Thursday, April 29, 2010

Susie Home Maker: Windows

"Now take your eyes, why they're the windows. Showing you every view in the sun. Honey, you've got a house, your own little house, and it's better than anyones. So just keep outside shined up, and the inside free from gloom..." from the 1951 movie, Here Comes the Groom

The apartment we lived in when we first got married apparently was a pretty cool place to the 70' had a pool, raquetball court, game room, etc. By the time we moved in 30 years later, the pool had been filled in, the raquetball court turned into a wall of mail boxes, the game room turned into an office, and we later learned that the apartment complexes across the road had all kinds of illegal activities going on... On the inside, one of the worst features was the windows. Perhaps it was the cracks in the walls around the windows, or perhaps it was the metal framework of the windows. However, the apartment was in our budget, and it did have a lot of closets! I learned very quickly that window dressings can do a lot for the windows in an apartment!

A gathered valance I made to go in our kitchen when we first got married now hangs in our office!

My favorite kind of curtains are valances. They require the least amount of material and are very easy to make even if you are brand new to sewing! The other great thing about valances is that you are only limited by your imagination! I always start by deciding what fabric I am going to use because that is where the real expense can be. I don't typically walk into a JoAnn's to find the right fabric. Usually I look in my stash of fabric I have collected for free or cheap over the years and see what will match. Then I figure out how to style it so it goes in my room. However, if you do not have a fabric stash, you could very easily find a full dress at a thrift store, an old quilt, or even smaller pieces of fabric that could be sewn together or something really different like men's ties or old t-shirts! If you are able to find a full skirt at a thrift store, then you may also have the added bonus of trim already attached to the bottom of your valance! I don't usually use trim just because it can be rather pricey, but it can be fun...especially if you get it for a great price!

A gathered valance I made for the kids' room with a little extra "flounce" to it!

Once you settle on your fabric, then it is time to decide on the style for your valance. There are many different ways to make a valance: gathered, ungathered with a decorative edge, ballooned, etc. If this is your first or one of your first sewing projects, you might appreciate using a pattern, but don't buy it at full price at a JoAnn's. Wait until they are on sale for $.99! (Or Susie, in your case you could always call me or Aunt Beth). For a very basic gathered valance, you simply: 1) Cut a rectangle at least 2 times as wide as your window and a couple inches taller than you want the finished project to be. 2) Hem all four edges. 3) Bend an inch or so at the top towards the back of the fabric and make one long seam across. This makes a loop that you string through your curtain rod.

Two valance patterns I have acquired over the years. They are great when you haven't a clue what you are doing, but once you've made a few, you should be able to figure it out yourself!

The great thing about gathered valances is that while they take a little extra fabric, they also hide more of the wall, hide any imperfections in your sewing, do not require a lining, and do not require any fancy curtain rods. Those cheap metal curtain rods will do just fine! Another plus is that unlike their floor-length counterparts, valances let it lots of light and really open up a small space....a definite necessity in a small apartment!!! Also, if at some point you move, oftentimes the curtains can be used again on different sized windows....or you can even cut up the curtains to make other things because it just a long rectangle of material!

Note: Long, thick curtains can help keep your home cooler; however, in my experience, no window treatment is going to make that big of a difference in an apartment. Usually the insulation is just not that fabulous. You are better off trying to get an apartment on the middle floor!

A cute bag for blocks made out of part of a valance I made for my college dorm room!

Once you have your window measurements and a color scheme (I always go with primary colors because you never have to worry about whether or not something with match!) for your apartment, you are now ready to start hunting up fabric treasures!! Don't forget to check antique stores as well....I have found several fabric stashes for cheap at antique stores!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Susie Home Maker

This is my cousin, Susie. In some ways she is more like one of my sisters. When our grandmother was dying, she lived with us part of the time while her mom was being the great nurse that she is. I don't think any of us remember how long she actually stayed with us, but sometimes even brief periods of time in childhood can seem longer (in a good way) than they really are. Now that we are both grown-up we enjoy reading some of the same books, talking about the same kinds of things, looking for treasures at antique stores, etc.

One of Susie's latest adventures is moving into an apartment for the first time this year!! I am very excited for her to have a larger canvas on which to express herself! In honor of her new adventure, I am going to be posting some projects that I have either done or would like to do (someday....) that are particularly conducive to making an apartment a home (from a frugal and self-sufficient perspective of course)! So...Congrats Susie!! Love, Amy (David, and your favorite niece and nephew, Jessica and John)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Front Porch Friday: Produced from the Couch!

