December 27, 2009

Bottle? Who needs it?

Turns out we've been wasting valuable time trying to get Lincoln to drink from a bottle. Should have taken a cue from Grandma Melissa and just skipped straight to the coffee cup*.


He's a natural!


Baby's first Christmas, and baby's first sip of anything other than breastmilk! Big day!

*And before you call CPS- it's just water.

Christmas craftiness complete!

Whew! We're finally through the marathon of crafting and Christmas-ing, and now we can relax! Now that all the goodies are in the hands of their new owners, I can share the projects and sources of inspiration here. Beyond the amazing bloggers and crafters on the web, I absolutely love all the awesome sewing and crafting books that I have in my library, and I'm so excited to have received a couple more for Christmas. It was fun to flip through the books and look for the perfect gift idea for this homemade holiday. So, without further ado, here's what I've spent the last few weeks doing:

First up, one of David's birthday gifts.


I saw these over a year ago somewhere on the web, and I stashed the idea away for future use. I finally pulled it out at the beginning of December and set about a plan to knit one olive a day until hubby's birthday on the 16th. That worked for a few days, but then I got off my game and ended up knitting half of them in one day when I realized that I was running out of time. A little Mod Podge and my trusty die-cutter helped me make the lid label to complete the package, which now lives on his desk at work.

Next, for my sister and (future) brother-in-law (who are lucky enough to be spending New Year's Eve in Mexico), I made these travel portfolios from a pattern in the Spring 2009 issue of Stitch magazine.


They're felt, with machine-stitched detailing on the cover and a little felt airplane applique. Inside are pockets for your plane ticket, ID, and passport. Cute, easy to assemble, and practical too. Now, if only we were the ones going to Mexico! Maybe next year.

I found inspiration for a couple of gifts in Alicia Paulson's book Stitched in Time. There are many ideas in here that I love, and this book is perfect for a uniquely personal gift idea.


I "borrowed" a bunch of photos from her parents' Facebook pages to make this memory game for our niece Kaia. I chose 18 photos to make 36 tiles, and made a little linen drawstring bag to keep it all in. Kaia's almost four, and I imagine she's probably played a memory game of some sort, but not one with pictures of her and her family. When she opened the bag, she declared that it was full of Valentines and was distracted for a few minutes from all the other exciting Christmas gifting that was going on around her.

Alicia's book was also the source of inspiration for these placemats for Kaia's parents. Alicia suggests them as a house-warming gift, and since the family recently moved into a new home, I thought it was appropriate.


The placemats are ivory linen, and I printed a photo of the new family residence on ink-jet fabric. Instead of the address, which Alicia printed on twill tape and added to the design, I chose a couple of house-centric quotes and printed them out to machine-applique. Two say "Love makes a house a Home", and the other two say "Home is where the Heart is". I used the grey metallic embroidery thread from the travel portfolios to satin stitch the quotes on, and I love the little bit of subtle shine that it adds. And since I didn't want them to be entirely impractical for a family with two small children, I treated the placemats with a professional-strength fabric protector before I wrapped them up.

For the other sister Jaeda, who is almost one-and-a-half, I made a little kitty stuffie from a pattern in Amy Butler's book Little Stitches for Little Ones.


I added a linen tote bag sized just right for the kitty to live in, because things are just more fun when they have their own special bag to match.


I also made another set of placemats for my sister and her family, this time with linen and Christmas print fabrics.


I was inspired by a set in the Winter 2008 issue of Stitch, but I didn't have time to hand-sew all the hexes in the English Paper Piecing design. I chose instead to just machine-applique a strip of printed fabric to the front, and bind the edges with the same material. I still want to give the English Paper Piecing a try though. Maybe for a set for our own house!

And then for one lucky Mother-in-law, two handcrafted projects of my own design! A toaster cover in lime green, (which I was unfortunatey forced to Indian-give so I could bring it back home and adjust the size), and an apron inspired by one from her Christmas wish-list.



As usual, I just couldn't bring myself to purchase something that I could easily make myself, so I interpreted the style of an apron that she liked into my own version. I really like the style, and may put another together for the shop when I get a chance.

I also put together some fun wood and paper ornaments with my dear friend Mod Podge, another moebius cowl for my other sister-in-law, and made a couple of pairs of earrings for my mom. Those didn't get photographed though, so you can just use your imagination!

