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I haven’t fallen off the edge of the Earth! I swear!

14 Jan

I’m still here and I still actually continue to do things – I just haven’t been blogging about them.  This weekend is a long weekend, so perhaps I’ll make the time to catch up on here…

It’s been more than 6 months since I posted to this blog, but I haven’t given up on blogging, I’ve just been incredibly overwhelmed and busy!

Quick overview of my life since last June:

  • Chuck and I did our usual summer vacationing:
    • We went to Virginia Beach for a week with the dogs and visited our dear friend Mary, and met her friend Debbie.  We can always count on a fun and relaxing week when we visit Mary.
    • We went to Rehoboth Beach with Chuck’s friends and enjoyed the boardwalk and having fun with all of our friends’ dogs, bunnies, and children (I let a 12-year-old convince me I wanted to sling-shot myself into the air with nothing but bungee cords strapping me in…but, as they often are, the 12-year-old was right…it was fun)
    • I went to Ocean City for the first time ever.  It was like being on the longest boardwalk I’ve ever seen, with tons of eateries, shops, and arcades…that repeat every block…for blocks and blocks and blocks.
    • We traveled with my family to Edisto Island and enjoyed a week of sun, sand, and toddlers.  We rented bikes and a golf cart and enjoyed a nice, slow Southern vacation with family.
    • We visited with my mom in South Carolina and now I realize that will be my last trip to see her there because she’s moving back up here!!!!  (well, to Tennessee, which is closer than SC…so YAY!!!)
  • I got a full-time teaching job in a school I love, teaching students I love, alongside colleagues whom I both respect and enjoy.
    • Finally teaching.  Is. Awesome.
    • Along with the teaching job came the added responsibility of being a class sponsor.  I am sponsoring a spunky class of 375 Sophomores.  I love being a class sponsor, but it definitely adds more to my already full plate…however, we kicked ass at Powder Puff, we won the Spirit Cup during our Fall Spirit Week, we had a fun and successful Breakfast with Santa fundraiser, and we’re preparing to host two more big events this Spring…we’ll see if I make it out alive!
  • We adopted a puppy for Chuck’s parents (but I not-so-secretly wish he was mine).  His mama was a black-and-tan coon hound and we think his papa was a Vizsla, or something like it.  He’s a farm dog, and he’s awesome.  He’s handsome and smart and very sweet.  Having a puppy around has been fun and has definitely kept us entertained.  I think Chuck’s parents are as in love with him as I am…
  • Chuck and I celebrated our 30th Birthdays by taking a trip to Orlando over Halloween weekend.
    • Hard Rock Hotel = AWESOME (this was new for both of us and it was totally worth the $$$)
    • Disney World = AWESOME (as usual…this is a place Chuck and I never tire of)
    • Universal Studios = AWESOME (this was new for me, but not Chuck…it was really fun!)
    • Universal Islands of Adventures = AWESOME (we’ve done this together before and loved it)
    • Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios = CRAZY AWESOME!  (SOOOOOOOO much fun!!!  For Halloween lovers like us, this was the ultimate Halloween celebration)
    • Wizarding World of Harry Potter = O.M.F.G.  This was seriously the best place I’ve ever been in my whole entire life.  We drank butterbeer.  We went to Zonk’s.  We bought wands.  We dorked it up like we’ve never done before and I think when I die and go to heaven, I will wake up at WWoHP.  For reals.
  • We lost Gus, our 17-year-old Pomeranian, right before Christmas.  I don’t want to talk about that.  But we love him and miss him terribly.
  • After a long pregnancy (well, it was actually the normal duration, but seemed long) with gestational diabetes, my best friend had the most beautiful baby girl right before Christmas…  I made her a quilt which I will share with you later…
  • I’ve only read a very few books since I last posted…
    • The first two in the Millennium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Girl Who Played with Fire)…I have the third on my Kindle App, but have been sidetracked by other books.
    • The Thirteenth Tale (LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!  So fun to read!!!)
    • Sarah’s Key (I’m reading this one now and I really like it so far…)
  • I’ve made a few crafty things…As I already said, I made my friend a baby quilt, I also made some scarflettes as Christmas presents and I’m finishing up some burp cloths for Chuck’s cousin (who is due in a couple of weeks) and my best friend.
  • OH!!!  And I bought a NEW SEWING MACHINE!!!!  I managed to royally jam mine, and although it could have been taken to the shop and fixed, I thought it was the universe telling me “Go buy that super cool, super affordable Singer at Costco!!!”  So, I did!  I love it.  It has 79 stitches and a digital readout.  I’m so fancy!
  • I’m still attending Weight Watchers meetings at work and still not actually following the program, so I’m still not actually losing weight.  I made no resolutions because I never keep those anyway, but I do think I’m ready to start making better decisions regarding my health.  We’ll see.  Continuing to attend WW is part of the plan.  They just started the new Points Plus program, so I think it’s a good time for me to “rededicate” myself.  Again…we’ll see.  I make no promises, so nobody can shake their finger at me later.
  • Another part of the “making better decisions” plan is playing with Chuck’s Kinect more.  That thing is crazy fun and I actually enjoy it…I just need to do it regularly.  Again…no promises, because promises mean accountability and who really likes being accountable, anyway?

