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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Baby Paraphernalia

Babies come with so much baggage. 

Our daughter, Coryn, was the first grandchild on both the paternal and maternal side of things and the first great-grandchild on my side of the family. When I was pregnant with her, Matt was deployed to Iraq and I was back in my home town surrounded by family, working part time with two other pregnant mothers (my poor supervisor had three employees going on maternity leave within two months, and my maternity "leave" was intentionally also my exit from "employed" status as I fully intended to stay-at-home from then on), and an active church family. Because of that, I had three separate baby showers, not sought out but offered, and since they were with three separate groups (family, work, church) with little to no overlap on the guest lists, and I didn't feel bad about accepting.

In other words, in between the gift cards and gifts and hand me downs from relatives who had been saving things from their own baby days, Coryn had stuff. Lots of stuff. 

I find that every mom has that piece of equipment they couldn't do without and that's what they are really enthusiastic about giving you. Sometimes it is a small item; people get hung up on the weirdest wonder products: disposable bibs, wash clothes, onesies. . .

Onesies would be my personal favorite. If I had to pick one thing I always seem to need more of, it would be one piece baby clothes. I don't have time (or initiative) to coordinate an outfit. Give me a onesie with a cute print or a zip-up sleeper and my baby is good. A baby should have one or two party outfits for special occasions, first time meetings that you want really good photographs to remember. . .I personally had a set of matching party dresses I wanted every excuse to put Claire and Coryn in. Coryn's still fits her (I bought it a size up). Claire's. . .well, it lasted from birth to four months or so. That's a decent run for any baby outfit. 

Here they are in their dresses at their cousin's birthday party. I made Claire a matching head band. 

Back on the subject of stuff:

I found that 75% of the stuff people swore by as their saving grace or miracle product didn't do anything for me or my baby. I never actually used the disposable bibs. Most of the time I would forget to use the washcloths altogether and just let my baby splash around to clean herself (washcloths are good to suck on, however), and those previously mentioned coordinating outfits? Well, I'd get one wear out of them before the pieces got separated and then I'd just match them with whatever was close at hand or. . .Hey look! Another onesie! 

Some items I thought I'd want ended up being a waste of space. For some reason, I thought a baby wipe warmer was a really cool idea and was happy to get one as a gift. I used it for awhile until I moved the changing table out of reach of a power outlet and then it kind of just sat there. . .I didn't get one when we had Claire and didn't miss it. Also, the baby monitor. I rarely remembered to plug it in and I was always getting the wrong signals from it. Those things love to pick up the monitor of the family across the street. I did get a used one when we had Claire and then Caen chewed up the cord and again, I haven't missed it. 

One item that was always on my wishlist was a "Sleep Sheep." I just thought they were adorable. 

I never got one with Coryn, but when my sister had her baby about a year later, I got her one and asked for a review. She said her daughter loved it but liked the "whale song" sound the best and she felt that was creepy. I have a high tolerance for creepy, quirky, and off kilter, so when I was pregnant with Claire and found one at the thrift store for $5 I picked it up. Unfortunately, my experiences weren't so great. I could never seem to keep it running for more than a few minutes and was always having trouble with it being too quiet. I couldn't tell if I'd bought a defective one (it was used) or if I just had the settings wrong (no owner's manual). Either way, it didn't get much use. 

Other items I was swamped with:

Blankets: everyone gives blankets. They're cute and easy and you can make them if you are any sort of a crafter. . .but dang, I was drowning in "special, home made blankets with sentimental value." Some got shut away in drawers, I made a couple that matched my color scheme into wall hangings simply by pinning them to the walls, and Coryn picked out a fleece tie one as a favorite and still sleeps with it today. . .but after that experience, even though I love to crochet and can make a pretty baby blanket, I am never going to give another new mom a blanket again. 

