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Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunny Snow

We have had a lot of snowy days lately. Unlike my big kids, usually my youngest stays in the house. She has a circulatory system that causes her to quickly prioritize her blood-flow away from her limbs, and learned the words "Cold, COLD" very quickly. This past week we had a nice warm day, so we bundled up baby and took her out for some fun in the sun ... snow... hmm ... sunny snow... which sounds like an oxymoron but isn't. There should be a better word for this.

Obviously, she thought this was a perfect time for a photo shoot:

She was all smiles at finally getting to play outside with her brother and sister.
Of course she needed to taste the fluffy stuff.
It's not as good as it looks.
The fun lasted for quite a while until she decided that she was tired. Off came the mittens so that she could suck her thumb. Off came the hat so that she could twirl her hair. 10 seconds of contented baby bliss then "Wahhhhh!!!!"

We will try again on another snowy day with warm sunshine - grrrr... there has got to be a better way to describe this weather phenomenon.

I'm off to google Inuit snow words because that will be a very productive use of my time this morning. Really. Self education. It's a good thing. I'm not procrastinating. Really. Really!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nice Shoes

Every girl knows that a great pair of RED pumps makes the world a happier place.
You've just got to practice walking in them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ribbon Valances

I love my daughter's ribbon valances. Every time we give house tours (which is very often because our house is rarely the same two years in a row) I enjoy showing her room specifically because of these sweet window treatments.

My original plan for this room was to create a space that she could grow up with - girly enough for the fairy princess stage and grown up enough to avoid major renovations as she gets older. I had a really hard time finding fabric to fit this idea though. Everything seemed to be either bubble gum baby pink or metallic rock star pink. Or, if I did find the colors that I was looking for, they were in an old fashioned floral print that looked as if it belonged on grandma's sofa.
We own an interior decorating store. You would think if anyone could find the right fabric I could, but it just wasn't out there and I was getting frustrated. Finally, I decided to throw out the whole idea of finding fabric and go out and make something with the color combination that I wanted. I think we struck a pretty good balance, although it is hard to tell in these washed out photos.
I have gotten several requests for instructions recently, which I thought would be easy enough considering that the materials list includes little more than ribbons and a board, but because I made these several years ago and I didn't take notes or pictures along the way. You will have to use your imagination a bit. (I'm not-so-secretly hoping that Heather's Miss Bliss will take on the challenge of doing a proper tutorial - Hmmm? Maybe?)

So... The basics. You will need a board, angle brackets, screws, staples, white paint and lots of ribbons.

1. First you will need to measure the inside width of your window AT THE TOP. Most windows look straight but really aren't. Measuring at the bottom or middle can result in window treatments that don't fit properly, so grab a chair and take the measurement where you plan to hang the valance. In the same way, if you are making valances for several windows, measure every window even if you think that they are the same size - you might be surprised.

2. Time to make your template. Get some butcher paper or newspaper, mark the proper width, and cut a shape that you think will look good as your valance. Tape it in place - Is it too long? Too short? Would you like a deeper angle? Is it even on both sides? - If not fold the paper in half as if you were making a paper heart and even things out. Play with shapes - newspaper is cheap and this is an easy way to determine what you want. Once you have found a shape that you like save your template (I'm forgetful so I always write SAVE on my paper along with the date & window location). You will need this later.

3. From the measurement you made in step 1, deduct approx. 1/2 -3/4 inch. (This space will later be filled by the thickness of the ribbons.) and cut your board to length - I chose a board approx. 3/4"x4" because it was handy and fit well in the space I had available. You will want to look at the depth of your window, making sure that there is enough clearance for your shades, and the height you will need to conceal the header of the shades.

