June/July Sewing: Tiny Hexies and An Awesome New Bag

I didn’t accomplish all that I had hoped to sew in June and July (but when do I ever get to sew as much as I want to, right?).  What I did finish though, I really love!  My major project for June was to sew myself a new bag.  My sister super kindly sent me a gift certificate to Bear’s Paw for Mother’s Day, specifically so I would buy myself fabric for a bag and actually sew one instead of just complaining that I needed a new one!  I already had this really cool heavier fabric so I bought lining/accent fabric to go with it.

IMG_2681 (800x800)me, texting her after the shopping trip to say “Thank you!”:)

I chose fabrics by Carolyn Friedlander and Alison Glass and used the Sidekick Tote pattern from Noodlehead.  (As a side note, although I’ve used and loved her free tutorials for years, this was the first pattern I’ve purchased from Anna Graham and it was impeccable – super easy-to-follow instructions, pattern pieces which perfectly fit with each other, and a really lovely finished product – totally worth the really reasonable price.)

I used both pocket options on the outside (rather than just one as the pattern states) and also added an inset zip to the inside to keep lip balm, hair ties, bandaids, etc. all contained.  I also discovered that my vintage wooden spools make great holding places for bias tape!

IMG_2829 (800x800) IMG_2811 (800x800)Here’s the outside, with adjustable strap.  I’ve mostly been wearing it long, cross-body and I love having a purse like that again.

IMG_8230 (534x800) IMG_8231 (800x533) IMG_8233 (800x533) IMG_8234 (800x533)The first time I’ve sewn a bag with a zipper like this! I used hardware a half-inch bigger than the pattern called for (because I already had it) so I made the strap a half-inch bigger too.  You can see that this strains the edges of the bag just a bit but it’s working fine none-the-less.

Inside, I’m really proud of that inset zipper pocket! The zipper came out perfectly.

IMG_2930 (800x800) IMG_8235 (800x533)Here I am, showing it off during the show and share at our most recent Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild meeting.  (Thanks to Elaine for the picture!)

laura with bag (800x800)No, my legs aren’t shaved, in case you’re wondering.

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So, enough about my amazing bag. Here’s the other crazy thing I sewed recently – a name tag with super tiny hexagons! We went on vacation with Nik’s family in early July. I, knowing that I would be away from my sewing machine, decided to take on a crazy hand-sewing project.  I signed up for a name tage swap for my quilt guild (which did NOT have to be hand-sewn.  I just assigned that to myself!).  I decided to use half-inch hexagon templates to do some English paper piecing.

IMG_2868 (800x800)My finger and a little friend to give you some perspective on how small these are.

In the end, I hand-sewed the whole blue/brown grid and then fused the letter to the front, machine quilted it to finish it off.  I had a few extra (made nine too many actually) so as not to waste them, I added them to the back. I also couldn’t resist adding a hexagon flower (like Ellie’s but much smaller) to make the back really fancy.

IMG_2896 (800x800) IMG_2897 (800x800)I doubt I will ever sew with hexagons this small again but it was a fun experiment!

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This is a project that I’ve been working on since January.  I made much shorter versions of these a couple years ago as Christmas presents but wanted longer strings for our tree and to go all the way around our dining room.  I finished the tree one months ago and I finally finished the dining room one on Wednesday.  There are 134 felt light bulbs on this, making it around 45 feet long! (I know, I’m probably crazy but I did do all this hand sewing when I otherwise would have just been sitting and doing nothing with my hands.)

IMG_8238 (800x533)Christmas in July, right?

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Finally, here’s a few other smaller things I sewed in June/July:

some Christmas secrets rainbow projects:

IMG_2780 (800x800)a few quilt blocks to contribute to the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild’s quilt donations for the victims of the Orlando Pulse shooting,

IMG_2839 (800x800)a couple quilt blocks to add to one of the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild Quilt Bingo prizes (coming up this fall!),

IMG_8226 (800x534) IMG_8227 (800x533) IMG_8228 (800x534)isn’t that the most adorable selvedge edge?

 and a portable ironing pad (first front, then back) – basically, a really giant pot holder.

IMG_8236 (800x533) IMG_8237 (800x533)**********

If you have made it this far in this mammoth post, then either you love me a lot or sewing a lot so thank you for reading! :)  Sewing is my therapy, for sure! And yes, I know, we’re not all the way through July yet but I have one big sewing project that will all consume my sewing time for the rest of the month.  Follow me on Instagram (@salmonandsouvlaki) if you want pictures of that!

