Monday, February 1, 2016

February Goals

January was such an incredible month! It worked really well to share goals here; it kept me accountable and helped me meet them. So, I'm going to try it again for February.

Here is a bit of what the month looked like:
Pinewood Derby!

joined a Hanson's running group 2 days/week in the wee hours of the morning

did our best to stay warm

found out Murphy isn't the only one who drinks out of the toilet

saw Murphy play in snow for the first time

sledded for hours and hours and HOURS

had lots of friends join us

joined another running group for long runs on Saturdays

bleached denim and got halfway through a pair of jeans


Continue with daily Bible readings
Touch base weekly with my new mentor

Continue limiting sugar
Sleep 7 hours/night
Break 200 miles again!

Continue morning/night routine
Re-establish big daily cleaning tasks
Paint trim in Eliza's room

Find a math curriculum for 2016/2017

Have CC prepped on Tuesdays
Complete invoices weekly

Creative Pursuits & Learning
Finish two pairs of jeans
Continue to read and/or listen to book 30 minutes/day
Swim once/week

How are y'all doing with your resolutions? Did you establish any new habits last month? Any tips about laundry for me?

Monday, January 4, 2016

January Goals

Just like every year, I've got big goals for 2016.

Here were my goals for 2015:

Qualify for Boston - success!
Spend time reading books instead of articles (did great for the first six months)
Further cull my closet - success!
Learn to "play dolls" - success! (it just means doing whatever Eliza instructs me to do)
Grow out my hair and find a great stylist - success!
Have a morning family devotional - sort of success - Ryan handles this
Write for the blog again - nope
Smock a beautiful dress - sort of success - made a beautiful heirloom dress, but it wasn't smocked
Introduce the kids to the Appalachian Trail - success!
Practice the things we learned in Marriage Class - success!
Read the Bible - abysmal fail
Find some local hiking trails that make my soul soar - nope
Take time to be grateful - success!
Join a book club - sort of success - joined GoodReads
Make our House a HOME - finished one room, hung pictures, and put in new bushes, windows, and shutters - success!

Instead of doing a long list for the entire year - a totally intimidating thing - I've decided to set monthly goals in several categories. We'll see if it works!

January Goals
Say "yes" every single time the kids ask me to play with them.
Read assigned Bible passages every morning first thing.
Limit refined sugar to once/week.
Re-establish morning/evening basic cleaning routine.
Finish KonMari-ing clothes and books.
Start by 9am.
Take one weekend off.
Have CC day planned two days in advance.
Creative Pursuits
Read and/or listen to book 30 minutes/day.
Sew 3 hours/week.

What about you? Are you doing the Big Ole List of Resolutions or breaking it up into smaller pieces? Or do you think New Year's Resolutions are for the birds and we should strive to improve ourselves throughout the year? -- not that someone I know has used those actual words or anything.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What Worked & What Didn't in 2015

Instagram (@handmademartini and @runnermartini)
It's social media at its best, as far as I'm concerned. My feed is full of inspiration - sewing, running, homeschooling, parenting, marriage -- life. There's very rarely negativity. I've got a healthy enough view to know it's a carefully curated snapshot of people's lives, so I don't get bogged down in "Why can't my life be more organized, fun, decorated, etc. etc. etc. like hers".

Through IG, I've learned about German Shorthaired Pointers, Hanson's Marathon Method, ProCompression socks (the only ones I wear to run!), new sewing techniques, and countless other products and services I love.

Plus looking at pretty pictures makes me happy.

Being Happy
This one's esoteric, I know, but it's the biggest thing that worked this year. April 2013 - April 2014 was the worst year of my short life. No hyperbole there -- our marriage fell apart, our home was in chaos, and in February of 2014 I let go and fell fully into the hole. I was ambivalent about everything, and worse than ambivalent about my own existence. I'd been in counseling, but the next week I got a different counselor and started the sloooooow ascent out of the darkness.

April 2015 I began to feel like myself again. Being happy feels good.

A Husband Who Loves His Job
Ryan didn't always dislike his job, but the last five years he worked for his former company were pretty bad. His hours were ghastly: at one point he was working 12 days on, 1 day off, 12-14 hours/day. (That was when I got pregnant with Eliza, which we find absolutely hysterical. In hindsight.) The stress took a toll.

Now Ryan has a job that he truly enjoys, AND he works "traditional" hours - 8:00-5:30 with occasional late nights or out-of-town appointments. It's glorious and has positively impacted our lives in ways I didn't know were possible.

