24 May 2016

Circle Update!

It doesn't look like much, does it.  But it is a game changer when there are more electronic devices and children in your household than you can keep an eye on every second of the day.  I know I've posted about this previously, but the Circle™ really puts the control of the internet back in the hands of parents.  You can turn off the internet, so no devices are snuck into bed "after hours" where you don't know what's going on. You can "pause" the internet when it's time to come and eat, or go outside, or just plain be together as a family to play tangible, roll-the-dice board games. You can put limits on your children's favorite time-suckers, er, I mean apps. You can read about it more on my other post, here.
But here's the update: They've just announced that Circle™ is now available on Android! Now everyone can enjoy the same peace of mind. And if that wasn't enough, they've also rolled out Circle Go™, which means you can take your peace of mind anywhere you (or your child) are! If you still don't have a Circle ™, go here.

05 May 2016

Not a Sham, Lots of Shams!

This is a really big, deep couch.  I feel like a little girl when I sit all the way back, my feet dangle, and it's hard to take someone seriously when their feet don't touch the ground.  I loaded it like a baked potato, except I used rainbowtized pillows instead of broccoli and cheese. I used my easy pillow sham tutorial here, but you can also make them with snaps or velcro so you don't even have to do buttonholes!  I love how a fresh set of pillow shams makes you feel like you gave the whole room a makeover for the price of nothing, well, if you have a stash of fabric like one ought to. ;)  I am really trying to simplify and get rid of the detritus of life.  I know I recently posted about less toys and "things" for our kids, but doing this "no new clothes" for a year has really opened my eyes. I'll post an update of how that's going soon.  In the meantime, I second guess every purchase I make.  Do I really need this?  Do I already have something that I can use?  Will I still love this next week, month, year?  I find that I'm able to talk myself out of a lot of things, ha!  How do you declutter most effectively?

28 April 2016

Floral Radiography Meets Fabric

Gone are the days where we have to settle.  And by settle, I mean, you can picture the perfect fabric for a project, but you scour your local big-box stores and you search your fingers off online without success.  No more.
We have the option of creating a our very own prints on fabric! This is just what Audrey of Skirt Fixation did with this stunning fabric. Audrey took a floral radiograph print, and turned it into a design to be printed on fabric.
There was an option to choose from 26 kinds of fabric, including what I chose, a linen/silk blend!  It was like nothing I've ever worked with before, so it was fun to try something new.
Audrey also had the option of different colors...but who needs options when you have black and white. ;)  I finally had the perfect project for this lace-cut zipper, since it was more of a cream color than white, I pulled this out to do an external zipper.
I felt like it needed a little bit of a border, and had this romantic-esque ruffled lace that was up to the task of border patrol.  I didn't use a pattern, just gathered up that beautiful fabric, added a nice, wide waistband, and voilá!
Of course I wore a petticoat underneath for a bit of oomph.

You'll want to take a look at what everyone else is creating on this fun Floral Radiograph Blog tour over at Audrey's (plus there's a giveaway going on!
And with that, I will curtsy and Scout will go out with a flare.

23 April 2016

Art + Kids

Do you ever feel like you should be more creative with your kids, help promote thinking outside the box in their little brains?  Forget googling and wading through "kid-friendly art activities" links, or checking out a million pins on pinterest.
My sister-in-law, Krisanne, used to teach art classes in an art museum to little kids!! Perfect, right? I'm pretty sure she even had waiting lists for her classes because both parents and their children wanted in.
Lucky for us, she posts these fun ideas on instagram: @makingtable.  I love it because it's a quick, simple way to get ideas.  She also gives suggestions like, "Target has chalkboard paper in their dollar section right now!"
So, of course, I go to Target and get my little people some chalkboard paper!
Check out these self-portrait collages of her two boys.  Aren't they fantastic?! I love every single element they chose to include.  Sometimes she does the art with Ezra, and sometimes she just sets the supplies out for him to go at it. The great thing is, they're fun for all ages.  Even kids-at-heart types of people. ;)
Sometimes there are themes, such as focusing on a type of art, or the style of a particular artist (see, she does the teaching!) and sometimes there is free reign.  I loved how she described this one, "Ezra is taking a walk with his paintbrush. He "hops" "walks backwards" "walks in circles" and "runs" with his paintbrush."
Go check it out (@makingtable on instagram) and I wouldn't be surprised one bit if you accidentally "get lost" in her posts. Also, it's okay if you bust out the art supplies without your kids.  I won't tell. ;)

21 April 2016

Helping Ecuador

I recently received an email from my younger sister, Ann.  Ann served the people of Ecuador for a year and a half through a church mission when she was 21.  She learned to love the people of Ecuador and made life-long memories while serving.  The devastation Ecuador has recently seen from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake Saturday is heartbreaking.  People who hardly had anything to begin with, now have nothing.  With 570 dead, 155 still missing, and over 7,000 injured, the whole country is hurting.

