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Monday, October 29, 2012

Welcome to BloggieLand




I PREPARE ALL THE MEALS FOR MY FAMILY, AND THEY ARE
NUTRITIOUS AND MADE ENTIRELY FROM SCRATCH.

MY CHILD SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT,
EVERY NIGHT, FOR 14 HOURS STRAIGHT.
MY BODY MADE IT THROUGH PREGNANCY AND
CHILDBIRTH WITHOUT SCARS, MARKS, OR WOUNDS.


Now let's get real.

Are any of these things I've listed actually true?  No.  Or, rather, Heck No.  You know, you shouldn't always trust your narrator.

I'll admit, I'm a happy ending kind of gal; maybe that's why I like sappy movies, or can sing along to most Disney movie soundtracks.  There's a reason why one of the categories you'll find to the right of this page is called Triumph and Encouragement instead of Oh Crud, I'm Struggling with Something Yet Again.  I don't write often about struggles I'm having while in the thick of it, partly because I don't run to my computer when I'm knee deep in stress, but also because I don't want to come crawling by my fingertips, typing to you, having failed.  I'd rather deal privately with something, and then come out on top, a Champion of Motherhood.

Here in BloggieLand, it's so easy to give the impression that I have it all figured out, that my child is perfect, and that all I do during the day is crochet, sew, and cook.  But man, is that anything further than the truth.  I read a few months ago on a blog (a professional blog by someone I don't know personally) that they felt that all the blogs they followed were written by perfect, creative, incredibly inspiring people - everything they wrote about showed how perfect they were and had everything together.  This specific blogger, in turn,  hoped to be More Real to her readers by sharing more of her struggles and quirks.  So, instead of coming to you saying Woot, Woot!  I Have Succeeded!  I Solved All My Problems!  I come to you, saying:  


I Have Struggled.  I Am Struggling.  I Will Struggle.

I'm human, I'm a stresser, and we all know I'm a bawler.  I can't do it all, and I don't do it all.  And because I can't do it all, I want to share some of these struggles so I can be More Real to you.

Body Image.  Once a week I seriously consider shaving my head.  Gone are the luscious waves of golden hair, strong and thick, that I enjoyed combing my fingers through when I was pregnant.  Here (seemingly) to stay are the weak, easily broken strands that cling to my scalp, awkward, fuzzy, and ornery.




And the scars etched in my skin?



They are a reminder of the battle my body has gone through (cue Pat Benatar's Love Is A Battlefield song), while my slow recovery after having a child is yet another reminder that mental scars can carry so much more weight than those that physically mar our flesh.

Coffee Vs. Water.  Most of the time I still drink decaffeinated coffee (confession: I do also lean on caffeine after having a rough night or Zombie Mommy lurches around my living room), but I honestly drink more coffee (decaf or otherwise) than water most days.  Yep, it's the best way to dehydrate yourself, leaving you weak, tired, and woozy.  But, it tastes so good, and the feeling of that hot mug in my hands, the smell of the steaming liquid - it's such a comfort.  How could I pass up another cup?



For meals, I'm trying my best to feed Quincy well, and yet I leave my own nutritional standards by the wayside when it comes to filling my own belly.  As someone who has low blood sugar issues (any other Hypoglycemics out there?), I try my best to eat every two to three hours and lay-off the sugar, but it's still a struggle - I miss getting food when I need it most, I munch on something sugary that only exacerbates a low blood sugar spell, or I let the crabbiness of said spell guide my attitude for the day.

Nighttime.  Quincy is now ten months old and I still nurse him during the night.  Most times, it's just once during those early morning hours, but it's still getting up.  Is Quincy sleeping through the night?  That's everyone's favorite question these days, and sometimes I mentally hang my head, wishing I didn't have to say, Well, no, he's not.



I know in my heart that he does better when he eats once during the night - he wakes up happy instead of agitated, he eats a good breakfast because he's not overly-upset from a barren belly, therefore he naps and eats well throughout the day from having a good start at breakfast.  But still (don't you love that phrase?).  But.  Still.  It's an issue of pride - my own silly pride -, because the Sleeping Through The Night Badge is not something I have tacked onto my motherhood belt yet.

