Spring Storm Tea Time

I finally started back up on my Freckled Nest Home Ec. online course again and the lesson I worked on was for cloth napkins. I finished them last night and I’m so glad I made them. I scrapped the fabric from one of my mom’s old mu-mu style cotton night gowns so the result is a soft and FREE set of napkins that I won’t be upset about if they get stained. After all, what good is a napkin if I won’t allow them to get messy?

Napkin Set

As many things as I’ve sewn on my lovely sewing machine, Bessy…I’ve never ventured beyond the straight stitch! WOW…where has my sense of adventure and risk gone!? So this lesson helped me get over my fear of leaving the safe and straight mode of stitching.

Napkin-ZigZag Stitch

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. I used bright red thread to add a little pop of color to the brown/white pattern.

Cloth napkins are a great way to cut back on our use of paper napkins/paper towels during meals so I’m not opposed to making more of these to use on a regular basis. Good for the environment and good for the wallet!

I was pretty excited to use my napkins today. This afternoon, the weather is warm and stormy so it’s the perfect time for tea and cookies. (But really, when is it NOT the perfect time for tea and cookies?)

Napkin-Tea Time

Anybody free to join me for tea time?

Girls Will Be Girls

Now that the sun is shining bright and warm in this lovely Spring season here in Maryland, I’m rarely indoors anymore…hence my sudden blog silence! Oh, how I LOVE that my “job” as a stay-at-home mom forces me to go play at the park with my little guy!

PARK TIME

I have a few WIPs still, but progress is slow since I’m not home much.

In the meantime, based on a friend’s request, I thought I’d share with you one of my little secrets to staying organized.

If you’re girl, then you know that there is a CONSTANT battle that we ALL face:

The need to have everything we see that is pretty & sparkly VS. Finding a place to keep it all!

At some point, my lovely collection of beaded necklaces and dangly earrings turned into a nightmarish clump of metal which could only be untangled with the concentration and focus of a jedi…solving a Rubix Cube…from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.  I needed to find an organized, space-saving solution that I could access easily but keep out of sight.

SOLUTION:

Just Solutions! Hanger Jewelry Organizer

Jewelry Hanger

Life-altering jewelry organization tool…and under $12. I LOVE THIS!

All of my long necklaces and earrings are neatly kept with this hanger. There’s even a place for a few of my rings!
JewelryHanger-Ringse

And when I run out of space (because, I KNOW I will) I won’t mind adding another hanger to my collection! Space for my pretty little accessories…SOLVED!

River Rocks Redone

When I first got my own place, 8 years ago, I thought my decorating skills were top-notch. I had never ever even glanced at a home-design magazine or TV show. Nor did I have any idea about patterns or color combos. I was just a “natural”….eh, natural disaster. Instead of having any idea of what type of style or atmosphere I wanted to create, I went crazy buying all sorts of decorative things that didn’t really go with anything. I was convinced I was doing a great job though. Ah, the pains of ignorance…not as blissful as it once was.

Now that we’re in our new place, I have to deal with all of my old “baggage” of decorative junk and find ways to make them work. One of the items in my baggage are river rocks. Lots of them. I went through a river rock phase and put them in literally every vase I owned.

RiverRockVaseI am no longer a huge fan of having jars of rocks everywhere so I decided to get crafty with it.

I dumped out the river rocks and threw a handful into a Dixie paper bowl. I drizzled some acrylic paint over it and stirred it up with a paint brush.

Painted Rocks

This step only took about a minute to complete. I repeated this with a yellow and metallic pearl for a few more batches of rocks.

After the rocks were evenly coated, I spread them out on the plastic wrapping of an unopened pack of poster boards to dry. I’m sure wax paper would suffice. It didn’t take long to dry.

VaseRemodel

I hot-glued all of the rocks onto my vase. This was a slightly tedious process since the rocks are small, but I’m happy I did it! FYI, I did not bother with trying to make the rocks perfectly flush with each other.

After all the rocks were glued on, I used a paintbrush to apply a dab of a 2nd coat of paint to the top surface of all of the rocks.

