Saturday, June 29, 2013

family coffee date.

things have been excessively busy in the meyers house lately. james is back working full-time, for some reason ive gotten a weird rush of classes this week, and i have to spend tomorrow fasting in preparation for yet another unpleasant doctors appointment. on top of all this, its been a million degrees out and our shoebox apartment with poorly placed windows has no ceiling fans. i think i speak for all of us when i say we definitely deserved a fun treat this weekend. something like a big fancy family dinner date. unfortunately our bank account didnt agree with that ideai did however have a buy-one-drink-get-one-free coupon for coffee bean, so after i got home from work this afternoon we had a family coffee date

since one of the drinks was free, we agreed to get a snack to share as well. the only thing that looked like i could eat it was the little fruit and cheese box, and at first i was like "six dollars for grapes and cheese? is this really necessary?", but then i remembered, this was a special treat. and im totally glad we splurged on it, it was actually PACKED with really great cheese and made a super satisfying snack for all three of us. this particular location also had a really cozy semi-enclosed patio area, so we got to have some much needed quiet time to relax (have i mentioned that ALL of our neighbors have been excessively loud lately, all the time?)

sigh. i really, really wish alice would stand still for a picture just once in her life. 

it was so great to go hang out as a family, that when we finished our treat, we really didnt want to go home to our stuffy, noisy apartment. we were having leftovers for dinner and i didnt need to get home to cook, so we didnt. we went over to the mall and walked around for a while until we decided it was time to eat dinner and watch doctor who. 

and thats exactly what we did. it was the most perfect saturday weve had in a very, very long time.

Friday, June 28, 2013

summer goals.

summer is definitely in full swing here at the meyers house, and alice is really into it. we have totally been taking advantage of all the free things to do around here, in addition to more regular beach days, weve also been spending more time at the park:

swimming in our buildings pool:

drawing with chalk:

and checking out the splash pad at alondra park (ok, alice wasnt super into this one):


in a couple of days it will be july, and our disneyland passes will be blocked out until mid-august (not that we want to go in the summertime anyways). with no free disneyland, ive been compiling a mental list of other free things to try this summer now that alice is old enough to enjoy day trips (or i guess more accurately, now that alice is old enough for me to enjoy taking her on day trips). as this mental list was growing two things came to mind: 1.  i was starting to get a little crazy and needed to take it down a notch and stick to a small manageable list that we might actually be able to finish, and 2. why limit our summer goals to just day trips for alice? why not make a short list of goals for other areas of life too? 

james and i talked about it for a bit, and we concluded that this was a much better idea than the big grandiose yearly goal list we made back in january (organized by month, with deadlines, and completely based on a projected income that well... didnt happen). heres what we came up with:

for alice:

1. go to at least two new parks. theres SO many parks in the south bay that this should be the easiest one. 

2. visit the california science center. alice has been to the natural history museum a couple times now, but not the science center, and its one of my favorite field trips from when i was a kid. 

for me:

1. get the new etsy shop up and running. this is currently in progress, and im really excited about how its going, i just want to make sure that everythings in working order by the end of summer

2. work on improving my photography skills. since i started this blog ive noticed that my photography has gotten really sloppy. i found some photos from my old etsy shop, back when i took pictures almost every day, and i couldnt even believe that i used to be that good, so i need to practice more so i can be that good again. 

for the family:

1. deep clean the whole house and purge it of unnecessary belongings. we did this with our closets back in january and it was awesome, i think the whole house will be a lot more comfortable if it wasnt so cluttered. 

2. institute a weekly family bible study time. this is something we talk about doing all the time and never actually do, so now were going to fix that. 

and thats our summer goal list! im really excited to work on these and see how they go. 

so what do you have planned this summer?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

etsy shop preview.

i wasnt planning on doing a whole bunch of suspenseful build-up in regards to my etsy shop re-opening, but yesterday i was able to shoot my first batch of listing photos, and i was just too excited to keep them to myself. so far ive got pocket skirts for grown-up ladies, made from recycled fabrics:

 and if pretty florals and paisley arent really your thing, ive also made a few in some novelty prints:

 ive also got some hair bows, also made from recycled fabrics:

both the skirts and the bows are all finished and photographed and will hopefully be up for sale next week, with more and more styles and sizes coming soon thereafter!

im really, really excited about this, the only thing is im kind of struggling with the shop descriptions/policies/etc., i always feel so awkward writing those. 

so what do you think? and what colors/prints would you like to see in the future?

p.s. BIG thanks to my mom and sister for so generously modeling for me!