Inadequacy.  Hello.  I'm a Perfectionist.  I think too much about what other people think of me.  I try to be casual, calm, play it cool, but I worry.  As you can see from the issues stated above, I have times where I feel inadequate.  Inadequate as a mother, a wife, a woman, a friend, a follower of Christ,... the list continues.  Feeling that twinge of inadequacy can be good at times - it tells you that you have things to improve - but you shouldn't let it consume you as I do at times.


This post will still be categorized under "Triumph and Encouragement", because I want you, as readers, to come away from this post feeling optimistic.  Despite these struggles, there are great things to be thankful for (case in point for me: my family below).  I think it's easy to get caught up in the Perfectness of other people's lives (are we still trading lunches like in grade school?), instead of knowing that everyone struggles with different things.  No one is perfect, and if they are, they're probably bored out of their mind.






Don't get me wrong, BloggieLand is a great place to share so much, but don't be fooled.  Correction: Don't let me fool you;  I'm still figuring it all out like the next person.

Imperfectly yours,

~M

Monday, October 22, 2012

Challenge: How to Wrap Creatively, Funly, & Greenly

In case you were wondering, funly is not an actual word, though surprisingly, greenly is.  And yes, I have seen a dictionary before, and even used one!  But this post is all about creativity, so why can't I be creative with my hands and my words?  Bootylicious is in fact a word in the dictionary now.... I'm just saying that there are lesser non-words out there that have become words....

Okay, here was the challenge: Think outside the box for gift wrapping.  I don't know about you, but my heart dies a little inside each time I purchase tissue paper.  Is it pretty?  Yes.  Does it make gifts look fancy, and fluffy, and oh so nice?  Double yes.  But it costs trees, it costs ink, and it costs money, all of which get crumpled up into a little ball and tossed into the garbage.  Instead, I like to reuse/repurpose as much as possible.  Secretly, if I receive a gift and the tissue paper is a bit crinkled, I am over-joyed because it's been used more than once.

I thought I would share a few ideas I've come across for wrapping as the holiday season quickly approaches.  Feel free to add to the list if you know of other ways to be a bit more Earth-conscious, Pocketbook-conscious, and well, just generally aware and conscious - though who knows: we may all become so wrapped up in all this wrapping we could pass out from the excitement!


CLOTH CAN GO A LONG WAY

Using pieces of fabric is a great way to reuse what you have.  These handmade handkerchiefs were a gift from a recent wedding, and are a beautiful example of exceptional fabric that can encase a cute little gift.



Don't have handmade hankies laying around?  Use fabric pieces, decorative towels, bandanas, or other pieces of cloth.  If you have the time and equipment, you could hem the edges of nice holiday fabric, and then save them each year to wrap.  Make it just once, but use every year.


MAKE IT USEFUL

I don't know about all of you out there, but at this point in my life weddings, babies, and joyous occasions are everywhere.  As a newish mom, I try to be practical in gift giving, thinking of what would be useful for the intended recipient.  Basically, I like to put gifts in a useful container that can be used again.

Baby Gift - Storage Bin & "Vintage" Tissue Paper

Got a baby shower to attend?  Put the gifts in a canvas tote or bin.  Toys seem to seep out of the carpet at our house, so it's nice to have a basket or container to toss them in for when company comes over.  Instead of wrapping in paper, which will be thrown away, spend your dollars on a simple container that will be helpful and used again and again.

As another example, I had received a fruit basket from my employer (before I became a S@H Momma) last Christmas.  The fruit was delicious, and the basket was even more delicious!

Baby Storage. Quincy - 24 Days Old
Photo Courtesy of Kate Brown Photography
Yarn Storage
Baby Fashion Show. Quincy - 8 Months

As you can see, I've put it to good use for photos, storage, etc.  Could you do the same with crumpled up wrapping paper?  Not as likely.

