Friday, June 29, 2012


It's hard to tell in this photo, but I made the straps a little wider at the top, because I don't like the way thinner straps feel on my shoulder.

That's what I'm calling this bag: "Papillon" (pronounced "pah-pee-yon"). It's just what came to mind.

My inspiration to work in the sewing room is peaking, and I've enjoyed some hours of creativity over the past week. I finished a couple of fun projects and updated my to-sew list. 

I've been wanting a new tote to carry my Bible. I have a fabulous big red "pleather" tote that is perfect for Sunday morning, but it is heavy! Yesterday afternoon, I was inspired to finally make one, so I struck while the iron was hot, as they say. 

Amy Butler is one of my favorite designers. I made use of a few of her prints that I bought recently for this project, and just made up the details of the bag as I went along. The only thing I had planned beforehand was using the butterfly fabric that I bought in Moçambique. (SO glad that I picked up a couple of extra meters of it before we moved back to the States.)

I just love these Bic pens. They are the best!! I tend to be old-fashioned, and new-fangled pens just don't perform as well or as long as these (unless, of course, one shops at Mont Blanc, in which case it wouldn't be called a pen).

On the opposite side, I installed a zipper pocket for those items that it would be a travesty to have slip out of the bag. I almost forgot to add the magnetic snap. In fact, I did forget, so I quickly reopened the seam on the lining & installed one.

I've just been itching to put a key fob into one of my bags. With so many drivers in our house, there's no guarantee that my keys will always end up where I like to keep them. Now, at least in the case of this bag, no rummaging will be required.

I'm sure that my mom will be asking for one of these, so I'm already thinking of how the next one will look. It was a very fun bag to make. I've found that, in keeping with my personality, I enjoy the process more when I'm not poring over pattern instructions. (Not that I don't really love & highly recommend some of the patterns I've used in the past...)

Hop on over to see the lovely creations posted at Amy's Sew & Tell!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lots of Random Stuff

I love this photo that Gabriela took while on a walk with Caelyn and Menina.

Our days have been quite full recently, and I'm just now taking a breather. Today was wonderfully leisurely. Two of the children had to work, so the rest of us played a game, watched National Geographic videos online, and found my dream car. And laughed. That's an integral part of our family time.

Over the past week, we've covered quite a bit of ground. The younger four children had track qualifiers for four straight days, starting last Thursday. I was already exhausted by Friday night, but the Lord sustained all of us through the extreme heat, fast pace, and long hours. I owe much gratitude to my sweet girls for helping me to come up with quick, easy, and nutritious menu ideas for the meets. Congratulations are in order for Morgan, who will move on to the next level in the high jump.

On our way home from Friday's meet, some of us headed to a nearby farmer's market and scored these delectable cherries for a very good deal, among other wonderful things.

Here, Craig & the boys are replaying a video of a race.

Happily, I did finish a project last week before the mad rush began. The family next door has four adorable daughters. The oldest two are twins who just graduated from high school. I thought that they should have coordinating laundry bags to carry with them when they head off to college in the fall. I haven't made one of these since Caelyn left for Alaska a couple of years ago. I had a bit of fun with the details of these.

Mary & Rebecca were quite pleased with their bags, which just blessed my heart!

The children enjoy going to the lake (pond?) in our neighborhood, in search of alligators. They don't pursue them; they just like to see if any can be spotted. The boys researched alligator-hunting laws & requirements, and it seems like a relatively easy process. Gabriela took this photo of Craig Grayson as they walked:

As soon as I get up in the morning, I open the blinds. Morning is such a peaceful and inspiring time of the day. I regret that I don't rise as early these days as I used to, but the low sun does beckon me. One look at a beautiful morning motivates me not to skip my run. 

On Sunday morning, as soon as I opened the first blind, this little visitor was the first to greet me:

When I was a child, I was terrified of dragonflies. As an adult, I find them majestic.

