my etsy gift shop, with lots of goodies for new babies and mommas

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not So Scared of Santa

Penny just went to visit Santa at the Arvest Financial Center - it's the optimum place for her to get lots of personal attention with the most people cooing over her at once. Definitely a strategic choice for a Santa encounter. Last year she was a little afraid of Santa, and this year she was wary, but she at least sat on his lap and didn't cry. We kept trying to get her to look at the camera and smile, but she kept glancing back at Santa like she didn't completely trust him - she's a smart girl, and she can tell this whole "Santa" bit is a little half-baked. But the girl does love accessories - she was a lot more comfortable once she was in a Santa hat.

So Christmas is coming soon, and I thought I'd share a coffee cake recipe that my mom has made forever; I think it came from the Little Rock Cooks cookbook. It's perfect for Christmas morning, or any time you have company for the weekend, or, alright, Tuesday afternoon it's pretty good, too.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
3 3/4 oz box vanilla instant pudding
2/3 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cups water
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Filling: 1/4 cup sugar & 2 tsp cinnamon

Mix the first seven ingredients for eight minutes. Grease and flour Bundt pan. Cover bottom of pan with brown sugar, and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Alternate cake batter and a sprinkling of filling mix in three layers. Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes.


1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp butter flavoring
enough milk to thin glaze

Glaze with 1/2 of mixture while hot and still in pan. Cool cake for several minutes, then remove from pan. Top cake with remaining glaze.

The key here is the greasing of the Bundt pan. This coffee cake takes a while, but it isn't hard to do at all, and any excuse to eat dessert for breakfast is, I think, totally worth it.

Quick Camden update: We went to the doctor today, and everything's going very well. Dr. Pickhardt said that if we wanted to start thinking of a date to induce, he was available the 26th. So without any signs that Cam is in any kind of a hurry, it looks like the 26th might be our date! That would be exciting - to know exactly when we were going to be at the hospital and be able to plan around that. . .

And hopefully I'll get pictures posted of his room before he gets here. I'm waiting on our chair to get in, and I have just a few more art projects to do before it's actually finished. So it's coming!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm Crazy about a Pillow!

Look at this pillow from Crate & Barrel! I'm crazy about it.

I'm taking a break from working on my last batch of Boppy covers before I officially go on maternity leave (I think I'm going to miss them!), and I was thinking about what I wanted to put in the middle of the kitchen table, now that it's not going to be adorned with my sewing machine and yards of fabric all the time. I'm really looking forward to having that as an actual table instead of a work space. You know, for things like eating meals there. And sitting down to look at a magazine. Or even read a book! Well, I can dream, right?

So looking for centerpiece inspiration, I headed on over to Crate and Barrel's website, and I found this pillow. I have to make it. Just a pillow cover and some felt buttons sewn on. I can do that!

And it'll look perfect for Christmas! I was wanting to switch out some botanical pillow covers that I've had for forever, anyway. So that's my next project. Well, not my next project. I have to finish about six other things before I can start on it. But it's totally on the list now!

And yeah, this is an entire post about one pillow.

Well, I have to add that Penny's with me at the desk and I just looked down and she was gnawing on the corner of the desk. So I don't know what to do with that. Any parenting advice?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Little Bits O' Fall

Just wanted to share a couple of pictures of the mantle, all dressed up for fall. The cake stand, pitcher, and trifle bowl were stuffed in a back cabinet in the kitchen. The fleur de lis, French books, coasters and stripey ribbon were in different places in the house. Most of my decorating comes from cannibalizing other arrangements in the house. Some people call it "shopping your house." I like the word cannibalizing. So that's what I call it.

In general, I'm not a fan of fake botanicals, but I have to make an exception for fall-colored leaves. I found these branches at Hobby Lobby (for half-off, of course), and I liked that they have sticks and acorns and little pinecones in them. I'm thinking that for Christmas I'll just pull the leaves and replace them with some red berries. And maybe I'll work in some sparkly, spangly sticks, too! Christmas is a great excuse to glitter-up the house.

And, if you're going to be making/decorating gift bags this Christmas, here's the easiest thing in the world to do to make a personalized bag. These are just plain kraft paper bags with scrapbooking paper cut out just smaller than the front, then inked around the edges and glued on. I cut green strips of paper and just stuck letter stickers on top. I used left-over letters, so I ran out of some of them. Instead of buying more letters (I'm totally cheap) I cut out the outline of where the letter used to be and stuck it on red paper, then cut it out. Insta-letters! (The J an S in Jason and the S and C in Jessica are done like this.) Before I glued the green name strips on the paper, I lightly traced where they would go, then stamped on the background paper so the stamped images would be peeking out from behind the strips. Super-easy, and I just used a few sheets of paper and left-over letter stickers.

