I’m an Official State Fair Exhibitor, Times Eight! And So Is Ellie!

Our State Fair opened today and this year I entered eight items!

Last year, I won one blue ribbon and two reds and earned enough money to pay for our dinner.*  So I’ve decided that this is going to be my goal for every year – pay for our state fair trip with my state fair award money.

Here’s what I entered.

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So, if you’re going to the Maryland State Fair, make sure to go to the most interesting part of the fair (Home Arts, of course) and look for the dresses (all 3) in the “Clothing” section, the quilt and tote in the “Quilting” section, and the doll, color book, and Christmas lights in the “Crafts and Decorative Arts” section.

We won’t get there until Sunday afternoon so I’ll have to wait that long to see if I won a blue ribbon for my tote bag. When I was dropping off all my things on Monday, I saw another tote bag that certainly could contend with mine on strength of quilting and construction (although, I thought the fabric choices were ugly. Ha!) So I’m not quite as cocky confident as I was before but I’m still hopeful I’ll get some kind of ribbon for it.

And, finally, we decided to enter Ellie’s Christmas ornament as well.  So look for hers in the “Crafts and Decorative Arts” section too!

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*If you’re looking for a meal at the fair, make sure to go to the Maryland pavilion and have the lamb sandwich.  It’s local lamb and it is SO GOOD.  We look forward to eating it every year. It’s infinitely better than standard fair food!

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Nursing = Ick, Gymnurstics, and Other Reasons Why I Love Nursing a Two-Year-Old

my [really late] post to commemorate World Breastfeeding Week 2015

Last fall, as Mark was learning how to talk, one of his first words was, “Ick.” He would point at my chest, say, “Ick”, and then lean over as if to say, “It’s time!” It was clear that his word for nursing was “ick” and yet, really? Ick?  Couldn’t he have come up with something better?  (I think he equated nursing with our special blanket that Auntie Meggan made for us and ick does sort of sound like blanket.) I couldn’t help but laugh every time he asked to nurse!

alaska 531 (533x800)from our Alaska trip, August 2014, in Hatcher Pass

In December, while we were in Alaska visiting my family, he added the “n”of nursing and started calling it, “Nick”, which is, as we all know, also his father’s name. :) So, even more laughs! After a couple weeks, he added the “ing” and starting asking for “nicking”.  Eventually, sometime in January, he slowly transitioned to “nursing” and now he says, “I need nursing!” in a very funny voice that he usually saves just for requesting things.  I must admit to some sadness when he started using the proper word. It was just a little too boring compared to “ick”!

001 (800x533)from last week

Along with toddler word acquisition, something else I love about nursing a bigger kid is that our nursing sessions are anything but calm.  He often turns himself upside down while he’s nursing.  We call it “gymnurstics” around here and that’s really the perfect description.  I know some mamas insist that their babies/toddlers stay totally still when they are nursing and that’s fine, of course.  It doesn’t bother me though (as long as he doesn’t get lazy with his latch) and it, too, is another source of amusement for Nik and me.

005 (800x534)mild gymnurstics at play

Nursing is often the only quiet time that Mark and I spend together.  He’d much rather be wrestling me to the ground or playing with his sister most of the time.  So I treasure the few quiet minutes I get with him.  He still nurses 3-4 times during the day (plus a couple times during the night) and I’m glad for the continued close connection with him.  It’s my best parenting tool for calming tantrums, soothing fears and hurts, and welcoming bedtime.

In short, I’m so glad that Mark, at two years, seven months, is still nursing strong.  Ellie tells him periodically that when he’s four, he won’t get to nurse anymore. She’s convinced that he should nurse exactly as long as she did.  We’ll see what happens but neither he nor I seem to have any plans of stopping any time soon!

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my other posts for World Breastfeeding Week

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P.S. For my readers who are parents: The book I’m reading in the picture above, The Art of Roughhousing, is a great book with lots of super practical ideas for physical play with our kids.  Definitely check it out (whether you have sons or daughters.)

