Saturday, February 27, 2010

How To Sew Shorts Without a Pattern

Over the years, I have learned to draw my own patterns for sewing. It has become more and more useful as my children multiply--not to mention all of the sewing I've done for myself. If you are careful about buying sale fabrics (including sheets or tablecloths, it doesn't have to be yard goods), saving buttons and drawing your own patterns, you can make clothes for very little money.

Many people are intimidated at the idea of sewing without a pattern. Don't be. It is much easier than you think! Here is a pictorial tutorial.

Materials needed:

  • fabric

  • pins

  • measuring tape

  • scissors

  • paper

  • elastic

  • trimming (optional)

Paper for your pattern can be any kind of big paper. You can use paper bags, discarded drafting copies, newspaper, butcher paper, even gift wrap that you don't want.

Now, measure. Measure the waist where the shorts will sit (not right at the natural waist) because the waist is often smaller than the hips--which is where these dang kids keep putting their waist band. Geez. Kids these days. Also measure the length from hip to however long you want the shorts. These particular shorts will go to my daughter's knee.

Now, the next step is very important. Select a pair of short or pants that fit just right. You are going to copy their shape, so make sure it's not a too small pair. Discover the shape of your pattern by pulling one leg into the other leg. It will look like this:

Trace around the pants onto your large paper. Don't trace the cinched waist. Imagine that the elastic isn't there, sucking the waist band tight.

I forgot to take a picture of the next step here. Look at the shape you now have on your paper. Taking a ruler, mark your seam allowance around the entire pattern. I like to use 1/2", but many people use 5/8". It's up to you. Make sure that you leave enough allowance for your elastic waist (about 1 1/2") and your hem (1"-2"). Now you can cut out your pattern with your paper scissors. . . never your sewing scissors (MOM)!

You have just drawn the shape of one leg. Position your pattern with the straight side on the fold.

Pin your pattern to the cloth and cut it out. You will need to cut two (each pattern makes one leg).

Remove the pins, open the folds and you should have two of these:

Next Step. Pin together the right sides JUST from the waist to the crotch.

Then, Sew from waist to crotch. Do Not sew clear to the bottom of the shorts or you will have made some kind of funky skirt.

Open at the waist, meeting the newly sewn seams and you will begin to see the shorts shape.

Pin the crotch seams first, then pin the legs.

Sew the legs. Yup . . . looks like shorts!

Measure the elastic for the waistband with an extra 1" seam allowance. Make a circle and stitch together the ends of the elastic using a zig zag and straight stitch.

Take your shorts over to the ironing board and iron the seams open. Fold the top of the shorts over to make a pocket wide enough to accept the elastic. Iron.

Slip the circle of elastic into the folded and ironed pocket. Sew into place without stitching the elastic. You will have to pull on the elastic to stretch it out while sewing. Remember, you'll need this to be stretchy in order to pull in on over the tush.

Add any desired trimming and . . .

You've Done It!!

Once you get the hang of this, you can vary it 100 ways. You can use ric rac, eyelet, ribbons, buttons, applique and more to make these super basic shorts fit into any wardrobe for girls or boys.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I am so tired. I've been working on my kitchen for more than a week. We replaced the counter and sink when we moved in over four years ago, but we've never tackled the rest of the huge problem that is the kitchen. I've been stripping hardware with a chemical that is so toxic, my skin starts to burn through the gloves after fifteen minutes. My hands are surviving on too few layers of epidermis. It is an all-consuming project, all the stripping and sanding and new layers of primer, paint and sealer. My children have been patient and my husband appreciative and kind. This picture shows just some of the process. The freezing weather has hampered my efforts a bit. I can only sand one or two cabinet doors at a time before my hands are frozen and I have to come in and do an inside part of the project for a while. I even had paint freeze on me at one point. But, it's slowly coming together. Here is a peek of the completed portion.

I bought some red ticking that I'll be using for new window treatments and sink skirt. I am working on organizational ideas that will help contain my stacking habits (something like this)and still need to find a solution for my lighting problems.

But I am so tired. If any of you out there are considering a kitchen remodel, make sure you are ready. It's a big job. It will be worth it, I'm sure.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Fish

My current budget (I keep saying that as though it were temporary, but it's been four years now. Maybe I just ought to embrace it.) does not allow me to buy fish very often. Canned tuna is not fish. There are seven people in my family and I have to stretch the meat part of the meal with beans or rice. Once a month, however, I buy a bag of frozen talipia fillets. On my last shopping trip, I somehow picked up the bag of whole talipia. I didn't realize it until I pulled it out to thaw for last night's meal.