Next up: we worked in Cam's room this weekend, so as soon as I get pictures up, I'll show off all the owls. Here's a sneak peek:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Corner-of-the-Living Room Makeover

We're in the process of turning our living room/playroom into a living room/playroom/office. Whew! That's a lot of stuff going on in a little room. The original plan was to do Cam's room half-nursery/half-office. There just wasn't enough space in his room. So we had to find a new home for our computer; we ended up sticking it in the corner of the living room, which totally threw off the balance of the room. I'm hesitant to post this before picture; could my home really be this messy? Am I so used to it that I don't even notice it until it's in a picture I'm considering sharing with the world? In my defense, this was taken at the end of a long day that came at the end of a long week.
Bleh. Not pretty. I'm a big believer in arranging seating in a way that's conducive to conversation, not just against walls, but to do that you have to have things against the walls to draw the eye to the edges of the space - otherwise, your room would be visually reduced to the space of your seating arrangement. So I added some Pier One curtains (on sale, of course), a hand-me-down lamp from my parents, a Lowe's shelf and a printed canvas from Hobby Lobby. I also had to take a hard look at how many toys we were keeping out in the living room. It's a daily battle. Where do they all come from?

Here's what we ended up with:

So now the office space is kind of it's own defined area, and the curtains make the cornice box look more intentional and not like it's just floating at the top of the room.

I'm not in love with the lampshade. I wish it was a dark color. And I would love to have toy storage that blends with the living room, instead of being primary-colored plastic. For that matter, I don't love the computer in the living room. In my ideal world, the living room would be free of screens of any kind. (Don't tell D. He would not approve of my ideal living room.) But this room is a work in progress, like everything else in this house. I know there are crafty things that one can do to change the color of a lampshade, but I'm hesitant to jump into that one. Besides, it would be number 28 on my list of projects to get done in the next five weeks. Speaking of winding down all the projects, I'm going to be closing up my Etsy shop sometime in November in preparation for Cam getting here. So if anybody's thinking about ordering Christmas presents, now's the time. (Or if you're a Short, now is the time you're in full-out Christmas present-buying mode, anyway.)

Here's a fun slipcover I just did for a friend of my sister's. I love how it turned out. I'm thinking about doing an owl one for Cam.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Etsy is Good for my Ego

Check me out! This is a review of a nursing pillow slipcover and onesie that I did for a sweet stay-at-home momma who just started the neatest blog. We're doing a giveaway for one slipcover and onesie set, and there are lots of things you can do to enter; they're all painless. So head over, and check out the other stuff she has - I'm so impressed with all the different information and useful stuff she has on her blog.

Here's a mint green all-minky slipcover I just sold on Etsy - sometimes when I make one of these, I just want to keep it. This is one of those. I think Cam needs one just like it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What I Did This Weekend

D and I decided Saturday night that Sunday would be a good day to paint the nursery. I have planned on painting in there for months, but for the longest time it felt like jumping the gun, like it would be weird to have a finished nursery and just be a couple of months pregnant. Then, all of the sudden, I discovered that I had become VERY pregnant, with no weekend in sight to take care of such a big project. So Sunday was our day.
I was inspired by this nursery in Pottery Barn Kids:

Sigh. I would live in Pottery Barn if I could. But I really liked the way the color only went partially up the wall, and I liked that it ended in an interesting motif. I knew I wanted to do orange, and having all of the walls orange seemed a little too much. Also, the ceiling line in our room is weird, and I didn't want to mess with it. (A scary number of my decorating decisions are based on not wanting to mess with things.)

Pottery Barn has a Peter Rabbit silhouette in their room, which is way more intricate than anything I would ever do. I settled for half-circles. Here's how it turned out:

I wanted a motif that echoed the big half-circle window on one wall, since that window is sort of the dominant thing in that room. Oh, how that window has been a decorating challenge. But that's another post. To outline the pattern on the wall, I got a scrap piece of paper and a dinner plate, traced the plate and cut out the circle, then folded it in half. We decided how high up we wanted the scallop pattern (higher than most of the furniture, low enough to not have to mess with the tops of doors and windows), measured and marked the height around the room, and D held up a yardstick while I just traced the half-circle onto the wall with a pencil. I tried to not make it perfectly match up in any corner, so it wouldn't look like I had obviously started at one point.

Here's the big half-circle window:

We went with Behr satin finish paint in "Poppy Glow." (It took almost two gallons, at about $25 a gallon.) This is after weeks of raiding Home Depot's paint chips and taping them up all over the walls to consider. I wanted something bright and fresh, but not overwhelming. Right now it looks perfect for Chester Cheetah's nursery. But I think it'll tone it down to get all the furniture in there, and curtains, and the crib bedding, which is all brown and white and tan. . .