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August Sewing: Vintage Doll Dress for Ellie

Here’s one final finish for August, just in time for the state fair!  Ellie has been asking me to make her a dress for her doll ever since the spring when my mom sent me this reprint of a vintage pattern that my paternal grandmother had made me doll clothes from.  My mom found it at a garage sale and Ellie and I are both happy to have it!

109 (800x800)It’s Simplicity 5215. We sewed View B.
Next up according to Ellie? The underpants and then the sleeper.

I am embarrassed to admit that the only reason I pushed myself to get it finished was because I had the state fair deadline.  At least it’s done right?  I let Ellie play with it for a few hours and now she just has to wait until the fair is over.

094 (800x800)Ellie chose the fabric and her choices made me so happy (for once) because it’s the fabric of the original clothes for her doll.  Plus I just love blue, green, and yellow together. Also fun, the bias tape line around the bottom is functioning a bit like a hoop skirt and the dress is really full.

The pattern has all kinds of lovely details, including super tiny pin-tucks, under-arm pleats, puffed sleeves (Anne would be proud) and a easy-on opening in the back.

096 (800x533)  102 (800x533)  095 (800x533)Velcro instead of the suggested snaps – much easier to small hands.

What the pattern does not have is helpful instructions.  It clearly assumes lots of prior sewing knowledge (perhaps because it’s vintage).  For the sleeves it said something like, “gather, pin, baste, sew”, which is all fine and dandy if you’ve set in gathered sleeves before but practically useless if you’re a beginner.  Thankfully, I made pin-tucks and gathered sleeves with two of Ellie’s dresses (her Montana dress and her 2014 Easter dress).  So I did what I learned from those Oliver+S patterns and they came out great.

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I also like to think I brought the pattern a bit into the 21st century by eliminating all the lace and adding in my homemade bias tape to the collar and sleeves instead.  I also added tiny little bow to the bottom embellishment. Because I didn’t use lace, I had to figure out my own way of adding the elastic to gather the sleeves and thankfully, it worked!

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Ellie, bless her heart, has not complained a bit that her new dress is disappearing for two weeks.  We’ll go looking for it at the fair next weekend! :)

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August Sewing: Quilted Library Bag For Us

My third in the “navy blue, bright green, hot pink, botanicals” collection, I just finished this quilted tote bag last night.  It’s ultimately going to be our library book bag but my push to finish it was so that I could enter it into the state fair.  I’m attempting to dominate the “quilted tote” category by winning a second blue ribbon.  Wish me luck!

I used the “Market Bag” pattern from Handmade Style, by Anna Graham (author of the Noodle-Head blog).  The whole book is lovely and I decided to buy it when I saw this version of the Market Bag (knowing it would be perfect for our library books).

001 - Copy (800x800)front – with the addition of the “Post Office Box” block from Patchwork City

002 (800x800)back – with a purposely non-interfaced white band so the background can peek through

The pattern has a fun drop pocket, something I’ve never sewn before.

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When you first look in, you say, “hmmm, that’s a lot of green” and then surprise! A hot pink bottom!

005 (800x533) 006 (800x533)In this picture, the dark pink definitely looks red but don’t tell Ellie that because she is INSISTING that’s it’s red, not pink.  “Actually Mama, it’s red!”

I had fun featuring the beetle on the bottom (and the pocket).

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The handles are supposed to be leather but I made them from heavily interfaced fabric instead.

011 (800x533)handles sewn on the outside for a fun change. I also finished the top by binding it like a quilt (rather than as the directions recommended).  I didn’t mind a bit of hand sewing for a cleaner finish.

The tote is quite large, perfect for our very large library hauls (thanks to our lovely librarians and their hold service.) Hooray for a new bag!

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A few notes on the construction of the bag –

  • I used Soft and Stable (as directed) for the first time when sewing on this bag.  I am super impressed with how sturdy the bag is.  As you can see, it definitely stands up by itself.  I’m less impressed with how the seam allowance is poking the lining inward.  In the future, I’ll probably grade the Soft and Stable so that there’s less of it to cause that problem.

