

  • clutter was a good thing

  • rather than trying to do 100 things at once, you could just demand that the butler do them all

  • I could spend my winters in London being clever and witty and my summers in my house in the country making crazy quilts and harrassing my neighbours

  • someone else would be responsible for hunting down my children and getting them dressed in the morning

  • pre-Raphelite hair was in

  • eccentricity was in

  • the winters are not so damn long in England

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Close to Home: Faithful

I totally agree with this .

Latest Little Odds and Ends

As usual, I've been using my spare moments to whip up a few little things. First, I finished Morwyn's Christmas / Birthday present. Um, yeah, so its 3 months late. I cut out MR-1 at the same time as I cut out the boys' robots, but then never got the time to sew and embroider her. She sat patiently in a drawer, pinned together, just needing me to sew the two sides of her body together and give her a face and control panel. I think she's quite sweet and charming, overall. Lisa said Morwyn (who is Aaron's age) would like it as long as there were "things to tug on", thus the little orange felt "switches". I love her face, I think if I do any more robots I will do the face like this -- the embroidered eyes are very charming. The embroidery is really gimpy and uneven, and I'm sure Lisa will make fun of me for it, but thats okay, becuase its done and its cute.

I also made these two little pincushions. The pattern is designed by Heather Bailey . The fabric for mine (the yellow and green one) just makes me happy. I am also happy to have a pincushion. Up until now I have been using the back of a magnetic business card to hold my pins as I sew. But I thought this would be more cheery and also easier to move around quickly when Aaron goes to grab for all my pins. It was eating my pins, though, so I had to open it up and put more stuffing in it. The pink and turqoise one is for Lisa (Christmas again). I made it second, so it should be good for stuffing thickness. Note to self after finishing this project: Buy a thimble.

Steps mini quilt

Steps mini quilt
Originally uploaded by stitchindye
Don't you wish your wall was that colour (and that you had that art quilt, while we're wishing)? I do. Seriously considering painting the two walls in my kitchen this colour. No, really, I am.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Status: March 18

What I've Been Doing: swimming and lifting weights, shovelling snow, playing with the boys, trying to figure out what is wrong with my laptop, actually keeping up with the housework (gasp), spring decluttering

What I've Been Reading: Who Let the Blogs Out (Biz Stone), Quilts and More (Spring 2008), Martha Stewart Living (sent to me in place of Blueprint), lots of crafty blogs, Scream Free Parenting, The Idiot's Guide to Being Organized, PC Magazines Guide to Vista, the Book of Ephesians

What I've Been Making: Pincusions, Morwyn's robot (last one for a while, I think), bags, multi-grain bread, fingerpaint, chicken stew

What I've Been Thinking About: the immanent decline of the North American Civilization, fabric, how Andrew's quirks irritate me because they're my quirks too, when winter will end, wether it is good or just ridiculous to try to make money from your hobbies, blogging, how fast the feedback loop is between designers and makers in the crafty part of the internet, and why all of a sudden everyone decides to like birds or the colour yellow.

What's Making Me Angry: molars peeking just above he surface of the gums but not coming in, pettiness, my own inability to keep track of everything, te immanent decline of the North American Civilization, endless winters, the sad demise of my double bike trailer / stroller, incessant whining and climbing and pestering and bossing, my inability to sew something that doesn't fall apart.

What's Making Me Happy: watching Aaron discover the outside world for the first time, listening to Andrew's descriptions of sending his bear into space or being chased by the police, watching my boys play together happily, having patterns come out of my head and work in real life, orange Lotus fabric, Thai curry with cocanut milk and no tomatos, French vanilla yogurt, bright green everything, organic apples, longer stretches of sleep at night.

What I've Been Planning: painting my house (but then, I'm perpetually planning that), "big kid" quilts, night weaning, spring time fun, youth retreats, summer vacation, my parents'50th wedding anniversary (very minimally).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Lappy is up and running again!

Yes, that's right. No need to go to the doctor. Unfortunately there was a need for me to reboot my entire computer and lose all my information. Since I've only had the computer for a little while, and all my photos were aither burned to cd or on the memory card, all I lost was my list of favortie websites, two articles and a couple of newsletters. No worries.

I must say I now know more about Vista and my laptop than I thought I ever would, and that I will now back things up more religiously.