Monday, June 24, 2013

ratatouille recipe.

so far id say the only pleasant side-effect of my new gluten free diet is all that ive finally broken out of our long standing dinner rotation of pizza, mac and cheese, stir fry, hummus, fish tacos, and soup. seriously, that was our week of dinners every week for i dont even know how long.  not that theres anything wrong with any of those meals, especially given that all of them were made from scratch and absolutely delicious, it just got really, really boring. 

i have to admit that finding recipes that are: 1. gluten free, 2. dont cost seven hundred dollars, and 3. dont seem like they taste like cardboard,  are pretty dang hard to find. honestly ive pretty much been completely avoiding any kind of recipe thats specially marked as "gluten free", and just sticking to finding new recipes that are coincidentally gluten free. like ratatouille. 

a couple of weeks ago my mom gave me some squash that she grew in her garden and i wasnt sure what to do with it, but then i remembered when i was on bedrest before alice was born and this nice young lady from our church brought over the most delicious ratatouille and couscous so i decided to try and recreate that. heres what i did:

serves four

1 large (or two small) zucchini 
1 large (or two small) yellow squash
1/2 jar spaghetti sauce 
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
olive oil
lemon juice, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, and garlic according to your preference

preheat oven to 375. start by greasing a large casserole dish (i use this one) with olive oil and set it aside. next thinly slice all the squash, using a mandoline if you have one (unfortunately we dont). once thats all done (it will seem like forever), start arranging a single layer of squash on the bottom of the casserole dish in a sort of fish-sale arrangement. once thats finished you can begin the entirely unscientific step of seasoning the squash however your heart desires, before topping it with another layer of squash, and then a few spoonfuls of spaghetti sauce. repeat this step until you run out of squash (in our case about 4-5 layers), then finish by topping with a layer of sauce and finally the mozzarella cheese. bake for 45 minutes and serve hot. 

since i cant eat couscous i substituted some quinoa, but unfortunately i havent quite figured out how to make it taste like anything other than just air. so if youre making this and you dont have celiac disease, id say go with the couscous. 

im really, really glad that i branched out and tried making this, it came out so good that im really excited to put it on our rotation for the summer (or at least, until squash stops being on sale for 99 cents every week). 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

sunday sweets. brownie sundaes.

for this weeks special dessert i finally got around to using this brownie mix. i had intended on making them earlier this week, but every day one thing or another got in the way and before we knew it, it was sunday again. 

im going to be completely honest here: im not a big fan of brownies. i never have been, im just not that into chocolate and rich, gooey desserts are just not my thing (i think this fully explains why ive never gotten along well with other ladies). i still wanted to try out this mix, mostly because im trying really hard to try new things and be more open minded about food, so to get myself more excited about this dessert, i added ice cream, strawberries, whipped cream and sprinkles to make brownie sundaes. 

the brownie mix (by pamelas products, available at most stores with a gluten-free section) actually came out really, REALLY well. i was definitely impressed that they tasted just like real brownies, even if brownies arent exactly my favorite. i liked that they made a full 9 x 9 pan of regular-thickness brownies, and i really appreciate that the package had recipes for several variations, so i was able to make them more cake-like than fudgey. my only complaint is the price (around seven dollars per bag). if this mix wasnt on the half-price rack, i definitely would not have bought it, but it was certainly worth what i paid for it. 

the best part of this dessert though was the whipped cream. i always make homemade whipped cream. its cheaper ($3 for a pint of whipping cream that makes two large batches rather than $4-5 for one container), healthier (just cream and sugar instead of soybean oil, chemicals, and propellant), AND it tastes way better. did i mention that its also super fast and easy to make? i used this recipe and it seriously takes just a few minutes in the kitchenaid (ok, maybe its not so fast and easy if you dont have a kitchenaid). 

anyways, thats what we had for dessert tonight, stay tuned for next time when i show you how to make some ratatouille! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

shirred toddler dress tutorial.

as promised, heres the toddler dress tutorial that ive been promising all week. i designed this dress around christmas when i was making alice some new dresses. i wanted something simple, comfortable, and durable (you know, because shes one and i like to dress her accordingly), so naturally i was drawn to the idea of a pillowcase dress, but most of what i found looked really bulky, frumpy, and well... old lady. none of which are words that i like to have describing the clothes that i put on my daughter. so i made some modifications to the basic design to make something a little more practical and a little less toddlers and tiaras.  so heres what i came up with, i hope you like it!

