Friday, December 30, 2011

Right this moment...

Every year, in the lull that follows the craziness of Christmas, I have to remind myself It's all over... you can relax, Shannon. The holiday has come and gone. Don't worry about those gifts I still have to mail -- they'll make it eventually. Don't worry that my Christmas tree is still up even though lots of over-achievers on Facebook are making me feel worse because they've already taken down their tree and lights and have changed the station on Pandora and cleaned out all the Christmasy scents from their wickless candle warmers. And for some reason, sometimes that pre-Christmas anxiety lingers with me. I have a hard time sitting idle, always feeling like I should be doing something, anything other than what I'm doing right now because whatever I'm doing right now is a giant waste of time, right? Perhaps it's the excessive amounts of caffeine I've been consuming piping in, too.

And right now, that anxiety is clinging to me tighter than all those holiday snacks I shouldn't have eaten. We are making another major move soon, going back to old friends, leaving behind new ones, and reuniting with family. Packing gives me even more anxiety. I feel the desperate need to purge, to get rid of anything at all that seems redundant and wasteful... Hell, sometimes I'm half-tempted to just walk away from all of it and start completely over (except for my vintage dresses... and my stone bakeware... and my sewing machine... and our original nine-foot church pew...).

But then I found a box of Bentley's Reserve Praline Pecan popcorn in the cabinet that my Auntie Barb sent... and I put the boy down for a nap... and I chose to leave the house quiet save for a ticking clock above the fridge. And slowly, as I sat down with a glass of water, the popcorn and the quiet (save for small popcorn crunches...Mmmmmm...), I started to type and I started to feel better. So here is the post-Christmas "chaos" that really isn't that loud and really isn't that bad...


What I am stepping around. And it doesn't hurt that bad to step on felt food anyway.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finner Winner Chicken Dinner!

I grew up eating well. Translation: everything was cooked with butter, cream, salt and sugar. My mom made yummy food and cut no corners. I wish I could blame my sweet tooth on her, but I know that's just in my genes (I keep blaming those poor little guys, don't I?). My dad's got a pretty big sweet tooth, too. It's amazing that I wasn't a chubby kid, too. However, I've chosen to do things a little differently with my son. I've even had some friends refer to me as The Sugar Nazi. I guess I'm just of the belief that my son has his whole life to eat junk... I'd just like him to not do this before all of his teeth have come in. ;)

With that, that doesn't mean he doesn't have sugar, salt or yummity-yumm-yumms in his diet here or there. Here are a few ways we "cheat" or cut corners so that he can still enjoy a sweet treat or a meal without jeopardizing his teeth, health and habits:

  • Vanilla Milk
    • Starbucks has these yummy little organic milk cartons from Horizon that are chocolate or vanilla flavored in a convenient little box that Finn very quickly figured out how to delightfully squeeze/squirt/spray all over both himself, me and the car seat. One cup of this is 150 calories and 22 grams of sugar, made from low fat milk. Because Finn is still under 24 months, he still gets whole milk. I've figured out that mixing a half packet of Truvia and 2-3 drops of vanilla extract result in the same thing that Horizon offers, only with zero sugar and the same amount of calories. We treat this as a special drink, just like we would something from Starbucks, meaning he doesn't get it very often.
  • Annie's Bunny Snacks
    • These little gems just fell into my cart at Target. I mean, like, several boxes of them. ;) I just don't know how it happened! We are fans of the Bunny Grahams, Cheddar Bunnies and Bunny Graham Friends. These range from 130-150 calories per serving, which means almost 30 little bunnies in my mouth (I think Finn thinks he can fit that many in his mouth at once, too.). These are comparable to Teddy Grahams, but are made with organic ingredients and have just a little less sugar. According to my sister (after throwing a handful in her mouth),"... those things are the bomb-dot-com!"
  • Celery Salt
    • I am convinced this stuff is magic. I had some in my cabinet from a weekend of Bloody Mary's, and decided to one day sprinkle some on a medley concoction I was throwing together for Finn's lunch. And the kid ate it up. I think he would have licked the bowl out if he knew to. I add less than 1/16 of a teaspoon to tomatoes, black beans, avocado, rice and green onions. Not only does celery salt have no calories, but it has less than 25 mg of sodium in that quantity. Now the Bloody Mary's it was originally intended for... they have a little more... wonder if I have any tomato juice...
  • Reduced Sodium and Sugar Free Alternatives
    • With America sort of becoming more health conscious in the mainstream food market, there are more options now for items that have not only less fat, but reduced sodium and no sugar (made with sugar substitutes). This includes string cheese, crackers and snack cookies. There are a variety out there, so you just have to look for these designators on the box.
Like I said, we still have some lapses (especially if Finn and dad are alone... Finn now recognizes the Chips Ahoy package and says "cukie!" -- BUSTED, Rob). And I definitely want to know what other mamas out there are doing/did with their man cubs to get them to eat and eat well... Holla 'atcher momma!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mount Trente

