Archie

My adoring fans have reminded me that it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. And she is they are right.

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been participating in the Sewing Buddy Challenge at Whipstitch.

Our first challenge wrapped up this month, and my partner and I won 2nd place! We were to collaborate to make a pair of boy/girl projects, which works out perfectly since I have Dexter and Elisabeth has her baby daughter, Cate. We made these precious little dolls from Wee Wonderfuls called Olive and Archie.

This pattern was absolutely worth the money. I only had one problem with it, which I will go into later. But, for your $15, you get the patterns for both Olive and Archie, plus all sorts of clothes, and accessories including backpacks, sleeping bags, and a cat pal.

Elisabeth and I chose a color palette, using Moda’s A Walk in the Woods line as our inspiration. I would have loved to just get some of that fabric, because it is PRECIOUS, but I’m trying to stash-bust. So I had to bring that vibe to my doll while keeping down extra purchases.

I created a few sketches, with three major goals in mind:

1. Use what I have as much as I can.

2. Stick to the color palatte/theme we chose.

3. Make the little guy look as much like Dexter as possible.

I easily found a felt in color similar to Dexter’s hair. I ended up getting a blend because I was trying to keep costs down. I can tell that it’s pilled a bit, but overall I think it’s fine.

But finding a skin tone nearly drove me crazy. I shopped at Joann Fabrics, which I normally really like. But they had a whopping total of two fabrics that could possibly work for skintone. One of them was too orange (we are an extremely pale family) and the other was thinner and weirder looking than I’d like. I made the smart choice and went with thin and weird.

I started stitching my hair on. So far so good. Except in this photo, you can see straight through to the paper under the fabric. But surely that won’t be a problem, right? Right??

I’m 99% certain I washed my fabric before cutting. But I really can’t remember now. After sewing all my hair on and starting to assemble the body, I ironed some seams, and suddenly the weirdness of the fabric became an actual problem.

The fabric melted/shrunk. The photo above shows the difference between the pattern piece and how much shrinkage occurred. In retrospect, desperation to find the right color may have caused me to get something partially synthetic. But I will never know, because when I went back to Joann for a replacement, I couldn’t find the mystery fabric.

So I came some with the too-orange fabric, washed it… and then realized under our lights that it was yellow.

Long story short, I went to Hobby Lobby and found an acceptable fabric. The twist: A few days after I submitted my doll, I found my own stash of fleshtone fabric. Sigh.

Aside from that, the pattern started out ridiculously easy. But there comes a point when the creator tells you that you will be cursing her name, and she was not wrong. I didn’t curse *her* per se, but I nearly lost it several times. The problem is that wretched bottom panel. If you’ve made this pattern before, I’m sure you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t and plan to, you *will* know what i’m talking about! I Googled and searched and pleaded to the internet fairies to give me the answer and I never found it.

In the end I just had to wing it. So Archie has a funky butt.

I thought it might bother me that my handstitching is so awful, but I’m just glad that part is over. And as with childbirth, I’ve almost forgotten the pain and would do totally do it all over again.

The eyes where my only other creative difficulty, because I wanted Archie to look like Dexter, but Dex has hazel eyes that are difficult to replicate.

I almost settled for these plain dark eyes, which I love, but I just really wanted light eyes, even if they were still wrong. So I chose to do a circle of charcoal gray with pale blue on top to create irises.

I stuck on all the features, subbing felt scraps for the mouth and nose, to get the correct placement and shapes. Then I just stitched on the face.

I made a little red jacket last minute using the hoodie pattern included in the set. I didn’t finish the seams, because I was running out of time. But I really wanted that pop of color to complete the look I was going for. It was then that I realized that I didn’t like the placement of the arms, beause with the jacket on, things look a little weird and the jacket actually doesn’t want to stay on.

But, I was extremely happy with how he turned out!