So I think it was a successful venture. It looks whimsical without being too cutesy. It makes me think of a gingerbread house. Not a scary kid-baking one, a fun one.
The whole time we were painting I just kept thinking about scaring away potential buyers when we put the house on the market - is it a normal new homeowner thing to be obsessed with resale value? Probably. We now have one bedroom that's Cheetos orange, and another that's mint green with polka dots. Not everyone's taste.
But I have to say, D was a champ. Painting's not really his thing, but he totally pitched in and did whatever I asked him to do. Basically, I spent the day painting the scallops and he painted the rest of the room. And he went to buy paint and supplies. And he finished the second coat for me after I just crashed. (It's always surprising to me when pregnancy is actually physically limiting, instead of just being a good excuse to go back for more lasagna.) So kudos to D. I think he was just excited about not hearing me talk about needing to paint that room anymore. :)

Next up for that room: furniture, bedding, window coverings that include something to go over that blasted half-circle part. . . It's all going to be owl-themed - lots of browns and creams, with orange and yellow. I have a couple of art projects planned - one big owl painting, and a bulletin board repurposed as a card-displayer. And I'm warning you now, I'm calling the window treatment an "art installation." So, get ready for that.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Okay, this isn't a crafty post. It's exactly the kind of post I wasn't going to do - it's all about me. And it's personal. So if "Mel's health and wellness" isn't a topic you're looking to brush up on, please feel free to skip this one. I promise craftiness next time.

So, two years ago when I was pregnant I had these weird symptoms (severe itching with no rash) and P was born early with weird symptoms (premature birth, fetal distress, meconium, jaundice). At the time my doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong, and by the time P was born, the focus was on getting her healthy and out of the NICU.

I mentioned the itching to my new doctor at my last appointment (my old OBGYN moved, so this guy wasn't around for all the drama of the last pregnancy), and he started asking questions and ended up saying that it was probably a liver condition called cholestasis. So I got home and googled the heck out of it, and that's absolutely what had happened to me! It's apparently a really rare thing (less than 0.5% chance of getting it) that I don't have any of the risk factors for. (Sorry to end that sentence with a preposition - I couldn't bring myself to type, "for which I had none of the risk factors." I wish there was a way to not end sentences with prepositions that didn't sound stilted. But I digress. . .)

The good news is that I feel a little bit better about my ability to tolerate uncomfortable situations. At the time all this itching was going on, people kept telling me that pregnancy made you itchy and uncomfortable; it's just something you put up with. (Again with the prepositions!) Since this disease doesn't have a rash to go along with the itching, it's easy to get overlooked because a little itching is normal. When you have cholestasis, however, the itching is intolerable. (I can say that - medical officials use that word, so I'm not being dramatic.) I seriously felt like I wanted to rip my skin off, and I didn't sleep for weeks because it would not let up. (See? TMI - I warned you!) So it's good to know that I'm not just a complete sissy who couldn't deal with normal pregnancy discomfort. It's also pretty good timing to be finding out about this. If we had known with P, maybe we would have been able to do something, but since that didn't happen, it's kind of good to not have had this to worry about for the past two years. It usually doesn't kick in until the third trimester, when pregnancy hormones are really goin', so I wasn't really at risk before this. So now that we know, we can prepare and be ready, but not get stressed about it before it's a real concern. And I feel really confident about my new doctor - Mark Pickhardt at Mercy. I've only had a handful of appointments with him, but he seems so competent and he listens and doesn't interrupt, and now, being able to suggest that it was this liver thing that had happened. . . most of the personal experience stories I've read about about women with cholestasis involve the patient stumbling on information on the internet and having to convince their doctors, who have never heard of it, that it's serious and it's what they have. So I'm blessed to have a doctor who's apparently very knowledgeable.

The bad news is that there's a 60 - 90% rate of recurrence, which means we're gearing up for probably having to deal with it with this pregnancy, too. Also, the risk of stillbirth is so great that early delivery (by 36 weeks) is the standard. There are a ton of tests and monitoring procedures that have to be repeated weekly or twice weekly after you're diagnosed, and the goal of treatment is to control it a little bit - there's no easy fix. So P was born at 36 weeks, at which point most babies' lungs are developed, but hers weren't quite ready. And boys develop slower than girls (a fact painfully clear through life, not just in utero), so the concern is having to deliver the baby before he's developed enough. Which is sickening - we spent two weeks with P in the NICU, and it was absolutely the worst experience of my life. To know that we might be in for that again. . . not encouraging.

The funny part is that I've been researching and talking about this so much lately that it's really gotten in my head. You know how if you're thinking about spiders and bugs and creepy-crawlies you start to feel like they're crawling on you? I keep obsessing about itching, and feeling like I itch. Because at this point we're kind of waiting for it to happen. Not in a fatalistic way, just to know that we need to jump to action if it does.