One of our air conditioning units is in need of repair. Last night, as Craig walked around the back of our house to check on the unit, he came across a strange-looking insect on the patio, that appeared to have been injured. (By him, perhaps?) A bit of manipulation revealed that they were, in fact, TWO Walking Sticks. We haven't been able to determine exactly why, but the smaller of the two was actually inside the larger one, and our nephew, Antoine, pulled it out. As far as my cursory research can tell, Walking Sticks reproduce by laying eggs. Not all require mating, but even among those that do mate, the process doesn't seem like what we witnessed here.

These are the 2nd & 3rd Walking Sticks that we've found on our patio recently. The first one was already dead, so we added it to our insect display. These two were on their way toward death, so they'll likely end up there, as well.

On a different note, I don't spend much time on Pinterest, but I appreciate when something wonderful makes it worthwhile. I am so inspired by the creative genius of the author of this blog. She has motivated me to rediscover my penchant for organization. I seem to have abandoned it in recent years (along with my disciplined schedule). This post has spawned a growing to-do list that I hope to accomplish before it's time to start our new homeschool year, and it extends far beyond the sewing room. 

Typically, when I start a project, one thing naturally leads to another. On Monday, a couple of hours spent organizing my closet left me wanting a stool in front of my closet mirror. I couldn't take the stool from my bathroom vanity without having a replacement, so my mental wheels started turning.

I remembered the pair of chairs that I bought at an antique store in California when we were first married. One is need of repair, and both have needed new fabric to replace what I used to cover the seats several years ago. The intact chair was brought into my sewing room recently as a reminder to choose fabric for it.

I had fabric leftover from the duvet cover I made for Gabriela's room. A touch of cording, the staple gun, and a few mix-matched upholstery tacks brought the whole thing together. 

I can't wait to fix the other chair. Any suggestions on how best to replace a missing slat on the back? I saved it when it came off, but after our last two moves, its whereabouts remain a mystery.

Friday, June 15, 2012


There is a very special person in our life who's having an 80th birthday next week. "Nana" is actually the mother of a good friend of mine in Alabama, but she has always treated our family as her own - even inviting us over for her should-be-famous homemade gnocchi. In fact, she was our first overseas visitor when we lived in Moçambique. She even came to see us while we were living in Pittsburgh, along with two of her granddaughters. During their stay, we had a homemade pizza dinner at my parents' house.

Me, Nana, & Craig Grayson

Mom, Daddy, Nana



We've been missing Nana a lot lately, but she's been recovering from recent knee surgery and could be facing hip surgery soon. As we have no travel plans in the near future, it may be a while before we're able to spend time with her. 

As I said, she'll be turning 80, but she is one tough lady. Her chief complaint about her current ailments is that they're affecting her golf game. Needless to say, they've put a damper on her habit of frequent travel, as well. I hope to be as spunky and zealous for life if the Lord blesses me to see her age. 

I didn't have to think twice about what to give Nana for her birthday. This tote has been on my want-to-do list for quite a while. It was a quick, easy project, and I love how the fabrics came together. (I only hope that it'll get to her on time.)

It may be hard to see in this photo, but for part of the quilting, I stitched "Nana" in cursive across the top.

Earlier this week, I posted the 20th anniversary gift that I made for Craig. I can't wait to hang it! 

This has been a really fun week. Happy Friday! I'm off to see what others have posted for Amy's Sew & Tell.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Twenty Years

Craig and I were 21 & 19, respectively, when we got married. If asked whether I have any regrets about marrying so young, I would answer that if I were to do it over again, I'd say yes the first time he asked.

We had Caelyn before we were married, and she has been to us a constant reminder of God's infinite mercy.
He used her to open our eyes to our need for Him.

Yesterday was our twentieth anniversary, and it's hard for me to find gifts that are appropriate for Craig. He's so unique and complex. It won't do for me to just go shopping and pick something out. He doesn't ask for much, and the things that he would buy are beyond my expertise.

The first and most exciting gift that I gave him is something that I plan to post on Amy's Sew & Tell; but first, I want to share just a tiny glimpse of Gift #2. The video at the beginning of this post features a song that expresses so much of what I want to say about our marriage.
I included it in a photo slideshow of our life together, along with three other songs (this, this, and this).
Unfortunately, I'm not tech-savvy enough to post a slideshow from iPhoto.