Bibs: bibs are cute. A lot of outfit sets come with a matching bib. Bibs often have cute saying on them. Bibs are so annoying. I don't know why, but I don't like bibs. I groan inwardly whenever I unwrap one because they are just silly. The food still gets everywhere. It's just one more item to wash. . .I did get one or two home made ones that were pretty and I'm saving just because they look nice, but I never use them and the drawer full of bibs with cute sayings people have given me? Future yard sale fodder where I'm sure some lady will pick them up and squeal, "Look at these like new bibs! I must have them!" At least that's what I'm hoping. 

Shoes: if the baby isn't walking, the baby doesn't need shoes. That's my position on the subject and all I have to say on the matter.

Socks: similar to shoes. Give me footie pajamas instead. The socks are just going to get lost anyway. Think back over your life. How many times have you seen a lonely baby sock sitting on the side of the road? If you have a child, how many times have you gone grocery shopping with two socks and come out of the store with one? Admittedly, the ones that resemble shoes are really cute but when you can have footie pajamas instead, socks are kind of a novelty item (Oh! Look how tiny! Let's bronze them and move on.). 

Novelty picture frames, piggy banks, and other decor items: unless they are on a wish list they are a pain to incorporate into the decor. Even if they do match, they are just more things to move while dusting. I'm not a person who plans out the decor of any room, but if I were, I think I'd like to pick the items myself rather than have to squeeze in random knickknacks provided by others. This is what online wishlists are for, people.

Baby mitts: I loved the idea of these cotton mittens that supposedly would keep a baby from scratching his or herself, but Coryn hated wearing them, would always get them off somehow, and really, is it that awful if they scratch themselves a tiny bit? If their nails are drawing blood, trim them. Otherwise, I kind of just learned to chill over the little pink lines that Coryn and Claire left on their skin from time to time. 

Needs and wants differ from person to person and even baby to baby. I never used a play pen or pack and play for Coryn (though my mom had one and we used it instead of a crib when we were staying with them). With Claire, sometimes I need a place to put her to keep the dog away from her or to keep her contained because the wood floor is too covered in dog hair for her to crawl on and I can't sweep while I hold her. 

Also, pacifiers. Coryn never wanted them. Claire is addicted to hers. She was fussy all morning and I tried everything to get her to be happy. Nothing work until the "pacie" was found and then she quietly sat on the floor and sucked. 

Teething rings I never found did much good for teething, but I kept a bunch in the freezer and whenever Coryn bumped her teeth, I would give her one as a toddler. 

I guess when dealing with baby stuff, less is generally more. After all, what they don't stain or lose they'll grow out of before you know it. Just enjoy having a baby and don't worry about the baggage.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Bag Crochet Pattern

This is a very simple pattern but also one of the larger projects I've ever linked. Most of my patterns can be completed in an hour or two. This one took me several days and two and a half skeins of yarn . . .though admittedly it was this completely awesome Lion Brand Jiffy yarn in denim blue that I just want to hug and caress over and over again. . .if any of you are planning to get me a Christmas present, take note: this yarn is spectacular!

So anyway, this pattern is extremely simple. In some ways it is just a bigger version of my phone and camera cozy pattern, a much, much, much bigger version (ginormous as Coryn would say. . .I think she got that from the Fresh Beat Band, but she picks up stuff from all over so it is hard to say).

Before you start, make sure you have a significant amount of the yarn you intend to use. I worked mine in the above mentioned amazing yarn, in half double crochet, with a size H hook. The size is easily adjustable. You work in a round up until the strap and you can make the strap any length you want.

So start by making a chain the length of the bottom of your bag. For the sake of this pattern, I'll say:

Ch 50, turn
hdc in the second chain from the hook and in every chain until the end. In the end chain, hdc 3 times, turning around to work the back of the chain as demonstrated below, hdc along the entire bottom of the chain until you reach the end of the chain, hdc twice in the last chain. This is your first round.

