Summer Vacation Drawstring Activity Bags

A few years ago the Optometrist and I met up with out of state friends who were passing through the area en route to Texas for a summer beach vacation, which I discussed in this blog post. I enjoyed making little drawstring backpacks for their three young girls, wherein I tucked activity pads for good measure.

This week our 7 year old nephew and 4 year old niece are journeying with their parents to their first beach vacation in South Carolina.

I’m still a super-duper novice seamstress, but I’m gaining confidence in using my Singer Classic sewing machine and sewing in (somewhat of) a straight line.  The most time consuming, thus frustrating, part of a project is cutting out fabric to uniform, consistent sizes. I think it’s time I invest in a larger cutting mat and sharper rotary cutting tool…

I used this helpful YouTube video from the Crafti Gemini called “How to Make a T-Shirt Drawstring Backpack for Kids” in her London 2012 Olympics series as my inspiration, but used stiffer material rather than jersey cotton.

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Our niece loves My Little Pony, so I was excited I still had some leftover material to create hers. I omitted adding initials on the outside like I did before, but followed the 12.5″ size dimensions described in the tutorial, lined it with white muslin for a little extra stability, and added a little sewn pocket to the inside lining.

Meanwhile, her big brother just finished 1st grade, so he needed something more “grown up.” When at Walmart (the only option for purchasing fabric in our town), we saw lots of options our nephew would have liked: Star Wars, Batman, etc., but opted for the slightly faded Marvel comicbook fabric. His is closer to 15″ (it’s wider than it is tall, but I didn’t take exact final measurements), also reinforced with white muslin, and a internal pocket on which I stitched his initials. Once I added this small element, it inspired me to give more attention to other details, so I was very pleased with the end result and hope it will be sturdy for him to enjoy!

Inside each are a little surprise – a coloring postcard for Sweet Pea and Star Wars: The Force Awakens stickers for Little Dude.

Because, after all, what are aunts good for if not to send a care package for little ones to collect beach vacation treasures in drawstring activity bags?

Caring and Sharing

It’s the last day of the semester – hallelujah. After five years as an academic librarian, I find my body feeling the effects of this being the most full and stressful one yet. But how I’ve grown, learned, expanded my horizons, gotten to know others better, and gained confidence in my abilities!  At a recent faculty member’s retirement celebration, he shared these words of wisdom, “May your footsteps be many, deep, and found leaving an impact.” As he leaves at the top of his career in education, his example of continuing to be engaged with students, academic life, and the community has made an impression on me, giving me a goal to emulate as I, too, strive to help others and leave my mark on this place.

Last Saturday the Optometrist and I had an opportunity to spend time with friends with whom we have shared food, laughter, music, and life in both past and recent years. Saturday morning we helped co-host a friend’s baby shower at the home of our mutually dear friend who lives just outside of town. The view of the rolling hills in the distance and grazing cattle in the pasture was one of many special memories made on this day.

 

Our friends are both originally from China, so we, as their American friends, decided to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we showered them with food, gifts, prayers, and love.

 

Later in the afternoon we met up with friends who were passing through the area on their family vacation. Since it had been years since we last saw one another, our time chatting over ice cream was all too brief. I’ve known about their visit for a few months, which gave me time to endeavor on my second sewing project: a trio of string backpacks for their three girls. I used this video from the Crafty Gemini that helped guide me through my sewing project.

The girls’ mom had shared with me their interests, and with a little help from Hancock Fabrics, I was able to customize each one with their first initial and included a little fun pad/crayon set inside. The older girls like My Little Pony and the littlest one enjoys Curious George, and, thankfully, not only were they the appropriate size, but they seemed to enjoy my little homemade gifts of love. Since they were en route to their vacation destination, I hope they were able to use their little backpacks to hold not only what they brought with them, but also include treasures found along the way.

Other highlights from our spring have included:

  • Continued adjustment and fun with Sylvester. He’s gradually learning the house rules and we just have to be consistent in enforcing them. Here’s a photo of him being sweet and cuddly, which is his personality about 98% of the time.

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  •  Enjoying the beautiful dogwood tree outside our bedroom window. As a Show-Me girl, dogwoods are always reminiscent of my home state each spring.

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  • A recent afternoon of professional development at OSU included lunch at Eskimo Joe’s beforehand. My knitting kept my hands busy we waited for our food and served as a conversation enhancer (as it most usually does) with the librarians sitting near me.