Here's a tiny, key-hole peek at our roots:

Craig can't deny it when I tell the children that Dad used to wear a high-top fade. This photo was taken while he was on leave from his Army assignment shortly after our wedding and just weeks before Caelyn & I were able to join him at our new home in California.

We took family ID photos for the church nursery when I was pregnant with Morgan.
(Rest assured that I learned my lesson about wearing bangs.)

Let's just focus on how adorable the children were, shall we?

Having recently moved to Ft. Benning, GA, and knowing few people there, Craig insisted that the children & I stay with my parents in PA until after Graham's birth. He was in Officer's Candidate School & wouldn't have been available to me immediately upon going into labor; so it was decided that I should be with family. He was able to fly to see us a week after Graham's birth. (Wow. I used to dress the girls like boys. Ugh!)

ca. Christmas '11

Weddings these days have some fun options for guests at the reception. Craig & I had fun being super silly in this wacky photo booth at the wedding reception for one of his staff.

And now, here is his first gift. Craig has such a passion for Africa, and I wanted to make something unique for him with an African theme. Also, we have a giant bare space above our fireplace that needs to be filled, so this gift is two-fold. ;-)
I really wish that we would have taken a video of Craig's reaction when he saw Caelyn and me walking downstairs with this. Our nephew, Antoine - who's staying with us during his summer internship - even played this song on the computer to accompany the presentation.
Craig was thrilled!

Even Rhodes wanted in on the scene. Craig claims that it's because he recognizes his home.

I've fallen in love with fabric map projects. I wanted to highlight Moçambique, since we lived there, using Moçambican capulana fabric to set it apart. The hardest part of this project was removing burlap threads to fray the bottom before tying the knots. It took three of us a couple of days to do that, taking breaks to spare our fingers. This project was definitely worth every bit of planning & work!

Yesterday was such a pleasant day for us. We started off by going out to breakfast before heading to San Antonio for the day. A highlight for me was taking a tour of one of our favorite ministries and picking up some great resources for the children (including this fun item for the boys).
Afterward, we enjoyed spending time along the Riverwalk & grabbing a casual meal before heading home.

If the Lord wills, I look forward to many more years with Craig. He is a fantastic husband and father, and a wise teacher & leader, who makes life exciting & enjoyable for all of us.

We're still havin' fun, and he's still the one!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy 13th Birthday, Gabriela!

It is bittersweet to have the "baby" of the family finally joining the ranks of what our age-segregated society has dubbed "teens". I'm pretty sure that this is a modern word; but it's still a noteworthy milestone. I think that for our forebears, turning 13 (or 12, in some cultures) carried with it a great honor and much responsibility. In America today, it seems to have lost its luster. We just don't expect as much of our youth as parents did generations ago.

Still, I wanted to take this day to shower Gabriela with special attention. Each year seems to pass more quickly than the one before, and Craig & I are sensing the fleeting nature of parenting with greater sobriety. We spend a lot of time talking with our children about the necessity of cherishing God's Word, thinking consequentially, living to honor the Lord, and planning for future generations. This will certainly be a major part of our focus when we all gather this evening to celebrate Gabriela, as with all of the children's birthdays.

Earlier today, however, I took the time to do some "light", girly stuff with her. I began last night by sending her to bed early so that I could make her a birthday bunting to hang in her room. It was so cute to see her surprise this morning when I woke her. I've never made one of these before, and it's even easier than the pillowcase dress. I remember having seen some of these around the blogosphere, and I figured that it can't be too hard. I glanced at a tutorial, just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. (I tend to make things harder than they need to be.) Seeing that it is, in fact, as easy as it seems, I just made my own pattern and went to it.

After dropping Craig Grayson at work today, I took Gab for her first birthday treat. She didn't know what I had planned, so I parked in front of the donut shop near the nail salon and said, "You know how I always say that I don't like for you guys to have donuts because they're bad for you? Well, I wanted to give you a special treat today."

Then I stepped out of the truck and walked in the direction opposite the donut shop while saying, "I still haven't changed my mind about the donuts, so you're not getting any. Here's where you really get to go."
And I proceeded to lead her into the nail salon.
(She laughed. She knows me.)

