Tag Archives: crafts

Christmas memories

I hope you had a lovely holiday season! We were lucky enough to spend this Christmas break making memories with both Joe’s family in Council Bluffs and my family outside Chicago. I love days when you can stay in your pajamas as late as you like. (Because sleeping in isn’t really an option these days, with a toddler who wakes up before dawn.)


Here are a few favorites from 2015: 

Seeing the stocking I finally sewed for Emmett hanging from the fireplace. I bought the Christmas fabric forever ago (October 2011?) at a shop in Dubuque but didn’t have my DIY act together together in time for his first Christmas. I pieced and quilted it over Thanksgiving with my mom, and used this free pattern and tutorial to base the shape.

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Cooking a Polish family favorite with my father-in-law. Joe’s family feasts typically feature golumpki, a dish of ground beef and pork and onions and rice rolled in a steamed cabbage leaf. This year, Joe’s mom had to work and Joe was hung over resting all morning, so it was up to me and Stevo to fire up the stove. I really enjoyed making these! I didn’t take photos because, well, my hands were covered in raw meat, but you can watch Martha Stewart make them with her mom in this video.

Playing  Suspend at both family parties. My niece Mia got Suspend for Christmas and brought it over in the morning. Such a fun multi-generational family game! You have to figure out how to hang and dangle the metal pieces without them falling. Kind of like Jenga.
Reading for pleasure. There are few things more relaxing for me than getting lost in a good book. I downloaded Station Eleven, my next book club book on the Kindle app this time, so I could read in the car during the nighttime drives. The interwoven story lines are gripping.
Handmaking gifts is always a favorite, although unfortunately I didn’t do very much this year. (I did sew new pillowcases for my mom using the APQ sewathon roll-up pattern.) Emmett got lucky in this department, though. My brother made him the IKEA-hack learning tower so he can be a kitchen helper. And my mom and aunt made a way-awesome “quiet book” together! I can appreciate the hours and hours they spent on it:

I have a few days off and a to-do list a mile long, so blogging is the perfect procrastination. I’m hoping to put down words about motherhood at 18 months, because everything feels different as we’ve hit new developmental milestones.


Filed under At home, Baby, Books, Cooking, Getting crafty

Weekend recap

Finally: A long weekend that actually felt like a long weekend! And not a moment too soon, as I’ll be going back to working Fridays with my new gig. My mom and aunt flew in from Chicago on Friday afternoon and left Sunday evening, so we had lots of time to both be productive and relax and try to make Emmett giggle.

We went straight to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden from the airport and had lunch at Trellis, the new cafe by the talented Lisa LaValle.

20140228_134313Our plates were a bright contrast to the snowscape out the window, and the chance to walk around in 50% humidity and 80 degree temps was just what I needed headed into more freezing weather.

Friday night, I ditched the fam for my ladies’ book club. Seriously such a great group of women. I think we met for more than four hours, and discussed the book for maybe 20 percent of the time. Our next read is The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I enjoyed The Namesake, so I’m looking forward to this.


Saturday, we ran a few errands, which included popping into Stitch to get a few more fabrics for a quilting project my mom and I are collaborating on. I joked on Instagram that we were having a mother-daughter stripping session this weekend. (Gross, sorry. Couldn’t resist.)


We love to get Jethro’s carryout when they visit because two of the “Dinner for Two” selections is enough for four adults to eat a hearty dinner with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Emmett definitely approved. He wasn’t into meat before this, but loved himself some smoked, pulled chicken.


(I gave him plain corn, but if you’ve never had Jethro’s jalapeño creamed corn it is ridiculously good.) Thankfully the meat didn’t shock his little tastebuds too much and he still ate his typical sweet potato dinner the next night.

While the ladies crafted and the baby slept, Joe worked on our beadboard banister project, which we’re hoping to complete before E figures how to crawl forward. He’s been scooting backwards and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. He also started to take some steps when we were “walking” holding his hands. Eeek. We have a long way to go before our house is baby-proof.


Sunday afternoon we made a batch of pretzels – our second in as many weeks. Joe and I made them for a Downton Abbey “picnic dinner” last Sunday from Alton Brown’s recipe. They turned out awesome:


Joe made the dough, which is the hard part, but I got into the dunking-in-boiling-water bit. We ate them with queso because we’re real fond of “light” dining options. 


Filed under At home, Books, Cooking, Des Moines Dining, Getting crafty

Can’t. Stop. Crafting.

After a crafting hiatus this summer and fall, a few weeks ago I came down with a bit of a fever to makemakemake stuff. And in an effort to make a dent in my disaster of a craft area, I vowed to work only with supplies I already had on hand. I still hadn’t created anything handmade for Emmett, so I wanted to make a special Christmas present for him.

