Sunday, January 19, 2020

Christmas PJs with Iron-On Transfer Paper

On Christmas Eve the kids get a new pair of pjs that theoretically will last them through the year. By Autumn, of course, they're capri pjs, but it's the home stretch at that point so who really cares.

A few years ago I experimented with fabric transfer paper when I made these winter pjs for the kids. This year I was trying to find something that didn't scream exclusively 'holiday-themed' since they wear these in July. Not that wearing Santa pjs in the height of summer has ever stopped us before.

Anyway, I found this talented Australian artist Rachel Lee on Etsy and promptly ordered two of her (instant download) prints.

One of my favorite kid's clothing stores is and they have good cyber monday sales on solid-print pjs. My only beef (and it's a small one) is that the blues of Ben's top and bottom are slightly different hues. Different dye batch, perhaps. pjs have a snug fit (great for my string bean kids) and they're not treated with any flame retardant chemicals, which we avoid given how much time my kids spend in their sleepwear.  Primary and Hanna Andersson are great sources for untreated pajamas.

The trick for dark-colored fabrics is to use the appropriate transfer paper and then to cut out the pattern. Which, for Emma's pjs, required a lot of cutting.

Worth it, though!

 The one question that remains is how well the transfer will hold up after a year of intense use. I refuse to do any fancy handwashing when running kids clothing in the laundry machine so they'll be washed on a regular cycle and low dryer heat (our standard process for all clothing). The previous transfer pjs held up well but they had a lot fewer fidly bits that could potentially peel off. I'll do an update next November.


Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Organization: Bullet Journal

Random fact: I'm a notebook person - each year I fill up a few books with various collections of sketches, meeting notes, shopping lists, packing lists, and travel plans. In restaurants I'll dig a sketch book out of my purse so the kids can play fierce games of tic tac toe to pass the time.

Besides, there is nothing - and I mean nothing - more satisfying than crossing off the last item on a miles-long To Do list.

My absolute favorites are the pocket-sized Field Notes booklets that are great for travel notes, species lists, or the good old fashioned shopping list. Santa got this one for me a few years ago and it's been a constant companion on trips.

But, to be honest, all my notebooks are a jumbled mess of scribbled and barely legible notations that are completely lacking in organization. I'm only showing you the prettiest of pages and well...they're not exactly beautiful - and barely functional.

So this month I'm trying out something new: bullet journaling. My husband and sister-in-law are converts, with Chris claiming that it helps him methodically track his work tasks and keeps him up to date on daily events. Besides, he is uber organized,  a characteristic I would love to model in my slightly messy daily existence.

 I ordered myself a snazzy notebook online and watched a few tutorials. Here is the Cliff Notes version of how to bullet journal. Like Moleskin sketchers, there are some amazing examples out there.

 The process is mostly simple, and I've adopted Chris's system, which is a slight variation on the formal setup.

So, grab a dotted notebook and dive in .

Step 1: INDEX

This will evolve as you add more months or sections throughout the book; two pages will probably suffice. Some folks also choose to do a legend here to denote notebook symbols.

Section 1: FUTURE LOGS.

This is simply a list of things that will happen during the year that you want to easily reference: trips, important events, etc. I have one for each month of the year.


Mine is a combination of both work and personal tasks that need to be completed monthly. Sorry for the close-cropped pictures, I'm showing mostly family stuff, rather than business tasks.

Proper Bullet Journalers will have a Monthly Log next but Chris found he wasn't using his regularly so he simply does a Daily Log next.

Section 3: Daily Log

This is a day-by-day compilation of appointments, tasks, reminders, and whatever else you need to get through your daily existence.

There is a system of symbols that indicate if you have completed a task, abandoned the task, or need to push it off to the next day or month. Chris spends a few minutes at the end of his work day organizing his journal for the following day so there are no surprises when he sits down the next morning.

Section 4: Collections
At the very back of the book is the Collections area, which is basically a bunch of miscellaneous lists: places to travel, books to read, or meals to cook. I also have my #52Hikes Challenge which is...currently empty. :)

So, that's my grand plan for the year. I'll let you know how it goes. On one of my lists is a desire to take a sketching class - wouldn't that be fun to do while traveling?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


I just read this blog post about the art of the Out-of-Office Email Reply and it included this gem:

For the Dallas Morning News book critic Michael Merschel, a recent trip was an opportunity to do many things at once with his out-of-office. The first few sections covered the usual territory, including a few admonishments about how and who to correctly pitch.
For recipients curious enough to continue scrolling down, though, there was a heartfelt explanation of the reason for his absence: “I want you to imagine a middle-aged man who fell in love with a beautiful baby girl almost 18 years ago, and now he is driving her to a gigantic college in a distant city filled with all kinds of people who do the things people do at college … and he has to leave her there. And drive home alone. In the dark. In a minivan.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Week In News

Hello! Happy Holidays!

