hideout skirt

the stiffest denim known to man. sometimes i pull fabric out of the hatch and wonder what i was thinking when i bought it. . . especially when there is three yards of it taking up our very very precious closet space. . . but then i make a skirt for my daughter out of it. not only does the indestructible skirt look fine on the child, but in a desperate situation, it could also serve as a lampshade. brilliant purchase after all. 

you should have seen the eye-roll eve gave me when i mentioned the skirt-as-lampshade nonsense. i thought her eyes might actually fall into the back of her head forever. apparently, much more serious business was at hand. business like finding the perfect "hideout" for the family of dolls on the run from "mean animals . . . so they won't eat them up." but apparently the family can spare their feet. . . who's rolling their eyes now, eve? 

obnoxious mothering aside, i really think a nice, wide hem goes a long way in making a simple handmade skirt successful. it looks great and you've got the option of lengthening when needed. especially useful for those years when kids never seem to get wider, only longer and longer. barring any unforeseen run-ins with mean animals. 







quilt how-to

alright, so here is the tutorial for my go-to quilt. just after snapping the first photo, yesterday became, what seemed like, the darkest day of the year. . . so the lighting is bad, but i think you'll get the gist of what i'm saying all the same. . . 



fabric. 100% cotton. two solids for front and back. third fabric for binding, can be patterned or solid, you choose. the beauty of this quilt really lies in its simplicity and flexibility. 

batting. i only use 100% cotton, mid or thinnest loft. 

thread. lots of thread in as many (or as few) colors as you choose. 

tools. rotary cutter, cutting mat, masking tape, quilting pins, binding clips. 


first. cut fabric to desired sizes. for a quilt size guide, see here. depending on the size of the quilt, you may need to do some piecing. be sure to leave batting just bigger than front and back pieces.


second. baste the quilt. very important to do a good job basting so there is no unfortunate pinching or clumping of fabric while quilting it on the machine. usually best to do this while kids are in bed since their little feet cannot resist dancing (or crawling) on large pieces of fabric stretched on the floor. begin by taping the backing to the floor as taut as possible. don't be afraid to pull. gently lay and smooth batting over taped layer. follow with "front" of quilt. smooth out and get fabric as flat as possible. starting in the center, use quilting pins (essentially safety pins with a bent arm) to secure the the three layers together.  work your way out in a circle, smoothing and flattening the "quilt sandwich" as you go. the fabric should be totally smooth. be sure to go all the way to the edges.


third. machine quilt. the fun and most time consuming part. with a walking foot on your machine, begin the quilting at one edge of your quilt. (quilt "parallel" to the shorter side, easier to manage). quilt at very a slight diagonal. removing basting pins as you go (don't sew over them, or let your daughter take control of the pedal for you while she also watches a show about mermaids. . . you'll regret it). when you reach the opposite edge of the quilt (going beyond edge of fabric, into the batting a bit) lift presser foot but keep needle in "down" position. rotate the blanket and quilt to the opposite edge at a slight angle once again. repeat until you quilted the length of the quilt. your quilt will look something like this:

switching out thread colors (or keeping the same) repeat entire process again and again and again until you are satisfied with the amount of quilting. this uses a lot of thread but looks really great. just be sure to go slowly, feed quilt through at an even pace and watch that the fabric doesn't get gathered or bunched while quilting. the walking foot helps a ton with this, as does proper basting, but keep watch just in case. if some of your lines aren't perfect, don't worry, the other quilting lines will distract, and washing and drying does wonders for covering up small mistakes. 


fourth. trim quilt. to get ready for binding, the quilt sandwich needs to be "squared" and trimmed. i like to trim two sides at once, folding it in half before evening it up and trimming. clear ruler and rotary cutter. check that all layers go to the very edge after trimming. 

fifth. bind quilt. i use the "double fold mitered corner" binding method. the same method taught in denyse schmidt quilts book and that was taught at my quilting class at purl. i love this method, and it deserves it's own tutorial. luckily, there are a few out there. hand stitching the binding is ideal, but if you are short on time, go ahead and use your machine to stitch the binding down. don't feel bad, it will still look great. (especially in the light of a much brighter day).

sixth. after binding and trimming all loose threads, throw your quilt into the washer and dryer. pull it out, admire it, wrap it for a gift or wrap yourself up inside. feel great. you just made a quilt, and it's modern and cool and probably took you less than 10 hours.  


monday favorite: chip rich, the great

so, apparently, neither chip nor i had any issues with self-confidence as children. i find chip's  borderline arrogance charming, my own disgusting. so, i hold back on sharing my own uppity entries rife with hideous self-righteousness (ages 11-13 are the worst so far) and share a bit from young chip's record. unfair? maybe. 

who does this account book-turned-diary belong to? why, "chip rich, the great" of course. not only did he, at the young age of eight, skip up to level nine but he was also invited to two birthday parties. not bad, chip, not bad. 