I now have a beautiful custom-designed vase which will add a fun splash of my favorite colors to my craft room.

Colorblock Vase(The craft room is under construction right now, so this vase is in its temporary home, in our guest bedroom.)

This project is a great and inexpensive way to add unique colors and color combos to coordinate with your room/decor!

VasewithFlowers

The flowers you see in here are temporary. I’m actually not sure what type of flowers to put in here. Maybe some playful white daisies? I don’t know. What do you think??

Happy Birthday J

The little man has officially turned two…You’re thinking “Terrible Two’s?” Well, he’s been “warming up” WELL before he actually turned two (shaking my head with a heavy sigh). haha Honestly it’s not too bad yet since I’ve been blessed with a baby full of sunshine – mostly…but bad enough that I might be reading up on a few articles to help me get through this phase of his life in good mental standing. (Or perhaps I can ask my own mom. If my memory serves me right, it’s possible I wasn’t always this easy-going and delightful in my toddler years. lol)

Enough of that though. Birthdays have always been exciting for me, like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I may have genetically passed this trait on to J since for a few months now, he’s been running around the house singing happy birthday to everyone he can think of and demanding cake after each performance. So when his birthday came around, D and I wanted to make it a special day filled with fun and wonder.

MamawithBdayBoy

Me and my Birthday Boy – After opening his first gift, a little Batmobile with Batman sitting in it. (He loves Batman.)

After spending the morning at home, smothering him with hugs and kisses and feeding him “Birthday” Oreos, we took him to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

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The aquatic creatures we saw there were truly amazing. God is so much more of a “fun” artist than I realize sometimes. Some of the fish we saw looked like they were from another world!

AlienFishComboIMG_3571SeaHorseYellowFish
TurtleJellyFish

The National Aquarium also has a section dedicated to the tropical rainforest. You almost feel like you’re really there (if the rainforest had smooth gravel walkways and no gargantuan mosquitoes trying to chase you down).

BirdSnakeCombo

J got a chance to stalk some pretty intimidating, but beautiful sharks up-close.

Sharks

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This crocodile better make different dinner plans because J is not available!

We also saw a great dolphin show at the aquarium. (DOH! I should’ve taken a pic but there was too much excitement!)

HarborView

Enjoying the view of the surrounding Baltimore Inner Harbor

After a great day at the aquarium, we went back home and had birthday cake and presents! This was his very first time being able to blow out birthday candles and he was so excited, I had to keep him from diving head-first into the cake!

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YES! Chocolate cake right before bed!

Birthdays are great…especially when you get to celebrate that little munchkin who lights up your world.

Happy Birthday J!

Beauty is in the Eye of the Artist’s Mama

I’ve always felt that art cannot be judged as being good or not good because art is an expression of one’s own freedom, flavor, emotion, etc. So there’s no one-right-way to do things, in my book. I feel like children’s art in particular is special because little minds, unfettered by the adult knowledge of reality or expectations, can create the most beautiful pieces.

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Being a toddler artist is hard work! 😉

Now that being said, I have become that mama that beams with pride at all of the wild scribblings and finger paintings of my baby and thinks they’re the most beautiful works of toddler art I’ve ever seen. Yep, that’s me with the big treasure chest full of colorful scribbles that I plan on keeping forever and ever and ever!

After about 20 scribble-art papers, I came to realize, I couldn’t remember the fun details of the day when he had made each particular scribble. So when I got J to paint with a paint brush for the first time, I decided to save the work in a more special way that would not just disappear into the ever-growing stack of scribble masterpieces.

J's first paintbrush scribble

J’s first paintbrush scribble

Dwayne says it already looks like some sort of pre-historic pterodactyl skeleton. Can you see what he’s talking about? (A little creepy!) Well, I decided to cut out the shape of a cute little bird. If you look closely, you can see where I traced out the shape and cut it out already.

I was really lucky because I was able to position the shape at a place where the paint scribble allowed for a perfect color-change for the beak.