It had eyes.

Now, I'm an admitted carnivore. I love meat, all kinds. I like rare steak, cook whole chickens, and have been known to eat duck or rabbit. I don't get caught up in the "Bambi" trap and I want some products tested on animals that aren't human before I take the pill.

But when I pulled out dinner and it was looking at me, my willpower just about broke.

I had no idea what to do with this thing, so I called my sister. She is the chefiest person I know--and I like her so I'll take any excuse to call.

She didn't know what to do with it.

Her husband has been a butcher for twenty years and has been known to fish.

"First you'll need to pull the head backwards toward the spine."

WHAT?? You want me to rip the head off? There is no way I can do this!

I paced the kitchen, hoping for another option, but someone had to get that head off the fish. I shook my hands nervously--like some kind of hyper jazz hands move. Then, I clenched them into determined fists and returned to the sink. I closed my eyes and started to peel the head back from the spine.
It crackled
and my will faltered. Opening one eye, I saw the gills spreading and the fish's eyes seemed to be widening with the shock of being beheaded. I could almost hear it hollering, "Ahh! What . . . are . . . you . . . doing?" I refused to be cowed by a stupid fish so I just jerked and off popped the head. Shivers ran up my spine and my shoulders quaked. Taking a moment to indulge my gag reflex, I then wrapped the head in wax paper and sent it next door to the neighbor's cat. I don't know if cats really do like fish heads, but they always do in the cartoons.

Getting back to the task, I figured I could deal with the headless fish. I tried to follow the instructions my brother-in-law had given, but it was an utter mess. My knife was too dull, the bones were too sharp and my energy for this project was completely depleted.

We had pancakes for dinner.
The neighbor's cats are my new best friends.

Monday, February 22, 2010

No Longer Allowed to Interact with Adults

I am constantly saying stupid/insensitive things. I don't mean for them to come out that way, but they do. Last week at church, this week at church, this morning in an email. And that's just recent.

So that's it. I quit. I am no longer allowed to interact with adults. I'll write on my bloggiedoodle because that feels unconnected to real people somehow.

But with actual people?

Nope. Can't. It's not allowed. And I'm not a rule breaker.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Phase One

Before. Gunked up with layers of paint--so bad that the hardware often stuck.

After. Stripped of paint, the antique brass hardware with it's beautiful patina, works smoothly.

Before. (Actually, it's another set of cabinets because I forgot to take a before picture of the now finished side.) The grody white latex based paint over oil based enamel was chipped and would wash off each time I washed the cabinet fronts.

After. Sanded smooth then primed. Painted to embrace and even emphasize the aged wood and sealed under a couple of coats of polyurethane.

It's kind of hard to tell from the pictures, but these lower cabinets are kind of a pistachio green. I'm pleased with how they are coming out, but still 2/3rds of the cabinets to do. A lot of work!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Dream

I was in New York and ran in to Jennifer Aniston and Madonna. We got to talking and I finally said, "Hey, do you guys want to come over?"

"Okay!" they exclaimed.

So they came to my house. My messy, noisy house.

They didn't care, in fact, they loved it. We chatted in the living room, laughed at the kids' antics and, basically, had a great time. After a while, Jen (we were super close by then, so I called her Jen) asked if she could make dinner. "Alright," I agreed. She started scrounging around in my cupboards, pulling out a random-seeming jars and packages. She asked if I had egg noodles. I had to go downstairs to get them.

When I came back up, George Clooney was leaning on the counter, visiting with Madonna and Jennifer Aniston while they cooked dinner. "Oh, hi, George," I greeted, nonchalantly.

"I hope you don't mind my dropping in."

"Oh, no. It's fine. The kids love when you come over."

The kids, indeed, were having a great time. They were playing with our guests and having fun, without being obnoxious. I watched them for a while and felt proud that they were mine.

In the middle of all of this, I jumped up from the stool I was sitting on by the counter and exclaimed, "I've got to get my camera! If I blog about this without pictures, no one will believe me!" Encouraged by my visitors, I ran looking for my camera.

When I came back, they were gone.

"No one will believe me," I lamented aloud. Then I heard giggling from the other room. They had run off, but not far. We laughed at the good-natured joke, the children enjoying the prank as much as the adults.