I am the middle sister of two beautiful ladies who are both in completely different stages of life from me. My younger sister is in her budding twenties; my older sister is... well, she's older than me. I'll just say she's looking phenomenal. I've lately been considering my cool factor; do I look older than I am or younger? Or just right? Do I wear too much brown and black? Was that bitching, hip dance move my sister tried to show me called the "stinky leg?" Or was it the "swanky leg..." I don't know why it matters, but lately it's been creeping into my mind... because I'll be 30 soon. I mean, very soon. But I have decided that 30 is going to kick ass.

As I've said before, I'm okay with the genes I was bestowed but with this new decade opening up for me, I've decided to make my resolutions fall into that time frame instead of on January 1st:

  • Take better care of my skin.
    • As I've said before, I'm a cheapy-cheaperton out of necessity, habit and intrigue. I've been reading lately about all kinds of wonder products that will help "reverse" aging or at least slow it down, but they are crazy expensive! So I've found some old-fashioned (natural and cheap!) alternatives such as using baking soda as a gentle and natural exfoliant. According to, just dip your fingertips into baking soda after foaming them up with your favorite cleanser. Work it into your face and neck. Do this everyday. I subscribe to Goop's newsletter (written by Gwyneth Paltrow), and a recent one had an obvious tip: put facial moisturizer on the back of your neck, too. This keeps the skin on your neck tighter, making your neck look younger.
  • Don't give up on grad school.
    • I love being a student. If it was up to me, I'd be a lifetime student. I worked on the upper portion of my undergraduate degree as a distance student with the University of Colorado, so I know I have the self discipline for that kind of program again. I just have to keep looking for the right program...
  • Better organization for my sewing.
    • I am notorious for forgetting what kinds of materials I have or forgetting that I used something up, only to get home all excited to start something and find that I'm missing that one crucial thing. We are moving into a new house in about a month that will hopefully allow some extra room for me to have a project room. I would really like to find an old card catalog like this one:

    • Sigh... I wouldn't mind that dress form either...
  • Pay better attention to everyone who loves me.
    • Now, I know that sounds kind of corny. But whatever. I mean it. I used to be so good about sending birthday cards, calling people, writing letters, making post cards. My good friend, Maggie, and I used to send this one box back and forth to each other, and would just add something to the outside of the box. The mail carriers knew who it was going to (benefit of a small town), and would comment on the newest additions to the box. I also have some really important kids that are growing up too fast, both in Nebraska and in the U.K. that deserve more of my attention.
  • Climb a 14er with my husband.
    • Now, this will by far be the hardest of my personal challenges for Year #30. Rob has climbed several of the 14,000'+ mountains in Colorado, and every time he comes back he talks about how difficult it was and how he'll never climb another one... but then the itch creeps back in, I guess, and the next thing I know I'm dropping him off at yet another trail head at 4:00 am. I'm sure I'll huff and puff my way up, but it will be pretty incredible to do not only for myself, but to do with my husband. Here's a snap shot he sent from this summer from the top of Mount Democrat, while we were apart for a month:

[And just because I'm on the subject of said husband... here's a good one to share:]

So, these resolutions aren't really about feeling better about turning 30 on the outside or about being "older," but are instead about getting to a place of more calm, with more enjoyment and more results.

How are you all going to handle this next year??

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Upcycle Yours!

This morning I woke up before the sun came up, at 5:24 to be precise. My brain was dreaming about sewing, patterns and colors, and it was building a pattern in my head for a present for someone... and then that stupid pattern woke me up. I have been sewingsewingsewing for the last six weeks, and the last three even more. I'm madly trying to finish up my Christmas projects, which I have been taking pictures of to post after Christmas (can't spoil the fun!).