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  • I’d say this bag is in the intermediate sewing range, simply because sewing the curved bottom was a bit tricky.  All my curve sewing practice from the color books (tutorial here) came in handy.
  • I found that the bias tape cutting dimensions needed to be about 1/2-inch wider in order to function as directed.

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Along with the state fair, this bag is also my entry into the Sew Mama Sew Super Online Sewing Community Match.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following the contest this summer and because the contestants sewed a bag (also a pattern by Noodle-head!), I’m eligible to enter this bag.  Here’s hoping I win a prize!

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Here’s the first and here’s the second in my series of themed bags.

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Look! I just made all our [canning] lives easier!

As is my practice, for the third year in a row, here’s a rundown on how successful my plan for food preservation for CY (that’s canning year) 2014-2015 was , along with a “why didn’t I think of this before?” tip for you.

Last year, I made TONS of pesto (because we had run out the year before) and then hardly used any.  Of course.  I also for some reason ended up using only half the pumpkin I’d frozen (fewer muffins consumed, I think) and with so much corn that we took cilantro corn salsa to [not exaggerating] 3 parties in 3 days over Memorial Day weekend.  I did manage to use up all our corn, but we consumed close to half of it (via corn salsa at parties) in about a month.  Luckily, we got invited to a lot of parties in May and June. Other than that, I did pretty well (besides the disastrous strawberry jam incident.)

Last year, I had the brilliant idea of actually making myself a spreadsheet to keep track of this stuff so I didn’t have to hold it all in my head.  And then, I had the even more brilliant idea to actually write down AS I WAS PUTTING IT INTO THE FREEZER how much I had actually preserved.  So no more trying to remember how many bags I put into the freezer, no more recounting in November to finally figure out if I was done or not, no more stressing about numbers.  It’s all just written down!

Here’s what preservation plan for this year looks like (as of yesterday). I have it up on our fridge so I can update it easily.  Last year, I even had a pencil in one of those clip magnets right next to the tally.  I’m definitely going to go put one on the fridge as soon as I press “publish” on this post.

012 (640x427)The column on the left is for me to write down (as I’m doing it!! in real time!!) how many bags/jars I’ve currently preserved.  The smiley-faces mean that I’m done with that particular category.  I like seeing lots of smileys! 

Here’s the PDF version of that chart if you’d like to look at it closely and here’s the same chart in Excel if you’d like to modify it for yourself.  You’ll see that within each category (frozen, canned), the items are roughly organized by vegetables, fruit, and “value-added” items (like pesto, pizza sauce, pickles, etc.).

For reference for your own planning, we’re a family of two adults and two kids.  Our kids are 4.75 and 2.5 and Mark in particular eats a lot.  I’m finding that I do need to preserve a bit more than we used to so the amount of food our kids are eating is definitely starting to register in our food consumption.

Want to know more about how/what/why we can/preserve food during the summer/fall?

And, because I know there is a sizable portion of my blog readership who read just for the pictures of Ellie and Mark, here’s a totally unrelated and totally cute picture of Mark nursing Possum (who seems to need a lot of nursing these days)! :)

167 (427x640) (2)Note: do not be deceived.  Possum is really a racoon.

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We’re Alive! We’re Well! We Have Short Hair!

I do apologize for the blog silence over the past couple of weeks.  We’ve been busy having a fun summer and that, combined with lots of emails to answer and other stuff has meant that I just haven’t managed to press publish (or even write anything) in a long time.  So, in lieu of anything substantive, here’s our last couple weeks, in pictures.

We’ve gone for early morning walks in fancy dresses (thank you thrift stores) and splashed in post-thunderstorm puddles.

IMG_1061 (640x480) IMG_1062 (640x480) IMG_1063 (480x640)Both Mark and Ellie have gotten haircuts.  This was Ellie’s very first one (other than the self-inflicted slash a few weeks ago)!  Ellie had told me that she wanted to get a hair cut on the day we made her birthday cake for her fifth birthday.  But then last Tuesday, she said she wanted it cut NOW! So I got to have fun playing hairdresser.

010 (427x640) 016 (640x427)Not much cut off for almost five years of growing!