The Bible teaches not to "muzzle the ox" when it's treading out grain, so the birthday chauffeur got a pedicure, too.

Gabriela was tickled when the nail technician offered to paint flowers on her big toenails.

Next on the menu was a trip to TJMaxx for the purse she saw last week.

I have such a problem when I shop for my children. I always have to talk myself out of things for me, like this fabulous tote bag:

It's haunting me even now.

Shopping makes us hungry - especially at lunch time. ;-)
When Gabriela and I are trying to decide where to eat, each of us is painfully indecisive, in favor of the other.
We finally settled on Chipotle.

It's amazing how conveniently close Charming Charlie is located, relative to Chipotle. And we just happened to put enough quarters in the meter to allow a little more shopping.

Isn't this bracelet so "fly"?

The Birthday Girl and her loot
 We still had some time to kill before getting Craig Grayson from work, so we squeezed in a visit to Hobby Lobby. He ended up finishing early, and we picked him up and dropped him at home, then grabbed some groceries and mulch. (I feel like it's my birthday, since the guys have been sprucing up our yard - even if it is a bit late in the season.)

Gabriela didn't realize it, but we were actually grocery shopping for the remaining ingredients needed for the surprise birthday dessert that Caelyn & Morgan made for her. We needed something that isn't so guilt-inducing as cake.
(Besides, we had cake yesterday when we celebrated all of the May & June birthdays with The Cousins. OK, and Saturday at our neighbor's graduation party; but who's counting?)

Now everyone needs to come home from track practice before I help myself to the pavlova without them!

I'm trying to figure out how birthday cake ever beat pavlova as the traditional option.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Unexpected Guest

Yesterday I had Gabriela pot a couple of ferns for me to set onto plant stands beside our fireplace.
I had discovered a bag of potting soil that was left on the patio after its last use.
Later, I checked to make sure that she had sufficiently covered the roots and moistened the soil.
I was a bit startled when the soil moved!

I almost felt guilty disturbing the new tenant.

But he had to go.

Gabriela had a little difficulty taking him outside. She kept getting "sprinkled", so she dropped him a couple of times, which piqued Rhodes's curiosity.
I quickly cleaned up the drops, but apparently Rhodes could still detect some of it, as he was sniffing around the area.

Toads and frogs have a reputation for urinating on anyone who picks one up; but I wonder if this isn't just a defense mechanism.

Our Wonderful Creator has made so many interesting creatures. I'm glad that we had an out-of-the-ordinary encounter with one yesterday.
We were wishing that we could find a more appropriate habitat for this one, but we were already late leaving the house for a track meet.
Perhaps we'll meet again under more convenient circumstances.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pillowcase Dress

Remember my friend who trusts my skills? (Bless her heart. What a sweetie.) Well, she asked me to make a pillowcase dress similar to one she had seen on Pinterest. She plans for her little Cutie Patootie to wear it on July 4th (I think. Her birthday, maybe?). Details.

Anyway, many thanks to Amy for directing her readers to this tutorial. I love a quick, easy project to make me feel like I'm checking things off, despite my ever-growing list of not-quite-as-easy items.

I should have had this in the mail already, BUT I'm still trying to figure out the best way to embellish it. Here's my current brainstorm: (Kelly likes it, which means it's a keeper. I just need to decide how best to attach it. I'm probably making it more complicated than it actually is.)

Ew! Check out that heat stain on the ironing board! Time for a new cover.

Embellishments aren't my forté. I'm a big-picture kind of gal, even in the kitchen. I like to see big progress and leave the details to others. My children chop, slice, and spread. I like to bring the dishes all together. I'm thinking that Caelyn should attach this ribbon flower for me... or maybe I'll just stretch myself a bit.

This was such a fun project that I'd love to make more. (I'm even considering a morphed version that functions as a summer top for me.) I'm super thankful for friends who insert little people into my life to fill that ever-present desire to do little people stuff. I pray that the Lord will bless our family with oodles of grandchildren one day, as I can't imagine ever getting over my desire for children (nor would I want to).