Ann's friend happens to be going to Ecuador on Monday to provide any help she can offer to those 25,000 in shelters without a house to go home to.  She was told that the most critical thing at the moment is clean water.  Obviously she can't take enough carry-ons full of water to make a difference, but they recommended bringing straws that act like filters called Life Straws.  These can be handed out without worry that the water they drink will make them sick and wreak even more havoc.  Originally, she was having people purchase them through Amazon and send them to her address to take, but she contacted eartheasy.com and they are now going to be able purchase them at wholesale price to get as many as possible to the humble people of Ecuador.  You can send her a donation through paypal and she will purchase as many straws she is able to through that channel.  It's a small and simple thing that just might make all the difference to one person across the world!

To send a paypal donation:

07 April 2016

The Most Beautiful Love Story: The Sashiko

Once upon a time there was a woman who loved to quilt.  Each quilt she made was quilted by hand, stitch by stitch.  Up and down her needle would go.  She loved the thread-space-thread-space-thread-space pattern that she created, sometimes evenly spaced, and sometimes not so even.  She was married to a man who loved her very much.  He didn't mind her fabric scraps lying around, or the bits of thread he would find on his jacket when he went out.  They reminded him of his love.  By and by the couple grew older.  Their bodies didn't work quite as well as they once did, and the woman found that she was unable to quilt by hand like she used to.  Her mind didn't stop creating quilts, but her hands couldn't make them happen.  This made the man sad, to see his wife deprived of such joy.  He decided to invent a machine that would replicate that stitch-space-stitch-space-stitch pattern his wife loved so well.  And he did.  And they lived happily ever after.
Isn't that just the most romantic love story you've ever heard?  I may have taken liberties in embellishing, but that is the gist of how the Baby Lock Sashiko came to be. 
When I first witnessed what it did, I could not believe my eyes!  But...wait...what...how...in the world? Right?!
But it's true!  Take a look-see for yourself!
You can adjust the space between the stitches and the length of the stitches to get just the right look for your project.
And!  Get this.  There.  Is.  Only.  A.  Bobbin thread.  Just a bobbin!  No top thread to change out when you want to change colors!
Has your mind starting turning with all the projects you could make with this?  
I can't wait to share with you what I've made with my Sashiko so far.  All your sewing friends will want to come over to your house when you have a Sashiko sitting in your sewing room. ;)
ps this is what the back looks like...

31 March 2016

Fewer Toys, Happier (more creative!) Kids

I recently read this article about the benefits of children having a minimal amount of toys and haven't stopped thinking about it.  Ryan and I have always been on board with the philosophy of less is more, especially when it comes to toys, but it's easy to forget when you have a child who pines after something and you get to be the hero who comes to the rescue with said thing in hand.  Especially with that last child. It's been harder with Drummer than any of my girls because he's the only boy (they were used to hand-me-downs) and he's my last.  But I can already see the sense of entitlement building.  I've recommitted to "forcing boredom," and I haven't been disappointed.  Children will surprise us and rise to the occasion, in my 14 years of child-rearing experience. ;)  I found this foraging basket in the yard this morning and it made my heart happy...although, that moss will be replanted.   
I loved the part about less fighting.  I'm hoping that one really works. :) I'll keep you posted.

Adults aren't an exception, by the way.  I think we also need to learn to do more with less.  It exercises our creativity. This commitment to not buying any new clothes is much easier than I thought.  Of course it's only been 3 months, but there have been very few wants and needs.  Ryan accidentally bought some Easter clothes for the kids and he had to return them without me looking so I wouldn't be tempted to keep them, haha.

18 March 2016

Happy In My Own Skin--Finally!