Here are some of the sites where I found the most (and most helpful) information about cholestasis:

Again, my apologies for the lack of craftiness. I'll get back to it soon. I'm looking for a way to scan in scrapbook pages so I can post and brag about those. The problem is that our scanner can't do 12x12 pages; neither can D's at work. . . Any ideas?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Upholstered Headboard How-To

My entire life, I've dreamed of having a big, four-poster, canopy bed that sits imposingly in the middle of a ginormous bedroom. What I have right now is a little bitty bedroom and a bed on a metal bed frame. Oh, that metal bed frame. We've shopped for an actual bed, with a headboard and foot board, but we've run into some roadblocks. First, our bedroom is so small that any bed that adds length to the bed (like those scrolly sleigh beds) is right out. Also, it's hard to tell what we want to get, since right now our bedroom is a mish-mash of hand-me-down furniture and bedding that is comfortable and functional, but doesn't really reflect us. (And by "us," I mean me. D's contribution to the decor in the bedroom is a Harry Caray figuring on the bedside table. Yes, I sleep with Harry Caray watching over me.) Oh, and a bed isn't exactly in the budget. So the best option for us was for me to tackle the daunting task of putting together an upholstered headboard myself. It wasn't especially difficult, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. Most importantly, the total project cost was around $85. I did a lot of research before I started this project and my process was a mess of steps from lots of different sources that I chose because I liked the way they looked, was able to understand them, and though they'd be the easiest way to do it. The bulk of the instructions came from a website called When I went back to check my link it was gone. Odd. The steps here are modified from mostly that source.

So here is the much-anticipated tutorial on making your own upholstered headboard:

1. Decide on the size and shape you're after. The width is easy - just measure the width of your bed. Our king-sized bed is 77 inches wide, but measure yours - apparently, there are some big discrepancies. A classic rectangle is the easiest option, but I wanted a curvy line at the top of mine. (There are already a lot of boxy rectangles on that wall - two cornice boxes, a big rose picture, the bed itself. . . I wanted to soften up all those lines.) To figure out the height, you might want to painters-tape off what you think you want on your wall and live with it for a couple of days - it needs to be high enough to clear your pillows when they're set up, but if it's too high, it might overpower the room. I made ours pretty low because the room is teeny-tiny.

2. Gather your materials:

1/4 inch plywood that's big enough for your project (for mine: 77 x 27 inches); make sure it's not warped or damaged: about $25 at Lowe's or Home Depot

2 inch foam as big as the headboard (at Hobby Lobby, sold in big rolls): about $25 - if you can't find one piece that's big enough, it's not a problem to put two side-by-side; you won't be able to tell on the finished product

batting to cover the whole thing, plus six inches on all four sides (at Hobby Lobby, with the fabric and interfacing - you can buy the cheap stuff; it doesn't have to be super-soft): about $12

interior decorator fabric - enough to cover the headboard, plus about six inches on all sides (shop at IOMetro Home on Walton and F Street in Bentonville first - they have modern fabrics for $7.95 a yard - that's a ridiculously good price): about $20

buttons to cover (at Hobby Lobby, they're with the zippers and thread in the sewing department - I chose 3/4 inch buttons, and I got six of them): about $6

something to fasten the headboard to the wall - a 2x4, flush mounts, or French cleats - see step nine for details

a staple gun with 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch staples

a roll of butcher paper or wrapping paper, if you're going to design a curvy top

a jigsaw to cut out a curvy top - if you're just going to do a rectangle, they'll make a cut or two for you at Lowe's or Home Depot, so you don't have to make any cuts yourself

a superlong needle to attach the buttons - I used a doll needle

embroidery floss, toothpicks, glue, tape measurer, pencil, marker

3. Cut out plywood in the shape you want. If you're doing a curvy top, measure out the width of the headboard in butcher paper, then freehand the design. Decide which side you like better, fold paper in half (so you'll have a symmetric headboard) and use that side as the pattern to cut out the paper. This is a good point to stop and tape this up to the wall for a few days to figure out if you like the design, and if you have the height perfect. (I didn't do that. I just went for it.) Lay the butcher paper out on the plywood, measuring to the desired top of the headboard and matching that up with the top of your design. Trace around the top, remove the butcher paper, and use a jigsaw (or a dad who's gifted in the art of carpentry) to cut out the design. (The top picture has the butcher paper laid out on it - you can barely see it because it's so close to the color of the wood. The next picture is the cut-out shape in the wood. And my carpenter-dad.)

4. Measure where you want the tufted buttons to go, and drill small holes through the plywood. I used six buttons in a diamond pattern. You can definitely do more than that if you want a more padded look. The more buttons, the fluffier it'll look. If you want to do streamlined (or if you've chosen a fabric with a strong pattern or a monogram) you don't have to do buttons at all. (This picture shows P doing the measuring. I would caution that having a 2-year old do this step isn't your best bet. I know she looks like she knows what she's doing, but her math was a little off. . .)

5. Lay the plywood on top of the 2 inch foam and trace the shape onto the foam - you can use a Sharpie or any marker that will mark on foam. Cut the foam out with regular scissors. (If it's just a touch sloppy, that's okay - you can see mine is a little rough.)