I'm exhausted, and I have a kink in my neck from bending over all the sewing, but I must press on! Two more mixer covers are in progress that were ordered before Christmas. Holiday shipping gummed up the works, so I've got to get them completed and in the mail ASAP!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I know we did!

December 18, 2009

Christmas Care Package!

A few years ago, my older brother and his family moved to South Carolina so my brother could take a promotion at work. While I still haven't been to visit, I do try to let them know I'm thinking about them by sending a family care package at Christmas time. This year was no exception, although it was a bit more homemade this year than usual, thanks to the economic state of affairs around these parts!

Of course, the most important part of the package are my nephews, Avery and Colby- age 12 and 16. I usually have a really hard time shopping for them, since tween/teen trends come and go so fast, and I never know what games they're currently into or what movies are cool without being too grown up or too kiddie. This year I just opted for cash, tucked inside of a duct tape wallet. I think they're pretty neat, and kids are into weird stuff like that, right? And the cash, obviously, is so they can buy something that they do like in case I'm completely out of touch and my idea of a cool gift actually sucks.


I made my sister-in-law, who has a Christmas birthday, a moebius cowl from a pattern in the Winter 2008 issue of Stitch. It's charcoal velvet on one side and silver satin on the other, and I foolishly neglected to take a picture before I sent it. She's a fair-skinned blonde- I think the cool tones will look beautiful on her.

I also included a big Mason jar of delicious caramel corn tied up with a festive bow and a handmade tree ornament; and a tin of chocolate-peanut butter fudge.


And I did spend some extra time dolling up the packaging to make my little homespun gifts feel a bit more special. I've saved neat little boxes and packages from various things, and my stash of scrapbook papers is growing. I used some of the Christmas papers and my Quickutz Squeeze die-cutter to make personalized packages and tags for each gift. I think they came out really cute!

December 15, 2009

Stockings for everyone!

Obviously, Lincoln didn't have a Christmas stocking, so I decided that instead of buying him one, I needed to make the three of us new ones that all matched.

Stockings are one of my favorite things about Christmas- all those fun little goodies inside! There was always a neat collection of stuff in ours when I was growing up, and we could count on the Life Savers Sweet Storybook being inside every year. Remember those? I might be the only person that thinks butter rum Life Savers are delicious!

Anyway, I found a free pattern online from McCall's, and picked up some various Christmas fabric super-cheap at Joann's. I combined that with some basic cotton solids that I had on hand, and voila!

These are fully lined, and have a layer of cotton batting too, so they're nice and hefty and hold their shape even when empty. I added the names to the cuff with the fusible magic of Wonder Under, then just did a little whipstitch around the edges for fun and to add definition.

Don't tell my hubby, but I think once Christmas has passed, I may make one (or two) more and stash them away just in case Lincoln has a little sister someday. I wouldn't want her to feel left out if her stocking doesn't match!

I'm also planning to make a Christmas tree skirt to match these, but we'll see how far I get on that project this year. Many other things are in the works, so that might have to wait!

What kind of Christmas craftiness are you up to?

December 8, 2009

face lift & unrelated things

If you actually visit the blog instead of reading through a feed reader, you may have noticed that our digs have recently been updated with a stylin' new masthead and fancy new wallpaper. I figured a year was long enough for the pink and blue pacifiers, which were obviously selected before we knew that Lincoln was going to be a Lincoln and not a girl-baby. The new elements were designed by my talented graphic designer husband otherwise known as the "Gus" of Gus & Lulu.

Which brings me to thing two, and that is the fact that just about everyone knows by now that we are not really called Gus & Lulu in real life. Well, Gus is, but it's not his actual name, and depending on the day he may or may not admit that he kind of hates the nickname...

You may recall that back when I started writing this blog, my alter ego (lets just call her Tiffany) was just barely pregnant and had recently been laid off. Tiffany was looking for work, but wasn't sure if and when to reveal the existence of the tiny human growing in her belly to her future employers. Given the ease with which one can learn way too much about a person on the internets these days, I decided I had to blog in secret under a pseudonym, lest poor Tiffany's potential boss Google her and discover the baby before the time was right. Thus, Lulu was born. A clever shortening of my pre-marriage surname: Louis. Also, I thought it sounded cute with Gus, like some cute old couple sitting on a front porch drinking ice tea in rocking chairs or something.