Ever since I can remember I have struggled with my skin.  Break outs.  Bleck.  I thought once I reached 20 that they would stop. Nope. Then I thought once I started having kids they would stop. Uh-uh. Then I thought once the wrinkles started, they couldn't possibly coexist. Wrong. My new wrinkles and old blemishes are fast friends. Quite content to be neighbors. So rude. It got to the point where I was wearing so much foundation. And to make things worse, I couldn't ever get the exact right shade. I finally broke down and went to a cosmetic store that will scan your skin and the computer will match you up with the correct shade.  So, the woman doing the scan showed me how to apply said foundation.  First, you apply moisturizer. Then comes the pre-foundation serum to fill in fine lines, followed by the foundation. Next comes the powder, and then you like like a flat, 2-dimensional doll, so she added some shading around my face.  I looked flawless.  But I was wearing a mask.
I was so disheartened at the thought of putting all that on each morning that it started to prevent me from getting ready at all. And we know if you don't get ready, the day is usually not very productive.  Plus, there aren't any groceries for dinner or the children's lunches. ;)  This was my state of mind when I started looking into Rodan & Fields because I had a friend, Candace, I followed on Instagram who was a consultant.  I contacted her and was immediately impressed with the company.  It was started by the 2 female dermatologists who created Proactiv, and since they made their fortune with that, all the profits go to charities to help inner city children to have a brighter future.  Originally I just wanted to use the product.  I'm not a fan of multi-level marketing and didn't want to get involved further than just making my skin look better.  But, as I talked with Candace, I realized this was a chance to help others who may have tried all the other products out there, both over-the-counter and prescription, without seeing any success. One morning, as I was putting on my mask of make-up, Pearl came in and asked, "Do you think people who tell you you're beautiful because of all the make-up you put on?" That's when I knew I needed to set a better example to my girls.

Now, I have only been using the products for 5 days, so I will not share my before and after photos with you...yet.  But, I will tell you that my skin is already feeling and looking better.  I even ventured out in public without foundation to go to lunch with some friends! 
Basically, there are 4 different regimens to target four types of skin: Reverse-for dark marks, Unblemish-for clearing blemishes, Soothe-for sensitive skin, and the flagship regimen Redefine-for wrinkles/fine lines. 
If you feel like you could fit into more than one category, you can take the little quiz here for a recommendation of which one(s) would be most beneficial for make your skin look years younger and give you that glow that people will wonder what you're up to. ;)
(If you didn't notice, I let the girls choose what they wanted to do for their individual poses ;)  I want these beautiful girls to have a mom who is happy in her own skin. Pun intended. They have seen how excited I am about these products already, and that they have a "business mom". Haha! I just started one of them on Unblemish, as she unfortunately inherited my skin. But the Soothe line can be used on children as well, for those with sensitivities, or after those days at the beach when the wind interfered with that spray-on sunscreen. ;)
What was a little confusing to me at first were the tools that will boost your results, kind of like a fast-forward button, to get to that happy ending sooner.
First is the Amp MD.  It's a roller for your face with teeny-tiny needles around it. My girls were especially intrigued by this one and I let them all feel it.  It's kind of like when your foot falls asleep and then tingles as the blood begins to recirculate.  It allows the product to get to deeper levels of skin instead of applying everything to that top layer that is dying or dead.
The second tool, I haven't used yet, and won't until I get my face completely clear, is the Macro Exfoliator. You only use this once a week, but you get professional results. (The proof is in the filter, full of your dull, dead skin cells! Bleck!)
Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, Ryan asked if it was too much to do. I laughed and told him I had been looking forward to doing my regimen all day.  Properly caring for your skin, and knowing that what you're doing is actually making a difference makes it enjoyable...actually fun!
My mom was concerned that I wouldn't have time for sewing. I assured her that I do! In fact, I had to sew Olive a bright green skirt for this photo shoot, so thus far, it's forced me to squeeze in some time at my sewing machine!
You want to see before and afters, though, don't you? Here are just a few.
Oh! I almost forgot to tell you! You can try any of the products (including the tools!!) for 60 days and if you don't see a difference, you can return the empty bottles for a full refund! Amazing, right? I can't wait to share my own before and after photos. Give me just a few more weeks. ;) Email me (nobigdillblog {at} gmail {d0t} com) if you want to try out any of the products, or if you're interested in joining Rodan & Fields. I'd be happy to chat with you either way! Here's to happy skin! :)