6. Lay your fabric, face down, on a big, clean, open space. (I used my living room floor. So I settled for just any space.) Lay your batting down on top of it. (Fabric and batting should be about the same size.) Oh, lots of how-to sites recommend that you iron your fabric before you start this step. I didn't, and it turned out fine. If your fabric is super-wrinkled, or if it would make you feel better, by all means iron. Then come over to my house. I have some shirts. . . Lay the foam on top of that, then line up the plywood on the top. At this point, you should be looking at a big headboard sandwich with batting and fabric sticking out on all sides about six inches. Peek under the fabric to make sure that it's lined up square - that whatever pattern is on it is going to sit evenly and not be wonky.

7. Gently pull the fabric and batting up over the top center of the plywood and staple on the back on the wood. Go to the bottom center of the headboard and pull and staple there, too. Next, do the center of both sides, so you have four staples in the middle of the four sides. From there, you can flip the headboard over to make sure the fabric hasn't shifted on you and the pattern is straight. (Of course, I didn't check mine. Decorate by the seat of my pants, I do.) Go back to the bottom of the headboard and gently pull and staple your way around, working out from the center of the bottom, top, then sides. When you get to the corners, pull and staple however makes it the smoothest on the front - it'll look like weird hospital corners on the back, but who cares what the back looks like. If you're working with a curved top, you might have to snip the fabric and batting a little bit to make it lay smoothly in the curves - just make sure you aren't cutting fabric that's going to be visible. I think the more staples, the better. Also, I love staple guns. Would use them all the time if I could. (Again, another step not ideally suited for a 2-year old.) When you're done stapling, check one more time to make sure the fabric is straight. Now is not too late to rip it out and start stapling again.

8. Cover the buttons with scrap fabric (there are instructions on the button package - it's very easy). Thread a super-long needle with embroidery floss (all six strands at once) and slide it through the hole you drilled in the back of the headboard. Lace the button onto the needle, then get the needle back through the hole. If you can do that from the front, congratulations. You're probably a decorating ninja. I couldn't get the needle back through the hole, so what I had to do was unthread the needle, then push it through from the backside again, but this time backwards, so the part that came out the front was the eye of the needle. Then I rethreaded it and pulled it through. Kind of tedious, but I was only doing six buttons, so not the biggest deal in the world. I got all the buttons on the headboard before I started tying them. The tying is a two-person job. One person pushes the button into the headboard from the front, making a nice, deep tuft, and the other person ties the embroidery floss in the back. I tied it around two toothpicks, so the knot didn't sink back through the wood, and then I topped each knot with some glue so the thread wouldn't slip. (I used my fancy scrapbooking glue, but Elmers would work.)

9. Time to attach the headboard to the wall. There are a few ways to do this. You could screw the whole thing onto 2x4's, so it looks like it's on stilts, and screw the legs into the bed frame. This is the best option if you're renting or don't want to put holes in your walls. To get the right height on the legs, the headboard should sit one inch below the top of your mattress, and the legs should extend most of the way up the back of the headboard. I also saw a lot of how-to's for making headboards that described using flush mounts, which you can buy at Lowe's or Home Depot, that screw into the wall, and into the headboard, and then the pieces fit together to hold the headboard up. Again, just center the headboard over your bed and let it rest one inch below the top of the mattress. What we did (and by "we" I mean my dad, because at this point we were into "carpentry," which is not my area of expertise, so he took over) was split a 2x4 at an angle, screw one piece horizontally into the headboard, and one piece into the wall, so that the headboard is just resting on that piece, and it's weight is keeping it up against the wall. If you're going to do this, make sure to get the wall piece into studs, and make sure that the screws you use on the headboard are short enough to not pierce through the headboard.

10. Sit back and bask in your decor proficiency. Congratulations. And send me pictures if you try this.
Since I've done this headboard, I keep noticing awesome upholstered headboards in magazines and catalogs. Here are some of the best ideas I wish I had had myself:

I love the line on the top of this one. Interesting, but not too girly.

Monogrammed headboard! I love this idea. Wouldn't have worked for me. (I don't think D would have appreciated a headboard with just my monogram on it. And if it had two, would that just look like a seating assignment?) But for a kid's room? Adorable! (Grrrr - I can't find a picture! I'll keep looking and post it if I can find it again. But you can imagine it, right? It's awesome!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Quick Rhea Lana's Update Plus New Slipcover

So my mom and I hit the Rhea Lana's pre-sale today. If you're in the market for gently used and relatively high-quality kids' clothing, toys, and furniture, don't miss it. It runs through the end of this week, in the Hammons Center / Embassy Suites Conference Center in Rogers. Before you go, you should know it's pretty overwhelming. There's one giant room of clothes, ranging from preemie to maybe toddler size 5 or 6. There are also some glider chairs, cribs, maternity clothes, shoes, and miscellaneous stuff like monitors, Boppies, and books in that room. The other room, which I didn't even make it into, has bigger toys and furniture. I consider myself a pretty competent shopper and I only made it through maybe a fifth of one room. It's very crowded, and there's very little space to move around. (I also went on pregnant ladies night, so there was quite a bit of space taken up by bellies.) If you go, be sure to take a giant shopping bag - bags are not provided there. And don't take in a big purse, or, whatever you do, a child. There were some kids there, and those were some miserable mommas.