Scribbles allowed for a distinguishable beak

J’s scribbles allowed for a distinguishable beak

All I had to add was an eye and the shape of a wing! I pasted this cute little bird onto some scrapbook paper I had lying around and added some paper grass and pipe-cleaner legs. I used a decorative edge scissor to cut a scalloped border across the top.

Jay's Birdie

Jay’s little paint scribble bird proudly displayed on the fridge.

We’re in the process of hanging a clothes line in J’s room to start displaying his especially nice works of art (which, to his mama…is like ALL of them.) Until then, my fridge space will just continue to get buried with J’s creations.

Jay's Birdie

Now as for my own crafts, I’ve got a few WIPs (Works In Progress) and hopefully I’ll get to complete them soon so I can show you what I’ve been up to!

A Little Old Lady

Just finished working out…I really feel like I’ve got it all together, like a powerful Jedi, when I manage to work out amidst cooking, cleaning, potty-training J, semi home-schooling J, chasing after the dog and squeezing in crafting time! JEDI JAINY!

Anyway, even with all the business in my life, my mind always has a way of wandering to the people I am missing. Today, it’s my gram-ma. (In my language, Malayalam, we call our gram-ma’s “Ammachi”, pronounced UH-muh-chee.)

Although she passed away, I’ll never forget the way she made me feel…like I was just too precious for words. She was only about 4.5 feet tall but full of fire…with a bright twinkle in her eyes. She’d always stock up on my favorite snacks when I came and keep feeding me sweets, even as I got older. Every time she gave me a kiss, she’d inhale my whole cheek! That’s LOVE.

One of those times I was missing her, I let it inspire one of my random doodlings. So here it is…hopefully it gives you a pleasant memory of a special little old lady in your own life…be it your ammachi, neighbor, friend or other family member. Make sure you give them a big hug and inhaled-cheek kiss next time you see them!

Fancy art is nice, but sometimes crayons and markers just feel GOOD.

Fancy art is nice, but sometimes crayons and markers just feel GOOD.

Maybe, I’ll use this doodle to inspire myself to write a children’s book. Lol…yes, add that to my list of things to do. I’m clearly not busy ENOUGH! 😀

<3 Bibs

Bibs were my very first project when I started sewing. I got tired of seeing the super baby-ish bibs in the stores and wanted to see some more fun and diverse fabric patterns being used! So, as my motto goes…if you don’t like it, do something about it.

Over the years, for some strange reason, I’ve really LOVED making bibs. Too bad my own child would rather run around naked than ever wear a bib. So naturally, when one of my besties (Pie) got preggers, I knew bibs were in her future!

PieandJain

Pie and I having brunch in NYC

(Pie is not her real name. I’ve called her Pie for over 10 years now so barely have a recollection of her real name anymore. But when you’re a lovely “Pie”, what else matters?)

Anyway, I just wanted to share a few shots of the bibs and matching burp cloths I made for the baby…

BibFabrics

Bib Fabrics: Apples and Pears, Bright Turquoise, and a Sesame Street pattern

I selected gender neutral fabrics since we don’t know what sex the baby will be. Who says it has to be all pastel yellows and greens?

Even the hubby pitched in with these bibs and burpcloths! Boy do I love this guy!

These are double-layered bibs and burp cloths. The undersides have a soft cream-colored terry cloth which is great for absorbency as well as post-meal clean up.

BibSet

Bib with Matching Burp Cloth

Part of the fun and beauty of a handmade gift is in the packaging. I used a pretty burlap ribbon with a small cream bow to present the burp cloths.BurpCloths

I love using bright and happy colors for babies!

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The blanket that these bibs and burp cloths are on, is part of this gift. I crocheted this blanket using a double-crochet stitch and finished it with a scalloped border using the Lionbrand pattern for Purely Square Baby Throw to get me started. I’m slow with yarn so making a blanket is a very time-consuming task that I’ve only done once…and this is it right here, along with the completed bib/burpcloth set. A true testament to my love of Pie and that little baby in her belly. 😛

The Forever Blooms

We just moved in to our new home in October, and I’m pretty much STILL unpacking. It’s a lot of work but it’s fun unearthing all sorts of little trinkets and treasures I forgot I had. I recently opened up a box and found some old acrylic paintings I had done when D and I were “newlyweds”. They’ve been locked up in the box for almost 4 years so I forgot they even existed. I decided to change them up a little bit to better fit our home.