this spread may be one of my favorite in this journal. can you read it? please do. after being blamed for throwing a balloon filled with orange drink, chip reports that no underwear was hung from the flag pole at his sister's girl's camp and that the classic film, real genius, "was great." didn't we all think the same at age eight? and on the right side you get a little feel for the good sport he was. i am certain that after this outing he went home to watch himself flex in the mirror. because that's the kind of humble champion he was.

i suppose it is better to have too much confidence as a child than to be heartbreakingly short of that self assurance. however, i am hopeful our children think of themselves a little less than we did and reach out to others a little more. although, i admit that if they start referring to themselves as "eve the great" and "ruth, the great" i will be so entertained and insistent that they learn some magic tricks. 


monday favorites: on thursday

monday favorites, along with our little family, took a holiday in honor of martin luther king, jr. this week. we ventured to the home of some lovely friends where we made a snowman, frolicked in the snow, ice skated on the neighborhood pond (i know) and made and ate a ton of sushi. 


tuesday chip flew across the country to shoot a commercial. eve woke up and burst into tears when she saw only charlie and me in our double bed. taking some comfort from the letters- complete with cartoons of the girls- that chip had left for each of them, eve decided to write a letter of her own to her daddy. as she dictated the letter to me (later to be copied in her own writing) she could hardly keep from total break down. she made it through the morning and went off to school with the news of her daddy's departure to share with teachers and classmates. 

clearly, a paper chain was in order. we love the paper chain countdown. to anything, really, but especially for a loved daddy's return. six little circles linked together and hung in the window to encourage my sad little girl who cannot stop telling me "i just didn't want my daddy to fly on that plane to california." she was giddy as she clipped off the links for wednesday and thursday. and i was a little bit, too. things really are better with a paper chain. 


an hour after i typed the above i walked out of the kitchen to find an empty window, paper chain scraps on the floor and scissors in an ecstatic ruthie's hands. "mommy! now it's evie's birthday! now it can be here!! hooray!" i love barely-three-year-olds. eve will not be happy. but at least now we we have a reason for another, much longer, paper chain.


more diary entries to come for next week's "monday favorites." more awesomeness from young chip. also, when i get the chance i'll put together the quilt tutorial. you will laugh with glee, it's so easy. 





monday favorites: part two

the journal reading continues to be my favorite activity of the new year . . . occasionally horrifying enough to make me want to throw mine in a fire somewhere. . . but overall, still amusing. one of the things i really like about it is the randomness of the things we wrote; mixed in with the reports of our siblings misdeeds and our deepest desires for the latest toys are the inclusion of some truly insignificant details. details like gum.

my entry, age 10 (1989):


"I just got out of bed and accidently swallowed my gum. But luckily I have some more. There's about 2 weeks til school starts. I hope I get a good teacher!"

chip's entry, age 8 (1983):


"I went with my Dad and Emily went with me too. We got a piece of gum. Oh, Miriam went too. They had a lot of video recorders there. Emily and I watched Tron on a video recorder. It was a Saterday so we got to watch some of Thundar the Barbarian."

what i wouldn't give to watch an episode of "Thundar the Barbarian" right now. . . also, to know the details of the gum swallowing. "accidentally"? and what was i doing in bed with gum in my mouth, anyway? . . . questions (and/or concerns) aside, i love the more complete picture these bits give of who we were. . . the little worlds we lived in and the details that filled our lives . . . 


old tricks



you've seen it before. and you'll likely see it again (but only in the background, i promise). . . my go-to quilt for giving when i have procrastinated to the point of panic. like this year when, three days before christmas, i was still without a gift for my brother, who lives in california. with one day at my disposal, i needed something that i knew would turn out well, so this quilt was it. 

i love this project for four reasons: first, it's fast (one day). second, it doesn't require a lot of thinking or quilting know-how beyond basting properly (i came up with this scheme shortly after coming up with the no-knit scarf). third, it's so so flexible- depending on three simple choices of color you can completely alter the feel of the blanket so it works for babies as well as grown men and their families. and fourth, it looks great fresh out of the dryer- all the tiny little spaces between the countless quilted lines are perfect for those great quilt-y wrinkles. 


oh! and a fifth reason too, it gives me a chance to run in to the ever charming purl patchwork and choose from their great selection of solids, something i truly appreciate after visiting several shops in which solids have been badly (if not totally) neglected. hooray for purl, hooray for my old standby quilt and the postal service that can deliver it 3000 miles away less than 24 hours after shipping. (and here's to you for tolerating yet another show and tell of the regurgitated fruits of my procrastination!) 