Okay, so that’s it for the catching up.  When I’m more awake (maybe tomorrow) I will post some photos of the trips and crafty things so that everyone can see.  For now, I feel good about actually coming back to the blog and I’m excited about posting more crafty stuff for you to see!  (you = my mom, sister, and best friend…because nobody else actually reads this blog…a fact with which I am totally cool).


Postcard Swap!!!

18 Feb

Yay!!!  I’ve finally got all 10 of my postcards off in the mail today.

As you recall, I’m participating in iHanna’s 2010 postcard swap.  This is my first ever craft swap and I was super excited!

My original idea for the postcards went bust (I had a great plan and idea, but when I gave it a go, it didn’t pan out), so I opted to use materials I had on hand, so I didn’t spend any money other than postage.

Once upon a time, I made a few scrapbooks…this was before digital scrapbooking came about (which I haven’t gotten involved in) and before I discovered MyPublisher and Photoworks.  I still have all of my nifty scissors and punches and some leftover scrapbooking paper, so I decided to utilize those tools and materials.

I wanted the postcards to say something about me, without really saying anything about me.  I love the power of words…I adore reading…I’m an English teacher…  So, naturally, I incorporated quotes from some of my favorite books, thinking maybe the quote on the postcard will inspire the recipient to read the book!

I also love to sew and I knew I wanted some stitching on the cards.  As all of the recent snow shoveling has really irritated my carpal tunnel syndrome (which also makes blogging and typing a bit of a pain…literally) I opted against handstitching and used my sewing machine to stitch the cards together.  I really liked how this finished off the postcards…I think its my favorite element.  Along with the stitching, I pulled some ribbon from my stash and added that for a more mixed-media effect – I even used the some of the silver ribbon left over from my wedding invitations which I handmade back in the day.

I wanted to incorporate a little whimsy, so I cut up some plastic sheet protectors (ah yes…another love of mine…school supplies!) and created a little “window”, sandwiching some tiny punched-out flowers between the plastic and the quote.  This forces the recipient of the postcard to manhandle the postcard, shaking and tapping it to move the flowers around so they can read the quote behind (clever idea? yes…  did it work?  not exactly…  you really have to shake and tap some of the postcards hard to get the flowers to move about, whereas some of them move more freely… this will need some R&D to perfect, I believe).

I decided to make the cards fairly simple – y’know, less is more, and all that.

When I finished them it was nighttime and there just isn’t good lighting in the basement…even with my handy dandy directional flash, my photos are a little grainy, but anyway, here they are:  (can you guess which books the quotes are from?)

Post Card 1

Post Card 2

Post Card 3

Post Card 4

Post Card 4

Post Card 5

Post Card 6

Post Card 7

Post Card 8

Post Card 9

Post Card 10

For the back of the cards I created a simple template.  You can see at the bottom right, the credit for the book and author from which I took the quote…  I actually wrote messages on each of my postcards – I even had Chuck help me translate a message into Lithuanian (no, he can’t speak Lithuanian, but he can Google with the best of them).

So far, I’ve received four postcards in the mail, two from the UK, one from Pennsylvania, and one from New York.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting snail mail.  It’s the best!  I can’t wait to receive the other 6 postcards!