 Hdc in the first hdc of the first round and in every hdc down the top of the row. When you get to the first turn hdc twice in the hdc at the end, then hdc down the other side of the round. Hdc twice in the hdc at the end of the turn on the other end.
From here on, just work around and around, no extra stitches, one hdc in each space. It should quickly start to form a pocket. 
 Here we have the pocket.
 To achieve the size of bag I wanted, I went around for 30 rows.
The bag should have two definite sides. I chose to put my straps at the end of the row.
So, stop, ch 1 and turn, hdc 6, ch and turn again, repeat until your strap has reached the length you desire. 

 Here is my strap (the length I desired. . .omgosh, why does that sound dirty. . .that wasn't meant to sound dirty. . .uhhhh. . .it's long enough now).
 carefully line it up evenly on the opposite side of the bag. As I mentioned in my tote bag pattern, a good way to make sure you are placing your straps evenly is to fold the bag in half.
 Now you can either slip stitch it onto the side of the bag or use a yarn needle and sew it tightly to the other side. I slip stitched as seen here:
 Fasten off, weave under the ends and make sure your strap will hold up against a lot of weight (tug it a few times). There, you're done. Told you it was simple!

Amanda’s Books and More

The Peaceful Mom

Free Sample TV Scenarios

I like to sign up for free samples (most of which I find through www.thepeacefulmom.com) and am also a member of several surveys for points or prizes sites. Here are a few of them:
Crowdtap gives you surveys and discussion opportunities which will earn cash for charities (they don't have all that many options for charities and none of them were causes I personally feel a strong tie to, but there are some good causes and the surveys are quick and fun). Also, if you get into the right discussion groups (you have to apply and be of a certain "level" to get into most of these), you can qualify for free samples and coupons. The one to court, as far as I'm concerned, is Old Navy. Qualifying for an Old Navy Sample and Share generally means a free article of clothing for you and a friend.

I also do surveys with My Survey and NPD Online Research. My Survey offers points which can be redeemed starting at 2000 for a $10 Amazon gift certificates (I'm currently at 3000 but haven't taken the time yet to redeem my first gift certificate). NPD Online mostly just gives you "sweepstakes points" and I've never actually won anything from them that way, but I have received a $25 special offer Amazon gift certificate for completing a longer study survey where I logged the eating habits of my children for a week, what brands of foods I purchased, etc (Ironically, they asked me to do the youngest child in my family who happens to be a breast feeding infant so I doubt they got the information they were wanting out of me).

Any way, the point to this is one of the surveys asked me if I'd be willing to test out a product (Deodorant in this case) and complete another survey after using the product for two weeks. Of course I said yes, and so a couple of days ago I got an unlabeled stick of deodorant in the mail. No real opinions on it yet. It works fine, has a really nice smell, but if they really wanted me to not know the brand they shouldn't have imprinted a recognizable logo onto it. What's the point of removing the label if you are going to do that? Or maybe I'm just weird for knowing what the "Secret" logo looks like off the top of my head.

So the point to this ramble:
I was applying the deodorant and thinking of possible, wild scenarios involving it. What if it was some fiendish plot to take over the world? What if. . .

I was living in a Dr. Who episode and this deodorant was part of a mind control plot from an alien race? If so the Doctor will rescue me. Can I choose my own Doctor? I know the 10th is the apparent fan favorite, but for some reason the 9th Doctor just seems more trustworthy to me. I guess I like guys with big ears.

If this were an episode of House, I'd become deathly ill and the deodorant would be the final clue House (or Chase; I like to think Chase would be the one to figure it out in my episode) would find that would make him realize that I was suffering from deodorant toxicity. . .wait, I think they did that episode. . .

If this were CSI, I'd have to die, of course, and originally they'd think it was part of a huge cover up by the deodorant company, but then they'd find a speck of dust that proves the deodorant was a red herring, and it was really my seemingly friendly neighbor, introduced in an earlier scene but suspiciously unimportant considering the actor is a familiar face in these sort of shows and almost always plays the murderer, who killed me over a cheesecake recipe (Weird because I don't bake).