More importantly, Dexter is extremely happy with him. I wish I could have captured how thrilled he was initially. I gave him the choice of whether he wanted to change the name and he really liked “Archie”. Or “Artsy”, as he calls him.
And he sleeps with Archie every single day.
Even if I didn’t win anything in the challenge, this would have been enough!
But I won’t say no to the 1/2 yard bundle of fabric 2nd place gets :-P.

The Beast

Inside this cave lives a terrible beast.

Cave

The beast wakes.
Terrible Beast
He paws the ground.
Terrible Beast
He glares.
Terrible Beast
He creeps.
Creeping
He lives with his mother, who is equally terrible.
Mommy Beast
Together, they are ferocious.
Ferocious
Growl
Crunch
The beast selects his prey… And attacks!
Attack!
Mmm. Delish.
Yom!
The beast is happy. For now.
Silly Beast
Time for seconds!
Double Attack!

 

Cousin Craze

I started this post about a week and a half ago at my sister’s house. I never finished it because hours later, Deborah and I were making a midnight trip to the ER to check on some early contractions. Needless to say, the week did not go as we had planned and we spent most of our time after that trying to recover. Deborah more so than me, obviously…

This week I’m staying with my sister Deborah (below), who is very pregnant, and her twins, Ty and Micah, who are equal parts sweet and lively. We’re going to be doing a few baby projects* while I’m here, but in the meantime, we’ve just been wrangling hooligans and trying to keep the avalanche of toys from killing us all.

*The projects were not completed, boo, and as I was leaving we discovered a glitch in one of the pieces. Hopefully Deborah will feel well enough to complete them soon and post some pix!

On the first day, I got to snuggle sweet baby Isaac, my brothers son. He is the most precious baby in all the land, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child as consistently happy as he is. I rarely get to see him, so I was really excited that our visits overlapped.
Dex was EXTREMELY excited to be with our family!
The colors in the picture below are off, but it was the only time I could get Dexter to look at me for a picture. I’m not really sure he likes to be photographed. He only enjoyed the snapshot above because Uncle Ian was the photographer and allowed him to get within lens-biting distance.
It’s so lovely when the cousins take a break from harassing each other (or Ty and Micah get a break from being harassed by Dexter). Ty and Dex spent a fair amount of time Magna Doodling together…
…while sweet Micah played with animals by himself.
This child has the sweetest, most squishable-kissable cheeks!
Dexter is working with Magna Doodle intensity.
The boys fought over played with a lot of cars.
Below we have Hoarding Action Ty*.
*Hoarding Action Micah and Hoarding Action Dexter sold separately.
Dexter feigns patience while Ty plays. Yeah, save your thumb-sucking and sparkly eyes, buddy, I’m not buying it.
Things got a little crazy when the balloon fight started. But at least they were all laughing at the same time…

I love cousins.

Felt Food Tutorial and Patterns

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Here is the moment we’ve all been waiting for… (there’s totally a drumroll)…

I learned to create patterns in pdf form!!!!

I’ve been saying I’d do this for the longest time. It really wasn’t as hard as I was worried it would be. One day I’ll post about that for the other chickens out there Smile .

Patterns:

You’ll notice that most of the patterns call for cutting 2 pieces of felt, even for something flat. This is for stability, because you can warp or even tear felt pretty easily.

I tried to keep everything simple. All the stitching is on the outside, there’s no flipping or turning things inside out. And I did everything by machine.

Assembly Tutorial:

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Cheese: Probably the easiest thing you’ll make in the felt food world. Cut 2 rectangles of felt, and sew them together. Tada! You’ve made cheese. You have some creative options here: you can change colors for different types of cheese slices (think off white with stitched sprinkles for Monterey Jack), oval for provolone, and if you want Swiss, my suggestion is to sew circles, and then trim the holes.

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Bacon and Eggs: Felt food must-haves! Cut 2 egg whites and 1 yolk for each egg. Sew the yolk onto one of the whites, leaving a small opening. Very lightly stuff the yolk with polyfil and close the opening. Then put your 2 egg whites together, with the yolk on the outside, and sew all the way around.