I am feverishly sewing Christmas stockings this week in the hopes that they might be completed in time for the all-important night.

Here are a few interesting things happening in the world:

Photographer Spent Days Waiting For Museum Visitors To Match The Artworks They Observe (Hilarious!)

My Rescue in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest

A must-read for any parent but be warned that it is TERRIFYING: I’m a 37-Year-Old Mom & I Spent Seven Days Online as an 11-Year-Old Girl. Here’s What I Learned.

How a salmon scientist got hooked into a battle over the world’s largest gold mine

What's Brewing in Texas: Maggots: A taste of food’s future

Do you own any diamonds? How were they mined? By whom? Under what conditions? Next time, consider a lab-grown gem 

Tired of all the usual travel photos your friends post? Here's an instagrammer with an interesting theme: "Stef Dies" (not gruesome)

I'd love to do this sometime: conservation volunteering

On a school-related note: I love that this poster is up in the halls at our sweet little school. "Be the "I" in Kind"

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


This last winter our beloved Madrone tree suffered a catastrophic loss when we got slammed with a giant winter storm. The branch that broke was roughly a quarter of the tree's mass and unfortunately, our car happened to be directly under it when it came down.

The limb didn't break cleanly, instead it ripped down to the trunk and hung vertically. Bad for the tree, but it probably saved our car from massive damage. Poor little Pepe the Prius has a few more scratches but came away from the encounter generally intact. 

A few weeks later my dad came over with his chainsaw and went to work. Madrones are native to Washington State yet have had a rough time lately, so we were especially worried about disease susceptibility. 

The cut pieces sat out in our parking strip for a few weeks. One day I got a note on our door from a neighbor asking if she could have a few of the logs as she was trying her had at wood carving. Of course! Off they trundled to a new home. 

And today this sweet spoon showed up on our doorstep. An excellent use of our fallen branch. 

 The tree is flourishing, by the way. As I sit in my office typing, it's currently hosting 50 robins that are gorging themselves on berries before continuing their journey south.  

Saturday, November 02, 2019

DIY Rainbow Halloween Costume

You guys know how much I love making costumes and this year's projects were no different. Emma is in love with this crazy getup. Let's dive right in to her rainbow costume. 

Here was our mock-up: a  white cloud skirt topped by a separate rainbow tunic and a sun crown. Pink tights and a white leotard complete the costume. 

She fell off the stool directly after this photo was taken. No harm done though - this kid is tough!

You'll notice that she has two crowns: her fancy, formal glittery burning sun crown and the soft, yet comfortable everyday crown. The formal one is a bit to unreliable for trick or treating so we made a second version that will likely stay attached to her noggin. 

 Ahem. Problem illustrated.


Rainbow Tunic & Cloud Skirt
Felt: 1 yard for tunic (red, in this case), 
Felt:1/2 yard each of rainbow colors (Sometime fabric stores sell individual sheets, which can be pieced together)
Felt:1/2 yard white for clouds
Velcro (for closing sides)
Tissue paper (optional) for tracing the rainbow pattern
Hot Glue Gun
Elastic for Skirt
White Tulle (3+ yards)
Sewing machine

Crown Materials
Fire Crown: Stiff glitter cardstock, plastic headband, hot glue, wire or wood supports
Comfy Crown*: Thick gold fabric, hot glue, wire

*Find the firmest, thickest material you can. Mine was from the clearance section and was similar to a vinyl tablecloth material with a felt backing. Even so, it required wire (glued between two layers) to keep the prongs upright. 

Using an existing shirt, trace a pattern onto the felt tunic. Because felt doesn't stretch, make it a generous measurement. Fold felt in two and cut out, leaving you with front and back tunics. Use a strip of extra felt as a side and glue together, leaving one side open (to be velcroed at a later stage). Sew tops of shoulders together. 

Trace your pattern onto the tissue paper. After laying the paper down on the felt, trace only the outside of the pattern, so that each color is a solid half circle, instead of a thin curved band. 

Assemble your felt in the correct order to make sure you have enough. Cut out the pattern and glue each layer together. Trim excess. 

Note: You'll see that my light pink is too short. Fortunately, plan on big fluffy white clouds to cover any gaps in your felt. I ended up trimming the whole bottom by a few inches because Emma thought the rainbow was too tall. 

Draw a cloud onto the white felt. For added stability, glue two layers together to stiffen. I only had extra red felt so our clouds have a red backing. Sew velcro onto the tunic to secure the sides. 

Measure your child's waist and buy a generous amount of elastic. Joann's fabric sells a Dritz metallic elastic that I used on this project. Any extra can be used to make wrist cuffs. 

Pleats are tricky and I don't have a great way to go about explaining them - I'd recommend heading over to this site for a quick tutorial. Additionally, you could skip the elastic and sewing altogether and go with this tutu version

Because she'll always wear this skirt over a leotard, I didn't bother to line the waistband. You'd definitely want to do this if your child was going to wear it against his/her skin. Additionally, I used two thicknesses of tulle/netting, but no liner. Again, you'd want to do this if your child was going to wear it without tights/leggings/leotard. 

