Thursday, January 31, 2013

Recycled Greeting Cards (and a Tutorial!)

In our world of digital communication, handwritten letters, cards, and postcards have become sentimental keepsakes for me. I've found a few ways to display them in our little home.

When my grandma died a few years ago, I found a box of vintage Christmas cards from her house to remember her by. Last year, I used twenty of these cards to make a large paper globe as a Christmas decoration. I think that globes like these would look really cute to decorate for a baby shower or birthday party, too. You will find a tutorial on how to make these at the end of this post!

I was so touched by all the handwritten notes on cards from my baby showers that I decided to display a collection of them in a large poster frame. I hung the frame in Jadon's room, above the crib. I reread the well-wishes and congratulations often to remind myself of all the love and support Jon and I have as new parents.

I hang recently received thank-you notes, invitations, birthday cards, and photos on a decorative clothesline in our kitchen. My brother made me this clothesline for Christmas when he was in kindergarten. My mom set him up with all the materials, and he strung the beads and clothespins together on a strong fishing line.

So, if you still have some Christmas stuff out and waiting to be put away (it's okay, it's still January, right?), put those old Christmas cards to use! Here's the tutorial on how to make the paper globe:

Gather up the cards you wish to use for your globe. Use a circular object, like a bowl, candle base, or cup to trace twenty-one circles. Insides and outsides of cards are fair game for circles! Twenty will be used to actually make the globe. The extra circle will be used for tracing.

Draw a dot in the middle of the one extra circle you cut out. Using your same circular object, draw a curve that intersects the dot. Then, draw two more curves so that the edges meet on the circumference of your circle. This will help you create an equilateral triangle (I know, it sounds like geometry class!). Cut out this triangle and use it to trace an inscribed triangle on the back of all twenty of your other circles. Fold the edges of the circles so that they poke up towards the design you want seen.

Using tape, glue, or a glue stick, attach the flaps of five circles together so that they create a pentagon. Repeat this process with five more cards. The remaining ten cards should be attached in a long, continuous chain.

Take the chain of ten circles and make a loop. Attach the two ends of the chain to each other. This is the middle section of your globe. The two pentagon pieces are the top and bottom. Line up the flaps on the middle section with your top and bottom and attach.

Your globe of cards is complete! For all you math geeks out there, you have created a icosagon, a twenty-sided polygon. I guess you can take this third-grade math teacher out of the classroom, but you just can't take the math applications out of the teacher! I plan on making a new globe after every Christmas with each year's favorite cards.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mei Tai, Take Two...

But how do you put on a Mei Tai? I'm glad you asked...

After I made my first Mei Tai baby carrier, I used it everywhere: church, grocery stores, Christmas vacation to Virginia, and of course, home sweet home. I love how it fits into my diaper bag, that I can wear it on back or in front, and how quickly and easily I can put it on. The best part is that Jadon can fall asleep in it anywhere!

Jadon asleep in the Mei Tai at Christmas, this time stuffed with cozy blankets.
In fact, Jadon has become so accustomed to babywearing that he seems to associate carriers with sleeping these days. He often falls asleep within ten minutes of being in a wrap. Usually I can successfully transfer him from the Mei Tai to the couch without him waking up, but sometimes it doesn't work. He almost always sleeps longer when he's on me. I'm not surprised that the warmth of my body and the lull of my steps keeps him in dreamland longer. I've started leaving him in the carrier as long as he stays asleep. However, when I made my first Mei Tai, I didn't anticipate wearing him for an hour (or two!) at a time.

My nearly twenty-pound baby began taking a toll on my body from wearing him so long. I started wishing that the straps were just a little wider to distribute his weight across my shoulders better. I also wished that the fabric on my hips and shoulders was padded. Having the straps just a little longer would be nice, too, so that my husband would be able to wear Jadon sometimes. My first Mei Tai had been tailor made for my size.

Rather than make so many adjustments, I decided to make a brand-new Mei Tai, which has quickly replaced my old one.

Here's the steps you could take to construct a Mei Tai like my new-and-improved version:

First, gather your materials. I chose two different fabrics from my stash that looked good together, making sure that at least one fabric was pretty tough (like an upholtstery fabric). Carriers made from fabric with a lot of '"give" will sag with extended wearing time. I also pulled out the last of the fleece blanket that I originally bought for the inside of my applique bird quilt. The fleece serves as padding for the straps .

My pretty fabrics! The "nature" patterned fabric is my heavy-duty choice for this carrier.

I cut the fleece so that it was doubled. The waist strap padding is five inches wide and 26  inches long. The shoulder strap padding is four inches wide and 16 inches long.

For the two main body pieces, I decided to try a curved top edge instead of square. The height, at the tallest point, was cut 25 inches, and the width was cut 17 inches.

I lengthened my straps quite a bit from my first Mei Tai. The long waist strap was cut 130 inches long and six inches wide. The two matching shoulder straps were cut 80 inches long and 5 inches wide. Like my first Mei Tai, I sewed half inch seams down the entire length of my straps in order to create tubes, which I turned right-side out and ironed flat. The final widths for the waist and shoulder straps are five and four inches long, respectively (which correspond with the appropriate padding, of course!).

To speed up the sewing process, I ironed a 3/4 inch hem around each main body piece. The flat sides were quick and easy, but the curved top took a little more time.