I went looking for baby boy clothes and maybe some maternity clothes, and I did a pretty good job. Total damage: 11 footed sleepers, 7 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of overalls, 6 long-sleeved onesies, one button-down, one sweater, and two hats for baby boy Smith, plus one cute top for me: $95. Not bad.

Also, here's the newest slipcover I've made and put on Etsy. I love the Razorback red against the black and white polka dot background. Just in time for football season!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pumpkin Cookies

There's no better way to celebrate crisp fall days than pumpkin cookies. (Surely it's not still August. . .) Once again, I have to credit my mom with this recipe. It's a family favorite, and anybody I can convince to try them is won over to the pumpkin side. Don't be put off by vegetables in cookies - you've got to try them! And count them toward your daily intake of veggies. Or just make them and give them to me. My feelings would not be hurt.

2 cups flour
1 cup quick oats (Quaker, of course - does that count as a Pepsi shout-out?)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup Libby's pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling - just pumpkin)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
(optional: icing, peanut butter, candies, raisins, nuts)

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream butter, add two sugars. Beat until light and fluffy. Resist the urge to eat this mess. Is it just me who's tempted?
Add egg and vanilla. Mix well.
Add flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop 1/4 cup balls of dough on lightly greased cookie sheets, allow plenty of room for them to spread out; bake 20-25 minutes. Cool on racks.
Decorate with toppings like jack-o-lanterns.
*Okay, I don't do the decorating. I'll probably start when P gets old enough to get into that. Until then, what I do is drop the dough by tablespoons onto cookie sheets and bake about 14-16 minutes.

Also, this week is a children's supplies consignment sale at the John Q. Hammonds Center in Rogers called Rhea Lana's. Here's the website. I've never been to this before, but I've heard from other mommas that it's good stuff. I'm new to the outfit-my-children-in-used-stuff idea, but some of my favorite blogging mommas swear by it, so I'm going to try it out. That, plus I get in a day early because I'm currently pregnant. Maybe they do that to keep all of the cranky, slow ones out of the way once the real shopping starts. :) I'll report back on how it goes.

One final idea. I just got a new lotion from Bath & Body Works called Optimism and today's the first time I've used it. Call me crazy; I honestly feel more optimistic today! How's that for the power of persuasion? Or maybe Bath & Body Works really knows what they're doing. . . maybe I should go back and see if they have something called "Motivation to Clean the House."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rule of Thirds Greeting Card

Greetings and good rainy day! It's a good day - we're almost through the awkward gap between my birthday and D's when I'm two years older than him. He's agreed that, starting this year (since I've hit 3-0), he's just going to pretend that he's my age. So, happy 30th birthday!
I wanted to mention to my "followers" with limited blog experience that you can leave comments in the guest book at the bottom, even if you can't comment at the end of a specific post. The comment part is easier if you have a g-mail account. No pressure. I won't call you out on it.

Okay, here's the project of the day: greeting cards. First, the envelopes. I have a template for an envelope from Fiskars that I bought at an SSD garage sale, but you don't need one of those to make your own cards. Just carefully unfold an existing envelope that you like the size of, and use it as a pattern. Trace around it (I like using double-sided paper, so it looks special from the outside and the inside), cut it out, and fold in the flaps and glue. That's it. Super-easy. To make a card to go in it, measure and be sure the folded card is 1/4 inch smaller on all sides than the folded envelope. (My cards need to be 4 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches to fit the envelopes, so I cut them out as 9 by 5 1/2 inch rectangles.)

Easy Rule of Thirds Card Design
For this card, I used the rule of thirds to guide the design on the front. (Rule of Thirds: imagine a tic-tac-toe board over a square space and arrange elements at the intersection of the lines, not in the middle square.) Since my card is a rectangle, I imagined six squares instead of nine. I found six coordinating paper scraps to be the squares and cut them out, then rounded to corners for a more finished look. (I got double-duty from a few of the papers that are reversible - I used both sides.) I put the message, "thank you," on the bottom corner square, then treated each block as an individual picture and just cluttered it up with embellishments I had on hand. Greeting cards are great for scrapbookers - we always end up with scrap paper and extra little embellishments, and making cards gives us more justification for our obsessive collection of supplies. ("But D," I say, "it's for scrapbook pages and cards!" You can see what a convincing argument it is.) I also like to use found items on cards - I don't worry about archival-safe when I'm doing cards, so I use tags that come on clothes, I cannibalize other greeting cards, I cut out pictures from magazines. . . For this card, the top middle square is a price tag that came on a jar of buttons - I just used the back of it.

