Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year In Review

A look back at my children through the months!



























2013 has been a year of much growth and change in our family. Some joyful, some painful, some par for the course. We grew to a family of four. We lost our sweet Sadie and Great Grandma Vivian, and I lost my paternal Grandmother. We enjoyed the outdoors, and so much of the beauty in nature that our area has to offer. Delilah started preschool and loves her teachers and classmates. Ty and I have both grown in our work and in our love for each other and out family.

Despite the ups and down through the year, as it draws to a close, I am so thankful that we have each other, our happiness, and our health. My resolution for 2014 is a simple one: In 2014, I will do my best. 

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Easy Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

Over the holidays, I was looking for a quick, easy recipe for peanut buttery fudge. I wanted something using
real peanut butter (not chips) and something I could do in one pan (not a double boiler, not a chocolate layer in one pot and a peanut butter layer in another). I didn't want to swirl them or layer them. I didn't care how it looked, I just wanted yummy peanut buttery fudgey fudge!

Since I couldn't fine a recipe to meet my criteria, I took a chance on winging it. This was a dangerous experiment, since I'd never made fudge before, but I'm glad I went for it, because the result was delicious!

What You'll Need:

  • 1 Cup peanut butter (I used creamy, but crunchy would be fine if you don't mind crunchy bits in your fudge!
  • 1 Cup semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 can (14 ounces) Sweetened Condensed Milk
What You'll Do:
  • Dump all of the ingredients into a sauce pan.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring often, until it's a lovely, evenly mixed, melty, gooey blob.
  • Spread into a wax-paper (or foil, or parchment paper) lined 8X8 square pan.
  • Chill for a few hours in the fridge. (The fudge, that is. You can chill wherever you're comfy.)
  • Remove from pan, cut into small squares and enjoy!
  • Store cut fudge in a sealed container in the fridge for best results.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to get a Mei Tai and a Ring Sling out of One Tablecloth

It's no secret that I'm a babywearing enthusiast (that sounds better than "fanatic" or "obsessed," yes?). It's also no secret that I love making my own baby carriers from sturdy tablecloths. After making a couple of Table Cloth Mei Tais and Ring Slings, I discovered that with some strategic cutting, I could get both a Mei Tai AND a Ring Sling out of a 60" X 120" table cloth!

I'll get to the diagram before I continue with the blah-blah-blah:

Mahogany Tree of Life Tablecloth available HERE {affiliate link}

A few notes:

My math was off on the length measurements (OOPS), but I don't have the energy to re-do the whole diagram to fix it. :( The shoulder straps/RS piece should be at least 84" long, leaving 27" (or less if you cut the straps longer) at the top for the body panel pieces.

Be sure to measure your washed (and likely shrunk) table cloth before cutting. Adjust the dimensions as necessary. This table cloth kept its width at 60" but the length shrunk to 111" after washing and drying. If your table cloth loses width, just make your shoulder straps more narrow.

Also, take your body size and shape into consideration. Using this technique, the MT shoulder straps will end up about 75" inches long, and the Ring Sling will end up around 70" long, give or take a few inches, depending on shoulder style. I'm a size 12, size L/XL top, and this is JUST enough length for me, both for the straps and the RS. If you are plus-sized this may not work. If you are more petite, you'll have plenty of fabric and maybe some to spare!

This will work better with some table cloths than others, unless you aren't picky about the direction/placement of the pattern. For example, I probably won't actually do this with the table cloth pictured above, because the trees would be both sideways and off center on my Mei Tai panels.

I do this in a specific order that works best for me:

  • First, I cut the shoulder straps off of either side, leaving a big "T" shape.
  • Second, I cut the top off of the T and cut my body panels.
  • Third, I cut off the strip for the waist straps, then cut that in half to end up with 2 straps.
  • Finally, I'm left with my ring sling piece!

With everything cut out, you're ready to start sewing! My tutorial for a wrap-conversion-style Tablecloth Mei Tai (TCMT) is here: Table Cloth Mei Tai Tutorial with Wrap Style Straps

I have a Ring Sling tutorial coming soon, but it will basically be a bunch of links to Jan's tutorials at Sleeping Baby Productions: http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/

Mahogany Orange Peacock Tablecloth available HERE {affiliate link}

Happy Sewing! :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fabric Scrap Ornaments

It's a crafty time of year around here, and this quick and simple project is a great way to use up fabric scraps
while adding some pizzazz to your tree or your holiday gifts! These ornaments are simple to make and add charm to any holiday decor. Attach them to wrapped gifts, or give sets AS gifts!

This project is appropriate for preschoolers to do with help, or elementary school-aged and older children to do on their own.