Running Fast
I've always been a-little-faster-than-average runner -- training at a 10:00 pace and running 9:30 or so in races. Once my pregnancy and nursing days were over, I decided to work on getting faster.

Hanson's Marathon Method was my ticket. In 2015 I started running 6 days/week and incorporated speed work twice a week. My times got faster.

In April I qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:38:32. Unfortunately that time wasn't fast enough to actually gain entry into the race.

The neat part is I'm still getting faster. Right now I'm training to run a sub-3:15 marathon (7:26 min/mi pace). That's a full HOUR FASTER than what I ran just five years ago.

Never underestimate the power of hard work and determination.

Homeschooling makes our lives easier. We don't have to be anywhere at a certain time (except on co-op days when I teach), and we can learn at our own pace.

This year one of the kids was struggling with a crucial skill, and when I mentioned it to Ryan, he told me what worked for him. (He struggles with the same skill.) I tried it, and IT WORKED. Something that had caused Ryan years and years of difficulty had been addressed effectively and immediately with his son.

I cried.

There are certainly days where it doesn't work, but mostly homeschooling worked in 2105.

Dogs, Cats, and Working Outside the House
We got a dog in April. I could write a whole book about how getting Murphy worked for us, but I'll keep it brief and say he is perfect. Perfect. PERFECT. We love this dog with a fierceness that's shocking.

Getting said dog and finding care for him while we went away introduced me to my first outside-the-home-job since Eliza was born. It's a pet sitting company where we go inside homes to care for pets. It pays little in actual spendable income but I LOVE this job.

I've gotten to see how other people live, which satisfies my curious (nosy) nature, cared for a variety of spectacular animals, built patience, earned extra needed income, and practiced my time management skills.

All because we got a dog. An awesome dog.

We got an awesome cat, too. His name is George.

The Sweet Spot
Parenting small kids is tough. There were times in Black Mountain when I wondered if life would always be so hard.

But then the kids got older. All the time and energy we'd put in started to pay off. We've spent years explaining the "whys" and avoiding the "because I said sos" and now they're starting to GET it.

No one naps anymore, but it's okay because they can entertain themselves. We can go out to dinner and actually eat our meals. Vacations are more fun and less work.

We don't have babies demanding our time and attention, yet we don't have teenagers draining our emotional energy. They love spending time with us and love playing with friends. They can have intelligent conversations and still listen to our advice.

2015 was the beginning of our Parenting Sweet Spot.

I've always had a neat house. That all ended when we moved here in 2013. (See above re: being miserably depressed.) Even once I got mentally healthy, I just couldn't get a handle on housekeeping.

Is it because the house is bigger? Is it because we're homeschooling now? It is because I'm running/working more? Is it because I fell out of my routine? Is it because our perfect dog SHEDS TERRIBLY?

It's a combination of all of those things. I'm trying really, really hard to get back on the housekeeping wagon. For now, though, you may want to keep your shoes on when you visit.

Oh. My. Good. Grief.

I tried. Really, I did. I deactivated a few times. I discussed it with friends and Ryan until we were blue in the face.

Remember back when Facebook was new and it was all status updates and cute baby pictures? Maybe your feed still looks like that. Mine doesn't. Mine's mostly people selling stuff and links to article that make me gag and offensive photos and bigoted remarks.

No matter how much I "hid" and "blocked" and "unfriended", it was the opposite of uplifting every time I got on the site. So in November I deleted my account. That means I emailed Facebook and told them to wipe it off the map. The past 7 years of pictures, posts, digital memories, friends list -- poof!

I've still got a dummy account so I can maintain Handmade Martini and Walkie Doggie (one of my paid gigs), but I'm on there *maybe* once or twice a week.

Facebook works for lots of people. I'm happy for them, but now I have no idea where they went on vacation last week or what they think about what's going on with Brazil and Israel.

Hahahaha the irony.

First I decided to stop sharing personal stuff about the kids online. Then, after a mishap when we announced our move here, I decided to stop sharing personal stuff about myself online.

Obviously I've relaxed the rule about the latter, but I haven't decided just how far I want to relax it.

On the one hand, I LOVE to write. On the other hand, I LOVE privacy. On the one hand, I LOVE to overshare. On the other hand, I LOVE boundaries.