Update: No, the Lappy's fan is broken, I think. We're going to have to send Lappy to Saskatoon for under-warranty (I hope) repairs. Sigh. I have to phone the place tomorrow to find out how to best go about shipping Lappy.

In other news, hey, look, HTML! I also just learned how to do this - hi kris , which makes me feel like a "real" blogger. Other "realish" blog features that I have thus far resisted to come, although possibly not until I get the Lappy back.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Right now we are in the season I like to call Pre-Spring. Depending on the weather and how fast everything melts, we may have a few days or up to a month of pre-spring. This is the time of year when the snow melts a little bit every day, the concrete and lawns become more visible and the mud starts to appear. But at night, it is cold enough that everything freezes over again, causing all kinds of fun variations on ice and puddles.
When I was little I remember this being one of my favorite seasons. When I was in kindergarten, my friend Colleen and I spent a whole week creating a small lake in her back lane by simply moving all the snow we could find in her neighbourhood into one puddle so that it melted and turned into one big sink hole. At the time it seemed enormous, although now I would guess it was maybe 8 or 10 feet across.
It is fun to introduce the boys to this season. Aaron is just excited to be outside for the first time he can remember. He points out pine cones, trees, rocks, cars, snow, fences, and houses to me. He squirms to get out of my arms and then stands there, dumbfounded by the sheer immensity of his surroundings. He demands that I come down to his level, then points at everything and says "eh" until I give it a name. Then he walks around for a little while, takes his mitts off and pokes at things, and tries to run away.
Andrew is having a lot of fun exploring all the different kinds of ice. We walk down our back lane and he kicks the snowbanks, stomps through patches of mud and smashes thin layers of ice, soaking his boots in the water below. He slips and slides over the thick, slick ice where the gutters usually are in front of our house. He cracks pieces of thin, icy-snow that melted to slush yesterday and then refroze and delights in the crunching sound his boots make. He trekks out the the sandbox and attempts to dig in the frozen sand, and examines the melting water in his plastic house. He is a scientist, examining and cataloging and experimenting with these variations on the theme of ice.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Lappy is Sick!

Yesterday, I installed some updates on my Lappy. Then I went and typed the post before this one while leaning the computer on the futon while Aaron slept next to me (he's STILL getting / not getting molars -- they are all poking through now). And then suddenly, just as I was editing it, the screen went blank and the Lappy died. This morning I managed to boot it up in safe mode and found out that Word Perfect had been corrupted, so I reinstalled that and uninstalled the updates. Then it wouldn't shut down. I finally got it to shut down, and now it won't boot up. All I get is blank screen, baby. Just blank black screen with an arrow button. So I don't know if Vista is gone, taking all my programs and data with it, or if its just hiding somewhere . . . arg. I have a copy of everything on cd, but like I know how to reinstall it all. I will give myself a day to figure it out, then I will be off to the computer hospital for repairs. Sigh. I knew it was too good to be true that I had a laptop all of my very own.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Family Centered Parenting?

I've been thinking . . . I know these are famous last words for me (apparently second only to "I have a theory about that . . . "), but bear with me. I've been thinking and reading a lot about parenting since I've had children. This is not really a surprise, since I don't work and I must think about something all day. I am also the kind of person who likes to do things based on an underlying philosophy. So, as I was saying, I've been thinking and reading a lot about parenting.

One of the reasons I decided to have children, after many years of waiting (10 to be precise) was becuase I met some people who parented differently. The way they raised their children seemed to be humane and respectful and generally good. They wore their babies in slings. They breastfed for a long time. They took their kids outside to run when they got squirrely instead of trying to get them to calm down by yelling at them. Their households seemed to have a harmony and peace in them that I was not familliar with. Yes, they were people practicing attatchment parenting. Their kids were generally calm, self- assured and good humoured. Most of all, they seemed comfortable in their skin, and comfortable with the world around them, and comfortable in their family. Their parents valued and respected them, but also seemed to manage to discipline them.

When I was pregnant, my friend Pat suggested that I check out "The Baby Book" by Dr Sears. She said "Of course, its from the perspective of attachment parenting, but its also just a really helpful book". That was all she said.