In the meantime, my younger, hipper, cooler sister was visiting over Thanksgiving and we did A LOT of thrifting. We went to St. Vincent's, Nearly New, Montana Vintage Clothing and Montana Rescue Mission. I hope to post a picture soon of the amazing dress Kati found at Montana Vintage Clothing, but I also found a fun pair of olive green Gap slacks that have a black stripe down the side. Kati talked me into getting them by convincing me that this was a recent trend, and so I turned them into my latest pair of skinny jeans:

I am really getting into "upcycling," which is turning something you would otherwise throw away into something new. For those of you on Pinterest, a major upcycling craze right now is turning an old sweater into leg warmers that peep out from the top of your boots. I made my first pair of these yesterday! I'll post pictures after I hem them. 

Have any of you upcycled something? What's on your Christmas project list?
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Friday, November 18, 2011

A Sweet Lil' Giveaway

Over the past week, I've had to force myself to put down the needle and thread and do normal, ordinary things like... feed my son lunch, unload the dishwasher because there are no clean plates left, get dressed, LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. And I am a total (proud!) nerd for saying this, but it's because those felt food projects are just too fun. And easy. And I don't even care that Finn and I leave the house with so much felt fuzz and thread clippings stuck to our clothes that it looks like we have a Persian cat! I also got such a fun response from everyone on my personal Facebook page regarding Tuesday's post that I contacted Sweet Emma Jean about her patterns. And she's agreed to do VVM's first ever giveaway. I couldn't be more proud and excited!

So, now on to the best part-- the free loot! Katie is giving away a package of three patterns; the winner gets to choose from the following patterns:

Fruit Salad & Fresh Fruit Tart
Pizza Party!
Taco Dinner
Fajita Dinner
Yummy Pie Assortment
Ice Cream Set
Thanksgiving Dinner
Deluxe Lunch Set
French Toast Breakfast
Tea Party Cookie Assortment
Summer Cookout Set

Don't be afraid to enter for the drawing because you think you can't sew or don't have time. Honestly, if you're out here reading blogs and messing around on Facebook, take a click over to YouTube to see some easy tutorials on how to blanket stitch and whip stitch. And if you're also daunted by the materials needed for these kind of projects, I've got even better news -- it's very minimal and the fanciest thing you'll have to buy is a pack of $2.99 embroidery needles. Sweet Emma Jean also offers felt bundles that are specifically for each pattern if you want to make it even easier. So here's whatcha gots to do:
  1. "Follow" this blog! Click on "follow" in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Already following me? I'll automatically put your name in the drawing.
  2. "Like" Sweet Emma Jean on Facebook by clicking here.
And to get your name thrown in the lottery a few extra times, you can take these additional steps:
  1. Mention VVM in your own blog and comment back to this post with your new posting.
  2. Go to Sweet Emma Jean's website and comment back to this post on what your favorite item is.
It's that easy! This is open through Monday, November 21st! Katie will email the patterns the winner chooses as PDF files.

I also asked Katie of Sweet Emma Jean to tell me a little about herself. After all, in the bloggie world, it's so easy to forget your manners when you don't actually meet someone face-to-face:

Vintage Violet Mama: Why did you start crafting?
Sweet Emma Jean: I've always been "crafty." When I was little I would make all my own dollhouse stuff - furniture  accessories, food, etc. Then when I had my baby I got a little bored (she was a blessing and napped a ton!) so I started making her some felt baby shoes and then the ball just kept rolling from there.

VVM: Have you always been a sewer?
SEJ: I learned to sew on the machine from my mom, who was/is a quilter. I self-taught myself to hand sew the baby shoes and felt food in my shop.

VVM: Why felt?
SEJ: Felt is awesome to work with. So many beautiful colors and it's so forgiving. There's no front or back, no bias, no hemming necessary. You just cut and sew (or glue).

VVM: Advice for aspiring crafters...
SEJ: Advice - hmm... push yourself. Things you think are too hard probably aren't. Like my felt food. It looks hard to make but it's easy. I taught myself some of the stitches by looking at videos on YouTube! Anyone can do it. And it doesn't take much time. Oh, and don't use cheap materials. You're going to spend the time to make these things, so won't it be a shame if they fall apart or look cruddy after a few years because you skimped on materials?

