Four

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Cake 4Time flies, my friends. Turn around, and they’re four.

Miss R had a birthday, and she had a party with her preschool class and a Frozen cake and lots of balloons. I can’t believe how tall she is, and how articulate. And funny. And independent. And adorable.

This song keeps running through my head, one my father sang to me when I was little. If you’re feeling sentimental today, grab a tissue first.

Lady in Red

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Last year, I renovated our long bedroom hallway. Right in the middle of this 27-foot corridor, in a nook created by the hall taking a little jog to the left, sat a dresser. It had nice lines and was an attractive medium brown color, but once the hall walls were painted and the new lighting was up it looked like a neglected second cousin, underdressed for the party. That corner needed color, and my dresser needed a makeover. Cue the paintbrush!

Here she is today.

red dresser front

KEV_017red dresser with monkey

It’s amazing what paint and new knobs can do. (The kids thought a stuffed monkey couldn’t hurt either.) You can see what the dresser used to look like, peeking out from around a corner, in this January post.

The color is Benjamin Moore Heirloom Red in semi gloss. The high shine is from two coats of water-based poly on top of the paint. I vacillated back and forth between red and teal, both of which looked nice with the wall color, but I finally went with red because it felt right. Oddly enough, when I sanded the dresser top I found flecks of a greenish blue in the edges of the old wood filler. I guess the dresser had already tried on teal and was ready for something new! If you’re curious, I used the same process for painting this piece as I did the yellow chest in our play room. I’m pleased with how the glossy paint has brought out the turned wood detailing on the front of the dresser.

Vintage style brass flower knob

The knobs are vintage-look pieces that I found online. I was so excited when they showed up! They are nicer than I expected and have bit of weight to them despite their petite size. I like how they tie into the brass keyholes on the drawers and the six brass doorknobs along the hallway.

I had fully intended to do a picture wall above the dresser once it was back in place, four large black-framed family pictures. However, the moment Mr. K and I put the dresser down we both said “Cat poster!” My sister gave me this print many years ago and it’s moved from home to home with me. Le Chat Noir was a famous nightclub in Paris in the 1890s, and this image was their most famous advertisement. I didn’t intend to pull the red from the poster when I chose a color for the dresser, but it seems like it must have been lurking in the back of my mind.

red dresser in hall

So, there she is. What do you think?

 

Winter Is Dead

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Pink Trike

It’s just-spring here. Shoots pushing up, purple crocuses lifting their heads from the wreck of winter planting beds, an earthy smell in the air. The kids don’t want to come inside, ever. 

It’s a good time to break out the bikes and bats and gloves and figure out who has outgrown what. (Answer: Everyone, everything.) Little league has started and this year The Boy’s team color is green – joy! I evaluate the treads on my old walking shoes and take them for a test drive; Mr. K browses bike ads. I put up a new gauzy curtain in the bathroom, open the windows, break out the e e cummings. Yes, you’ve heard that last one before — it’s just (that’s a hint) up there in the first paragraph, too — so this year I will leave you with a little Milne, from When We Were Very Young.

Daffodowndilly

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
‘Winter is dead.’

 

Little Foxes

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R_DRess A few weeks ago I found an adorable fox knit on Girl Charlee and knew that it would be perfect for a lightweight summer dress for my animal-loving girl. After searching around for the right pattern*, I landed on this one from Crafterhours. It was exactly what I was looking for – simple but with a little detail and room for a busy little body to move and grow.

I washed up the fabric, downloaded the pattern, and had a dress by the end of the evening. (I sized up to make sure it still fits at the end of the summer.) I added topstitching at the neck, arm holes, and back seam to keep the seam allowances flat.

fox dress_sunlight

The dress was a hit! Miss R spent the next day and night in it. Turns out it’s not a bad nightgown, too.

So about that opening picture: I asked Mr. K to photoshop our girl into a new environment because the original background was too distracting (aka, the living room was a disaster area). He came up with a forest right out of Lord of the Rings. Yep, that’s my guy.

Wonderful weekend wishes to you all –

*There are many cute patterns out there that are designed for woven fabrics but I was surprised to find so few for knits. Some patterns can be adapted, but many can’t because they don’t account for the stretch that a knit provides. Just something to keep in mind if you have your heart set on a particular knit!

 

Tutorial: Easter Scribble Tees

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Hippity hop, Little Miss Easter is almost here! To welcome her, my girl and I made Easter scribble tees.

finished duck

Cute, yes? You will need:

  • a white or light-colored t-shirt
  • fabric markers (we tried Stained by Sharpie and Uchida Graffiti markers)
  • freezer paper (in the foil and cling wrap section of the grocery store)
  • scissors
  • a piece of cardboard or a magazine
  • a cookie cutter (we used rabbit and duck shapes)
  • an iron

Cut a piece of freezer paper a few inches larger than your cookie cutter. Trace the cookie cutter on the rough side of the paper and cut out the interior of the shape to make a stencil.

cookie cutter template

Place the freezer paper waxy side down on your t-shirt. With the iron on a medium setting, iron the freezer paper to the shirt for a few seconds, until it sticks.