When Andrew was born I had not read the book, but I had read about Attachment parenting, and I had a sling, and I was determined to breatfeed and sleep with my baby. But after two weeks of hell, I decided I needed to actually read the book, not just have some vague idea of what I was doing from what people on the internet were saying about it. So I bought the book, and I was sold. Andrew was the model high-needs baby, and is a very high-needs child. Aside from that, what I loved about the book was the whole premise that my parenting should be guided by a balance of the child's need and my own needs. Of course, when they were a tiny newborn, their needs would win out most of the time. But as they got older, I should consider when my needs (for sleep, for example) outweighed their peceived needs (to nurse all night, for example), and even further along, when they were out growing something and needed to be gently moved along to a more appropriate behavoir.

When I went online, however, I discovered that a lot of women were only hearing the message "listen to your baby's needs" and never hearing the message "take care of yourself so you can meet your baby's needs". I, too, went through stages where I allowed myself to become utterly exhausted, frustrated and tapped out because I was becoming a martyr; I was allowing my child's perceived need for my constant, undivided attention, to overcome my real need for things like sleep, showers and excersise. Even worse, as Andrew grew, I began to become guilty when I disciplined him. I would think, "Is this undermining his attachment to me? Is this going to harm his self-image later?".

I realized that I had fallen into child-centered parenting. The concept that your child should be the centre and guide of your parenting choices. If they say they need it, then they do. I spent a lot of time agonizing about how to meet my child's need to go out every day while still getting my house clean. I wondered how I could possibly have a shower when my child needed Richard Scaryy's Best Numbers Book Ever read to him for the tenth time in a row. How could I get supper made when he needed to go ouside and play? If I denied him these things, how could he possibly become a secure, confident individual?

Then we had a second child. All was well at first. I could read to Andrew while Aaron was nursing. I could carry Aaron in the sling while I got Andrew whatever he needed. I could play with both boys at the same time, mostly, becuase Aaron was pretty amused by his brother, and was mostly in my arms anyway. But as Aaron grew, he started to have more compliated needs. Needs that sometimes conflicted with Andrew's. What do I do when my 3 year old wants to be by my side reading a book but my baby needs to be walked in relative quiet to fall asleep? What do I do when my older child is having a tantrum and my younger child needs a diaper change? What do I do when I have finally got my baby to sleep and I really need 10 min. and a cup of coffee to be able to be sane all day, and my son wants to sit on my lap and read another book?

Around Christmas time, I realized things were not as they should be. Something had gone amiss. Aaron had started walking, and Andrew was a disaster. He screamed, whined and cajoled to get his own way. He was never happy, even when he did have my undivided attention. He knocked down his brother every chance he got. I felt like I was powerless, held in the tyranical grip of a three year old.

Some of the books I had read made things even worse. Books that said that I should just try to stay out of the way of sibling conflict, simply giving them negotion tools to put into action. I should allow them the unfettered right to express their feeling towards one another so that nothing was submerged or festering. I was setting up bad patterns and systems that would haunt my children throughout their adult life. I was terrified of raising children who would have to spend their entire adult hood in therapy, talking about how badly I had messed them up, and how they could have acheived so much more, if only their mother had played with them more . . . and then suddenly, I realized that this was getting ridiculous.

Essentially, it seemed to me that some more extreme child-centered, gentle discipline stuff was just manipulation. Learn how to manipulate your child rather than punishing them, and they will still make your life more peaceful and grown up to be an autonomous, self- assured adult. Teach them to express and fulfill their every desire and they will have the confidence to do whatever they want to. Will we really be peaceful if I allow my children to express their every desire? Is unfettered confidence and self-assurance really going to set them up to live life well?

Most of all, I started wondering if this was really a Christian way to raise my children. Where was the part where they learned self-control, gentleness, kindness, self-sacrifice, other-centeredness? Where did they learn to respect those around them, when they were always given waht they wanted to the expense of their parents' sanity or the family's wellbeing? Where did they learn self-control, where did they learn to put away anger, wrath, envy, jealousy, lust and the rest of the gang, when I was allowing them to freely express and act on any emotion and impulse they happened to have? How exactly did child-centered parenting fit with my most basice and underlying philosophy of all -- Christian virtue?

All of this was swirling around in my head as I approached the New year, with its dire call for change and resolution. All this mixed into my desire for a life full of joy and peace and hope. All of this recombined with my desire to pass on my faith, my concept of virtue to my children. All of this was shaken together with my other desired to raise my children in a way that promoted respect and love and honour for children and adults. All this gelled into my newly hatched thoughts on parenting.