VVM: Anything else about yourself that lead you to where you are today?
SEJ: I'm a stay-at-home mom to a 2-1/2 year old, and I've got another due this spring. I'm an architect but now apply my skills toward making shoes and designing patterns rather than buildings (my background is hugely helpful!). Oh, how much happier I am doing this rather than designing buildings?!?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Multitasking: Sewing and Baking at the Same Time

I have recently thrown myself into a new project (Sigh... yes, my earlier dress project never got finished.). I have decided that I will be hand-making as many Christmas gifts as I can, starting with my son. And being as he's only 18 months old, I am still able to pull off this kind of gift-giving. He has recently started to mimic a lot more than usual, to "role play." As usual, I am drawn to the times of the past, when toys were more of a craft, more well made. Toys were made with more time and care as they were usually made from hand. They reflected a family's culture and tradition and even their habits, and they also reflected what was going on in the world of invention. If you're really interested in the best toys of the last century, Time magazine has compiled a list. Take a look and I'm sure you'll see many of your favorites -- and realize how old some of them were even when you started to play with them!

With that, I have decided to make my son three different sets of play food, all made from felt. Food and cooking is a big part of our family routine, and are a way that we interact with each other. I scoured the web, and settled on three patterns from Sweet Emma Jean on Etsy. I decided to jump in with both feet and bought three patterns: "Summer Cookout," "Tea Party Cookies," and the "French Toast Breakfast." She has so much more, too-- Thanksgiving dinner, pizza, sandwiches, ice cream, pie! I just might have to go back for seconds. Here is what I have accomplished in the last four days:

The chips have tinfoil in them to give them the crinkled look.

Close up of the cute little pickles and tomato slice.

This is only a fraction of the cookies! I am tucking a few into my niece's birthday gift, too.

Additionally, I have plans for my husband's Christmas gift but can't post too much in case he reads this. Even though not every family or every child has the time to commit to all homemade gifts this season, give it a shot.  Widen your idea realm and realize that not all homemade gifts are sewn or glued (in case you're not a craftsy person) -- did you used to weld or wood work? What about home-baked gifts (I would, hands down, agree that this might ultimately be the best gift.)? Impress yourself! What are you going to make?!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making New Bloggie Friends (and give-aways!)

As I keep lamenting about, I have been spending a lot of time at home. And where does a majority of that time pass? Why, in front of my laptop of course! (Aside from a stint of Play Dough-making yesterday that has resulted in me having pink and purple tie-dyed hands...) I've recently been invited to Pinterest, and feel like my eyes have been opened to a bigger realm of like-minded people, mamas, ideas, beauty and even humor that previously felt too overwhelming to digest. Pinterest sure does make all the chaos of that seem a bit more organized.

With that, I came across a cool site via Pinterest called Easily Dunn. I was checking out a tutorial she had listed about how to repurpose an old, too-small, too-short sweater. I actually tried it with a white cotton long-sleeved t-shirt I had that was very soft and thin but I felt like it made me look droopy... so I made it into a sort of cotton cardigan. Love it. I can't wait to embellish it!

With that, she is offering a give-away today! It's for a handmade bracelet made of Caribbean blue glass beads that are simple yet bright and eye-catching. Check out how to register for the give-away here! The bracelet is made by Sunshine Bliss Studio on Etsy, and coincidentally their jewelry is right up my ally -- it's bright, natural, bodied and unique. Kind of like me, right?! My favorite pieces have copper, which I have a weakness for...

Here's zee beauty up for grabs!!