Slip the piece of cardboard inside the shirt to make sure the markers don’t bleed through to the back.

Scribble away! Or make dots, or stripes, or swirls….Don’t be afraid to go over the edges of the freezer paper. It will keep the markers from bleeding outside the lines of the design. We tested this concept extensively.

Scribble scribbled duck scribble rabbit facePeel off the freezer paper to reveal your design, and wear your shirt with a hop in your step!

purple bunny finished rabbit face

R tee from back

A few notes:

  • Some fabric markers need to be heat set. Check the package instructions.
  • The Stained by Sharpie markers have brush tips and deep pigments. The pink, yellow, and orange colors are neon.
  • The Uchida Graffiti markers come in lovely pastels but may need more than one pass to build up depth of color.

Rain, Rain

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I like the occasional rainy, soaked weekend. It’s good for catching up on things and this weekend the rain brought with it that earthy smell that means spring is nearly here. I walked out into a spatter of rain on Saturday morning and took a deep breath. A single crocus was nodding its head on the lawn and tiny green shoots had appeared practically overnight in the planting beds.

Lots of works in progress here and the weather kept me inside and puttering around with paint and closet clean-outs and cross-stitch experiments and books.

flowers 2 Owl sunlight jonathan jo

Dresser in progress 2

I’ve had this dresser in my back hallway for years. It’s sweet, with turned wood details on the front and little brass keyholes on each drawer. I never thought much one way or another about its color (brown) until I painted the back hall. All of a sudden, I really wanted something colorful in the nook in the hallway.

I auditioned various shades of teal and bright reds for this project. Either would have worked but this little dresser seemed to be asking for red. (Oddly enough, when I sanded the top down I found traces of a Williamsburg blue in the old wood filler on the top.) I’ll be posting a step-by-step about this piece once the new knobs arrive and the dresser is finished, but for now I thought a sneak peak would be fun. The red, by the way, is Benjamin Moore Heritage Red. It looks a bit orange here thanks to the pink walls and a yellow overhead light in our temporary project space but it’s more of a strong true red.

How was your weekend?

 

 

 

On My Bookshelf: The Goose Girl

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When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
–C.S. Lewis

This is Modern Fairy Tales, part 2. 

A few weeks ago I wrote about a doll quilt and the contemporary fairy tales that inspired it. The friend I mentioned in that post, a fellow reader of YA and fairy tales, followed up afterwards with a recommendation for The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I was at the library that afternoon checking out a dog-eared copy of the book. It’s technically fantasy rather than modern fairy tale, but this gracefully crafted retelling of the Goose Girl is well worth reading. (Thanks, Amy!)

 The Goose Girl book coverAni is a crown princess at odds with her fate: In a world of manners, politics, and “people-speaking,” she is more comfortable with the outdoors and the animals she can communicate with. Shut away from much of the natural world by her distant and demanding mother, Ani’s best friend is her horse, Falada, a practical animal with little use for the nonsense of humans but a deep love for Ani.

In a political move to ensure peace with a neighboring kingdom, Ani is unexpectedly bartered off as a bride. Falada and a few loyal soldiers can’t protect her from the mutiny of her scheming entourage, though, and the crown princess is overthrown during the journey. Forced to take shelter in the anonymity of the poor, Ani becomes the goose girl in the palace she was meant to enter as a future queen. Her disguise allows her access to the castle grounds and slowly, with the support of her new friends in the animal sheds, she begins to summon the courage to confront the deceitful lady-in-waiting that took her place and try to stop the war brewing against her homeland.

I like this story for so many reasons: It’s an honest-to-goodness adventure story with a triumphant ending that takes a few unexpected turns along the way. The writing is excellent, with a beautifully developed setting and rich cast of characters. And Ani herself is charming, in the best likable-yet-flawed tradition. I rooted for her and occasionally wanted to kick her in the pants and grinned when she finally stood her ground.

 Shannon Hale is also the author of the Newbury Honor award-winning book Princess Academy. It’s on the list for my next library trip.

 P.S. That stack of fairy tales pictured in my previous post? A mixed bag. Gail Carson Levine’s Fairest is a good middle grade read, an interesting and somewhat loosely linked variation on Snow White. Levine has an open, conversational writing style that keeps the plot moving along. I liked her use of gnomes instead of dwarves, particularly how their unique language and culture is woven into the story. As for BeastlySisters Red, and Cinder: These are popular YA tales and I felt a little like I’d eaten a whole bag of candy after reading them one right after another.