On Paper Selection
For each card, you'll need one double-sided piece of cardstock for the envelope and one coordinating piece of paper for the card. Be sure that one side of the envelope paper is light enough that you can write an address on it - the inside can be as busy as you want it to be. For the card paper, make sure you can write legibly on the side that will be the inside of the card. If you're in love with paper that won't let you do that, an option is to cut out a rectangle of plain coordinating paper and glue it to the inside of the card for your message. If you're using 12x12 inch paper, you'll need a whole sheet for one envelope, and you can get two cards out of a single page. I usually buy two pages of the envelope paper and one page of the card paper, so out of three sheets I can get two card-and-envelope sets.

Happy scrapping! Oh, and I finally got some new slipcovers up on my Etsy site! I was inspired by Anthropologie and decided to use non-literal names for all the different designs. D totally didn't get it, but I'm going for evoking emotion, here!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Boppy Covers and Baby Clothes

Just had to share a few new Boppy covers I'm working on. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a rut with them and need to do something different; I think I have creative ADD. I've been trying to figure out a different way to do the zippers, and I found it! I've started putting them on the back of the cover instead of around the outside seam, so they lay flat and look a lot more professional, I think. (You can kind of see on the second picture - there's a flap covering the zipper, so you can just tell where the fabric changes.) So that, combined with the boat-load of new zippers D found for me on clearance (what a guy!), has really got me motivated to work on these things again. And I love these new fabrics! Especially the scroll one. It's almost a dove gray or light, light blue, and the scrolls are in faded-looking black with white shadows. Very sophisticated, but still in soft baby colors! I'm always looking for baby stuff that's not too sweet. They're brand new; I haven't even put them on Etsy yet. But pretty soon, check them out at my Etsy store.
More to come. . .

I'm afraid poor little baby boy Smith is going to end up looking pretty in pink in all his sister's hand-me-downs, so I've started shopping for manly baby clothes. (Actually, P and I just needed to get out of the house yesterday and didn't have a legitimate errand to run, so we hopped on over to Gordmans, where you can find things at a price that makes you believe you desperately need them.) Nine tops, four pairs of pants, and six pairs of socks for just over $50. That's right, I'm a professional. Does anybody else arrange and photograph clothes after a successful shopping venture? No? Just me?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Black Bean Soup

The dear husband is fervently planning his tailgating schedule. This can only mean one thing: Razorback football season is upon us. Well, almost upon us. In the middle of these sweltering days (and me with an 11 ounce internal heat pack) I'm looking forward to crisp mornings, fires in the fireplace, leaves changing colors (as they do best in the Ozarks), and even Razorback football. I love fall foods, too, and I wanted to share my favorite recipe: black bean soup, which has been just slightly modified from my momma's version. Don't be fooled; this soup is not messing around. It's hearty and filling, and totally worthy of being whipped up, even while we're still in the middle of summer.

Black Bean Soup
one or two cups chopped celery*
one or two cups chopped carrots*
one or two cups chopped white onion*
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro*
1 (10 ounce) can Ro-tel
4 (15 ounce) cans Ranch Style brand black beans
2 tablespoons butter
* I buy a package of celery, a package of carrots, one big onion, and a bunch of cilantro. I chop them all up and use all of the celery, carrots, and onion, and about half of the cilantro.

1. In a large pot, melt butter. Add celery, carrots, and onion; cook 15-20 minutes, until tender.
2. Add Ro-tel, beans, and cilantro (don't drain any of the cans); heat to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes, up to a couple of hours, stirring occasionally.
Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, cornbread, corn chips, or whatever.
Makes 6 to 8 servings, and is great left over.

Enjoy! And go Hogs!

Oh! And this is exciting - we found out today we're having a boy! So P will have a little brother to torment this winter. She's very excited. She saw the DVD of the ultrasound (scary - all ultrasound pictures make the babies look like Skeletor - or maybe my kids just look like Skeletor), and she pointed and squealed and laughed.

Also, a few people have asked me why I'm blogging under my maiden name. It's just because my Etsy shop is under that name, and that's because my e-mail is "melshort," and that's because I've had this e-mail since I was Mel Short. So it just sort of happened; it's not an intentional pen name or anything.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Poetry and Sarcasm Don't Mix

One of my goals as a mother is to expose my baby to everything beneficial and healthy, even if I don't particularly enjoy it. So yesterday I broke out an old book of poetry, thinking I would read her a couple of poems while she scribbled on her AquaDoodle (thanks Uncle Steve). I started reading Mary Oliver's "You Are Standing at the Edge of the Woods," and all of the sudden, I started to cry. Now, I am four months pregnant and not entirely unemotional right now, but that's an odd reaction. And I remembered that poetry has a way of making me burst into tears. I wouldn't say that I love poetry, but I went through the requisite poetry stage when I was about 14. You know, girls, the stage where you would write hearfelt if painfully rhymed verses about life and love, or what you imagine life and love might be about, based on movies.