When I first visited Stitch, I purchased a three-pack of darling farm-themed fat quarters and in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to use them to make some sort of gift. I love the idea of play food toys, and I’ve been into doing blanket stitch on felt, so I decided to try to make a few plush veggies in a little “farm to table” sack.


IKEA also has a super inexpensive set if you aren’t the kind of person who derives ridiculous amounts of pleasure creating misshapen carrots of your own design while watching Homeland.


Once I’d created one carrot, I couldn’t stop myself and am already making plans to add to the collection.


I love the idea that it’s like a plot of garden/picnic blanket when they’re laid out. If I was really on my game, I would have sewed a plate and silverware appliques on the gingham fabric.

farm plush veggie toys

The corn was a particularly goofy labor of love, and required busting out the sewing machine, but this Iowa boy appreciated the effort.


Emmett loved them. He got his two (bottom) front teeth* just in time for Christmas and proceeded to immediately put the corn cobs into his mouth.


The reversible drawstring bag was a breeze, thanks to a tutorial I found. I actually made this while Emmett was awake and attempting to feed himself a bottle.


A few other projects I’ve pinned to attempt for Emmett someday:

  • Monster mittens (This may be especially important if his eczema persists into toddlerhood!)
  • A “quiet book” with little activities that travel and help develop fine motor skills
  • A felt storyboard kind of like the one I remember coveting from our children’s library growing up

*Teething is awful. I don’t know how he can be up screaming all night and then super giggly in the morning, while Joe and I stumble around in total zombie mode. Still, kind of loving this season with a tiny.


Filed under At home, Baby, Getting crafty

Ladies, unite!

No offense to the guys, but sometimes a girl has to kick back with her ladyfriends. I had an awesome time last Friday getting together with my new book club. It took us an hour of chatting and munching on appetizers before we even sat down to discuss the book (“The Age of Miracles”). Once we did, the conversation swung between smart commentary and good laughs. Plus, there was pizza and homemade apple hand pies. Our next book is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things” in case you’d like to read along! (I wanted to read “My Notorious Life,” and hopefully I’ll have time over the holidays to dig into that next.)


If I didn’t feel so guilty about always leaving Joe and Emmett to go to various meetings and whatnot, I would totally sign up for knitXmidwest. Hopefully there will be a next year! The awesome women behind Hill Vintage & Knits and the totally rad Jen Geigley of makeXdo are putting on this two-day knitting and crochet retreat.

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If I were to go, I might try to have someone walk me through making some ridiculous baby head gear. My friend Gina sent me a link to this Cabbage Patch Kids inspired hat and as a child of the late ’80s, I got a good laugh out of it.


Emmett might need a baby beard beanie.

Last ladything: The TEDxDesMoines TEDxWomen event is on December 5! We’ve got some fun speakers lined up. I’ll leak two of them here:

Beth Howard, the pie ambassador who also lives in the American Gothic House, will give a talk. It sounds like she might also do a pie-prep demo, too!


Drake Professor Renee Cramer will give a talk that addresses the celebrity baby bump in a way US Weekly never would. You can read her thoughtful convocation address from this fall here. There are some good thoughts about striving to impress and intentions that are meaningful for non-students, too.


We haven’t made ticketing live or anything, but will soon! This is just a sneak peek because I like you all best. Hop over to “like” the TEDxDesMoines page to stay up to date on everything!


Filed under Books, Getting crafty, I love Des Moines

Sporty spice: DIY headbands for baby girls

This is completely unrelated to anything else in this post, but if you aren’t into baby crafts, go read this terrifically written story from Grantland, “Out in the Great Alone,” about following the Iditerod dog sled race. You don’t even have to care about sled racing. Read it on your iPad with a cup of coffee and bask in the weather we’re now finally experiencing.

Anyhow… Tim finally posted another update from his soon-to-be-father-of-triplets chronicles, so I thought it would be good timing to share what I made for the “Paluch 3-pack” baby shower. Tim is a huge Chicago sportsfan, so in addition to getting some bug-themed Eric Carle goodies for Gretchen’s entomology passion, I thought I’d attempt to make something a little sporty for the ladies. You know those big flower headbands that always seem to sprout out of baby girls’ heads? This is the sporty spice version:


I covered elastic with sweatshirt and jersey material (the jersey worked better, though) in Bears, Bulls and White Sox colors using techniques from this tutorial.

For the centers, I circles and a football shape out of felt – two for each piece – and blanket stitched them together. My circles are the size of the base of a can of baking powder, which I used as a tracing tool.DSC_0794

This was my first blanket stitching attempt and it was so easy that I might have gotten addicted! I embroidered the details freestyle. The baseball took a couple of tries. I recommend tracing the curves in disappearing ink and then making Vs along the line.