monday favorites: part one

i don't mind mondays. in fact, i like them. i like having a fresh start. i like sending chip and eve off into the world and holing in with the two littles. i do laundry and clean the house, ruthie plays games and draws while charlie goes about his business of scooting, crawling, intensely searching for paper - any paper - to shove into his wet mouth. nap times come and go, lunch is consumed, a treat is made before we three head out to reclaim the fourth from school. more drawing, more playing, more cleaning, cooking, welcoming daddy home, eating, playing, planning, singing, two games (or three. . . or 12 if the girls can get us to agree) and finally, putting to bed.

i like the monday routine. and i'm about to like it even more. starting now. favorite mondays. or monday favorites. random things, any things, that fall into my wide category of "favorite." let's begin.


chip and i rang in the new year reading excerpts from our childhood journals to each other. we laughed and laughed and got embarrassed a bit (or a lot) as we revisited our old selves. . . chip's obsession with he-man toys. my obsession with proving my little brother got everything he wanted. our reflections on life as 12-year-olds. . . the gems in these journals are incredible. 




chip's journals include a lot of drawings and occassionally, my favorite, the beginnings of very promising comic books. comic books like TIMBERLOCK: MAN OF THE WOODS. amazing. i can hardly stand the suspense. or the erased pencil lines. few things are more adorable than watching people diligently erase, flip their pencil over and try again. especially-13-year-olds who grow up to be my husband.





weirdest teacher gift ever?


well, technically, these were for the class. a mrs. field and mrs. morales doll. i thought they'd be strange and entertaining for the classroom's dramatic play area. after all, what student doesn't want a chance to be in charge of the teacher for once? 

it seemed like the perfect idea in the wee hours of the morning while chip and i were working on them, but when school time came i was a bit nervous that the teachers would not only have no idea what to make of them, but would think they were a serious gift. a very weird and slightly disturbing serious gift. but, happily, mrs. field received them with a big laugh and the two teachers immediately began concocting plans for the many jokes and fun to be had with the crazy little dolls. 

the bubble jet set and rinse that i have stored for the last two years were finally put to use and totally worked. after a wash and a dry, the image was holding fast. eve and ruth have begun making demands for their own dolls, so naturally we will have a little family soon. perhaps even an extended family in doll form, a la angrychicken. and maybe we'll throw in some animals too, a la salvor. . . yes, we'll definitely need some animals. . . the bad luck continues around here. after a break of several months we decided to surprise the girls with a new fish for christmas. in the middle of stuffing stockings chip called my name, i looked over to see him holding the pitcher with our beautiful new goldfish. . . belly-up. at least the girls never saw it during the five hours it was alive. 

more to come on the christmas festivities and a few other last minute projects. . .  happy holidays!



deck the halls..


.. with boughs of various discarded tree clippings collected from a nearby park. i wish i could capture the true loveliness on camera, it really feels like a stark winter wood in our little place. chip is the visionary. in fact, i had nothing to do with it- while i was at the grocery store he and the girls gathered, carried and hung the branches with ribbon. lovely. and free. and earth-friendly.

the girls are very happy with all the "holiday and christmas day decorations" they begin each morning by turning on every strand of lights and then choosing two ornaments each to hang around their ears as earrings, as any and every super fancy christmas lady should. then, after the earring play is through, eve asks (about sixty times) how many days and sleeps are left until the big day. now that the counting is down to one hand the excitement is palpable. even little charlie is feeling it, there is nothing he wants more than to get his hands- and mouth- all over the christmas gifts under the tree.

this gingerbread house is a product of the enviable talent of our good friend, abby. two years ago she mailed out a modern gingerbread house kit as her christmas card, complete with pattern pieces and recipes. so smart and so very fun. 

also, if you don't have a wonderful aunt ann of your own to send you beautiful candy horses replete with childhood memories and christmas nostalgia, you can order your own from startup candies


a christmas miracle may occur this week; i may get all the gifts finished and express mailed by tuesday and i may come back to report a little bit more about a few projects and happenings. but i may not. if i don't (and sadly, i probably won't) merry christmas! hope your halls are decked and you enjoy your holiday every bit as much as we plan to enjoy ours! 



charlie 6.0

the love for this little boy continues to swell exponentially every day. he knows his name. he rocks, lunges, scoots and inchworms and is so close to actually crawling. another week or two and he'll get it. he chews on paper and loves to crinkle plastic. his feet and hands are constantly sweaty and constantly being used to grab, pull, tear, kick or push. everything is better in his mouth; fabric, eve's hair, his little thumbs. he sighs, talks, laughs and complains. he prefers to stand. he favors his family but loves kissing only me, not the girls. he's always happier when people are around and happier still if those people hold him upside down or throw him in the air. he stares and laughs at chip and swats at me. he's calm and happy and so good, even with an ear infection and cough. deep, deep down there is a tiny secret part that wonders if he is my favorite, but then i remember the girls at six months and how i could hardly stand how much i loved them... oh, but this boy...