I have had a bad experience with poetry. In school one time I was forced to write a poem by a well-meaning English teacher, so my friends and I decided to cook up the cheesiest poem we could think of. I don't remember when this was - I was old enough to be dabbling in sarcasm, but young enough to think this idea was really cool. I still remember one verse: "Soaring high with dreamer's knowledge / Of the worlds that lie before." Awesome. So I turn it in, and of course, my teacher enters it in a contest, which it, of course, won. (Did you read the part about "dreamer's knowledge?" That's gold.) My prize was that I had to read it in front of the whole school. Worst punishment for goofing off in class ever.

So this blog is supposed to be devoted to making stuff and general craftiness, but today I just wanted to share this Mary Oliver poem. The tip of the day is to try something that's good for you, even if you don't think you like it. And don't get sarcastic when you're forced to write a poem. It will come back and bite you.

You Are Standing at the Edge of the Woods

You are standing at the edge of the woods
at twilight
when something begins
to sing, like a waterfall

pouring down
through the leaves. It is
the thrush.
And you are just

sinking down into your thoughts,
taking in
the sweetness of it -- those chords,
those pursed twirls -- when you hear

out of the same twilight
the wildest red outcry. It pitches itself
forward, it flails and scabs
all the surrounding space with such authority

you can't tell
whether it is crying out on the
scarp of victory, with its hooked foot
dabbed into some creature that now

with snapped spine
lies on the earth -- or whether
it is such a struck body itself, saying

The thrush
is silent then, or perhaps
has flown away.
The dark grows darder.

The moon,
in its shining white blouse,
And whatever that wild cry was

it will always remain a mystery
you have to go home now and live with,
sometimes with the ease of music, and sometimes in silence,
for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wall Letters

Hello world! Today I'm kicking off my blog, devoted to arts and crafts and ideas for projects. I'm a stay-at-home mom who loves making stuff, and who's always looking for thrifty ways to make her home and family more comfortable, well-decorated, or organized.
The first project I wanted to share is a super-easy one: these wall-hanging letters I made for my little girl's room. I bought the wooden letters at Hobby Lobby for $2-4 each and painted them to match her green, white, and brown room, but they didn't have enough punch, so I decided to scrap them! (Scrapping usually solves problems - it sure didn't fail me this time!) Here's what I did:

1. I picked out five 12x12 inch patterned papers, one for each letter, at my favorite local scrapbook store (Signed, Sealed, Delivered in Rogers - it's a dangerous place for me - beautiful home decor AND scrapbooking goodies). I didn't worry about matching the papers, I just looked for pretty designs that had mint green, brown, and pink in them. If you're going for a more coordinated look, pick papers from the same line, or use the same paper for each letter.

2. So I laid out my paper, face down, and traced the letters backwards onto the paper. (With some of the papers I was careful about the placement so I was sure to get - or avoid - designs. The paper I used for the 'P' had some writing on it that I didn't use, and the first 'N' had some fun flowers that I wanted to arch over the top corner of the letter.) Make sure you buy the wooden letters that have straight edges - if they curve toward the front part it'll be harder to get a clean line. For that matter, make sure you get letters that are less than 12x12 inches if you want to use standard scrapbooking paper.

3. I cut out the papers in the shape of the letters, made sure that they matched up well, and then put the wooden letters aside. I just worked on the cut-out paper until the end when I attached them. I inked all the edges of the paper in brown ink. (I ink paper edges pretty much anytime I cut something out; I think it makes it look more finished, and in this case, tied the mismatched papers together.)

4. Then I looked at each letter individually and let the paper dictate what kind of embellishments I used. Here's what happened:

For the 'P:' I used brads to attach green plastic flowers down the side of the letter. I layered big sequins on some of them, too. This paper was busy and shiny to begin with, so I didn't do much.

For the 'E:' I secured three lengths of ribbon around the letter and added three flowers - the top two are layered and attached with a brad and a button, and the bottom one is a die-cut that I used dimensional paint around the edge to give it more presence.

For the first 'N:' I loved the floral design, so I used the little dots radiating from the center of the biggest one as a guide and glued little rhinestones on. This one took the most time, but it's shiny and I can't resist shiny!

For the second 'N:' I painted chipboard paisleys mint green and brown, and painted clear glitter glue over that. It's subtle, but it lets the other letters stand out.

For the 'Y:' There was already a design in lines and circles running down the side of the paper, so I used that as a guide and embellished with a rub-on ribbon and some dimensional pink dots.

5. After I had scrapped all the letters and let them dry, I put non-permanent scrapbook tape around all the back edges to stick them to the letters. When we change her room decor, I'll just tear off the paper and have the painted letters again, so P will be able to decorate the letters however she wants to.

This is an inexpensive project that covers a good bit of visual space on a wall. It's $2-4 per letter, plus $1 or $2 per page of scrapbook paper (and that's if you buy the patterned paper full price, which I rarely do). I had all the embellishments on hand, so I'm not counting those in my cost total.

The letters came with little teeth hooks on the back and are pretty light, so they're just hanging by tiny nails. Great for me, since I love to change rooms up and hate repairing nail holes.