So anyway, long story longer, Gus and Lulu are really David and Tiffany James. I know that most everyone already knew that, but I'm getting tired of typing "David" and then erasing it and replacing it with "Gus" in an effort to maintain an illusion that no longer requires maintenance. So for future reference, if I say "David" I mean my husband: "Gus"; and if I say "Gus", that's him too. Capisce?

Okay, moving along. There is a fair bit of craftiness happening in the James household right now, but, given the season, much of it must be kept under wraps until after Santa makes his appearance in a few weeks. If it's not secret, I'll be sharing it, but if it is, you're just going to have to wait and trust that I'm not idly sitting around twiddling my thumbs all day. Really, the only person who I'm absolutely positive would never see the blog and ruin their Christmas surprise is my Mom, because she not only doesn't own a computer, she couldn't turn one on should the fate of the world depend on it. In fact, probably less so then, because the pressure of it all would make her sick and she would probably vomit on the computer and short something out. No exaggeration there, in either case. To give you an idea of her technical savvy: she actually suggested that I try playing some nice music in my TAPE DECK in the car to help Lincoln calm down. And yeah, that was yesterday, not 1991. You can just trust me on the sensitive stomach details.

Anyway- craftiness is afoot. A couple of new covers are in progress and I'm making a new Christmas tree skirt and stockings for us, too. Plus the aforementioned top-secret stuff. Fun!

In other news, the bill from the midwives arrived yesterday. Three hundred dollars. For everything. My entire pregnancy care, labor, post-birth home visits, everything. I never paid a cent when I went into the office, and three women spent the night at our house to help us labor with Lincoln! It's no Amsterdam, but it's sure an improvement over the big stupid bill that UW sent us!

Mostly unrelated: David's birthday is next week, his truck is broken down, our fence blew over in a recent windstorm, and our Christmas tree is still sitting unadorned in our living room! Ahh, new parenthood! There's just an abundance of time for all the things that need taking care of. And money too! But- Lincoln is discovering his feet and is thisclose to rolling over, and at the end of the day, that's really the only thing that matters.

December 7, 2009

drive me to drink

One for the "dear god, I hope this is just a phase that he grows out of like, really really soon" file:

So lately Lincoln has decided that he HATES riding in the car, and he wants to make damn sure that you (and everyone within a few blocks) know it. It's a rare moment these days that we can go anywhere in the car beyond a few blocks before the little man starts crying and screaming and the tears, oh- the tears! It's not only obnoxious and distracting, it's heartbreaking and makes me feel like I'm somehow personally failing him as a parent. What have I done to make you hate the car, little monkey? I will gladly undo it immediately.

Just this weekend, for example, we decided it would be easiest to get our Christmas tree from the madness that is known as Ikea if we went on Friday night after picking Gus up from work instead of Saturday or Sunday. Lincoln cried off and on for most of the ride downtown, and he really picked up steam once Daddy was in the car and we were heading to our destination. By the time we arrived everyone's nerves were beyond frayed and I was in tears myself. I just don't know how to fix it and it kills me that I'm so helpless in that situation. No amount of soothing or distracting seems to help, but the moment we pull into the driveway and shut off the car, the wailing stops.

Then, on Sunday, I was invited to a fun little cookie-exchange party, and I brought Lincoln along to meet and mingle with the ladies. He cried for the entire twenty-five minute drive from home to our destination, and he was so worked up that he ended up continuing the fuss for at least half of the party as well. Then he cried for the beginning of the car ride home, but finally passed out from exhaustion before I had to swerve into oncoming traffic or off the I-90 into Lake Washington to put us both out of our misery.

I just really don't get it. Cars are supposed to be giant soothe-o-matics for babies- everyone knows that. Colicky baby? Trouble falling asleep? Take him for a ride in the car! They obviously didn't have a Lincoln.

Anyone have this problem? Know someone who has? Suggestions? Maybe he's bored? Overstimulated? Hot? Cold? Uncomfortable? Has a deep-seated and intense hatred of Hondas?

Mostly I just need to hear that it's going to go away. Otherwise, we may just stop leaving the house altogether.

December 2, 2009

a dramatic pair and more!

Here's a custom set that has been in the works for a while, and was finally delivered today. Hopefully the recipient is a happy gal!