I'll shall be updating more frequently now, sharing my new bloggie friends and forcing myself to tear away from Pinterest for a few minutes to share the knowledge!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Vintage [froo-gal-i-tee]

These days, I am growing ever more efficient within my household now that I'm spending so much time here! I thought it would a good opportunity to share some of my reusable and sustainable practices, and to make a finer point about the intent of my blog. My kind of vintage is cheap, affordable. This goes hand-in-glove with being thrifty in the rest of my life, as much as I can. Even if it might only mean saving a few Abe Lincolns here and there, the sense of good-hearted frugality makes me just feel all warm and fuzzy. I also like knowing I'm not being wasteful, and I also like realizing there are other options out there:
  1. Turning lights off when you leave the room! Did you know that the peak burn time for a light bulb after being turned on is reached after just four seconds? The science fiction myth that leaving lights on burns less energy than turning them off and back on is untrue, according to Dr. Leo Stocco from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of British Colombia (as heard on "Quirks & Quarks").  They do not, in fact, have an energy spike every time they are flipped back on after being off. It's best to turn the lights off if you're not in a room. Thanks, Grandma, for always making us turn off every single light in the basement, in which the light switch was located in the very back room. This meant running screaming through the entire length of the basement with my cousin Brad, completely certain we were being chased by a poltergeist. So... basically I'm saying you were right, Grandma.
  2. Using unfolded "single-ply" cloth diapers in lieu of disposable paper towels and/or cheese cloth in the kitchen. These were, of course, never used for their first intended purpose! I use them to strain fried bacon, wontons, and even to strain and press the moisture out of pumpkin puree! They wash out fine but just be sure not to throw the bacon soaked ones in with your favorite silk scarf. ;)
  3. Cloth napkins. We rarely use or purchase paper towels or napkins because of these (and because of #2). I think we have three to four sets of napkins which are circulated between the laundry and the kitchen. Even if you have a large family, these are completely feasible and affordable.
  4. Reusable grocery bags. I'm sure everyone has a few of things stashed here and there. We have nearly twenty of them that range from the $1 Safeway bags to canvas promotional bags to netted "beach toy" bags to Chico reusable bags. I make a conscious effort to clean these out every time and put them back in my car. Yes, I've heard the 'ol excuse But I need the plastic ones for my little trash cans! Really? Do you need 5,281 of them? I admit I sometimes end up getting a plastic bag here and there, but we can probably count the amount of plastic bags in our house on one hand.
  5. Washing out Ziploc bags. I just. Can't. Throw. Them. Away! I'm not at the same level as my Grandma, who washes out and reuses even plastic bread bags. I gently wash out and air dry Ziploc bags until they are at the point of no longer sealing. Why? -- Why not
  6. Bountiful Baskets! I know I mentioned this two weeks ago, but we just got our second basket and I'm still thoroughly impressed. Now, I know we are just a little family of three, but these baskets are lasting us over two weeks. Not everything in them is ripe at once, so their lifespan is a lot longer than what you get in the grocery store. They're also pretty affordable -- only $15. 

Now, I am no "No Impact Man" (even though what he's doing is pretty flippin' cool) and I know I could do more. I feel like the small gestures that have become habits for me add up to a little bit of extra good space on this planet. Plus, who can beat extra warmth and fuzzies. ;)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Pretty Peacocks Are Dudes

Teaching eight dance classes a week has been cutting into my blogging time! I'm sorry about the pictures from previous posts disappearing; I'm currently working on that and trying to troubleshoot it.

My days are filled up with this and that -- all the little things add up to hours passed and the next thing you know, you're faced with the decision to put down the crafting or make some lunch for yourself and your toddler...

The this and that of my life can be chalked up to these major accomplishments:

  • Making husband's t-shirt into loose, collarless t-shirt that looks great with skinny jeans and tall vintage boots. Don't tell him that it's his if he asks where said "new" shirt came from. If he reads it on your blog, change the subject and thank him for reading your blog.
  • Looking into application materials for grad school. Not that daunting, but still a lot of paperwork.
  • Making two seasonal toddies to accompany me to new peeps' pot luck dinner. Yes, I was the over-achieving foodie who had to cart in not just her toddler, purse, and baked-Brie-in-a-hot-pack but three additional bags of necessities to really give the drinkies the attention and pizzazz they needed in order to be properly experienced.
  • Laundry. Oye.
  • Combating cold toddler caught from plane. Or daycare.
  • Combating cold you caught from toddler.
  • Ordering rat costume (a cute rat!) for toddler on eBay. Be sure to look through every single costume offered. Seriously consider making him be a peacock for Halloween. After all, aren't the male peacocks the pretty ones?
  • Chatting it up with homeless person at the bus stop at 27th and Montana, debating the previous owners of clothing from St. Vincent's Thrift Store. No, I'm pretty sure they're not all from deceased persons. And no thank you, I'll pass on the handful of Pringles that was offered from said homeless person.
  • Ordering our first Bountiful Basket. We were very impressed with the variety, ripeness, and amount of produce we got for only $15! I kept waking up every three hours, though, on Friday night because I was so scared I'd sleep through the meek 15-minute window they give you to pick up your order. If you miss it, you lose it sister!
So... needless to say my poor project dress is still waiting for its bottom hem and for some bias roses at the neckline. Plus, my toddler decided to throw the spool of thread I was using for that project across the room, then tangle it in the rear wheels of a toy-sized John Deere tractor. So, add "Untangling vintage, rare thread" to the above list.