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For now, all that’s left are attending our respective college commencement exercises tomorrow morning and afternoon and the semester is officially complete! Never mind the fact that we both return to work on Monday as intercession begins. Yet for now, once more, we’ve added our footprints to this academic year, thanks to the Lord opening up doors and sustaining us every step of the way.

 

Oh those wonderful snow days

One of the benefits of working in higher education are the days when you, like your students, have a snow day. Yet, since we’re nestled among the Ozark hills in Oklahoma, snow days are a bit of a wild card. Some winters we’ve been pummeled with snow and ice, others have found us staring at that which is barren and stark. So far, this winter has been the latter of the two, and I had been longing for a bit of snow to transform the landscape and give me time to stay home to knit, fix good food, and cozy up by the fire. With the most recent winter weather systems, my wish came true – two snow days over the past two weeks!

The view of our back porch and yard

We often marvel at how many of our neighbors leave their garage doors open, practically year-round. Last week’s snow didn’t seem to deter two of them.

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Snow knitting/crafting

I finished knitting my second pair of socks! These are for the Optometrist and fit him wonderfully!
Pattern: Simple Skyp Socks with the Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Yarn: Premier Wool Free Sock Yarn in Pueblo

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And a quick little knit for me.
Pattern: Bandana Cowl by Purl Soho
Yarn: Tosh Vintage (Madelinetosh) in Tart

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After my grandma passed away I inherited her sewing machine and have had great hopes of developing my seamstress capabilities. I sadly discovered many of the needed functions of this older machine no longer worked, so I made an unexpected purchase of a new Singer Classic Heavy Duty machine just after the new year. My immediate inspiration was the Sock Sack, a little bag with a divider to separate two balls of sock yarn, which had been mentioned by several knitters on Ravelry. I, too, was inspired to buy the pattern and thought it would be a breeze. Well…as a novice beginner I now realize this project was probably too industrious, but I had the gumption to persevere and so I did!

Bird’s eye view looking into the sock sack with the zippered divider separating two cakes of yarn as I work on Spectra. I think my favorite parts are the little snaps that guide each ball of yarn, preventing them from getting tangled up.

Along the way I ripped out many stitches, rewound many bobbins, re-threaded many needles (accidentally broke a needle, too), pondered over the directions with The Optometrist a great deal, and rejoiced when my (non-abstract) brain would finally visualize the desired result. In addition to this process teaching me patience with myself as I learned a new skill, it also provided me with a crash-course on learning my new machine, and the end reward of successfully finishing a project I will actually use.

The pattern comes in three sizes (this is the medium size) so the next time I find myself near a fabric store, I’ll pick up another yard of material to make the smaller size, and see if the second one will be easier and more polished than the first!

Snow cooking

Our snow days also provided me with some leisurely time to fix a hot, hearty meal, with enough leftovers to enjoy later. All of these were new recipes we tried and enjoyed!

One-Pot Lemon Chicken

Chili Pasta Bake (originally found via Pinterest) and Roasted brussel sprouts from Midwest Living. I had to do a bit of finagling to cook both at the same time, since the recipes called for differing oven temperatures. I covered the chili bake with aluminum foil when it was almost through baking and put the brussel sprouts in a little earlier than called for. After the pasta came out, the sprouts still weren’t cooked, so I put them under the broiler to cook under direct heat for a few more minutes. That did the trick!



Homemade version of chicken tostadas

Directions/Ingredients:
Boil thawed chicken tenders in hot water (around 4 cups) approximately 10 minutes. I added a teaspoon or so of chicken bullion granules to flavor the water a bit more. After cooked, remove chicken from liquid. In a bowl shred with two forks and season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Stir to mix well.
Warm corn tostadas according to package directions.
Layer: (heated) refried beans, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded chicken, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and drizzle with Cholula. The half avocado can be eaten by itself as a side, or pieces can be added on top (I did a little bit of both).

Looking ahead this week, there’s snow in the forecast for Wednesday…maybe I’ll get another snow day?

Sock-ccess!

Last week was a big breakthrough week for me!  It felt so good to finally accomplish several things that had been elusive and somewhat defeating. Namely, I finally was successful in casting on my first pair of knitted socks! Even though I’ve been knitting for over ten years, and have completed similar projects (baby booties knitted flat & sock puppets on DPNs), a pair of actual, wearable, adult socks has always seemed so advanced and difficult.  Yet, last Wednesday afternoon, July 16, I made my breakthrough! Using a 40″ size 1 Addi Turbo Sock Rockets circular needle, purchased for me by The Optometrist, I used the simple Turkish/Eastern cast on for two, toe-up socks and the Lost City Knits DVD Toe-Up Socks pattern to take me from one-who-knits-lots-of-items-but-not-socks, to…sock knitter!