I couldn't figure out the balance in 2015, so the blog was mostly silent except for some sewing projects. Honestly, I'm still not sure if I'll share more than sewing projects in 2016 either. Meh. Being a walking contradiction is hard. Weird artsy types. They're so exxxhhhaauussttiinngg.
one of the things I'd have blogged about if I blogged about the kids. 

What worked for you and didn't work for you in 2016? Please say it was your laundry system, and please tell me it'll solve my own laundry dilemma. Tell me in the comments! Seriously, I'm not on Facebook and need the online social interaction. Tell me.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Completed: Holiday Party Ensemble

The holiday party season begins tonight for us! My closet was lacking holiday wear, so when the team at ModKid invited me to sew up a pattern with a holiday twist, I gladly accepted the challenge.

The Nettie bodysuit has been on my to-sew list for a while. I've been wanting to pair it with a gathered skirt, and the ModKid Wrap Skirt was perfect for it!

The Nettie has several different necklines and backlines. I  chose the high front neckline and middle depth for the scoop back. 

The back of the Nettie is my favorite part. I went with the built-in bra because anything else would have been highly visible through the knit.

oooh was it windy! no wardrobe malfunctions occurred!
The Wrap Skirt is a very easy sew. There are no pattern pieces - just dimensions and measurements. Mine was a little more complicated because of the plaid, but it's still straight seams. No fitting required!


Fabric: Kaufman House of Wales Plaid in black purchased at
Size: based on waist measurement
Pros: simple construction; no pattern pieces to print, tape, or trace; works with a variety of fabrics; opportunities to dress it up or down; no fitting required.
Cons: gathers -- gathers are my nemesis.
Thoughts: As long as you read the instructions, this pattern is an easy sew great for beginners and veterans alike. (I didn't read the instructions carefully and initially cut the ties the wrong size.)

Pattern: Nettie Bodysuit by Closet Case Files
Fabric: Kaufman Laguna Jersey purchased at
Size: 4
Pros: bodysuits are awesome; the back is neat; there are several options for sleeve length and front/back neckline
Cons: it would be tough to keep the shoulders up if you made a scoop front and low backline; it's very hard to keep things modest without using a thicker knit
Thoughts: I'll try this again, but with a raglan sleeve. The shoulders and armholes are pulling, and I'm too lazy to figure out if it's because they need to be moved forward or backward or enlarged. Plus raglans are more comfortable for me.

There will be lots of great inspiration for holiday looks on the rest of the tour this week!

Monday, November 30th

Wednesday, December 2nd

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tested: Birkin Flares by Baste & Gather

I wear jeans every single day. A few years ago I finally bought two pairs that fit properly; both were "designer" jeans.

They lasted 2.5 years, which didn't justify the cost. The knees blew out and the seams started shredding. They were too much Designer and not enough Work Horse.

I need jeans that'll survive my crawling around cleaning under beds and hanging out on my knees cleaning toilets. My jeans have to be comfortable enough to sleep in but sturdy enough to wear camping.

High Quality + Durable + Excellent Fit + Under $50 = Must Sew Myself

My ideal is two pairs: a wide leg and a narrow leg. NOT skinny jeans. The Gingers were close to right, and the tutorial and sew-along for those is stellar. But they weren't just right.

So when Lauren started posting teaser photos of her new pattern, the Birkin Flare jeans, I sent her an email and begged to test them.

I do not apologize for VPLs. 
The testing process itself was fun, especially since we all chatted in a Facebook group along the way. And once I slid these babies on, I'm pretty sure several angels got their wings.

She's made several tweaks and has plans to do another round of testing. The crotch depth and shape is perfect for me, which is hardest for me to alter. The waistband hits just below my belly button, and I didn't have to adjust anything! (These are size 24 and my measurements are 26" waist and 34" hips for reference. She narrowed the yoke and waist to fit a 24" waist in the second version.)

In addition to the rise, I really like the illustrations for this pattern. They're line drawings and very clear and easy to follow.

There are a few things I'll do differently next time: for example, I've got a pocket template for just the size I like. I'll use a different fly method, but the one in the pattern is adequate -- just not my preferred way of doing it. I'll narrow my fly topstitching; the belt loop, pocket, and fly topstitching are crowding each other in my version. (I didn't follow the template she provided with the pattern.)

Finally, I'll loosen things up 1/8" at each side seam. I'm one turkey dinner away from busting out of these puppies. They'll stretch over time, but my Cone Mills denim will have less of that bagging out effect.

Victory! I'm ready to cut into my Cone Mills denim!
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