How are all of YOU doing??

Friday, September 23, 2011

Give Second-Hand a Second Chance

Oh my. It has been far too long since I've said hello! Unfortunately, my dress is still near completion. I have been helping out at Rob's workplace the last two weeks, and that has been eating up some of my free time. But I now have an incentive to get it done: I'm going back to Nebraska to visit next week and I will be seeing my grandmother! I want to show her my handiwork, so I really need to get it done.

I took the time at the beginning of the week to go through my son's dresser and exchange out the too-small clothes for bigger sizes that I've had packed away. As I put pants, t-shirts, socks and hoodies into the dresser, I started taking a mental note of where I had purchased most of this stuff. And, of course, a majority of it was from second-hand stores. I think that second-hand stores sometimes get the stink eye because they're misunderstood. While they do have some low-quality and worn out items, they are also chocked full of vintage items leftover from estate sales, clothes that somebody just got too fat for (Or too skinny for? Does that happen? Haha!) or clothes children outgrew before they really had a chance to wear them out. Yes, there is also a lot of outdated stuff, but that's your chance to jump on the high-waisted, '80s jeans bandwagon that's currently running rampant amongst the lower 20-somethings right now. And won't it be more fun to tell your friends that you only paid $5 for your electric green cigarette jeans that very possibly could have been at a Billy Idol concert instead of $49?!

The other misunderstanding about second-hand stores is that the shopping mentality you walk in with is akin to how you would approach a department store: on the contrary, you are not going to get everything you want or need in one visit. Thrifting must be done piecemeal. You will most likely just find a few good things at a time -- boots, a skirt, a belt, sassy t-shirts for your one-year-old. If you're thrifting somewhere like the Goodwill or Salvation Army, your chances might be higher of finding more goodies. Honestly, my child only wears BabyGap, Gymboree, and Old Navy because I have been lucky enough to put a wardrobe together for him piecemeal. I just find a hoodie here, some pants there. The same thing goes for my own wardrobe.

The final misunderstanding about second-hand stores is that you're going to find what you're looking for right away. Oh, no-no-no-no-no! Give yourself at least a good hour to look around if you're on a specific item-seeking mission. Thrifting requires a little digging. So go prepared to roll your sleeves up and rub elbows with the regulars (Ahem, that's me). Some stores make it fun by creating displays, and most will even have jewelry counters. Get to know the people who staff these places; as you become more familiar, they'll tell you about something that was just brought in so you won't have to dig as much!

Don't limit yourself to just thrift stores, too. I have a friend who goes to clothing swaps a couple times a year, and I also check eBay and consignment shops (which are like the cream of second-hand stores). With that, what you pay for your thrifted items is all subjective -- it's what you deem is a good deal. If you're into name brands, do your homework to ensure that what you're buying in one of these latter mentioned shops isn't over-priced. One of my most treasured finds are some vintage Frye boots I got on eBay.

With that, I must be honest and admit that I don't buy everything second-hand. Some things just must be new, if you get my drift (and I guess that could be subjective too...). And I'm also not above a good sale in a department store! The bottom line is cost and quality. And I have been able to find both for my family's clothing budget and for my hobbies.

Do you thrift? What's your best find?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Lost Art of... Slowing Down

So much has been happening around here! I don't know if it's the gallons of coffee I've been consuming, the fact that temperatures have dropped to a comfortable level or just the end of a project that has been inspiring me to be productive. After pinning a sleeve on to the dress, I needed to give my back a break so I stitched up this funky lace doily corsage:

I don't even remember when I bought these, but these doilies are all handmade and starched. The buttons are from a giant button jar -- I LOVE finding those.