you will need:

fabric (light/medium weight woven will work best. here im making a 2t, which used about 1/2 a yard of 45" fabric, obviously a bigger or smaller size will require more or less fabric)
extra wide double-fold bias tape (one package will be more than enough, i used just under 2 yards for this one)
elastic thread 
regular thread
tracing wheel and tracing paper
iron and ironing board (not pictured) 
rotary cutter and mat (optional)
large paper or interfacing (also optional, if you want to make a pattern to keep for multiple uses)

lets get started:

note:  if youre making a size 2t, you can skip step 1 and just cut two rectangles 17 inches wide and 21.5 inches long

step 1:  if youre making a custom size, first youll have to make a pattern. to deterimine the width, youll need to measure the widest part of the childs body (in alices case, her tummy), and multiply that by 1.5, add two inches for seam allowances, and then cut that in half. so in this case, 21 inch tummy = 31.5 inches + 2 inches for seam allowances divided in half is 16.75 inches and to make things easier i just rounded to 17 inches. to determine the length, just measure the length (neckline to hem) of an existing dress that you like the fit of, and add 2.5 inches to that for hems (in my case, 19 inches, plus hems makes 21.5 inches).

step 2:  if you want to keep a paper pattern for reference, trace these measurements onto paper or interfacing, otherwise just trace them directly onto your fabric, and cut two rectangles to your measurements. 

step 3: pin the two pieces wrong sides together on the longer sides:

and sew a straight stitch with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, making a "tube" of fabric:

step 3: press your seams open like this: 

step 4: sew a small zigzag stitch on your seam allowance to prevent fraying (if you have a serger this would be a good time to use it) 

and trim off the excess fabric (this is especially important since this is a dress for toddlers and it needs to be durable): 

step 5: to make the bottom hem, on the bottom of the fabric tube, press the edge of the fabric up a 1/2 inch:

then 1 inch: 

and sew with a straight stitch (i dont know why i dont have a photo for this step...)

step 6: to make the armholes, fold your hemmed tube in half lengthwise, and find an existing tank top in the size youre making, and lay it down on top of the fabric, just inside the seam allowance and 1 inch below the top edge, like this:

then place a sheet of tracing paper in between the shirt and the fabric, and trace the armhole curve:

resulting in a chalk mark for the armhole:

step 7: cut along the curve you just marked to make the armholes: 

step 8: make the top hem by folding the top edges of the dress down a 1/2 inch, and then 1/2 inch again, like this:

and sew with a straight stitch (dont forget to do both sides!)

step 9: hand-wind the elastic tread onto a spare bobbin until its full (yes, you have to do this by hand, it will NOT work on the machine)

step 10: to start the shirring, insert the elastic bobbin, set your stitch length to your machines longest setting, and sew a straight line 1/4 inch from your top hem (do this by using the edge of your presser foot as a guide against the hem stitches): 

sew four more rows of shirring under your first row in the same manner, stretching the fabric flat as you sew:

and repeat on the other side.

step 11: gently iron the top of the dress to flatten out the shirring (it comes off the machine kind of curly and weird)

step 12: cut two lengths of bias tape that are long enough to go around the armhole curve plus extra for tying (my dress used 30 inches for each side)

step 13: iron any creases out of your bias tape and fold each end under 1/2 inch and press shut. it will have a weird corner sticking out like this:

so youll need to un-fold it and cut the corners into a triangle before re-folding and pinning it closed:

step 14: find the middle of the bias tape and match it up with the side seam of the dress, opening the tape and folding it around the dress fabric (forming a "sandwich"):

and securely pin around the entire armhole, gently stretching the bias tape so that it hugs the curve:

step 15: starting at the VERY end of the bias tape, sew a straight stitch close to the open edge (do this by switching your needle alignment to the left and using the edge of the presser foot to guide you):

sew all the way down the tape and around the armhole, going slowly to make a smooth curve and making sure that you are sewing through all the layers of fabric:

repeat for both sides:

step 16: iron one last time, and youre done! 

i really love this dress because its really quick (only about an hour start to finish, and thats with a very distracting toddler), and only uses basic sewing supplies, all of which i normally have on hand (except the bias tape). 

please let me know if you make one of these dresses, id love to see them!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

i started sewing again.

i havent been sewing much lately. and by that i mean, i havent been sewing at all for, i dont know... almost two years? this is by far my biggest personal disappointment. for two reasons: one, i freaking love sewing, and two, making a living from selling handmade clothing is only my single lifelong dream. ive wanted to design and make clothes since i was a small child, and from ages 17-21 i had a moderately profitable indie clothing label and etsy shop (i never formally studied fashion though, id tell you more about that but theres a lot of emotional baggage and resentment that doesnt belong on here). when i was pregnant with alice, i not only made her entire nursery (for $50!), but also my diaper bag (which is still in use), nursing pillow, several swaddlers (sort of like this, but way less tacky), and i think maybe even a few tiny garments.