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Finish it Up Friday

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Please Don’t Pray For Peace (A Lament)

Over the past year, since the unrest in Baltimore last April, I’ve been thinking that “pray for peace” is actually not what we want.  It’s possible to have a surface peace, as in “It’s really peaceful tonight, look at the beautiful sunset” without actually having any true wholeness in our relationships or world.

nikphone 051 (600x800)sunset over the water in Canton (Baltimore, spring 2015), peaceful right?

Rather, I want us all to pray for shalom.  As you may know, shalom is a Hebrew word that does mean peace, but also wellness, health, SAFETY, prosperity, and absence of discord (among other things).  These are things that are easily available in abundance to some in our society and in short supply, or not at all, to others.

The past couple weeks, it has yet again been made very clear that although it may be easy for some (like me, as a middle class well-educated white woman) to feel safe and well in my every-day life, this is absolutely not the case for far too many others, particularly African-American men (regardless of education level or class).  Until each person in our country can say that they are living in shalom, then we cannot say that [hashtag] all lives matter.  Until then, we need to say [hashtag] black lives matter.

So please, don’t pray for a surface peace. Pray for shalom, even as we grieve with those who are grieving.

IMG_0903 (600x800)Laura and Marko at our church, April 2015

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It’s Been A Great Nine Years!

Nine years ago today, I wore this dress.

IMG_4324 (800x533)(after wearing this dress, of course)

IMG_2905 (800x533)and today (with no prompting from me, I promise), Ellie asked to try on this dress:

006 (533x800)And then Marko wanted part of the silly action:

007 (534x800)And I am so grateful that nine years ago, we said, “I do”, grateful for his love, these kids, and our life together.

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Classics Club, Book #25: The Great Gatsby (March 2016)

This is my 3rd post about 2016’s books for The Classics Club.  I’ll be reading one classic book a month through 2018.  Track what I’m reading for the Classics Club here.  I’ll try not to include too many spoilers in my review but I may need to discuss some in order to fully review the book. I’ll warn you if I’m going to mention one.  

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

IMG_2374 (800x600)earphones as visual reminder that I both listened to and read (with my eyes) this one

  • Year Published: 1925
  • Reread? Or new to me?:  new to me
  • Number of Pages: 154 pages (but mostly I listened to it via the Overdrive app)
  • Date Finished: 3/26/16
  • Number of Days to read it: 5
  • Page/Day ratio: 30.8
  • Will I reread this?: Definitely not unless someone can give me a good reason to spend any more time on it

Review:

I must admit to coming to the reading of The Great Gatsby with great expectations.  Along with its inclusion on just about every “greatest novels ever” lists, a couple of my good friends had told me they LOVED it and we’re excited for me to read it.  I started reading it in its paper form but soon realized that I had so much Easter sewing to do, I’d never get the book read too.  So, luckily Overdrive had an unabridged version available for immediate checkout and Gatsby became my Easter sewing soundtrack.

First, my review of the audio version: It was fun.  The voice actor had so many different American accents to use and I really enjoyed hearing them all, particularly even the subtleties in the different New York accents. Probably this made the book more palatable to me than it would have been had I just been reading it in paper form.

The book itself? I really didn’t like it at all. I found the writing pretty slow and tedious at times, the characters almost all uniformly repulsive in one way or another, the plot line bizarre, and the ending abrupt and dissatisfying.  The casual acceptance of (even condoning of) intimate partner violence and adultery were really offensive to me.  In short, I honestly don’t have any idea why anyone would put this on a “greatest” list of any kind. Perhaps the writing is better than I am allowing myself to acknowledge because I was so repulsed by the subject matter/plot line?

So, other readers of Gatsby: How about you? I’m sure I’m offended a bunch of you who love this novel with all your heart.  I don’t know if I can be convinced that it’s worth a reread but want to try? Why is this on all the “greatest novel” lists? I really am genuinely curious to understand why people like it so much. Clearly I’ve never studied this as literature so I’m curious to hear your take on why this should be considered something better than what I read it as.

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In June, I’m reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.  Want to join me?