To give the corsage an anchor, I sewed a large button inside two pieces of felt, then stitched both the doilies and the pin on.
This gives you perspective on its size.
I also made some major progress on the dress! At this point, it just needs one more sleeve and the zipper sewn in. I have yet to decide how to finish the bottom hem, but I will keep you all updated. Unfortunately, while this pattern has been easy enough to figure out, there are a few steps left out of the instructions, such as finishing the hem on the sleeves and how to alter the pattern according to your own measurements. The bust is also somewhat wonky at this point, but I have easy plans for fixing that.

Looking for all the vintage materials for this project has really made me long for something I never even experienced: the actual eras these materials were made in. Things were slower then, made better, people took their time. I think of my grandmother making a dress as a young woman; I imagine the elderly woman behind me pinning her hair back and putting lipstick on to go dancing. I try to imagine how fast and autonomous the bustling world around older generations must seem. I also imagine how much more social women were back then. No Facebook. No Twitter. No cell phones, emailing or blogging. It makes me want to unplug, but I know I probably never fully could. As busy as I sound, I have been doing even more handwritten letter writing than normal and making my gestures count more. Smiling at people, trying to be a better listener.

Make your gestures count. Take time for others. Call instead of texting. Write a letter after calling. Start now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Meatloaf is a No-Go

The last week has been spent battling a new request for "normal" food from my husband and my growing aversion to... normal food. I have a few dishes that are more nostalgic than "favorites" -- tuna sandwiches, the occasional pot of mac'n cheese (and even then, I am compelled to sprinkle blue cheese crumbles in it) and a good, stacked ham sandwich. As I started to think it over, I don't make things like spaghetti, lasagna or meatloaf. I don't make meat-and-potato combinations very often. We had one of Rob's work friends over for dinner a few weeks ago, and I managed to crank out a version of the lavender honey chicken from a few weeks ago -- sans the lavender -- with some garlic mashed potatoes... that I also snuck parsnips into. And get this: I made gravy. I shocked even myself.

I also don't make very many things twice. I enjoy dishes for the food experience they offered me at that moment, and then I move on. I am the same way in restaurants. The few things I have made more than once can be counted on one hand: California rolls, hummus and my friend Marie's fish tacos. In fact, I made these just last night and consumed the last of them for lunch today. These are light, small and I can eat 10-12 of them in one sitting. With the adobo, cilantro, garlic and lime, these embody almost everything I love about a good dish: texture, flavor, aesthetics and zip.

With that, I must say that I won't turn down a "normal" meal nor am I saying that traditional recipes or methods of cooking are bad. I just prefer to do it a little differently, is all. If my grandmother placed a plate of meatloaf in front of me with a dime's worth of ketchup, I'd eat it and wouldn't say a word. And I'd scrape all the "scraps" together at the end and eat them in one big bite -- just like I was taught -- even if it meant that last bite had meatloaf, Jell-O and gravy in it.

The dress is still in progress. I hope to have more pictures of some assembly soon. Somebody finally discovered the drawers on my craft chest... Nothing is safe now.

Happy Friday to everyone. :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Say Goodbye to Summer, Honey

I can't say that it's quite autumn yet, but I am definitely feeling like it's around the corner. Autumn is a very sentimental season for me. It's the season that a good friend lived with us for a while, it's the season of new beginnings for learning and the season of reunions in my experience. As I am slowly eeking my way out in a new society, I'm open to how and where Montana will be taking me this autumn.  I have been warned by longtime Montanians that Montana autumns are short and sweet... and are quickly pushed aside by the fierce Montana winters.

It was below 70 degrees yesterday, and I loved it. I can't wait for temperatures that necessitate tights, boots, scarves, layers and funky coats. I've already decided that the dress I'm making will look just lover-ly with a clashing slip peaking out the bottom with knit tights and tall leather boots... now I just need somewhere to wear it.

I'm still going to yoga 2-3 times a week, and even summoned the courage to try out the advanced yoga class. I only had to break posture a few times to rest sooner than everyone else and I am definitely sore today, but I'm glad for the added challenge. The dress is coming along -- I only have a few more pieces to cut out and then I'll be ready to start the sewing!! Keep your fingers crossed that the alterations I made to the pattern will still mean that it fits in the end.