And, guess what? Even though my camera was in my hand, I forgot to take a picture.

I knew you wouldn't believe me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

So Many Layers

(Notice the big paint drip that has been painted over several times. This is not a unique feature of my kitchen cabinets, unfortunately.)

Since we moved into this old house, I knew I would eventually have to do something with the kitchen cabinets. They are original to the house (1907) and I love that they have stuck it out through all of the owners and renters that ruined changed so many other things in this place. The most pressing problem is that the last coat of paint was latex and was painted over oil based paint. Thus, every time I washed the cabinet doors, some paint would come off as well. The second major problem was that there are about twenty-seven layers of paint on the doors and drawers and hardware. This makes the stick terribly and look ugly.

While I was working on the kitchen, anyway, I decided to paint the walls. The last paint job the kitchen received was done, I'm sure, to get the house sold. It was a pale yellow which always looked dirty, with white trim which was poorly done. Paint was on sale last weekend, so I decided it was time to spruce things up in there.

The walls are done; that was the easy part. I've begun working on the cabinets. The hardware must all be removed and stripped of paint. Step two is sanding down to the last layer of enamel. Then Kilz primer over the whole thing to ensure the new paint will not wash off. Paint the new color and add the antiquing glaze that I'm hoping will be a nod to the age of the cabinets. Finish with a coat of polyurethane and re-hang. Whew!

I'll post the pictures as I go. Wish me luck. It's gonna be messy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


The other day at work, Justin's co-workers (all girls) reminded him that Valentine's Day was coming up. He just nodded and told them it was all taken care of. They immediately dropped what they were doing and gathered around with question marks in little bubbles over their heads. "What, what? What are you doing?" He then told him his plan--a plan about which I still only have a partial clue. "Ohhh, Justin! You are a hopeless romantic," they crooned.

He came home and told me about this conversation. I corrected the assumption the girls made. "You are not a hopeless romantic," I told him. "You are married to a hopeless romantic. You are a trained romantic."

A couple of days ago, I received, in the mail, an invitation from my husband. It was in a white business envelope, but he had colored on a heart with a ball point pen. He printed the invite on pink paper. He used clip art. Clip art! This is a big technological step for him.

There is a book out there about love languages--how we all recognize love in different ways. I've never read it, but I know that sometimes showing love is giving it in a way that makes no sense to you.

Like clip art on pink paper in a regular envelope with a little heart inked in a red Bic.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cabin Fever Remedies

A lot of my fellow Americans are buried in snow. The results of my carefully controlled, scientific poll on Facebook (where I scanned my friends' status updates and counted a lot of references), many are struggling with cooped-up children. Don't worry! Home schooling mother of five is here. Not as cool as Mighty Mouse, but maybe I'll save the day anyhow. I've tried to include ideas that do not require you to go to the store for materials.

  • If you've had over twelve inches of snow within twenty-four hours, make Snow Cream. My great-grandmother used to make this and it is a special winter treat--made even more so because you can only have it after the HUGE snowstorms.

About 1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Pour Over Large Bowl of Fresh snow
Stir until resembles the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

You may have to mess with the recipe according to how wet your snow

  • Have a home spa. Make a messy mask with oatmeal, egg white and orange juice (pulverize in blender). Paint each others toes, exfoliate foot calluses, moisturize with olive oil.

  • Move, move, move. Pull out old aerobics videos, create a dance channel on Pandora, play indoor tag, play Simon Says and include lots of jump on one foot, hop like a bunny, run around the table.

  • Craft together. Make potato stamps, make paper mache dinosaurs, create your own stationary, learn how to make paper dolls.

  • Write letters. Write to grandparents, cousins at college, soldiers, missionaries. Use your homemade stationary or cards.

  • Learn about a warm place. Look at pictures of Hawaii, find the major deserts on a map, google desert spider, learn about the equator. Or, put extra wood on the fire, pull out beach towels, make kool-aid and pretend your living room is a beach.

  • Make a volcano. Put an old 20 oz soda bottle on a large piece of cardboard. Crumple newspaper into balls and pile up next to the bottle. Paper mache over it all, making sure you leave the top of the bottle exposed. Let dry. Paint with poster paints. To make it explode, Put two to three tablespoons of baking soda into the bottle. Pour in vinegar--make sure your head is out of the way. Repeat until you're all sick of it. It makes a big mess.

