Wednesday, May 7, 2014

how to make a balloon shade

The twins still take regular naps. Yes, my sweet and crazy little 3.5 year olds still nap about 5 days a week. It's glorious. But in order to nap, they need a dark room. They have blinds on their bedroom window but play with them and have bent two of the slats pretty badly. They don't look awful, but they don't look particularly good either. I wanted a window covering over their window to cover the blinds, add some color, but also be super safe for them (meaning they couldn't be curtains where they could hang and swing on them). 

I looked online and couldn't find a tutorial for what I wanted. I pinned this picture two years ago because i was in love with these curtains and that gorgeous shade.

I wanted something similar, but something super easy that wasn't going to take me 6 hours to make and that was sturdy enough to not get damaged from my children. This is their room after all, it needed to be kid-friendly. There window isn't too big, maybe 5 feet tall, and I got away with only using two yards of my watercolor ikat fabric. I had the elastic and pom pom trim already on hand and went to work. If you can sew a straight line, you can make this shade.

(here's Olivia dancing for me waaaaaaay too early in the morning while I sleepily cheer her on.)


decor weight fabric
matching thread
1/2" - 3/4" elastic
pom pom trim (optional)
sewing machine

 photo curtain-done.jpg

1. Lay out your fabric. Cut off 6" to make three 2" wide strips for the decorative ties. Set aside.

2. Press 1/4" seam along the width of the fabric at the bottom. Fold 1/2" and pin. Sew along the bottom.

3. Fold fabric in half lengthwise with right sides facing. Press or pin the fold. Sew all the way down the fold, but stay about 1" from the fold.

4. Press 1/4" seam all the way down the length of the fabric on both sides. Fold over 1" and pin. Sew along both sides. Sew pom pom trim to the bottom of the shade being careful to not sew the casings for the elastic closed.

5. Sew the 2" strips together by folding each raw edge in 1/4" and then sewing them into strips. Now here is where it can get a little tricky. Cut your elastic at least 6" longer than the length you want your shade. Sew the middle of one of the strips to the end of the elastic. Put a safety pin or bodkin on the other end of the elastic and thread the elastic through one of the three casings. Once you thread it all the way to the top, pin it to the fabric. Do the same thing with the other two strips of fabric and elastic. Take your shade and place it over the window. Pull on the pinned elastic to get your desired length. Sew elastic into place and create another casing at the top for your curtain rod. I had a skinny rod so I made mine about 2" wide. Trim loose threads, make sure all pins are removed and bask in the beauty of your new balloon shade.

Monday, May 5, 2014

recipe: raspberry vanilla jam aka crack in a jar

One of my favorite things to give people is a handmade gift. Last year I made dozens of jars of jam when raspberries were in season and at a super good price. I gifted them to friends and fellow handmade shop owners for Christmas and have had SO many people ask me for the recipe I finally got around to typing it all out. I will give you fair warning though, this jam is ridiculously good and has been nicknamed "crack in a jar" for good reason. You'll see.

Raspberry Vanilla Bean Jam

5 c fresh raspberries
7 c sugar
1 vanilla bean (sometimes I add two if the bean isn't super fresh)
1 package of pectin

Wash raspberries and place them in a bowl. Smash them with a potato masher and add them to a pot. Take a vanilla bean and slice it down the middle, but not all the way through the other side of the bean. Scrape out the vanilla seeds and add to the raspberries. Cook on medium high until the fruit has cooked down and is no longer lumpy. In a small saucepan, cook pectin according to the package directions and once it boils, add the pectin to the raspberries. Stir, add the sugar and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, set a timer for one minute while still stirring the jam. After the minute is up, remove the vanilla bean and ladle the jam into sterilized jars. Add lids and rings immediately.

While the jars are cooling, you should hear little "pops", meaning the jars are sealed. If you press down on the middle of the lid and the lid doesn't give, you have a proper seal. If the lid gives and makes a clicking sound, you do not have a proper seal and must keep this jar in your freezer or fridge for consumption. If you have a proper seal, you may store your jam in a cool, dark place for several months until you're ready to enjoy it.