I'll leave you with this: a salad with blueberries, blue cheese, scallions, honey-caramelized walnuts over fresh greens and Annie's Lemon & Chive dressing with a slice of French bread grilled in the residual honey left over in the pan.

Don't drool too much. Have a good weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lavender Hues & Flavors

It was a productive week in the VVM household. In addition to starting my vintage dress project, I made a big batch of lavender simple syrup, a half-pint of which ended up over at Ana and Sophia's house. This is so incredibly... simple to make. Add it to champagne, cocktails, sparkling water, coffee, lemonade. Drizzle it over pancakes, into yogurt, on pound cake or icecream. Seriously, I could get carried away. In fact -- right this very minute -- some lavender honey chicken is baking in the oven. My very good friend, Amanda, makes a variety of this using rosebuds. Mmmmm...

Lavender Simple Syrup
  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 T. lavender
  • 2-3 drops violet food coloring, if desired
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and place it over high heat. Stir it constantly until all the sugar has dissolved and the water begins to boil. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, remove it from the heat and place a lid on top; let this steep for 15 minutes.
  2. Strain the lavender out by pouring the entire mixture through a metal mesh sieve. You may have to do this several times. There will be a small amount of residue left; this is pollen and small fragments of the blooms.
  3. At this point, the mixture will be a light, murky green color. Add 2-3 drops of food coloring, if you wish, to give it a slight violet hue.
  4. Allow syrup to cool, then pour into air-tight containers. Store in the fridge; keeps for 3-4 weeks.

I also began the process of piecing together the pattern for my Wildheart dress. I printed out all the pages on normal 8-1/2 x 11 paper, then patched them together like the grid on a map with tape. I had considered getting actual pattern paper, but when I discovered that it was $7.99/yd, that just wasn't happening. After chatting up the friendly little old lady at Hobby Lobby, I settled on good 'ol tracing paper. I only had to tape multiple sheets together for the larger skirt portions of the dress, but the rest of the pieces transferred nicely onto one sheet of tracing paper.

As you can see, I had a little helper who took his job very seriously. He said he wanted to immerse himself in the craft... I told him to lay off the Goldfish snacks.

Do you have one specific ingredient you feel drawn to? Something you find a reason to add to anything and everything? Maybe that "ingredient" is a color?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Make It -- Don't Buy It!

I have been watching a certain reality series which takes place in NYC. These girls are wearing crazy tights, ankle boots, patterns and skirts. I am suddenly considering donning a wig of long hair that I would wear in a carefully disheveled morning-after look. After getting through about half the season, I went straight to Urban Outfitter's website. I literally drool over their stuff. I can feel my pupils dilate after each new page refreshes, my mind whizzing. Could I find that here? Is that vintage inspired? Where's my credit card?! Wait -- could I make that myself?

And then I reeled it in. I closed out the UO website. I wiped away my tears and blew my nose after taking one last look at the shoe section. And then I went straight to BurdaStyle's website. Fact is, I can sew. I can sew pretty dang well. I found this free pattern for a "Wild Heart" dress, and decided to go for it. It's rated at a novice level, and so I thought this would be a good place to start, especially if anyone following is thinking about sewing, too. I'll print the pages out at home and piece it together here.

Which leads me to part deux: Montana Vintage Clothing. O. M. G. This place was amazing. I had to resist the urge to fanatically run from corner to corner, wall to wall, Supermarket Sweepstake style. The website for this store does it zero justice. It is packed full of hand-picked vintage clothing, shoes, hats and accessories from the 1920s through the 1970s. Old music was playing, and it was very neat and clean. And this is where I found the fabric I'm going to use for my new dress. I'm guessing it's a 1950s era fabric because of the shapes on it and the shade of red, and it's made from a silky material. I'll keep you all updated on the progress of said dress.

I also found the bias tape, buttons and thread at a second-hand store; I just need to go back for a zipper.

I think that we all tend to underestimate our own creative capabilities, especially in a society where you can basically buy anything you can think of. Challenge yourself to make something that you would have ordinarily bought. It's amazing what a sense of self-reliance and sustainability can do you for your ego and your wallet.