Here’s my current progress: toes and increases are complete, I’ve marked the location (red & pink rows) where I’ll include an after-thought heel, and I’m about to begin the cuff – will probably use a 2×2 ribbing.  It’s going more easily and quickly than I ever imagined it would!

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I’m currently using the Vera Bradley clear beach cosmetic bag, Clementine, for my knitting projects, which I love. It just isn’t wide enough to accommodate two skeins of yarn plus the resulting socks. So! After my sock breakthrough last Wednesday, I purchased the pattern to sew a Sock Sack. When knitting two socks simultaneously, as I’m doing now, both balls of yarn have their own little cozy compartment for tangle-free knitting.

On Saturday The Optometrist and I made a trip to our local Hancock Fabrics store and took advantage of their Super Saturday sale so I could purchase all the necessary supplies for this creative sewing project (another first!).  There’s surely more to come as I complete my first pair of socks, cast on my second pair (these will be for The Optometrist) using Premier wool-free yarn, and make a Sock Sack to carry as I knit my next pair!

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This has not only been a breakthrough of a physical accomplishment, but a mental one as well.  Thanks to my sock endeavor, several other fleeting thoughts became a concrete reality last week:

1.) I’m smart and capable.  The diploma on my wall reminds me I have earned a Master’s degree, so it stands to reason I should be able to achieve what I set my mind out to accomplish.  The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:13  Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am (The Message).

2.) I can be the leading lady in my own life.  The recent death of actor Eli Wallach prompted me to re-watch one of my favorite movies, The Holiday. Once again, I was encouraged to heed his character’s advice:

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Arthur: Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.

Iris: You’re so right. You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God’s sake! Arthur, I’ve been going to a therapist for three years, and she’s never explained anything to me that well. That was brilliant. Brutal, but brilliant.

Arthur’s words to Iris have resounded within my soul as well: be the leading lady!

3.) Being brave means approaching fearful situations with patience and assurance that even long-term goals can be accomplished one step at a time. The trying part is often maintaining diligence to remember that the long-term goal can and will someday be achieved, but I have to play an active part in doing something versus stewing about the fear.

I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Yes and amen.

Hiatus

hi-a-tus n. A slight break or lapse in space, time, or continuity : break.  Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary (1996)

I can’t honestly say that the length of time that has passed since my last blog post via Xanga (so long, old friend) can be categorized as “slight,” but I can say that throughout this hiatus, I have missed blogging.  Enough so to archive the old, and begin anew.  Although there may not be many who read what I share, it is still a good exercise for me to organize my thoughts, hold myself accountable to some summer goals, and reflect on growth achieved along the way.

Today marks the first day of our University’s intercession. Finals week and graduation reached their conclusion over the weekend, and now our Library might as well be a barren, ghost town (cue tumbleweeds accompanied by whistling). This means I have to seek out gratifying and productive projects to complete at work. Some possibilities over the next few months:

  • writing an article about the important role of a children’s collection in an academic library
  • developing step-by-step instructions for using the SmartBoard in one of our study rooms
  • evaluating older monographs in the collection to determine if they are suitable for weeding (deselection)

My sweet husband, The Optometrist, asked me what personal enrichment goals I have, which might be cultivated or developed over the summer. When posed in this light, I realize there are so many possibilities! A few that have been rumbling around in my mind:

  • learning and appreciating opera more.  Many days have come and gone since my undergraduate music education degree and it’s time I put on my big girl musician pants, and beef up on all that has been intimidating and just out of reach for far too long. First to come, Madama Butterfly: learning not only about the music/libretto, but more about Puccini, and historical connections of what was taking place at that time in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere.
  • practicing my piano consistently every day. Clair de Lune, The Maple Leaf Rag, and some hymn arrangements really aren’t too far outside my reach when I stop and think about it.
  • explore learning how to play cello. It’s rich tambre beckons me…
  • figuring out how to operate a sewing machine and actually sew something! Since inheriting my Granny’s sewing machine this past fall, it has sat forlornly  in my studio closet. Whether it be pillows, small bags, or little sampler pieces, it’s time I add to my domestic skill set.
  • reading books that have been on my summer reading list for years: Summerland by Michael Chabon and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.
  • enjoying some new-to-me books: Delicious by Ruth Reichl, 11/22/63 by Steven King, The Bees by Laline Paull, One Kick by Chelsea Cain, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

Let the hiatus cease and summer adventures begin!