I have decided that I am not committed to child-centered, nor strictly parent-centred parenting, but rather to family-centered parenting. We are still into the whole attachment thing -- listening to our children, valuing them as unique individuals, seeking to form andearly attachment and discpline them based on communication and natural consequences. But we are also more deeply into the whole Christian thing -- a philosophy of life that in its most basic, form is expressed in the idea of confession, repentance and regeneration. In this context, I think it is important to teach children that they are part of a family -- first and foremost their own family, but also other families, including their church, their community and their world.

A family has many people. In our daily lives, we must balance the needs of all these people. One child or adult can not be the focus of everything. All the family members must work together, grow together, and learn to love one another. There are responsibilities in a family as well as rights and privildeges. We need to balance our desire for fun times with the reality that we are responsible for caring for our house and our selves. We must balance our desire to keep everything to ourselves with the responsitility to respect the other and share.

A Christian family is also one that encourages virtuous action. We must teach our sons what is right and wrong. We must let them know when they have overstepped the boundaries and help them make things right. This includes not just asking forgiveness, but also taking on the responsibility of the consequences for their behavior. This means gradually learning to control our rage or replace our laziness with action. This means being given the grace to fail and be forgiven, and the means to act better in the future.

The most amazing thing about this shift, for me, has been the freedom from the guilt of setting and enforcing limits, and from the fear of damaging my children by simply asking them to respect those around them. I have been able to parent from a more centered, authentic place, because I am parenting out of my beileifs rather than my fears and guilt. I am still a gentle disicplinarian. I beleive in teaching and guiding my children more than punishing them. Of course there are time-outs for pushing and defiance and natural consequences applied where possible. But I no longer feel afraid to tell my son, "You can not do that becuase it is wrong. That is not how we act in our family".

I hope that as our family grows and matures we will learn to do things becuase they are loving, respectful and honoring to one another and to God. Not just becuase there is a punishment waiting at the other end. Not becuase "I" said so. Also, not becuase it feels right to you. Not becuase you need to express your selfhood. But because it is to the benefit of the individual, to the betterment of the society as a whole, and to the glory of God.

What AM I going to do with all that Freshcut fabric, you ask?

Well, Dana from Old Red Barn Co. did. Check out her blog and the contest she's running tomorrow for a lovely quilt here:

I think I will probably do this:

Only mine will be more lovely because it will not have such terrible fabrics. I'll use the cream flowers for the outside squares, and the peach and brown mums for the cetre four squares, and maybe . . . the lotus for the cetre square. Then use one of the bright greens or yellows for the "stars" and the jellybean brown for the small purple print. I might cut out the yellow zig-zag frames all together. I'm still trying to decide wether they're integral to the design of the quilt or not . . . but yeah, its pretty quick, and will show off the big flowers nicely.

Or I might just do 8" squares of all the freshcut and lotus prints I have surrounded 4" creamy sashing. I really do hate chooseing what to do with this fabric. Its so pretty I am afraid to ruin it by cutting into it. But its not doing it any favours to leave it in my bin to be brought out, admired and put back, now is it? Hmm . . .

Saturday, March 08, 2008

In Case You Thought I've Been Slacking . . .

I am just about to start a big project -- two matching twin bed quilts for my god-dauther and her sister. I am super excited to work with the fabric and to make the quilts, but sort of dreading the first few stages. The pattern I'm working with suggests making half-triangle squares in a way that wastes a LOT of fabric (I am sure I could find something to do with 600 little triangles, but I digress). So I have to re-figure out the cutting requirements to do a less wasteful form of half-triangle piece, then do all the cutting and then draw centre lines on about 200 little squares. After that it will be all good. I really love piecing things, its just getting past doing all the math and drawing all those little lines . . .