Well, my apologies because I really should have taken a picture of them, BEFORE I started modifying them…oops.ArttoModifyEach painting used to have a small maroon and pink bird on it. They were just “okay”, so I decided to erase any sign of their existence with a bit of black paint.

I knew I wanted to replace the birds with some flowers but then I had a stroke of genius thanks to Pinterest. Instead of painting on new flowers, why not create fabric blooms?! Not only would they add dimension to the art, but I could also incorporate fabrics I used for throw pillows in the adjacent room…Double WIN!

I first created a template for my flower petals – Folding a sheet of paper in half, I drew half of a flower-petal shape against the paper fold’s crease. I cut it out and then unfolded it to get a nice symmetrical flower petal template. I repeated this with a smaller petal size so I could have a double-layered flower which could incorporate two different fabrics.

Every flower needs its petals.

Using a template, I cut out several flower petals from two different fabrics.

Once the petals were cut out, I paired up one big petal with one small petal, and holding the two petals together, ran some needle and thread through them. You end up with a string chain of the petals.

Fabric Flowers Step 2

Create a string chain of the petals

I made sure that the needle went through both ends of the smaller petal when creating the chain.

Example of a petal string chain when using only one layer of fabric

Example of a petal string chain when using only one layer of fabric. (This was from when I first experimented with making this flower using just one fabric/layer.)

Once you have your chain of petals, you pretty much just cinch up the petals the way you want, and join the two ends by stitching them together however you see fit. To help make the flower more sturdy, I flipped it over and stitched the back corners of the petals together.

Fabric Flowers Step 3

Secure the back of the flower by stitching the bottom corners together.

I also used my scissors to trim the top of the petals until I liked what I had. Here’s the resulting flower!

FabricFlowerCompleted(Let the “Oooh’s and Aaaah’s commence!) But seriously, the number of uses for fabric flowers are countless! They would be great for hair clips/headbands, wreathes, clothing accents, artwork, gift packaging, general decorating, etc. However, if you were to use a fabric flower for a purpose where it would be handled often, I’d recommend using a fray-stopping solution, like Fray-Check to secure the edges of your flower. Also, this flower can be modified in so many ways, such as the number of petals, number of fabrics/layers, colors, petal shapes…the possibilities are endless!

This lucky crafter FINALLY got her hands on her very own glue gun. (YESSSSS!) It’s a super basic mini gun but there’s nothing like hot glue to get a girl excited and ready to stick things (anything and everything) together! I broke-in my new toy by gluing a small square of felt as a backing for the flower. This provides a better surface to attach the flower to my art.

HotGlueBacking

Here are my newly modified pieces of art, with the flowers in place:

PaintingsModified

I just need to hang these up now!

Modified PaintingsI’m in love with the pop of color and the dimensional effect these flowers add to the art. I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself adding these sweet little flowers to a few other things around the house. Can a girl have too many flowers? I guess I’ll find out! Fabric Flower 1A flower that will never wilt….forever in bloom – This is the flower for me.

Fabric Flower Art 2

I leave you with one of my more recent favorite quotes – “Be the kind of woman, who, when your feet hit the floor in the morning, the devil says “Oh no, she’s up”.”

India: A Home of Inspiration

When it comes to inspiration, Indian culture is a huge influence for me.  Truly a land, with its rich heritage, that is just overflowing with vibrant and beautiful colors, textiles, architecture, music, dance, tapestries,wood-work and more!

IndianDancers

Classical Indian Dancers, with graceful and highly skilled movements, often portray beautiful and exciting stories and emotions with their dances. For more information on this dance troop, please click on the image above.