Materials Needed:

  • Cookie Cutters-any shape or size. I prefer a mix of standard and mini sized cutters, and thought that the stars and hearts turned out the best. Christmas tree shaped ornaments would also be cool!
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Scrap fabric, cut into 1/2 inch wide strips. Mini-ornaments need strips approximately 18" long, standard sized ornaments about 36" long. You can cut off excess or tie strips together if you come up short.
  • Cord or ribbon for hanging. I used green hemp cord. 
  • Use your fingers to form the the pipe cleaners around your cookie cutter(s). Twist the ends together so they'll hold their shape.

  • Wrap a strip of fabric around each shape. Leave about two inches free as you start wrapping to tie into a small know/bow when you finish.

  • Thread your ribbon/hemp/cord through the fabric knot/bow as you tie it, then tie that into knot to make the hanger. 

Voila! Fabric scrap ornaments! 

Happy Crafting! :)

A Tale of Feminist who Took her Husband's Name

My last name has undergone a few makeovers. There was my given last name, my father's, which my mother had taken when they married. My first and last name together had a nice ring to them. They were both fairly uncommon names, and I grew up enjoying not being another Jenny Johnson. (No offense to the Jenny Johnsons of the world; I'm sure you are lovely!)

When I got married the first time, I was but a wee baby feminist. I was not interested in giving up the name I'd come to know and love, to be known as Mrs. MY HUSBAND. I knew better than to submit to an archaic patriarchal tradition! I was no man's possession! Still, I wanted a connection there, and a connection to the children we might have who would likely have his last name. (Those children did not come to fruition, if you're wondering.) I did what many young wee baby feminists do, and I hyphenated my last name, resulting in a cumbersome tongue-twister that didn't fit on any form ever. I didn't care. I was an INDEPENDENT WOMAN, thank you very much.

That first marriage wasn't the healthiest or happiest one. Towards the end of it, I started grasping at straws, trying to find ways to fix my marriage, trying desperately to avoid divorce. One of those straws was my name. I felt that I needed to reclaim my identity, re-establish myself as an individual, and not the wife of someone. With his support (how naive were we that we thought this would help our miserable marriage? SO VERY.) I went to the trouble and expense of legally dropping his last name and going back to just my own.

I figured that would be that. Regardless of the outcome of our marriage (he moved out and I filed for divorce not long after the whole name-changing business), I would forever be known by my given name. There would be no more hyphenating, and as a "good feminist" there would certainly be no taking of a man's name.

Fast-forward to marrying my now-husband. I kept my own name, just as I'd intended. No hyphenating. No argument from him. When our daughter was born, we gave her his last name. This didn't bother me. After all, I have a different last name than my own mother, who had re-married, and it ain't no thang. On we went, him with his last name, me with mine, happily married.

As the first year of our marriage came and went, some things transpired with my father that left me disconnected from him. Sharing a name, and nothing else, with him became a painful reminder of a lot of hurt. My other main connection to my name was my sister, who was getting married and shedding it herself. 

I didn't want to make an impulsive decision I might regret, and I was still holding strong to my feminist principles. As I worked through my thought processes, it occurred to me that my own last name was the result of a patriarchal tradition, and that no matter what I decided, I'd be carrying the last name of a man. At least if I took my husband's last name, I thought, it would be a choice I made consciously, a choice to share a name with a man who loved me and treated me with respect. I decided to go ahead.

I had been through the legal name change process once before, so I started getting the paperwork together. I contacted my state's licensing board to get permission to change it on my professional license. I saved up to cover the associated fees. I went to the clerk of courts with my notarized copies of my paperwork to schedule a court date. "The Judges will be out until 1:00, you'll have to come back then."


I went over to the newspaper to arrange to have the requisite legal notice printed, which I found out was going to set me back another $80. "When's your court date?" "I don't have that yet." "You need that first."


Why wasn't this falling into place? Was I making the wrong decision? If it was the right decision, shouldn't it be going more smoothly?

I ignored that little voice of doubt. I went back to the court house at 1:00. I spoke with a different clerk. "What's the reason for the name change?" "I didn't take my husband's name when we got married. I want to now." 


"When did you get married?" "September 19, 2009." "Hold on."

I held on. She came back. She asked me if I knew that I had 2 years to do a name change due to marriage, without having to go through the legal name change process. All I had to do was take my marriage license to the Social Security Administration Office and the DMV.

Why wasn't this falling into place? Was I making the wrong decision? If it was the right decision, shouldn't it be going more smoothly?


I practically jumped over the counter to hug that woman. I told her she had made my day. She smiled.