If you have a little bit of jam or raspberries left over, add the jam to a bowl or mixer and whip a squeeze or two of honey with some butter for a ridiculously good treat. My favorite bread to eat this jam with is my rustic bread. It's no-knead, makes two loaves and is ridiculously good. Plus a loaf of homemade bread and a jar of fresh jam make a lovely hostess or housewarming gift.

Rustic Bread

1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 ½ tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups lukewarm water
6 cups of flour

Wisk together all ingredients {except flour} in a very large bowl. Wait 5 minutes for yeast to activate. If the yeast is good it should bubble slightly and smell, well, yeasty. Add flour, one cup at a time and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Cover with clear wrap and place in a warm place and let it rise for one hour. The dough should almost double in size. Punch it down and separate it into two sections. Add a small amount of flour so the dough isn't sticky and shape into two long loaves. Place loaves on a parchment lined cookie sheet and preheat oven to 450ยบ. Let the bread rise until the oven is ready and bake for about 30 minutes, until the bread is golden brown.

If you make any, tell me how it goes! And, I'm sorry in advance for the pounds you may gain because of this. :)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

we lost a baby.

Ever since we started trying to have children I have been terrified of miscarriages. After waiting five long years to get pregnant with the twins, I had read a lot about pregnancy, infertility and miscarriage. I knew the stats. I knew it was a terrible and horribly common thing that many people didn't openly talk about. I knew that statistically it was bound to happen to me.

When I was six weeks pregnant with the twins we became aware of a potential problem. Baby B (Olivia) was measuring days smaller than Baby A (Stella) and had a weaker heartbeat. The doctor told us straight out that she has a 50/50 shot of making it over the next two weeks. From weeks 6-8 I was on pins and needles. I was so afraid that I was going to lose Baby B, which may make it easier to lose Baby A. When those two weeks were up we got another ultrasound and saw two beautiful heartbeats and two healthy looking babies. I felt like we had dodged a bullet and was so happy that the twins were going to make it.

We were lucky enough to get pregnant with Ezra without fertility drugs and treatments like we had to with the twins. We were told that we had less than a 1% chance of conceiving on our own. I knew that I wanted more children and that I couldn't go through the emotional nightmare of fertility treatments. I call those five years of my life my deep, dark place. I couldn't go back.

One night I prayed that if He was willing, I would have as many babies as I could handle and I would love them with all of my being. Not even two weeks later I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I couldn't stop laughing and smiling. I called my husband and he had the same reaction. We were over the moon.

When I got pregnant with Ezra I never really thought I'd miscarry. I knew it was a possibility, but I never even gave it much thought. I was occupied with two toddler girls and trying to figure out how in the world I was going to juggle it all.

After Ezra was born I was 95% sure we were done having kids. I could've had my tubes tied during his c-section, but who gets their tubes tied at 28 years old? That just seemed too permanent a choice for me to make at 28. As the kids grew it convinced me a little more that I could totally have another baby. Ezra had some health stuff that really threw us for a loop, but he was such an easy, happy baby. I didn't feel the ease with the twins and I did with him and it changed me.

I don't know how to explain it, but I knew right away that I was pregnant again. My husband knew too and we laughed how we both felt the same way for weeks but didn't tell each other. I even took a pregnancy test one night and saw the outline of a positive line. This test was at least a week too early, but I knew. And I knew I saw that little line in the positive window. The line was pretty much clear, like the difference between flat and satin paint, but it was there. I thought I was going crazy. I didn't tell anyone about my late-night discovery (who would even believe me?!), so I waited several days and took another test. POSITIVE. I was like, "Duhhh!" I told my husband before I even left the bathroom because I was so ecstatic. I was bursting to tell him. It was such wonderful news I wanted to share it with everyone.

I went to the doctor and had tests, exams and the like and yes, hooray, yippee, I was pregnant.