(The girls in the above photograph are actually friends of mine. Two of them were trying to figure out how to get into my blog but little did they know, they didn’t have to try too hard! I have a soft spot for them, so I’m pretty sure you’ll be seeing them again.)

 

Art is literally all over the streets of India.

Monkey Speak No Evil

“Monkey Speak No Evil” – I purchased this monkey from a street beggar who carved it from a dried coconut shell. (Coconuts grow in abundance in that part of India.)

Perhaps I’m ever-so-slightly biased, being the daughter of two Indian immigrants…Naaaah! India is amazing. Having personally been there, I can attest to the incredible rush of inspiration that floods you when you are surrounded by the lush sights, sounds, smells and flavors that are INDIA.

PineappleField

In Keekozhoor (INDIA), on a hill overlooking my late grandfather’s pineapple field and distant hills. 2004

As I mentioned in my Recap post, my interest with anything creative, started with illustrative artwork. So on one of my trips to India, I decided to channel that inspiration into a few sketches.

Here they are:

WaitingLadySM

Betrothal

The idea of the above sketch is a young woman, entering a very ornate temple, to catch a secret peek at her betrothed before they have their first formal meeting.

YoungElephantSM

Young Elephant

Elephants are big part of south Indian culture. It’s very common to see them in the streets, giving rides or carrying lumber.

IndianSummerNightSM

Indian Summer Night

This last sketch is just a product of my whimsy. 🙂

Looking at these sketches makes me wonder what other magical and beautiful cultural inspirations I might be missing from other parts of the world! I need to start travelling more!

My Slice of the Black Apple

Recently, my sweet little niece turned the big “ONE”. She (who I’ll refer to as “Ladybug”) may not be my niece by blood, but she is so near and dear to my heart that she might as well be! As I perused aisle after aisle, in store after store, for just the right birthday gift, I realized that nothing was good enough for my little Ladybug.

I raided my stash of fabrics for some inspiration and came up with the perfect answer to my gift dilemma – A handmade DOLL! What little girl doesn’t like a new doll??

After a bit of online digging, I discovered a tutorial with a free video and free pattern on Martha Stewart’s site and that’s how I learned about Black Apple dolls. (The creator of Black Apple dolls has a blog which is in my list of “Blogs I Enjoy” to the right.)

(Photo: Property of the Martha Stewart site.) Click on the image to be directed Martha Stewart's Tutorial on Black Apple Dolls.

(Photo Source: http://www.MarthaStewart.com) Click on the image to be directed to the Tutorial on Black Apple Dolls.

As soon as I saw them, I fell in love. They have a beautiful simplicity but preciousness about them. The pattern and directions were fairly easy to follow, and before I knew it, I had a lovely little doll sitting in front of me.

I used a soft tan flannel for the doll’s face and arms and quilting fabrics for her body, legs and hair. I designed a small collar to add to her dress. Adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, no? (Yep, I’m a fancy girl who can throw a little French around.) Polyfill stuffing was used to fill her up. The tutorial suggests using some rice to give some weightiness to the body but I wasn’t sure that would allow for the doll to be machine washable. (I suspected and hoped that this doll would get lots of wet kisses and food-ey finger prints from Miss Ladybug; being machine-washable was a priority.)

BA-DOLL1

Once the doll was stitched and filled up, things got fun AND a little scary for me! What little accessories can I add? Do I give her a sleepy face, excited face or a happy face? OMG…What if I make her and she is HIDEOUS or ANGRY-looking??

I sucked up my fear of somehow messing the doll up and decided to give her a serene happy look. However, since I didn’t trust my acrylic painting skills to create her face, I used a Sharpee. To add that signature rosy-cheeked doll look, I brushed on some of my own fancy blush. I messed around with the idea of a bow in her hair but then settled on a flower, incorporating the fabrics I used for her body/legs.

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And here she is, sitting pretty…ready to make a very special little girl happy!

BA-DOLLMy own version (slice) of a Black Apple Doll.

This is the very first doll I’ve ever created so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart, just like my Ladybug!

Happy Birthday Sweet Pea!

LadybugMeetsDoll