4. To determine how much ribbon you will need, there is a bit of thinking involved. For the math minded you could determine the area of your template and then add to it the area of the front face of your board (because you are covering it twice) plus some more (real scientific, I know) for "loss." ***I'm not a math person so all of you smart folks like Jen & Robert will need to look away for a moment. What I did was first go shopping and find several ribbons I liked. Then I lined them up side by side and determined their width as a unit. I divided the width of my board by this number and learned how many units of ribbon I needed. I then multiplied this number by the length of the longest point of my valance. By doing this I was able to determine how many inches of each ribbon I needed. Yes there was waste, but I'd rather waste ribbon than do the evil math problem several times over as I change my mind about ribbon width. Sad but true.
* As a side note, I found that ribbon from craft stores can be very expensive. I got some great deals at the Christmas Tree Shops but the bulk of our ribbon I bought as those weird curtain things that people hang from their doorways (think 1970s) and then I cut them apart.
5. Paint the board white - I actually covered mine in white fabric to make it look more professional, (and cuz' I don't like painting) but really, paint would work just fine. This will make the ribbons' colors appear more vivid and will prevent any raw wood from showing in your final product. Make sure your paint dries thoroughly.

6. Begin wrapping ribbons horizontally along the length of the board. These should not overlap because we will be weaving the dangling ribbons between them later. Use a staple gun to attach snugly but not extremely so on both ends. If your staple gun does not have enough force to sink the staples well, use a hammer to ensure a flat edge.

7. Dry fit your valance. This is your chance to fix any problems before we get too far. Does the board fit nicely in the window? Are your staples flush? Adjust as necessary.

8. Point the ribbons. I like hand sewing so I folded each ribbon into a point on one end and stitched it in place. You could easily do this with a fabric glue like Fray Check, but I'm not a fan of the shiny edges that it leaves - personal preference.

9. Place your board on top of your template and position it as squarely at the top edge as possible. Begin weaving ribbons vertically. Thread the ribbons from the top of the valance and weave them down through the horizontally wrapped ribbons. Pull the point until it reaches the bottom edge of your template. Staple in place. (Do not cut off the excess yet) Begin weaving the next ribbon and position it as closely as you can to the 1st ribbon without overlapping.

10. Once all of your ribbons are woven through, lift the board, or better, have a friend hold it up for you. Do a final check. If you are satisfied with the length of all of the ribbons, cut the excess off.

11. Attach your angle brackets to the backside of your valance. Attach the valance to the window opening with screws. Usually I like to hang valances from three points along the "ceiling" of the window opening, but the header for my daughter's shades was too wide to allow for this so we attached from the sides. It seems to be holding up fine.

That's it. I'm sure I missed a step or two, but I hope this will get you started. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Filing aka. Hiding the Mess

This time of year always finds me filing. I love to be organized, although you wouldn't know it by looking at my kitchen counters on most days.

I like the newness of taking all of last years bills and financial statements, boxing them up and having them ready and waiting for tax day. More than that, I like to put all of our school documents back in order. It gives me time to look at our accomplishments and know that really, we have made progress - it is easier to see it in hindsight. It also gives me a chance to compare where we are to my original goals for the year and tweak things as needed.

This year I decided that we need more handwriting practice and fun games to help with my daughter's visual processing problems. Easy fix.

I have some serious organizational challenges though. I know, I know - join the club right?
  • First - We are home almost ALL of the time, pulling things out, using them, and simply doing life. I can tidy, but things won't stay that way for long.
  • Second - We need to do school from here, which means that we have many books and supplies that need to be accessed every day, but they are plain ugly to look at and need to be kept hidden away.
  • Third - We have a toddler in the house. Enough said.
In a perfect world, I would have empty floors, countertops and desks. I don't even really like most decorations. I'm not technically a minimalist because it is just too modern for me, but empty surfaces are my preference, even if they aren't my reality.

So, with 3 kids I am finding myself needing to find ways to organize myself and keep all of our supplies hidden at the same time. Here are a few of my favorite tools:

My kitchen - I know, the kitchen isn't a tool, it is a room, but in our house it functions as our school room on most days. We have a real school room upstairs, but it is just too far removed from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. My husband was thoughtful enough to add a few hidden spaces for our kids, which are almost as fun as his MacGyver Cabinet. A chalkboard is under a decorative cabinet door (on the non-functional end of my counter) and a magnet board is under another. These will be something we outgrow eventually, but for now they keep "treasures" handy but out of sight.