For the bacon slices, I only cut 1 layer, because I felt like those lighter strips would be secure enough. Cut your darker bacon slices and 2 lighter strips for each slice. Just freehand those stripes, there is no reason to try to conform them to a pattern, and I think it would be more difficult to do so. Lay the light strips on top of the darker fabric and stitch around the strips.

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PB&J Sammy: I wanted everything to be as simple as possible, so these bread slices are flat, flat, flat! For each slice, cut 1 dark piece (that will become the crust) and 2 lighter pieces. This was actually the most difficult thing I did, despite trying to keep simplicity in mind. Sandwich those 3 pieces (light, then dark, then light) and pin the layers. You want to stitch around the edges of the light felt, catching all 3 layers. One of my slices came out perfectly the first time. The other slice slipped and I had to redo it a couple of times.

For the peanut butter and jelly, cut 2 pieces each and sew together. Super easy.

If you want to go a little further, you could make sandwich meats out of circles and ovals. I also want to make lettuce and tomato slices one day, but I just didn’t bother this time. Dexter already has a wooden sandwich set anyway. 

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Broccoli: I had a lot of fun making the little veggies! I was inspired by Dana at MADE for the broccoli and chicken legs for sure. In fact, I was probably most inspired by her felt food, because I saw how simple it could be instead of trying to create incredibly detailed 3D models of food.

Back to the broccoli. For each piece, cut 2 stalks, and sew those together. Cut 2 florets, my recommendation is to cut ovals just slightly bigger than you want your floret to be. This is another time where freehanding is going to be easier on you.

Ok, I said oval, but what I did was more like a little mushroom cap. You take your 2 little mushroom cap shapes, and freehand a broccoli shape around the top, leaving the bottom open.

broccoli top

Next, take a little bit of polyfil and stuff the top. Then poke your little stalk into the opening, and stitch it closed. Like this:

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(Bet you can’t tell that I’m sketching these out as I go…)

Then trim your broccoli tops, and you’re done!

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Beans/Peas: Cut your 2 pieces. Sew along the curved back, leaving the inner curve open. Ball up polyfil into 3 little pea-sized… well… peas. Or beans. Put them in a row inside your shell. Sew up the inner circle.

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Carrots: These go together like the broccoli pieces. Sew your little carrot tops together, then sew the carrots, leaving the top open. Stuff with polyfil, then put the stem inside the opening and stitch shut. Then, I ran these guys under my sewing machine to create the lines. It wasn’t super easy, I had to help them along. Don’t “help” them so much that you break a needle. But some light pressure should be ok.

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Chicken Legs: I’m in love with these little chicken legs. Sew the 2 meat parts together, leaving the bottom open. Sew the 2 bone pieces together, leaving the top open. Stuff both sections with polyfil. I stuffed these a little more firmly, leaving it a little softer at both of the openings. Insert the bone into the meat opening (Ok, I just realized how creepy meat assembly sounds!), and stitch across all layers. 

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Cookies: You can make different kinds of cookies. Whatever you make, sew the add-ons to the top before you sew and stuff the actual cookie (or if you plan to hand stitch, you can do the add-ons at any time). Then sew most of the way around the 2 cookie layers, stuff lightly (you don’t want these to be too puffy), and then sew across the opening.

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Pancakes: These were the first items I made, and I couldn’t find them when I did my photo shoot, AND I only took one phone picture of them before I gave them away. I did not think ahead to when I’d be doing a fancy-schmancy tutorial.

At the time, I did these a little differently than I would now. You can probably see the batting peeking through. That was before I realized that stuffing with polyfil works just as well and actually looks better.

For the pancakes, cut 2 pieces, sew most of the way around, stuff lightly with polyfil, and close ‘em up.

For the syrup, cut 2 pieces, sew together.