The apron was inspired by a child's style by Cindy Taylor Oates in her "Little Retro Aprons for Kids". The purchaser sent me a picture of one of the aprons on the cover (view A-2) and said she liked the pleats but wanted a big pocket and wide ties. I did my best to recreate the vision, and luckily, she was pleased with the result!

Her matching mixer cover is the second attempt. I played it a little safe the first time, not wanting to freak her out with the crazy silver paisley that I scavenged from a thrifted women's blouse. Turned out she wanted more silver and two pockets, so I used what was left of the material and came up with the version above. Initially I wasn't sure how the pockets would look with the bold silver print, but I really like the result! There may be more mixed-pattern pocketing happening on future covers!

This last one is the one I mentioned before. I had the pieces cut for awhile, and finally got enough time to stitch it all together a few days ago. Then I eventually got it photographed a couple days later and posted in my shop last night. I would tell you to go there and buy it, but it's already packed up and on the way to Tennessee in tomorrow's mail! Gotta hurry up and get my stitch on so I can get the shop stocked up for Christmas!

Two more covers have been ordered and are in the works for the rest of this week- so more to come soon!

December 1, 2009

four, maybe five steps back?

Holy sleeplessness! I feel like just when we're starting to adjust to a new rhythm and get a good system going we're sent right back to the starting line for no apparent reason. And I know we have it good compared to some families out there, but I think last night earned me the right to complain a little bit.

See, we've noticed that since Lincoln has gotten a little bit older and is more involved in what's going on around him, it's gotten more difficult for him to sleep just anywhere like he did before. He's more interested in people and interacting, so if we don't encourage him to nap, he'll just stay awake and get grumpy from the sleeplessness. Once we caught on and started paying attention to his tired signs, it became apparent that he does best if he naps about every two hours, for at least half an hour, usually more like an hour.

We got into a really good flow with it a couple of weeks ago, and we instituted a whole system with the darkened room, consistent lullaby music, the whole package. When I noticed him starting to show tired signs during the day, I would go into the room, turn on the music, and we would nurse until he fell asleep or was finished, whichever came first. Then into the blasted swing, which is still the only place he'll sleep alone. After a few days, he was getting so used to it that he didn't even have to be asleep, just drowsy, and he would fall asleep on his own even with me out of the room.

We've also gotten more consistent with his nighttime bedtime routine, triggered by his tired signs at around 7 pm. We start with a warm bath or a massage followed by the change to pajamas, the same lullaby music, and nursing routine like during the day. Then into the swing, where he sleeps until about ten, which is when I come upstairs and bring him to bed with me for the night. It's been going great- and Lincoln is consistently in a much better mood during the day when he gets his naps.

But- apparently someone saw me getting all confident in our parenting abilities and wanted to make sure to nip that in the bud before confidence turned to cockiness, because it all came crashing down last night!

Yesterday morning was fine, and Lincoln took a nice two-hour morning nap followed by a couple of shorter ones in the afternoon. We set about putting him to bed at about 6:45, and Daddy gave him a lovely massage to start things off. I nursed him to sleep, put him in the swing, and everything seemed normal. Forty minutes later, he was awake. Sometimes that happens, but I can usually get him to fall asleep again with a quick nursing session. That was the case last night, but it only lasted fifteen minutes that time, then he was awake again. I went back up and tried to soothe him asleep again, and he stopped crying but didn't fall asleep. I asked for some fatherly intervention, but at ten pm the kid was still up. What followed was the worst night of sleep that I think any of us have gotten since Lincoln was born.

I hoped this morning that it had just been a fluke, and he would nap well today to make up for it. I was wrong. He refused to nap this morning and instead just cried and cried. I finally gave up and put him in the Moby so I could get some things done around the house, and he was asleep within a few minutes for half an hour. The same thing happened in the afternoon, with the fuss and the struggle and refusal to sleep. Back in the Moby he went, and back asleep he fell. Once he was in a nice deep slumber I tried to move him to the swing, but he wouldn't have it. Those brown eyes popped open and welled up with tears practically instantly. I don't know what happened! It's broken. Just when I thought we had a system, it's broken.

Tonight, I'm proceeding as usual as if last night and today had never happened. They say that consistency is the key, so I'm just hoping that he goes down tonight like he had been before this little glitch. Please, baby boy, mama needs her sleep!