GIFT IN A GIFT

Remember this Bandana Apron I made?  Well, I now can give it as a gift AND wrap another gift!  Are you giving a shirt, sweater, or some other large item that could be big enough to use as wrapping material?  Use a simple ribbon to tie it all up, and leave out the paper.  Get creative.  Imagine if you show up to a family gathering with all your gifts, and leave without having any trash to pick-up.  Just gifts and a great time!

Books + Apron = ...

Nothin' But Gifts, Baby

For college students or someone who just moved, pick-up some pretty pillowcases, new towels, or a cozy bath mat.  Simply tie with a ribbon or string, and you have a lovely gift in a gift.

NEWSPAPER SOUNDS GOOD

Love the sound of riiiiiiiiiiiiiipping open a gift?  Newspaper still has that glorious sound when you tear through it.  It's free and recyclable - just be sure to take off the tape pieces before putting the paper in the recycle bin.

REUSE THE GOOD STUFF

As I mentioned above, I like to reuse tissue paper, at least if it's still in good condition.  I don't want to sound cheap or that I don't put worth into a gift, but it's more an issue of waste.  Trees are a renewable resource, but we can still be responsible with our usage, whether it's a gift bag, tissue paper, or another wrapping accessory.



I have a box of wrapping gear that I go to first if I need to wrap something.  There are instances that I don't have the appropriate wrapping items from my stash of reusables, and I've bought new pieces.  Ideally, I would be able to figure out another way, but I'll admit I get lazy at times.  But hey, I'm a work in progress.

REPURPOSE

There are tons of things out there that can be repurposed into decorative wrapping.  For a recent wedding gift, I decorated this simple basket I purchased at a second hand shop.  Using hemp string, some buttons, and some flowers I crocheted, I spruced it up to match the elegance of a white veil occasion.

Plain Basket (Boooooor-rrriiiing)
Beautiful! (Note: I used recyclable wrapping paper)


For those of you that shop online a lot, Amazon often fills their boxes with brown paper; I myself have gotten reams of it with large items.

Brown Amazon Paper
Same Repurposed Basket above
but with Brown Amazon Paper instead

Save it!  Repurpose it!  It's beautiful brown paper, and gives a cozy rustic look to your gifts.


IF ALL ELSE FAILS, RECYCLE!

As the season of giving and getting gifts approaches, I am going to challenge YOU to be thoughtful both in your giving AND in your wrapping.  Sadly, not all wrapping paper is recyclable.  If you're going to buy new wrapping paper - make sure it is recyclable.

Look for the Three Magic Arrows

If receiving gifts in gift bags or tissue paper, save the good stuff!  Be an advocate for our planet - we only get one!  (Though I hear summers on the moon are quite invigorating...)  I for one will be bringing a big yellow bag to our family Christmas gathering(s), and recycling whatever I can.

Gotta Love Our Hometown - Stuff in All Things Recyclable & They Collect!

The website Earth911.com details some interesting history of how wrapping paper first came about, along with the facts about recycling wrapping paper, such as, "if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields".  Isn't that incredible?  Just think of what could change if we weren't so quick to wrap everything in brand new paper?  Be wise about your wrapping, be smart about what is trash and what can be saved or recycled.  This is a joyous time of year, but don't forget to care for the beautiful nature around us - Mother Earth could use some joy in her life, too!


Greenly Yours,

~M

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How to Make a Cupcake Stand Worthy of Your Floor

I had good intentions.  I made an effort.  Really, I did.



Don't these plates and glasses look cool?  I came across this great tutorial on how to make your own cake stand using plates and candlesticks, and thought, "I could do that!"


Quincy and I took a walk down to a nearby thrift shop, and I picked out these neat (and cheap!) pieces. And then after a lot of searching (who knew there was so much glue, and hey I'm a poet and I know it), I purchased this adhesive at my local craft shop.

All I can say is, don't trust The Pathophysiology Book.



It's too heavy, and will only encourage a thinly bonded group of plates and fragile glasses to jump off the counter, and shatter into a million, bajillion pieces.


But hey, it still works as a cupcake stand.


Plans are in the works to find more plates for repurposing, and to avoid the dreaded Pathophysiology Book.