For the butter, cut 2 pieces, sew 3 sides, lightly stuff, sew the 4th side. (I feel silly for typing out all these directions, since most of them are “cut 2, sew together”, but I wanted this to be as easy as possible for anyone making them!)

Now, when I made these, I thought I had just created the most amazing thing ever. And then I found these on Etsy. I guess there are only so many ways to make felt pancakes!

Oh, I also indicated on the pancake pattern that this is also what I’d use to make a hamburger. And yet, I have not created a hamburger bun pattern. I will do that soon though, because my sister has requested a hamburger for her boys. I’ll probably tackle the lettuce and tomato slices at the same time.

Links:

Now, I promised links to all the felt food that inspired me, but it was extremely hard to go back and find those!! I will add what I found, and maybe this was all. I know for some of the items I just did my own thing, making them look the way I thought they should look. But I truly don’t want to take credit for something someone else did, so I am sorry if I missed a link!!!

Dana at Made (The cutest little almost-2D picnic set! And I just noticed she has bread slices in there too, so maybe that’s where I got that inspiration as well as the broccoli and drumsticks)

Pickle Things at Black Wagon (This is likely an inspiration for the cookies.)

Stitches by Krustal (I didn’t get my cheese from here- I don’t think that sad little cheese slices are particularly inspired, as they are just squares- but I plan to use this as a jumping off point for my future hamburger bun, because the style is very similar to my felt food philosophy. And if you don’t want to wait for my version, which will probably only be slightly different, this would be a good place to go for a simple bun.)

Now, go have fun felt-fooding it up!!

Felt Food Frenzy

This year my Dexter’s Christmas gift was a beautiful play kitchen. So I went crazy making accessories for myself him.  
 
It was so much fun coming up with ideas for mildly 3-dimensional foods. I also found a lot of great inspiration online. I didn’t want to have to put a lot of thought into it or sculpt something magnificent. I just wanted to throw together a lot of fun little pieces to spark some imaginative play.  
 

 
 

The hardest things to create were the teeny tiny oven mitts, but I hand-sewed binding for the first time, and I’m excited to take that to the next level on a quilt soon!  

Eventually I will compile some links and upload patterns/templates/tutorials (don’t hold your breath, I’m not super great at adding actual patterns…), but for now, I want to showcase my work!  

Make Your Own Chalkboard

I have been wanting a chalkboard so badly, pretty much ever since Pinterest showed me how cool they are (peer pressure!). You can’t find them anywhere, unless you’re willing to order one online. And I really wasn’t. I’m never on the front end of a fad, and I’m not about to shell out much money for one now :).

So I started looking into making my own. Hence this tutorial. I’m gonna show you how to make your own chalkboard using chalkboard spray paint.IMG_8526

This works especially well if you’re creating a big chalkboard and are worried about keeping things smooth and even. There are other forms of brush-on chalkboard paint out there, and I considered them, but I was really worried that I’d make a mess of it. When I stumbled upon Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Spray Paint, I knew this would be my best bet. Now, I felt a little guilty, because I’d been reading Superfreakonomics, and I was in section about global warming, and I don’t know if spray paint is amazing for the environment. But I’d already bought it when it occurred to me, and I really really REALLY wanted my super cool chalkboard. So if you’re already ok with spray paint, go for it, if not, there is a tutorial for making a chalkboard with brush-on paint here.

1. Find your surface. I stumbled upon an old whiteboard in our garage, and I was super pumped. The frame was ugly, and if it starts to bother me I will paint it or reframe somehow, but I could not have found a better surface for my project! And it’s a good size, around 23”x46”.
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Clean the surface as well as you can. You don’t want any dirt or lint under your paint.