We've had a very interesting week around our house (as you may have noticed as I have not posted a lot this week)! Early this week, I felt great and was busy doing some part-time work for a local private school, making fleece covers for Jessica's training pants, amongst other things! By Wednesday, I noticed that baby John had not been moving very much, so I called the doctor's office to ask about it. They told me to proceed to Labor and Delivery to get things checked out. David was on his way home from work, so I made arrangements for Jessica and started having some contractions (probably from anxiety due to worrying about John). We went up to the hospital. They did an exam and monitored his heart rate, movements, and my contractions. Things seemed to be alright so they sent me home. They said he may have just run out of room in there. I thought that was kind of surprising because Jessica never quit just got more and more uncomfortable!!! Then I thought, "Hmm...maybe this baby will be less active than Jessica..."

The next night I started having some contractions and my pelvis started hurting. I laid down, and it just got worse. I started feeling nauseated, and John was really kicking me! David called Labor and Delivery. They told him to give me some tylenal and that it was most likely late pregnancy symptoms. I thought that was ridiculous as I had never had any feelings like that when I was pregnant with Jessica! I woke up in the middle of the night requesting more tylenal. The next morning I called the doctor's office, and they got me in for an appointment. A friend of mine and her daughter went with us. The doctor said since my last appointment, I had dilated 1 centimeter and that the symptoms I was experiencing were typical for late pregnancy when you carry really low. I had carried low with Jessica, but I have been pregnant twice since then (although one miscarried so I don't know how that would have felt). He said I could continue taking tylenal every 6 hours for the rest of the pregnancy, so that was good. We left the doctor's office, went out to lunch, and on the way home I started feeling very nauseated! When we got home my friend stayed with us to see if I started feeling better. Well, I didn't. It got worse....a lot worse....even with tylenal. I ended up calling the doctor's office, who told us to go to labor and delivery. I called David and told him to come home. My friend dropped the girls off with a friend and took me to Labor and Delivery. (David works 45 min from our house and Labor and Delivery is 45 min from our house in the other direction.) I couldn't distinguish when I was having contractions so my friend tried to check and noticed the very strong movements I was getting from John. She was really quite surprised. She used to work as an EMT, and both of us were getting nervous from the way I was feeling that I was going to be delivering on the highway!!!

We made it to the hospital, and she wheeled me up. They got me on the monitor, took my temperature, gave me some fluids, and some anti-nausea medicine. Baby John's heart was working at 207 beats per minute, and I was definitely having some contractions! According to my friend (and later my husband), I was making very little sense at this point! Thankfully, once the fluids and medicine kicked in, both me and baby John started to feel A LOT better. They got John on the ultrasound. He scored 6 out of 8. They were hoping for some bigger movements, but they were happy with what they got. He was probably just as tired as I was! I was still having to have people help me move because of the aches in my pelvis...probably from the dehydration and contractions. The doctor came by and sent us home. He did say he felt like we would be delivering before 40 weeks (37-38 weeks if he had to guess) and that it would be a SHORT delivery! I told David that the doctor had joked about sending us home with the home delivery kit, and David joked when the doctor asked what we planned to do tonight that he was going to buy a catcher's mit! I am not on bedrest, but they did say to take it easy since I am likely fighting off a virus and I obviously am very susceptible to dehydration (I had at least 10 cups of water that morning, 1 cup of milk, 1 bag of fluids, and 4 cups of gatorade yesterday!)

At any rate, it has been exciting around here! I am on the couch pretty much all weekend and taking it easy for the next couple weeks. David has been taking care of some things around the house, and my friend kept Jessica overnight for us last night. We have a long list of good friends that we can call on at any time, fabulous doctors, and thankfully a little more time for me to get a few more thing organized around here (and almost all of it can be done from the couch)! Things are looking pretty good! to find the bathroom and drink 4 more cups of iced gatorade!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Potty Training on the Go Without the Puddles

Well, Jessica's heat rash has come back with a vengeance this year...even with the use of our Bumgenius cloth diapers! She has been potty trained around the house for a while now, with only the occasional accident. However, since her verbal skills are still pretty minimal (although growing daily), I have avoided letting her wear training pants when out and about. This latest round of heat rash though has convinced me otherwise, and I have come up with a brilliant solution to "Potty Training on the Go Without the Puddles!" I found a free pattern for fleece shorties that I can put over the training pants to give us a few more minutes to find a bathroom without leaving a trail behind us!