If this were Psych, it would be very similar to CSI except rather than a speck of dust, Shawn and Gus would solve the mystery using Shawn's photographic memory, pop culture references, and a clever ruse using bizarre aliases. . . I choose Psych over CSI if I have to die for the cause.

If this were a sitcom, the deodorant would cause bizarre side effects which mimic intoxication and I'd wake up with a trashed house, twenty new cats, and a lot of new crafting supplies because intoxicated Heidi collects cats and craft supplies.

So am I taking too much of a risk trying this deodorant sample? Well, if the Doctor shows up, I'll let you know.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Another Hobbit Reading

I have to admit, I'm getting addicted to making these reading videos:

This is an excerpt with some poetry from the last chapter of the Hobbit. I so adore this book.

In My Etsy Shop: A Tale of Top Notch Turtles

Once upon a time there were three little turtles, Tyler, Tucker, and Trixie.

Tyler was a thoughtful turtle who loved to sit quietly and watch the world around him.

Tucker was a top notch turtle who always wanted to be boss and lead his friends on exciting adventures.

Trixie was a terrific turtle who loved to talk and talk and talk with her friends.

One day Tucker invited them to go exploring. They climbed up a slippery white mountain and found a curious basin.

While they were staring into this curious basin, Tyler suddenly slipped and went spinning down into the bottom. Oh no! The sides were too slick for him to climb out. What was Tyler to do?

"Don't worry, Tyler!" called Trixie. "We'll get you out!" But even as she said so she wasn't so sure. Turtles are not very good at rescues.

Suddenly a hand reached into the slippery sided basin and plucked Tyler out.

Tyler was scared at first but Tucker called out, "It's okay! Just hold on!"

The turtles were all reunited and lived happily ever after. If you want to bring one home with you check them out HERE in my Etsy shop.

Amanda’s Books and More

Friday, September 21, 2012

Library Line-Up: September

Poor Coryn brought home a nasty cold from. . .well, I'm not exactly sure where she picked it up. She had gymnastics this week which seems a likely culprit (lots of little kids touching the same surfaces), but Matt also mentioned that something was going around his work, and the little girl across the street couldn't play the other day because she was sick. . .lots of options. There is something so sad about a four-year-old with bloodshot eyes, and when she talks her voice sounds a little bit like the baby duck in her Tom and Jerry cartoons. . .and cartoons was what her little heart desired. No more Tom and Jerry (someone reported all the full length Tom and Jerry cartoons on youtube for violating copyright, which they probably did, but I'm still sore about their removal. The dang cartoons are over fifty-years-old. Time to start sharing, Hanna Barbara or whoever owns the rights to them. . .), but she has a dvd of random Warner Brothers cartoons (mostly Tweety and Sylvester going at it), and all she wanted to do was curl up on the couch with that and a box of Cheez-its (her appetite was not noticeably affected by this whole sickness thing until this evening when she turned down a second "tiny apple pie" I'd made in a muffin cup). I insisted on doing a little story reading to fill some of the time, however.

We had found some really good books on this last library trip. Several were from authors that I purposefully sought out. There is a very good selection of Audrey Wood books at this new library, compared to what was available in Iwakuni. We also re-checked out Woodpecker Forest (reviewed here) which I hadn't thought she liked that much the first time we got it, but she found it on the shelf and asked if we could get it again.

Of all the books we got, my personal favorite is Come to the Fairies' Ball by Jane Yolen (the Caldecott winner for Owl Moon). This richly illustrated book is told in a pleasantly lilting rhyme about the preparations various fairies make to go to the ball. Coryn likes the pretty dresses the fairy ladies wear and wants to know if they are all princesses.

Also by Jane Yolen is Nocturne, which is also a poem, if less traditionally metered, all about night. I like the descriptions of the night as "Brushstroked bluecoat velvet," and it is a nice "whisper softly, read to calm down" book.

