Thursday, January 31, 2013

Craft Area Re-Organization

I have a craft area in our house.  It takes up about a third of our living room (or, front room as we call it.)  Before I sold my business, this craft area was mostly taken over by stuff for the business and I occasionally did some crafting there.

I have no "before" picture, but it was cluttered.  It was filled with business stuff - signs, clothes, high chairs and potty seats ready to go to the swaps, stuff to be sorted, a money box, and, oh yes, some crafty things.

I've spent some time over the past few months weeding and re-establishing my craft area.  Here's the big reveal.

To get to my craft area, you go through the rest of the living room.  From this view, you can see my daughter's toys in the foreground and my craft area in the back.  

My daughter and my husband know not to go into my craft area by themselves.  It's mommy's special space.  

From left to right, you can see the block of the month quilt that I finished in December, my ironing board, my table (for cutting, sewing, and jewelry making), an old cd cabinet which I've converted to hold various supplies like zippers, and the book shelf.  

More details in the pictures below.  I hope you enjoy this tour as much as I enjoy creating in my craft area.

Under the ironing board are fabrics in use for a current quilt project.   
I love these little drawers and the books.  The books tell the story of how my crafty passions have changed over time.  
A view of the fabric organization
The blue bucket of fabric
The red bowl of fabric
Old jeans ready for re-purposing
This is a view of the little yardage that I have.  I'm mostly a user and lover of scraps.  
In the corner between my sewing table and the ironing board is my tower of yarns.  Some were purchased over my 20+ years of knitting and crocheting and some hand spun when I was in a spinning phase a few years ago.  My knitting has recently taken a back seat to sewing and jewelry making.

Friday, January 25, 2013


On June 15th, 2012 at 2:32pm (I only know this because I looked back), I posted on Facebook:

           "Am I the only one who doesn't understand how Pinterest works?"

A number of people replied many of whom also didn't understand it, and one friend who had never heard of it.  But, a few people wrote about how great it is and what they use it for.

A few hours later, I was hooked; today, I am still totally hooked.  Here are some examples of how I use it.  

  • My biggest Pinterest obsession is pinning pictures of jewelry and quilts that I want to eventually copy.  
  •  I've been working on reorganizing my craft area (hopefully a blog post is coming soon about that), and one way I cut down the clutter in my craft room was by using Pinterest to pin things which I had previously printed.  Printing stuff hasn't been a great option for me because inevitably, I can't find print outs when I need them, and they create way too much clutter in our house.   
  • For some reason, I'm pre-worrying about after school programs and summer camps.  My daughter still has 2 and a half years left of all-day preschool, but once she starts Kindergarten, I'll need some solutions so that my husband and I can work at times other than when her school is in session.  To keep track of options I hear about, I've created a board on Pinterest that I can look back at when the appropriate time comes.   
So, if you're on the fence about trying Pinterest, consider this an endorsement post.  I love, love Pinterest. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Babysitting Co-Op

I've lived in the Bay Area for so long now, that I'm not even sure if babysitting co-ops are a normal thing or if I need to explain what they are.  I'll assume the later.

A babysitting co-op functions where sometimes someone else watches your kid and sometimes you watch someone else's kids.  There are a variety of different models of this; 2 of which I know first hand about.

When Star was born in 2010, I decided it was a priority that we join some sort of co-op.  The co-op that we were initially invited to join worked as an even exchange.  If I needed a "sitter", I would email the group, or some subset of the group requesting a sitter.  Assuming I found someone available, once they watched my kid for 3 hours, I would "pay" them 3 tickets.  This co-op also had a monthly gathering where we were all supposed to get to know each other so that when we were watching other people's kids or having them watch ours, we were all more comfortable with the people involved.

We were in this group long enough for (1) one family to watch our daughter for a few hours; (2) reciprocating for that family; and (3) feeling guilty for a number of months about not attending the suggested monthly social gathering.  This group didn't work for us for a variety of reasons.  First, the geography was really spread out.   Also, the monthly suggested meeting did not work for our family.  (Honestly, I don't have enough time to spend with my actual friends let alone with people who I'm trying to make be my friends.)  We quit this group.

Around that same time, I somehow found out about a babysitting co-op based in our neighborhood.  This co-op operates differently.  My husband, Scott, explains it best.  Every Friday and Saturday night, there is a party for kids that our daughter can go to.  Each family hosts a "party" about 3 times per year.  Then, you get to send your kids to a party as often as you have cards.  We calculated that for every time we host a party, Star can go to a party about 5 times.  

Back in 2010 when i found the group, I spoke with the current President, and they didn't have an opening for us, but they said that they would put us on the waiting list.

Fast forward to now.  About a month ago, the new President of the group contacted us.  A family had recently left the group and they wanted to invite us to join.  We were stoked.

The following weekend, we signed Star up for her first "party".  It was at a house about a block away.  The hosting family was super great, and Star had a fabulous time.  When we dropped her off, they plopped her in front of the TV so she could "settle in".  When I picked her up, she had eaten box macaroni and cheese for dinner, she was still in front of the TV and she was now eating ice cream.

Let me explain.  We don't have a TV, and we don't eat sweets.  We steer clear of processed carbohydrates and other fake foods.  My theory has been that she'll get sweets, TV and processed foods in enough areas of her life; she doesn't also need to get it at home.  Star sees television when she's with her grandparents, and eats sweets and processed foods at birthday parties, but that's pretty much it. 

Is joining this co-op putting her on the path to childhood obesity and compulsive shopping?  That's my fear, but maybe I'm being too paranoid?  It's such an odd thing to live our lives with certain values and then have those values thrown out the window monthly so Scott and I can get a free night off. 