I was so happy. Like that Pharrell song "Happy" was on constant loop in my head. I was so preoccupied with baby thoughts that sometimes I would just let my mind wander and think about our future. I saw Ezra as a protective big brother and I saw Stella and Olivia act like little mommies in ways they never did with Ezra. I saw a complete and happy family with three little girls and a boy. I was measuring the crib, dresser and walls of Ezra's tiny room to see if we could squeeze another little person in there. We sold our old infant car seats so I was researching the newest and best car seats on the market. I was planning my business calendar around the holidays and when our December baby would make her grand entrance. I was dreaming of a new and slightly different life.

On Thursday I noticed what no woman wants to notice when she's pregnant. I'll spare you the details, but in an instant I knew that I was having a miscarriage. My brain tried to convince my heart that plenty of people go through what I was going through and have perfectly "normal" pregnancies and healthy babies. But my heart knew better; my heart knew I was losing this baby.

I waited a day and then called my doctor. They wanted me to go to the ER to get checked out (so dramatic, right?), but I knew there was nothing they'd be able to do for me. My husband was out of town and I didn't want to bother anyone with having to watch my kids as I wait and stay at the hospital for a few hours. I waited another day and at my doctor's insisting I went to get an ultrasound, so off I went. Oddly enough, Pharrell's song "Happy" was playing on the radio during the ultrasound. I was hoping that maybe my heart was wrong, maybe she was still with us. Maybe she'd appear on the screen any instant. Maybe? Please?

The tech confirmed what I already knew; the baby was gone. She was gone. I couldn't get dressed and get out of that office fast enough. The tears started flowing before I even made it to the elevator. Luckily I had the one pair of sunglasses the twins hadn't broken yet and could shield my tears from the eyes staring at me in the waiting room. I got in my car and I bet you can guess what song was on the radio. AGAIN. I wasn't happy, shut up Pharrell. I'm not going to clap along with you. I know what happiness is to me and this isn't it.

(Here's the music video if you have NO idea what I'm talking about.)

However sad I was, the song got me thinking. My wonderful husband makes me so happy (even if he travels three weeks a month, he's around enough to make me very happy). My kids make me insanely happy most of the time. I am so lucky that I didn't miscarry either of their pregnancies. Had I lost the twins, or even just Baby B or Ezra, I would have been devastated beyond words. I really don't think I would have been able to handle it. This, I can handle. It sucks, but I can still function.

Because of my faith I know that death is not the end. I know I will be reunited with this little baby one day and what a sweet reunion it will be. But even having this knowledge doesn't take away the pain. A little part of me has died and that deep, dark place is trying to find it's way back to me. That old familiar grief and pain has made it's way back. The heaviness is back.

I bought myself a two dozen pink roses and put them in one of my favorite vases. Those poor roses come with me to every room I go to. They sit on my nightstand when I sleep, they sit on the kitchen counter when I cook, they sit on the dining room table as I sew and they're sitting on my desk as I type this. It probably wasn't the wisest thing to buy myself roses because we all know that roses die. I'll probably keep them in the basket on top of the kitchen cabinet where my wedding bouquet resides.

Staying busy has it's perks. My mind gets preoccupied and doesn't rehash everything I've been through the last week. After the kids go to bed the house quiet and still. My mind drifts. My eyes well up with tears and somehow I end up here, typing on a little keyboard when I really should be letting my mind and body rest before my two little monkeys come jumping on my bed asking for fruit snacks and strawberry shortcake episodes on the iPad.  All I want to do is lay in my bed. If I could do that all day (and have someone insert new DVDs for me so I wouldn't have to get up), I'd be set. I don't even get hungry when I get like this, so I could survive for the day off of the bag of tropical Starbust on my nightstand I "accidentally" left out of the kids' Easter baskets. But that can't happen because life goes on. Kids need attention, food needs to be prepared and clothes need to be washed.  The world continues to move so I probably should too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ezra's skin

When Ezra was only a few months old we discovered that his skin was slowly getting red patches on his face.

At first I thought it was just baby acne, but it started to spread and it quickly got really bad. Like really, really bad. It started covering his scalp and the oils from his scalp would make his hair sticky and crusty. Washing it with mild soap or even water would cause his hair to fall out. He was so itchy and so miserable. When Ezra's skin was at it's worst, it looked like this...