For the actual headband part, I used 14″ strips of elastic and about 18″ strips of fabric to cover them, but that really wasn’t enough to get a good scrunch, in retrospect. I recommend longer strips of fabric that you can always cut down if you need to.


I imagine you could always just use an existing lacy elastic headband, if you have one, and eliminate the need for a sewing machine. I may have messed up connecting the strips, because things didn’t end up as stretchy as I’d have liked, so hopefully these fit baby heads for longer than five minutes.


I used hot glue to attach the tulle and, to affix the ball shape to the headband. I made a third circle and football shape for each and glued the tulle to that, then sandwiched the headband between the tulle covered backing piece and my blanket stitched ball pieces. You can skip the tulle, if you like. Maybe go with a mesh instead, if you can find some? I put the ball over the messy looking ends that I’d sewn together.


Voila! This was a fun craft for me to try. I’m definitely going to be making some more baseball headbands this summer, and I’m sure I’ll finetune the process.



Filed under Baby, Getting crafty

ABC Baby Shower

Last weekend, I went home for a baby shower that my mom and aunts planned to celebrate the impending arrival (6-ish weeks?) of JamJam Jellyroll – as we like to call baby Jayjack.

They chose a sweet little venue, The Pinecone Cottage Teahouse, in Downers Grove, to host it, and crafted some special details.We don’t know if Baby J is a boy or girl yet, so everything was gender neutral.


The ABC theme was inspired by the Posie Gets Cozy Daisychain alphabet crewlwork project my mom has been working on (she got down to the ‘z’ by the day of the shower!) and carried through with cute little signs and details, like these sweet cookie mix favors shaped like mason jar bottles.


Showers elicit a dreamlike ‘and you were there, and you were there!’ feeling that comes from gathering important people who would never otherwise be in the same room together to share your joy. A table of my beautiful besties from Benet and Mizzou:


I’m also smitten with the scrapbook paper origami placeholders that my mom and aunts made when they were out in California. They stand up and have little pockets on both sides. The front held a little piece of paper with the name and table on it and the back had a tea bag tucked in. I’m taking one apart and will do another post on how to make them, since they didn’t have a tutorial for it.


The game we played reminded us all of how my grandpa makes up alternate names for things using fancier synonyms (Sloppy Joes = Untidy Josephs, etc.).

Can you figure out which children’s book titles these stand for?

1.  Emerald Yolk With Accompanying Pig Product
2.  Evening Salutations To The Celestial Orb
3.  Soft Cotton Toy Bunny
4.  Trifecta Of Minute Swine
5.  Pretty Girl Slumbering
6.  Unsightly Aquatic Bird
7.  Which Female Cares For Me
8.  Brunette Furry Animal, Brunette Furry Animal, I Ask About Your Observations.
9.  Locale Of The Concrete Walkway’s Termination.
10.  Be Off Canine, Be Off
11.  Famished Butterfly Predecession
12.  Fedora Wearing Feline
13.  Locale Of The Untamed Creatures
14.  A Breeze Blowing Through The Salex Trees
15.  Diminutive Domicile Situated in Open Country
16.  Bequeathing Topiary
17.  Pentagonal Tiny Primates Bouncing on a Trundle

I was stumped on a few, so let me know in the comments if you just can’t get one and I’ll tell you the answer!

Everyone was so generous and thoughtful – I know this little person is coming into a great support system. All of the guests even created an alphabet book. Everyone got assigned a letter and came up with a word and way to illustrate it:


The new nursery windows go in tomorrow, too!

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Filed under Baby, Life lessons

Fit for a Prince

Although I do have a girl crush on Kate Middleton (secretly hoping Royal Baby and my JamJam Jellyroll will someday be married), the Union Jack inspired quilt I finally finished isn’t for her progeny. It’s for a baby boy named London, the son of Joe’s best friend Jimmy and his wife.


I got it all washed (because washing a quilt for the first time is terrifying, so I decided to take that leap for them) and ready to ship out just a few weeks into little London’s life, and with a little bit of time to spare before opening day. As not to be too British, I backed it with baseball fabric, since Joe and Jimmy are both huge Cubs fans.


I pieced the red and white strips and then appliqued them to the blue background, and I’m happy with how everything turned out. Measuring isn’t my friend.


I looked at several Union Jack quilt patterns, but I ultimately decided to wing it. Quiltspiration:

Union Jack quilt inspiration from Etsy
I Heart London Quilt Pattern

I wish I was the kind of quilter who could put together a tutorial, but my haphazard try-it, then fix-it approach doesn’t really lend itself to step-by-steps. I pieced together the red and white strips and folded the edges and appliqued them to the blue background. (Technically, the red strips should run together to make a true cross shape. Whoops!) I cut the baseball backing to size, then I quilted triangles in the spaces between the diagonals.