2. Protect your frame. Pitiful as mine may be, I still covered the frame with tape.
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3. Prime your surface. Just how imperative this step is, I do not know. But the guy at Home Depot recommended I do it, and I really didn’t want to waste my time and chalkboard paint, only have have it chip off. If you use a whiteboard like I did, the surface is going to be slick. Better to be safe than sorry! I used Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover Primer in gray.
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Tips:

  • Spray outside or in a well ventilated area!
  • Put down a drop cloth if you care about the area you’re spraying in.
  • TAKE THE WIND INTO CONSIDERATION! I did not think about that, as I was spraying in my open garage. The day was very windy. I walked away and came back to my drop cloth on top of my board, which was also covered in a nice layer of dirt. Thankfully, it didn’t mess up the finished product, but it did cause me some panic.
  • If you’ve never used spray paint, it’s going to look crazy and splotchy at first (see above), but don’t worry, keep going back and forth as evenly as you can and you will cover the whole surface (see below).
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3. Apply your chalkboard paint. There are special instructions on the can for the chalkboard paint. You apply one coat, then 2 more light coats a few minutes apart. You’re then supposed to do this a second time, either within 1 hour or after 24 hours. I didn’t see the instruction about the “2 more light coats a few minutes apart.” I just waited about 20 minutes after the first coat and did a second one. And my chalkboard is fine.
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4. Be patient while your board dries. I only waited a couple of hours because I was too excited. The can says it’s dry to the touch after 1 hour and fully dry after 24 hours.

5. Peel off the tape. This was probably my favorite part because I love how you pull off the messy tape to reveal the crisp, beautiful finished product!

6. Go crazy-town on your new chalkboard!

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Sneaky Snack: Kale-Apple Smoothie

Having recently had jaw surgery, I’ve experimented heavily with pureed and mashed foods. I was so excited when a past issue of Real Simple Magazine had a list of 10 smoothie recipes! I have only tried one of them, because the store I went to only had kale in bulk. I figured I’d just try to knock that out before I ventured onto the next smoothie recipe :)

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But we are LOVING this recipe for Kale-Apple Smoothies! Dexter and I do, at least. My (ultra-picky) husband took one sip and made a face. So I guess it’s not for everyone. But considering my 2 year old gets super pumped about it, it’s worth trying once!

It’s such a pleasant green color, and it’s packed with things that are great for you: kale, celery, banana, and a bit of apple juice. I also added a bit of spinach today!

While I was trying to do a quick photo shoot, Dex leaned over my glass and said, “MMMmmmm, smells dewd!”

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I seriously love this kid, and I’m glad that I’m able to find ways to give him things that he both loves and are healthy for him! He calls it his “smoozie” and today he said, “Oh, a smoozie for a healthy snack!!!” I was really thrilled to hear him say that, partially because it’s super cute lol, but also because I hope I’m teaching him to make good choices for his health, and to be excited about it!

He get’s his “smoozie” in a sippy cup, and it helps if that cup has a larger opening. The smoothie is not a juice, it will have little veggie bits in it, so it can clog up a sippy nipple. Or you can just brave it like I did the first time, and give your child an open cup with a straw. If you don’t mind getting green smoothie EVERYWHERE. Seriously. Everywhere.

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Also, as a side note, our preschool lesson this week includes learning about the color green. This is a great suggestion for a green-week snack, because it is so pretty and vibrant!

Dexter Turns 2!!!

We celebrated Dexter’s 2nd birthday last weekend, and it was such a nice day! We let the kids play at a park, everyone got a sugar buzz… What more could a kid want??

My theme was bugs, but I didn’t want to go with a bug cake. I saw a terribly cute idea in the last issue of Parents Magazine. They stacked wood rounds to make a cupcake stand, and then decorated their cupcakes as mushrooms. My sweet brother-in-law attempted to HAND SAW some rounds for me. But the wood and his hands wouldn’t quite cooperate, so he supplied me with a still-cool stump and a few rounds.

My INCREDIBLE husband took over (after I semi-destroyed both a batch of cupcakes and a batch of frosting) and made these precious little mushrooms! I did my part by playing Dance Central and cheering him on :)

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After we got everything set up, the table looked awesome! I wish we’d gotten a picture of the balloons. I picked red, orange, green, and cream, and they went perfectly with our theme.