Fleece is very breathable, but it will also keep any accidents from leaking least for a little while! Although the pattern was intended to be worn over a cloth diaper, I have been very pleased with using it over training pants while out and about! The large size seems to work just perfectly with the size 2T training pants! We gave this a test run last night while we were out and about for 2 hours, and she managed to hold it until we got home! Now to make some more for backups when we have accidents...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Front Porch Friday: Nesting?

I am not sure if this is "nesting" behavior or not. I NEVER experienced ANYTHING that could even resemble "nesting" behavior with Jessica! Recently, my cravings have switched gears from only refined sugars to steak and ice water! I have actually been interested in cooking dinner for the first time in months!!! See the feast I made for dinner tonight (almost completely from scratch)!!

I got all of the baby stuff put away, and the guest room is almost ready for visitors! (My brother, Scott, and his wife, Ashley, will be visiting a couple weeks after John is born while David is traveling again for work. We are excited about getting to see them, and I know Aunt Ashley will enjoy loving on Jessica and John!) I am also getting to do a little consulting work with a local private school and really enjoying myself! I love staying home with my babies, but it is nice to get back into the classroom periodically to evaluate a problem that is stressing everyone out, find a simple solution, and be hailed as a "miracle worker!" This weekend I am hoping to add more items to Jessica's baby doll diaper bag! We also have several fun activities planned: going to my doctor's appointment, a dinosaur exhibit, lunch out with friends, a local stargazing event, dinner with friends, a cookout,...just to name a few! It is wonderful to live in a place with so many friends to substitute in for family when family is not close by!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oh Wow!

That was the first thing out of Jessica's mouth once we got through the gate at the air show and saw all of the airplanes! We also heard a lot of "airplanes" and "What's that?!?" We stayed all day (although we got there a little late), and Jessica was quite the trooper! She looked at everything and wanted to go in all the planes! She wore her ear muffs and enjoyed looking through a pair of binoculars (truly an aspiring geek)! We sat down to watch the F-22 and the Thunderbirds towards the end (when she should have been taking a nap), and she did great! You might also notice from the pictures that David got quite red but that Jessica and I did not....we wore sunblock! Here are some pictures from our day:

Proof that I was there (8 months pregnant I might add)!

Jessica wanted to get in every helicopter and plane that we saw!

I think she actually wanted to fly them....

She also had to inspect the underside of every plane and asked "What's that?!?!" a lot!!!

Using binoculars at an air show make you look cool!

Jessica in her enviably fashionable headgear!

David with his "mini me!"

On a side note, yesterday, some of my friends in the neighborhood came by to get me for a surprise baby shower! They conspired with my husband to take me out to lunch and get our toes done (mine are glittery midnight blue)! They also gave us some cute baby clothes! It was a lot of fun!! Tomorrow we have a baby shower at church so that should be fun as well! Overall, it's just been an "Oh Wow!" kind of a weekend!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Saving Money on Medical Bills

I suppose there are many ways you could choose to save money on medical bills; however, some of those ways could be detrimental to you health...such as not getting treatment for an ailment that requires immediate treatment. There is one thing that I do that does not negatively affect our health and that ends up saving us hundreds of dollars every year on medical expenses. I always pay by credit card over the phone and ask each company if they will give me a discount for paying the amount in full. Surprisingly, most of the time I can get a discount of close to 25% after our insurance has paid (If it was not covered by our insurance, I can usually get close to 50% off)!!! I was doing this the other day, and David asked "Why in the world are you asking for a discount?" I told him that asking for a discount has saved us lots of money in medical bills over the last several years but that the companies won't offer it unless you ask....he was quite impressed! :-)

Easter Dress

Today at Preschool we celebrated Easter with egg dying, Easter coloring sheets, and an Easter egg hunt! Jessica and River wore the matching dresses I made for them. Aren't they sweet?The dresses are a little bit big, but I am sure they will fill them out by the end of the summer! I made the dresses in a size 5 and altered them to fit now. I took up the back at the zipper and the hem of the dress. I also placed the ribbons I used for straps where they would fit them now, not where the pattern said to put them! All three of those things are easy to go back in and fix later! Here are some pictures of the girls and our Preschool egg hunt!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Her Mother's Daughter and Her Father's Son