To create a hem on a curved edge, you have to make small (about 1/2 inch) slits along the curve. I made my cuts every three to four inches.

When you fold the fabric over to create the hem, the little sections you cut will overlap slightly. If you didn't make slits, the fabric would form little bulky bunches instead of flat overlaps.

Next, you need to stuff the padding inside the waist strap. The tube was large enough for me fit my hand inside the waist strap. I centered the padding inside the strap and smoothed it out. Now make a "waist strap sandwich," layering one main body piece on either side of the waist strap. Pin all the layers in place. Then run a seam all along the outline of the waist strap, sewing all the layers together. I found this step the hardest for this new Mei Tai because there was so much fabric to get through! Definitely broke a sewing machine needle.

As a finishing touch, run a single seam down the center of the waist strap. This will keep the padding from shifting around inside the strap.

The padding is stuffed inside both of the straps.
The pen and scissors mark where the ends of the padding
are since you don't have x-ray vision.
In the same way, stuff the padding in the shoulder strap tubes. I decided to leave a small gap at the end with no padding because I don't need padding where my shoulder will never touch.

After the padding is where you want it, sandwich the ends of the shoulder straps inside the two main body pieces. I find that a 45 degree angle works well for comfort's sake. Sew a seam all around the edge of the straps, overlapping onto the main body pieces. Like the waist strap, sew one final seam down the middle of the strap to keep the padding from shifting around inside.

Almost done! To make the ends of the straps look nice, I like to make a tapered edge.

Simply cut the end of the strap at the desired angle. Pull out enough of the seams already in place to tuck the ends of the tapered edge inside itself. Finally, sew the tapered edge shut!

Enjoy your Mei Tai that can handle hours of sleeping babies. In fact, Jadon has been asleep on my back for the last half hour of writing this post.

 I had Jon take a picture to prove it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jadon's First Food: Egg Yolks!

Jadon tries boiled egg yolk with celtic sea salt...

I thought that my diet was in good shape until I started researching what my unborn son needed me to eat. Before becoming pregnant, I faithfully followed mainstream nutrition recommendations: eat fresh fruits and veggies, whole-grain breads and pastas, a moderate amount of white meats, unsaturated fats, and low-fat dairy products. However, as my belly grew, I found out that only some of these guidelines were actually healthy. This past year has marked a slow and steady journey to feed my family truly healthy foods.

The most helpful guidelines for me these days come from the Weston Price Foundation. In essence, the foundation advocates nutrient-dense "traditional" foods. My new rule of thumb is as follows: "If my great-grandmother would recognize it as food, it's good to eat." Would my great-grandmother know to eat a "Go-Gurt?" Probably not. But she would recognize things like bacon, raw whole milk, homemade buttery pie crusts, eggs, red meat, and lard, all of which I used to avoid or eat "sparingly." Today, as much as possible, I try to make meals from scratch to avoid additives, "natural" flavors, and ingredients I can't pronounce. I'm hardly an expert, nor a purist, when it comes to following the Weston Price recommendations, but it's incredibly helpful to have a starting point for eating healthy.

The Weston Price Foundation has great advice for babies starting on solid foods, too. As explained in this article on their website, meats, not cereals, are the best choices for babies' first foods. A baby's body can break animal foods down much easier than grains because "his digestive system, although immature, is better equipped to supply enzymes for digestion of fats and proteins rather than carbohydrates." After all, more than half of the calories in breast milk are from fats. The foundation says that babies as young as four months old can start eating boiled egg yolks. The cholesterol in eggs is fabulous for brain development. Egg yolks also improve babies' iron levels, but show no significant effect on blood cholesterol levels. However, if babies don't show a readiness or interest in solid foods at that time, egg yolks can wait a month or two.

Soon after Jadon turned four months old (the beginning of January), he tried farm fresh egg yolks for the first time. I was surprised that he started making chewing motions during the first try! Since then, we have fed him egg yolk every few days. Most of the yolk never makes it to his tummy, but Jadon clearly enjoys the new activity. He leans forward to get this new yellow stuff in his mouth. He also studies us whenever we eat now. With practice, his body will soon be enjoying the benefits of this new food source.

What a fun, new, healthy food journey we have ahead of us!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Crocheted Christmas

Since I seem to be addicted to my crochet needle these days, many of my Christmas gifts this year were crocheted hats.

Last fall, a friend of mine ordered two hats for her children, sending me pictures from Pinterest to imitate. I delivered them to her just before Christmas when we got together for a visit.

From Pinterest board to...a cute bear hood modeled by my son Jadon!
From Pinterest board to...a darling "newsboys" cap for my friend's baby boy!
 I looked for gift ideas for my brothers for weeks. It's so hard to come up with homemade gifts for guys! As soon as I saw some "Angry Birds" hats on Pinterest, my search was over.  

Above, my inspiration...below, my brothers!
My husband and I just got back from visiting his extended family in Virginia for the holidays. It took over 19 hours in a rental car to get there. When I wasn't entertaining my almost-four-month-old, I passed the time finishing presents for the girl cousins and my sister-in-law. I fell in love with these wide flowered headbands on Pinterest... I made my own version for the girls!

Wide multicolored headband, modeled by me!
My husband was able to find books for all but one of the uncles and guy cousins. Since his extended family originated in Pittsburg, they are all Stealers fans. Naturally, I crocheted a hat of Stealers colors for the last cousin:

What a merry crocheted Christmas it was this year!