We let the kids have cupcakes immediately. We didn’t really have a choice, as soon as we sat down about 30 grubby little hands started clawing at the table :)

Dexter was thrilled to sing happy birthday to himself, and I was surprised when he blew out the candle by himself without even being told to!

Then he proceeded to slather himself in icing. It was exceptionally cute :)

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Here are Ty and Micah getting down on some cupcakes. I think one of Deborah’s boys managed to snag 3 cupcakes by the time the party was over!

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Could this child be any cuter??

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Another big birthday thrill for Dex was getting to drink out of a real juice bottle. And to actually get to drink juice! He rarely gets it unless he’s sick!

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He was given a lot of sweet gifts, and he has loved playing with them for the whole week. It’s been a lot of fun watching him explore and interact with the new toys. After I put him to bed the other night, I was turning out all the lights and found that he’d nestled his tiny dump truck into his big dump truck. I really wanted to wake him up and squish him for that. But I didn’t. 

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I love you teeny-tiny-big-boy!!! Happy Birthday!!!

Sorting Little Squares

With all the things I *should* be doing this week, my mind is continually pulled to my postage stamp quilt. Maybe I just want what I can’t have, because I know I technically can’t start working on it right now. But those fabrics are soooo pretty!!! I keep help wanting to play with them.

Remember how my stash looked like this?

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I thought I was doing the smart and right thing by keeping them all mixed up so that when I started sewing, everything would be all random and scrappy. That makes sense, right?

Well, not technically. If you truly want a random quilt, then sure, go all willy nilly. But Mary at The Curious Quilter  pointed out that doing things this way could result in all of one type of fabric ending up in one area, despite your best intentions.

And that bugs me a lot. A lot.

So I’m going to go for a controlled-random look!

A few weeks ago, after reading Mary’s advice, I sorted, painstakingly, through all my squares. So far I have just created stacks of like fabrics.

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One thing excluded from this shot is my stack of unique squares. I’m going to have to sort them in a different way, and make sure they are distributed around the quilt.

It was nice getting them all stacked like this because I was able to get a feel for what fabrics were going to be most present in the quilt.

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I think it’s really a tie between some of my reds and a fabric I dyed orange. (One day I’ll do a post about my dyeing escapades!)

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What I plan to do next is to make 4 groupings of fabrics, one for each quadrant of the quilt. And I’ll divide my color stacks amongst those. I still may go as far as to halve each quadrant.

I’ll let you guys know how that goes!

Quarantine. Boo.

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Well, someone in our family now has croup. And it’s not me, and it’s not Alex. We were excited to start getting out after the crazy tornado day, but for the next several days are in quarantine. Thankfully he should be fine in time for his birthday next weekend!

In the meantime he will have to be content to play in his laundry basket choo choo train (when isn’t he??).

Speaking of Dexter’s birthday, I have been plugging along on his lion pillow! I lost a few weeks when I couldn’t find my crocheting stuff. Why am I not more organized?? But now I’m back on track and I have a week to get it done!!!

I’m on the second circle, and it’s just in a blah stage where you don’t know if it’s going to look good or turn out to be a big embarrassing mess.

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Although, I’m certain he won’t care either way. He’s just going to be so excited to have his own pillow, and double excited if he can tell it’s supposed to be a lion, so that takes a lot of pressure off :)

On another note, I want to start a new project!!! Almost anything will do. I love starting things and finishing things, it’s the middle part that’s not always fun :)

But I really can’t start anything new, I have SO MANY things going on. I’m finishing Dexter’s pillow, I have his birthday party in a week, and then a week and a half later I’m having jaw surgery (boo again..), so I have too much on my plate to think about starting something new. Not to mention all the other unfinished projects I have in the queue.

I’ve also started an herb garden, and I’ve been trying to keep that alive. They really should screen better before they just hand plants over to people.

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Don’t they know how much I have going on???