I am the world’s worst binder, so although I probably could have done this in a weekend, I cursed at it and left it crumpled in a corner for awhile. My quilts look decent from a distance, so you won’t see too many close-ups.


Days like these, when the gray sky and ground bleed into greener and bluer hues remind me of the months I lived in London, the winter semester of my Junior year during study abroad. I walked so much that spring (walking places = discovery), and enjoyed solitary adventures and outings with friends.

I remember spending a crisp afternoon by myself in Holland Park, and it was glorious. Each park has such personality.
High tea at the Dorchester with my best girl is a favorite fancy memory.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is a must-see, and the Churchill War Rooms are quite fabulous, too. (But ALL of the museums in London are pretty great!)
Shopping and snacking along the Portobello Road Market – so full of colour (spelled the British way, of course.)

2006, London, waiting for the organ recital at Westminster Abbey

2006, London, waiting for the organ recital at Westminster Abbey

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Filed under BS outside the Midwest, Getting crafty


A separate his and hers Saturday: Joe had plans for an all-day lager tasting extravaganza (they do this super serious blind beer tasting once a year).


So I decided to invite over the ladies whose significant others would be spending the afternoon trying to differentiate Rolling Rock from Lucky Bucket. Simple plan: to have tea and get creative. Joe gets excited about beer and guac and this is the face I make when I get to put my milk-glass manatee on a cake pedestal:

23 weeks

Joe brought home a gorgeous orchid we’ve amazingly managed not to kill and I brought out my Jadite bowls and made a little table scape. I set the table with some goodies and filled up little tea and supply stations and we chatted and made cards and whatnot.


The tea tray collage is something my family made me as a wedding present and electric kettles are a fantastic invention.


It was relaxing and nice to reconnect with a small gathering of women who I might not see as often. All those supplies live in a crazy cluttered spot in my basement. It’s like I’m a Michael’s outlet.

Having all of my supplies in front of me inspired me to finish the Union Jack-ish quilt that I’m making for a friends’ baby. I did it super freestyle, like all of my quilting projects, and it’s nowhere near perfect, but I’m proud of it! This is just the topper. I’m so close to being done, but the binding step was torturing me.


I love the fabrics – including the baseball backing which I’ll show you when it’s all finished. (The quilt is for a tiny baby boy named London who is still in the NICU. He’s the son of Joe’s best friend.) The fabric is from Creekside Quilting in Clive.

OH! And while I was quilting, I listened to this fascinating Radiolab podcast about color perception. Is the sky blue if nobody tells you so?


Filed under At home

Meet Sah-rah of “Craft-a-Day” at Ephemera

In the (sometimes awkward) quest of making friends as an adult, I’ve found that crafting together is quick way to break the ice. Silences aren’t strange when you’re bent over, gluing/glittering/cutting something and a certain comfortable camaraderie is woven between two people who are being creative in each others company. I first met “Craft-a-Day” author Sarah Goldschaldt that way, through the lovely Cara Corey because the two were J-school friends together at Drake.
Sarah has a pared-down, fun aesthetic inspired, it seems, by being half-Danish and taking lots of trips to visit her twin sister in Iceland. She once did a crafter challenge for us when I was working at Juice, and now she has her own book! Ta-da:
Sarah still owns a home in Des Moines and had landed back here for awhile in between some pretty amazing projects she always seems to be a part of. Now she’s back in NYC. The women is a design genius and has worked for Martha Stewart Living, Oprah, Glamour,< insert-pretty-much-any-glossy-you’ve-drooled-over-here>. She’s also a super-fun person to craft with — as I recall, she was here in the winter when I was learning to crochet and we’d watch TED talks together and make stuff.
So you should totally go to Ephemera next week and meet her and make friends by getting your craft on!
Thursday, November 8th, 5-8  p.m. at Ephemera, 505 East Locus St.
Bonus: See what Goodsmiths.com is all about as well as meet Amy Palanjian, author of Sew Pretty! Crochet and a dear friend of mine.

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Filed under Books, I love Des Moines

A tisket, a tasket

What says 60th birthday more than female bonding and folk crafts? In honor of my mom, the Kelley women  headed to Wisconsin this past weekend for a workshop at East Troy Basketry and made this:

It took the whole day. I documented the process for my Instagram followers:

The women who run the studio were super sweet and introduced us to all kinds of basketry lingo. We found the experience ripe for the pun-making.

It’s pretty cool to see something take shape from a pile of reeds.

Seriously going to appreciate basket arts (I got scolded for calling it a “craft”) a lot more after eight hours of working on this!

It was a rare day to have all of the women (sans my cousin Katie, who was running the San Francisco Women’s Marathon) together, being creative. It was the perfect way to spend a rainy fall Wisconsin day.


Filed under Uncategorized