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A few outtakes: Marko styled these so I couldn’t only include one.  He’s getting some very specific ideas about how he wants to take these pictures!:)

IMG_2375 (800x600) IMG_2370 (800x600) IMG_2369 (800x600)

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My Life, Under New Management

Two weeks ago, I went to a workshop led by one of the founders of Agile Learning Centers (ALC). The workshop was focused on learning how to use agile management tools in support of self-directed learning.  I’m in the process of starting an unschooling co-op, along with a group of other interested families.  So I went to the workshop with “how can this help our co-op?” frame of mind.  I’m not sure how (or if) we’ll use these tools at the co-op but I’ve already put one of them to work on our own house!

Agile management comes out of Toyota’s management style in its factories in Japan. (At least that’s my understanding.  I’m no expert on the topic.)  In the ALCs, they use these tools in the service of helping kids manage their own learning.  I’ve started using one of those tools, the Kanban board, to help me manage my house!

062 (800x533)my first Kanban board from Monday before last, midway through the day

Basically, you just write your tasks on sticky notes and then use four columns, “Possible, Soon, Now, Done,” as a way to organize what to do and when.  It’s pretty much just a to-do list but the visual/kinesthetic aspect of it has been really invigorating for me.

002 (800x533)At the end of that same Monday – look at everything I did! Helps explain why I’m exhausted at the end of every Monday (the day I do the most around the house in terms of cleaning).

After my first day, I added a bit of color coding.  Now I use blue for digital tasks and yellow for what I need to do around the house/yard.

004 (800x533)This is the next day – Tuesday the same week.

The guy who trained us told us that ideally you should only have one task in the now column at any one time because multi-tasking is inherently inefficient.  I can see how that might be true in some situations but I have many days when I legitimately have to be juggling many things at once (particularly on days when I’m cooking/baking, doing laundry, and cleaning.)  Having the visual of seeing what’s in my “Now” column at any given time has helped me to feel less like I’m juggling too many balls in my head and more like I’m smoothly working through my day.

001 (800x584)What mine looked like a few days ago (note “Blog Kanban boards” in blue in the now column. Ha! Also, note that I’m saving/reusing lots of my Post-its now [off to the left], which makes the process easier.) I pretty much move “sew” from “soon” to “now” and back to “soon” every day! Even if I don’t actually get to sewing on any given day, it makes me happy to think about the possibility of doing so.:)

We all have Kanban boards.  Ellie and Marko use theirs sporadically, more just for fun and to be like Mama and Baba than anything else.  Nik is using his to manage the things that he wants to do at home (but not when thinking about work related stuff).

IMG_2639 (800x800)

Mark wants us to draw his pictures for him but Ellie has had fun drawing her own.  Can you guess what this one is? (I’ll put the answer at the end of the post.**)

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I’m on week three of using the Kanban board and am already thinking about how to make a more permanent, more environmentally friendly board for myself.  I need to refine the system for sure to help it serve me better but I’m so pleased with what I can do with it already!

**That’s Ellie’s about to get dressed, next to her dresser.  Love it!!

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April/May Sewing: Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

I’ve been sewing a lot over the past few months but haven’t managed to blog much about it all (or even put it on Instagram for that matter).  So, in no particular order, here’s what was keeping me busy in the sewing room in April and May!

My friends just keep having babies! Hooray! So I made five blankets in two months. (Luckily I can make these on auto-pilot now!)

055 (800x533) 031 (800x533) 021 (800x533)Our dear friends in Cambodia are having a little girl this summer and they said they thought it would be fun to have a pink elephant blanket for her to sleep on – because it doesn’t get cold in the tropics!:)

A friend of mine from church is having a baby this summer.  I couldn’t make it to her baby “sprinkle” but wanted to contribute something to it. So along with one of the boy blankets above (in the pile of three), I made a quilted card for all her friends to sign at the party.  I couldn’t decide on either of the two sets of fabric I’d chosen so I put on on the front and one on the back! I’ve made cards like this before (for two other friends).  This time I glued on all the pieces of fabric with a permanent glue stick and then just did an all-over quilting pattern.  It was SO much easier and accurate.  I loved making them this way!

057 (800x800)front (using up my precious Amy Butler Mid Century Modern scraps!)

058 (800x800)remnants from my sister-in-law’s diaper bag

056 (800x533)love the “quilting” pattern that shows up!