Where did mine go?  I sent postcards to Tennessee, Wisconsin, New York (x2), Minnesota, South Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom.   Cool huh?  I can’t believe that something I made is going to be in someone’s hands as far away as Lithuania!

I really had fun with this, so I think I will be participating in more craft swaps.  I’d really love to be part of a fabric swap, but I have such a limited fabric stash, I dunno if I’d have anything worth swapping – but I’d like to give it a try anyway!

Love is in the air…

3 Feb

Saw this cute Valentine’s Day garland and thought…heck!  That’s some easy seasonal decorating.  So…I made one to hang over our bed…you know…cuz that’s where romance happens.

Stealing ideas again…  You’d think I have none of my own.

According to the weather-man, Valentine’s weekend is slated to be bogged down with epic amounts of snow.  The sad news is that Chuck and I probably won’t be able to celebrate with our traditional dinner (Chuck proposed on Valentine’s Day and then he took me to a romantic dinner…every V-day since then we’ve gone back to that same restaurant to drink in the nostalgia of that special day).  The good news is that I know Chuck and I will spend our snowed-in weekend snuggling, with each other and with this guy…

Besides catching up on DVR’d TV shows, I’ll be sure to spend some time reading while snowed in.  I’ve literally stockpiled over a dozen books since my birthday which I have not had the time to read (student teaching has a way of sucking up time like a black hole).   Here are the ones cluttering my nightstand at the moment:

I’ve started all of them save Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.  I know…quality literature, right?  I really thought that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was fun, so I want to see if this one meets my standards for adulterated classics.  I received The Art of Racing in the Rain from a coworker for Christmas and started it but then never completely finished it, so it’s still waiting on me to return my attention to those last couple chapters.  And yes…I know I’m not a parent, but I think Scream-Free Parenting can help me become a better teacher…same reason for reading How to Talk So Kids Can Learn.  And The Host?  Well that’s just a random one I picked up at the library by Stephanie Meyer…I certainly won’t pretend that the Twilight series was well-crafted literature, but it was captivating in a strange way… I like to keep abreast of what secondary students are reading and I knew all of the Twi-hards would be picking this one up, so I thought I’d see if it’s as fun as Meyer’s vampy reads were.


Oh!!!  In other news – I am participating in my very first craft swap.  I’ve signed up to be a part of the Postcard Swap organized by iHanna (a cool crafter, author, and blogger I’ve been following on Google Reader).  I’ll update you when I finish my postcards.  I’ve not decided if I should scan them and post them on the blog or not…I don’t know if I should keep them a secret from the recipients, or just go ahead and share.  I’m excited to see who I get to “meet” in the swap and can’t wait to see what kinds of artsy, crafty postcards I receive in return.  I’m trying to think of something cool to do with the postcards sent to me…if you have any ideas, let me know!

Snowy weekend…

31 Jan

This weekend it snowed (AGAIN) in Virginia…  I love snow as much as the next guy, but I’m already tired of shoveling it.  If it would clear itself from the sidewalks and driveway, I would love it much, much more.

Last week I decided on a whim to create a crafty banner for my blog.  I’ve been following Feeling Stitchy for over a year now and have admired her embroidered blog banner since she added it.  I decided to embroider one of my own, just for fun (needed a little crafty something to do while killing time on Thursday night…).

Alas, today I noticed that another of the blogs I follow, Crafterhours,  recently updated their banner to something embroidered and crafty, so now I look like even more of a copy cat.  On my defense, I read all of my blogs on Google Reader, and I usually don’t see the actual blog design/layout, so I had no idea they had updated their banner… *Sigh*  Good thing I don’t aim to be unique and trend-setting, right?

Anyway, I dug up one of my mom’s old embroidery hoops, some canvas, and some colorful embroidery floss, and got to work.

A few years ago, when my mom was moving from one house to another, I inherited a bunch of goodies, including a Bernina serger, a shoe box full of embroidery floss, several embroidery hoops, and a huge bin of fabric scraps.   If you know me, you know I like things (crayons, clothes in my closet, etc) to be in ROYGBIV order, or something that closely resembles it…  I LOVE organization…I waste many hours a week organizing things, only to mess them up later.  So, anyway, after taking my inheritance home, I quickly set to taking all of the floss and wrapping it around cards (also inherited) and organizing by color.  I really do love to just look at my little box of floss…

If I hadn’t spent so much time wrapping and wrapping and wrapping floss around the cards I inherited, I would totally buy some of these fancy cards, found at this Etsy shop.