It was terrifying. It was overwhelming. I felt completely hopeless, defeated and so sad for not being able to take his pain away. I stopped taking the kids out because I couldn't take the questions and the judgmental stares. I started washing Ezra's clothing and bedding in free and clear detergent and no dryer sheets (something we learned from my husband's dermatologist). Ezra had to wear socks on his hands to keep him from scratching his red spots raw. He would scratch them so hard they would bleed. He wouldn't sleep long stretches because he would wake up scratching his itches. I would nurse and rock him to sleep many times during the night. I would cover him with aquaphor and wished I could take every itch away from his tiny body. He had just recovered from having RSV where he needed breathing treatments with a nebulizer every few hours and now this?

After many calls and visits to the pediatrician, we finally got an appointment with a dermatologist. We met with the nurse practitioner and almost immediately she brought the dermatologist in to take a look at sweet, miserable Ezra. They determined that he had seborrhea and eczema with a staph infection. They also thought that his car seat could be giving him car seat dermatitis (yeah, that's a thing apparently. Skin sensitivity to the chemicals used in chemical coating on car seats). We got prescriptions for a hydrocortisone cream for his face, a corticosteroid ointment for his body (called triamcinolone), an oil steroid for his head and an antibiotic to treat the staph infection. I thought some of his problems were diet related, but they were certain it was all skin related and that I didn't need to alter my diet and that I should continue nursing.

When we got home I started his lotions and potions (what my mother calls them) and did as much internet research as I could. I had already looked up a lot while waiting for the dermatologist appointment, but now I had names and a diagnosis. I researched car seats and their coatings and found out that Britax and Orbit Baby were the only two manufacturers that agreed to not sell car seats with those harmful coatings staring January 1, 2013. So I went to Buy Buy Baby and searched every car seat box in their rafters to find a car seat that was manufactured in 2013. The salesman thought I was NUTS. I was so sad to get rid of Ezra's car seat because I had spent so much time revamping it from when it was one of the twins' car seats, but I didn't even hesitate if it would make Ezra better.

Immediately Ezra started feeling better. He (and I) started sleeping better. Things were working.

(Ezra's fancy and new no-harmful-checmicals car seat!)

Ezra ended up needing two rounds of antibiotics to clear up the staph infection, but he was progressing. It was slow, but it was progress and I was jumping for joy.

(the car seat i made a new cover for and had to get rid of)

A year later, we still have to use creams/ointments on him daily, but he doesn't have to use the oil anymore and the concentration for his two creams have decreased with one now being an over-the-counter hydrocortisone. A few things I've learned with this whole thing:

1. What works for my baby/your neighbor/your internet friend's kid may not work for you. Everyone is different with different skin issues. It's a process to find out the right products used in the right combination.

2. We wash anything and everything before it touches Ezra's skin. If not, he gets red bumps wherever he comes in contact with that fabric.

3. If we miss one application (some creams were twice a day in the beginning), it would set us back DAYS of progress. So I never skipped applications if I could help it.

4. After I applied his creams I would slather his body with aquaphor. His doctor said he has the kind of skin that can never have too much lotion on it, but aquaphor really helps. We tried CeraVe creams and lotions, but aquaphor works the best by far. I keep a tub of it on his dresser/changing area and put some on him with almost every diaper change. It really makes a huge difference applying it consistently.

5. Mustela Stelatopia Cream Cleanser is a really good body wash for Ezra. It doesn't dry him out or make him oily. (They're not paying me to say this [neither is aquaphor], but if you're reading this Mustela, you can totally send me free products, thanksssssss.)

I've hesitated putting these pictures online because they eat me up inside, but I'm sure there are many out there that are going through the same thing. I've had many questions on my instagram account on what i did/do for Ezra's skin that it's about time I write it down. I know how awful it is seeing your baby go through something so terrible, so if this helps anyone even in the slightest I will be so happy! Healthy skin is the best. We are so, so happy his skin is clearer and in a more manageable state.


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