I thought I would share with you very quickly what a friend of mine down the street recently had to say about Jessica. I had taken Jessica to Walmart and decided to let her pick out a toy. This is a rare occurrence at our house, and I did not even think about how much I would let her spend or what type of toy we would get. I just started strolling her up and down the aisles to see what she would pick out. The first thing she picked out was a $1 ball; however, a few aisles later she threw the ball down. Then she picked out a $1 matchbox car that she would not let go of throughout the entire rest of the store! I found it ironic that I had taken my daughter to the store and that she picked out first a ball and then a matchbox car! However, I was particularly pleased at her price range selection! My friend down the street then commented that Jessica is "her mother's daughter and her father's son;" meaning that she looks for a good deal like her mother and loves all things that move (especially cars) like her father!!

Rice Dying Tutorial

As promised, here is the tutorial on how I chose to dye my rice for our sand/water table. There are several different tutorials out there, but this method suited my purposes (and my quantities) just perfectly! And just being I am so pleased with the end result....another picture of the sand/water table!

First I put about 4-5 pounds of rice in a large bowl. Then I added about 1 cup of water and couple tablespoons of vinegar. Finally, I drizzled food coloring over the bowl of rice and stirred. If you are using "Easter colors," then I recommend starting with about 30 drops of food coloring. Last I dipped the rice out onto baking pans and baked them in the oven on 200 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple hours stirring once in the middle. It worked out perfectly!

Today we turned it from a rice table into a water table (because Jessica kept pouring all of the rice onto the floor...)! Still absolutely darling!

By the way, I added a bit of vinegar to the water to help keep the water from getting gross (as I can't empty it by myself right now in my very pregnant state). I am trying to make sure that everything that goes into the sand/water table is safe for you never know what my child is going to try next!! Sorry I did not get a picture of Jessica playing in the water table; however, as I am sure you can imagine, she was completely soaked!!! We are going to have a lot of fun this summer!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!

Seriously, how many blogs celebrate both Passover and Easter? My guess is not too many! Around our house, Easter is an opportunity for me to make each child a new outfit and to have the Easter Bunny bring our children a little something! They usually get a few edibles, but they also usually get some kind of small toy, book, socks, etc. This year Jessica is getting a larger gift than usual. Several things went into that decision: 1) Baby John is set to arrive in less than 2 months, and she might enjoy something new to occupy herself 2) The weather is beginning to get nice outside and something that could be enjoyed on our screened in porch would be nice 3) Jessica is a very sensory-oriented child and would probably enjoy a few more sensory-oriented toys 4) and Finally there have been several times I have wished we had a sand/water table for preschool. Yes, you guessed it! Jessica is getting a sand/water table from the Easter Bunny!

David built it, and once again over engineered it, so our creative daughter would not be able to knock it over or hurt herself in any way! He used a plastic box from under the bed and some pine. I think it turned out very nicely! He also put several coats of polyurethane on it so that it would stand up to water better. I dyed over 20 pounds of rice yesterday in Easter colors to put in the sand/water table (tutorial to follow). I plan to fill several storage containers with things like sand, rice, bird seed, etc for Jessica to enjoy in her sand/water table! The tools were from a cheap little Wal-mart set. We already have little animals, cars, etc to hide in the rice.

At first I wondered if building it ourselves had saved us any money as David had to buy the wood ($15) to make sure it was very, very sturdy, the box was fairly new ($7), and I bought 20 pounds of rice ($5). After looking up sand/water tables online, I now realize what an incredible deal this is! The cheaper sand/water tables start out at $50 for a cheap plastic one that could easily be pushed over or destroyed by my child. They go up in price from there all the way to about $500 (which is comparable to what we ended up making). The sand/water table should make for hours and hours of fun both at home and during preschool and last for years and years to come!

Also, here is a picture of Jessica in the dress I made her for Easter. I made it in a size 5 so it should last for years! I also made one for the little girl down the street. I'll post a picture of them in their matching dresses later (so you can actually see more of the dress) with an explanation as to how I was able to alter it from a size 5 to a size 2! Finally, here are some pictures from egg hunt and picnic after church! Happy Easter!!