As I mentioned earlier, we got a couple of Audrey Wood books, and as usual, my favorite is not Coryn's favorite. Coryn likes Elbert's Bad Word, which is an interesting take on the saying of "bad words." What the word in question may be, I have no idea, but in the book the word is a character, a nasty, worm like, fuzzy black creature that sneaks into a little boy's mouth and waits for an opportunity to slip out. When the mother's attempt to "wash it out" of the boy's mouth fails, Elbert seeks the guidance of a wise gardener who helps him find better words to say. I think Coryn likes the idea of saying a bad word even though this hasn't been something we've had to deal with yet (I don't swear. Matt swears mildly on occasion-being a Marine, I know he hears much worse all day at work, and I'm thankful it is only mildly and on occasion that he brings it home with him. He does think it is funny if he can get Coryn to repeat it, but I've taught her not to trust Daddy in these matters and she usually consults with me before repeating anything Daddy asks her to say). I like this story, but I think

The Napping House is more fun to read, so it is my pick out of the two Audrey Wood reads we brought home. I like "this leads to this which leads to this" stories, and this one has wonderful illustrations, plus, again it is a nice "whisper to calm down" book, and I really like that. 

Coryn really likes In My Bathroom by Carol Thompson. It is a really simple book, but the little pig telling the story makes a huge mess at the end and she likes that. 

Her favorite, however, has got to be Belinda and the Glass Slipper by Amy Young. We've gotten Belinda books before (they are a series), and Coryn loves them all. After all, they are about ballet. She likes to imitate the moves Belinda does in the books. She actually asked to re-read this book the moment we finished it and she'll sit and just look at the pictures forever. In this story Belinda faces competition from a sneaky and spoiled ballerina who thinks she deserves Belinda's role in the ballet. There is a dance off and Belinda is victorious, of course, but Coryn still can't believe how nasty the other ballerina (Lola) is, so we had a talk on what jealousy is and how it can make people do mean things. 

So Belinda wins the Coryn's Choice Award and Come to the Fairies' Ball is my pick. Almost all these books I'd get again, and that's a good day at the library. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tutu Skirt Crochet Pattern

It's been a good long while since I've posted a pattern, mainly because I've been working off of other people's patterns for awhile now and while I'm proud of what I have made, I don't usually post patterns that aren't original to me (Occasionally a link but not often. That's why I have this board on Pinterest). 

My daughter is, like many little girls, obsessed with dancing and loves anything associated with ballerinas. We recently picked up a book from the library's withdrawn shelf (books that they don't want anymore and you can have for a donation of a quarter) called Alicia's Tutu. It's a sweet story about a little girl who becomes convinced that the "gift" her grandmother is sending is going to be a sparkly pink tutu, rather than the bed her mother keeps telling her to expect. 

Awhile ago I shared a very simple pattern for a Barbie skirt and because of Coryn's interest in tutus, I decided to try it at full size. 

This is what we ended up with:

Coryn was pleased because she said it had "humps" like a real ballerina skirt. Next time I might choose to make it a little longer. You can adjust the length simply by adding on extra v-stitch rows.
Another optional feature is this crocheted "button" that I made for the clasp. You could potentially use a real button instead or thread a ribbon around the top and use it to tie it shut (I wouldn't suggest using yarn because it has a potential to get knotted and you'd probably end up having to cut it off at some point).

Here is what the skirt looks like lying flat. 

To start off you want to make a chain long enough to wrap around your ballerina's waist plus three stitches; for Coryn, this ended up being 63 chains. 

I used a fairly thick worsted weight yarn. For a finer yarn you'll probably have to make more stitches around but remember that the yarn will stretch a little bit once you start to work it and don't go too wide. For this pattern I'll use the measurements I did. Don't be afraid to adjust for your own child.