048 (640x426)so big girl of her!

This was certainly not Mark’s first hair cut but it was the first time that Nik attempted to give him a real hair cut.  We had to do it over two days but in the end, he looks super grown up!

029 (640x427)with the half-cut style (pretty hipster, right?!?!)

031 (640x427)047 (640x427) 040 (640x427)all done!

I also made nutmeg plum jam, my own flavor innovation and my very most favorite kind of jam!  I used three different kinds of plums, including shiro plums (those yellow ones), which are my very most favorite kind of plum.  I look forward to eating them all year.

021 (640x427) 023 (640x427) 024 (640x427) 027 (640x427)I love the color of this jam, which is delicious on French toast!

The dogwood outside our office/playroom window has been a tree of delights for us, including a visit from this woodpecker and almost daily visits from our friend, Mr. Cardinal.  (His wife hangs around a lot too.) 019 (640x427)004 (640x427)

Ellie has been obsessed with drawing a very particular type of fairy/princess/ballerina (formula of her own devising) and then Nik has been working with her to teach her how to write.  We have stacks of these drawings now.  I’ll devote a whole post to them soon.  Suffice it to say, Ellie says she LOVES writing!

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Finally, Ellie has initiated Mark into the “cut up vegetables” club.  Mark is only allowed a novice’s butter knife at this point.  Ellie, however, is relatively proficient with the real thing and Mark is dreaming longingly of the time when he can use a sharp knife too.

002 (640x427) 001 (640x426)They’re cutting up the insides of giant zucchinis to put into compost – perfectly soft for beginner knife handlers!

Don’t be too surprised if you don’t hear from me for another week or two.  Based on the way our summer is going, it will probably be fall before I blog much again! In the meantime, if you’re bored, I now have all 4.5 years of my Xanga blog loaded into Salmon and Souvlaki.  Look in the archives on the side bar and you’ll see that there are posts going back as far as December 2005.  If you read through some of those, you’ll see the less-polished, wild-and-crazy blogger me! :)

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The Last Playdate (sniff, sniff) (and a TOTALLY AWESOME way to keep kids occupied outside)

Just before our friends moved to Cambodia, the kids (who will be referred to by the initials P and I – as in the first letter of her first name and not an awkward way to refer to myself) came over one morning for our last play date.  Their parents were in major “finish up packing and clearing out the house mode” so for the first time, P and I’s little brother, T came along too.  Nik and I were in “frantically work to get the yard cleaned up for the going away party” mode so for most of the morning, the kids played outside while we worked.  Most of that time, they spent painting the house. The kids (well just P and Ellie at the time) have been painting the house since our very first preschool together back in September of 2013 so I was a little teary thinking about it being their last time together.

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Just how does one paint the house?  Hand over paintbrushes and a small bowl for water, provide a larger receptacle of water for “paint” refills, find a large flat surface on your house (gate, fence, sidewalk, etc.) and paint away!  The best part is that when it’s hot, the house dries almost as fast as you can paint it and then you have to paint it again!  It is absolutely my favorite “keep kids busy for a long time outside” tip for parents!

IMG_1038 (427x640)Here’s poor little brother around the corner from all the fun, slowly scooting his way towards the action!

010 (640x427) (2)These two are so tall and grown-up!

014 (640x427) 011 (640x427) (2) Once the kids get bigger, they’ll start practicing writing on the house too (a great, non-threatening, non-permanent way to practice writing!)

Once the kids had completely had it with me ignoring them and trying to “just get a little more done”, we went inside for a little painting.  This had me a little teary too because of all the fun times we’d had creating art during preschool.

018 (640x427) 020 (640x427)Little T got super-duper dirty when we were outside (way worse than it looks in the picture) and he appears to be pretty happy about it!

Here’s a short video to give you an idea for how silly the kids get when they’re together.


They were all laughing like Marko just before I started filming! :)

Yesterday, Ellie told me, “I love them very much still.” And it’s true, we do still love them so much even though they’re so far way in Cambodia.  We miss you!  Come back anytime you want and we’ll paint the house again together!

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