Sweeping the night away,

~M

Monday, October 15, 2012

All We Know Is: He's Called The (Baby) Stig {Part 3}

To finish our final episode of the three-part Top Gear UK Appreciation Series, I present to you one of my latest projects:

The (Baby) Stig!


If you missed the previous posts, check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.  Based on The Stig from the British television show, Top Gear UK, he is charged with driving ridiculous cars, and training celebrities how to drive a reasonably priced car around the Top Gear Racing Track.  He is also known for his vast (and absurd) reputation.  Similarly, the Baby Stig, has also acquired a bit of a rap in his months of life.



SOME SAY...

he's a South Paw,
but plays a right-handed guitar upside down.
SOME SAY...

he read the entire Harry Potter series in utero,
and now presents lectures at Harvard during the fall semesters.

SOME SAY...
he invented Casual Fridays
and enjoys a snack - from time to time - 

of the sole of his shoe.

ALL WE KNOW IS: HE'S CALLED THE BABY STIG.





There may be other tales out there of The Baby Stig - feel free to share the ones you've heard in the comments below.

I hope you have enjoyed the Top Gear UK Appreciation Series.  Happy Halloween!

~M (Baby Stig's Mom)

P.S.  Learn more details on how The Baby Stig's uniform was created here.

Behind the Seams: Making The (Baby) Stig Costume



I've recently been posting about the H-G's love of Top Gear UK.  (Feel free to read part one, part two, and part three if you need to get caught up!)  Here's how I made the costume, though please take note: this is just a costume inspired by The Stig, but is in no way endorsed by Top Gear UK.

1. Start with an Adorable Baby:


I found the above baby at home, so there was no need to go out to the store to find one.  Convenient, right?

2.  Add White Pants, Socks, & Shoes:

Who says you have to buy a full costume, all put together from the store?  Well, actually that sounds a lot easier than finding or making the components.... uh.... well, what fun would that be?  Where's the challenge?!

White Pants & Shoes
Baby Stig Shoes

I lucked out and found these white pants and shoes at a Mom-to-Mom Sale recently, added some socks from the drawer, and the Baby Stig was half-way dressed!

3.  Have a Date Night with Heat'n Bond®, an Embroidering Sewing Machine, & an Iron

Using my new sewing machine, I embroidered a patch that read, "I AM THE BABY STIG" using black thread and white fabric.  If you do not have access to a sewing machine that can embroider, or don't want to pay someone to do it, you can always go the classic route of using HELLO MY NAME IS name tags and fill in the blank with Baby Stig/Stigette.

Shoulder Accent Pieces & Baby Stig Name Patch


Using scrap black fabric (I used leftovers from the wedding ties I made), and an amazing thing called Heat'n Bond, an iron on adhesive, I made and attached shoulder accent pieces to a white sweatshirt I bought online.



I used additional Heat'n Bond to attach the name patch, then sewed around the shoulder pieces and name patch for good measure (don't want them peeling off while racing around the Top Gear track).  If wanting to make a Baby Stigette, you could always use a pink sweatshirt, or something else that is ├╝ber girlie.

4.  Crochet the Baby Stig "Helmet":

No, this is not an approved helmet that will protect your Baby Stig's little noggin (read: this is not meant to be warn as a protective helmet, though it may keep their ears warm on a chilly Halloween night!)  Instead, it is a beanie hat with an added strap and visor.



If you'd like to use my Baby Race Car Driver Crochet Hat pattern, you can purchase it through my Etsy Shop, Tugboat Yarning, here!

5.  Dress Baby in Gear:

This is harder than it looks, but all it takes is patience and a little finagling, and you've got your very own Baby Stig!



Got any fun costumes you've thrown together?  Or remember any goofy ones your parents put together for you when you were a kid?  Share below in the costumes!


~ M (aka Mini Stig's Mom)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dear Top Gear UK {Part 2}

Dear Top Gear UK,

If you're actually reading this, consider me shocked.  We love your show.  If you missed out on Part 1 of this three-part series of bloggety-goodness, you should check it out here.  As I was saying, The H-G family is one big family of HUGE fans of Top Gear UK.  Though this letter is co-authored (by Maggie H-G and Brad H-G), you should know that I, Maggie, the girl of the H-G family, was inspired to write this series.  Not the dudes of our family, but the girl.  Brad, however, gets the credit for us watching the show (I took some convincing at first).