I keep my calendar inside an upper cabinet door, and a clipboard holding my grocery list and other to-do items inside another, so we can simply close the door on lots of our mess. In addition, I decided to sacrifice some cabinet space to my schooling sanity. Canned goods and any specialty dishes were all moved to the basement. In their place I keep the kids books (math, phonics) and the manuals that I will need every day. Our audiobooks and CD player are hidden in a lower cabinet, right beside my laminator and paper cutter. Neat and easy access.

Ottomans - Yeah, I know these aren't technically filing tools either, but they are great for hiding messes and they function as extra seating at the same time. I have 3 and they are all full of our supplies. One contains our binders and books, another has math manipulatives, and the third contains files for our upcoming units with lap-book elements, project supplies and any printouts that I need, all organized theme. In fact, one of these ottomans is right by our front door and I've never had a single person peek inside. (Okay now that I posted that I know some of you are dying to open up all of the ottomans in my house - go for it. Why not.)

Binders - Workbook pages (you know, the dreaded math and language arts) are all pulled out of their bindings, 3 hole punched, and put into a binder. I hand the kids the top page, and when they return it I put it immediately in the back of the book. In January I cull the excess and then at the end of the school year I have them help me choose their best work and we toss all but a few samples. I try really hard to not allow myself to have a "to be filed" category anywhere. It either has a home at the end of the day, or I toss it. Period.

So it isn't unusual to find me in a pile of papers, binders, and files during the month of January, attempting to make my life a bit more organized, but this ... well this is ridiculous:

I swear I didn't stage this photo. The dog just jumped in all by herself, spun in a circle and looked as if she was ready to settle in for a long nap. I don't know why. She is a strange little thing - cute but strange. Seriously, why would I file the dog with our homeschool materials?

Everyone knows that dogs go in the personal files!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another First

I can't believe it.
He waited a year and a half.
The man is patient.

Our oldest two they crossed this accomplishment off of their list of "firsts" within a week or so of birth, but my youngest was born in April. Then she had trouble gaining weight and regulating her temperature properly (purple arms are kinda' scary), so he had to wait another whole year.


Baby's first time out skiing.
That's one happy Dad.

The popcorn salesman had a pretty good day too.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pretty Hair

I love complicated hairstyles. I always have. Wasting an hour curling, braiding, pinning or finding ways to otherwise "fancify" hair is one of the advantages of being a girl.

I remember the day I learned to french braid. I was in the back of a friend's van (without seat belts or even proper chairs now that I think about it - sheesh I had forgotten that) and we were amusing ourselves on the long drive to her house. I had always loved her beautifully braided hair and I wanted her to do mine, but she could only braid on her own head - it turned out upside down when she tried to do my hair. So instead, I spent the next 2 hours watching her braid her own hair over and over again and attempting to do the same. I think it took me those entire two hours, but eventually I got it, and I never looked back.

Everyday hair is fairly simple in our house; a ponytail or just a basic brush through are the norm, but holidays are something very different. Holidays are special. All of those parties, events, and get-togethers just scream out for something different.

Now that I have two little girls (and have cut my own hair to above my shoulders), I have fewer opportunities to do my own hair, but I have added the fun of doing their hair instead. Even the baby gets fancy hair,
but I have learned to take her hair-twirling habit into consideration. This look had to be altered immediately after I took this photo because she wanted needed more hair to play with.

The girls seem to have picked up my hair fascination. The little one begs for her hair to be combed and thinks that the word "pretty" refers only to hair. If you say "Oh, you look pretty today," to her, you will immediately see her tiny hand fly up to touch her hair ribbon and her little head nod up and down agreeing with you that yes, in fact, her ribbons are pretty.

My oldest is in the more-is-better stage of hair design which, I have to say, is one of the CLASSIC growing up stages for little girls. I remember entertaining my sisters and torturing my father with excess hair ribbons. If you know my dad, you know just how not-him it is to have hair ribbons being clipped in his hair by giggly girls. He endured us with style.

(The kids were getting ready to put on a play
and decided that baby needed a princess costume.
This look, to little girls, screams princess...)

With all of this attention to hair bathroom space is going to be very valuable when my girls get to be teens. Maybe I should begin warning my son now. That stage isn't going to be pretty at all.