11 March 2016

My Maven: The Time I Was a Criminal

It was a sad, sad day a few weeks ago when my beloved orange iron gave out.  Perhaps not so sad to someone who doesn't sew, but you seamstresses out there can feel my pain, right?  And getting a new iron isn't as simple as just picking one up "while you're out".  There needs to be comparison shopping of price and functions and reviews to read.  This is something that should not be taken lightly.  But, what about the sewing?  Sewing shouldn't have to suffer because of an iron malfunction.  That's like not driving because the garage doesn't work.  Or something like that.
As you can see, I was in a pickle.  And when you're in a pickle such as this, you text your mother-in-law and ask to borrow hers.  And when she doesn't respond, you decide that you'll just stop by and pick it up.  And when you stop by, and she's fast asleep in bed, you tip-toe through her bedroom, into her closet and steal hers.  This was the only logical thing to do.  It comes down to breaking and entering in such a crisis as this.
I've become a hardened criminal over my orange iron.  Now, I'm not such a fool as to think she wouldn't not notice.  So, I immediately contacted my iron people.  Do you have iron people?  Specifically Kim, from Reliable.  Sadly, my orange one was out of stock, but she said she would send me their Maven.  Just the name alone calmed my wrinkled nerves.  It was going to be okay.  I confessed of my crime, and she was positive that the sewing and ironing community would muster and pay bail, or even break me out of prison if it came to that.  I was satisfied.
Then the iron arrived.  In. An. ORANGE. BOX!  It was like this was all meant to be.  I took that shiny, sleek beauty out of her orange home and placed her on my ironing board.  (Possibly after I caressed and spoke sweet nothings to her.  I won't say.)  
I pulled out the owner's manual and read it from front to back, and if you know me, you'll know that I do not do owner's manuals.  But, as they say, to know someone is to love someone.  The real magic happened when I filled her tub with water and waited for the right amount of pressure and STEAM! Glorious steam!  Not just a little 6 oz container within the iron, but many, many shirt's worth of steam!  
I eventually paid my debt to society, returned the stolen iron, and no small appliances were harmed in the improvement of my sewing studio.  But, have you ever had that feeling of joy while ironing.  No?  Then you, my friend, are using the wrong iron.  She's not heavy, but she's heavy-duty.  Those wrinkles don't stand a chance.  Plus. That woven cord and cork handle!  I don't know of any husband who would complain about his wife happily ironing.  Worth every cent. ;) 

10 March 2016

The Secret to Perfect Popovers

There were SO many great suggestions for my year of no-buying-new-clothes post.  I don't know how I'm going to pick!  Drawing out of a hat is becoming more and more alluring. ;)  Meanwhile, I had some requests for my popovers I posted on instagram.  They're pretty much a regular breakfast around here, because they're a nice vehicle for any sort of saucy goodness you want to put in them.
A while back, something got one of our chickens.  Grrr.  We have played detective...or, I just asked my friend who also has chickens.  She said since there weren't any feathers, or remains, it was probably a fox.  And we've seen a fox around here before, so now they're enclosed with some heavy duty netting during the day, and in their fancy coop at night.  Maybe the chickens should get their own post, silly girls.  All I was really getting at was that we still have plenty of eggs with one less hen.  We did have a funny tiny egg, the size of a quail egg, for a couple of days.  I guess one of them was taking some time off.  
Back to the popovers.  I have tried many pans, both popover and muffin, I even tried to use ramekins, and I always come back to Nordic Ware pans.  If you want one piece of advice about making popovers, it's this:  It will deflate all the joy out of making them if you have to scrape, rip and pry them out of the pan.  Seriously.  Then you're left with a pan that has to soak for 258 days so you don't want to make them ever again.  Invest in a good pan.  Period.  I got my
popover pans (I normally bake two at a time) from Amazon, which seemed to be the best price, but as I was looking, I also noticed that they have a mini popover pan!  How cute would that be! Bite size popovers! I might have to put that on my list for Santa this year.
I have fiddled around with different recipes and ways of greasing the pans, and my favorite recipe is Julia Child's:
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I add a couple more pinches)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (I use coconut oil sometimes), plus more for pans
Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Grease popover pan(s) with butter, coconut oil, or shortening with lots of generosity. ;) Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.  Evenly distribute the batter between 6 cups, it should fill them slightly more than halfway.  Bake for 20-25 minutes without opening the oven.  If you want a less doughy center, you can then reduce the temperature to 350º and bake for another 10 minutes, but I like a crispy outer with the soft center.

Notes: if you don't want to wait for your milk and eggs to be room temperature, pop the milk in the microwave for a few seconds and put your eggs in a bowl of warm water.  Voilá!

What next?  Pearl will usually make honey butter.  I like my homemade peach jam that never sets up and is more of a sauce than jam.  Maybe I subconsciously purposely sabotage my jam so I can have sauce for these breakfast instances.  We will go with that.  I also like our homemade orange sauce, which I though I had posted on here in the past, but I couldn't find it, so I'll have to share soon, too. One night I brought home a rotisserie chicken and made these, and Ryan put chicken in his!  It's better than chicken and waffles because it's a built-in pocket!  It's a favorite around here, as you can see. One day I'd like to open up a popover restaurant and have a different butter or sauce for each season or month.  One day.