I also selected a cute little flower button, from my equally organized button box.  And, yes, I also love to look at my little button box, organized by color…  (You can tell I’m a Hokie, because I’m running low on orange buttons)

When Chuck walked in the living room and caught me embroidering, he said, “I didn’t know you knew how to do that”.  I explained to him that I don’t, really – but that I was gonna do it anyway.  I just kinda winged it for this little ditty, but I do have a really cute book on embroidery that I used when drawing my little birdie…you can see the inspiration on the bottom left corner of the cover.

And I feel special, because it’s an autographed edition, since I bought it straight from the author!  :o)

So, anyway, I just drew out the design straight on the canvas, using a pencil.  Then straight-stitched all of the lines (no fancy embroidery here)… I tried to get the colors to blend from brown to green, and in person, you can really tell that they do, but no matter how I photographed or scanned the little patch of embroidery, the colors look off on the computer.  I got frustrated trying to scan/photograph this, because it either looked too grainy, too fuzzy, too overexposed, underexposed…just yucky.   So, although I really like the bit of embroidery, I’m not completely happy with how the final banner looks on the computer screen, but that’s alright…

I used a lavender colored pencil and colored the canvas within the border…I wanted to add a little more color…but again,  when I scan/photograph the swatch, the color is all washed out.  It looks much cuter in person.

So, anyway…  That’s my update for today.   I promise to have more fun stuff to add to the blog soon!  :o)

Yay! I did it!

13 Jun

I can reveal my latest project now because it’s been given to its intended recipient…

I saw a girl in the library a couple weeks ago with a pin-tucked skirt on and I thought to myself, “That’s a cool design technique that doesn’t look too difficult to emulate…maybe I can incorporate it in an upcoming project…” and put the thought in the back of my mental filing cabinet.  When I decided to make my mom and sister handbags (or pocketbooks, as we call them where I come from) I started off with a purchased pattern from an Etsy seller.  My sister’s bag turned out pretty cute, but only because I used my own intuition where the directions failed me and tweaked the pattern here and there.  When I set out to make my mom’s bag, I wanted to start from scratch and use a pattern all my own.  Here’s what I came up with:

Shanny Purse (1)

Shanny Purse (2)

Here’s a close-up of the pin tucks…I tried to make it look almost like a bow without being too…uh, bow-ish.

Shanny Purse (3)

And these buttons complemented the fabric perfectly, so how could I not get them?

Shanny Purse (4)

Inside I included a little pocket (complete with “Made by Mandy” iron-on label) and a swivel keyring clip (this is my favorite functional feature….ohhhh….alliteration!).  Just like with Betsy’s purse, I used a magnetic clasp for the closure.

Shanny Purse (5)

And there you have it…my prototype handbag, designed and constructed by moi!  It’s a cute little summer purse.  And moma really seemed to like it, so I think it worked out alright!

Shanny Purse (1)

Birthday Bag

29 May

My big sister turned 32 this week.  I took a stab at a pleated purse for her birthday.  The good thing about making gifts for my family members is that even if the final product doesn’t turn out the way I had imagined, they still make a good show of liking it anyway.

I loosely followed a pattern I purchased from Etsy.  The final bag looks only remotely like the pattern (this is because the pattern I paid $10 for was worthless…the pattern does not print out to the proportions specified and the directions contain dark, grainy pictures and the text is mostly in incomplete English).  I’m totally disappointed that I spent real dollars to get such a crappy pattern.  I mostly just winged it, trying to make something that looked like the picture on the front of the pattern.

Eh…it’s still a cute bag, but not exactly the look I was going for.

And without further ado…


I found the fabric in the outdoor section of Jo-Ann’s.  It’s a lightweight canvas which hangs well and was easy to sew on my machine.  I like the light brocade design…it’s subtle and summery (I think).


I like how the gathers turned out (this is my first attempt at pleats…not as scary as I thought, but I think I need more practice).  I wanted to dress it up a little, so I stitched a Victorian-esque button onto the front.