We have reservations, but we're going to try it a few more times.  We are set to host our first party in a few weeks, so that will bring up an entirely new set of challenges and frustrations.  In the end, this babysitting coop may, ironically, not be Berkeley enough for us.  We need to find some media-free whole food eating households to swap childcare responsibilities with.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

WIP - Amelie

Crazy Mom Quilts kicked of 2013 by discussing her works in progress (WIPs).  As we move further into 2013, I'm inspired to follow her example.

I'm actually quite good about keeping my WIPs in check, I generally don't have too many projects going at once and I'm somewhat disciplined about not starting too many new projects until I finish up existing projects. 

But, there's an exception.  Meet, the Amelie Crochet Floral Throw.  I fell in love with this pattern in 2007, I believe.  I bought soft cotton yarn in springy pastel colors and crocheted all of the little flowers.  I envisioned reading a book on the couch which keeping warm under my beautiful crocheted blanket.  All was going well at this point. 

Then, I connected the flowers, and the whole thing started to look horrible.  I think the stitches I did to connect the flowers were too far apart?  Now it is so airy and open, it would not keep anyone warm. 

Here are my notes on Amelie from Ravelry

This project has changed directions many times.

(1) After I finished the first “square”, the one with silver sage in the inside, green-apple in the middle and the red/purple on the outside, I decided that I didn’t like the look of the 3rd motif - it felt too floppy and didn’t seem like it would be comfortable as a blanket with all those big holes. So, now I’m doing each “square” with just the first 2 colors.

(2) Then, I got the whole thing done and connected all the squares together. I just needed to do some border to make it a blanket.

(3) But, then, I realized that I’d rather have this as a scarf. Stay tuned.

(4) August 27, 2008 - I’m officially putting this in hibernation.

(5) March 26, 2009 - I finally have an idea about how to revive this project. Now, I have to find the UFO… It went so far into hibernation that I can’t even find it. And, my house isn’t that big!

At this point, I have no idea what my vision was in March of 2009, but I now know where my Amelie is.  So, one of my goals (I guess I'm adding this to my resolution post), is to revive Amelie.  I still really do love the flower pattern.  I think I can make something work.  A blanket?  A scarf?  Talk to me Amelie; what do you want to be?

Monday, January 7, 2013


We had a bit of a gap in coverage in Star's childcare schedule last week.  Star's old preschool had ended, we had returned from our New Year's trip to Atlanta and her new school wasn't set to start until the following Monday.  So, we needed coverage over the first Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of January.

My mom, our usual backup childcare provider, would be with my nephew visiting from Los Angeles, so she wasn't an option.  I couldn't think of any creative options, so we had to hire a nanny.

I emailed about 20 nannies who had posted on Berkeley Parents Network.  Of those, about half weren't available during the time period I was looking for.  I email screened about 10 of them and had in person interviews with 2.

We liked both of the people who interviewed for the position.  We asked Star for her opinion, and she said that she wanted to play with both of them again, but she didn't think that candidate #2 was feasible.  Candidate #1 was feasible, in Star's opinion, so we hired her.

Jen started on Monday.  Let me stop to say that she is not a professional nanny.  She has nannied and babysat in the past, but she has another career that is her main focus.  She's not full time with the other career yet, so she's filling in her employment schedule by doing some nannying. 

She is amazing.  When I get home, they've put away all their toys, and Jen has somehow managed to do all the dishes - including the ones that Scott and I used for breakfast before Jen even arrived for the day.  It doesn't seem like she puts anything in the dishwasher.  She also makes Star's bed after nap time.

Jen asks smart questions.  "Do you compost?"  "How do you approach discipline?"  I was able to definitively answer the first question, but I somehow wiggled my way out of specifically answering the second question.

"We are having a great time!  We made a lion.  ;)  "

Throughout the day, she texted Scott and I pictures of Star with descriptions of what they are doing.  On day 1, when I returned home from work, Jen and Star were doing yoga.  Jen had tied Star's hair back into a ponytail (which Star generally won't let me do), and Star happily demonstrated to me various yoga poses which she had been doing.

"We made doggies with playdough!"

On day 2, Jen somehow got Star to nap in her bed for 2 hours.  I can't do that.  I generally resort to driving her around until she falls asleep or pushing her in the stroller.  I'm not proud to admit this, but I believe that sleep is a good thing, and I'm willing to help Star sleep however possible.

"We made a caterpillar and a rainbow tunnel!"
On day 3, they made their most impressive creation - a caterpillar going through a rainbow tunnel.  They also walked to the library and picked out a book on a caterpillar - it was a whole lesson plan!  Star napped again for 2 hours in her own bed.

Star was happy.  So, Scott and I were happy.  Generally, I prefer some sort of "school" environment over nannies so Star gets to play with multiple caregivers and multiple kids, but this nanny experiment has been a good one!  And, we've learned to trust Star's opinion more - Jen turned out to be way more feasible than the other nanny option.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Preschool Quilt

My daughter is starting at a new preschool on Monday.  The head teacher told us that we need to bring a blanket for our daughter to have during nap times.  I'm guessing that most parents pick a blanket that they already have at home, or went out and bought a blanket just for school.  Some days, I wish I was that kind of parent.

I made a modern quilt - building on my recent quilting success.   The front has 2 strips - a scrappy paper pieced hexagon strip and a scrappy pink strip.  The back is a flannel star pattern.  Have I mentioned that my daughter's name is Star?

The Top

A Peak at the Back
Close up of the scrappy hexis

The Binding

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 New Year's Resolutions

Ah, New Year's Resolutions.  I like the opportunity to look at my life - figure out what is working and what isn't and try to make some changes.  Instead of a list, this year I created a visual showing 3 areas of my life, each with 4 goals.   Expect some follow up posts on this.