Other Plans

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My aunt Donna once told me that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. While I’ve heard that bit of wisdom a few times since, I like to think of my thoughtful southern aunt saying it and I repeated it to myself all last week while down and out with the flu. It made me feel a little better about all those other plans slipping through my fingers while I lay on the couch and willed my toes to stop aching.

Now that I’m on my feet again, I thought I’d get back into the groove here with bits and pieces from recent weeks, small projects captured with a picture or two that were sitting neglected in my camera.

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Yes, more infinity scarves! These are made with some beautiful Liberty Tana Lawn that I found at Gather Here. I used the same Pink Chalk pattern for these spring infinities as I did for my winter ones.

003 004For my niece, a two-doll (or animal) tote, in pink and purple as requested. The tote is sized generously for her American Girl dolls. I used quilt batting instead of interfacing to give the sides some extra substance but still keep the whole thing soft and easy to roll up and put away. The fabrics are basic quilting cottons from Joann’s and the pattern is my own. It’s a basic tote construction with diagonal straps that run under the bottom of the bag and a lining that is dropped in and topstitched into place. It’s very purple but pretty cute, and I hope she’ll love it.

Cube 2Those cube ottomans that I planned to update back in January? Here they are, all pretty now. The fabric is a home dec classic, Imperial Dragonfly by Swavelle/Mill Creek.

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Have I ever mentioned that we have a lot of Legos around here? No? We do. I love Legos; too many is fine by me. To avoid the trauma of having a new creation smashed during cleanup or by a sibling, though, I made each child a tray for storing precious constructions. I took a 10″ x 10″ Lego base piece and reassembled it to fit into the bottom of an 8.5″ x 11″ cardboard office tray from Target. (To cut the base pieces, score them on the back with a craft knife and then gently snap them along the scored line.) I used a generous amount of Fabri-tac glue to attach the base pieces, weighing them down with books to make sure they stayed flat while they dried. So far they’ve held up well and I’m enjoying the rotating gallery of creations that land in the trays.

Banana muffins and teaAt some point in February, during one of our weekly snowstorms, I made this batch of banana muffins. I like to think that they’re slightly healthy because they have oatmeal in them! I always use Ina Garten’s banana crunch muffin recipe but I cut the generously sized recipe in half, ditch the walnuts and optional banana chips, and use plain rolled oats instead of granola. They are Miss R’s favorite.

(The tea is Lady Grey, if anyone is wondering. Also Miss R’s favorite.)

Now, on to March! I have a big quilt project that I’m looking forward to sharing in a few weeks. In like a lion…..

Modern Fairy Tale

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fairytale quilt shadows

Back in September, I raved here about Code Name Verity. My post prompted a conversation with a friend who didn’t love the book so much – she found some of the war scenes difficult to take. She had the same (legitimate) trouble with another favorite of mine, Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, which weaves together WWII concentration camps and Sleeping Beauty. And this led to a discussion of modern fairy tales.

I have a soft spot for these stories. They turn the old formulas on their heads, set ancient tales in recent decades, look through the eyes of minor characters, or alter the backstory. They can empower passive characters, humanize evil ones, and expose the weaknesses in our assumptions. For my friend, I recommended Newbury honor winner Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and two by Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown, winner of the Newbury Award, and Rose Daughter. Maybe when I’m through with this stack from the library, I can recommend a few more.

YA fairy tales

I was thinking about all of this as I pieced together a doll quilt from the scraps of Miss R’s Rainbow Windowpane quilt. This one feels fairy tale-ish to me. I’m not sure if it’s the paths made by the striped fabric, the whimsical quilting, or the colorful patchwork, but it feels like a quilt for a scrappy little princess. So much so, in fact, that I decided to name it that. Here’s the Scrappy Little Princess doll quilt.

Fairytale doll quilt

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Flower quilting

The fabrics are a mix of Kona cotton in White, various Happy Go Lucky prints by Bonnie & Camille, and some DS Quilt prints from Joann’s. The striped fabric is from Kumari Gardens by Dena Fishbein.

Autobots, roll out!

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We had a Transformer birthday here not long ago. I thought I’d follow up my cake post with a few sugary pics.

042 046That’s Optimus Prime, Beast Hunter’s edition, on a chocolate cake with blue and red frosting and half a container of silvery sugar crystals. I used a big square Wilton pan and gel food coloring in blue and red. And in case it isn’t clear, those are flames approaching our hero. Wavy piping with little points poking up, to go with the flames. I was a little critical of it but the kids seemed happy. There were a lot of blue smiles at the end of the afternoon!

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