Key: Ch=chain, DC=double crochet

Ch 63
DC in the third stitch from the hook and in each stitch across (60 DC), ch 3 and turn.
2DC in each stitch across (120 DC), this will start the ripple that you want, ch 3 and turn.
(2DC in the first stitch, 1DC in the next stitch) repeat across (180 DC), ch 3 and turn

If you've never done a v-stitch it is very simple. In each stitch you'll do a double crochet, a chain, and a double crochet. 

(V stitch, skip a space), across, until the last stitch, DC in the last stitch ch 3 and turn
For the remaining rows you want to work it the same as the first v stitch row except rather than skipping spaces, you'll just want to do the v stitch in the chain of the v stitch below it. 
V stitch in each chain stitch across. DC in the ch 3 at the end of the row, Ch3 and turn.

On the last V stitch row, don't Ch3. 

It takes about 8 rows to achieve the length of skirt I got in the picture. I considered going longer. If you decide to make a longer skirt just increase the amount of V stitch rows as you see fit.  

At the end of the last v-stitch row leave a long tail to sew up the skirt. Leave a few inches un-sewn so that it has a little bit of a gap. Crochet a loop on one side. Attach a button on the other side.

To crochet your own button, ch 2, 6sc in each the second chain, fasten off. 
Let me know if you try this pattern or have any questions about it. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Play it to Pieces: Barbie Haircuts

A little bit ago I blogged about letting my daughter dismantle a ripped t-shirt to make Barbie clothes. A lot of the reason we do things like this is because of my hoarder tendencies. I hate to throw anything away. I don't mind using things up, but if there is even the slightest bit of use left in something, I have to milk it out before I throw it away.

Well, last night, one of those Barbie Fashion Models met a tragic fate. While attempting to do the splits, her leg popped out and the plastic joint actually snapped so it wasn't just a simple, "pop it back in" operation like usual. Coryn begged me to fix her (she has four or five Barbies but each one is precious, even if they are somewhat abused) and I set her aside promising to give it a go with my hot glue gun at a later date, but tonight I actually took the time to examine the break and decided that this wasn't going to happen.

I stopped short of the garbage can, however, because I remembered Coryn's recent obsession with being a "Barbara" ("A Barbara cuts hair!" she informed me when I inquired exactly what being a Barbara meant). I had made her some yarn wigs to cut, but that was very time consuming for how long the activity lasted (about ten minutes of wig making to two minutes of hair cutting and the whole time she was sitting at my elbow asking if I was done yet). Paper "wigs" were not an acceptable substitute and while I had an idea to purchase some cheap party wigs, I never got around to it (a friend had an idea to buy mop heads from a dollar store, but I haven't run into a dollar store yet, mainly because of my transportation problems mentioned here.). We even had to have the "don't cut the cat's fur" talk.  So I called her over and told her, sorry, Barbie was toast, but if she wanted she could cut her hair.

Talk about excited! Coryn jumped right into it. She was instructed to do this activity over a waste paper basket and right now Barbie looks very Brittany Spears, but so far the hair cut has lasted about ten minutes and Coryn is in Barbara heaven.

In Coryn's barber shop, you receive your hair cut while upside down.

This was actually a Sleeping Beauty Barbie . . .once.

She later expanded on this hair cut and the Barbie ended up basically bald. 

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Another Fan Reading: From the Hobbit

I've mentioned in the past my devotion to J. R. R. Tolkien and my addiction to soft spoken relaxation videos on youtube. This is me making my own soft spoken reading. I'd like to eventually do much longer videos of this sort of thing, including some picture book readings, but I'm still working on my slide show skills.

This selection is from the Hobbit and is one of my all time favorite poems.

Amanda’s Books and More

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: This is What I Look Like When Blogging

Here is my Wordless Wednesday Link-Up Post. Coryn loves to use my camera and occasionally I'll find candid photos on my memory card that I know I didn't take. . . Like this one that shows myself and the dog with crazy eyes while Claire says, "Sigh. . .can you see what I'm dealing with here?"