059 (800x533)paper sewn in for signing

Yiayia asked me to make an apron for Marko to wear at her house when they dyed the red eggs for Orthodox Easter.  She had found an Easter apron for Ellie so I just replicated hers for Marko.

030 (533x800)I also managed to finish one more tote bag for B-More Bags before I had to pack up my sewing room and move it back upstairs.

IMG_2310 (800x800)Nik’s cousin got married last weekend in Greece.  Nik’s dad went over for the wedding so we were able to send a small gift with him for her – an infinity scarf made from some gorgeous silk that was given to me. I have just enough left to make one for myself.  Infinity scarves are SO easy.  I’m sure I’ll be making more!

IMG_2599 (600x800)

053 (533x800)I made two more silk flowers from the bridesmaid’s dress for my mother and mother-in-law, along with a Greek flower for my MIL to match the ones I made for myself and my sister-in-law. Yiayia got hers on Mother’s Day.  My mother’s was a bit later than that!

IMG_2530 (800x533)I recently joined the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild (so fun!!) and participated in the crayon color challenge in May.  We pulled three crayons out of a box at the April meeting and then had to make a mini-quilt using those colors (and those colors only).  I got orange, blue, and pink (bleh).  I ended up using the orange of the paper for the binding, the orange of the colored wax for the quilt, the blue of the paper, and the pink of the paper.  (Check out a crayon more closely – one crayon usually has three colors!) I didn’t buy any fabric for this.  I was able to just use fabric from my stash.

041 (800x533) 040 (800x533) 038 (800x533)blue of the paper and the blue of the wax actually!

Here’s the mini-quilt itself.  It’s around 12″x12″.

 034 (800x800)036 (800x533) 035 (799x800)I accidentally made 8 teeny-tiny half-square triangles in my quest to make four for the front.  So the back got some HST love too!:)

Finally, although I had begun sewing these blocks (with different fabric) back in February, I decided to start again with the Modern HST Sampler quilt-along.  This time, I’m using quilting flannel in a really limited palette (only 3 fabrics plus the background).  This one is destined to be the special “you’re sick, at least you should get to cuddle under a really soft quilt” quilt. Here’s the first six.  I’m working on cutting out the next four and then I’ll be caught up!

IMG_2636 (640x640) IMG_2655 (800x800)I think that’s it (at least everything that’s finished enough to show you)! It’s been a fun couple months filled with lots of quilting and flannel.

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To Comb or To Chop? That Is the Question.

Over the past few months, combing Ellie’s hair had become more and more of a contentious issue between the two of us.  She strongly dislikes combing her hair and even more despises me doing anything to her hair such as putting a ponytail or clips in it.

Finally having had enough of using “creative” ways of convincing her to let me comb her hair and remembering my mother doing something like this with me and long fingernails, I told her that she could either:

  1. have long hair, be in charge of combing it herself, and comb it twice a day, or
  2. let me cut it off short.

I was sure she would choose combing because she’s always be so hesitant to let us cut her hair.  Remember her first hair cut at almost five-years old? Rather, she instantly said, “short hair!” to my shock.  I put it off for a couple weeks, just to make sure that she was sure about wanting short hair.  She kept pestering me to cut it off so last Monday (over a week ago), we sat her down in front of the Nutcracker Ballet on YouTube and I set to work.

043 (800x533)First we had to watch a short Lego train video to appease the little brother!

044 (800x533)halfway through the initial chop to get off most of the length

045 (800x533)so much hair!

I went to a fabulous hair stylist for 10 years.  She viewed cutting hair as architecture and really was an incredible artist.  For a variety of reasons, she hasn’t cut my hair for the past three years (since just before Mark was born) and I still am annoyed every time I get my hair cut (which to be honest, has only been twice since he was born).  I miss Valerie a TON.  Anyway, I just tried to channel everything I saw Valerie do over 10 years of hair cuts and in the end, I think it came out looking pretty great, especially for my first try at ever cutting anyone’s hair!

047 (800x533) 048 (800x533) 049 (800x533)

I’m actually looking forward to getting to cut it again! :)  Best of all, however, is the lack of tension now between Ellie and me when it comes to her hair.  Because it’s short and because the ends aren’t so brittle anymore, her hair basically just doesn’t get tangled.  She doesn’t have to comb it and I don’t have to be annoyed by my daughter’s crazy messy hair.  Win win for everyone!

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