She’s a little sexy, but still classy.  Oh yeah.



On the inside, I included a small pocket and a little swivel clip for a keyring…I stole those ideas from a purse I have and I like how these little details give the bag more functionality.  I used a magnetic clasp closure, which I’d never used before.  It was surprisingly easy to “install”.  Again, I’m not happy with the pattern I intended to use and I pretty much made up my own pattern as I went, but I think it still turned out pretty cute!  I hope she’s surprised and that she likes it enough to use it at least a little.

Happy Birthday, Betsy!!!

mandy and Betsy

This is one reason I’m so sleepy right now…

28 Apr


My second baby blanket!!!



I fell in love with this fabric combination and had to do something with it.  The white fabric on the front with the multi-colored dots is the Mod Dots in Paprika from the Anda Lucia Collection and the complementary back fabric is Mod Blooms in Petal from the same collection.  I bought a yard of each online at Etsy from Fresh-Squeezed Fabrics.  (If you want to read the blog of the owner of Fresh-Squeezed, go here).  I was lucky enough to find complementary orange and pink fabric at Jo-Ann Fabrics last weekend…

I just finished writing a Linguistics Report on the Gullah Sea Island creole language and culture.  In my research, several sources talked about the “long-strip quilts” that the Gullah women used to make.  I don’t know what a long-strip quilt is, but by golly, I was inspired by the idea and this is what I came up with!  The fabric was perfect – because it is basically a large polka dot design, cutting it up into small pieces would have ruined the effect, so I thought why not cut the fabric into various width strips and just make my own “long strip” quilt?  I think it looks lovely.  I’m really very pleased with myself (can you tell?).


As this is only my second baby blanket/quilting experience, I have to say, I did pretty well this go-round.  I only had to rip out two seams (I stitched two panels together backwards) and I’m quite proud to say that I mastered the art of mitered corners with ease! (I thought it was going to be much more difficult than it was!)  This is the first time I’ve ever used double-fold quilt binding, and it wasn’t difficult to work with.  I used my handy-dandy quilt binding clips (they look like hair clips to me…) and it was no problem at all!  My first baby quilt took roughly 12 hours to make and this one I whipped together in 4.5 hours.  Granted, the first one had a lot of piecing which took a long time to do, but I think I might be getting the hang of this baby quilt thing!


I included my little iron on “label” again.  I like this idea of marking my work with my name, but I hate that it looks like an iron-on transfer.   I think what i want to do is order a personalized stamp and find some colorfast stamping ink that can be used on fabric.  Or some custom-printed twill ribbon that I can stitch on.


The final quilt/blanket size was approximately 36″X45″.  It was a little larger than my first quilt, but not too big to machine quilt (I have the smallest size Singer sewing machine, so there isn’t much room between the needle and the motor box, so machine quilting is a bit tricky and limited to small projects).


I love the color combination so much.  I didn’t finish stitching the binding on until 2am last night, so the only light to take the photos by was the overhead lighting in the basement, which doesn’t do justice to the colors in the fabric…it’s so much prettier in person.  Even Chuck loved it!


And, of course, we have to be matchy-matchy (because I’m totally anal like that, as you well know) – and luckily I found the  most perfect pink and orange gift bag at Target which matched the quilt exactly!!!  I also looked long and hard for a card that would match…the little orange giraffe (or is that a pony?) card was adorable and matched my little color-crazy theme here, so of course I had to get it!


I also put in the bag two Keep-it-Kleen pacifiers (they have a little contraption that closes over the nipple when the baby drops it, so that the nipple never touches the floor or dirty surfaces when out of baby’s mouth…not sure how it works, but it sounded cool) and two sets of outlet covers that claim to “save your nails” with some special pop-out button for easy removal.

The recipient is my boss who is due at the end of May with little Olivia Suzanne (what a cute name, right?  Her other daughter is named Emma, which has always been on my baby names list…)  We had the baby shower today after work and all of our coworkers loved the quilt (which made me feel good…ego boost!) and I think my boss really liked it…  I’m so excited for my boss and I really can’t wait for her to hurry up and have this baby!  Hopefully she’ll take me up on my offer for free babysitting so I can play with little Olivia! 🙂