  • Pull out the board games. Teach them how to play some simple card games like Crazy Eights or Slap Jack. If the kids are older, try rummy or even pinochle.

  • Play Bug.
    You have to get the body first, head second, the the rest (in no particular order, to complete your bug. The first with all the parts, wins. Take turns rolling the die.

    6- Body; 5- Head; 4-Antenna (need two); 3- Eyes (need two); 2- legs (need six); 1- Mouth
  • Make play-dough or slime. If the kids love it, which I've never met a kid who doesn't, keep going with the kitchen chemistry.

  • Cushion and blanket fort. Enough said.

  • Family read-aloud.

  • Make cookies or cupcakes that need frosting and sprinkles. This will fill hours!

  • Watch Leave It To Beaver on Netflix.

  • Skype with friends who are also snowed in.

  • Get a head start on Spring Cleaning. Pick one cabinet or drawer each day and clean it out as a family. Maybe hidden in the back you'll find something else to entertain the troops.

  • Make puppets out of paper plates, paper bags or old socks and put on a puppet show.

  • Pull out the birthday party standards like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Duck, Duck, Goose, Red Light, Green Light, a treasure hunt, or an obstacle course.

  • Work on your Balance and Strength. Indian Wrestling, Standing Long Jump, Vertical Jump, arm wrestle, pick up a pencil with your toes, sit on the wall. Compete against your five year old. They will win most of the time.
  • Teach the kids to braid or sew. Start with the straight lines of a regtangular shoulder bag.

  • Play Dress-up. Have a tea party or fight the bad guys, accordingly. Speak with an accent.

I'm sure none of these ideas are new, but maybe having them all in one place will get your mind out of it's February blahs. Have fun with your people.

If I've saved the sanity of even one mother, it will have been worth it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


So, I was dinking around on the computer and not completely engaged in the activities of my children. They were all around me (the computer is in the living room) and no one was crying. I knew two of them were getting ready to exercise, but I didn't really pay attention to what that meant.

This is what it meant:
Yes, one is wearing a leotard, the other, a swimming suit. Yes, they are both wearing goggles. Yes, that is snow falling. No, I do not think they got much exercise.

Honestly. You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I Collect Hobbies

I recently watched a movie called The Brothers Bloom. It was kind of kookie. I'm still not sure if I liked it or not. I'll need to think about if for a while longer. But there was one line that made so much sense to me. The girl was asked, "What kind of stuff do you do?" She replied, "I collect hobbies."

This is ME. I've chosen different hobbies to collect, but this is what I do. I pick something I'd like to learn and then I just learn it. I'm crappy at an awful lot of stuff. For instance, I blog, wire, plumb, garden, sew, gestate, decorate, stitch, cook, coupon, doctor, sing, play cello and piano, program, frame, and repair.

Don't ask me to help you do anything on the above list because I'm sure to help you really screw it up. will never call me. Neither will NPR or the Associated Press or

But maybe I'll be able to put together a kookie montage of myself one day. One that will make you shake your head and smile.

Or maybe one day I'll actually decide already and become great at something.

Nah. I don't have the attention span.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Proud of Her

This is my favorite sister. She is two years older and oh so much wiser.

She recently decided to go back to college. That can be an intimidating prospect (even when it is exciting) for anyone, but especially someone who hasn't been to school for over fifteen years. She went in to take her placement exams. She looked around the testing room at the other prospective students--still pimply, wearing pajama pants with fully done hair and make-up, and some boys who hadn't even reached their full adult height--and wondered "What am I doing here?"

Nonetheless, she took the test and turned it in.

She scored 100%.

My Mollie is taking on this newest challenge so carefully. She has small children and has vowed to be their mom first. Most of her courses will be online so she can utilize nap time, late nights and early mornings. She will not miss kid sporting events, parent-teacher meetings or music concerts. At the same time, she will be sending an obvious message that learning is important to her--important enough to work hard and earn that learning. Wise, I'm telling you.

Way to go, Mollie. You give us all courage to just give it a try, whatever it is we want to do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I did our taxes today. As much as I loath the accounting parts of life, I'm getting better at it. I remember the first time I worked on the federal taxes when we were brand new newly weds. I thought we had to pay $4000. I was devastated since that comprised our entire savings--slotted to be a house down payment. After a few hours, I went back and looked carefully at each line. Wait, what is this "Standard Deduction?" We only had to pay around $200. Much, much better.