I went to the SSA office. Only one person in line ahead of me.

I went to the DMV. Only 2 people ahead of me. No joke, less than a minute after I arrived, at least 20 people piled in there.

It must have been the right decision. It sure went smoothly, afterall.

I shed the name of a man who chose a life without me in it, and took on the name of a man who loves, honors, and respects me through all of life's ups and downs.

I took my husband's name. I became a Mrs. MY HUSBAND. I did it by choice. I did it in my own time, on my own terms, and in my own way. 

And really, isn't that what feminism is all about anyway?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Narrow Based Carrier Scarf Hack

Narrow based baby carriers or "front packs," such as the popular Baby Bjorn*, are controversial in the baby wearing world. Often referred to by the derogatory term "crotch dangler", this style of carrier is not considered ideal in terms of comfort or support for either the baby or the wearer. Despite their flaws, these carriers are widely available and are often the first carrier a new or expectant parent tries.

While they are not actively harmful when used to carry babies with healthy hips, there is some evidence that this type of carrier can exacerbate hip dysplasia due to the non-supportive narrow "seat" this carrier offers. (More info on baby carriers and hip dysplasia here: http://hipdysplasia.org/developmental-dysplasia-of-the-hip/prevention/baby-carriers-seats-and-other-equipment/) Soft structured carriers like the popular Ergo* offer a wider seat and better weight distribution, but may not be affordable.

Enter the scarf hack! Your Baby Bjorn or other narrow-based carrier can be made more comfortable and supportive for both baby and wearer with the simple of addition of a wide scarf, towel, or similar sized piece of fabric. This helps to achieve the recommended knee-to-knee supported seat with knees higher than bum.

Simply center the scarf, towel, or fabric at your baby's back and bum, spread the botttom "rail" across your baby's bum from knee to knee, spread it up to arm-pit level, then pull the ends around behind you and tie securely. Make sure everything is pulled nice and snug for optimal comfort and support. There you go! Comfortable, secure, ergonomically correct babywearing without having to purchase a different carrier or extra equipment! :)

*Affiliate Links

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Final Farewell

Last week, we had our sweet Sadie put to sleep after finding out that she was terminally ill and her quality of life was poor. Sadie was a beloved member of our family. She was a big, sweet Rottweiler mix who I'd rescued from an abusive home in 2005. She saw me through both the most challenging and the most joyful experiences of my life. She was my protector, my snuggle buddy, my baby, my friend.

Sadie saw me through a painful divorce, then went on to act as a flower girl as I wed my husband, along with my yellow lab Anka who passed away shortly before Delilah was born.

Sadie embraced Delilah as a baby and found a new best friend in her after her "sister" Anka passed away.

She traveled with us on family vacations. She cleaned up after messy new eaters experimenting with gravity by dropping food. She played with our cats. She loved our children as much as they loved her. She provided a perfect introduction to dogs and was truly a valued and loved member of family, so much more than just a pet.

I had hoped and thought that Sadie would grow to be an old dog, a childhood pet that our children would remember fondly. I don't think Delilah will ever forget her.

Sadie was a dog who touched many lives. Several friends came to the house to say Goodbye to her.

Her passing was peaceful and comfortable. Our vet came to our home and put her to sleep right in her bed. Delilah was so brave; I couldn't have been more proud of how she handled it. Given the option to be there or not, she chose to watch quietly, knowing that if she got scared or uncomfortable at any point, we would take her into another room.

When Sadie had passed, Delilah snuggled up to her, patted her head, kissed her nose, and told her that she loved her and would miss her. She shed no tears, but was sensitive to ours, doing her best to comfort us in our grief. She has mentioned Sadie every day since she passed. Sometimes she simply says that she misses her, other times she mentions very matter-of-factly that Sadie has died and isn't coming back. She asks to look at pictures of her, and asks us to re-read the kind messages written in the sympathy card from the staff at the veterinary clinic.

Our home and our family are not the same without her. Her loss is felt deeply, every day. The memory of her echoes in the silence that greets us when we walk in the door. It is felt in the absence of her warm body snuggled up against my cold feet at night.

I think of her when I check to see if the mail has arrived, no way of knowing without her alert. I think of her any time someone knocks at the door and isn't met by her wagging tail and enthusiastic bark. I keep mistakenly thinking that I have forgotten to feed her, or that I must have left her outside too long, or that it's been a while since she had a walk.

We are, undoubtedly, a dog family. When we are ready for another dog to love, that dog will have some big paws to fill.

We love you Sadie. Thank you for your place in our lives and our families. Rest well, and keep watch over us. You will not be forgotten.

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