Here is the template for the first crown: I made it out of stiff glittery cardstock with a heavy dose of hot glue and chopsticks(!) on the back to give it structure. It's glued to a plastic headband. I blew up the template and printed it across two sheets of paper. From there trace onto the glitter cardstock and cut out with scissors or an xacto knife. 

A few notes: The back of my crown looks rough. I used wooden skewers to give it strength and it looks messy. In the end, I got tired of fiddling with it, sprayed the entire thing silver with spray paint, and called it good enough. A thicker paper (or multiple sheets) might solve the tendency of the prongs to curl. 

The comfy crown template can be found here. I traced mine onto gold fabric, adding a few extra crown prongs. I found that it worked to cut out two of the exact same crown shape and then glue together to provide a version that was able to stay upright. 

Once the templates are cut, add wire for strength and then glue the whole thing together in a gold fabric sandwich. My backing wasn't a perfect match - it's smaller than the front so that you can't really see the backing when the crown is on the head. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

DIY Thor Halloween Costume

We couldn't get the entire family to agree on a theme this year so on one side we have Rainbow Emma & Stormcloud Mama and perched on the other side we have God of Thunder Ben and The Hulk Chris. Seems about right.

Ben was very involved with the making of his Thor Costume. He begged us to be able to watch Thor:
Ragnarok and we reluctantly agreed, provided it was in broad daylight and we stopped several times to check in with our mini Thor. He loved it. Of course. Sigh. 

Anyway, his costume was a hoot. We have a no-weapons policy in our house but bend the rules for Halloween. He challenged everyone to a duel. Come next week the sword is going to 'mysteriously disappear'. 

Ben liked this particular version of Thor because his hair was already the right color and length. 

Here is the outfit we were trying to replicate, minus the loin cloth and red symbols. 

Purists will note that Thor actually didn't have a hammer in the fight scene with Hulk, thanks to Hela's devious shenanigans but we chose to give him both because Hulk without his hammer is a very sad specimen indeed. 


Vest and Sword Belt
1-2 yards grey felt (depends on your child's size)

1-2 yard faux leather
1/2 yard red fabric for cape
1/2 yard gold vinyl for decoration
Cotton batting
Scissors, hot glue, velcro, 
2 yards webbing for sword holster

4+ Foam sheets
Spray paint (silver)
Acrylic paint (gold)
Hot glue

3 Florist blocks
Wooden dowel
Hot glue
Spray paint (silver)

The base of the vest is a simple grey felt. I used one of his shirts to trace a pattern on paper and then transferred it to the fabric. The outer breastplate layer is a faux leather with a thick fabric backing that I found at Joann's fabric. 

Fabric tunic and side wings attached with hot glue. I did a velcro enclosure on one side for easy donning of outfit. 

I used my original tracing paper pattern to trace it again onto the faux leather fabric (left picture). Drawing (and cutting) the front pattern took a few mistakes (which is why some of my lines aren't perfect) (right picture). 

After cutting out the fabric strips in the faux leather, I set them over the felt vest and glued them down with hot glue. 

I added a small amount of stuffing under each fabric strip to give it some detail - makes it looks a bit more muscle-y. :)

The gold detailing is made from a thick vinyl matte fabric that I got on clearance from Pacific Fabrics. Again, I just glued it down to the vest, anchoring a strip of red fabric for the cape. The red fabric is polyester, but you could probably use almost anything, including standard cotton or felt. 

Extra faux leather was used to make his wrist guards along with leather cords.  Punch holes with scissors and then just mimic tying shoe laces. The proper Thor didn't wear black long underwear under his getup but then again he wasn't in frigid Seattle, either. 

The helmet is made of foam sheets, held with hot glue, and is the exact template that we used for his knight costume. It's an adult size: when Ben was age 5 I reduced the size to 87%; I was a little too optimistic that his head at grown substantially by age 8: 93% was still too big for his little pea-sized noggin. :) 

I spray painted the entire thing silver and added the gold detailing by hand. An extra band was required inside to keep it from falling off. You could probably make this look a bit more polished by using a different type of glue but this version suited our purposes just fine. 

Thor's hammer is made from three foam florist blocks held together with tape, painted silver, and with an attached wooden dowel for a handle (glued in). It's very lightweight; no concussion if you accidentally get bashed in the head with this version. :)

The bag is made of felt and the gold vinyl. Ben has requested a larger size as he has grand candy aspirations for next year. 

The cross-chest sword belt is his favorite accessory. It buckles in the back to accommodate for growing Thors and is constructed of faux leather fabric and straps. 

Hulk refused to paint his body or rip his shirt but gleefully got into mock battle mode. :)