So, Top Gear UK, if you're reading this, know that you have some American fans across the pond that greatly enjoy your show.  I thought I might introduce the H-G family, by telling you a bit about us (beyond our "about us" typical biography) in terms of some of our vehicular history.  We hope you enjoy it!

----------

This is Maggie's first car:

The Purple Car
(Maggie on the horn, brother Henry
on manual transmission, aka pushing)


Errr, wait.  This is Maggie's first real car, purchased by my mom in 2001 from a friend for $1500:

1984 Volvo 240 DL

The essence of this car can be explained by the hula girl dancer I lovingly placed on the dash, only to watch her age with time.

The Volvo's (Exposed) Hula Girl
No, scissors were not applied to her skirt - the plastic white "grass" slowly disintegrated until a mere breeze through the window would blow pieces of it away.  I couldn't bare the thought of plucking her from her perch, so there she stayed with her exposed spring, always smiling despite her misfortunes.

Other bonus features to this beauty of a car included:
  • Jeep headlight laying sideways in the headlamp case (courtesy of my dad - it was larger than the original Volvo headlight, but was on hand in the garage, so he made it work)
  • Jerry-rigged exhaust system (repaired at a mechanic's shop twice after exhaust would pour in through the backseat)
  • Duct tape upholstery upgrades
  • Yellow electrical wire connectors for pain-free locking and unlocking (to cover the exposed bolts on the door locks that had sheepishly cracked off with use)
  • Two new exterior door handles (two of the original handles snapped off at the base - and you should know, I'm not actually strong enough to rip off a door handle, but now I can say I've done it twice.)
She was a great car, despite the quirks and awkward repairs.  I felt safe (let's face it - she was a TANK), and with a crank-operated sunroof and electric windows, it was ahead of its mid-1980's time.  I even got to watch it turn over some pretty hefty mileage.


I sold it - or rather, my dad sold it for less than the value of the new tires put on it a few months prior to its sale and kept twenty dollars as commission - after another 4,000 miles were added to the odometer, but The Tank and I parted on good terms.

------------

Even at a young age, Brad was a stud on wheels.

Who needs a shirt when you've got a tractor and shades?

Brad's first car was a Bronco uh... Blazer?  Either way, I know for certain it was white.  I'll let him give the overview:

Can't we make a first mistake twice? That's what I remember asking my parents. My older brother somehow managed to convince my parents that an ideal first car for a hormonal 16-year old boy was a Camaro Z28. Makes sense, right? Needless to say, they soon deemed this a "mistake," and declared that I would be unable to have a muscle-car for my first vehicle. I claimed my right to make my own mistakes rather than learn from others, but it was decided I would get something distinctly more practical.

Michigan weather, driving around siblings, hauling around soccer and guitar gear, avoiding a propensity to be driven like a maniac - a small 4WD SUV fit the bill.

1994 Chevy Blazer

Contrary to what Maggie seems to repeat, I did not have a Bronco. This 1994 Chevy Blazer was the treat. Coming in at a cool ten years more modern than Maggie's ride, it had luxury features such as leather seats and a CD player.

Requiring only a new fuel filter (you mean it's not good to let the tank run dry?) and a fair amount of Bondo and Rustoleum, it certainly got me from A to B. Still, it was no Z28.

-----------

This is the closest thing Quincy has to a car, besides the small plastic cars and trucks he plays with as toys, as he can actually ride it.




Gifted to Quincy from Grandma G. ("Gigi" to the grandkids), The Wooden Elephant is a pretty slick ride.






It gets great mileage and has low emissions, though the traction in the winter is less than ideal.  Also, safety is an issue as it requires a human safety belt to be worn at all times.


----------

I hope this helps you know a bit more about your American Fan-base here at Life, Hyphenated.  Stay tuned for the third and final episode of the Top Gear UK Appreciation Series!

For all of our (tens of) readers out there: What was your first car?  Share below in the comments!


~M, B & Q