So, in the noble spirit of procrastination, I decided to do a few little projects before I start. Firstly, I decided the cushions I had in my living room were too dull. So I ripped them open, made plain muslin covered pillows out of the fibrefil, and then made these very bright and cheery slipcovers. They are washable, in colours I love and, best of all, based on a design by William Morris. Dave loves all things Arts and Crafts, so this is actually a very good thing. The other thing I've been working on are a set of these. This is my trial one, and there are four more to come. They are simple unlined canvas with a 2" band of quilting cotton around the top to make them pretty. These are for my friend Sharon's entry way which is very small and crowded. She painted it red, and wanted to put up pegs like the ones I have to add some white. That didn't end up happening, though, so these are sort of a way to add a bit of cream to the space. Also they only really have five hooks for hanging jackets and no shelves or anything for odds and ends. These give her some space to store extra mits and winter stuff in the winter and sunscreen, sunglasses and hats in the summer. I was all excited becuase I thought they were an original thought and I might be able to sell them on etsy, but then I realized they had been seeded by something similar I had seen around Christmas, so no such luck. I will have to make myself a set, though. And, um, take my hand stitching stuff out of this one and give it to Sharon . . .
I'm also working on one more robot and a curtain and a couple of pincushions. I might intersperse these with parts of quilt-making, though, for when I need a break from piecing half-triangles.


For Christmas we got the boys a set of wooden building blocks. Andrew loves to be a builder, and was really frustrated trying to use ABC blocks to build with. His solution to this was to tear apart wood things in our house, like the shoe rack and the top of the toy box and use these for building. But once disassembled they became simply random pieces of wood, and wouldn't really build anything, so he would complain, "I don't have enough wood, Mommy! I need more wood!"
The set we got is really nice. Just the perfect size for him to hold in his hands and to build things that are really tall and big quite easily. What has amazed me is how he leapt from not really knowing what to do with them to building these fanciful, multi-layered castles and towers. He uses them in ways that I, as an adult, never would have thought of. For instance, the "archway" blocks are rarely ever used to make an arch. Instead he loves to set the cut out half-triangle on top of tall column, then carefully balance the archway on top of the half-circle, then build more levels onto this precarious structure. It really is wonderful to watch him work. They have really been a fantastic and rewarding toy for him.
Yesterday the late afternoon light was perfect. The sun is just starting to come back (yay spring light, if not spring thaw) and we had this cool, lovely winter afternoon sun yesterday. It made me so happy to get these cute portraits of the boys.

Do you think Aaron might be getting some teeth? Check out that baby drool.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ridiculous Fish and Cat Quilt or Why you shouldn't try to sew while a 13 month old is attacking your machine"

I had a lot of fun in Feb. following along with the Sew, Mama, Sew quilting month found here ( ).
It even inspired me to add one more thing to my ginormous list of sewing projects I would like to get to. I wanted to try one of the blocks I hadn't seen before, the shoo fly. I was really interested in the idea that the secondary pattern of the blocks made a set of rectangles on each side of the centre square and a diamond in the middle, and I wanted to try playing with this by using three fabrics instead of the traditional two.
I knew I was pretty desperately busy, especially since Aaron has been walking off table tops a la Wile E Coyote lately, but I thought I could probably finish a simple 4 block doll quilt for Andrew's baby bear in short order. So I picked out some fabrics I loved and made four of these:
At least I thought that is what I made. I actually put one together, then photographed it, then went back and made the other three. But because Andrew kept insisting I stop to "heal" him from his motorcycle acciden
ts, and Aaron kept climbing up and trying to steal my thread and get his fingers sewn off, and then at night (when I can often get an hour or so of sewing in) Aaron kept waking up all congested and teething and miserable, I was sewing in short bits and pieces with much distraction and interruption. So apparently, without noticing until I had the whole thing together and sandwiched with some flannel backing, I had done this:
Yes, indeed. Not only are two of the top rows put on the wrong blocks so that one block has fish on two sides (instead of one) and one block has cats on all four sides (instead of three), but I had sewn one of the triangle-squares on upside down. And then trimmed the block without noticing it. Arg, arg, arg.
So, in ALL my spare time, and with many other better things to do, I decided that I could not leave this like this. Andrew, at 3, doesn't really care, but it would irritate me every time I saw it, so I had to pull it all apart and stitch it back together again. Because I had already squared all the blocks up, they were all wonky when I put them together again, so none of the points match now. And that is what I get for trying to prove my quilting prowess to the amazingly talented people of the crafty blogosphere. My worst, most disastrous project since Sam's monkey quilt turned pink a year and a half ago. Ah well. The finished quilt looks all bright and sparkly and lovely from a distance.
And Soxul Furry likes it all the same.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I found a pattern for my Freshcut wall hanging! Its not anything really complicated, and it doesn't have the "Modern" look I was originally thinking of, but it is quick, it will highlight the large scale florals really nicely and it will add colour to my very blank wall. Hooray for impulse buying of quilt magazines!