Over the next few years, I memorized the tax code. We have had mortgage interest, retirement savings, educational expenses, a small business, a lot of children, property taxes, moving expenses, charitable donations and other caveats to keep it new and exciting. One year, between the two of us, we had six part-time jobs (including the small business rigamarole) and a new baby. Another time we rolled over an IRA, sold and bought homes and cars, started school, had a baby and moved. Now that we've been in school for a while, we've used up all of our education credits, we don't have much to itemize, and only three W-2's showed up. I was done in one hour. One hour!

Yet another great thing about our current, simple lives.

A Comfortable Place

I love the library. My mother took us to the library often as children. I loved to sit in the bean bags and wonder over page after page. The library we frequented was small--located in a strip mall, but every once in a while, we went further in to town--to the Big Library. It had two, wide floors stocked with sturdy tables, good lighting and, of course, rows and rows of books. I almost always went for a little wander just to see what could be seen. I would amble up and down the aisles of non-fiction books that were far above my reading (and interest) level just because I could. This building belonged to me, in a way. I knew that no place was off-limits, that if I found something interesting, I could plop down, right on the carpet if I wanted, and read. As I grew older, I became interested in the magazine section. One whole wall was papered in the most recent edition of everything. . . sailing, running, politics, woodworking, mechanics, body building, fashion . . . you name it, there was a magazine for it. And, like Matilda, I always felt comfortable in a library.

When I left home for the first time and found myself an ocean away from everything familiar, I took refuge in the library. One of my favorite jobs ever was that Freshman year, manning the check-out desk from nine o'clock to noon Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

When our family was young, I hauled my people to story time every Thursday at eleven. Our neighborhood library was another very small facility, but it was still ours. After story time, we would come home, cuddle up on the couch with our mountain of books, and read, read, read until nap time. In fact, I went into labor with our third child during story time. She waited to come until this precious appointment was concluded.

A few years ago, we changed towns, and libraries, again. We are near the Big Library this time. Obtaining my library card was one of the first things I did after the moving boxes were flattened. Between home schooling, having three pods reading at different levels with different interests, and the literary pursuits of my husband and I, we are at the library a lot. I try to go during the day when other patrons are at work or school. We often have the children's section to ourselves. I can see my children mimicking my childhood actions of selecting a heap of words and pictures, finding an out-of-the-way place, and traipsing into new adventures unavailable to them only moments before.

The children's librarian, Kathryn, is Wonderful. With a capital W. She has one of those faces that rests in a smile. I love to ask her opinion and get recommendations. We never talk long (it is a library after all), but we usually visit for a few minutes when I come.

Today, we struck up a conversation about a book they had gotten in that she knew my son and I would like. We wandered from that to audio books--ones we liked and ones we didn't. It's always fun to compare notes. When it was time for me to leave, she said, "Have a good night, my friend." Now, Have a good night, or something similar is a common farewell, but the tag, my friend, struck me. I have never spoken with her outside of the library, but when I added up all the small, but significant conversations we've had over the past four years, I realized that we had, indeed, become friends. Over books.

Here a library, by definition, is a collection of wildly different things. You can find books about pirates and wheelchairs, romance and taxes, aerobics and gardens. People come for information about cats, for Pete's sake, something I would never care to research, and they would likewise never come to research electrical wiring. Yet there is a unity among those of us who patronize (or work in) a library. We love books and the knowledge they impart. We love the smell of the binding, the weight of the paper, the clarity of the pictures. We love the freedom of a story and its' transporting words. We are all different, but we come together, and even become friends, because of a similar love for our library.

I think, maybe, there's a lesson there.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Perk of the Past

So, I'm not a great speller (or a strong swimmer, an accurate frisbeeiest or skilled dog trainer). Though I continue to improve the longer I keep up my work here on my bloggiedoodle, I still have a dictionary glued to my . . . uh . . . I dunno where I would have a dictionary glued . . . but it's close! Anyway, I am reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose for book club this month. It has been a wonderful read thus far and am anxious to get back to it. First, however, I must tell you about my favorite part.

The spelling.

Ambrose calls it a time of "loose spelling" anyway, but this book is choc full of you-know-what-I-mean letter combinations. I LOVE it!

I think I'm going to adopt their spelling of morsueetoes, dieahreea, cence, and anything else that looks better spelt the way it sounds.









I cud go on and on, but will let you emagin for yourselves how fun this cud be. What wood you misspell if you cud?