but then, like every other new mom in the world, i stopped when alice was born. and i dont even feel guilty about it given that i spent two weeks on bed rest and then had to recover from a c-section with zero non-husband assistance and a newborn that spent twenty four hours a day mocking my attempts to put her on a feeding and sleep schedule. i had noble crafting intentions though, my previous etsy shop had gotten to a point where it felt really messy and disorganized and i needed to completely re-focus my vision and direction so i gave myself a few months completely off so that i could have a fresh start when i felt ready. 

and before i even got a chance to feel ready, we had to pick up and move back to california (definitely a story for another day), and crafts of any kind went somewhat permanently on the back burner. even after we got settled into our new place and our new jobs, it still wasnt happening. heck, in our first year living here i only got my sewing machine out two or three times. though this is mostly because if i want to sew, i have to set up a folding table in the living room like this:

honestly after a while of this i stopped caring. my old dreams and ambitions were just not realistic here in our new life, and i got used to it. until one day a couple months ago the nice lady that works in the sewing machine department at work asked me what id been making. and i said nothing. i work at JOANNS. and i literally could not think of anything id made since christmas. this was just embarrassing and unacceptable and i was determined to change it. 

so i broke out a brand new notebook and started working on designs, products, goals, and branding, and started researching price points, advertising opportunities and craft fairs (i especially miss vending at craft fairs). its been REALLY fun and exciting and last week i finally got to the sewing inventory phase! and it was the best ive felt in a LONG time. im not sure exactly when the shop will be up and ready, but i do know it will be soon. in the mean time ill be posting a tutorial for this toddler dress (my first original design in over two years!) later this week:

so keep an eye out, ive also got a lot of other fun things planned for next week too!

Monday, June 17, 2013

mondays are my favorite.

we had a really full weekend. saturday we went to alices friend leonas birthday party, where she got to spend the whole morning playing with her friends:

then yesterday was a pretty big day at church. james became a member and alice got baptized. while i was really happy about those things finally happening, i was REALLY uncomfortable about you know, having to stand up in front of the entire church for several minutes while alice loudly yelled things like "babies!" and "hi auntie! come here auntie!". heres a picture of me trying not do die of embarrassment while alice yelled "daddy im wet!" :

on a side note, please notice how i carefully dressed alice and i in matching outfits for the occasion. i really put a lot of effort into this but totally forgot to take decent pictures of us together. 

anyways, after church (where alice continued to be especially loud and disruptive, so much so that her friend leona shushed her from across the sanctuary), we went over to my moms house for a celebratory alices baptism/fathers day/moms birthday lunch, where we had a very manly meal of steak, potatoes, fish, and zucchini that russell grilled for us.

alice has decided though that the only food that shell eat on sundays is church donuts, so she spent most of the day playing in the dirt with the chickens (thats a dust bathing hole shes sitting in):

and bothering my sisters rabbit:

now at this point the weekend would have been busy and exhausting enough for my tastes, but my sister decided to rescue a kitten that was found in the church parking lot:

i dont know if ive ever mentioned this, but i love cats. a lot. like, some days it makes me really, REALLY sad that we only have one cat. the only person i know that loves cats as much as i do is my sister, so obviously helping this kitten was of the utmost importance. he was really sad and hungry and dirty when she first brought him home, but he seemed to be ok with being handled and not at all ferrel, so after he ate we named him gaston and gave him a bath:

i wish i could say that this was a totally novel and strange thing to happen during a family gathering, but no. this kind of stuff happens all the time, since my sister is kind of addicted to rescuing animals (her cat olly was rescued under very similar circumstances about four years ago). now shes trying to convince my mom to let her keep gaston, despite the fact that they already have four cats. 

and that was our weekend. which brings me to the main point of this post: monday is by far my favorite day of the week. i know thats the opposite of what anyone else on the planet will say, but ever since ive stayed home with alice (and especially now that james has a job with regular hours), monday has always been my quiet, mellow, just-stay-home-and-get-all-the-chores-done-before-lunch day. and i love it. i love starting a fresh new weekly to-do list and get a running start to crossing things off. actually, now that i think of it a successful monday is usually what gives me the momentum i need to stay productive for the rest of the week. maybe this means im boring, but i dont really care. i got a LOT done today, and now alice and i have the whole afternoon to play. 

so what did you do this weekend?