winter quilt - finished!

I'm equally embarrassed and thrilled to finally share that I've finished my Winter Quilt Project...from two years ago!

In November 2014, I posted on my old blog about starting my second full-sized quilt project. My first quilt, which I did during my junior year of college was fun but terribly made. None of the corners matched up, the color scheme was bold and awkward, and the size is twin-ish...not so great on the measuring back then. It is, however, extremely soft now and still works great for picnics and with kids. See?
That being said, it was high time to challenge myself with a bigger more advanced project - so I started this Winter Quilt which I hoped to finish by Spring 2015. Ha! Forget that. It took forever and by the time it was pieced and ready to hand-quilt, I was just a few weeks away from double carpal tunnel surgery and knew it would be ages before I could finish it. Other than quilting two blocks, it has sat undisturbed in our closet since last September.

A couple weeks ago, I pulled everything in the closet out to make room for baby B and faced facts. As much as I wanted to hand quilt the entire thing, the reality was that I was never going to finish it in time for the baby to come - and being honest, if it wasn't done before then, it was never going to get done! So I picked out the hand-stitching and started over with knotting it. I finished in a few days and did the binding while my mom was visiting (though in a very rushed manner because I was just over it!). And praise be! It's finished!

All in all, it took 30 different fabrics and 1100+ total pieces to make 81 individual blocks! 
I had while-making-it photos but apparently they were lost when I transitioned my blog over so here's the finished project:
It definitely still isn't perfect, but I'm very content with finishing it and with how much I've learned in the 7 years (that can't be right!) since my last one.

And just in time too...I've already started cutting out squares for Baby B's quilt. Thankfully, it will be much smaller and simpler - plus, I've got a strict deadline! I'll have to wait to share that one though till after Baby B makes his/her appearance since the colors will give away the gender, which we learned in the last couple weeks!

Lesson here: crafters never learn. :)


nursery project #1 & updates

Good news! Despite appearances, I haven't actually fallen off the face of the earth. Things are getting busy here with stuff for baby B and with school starting back (which means back to work for me!). Before I share a fun project that I finished up a couple weeks ago, here are some quick life updates:

- Baby B is now 18.5 weeks along and allegedly the size of a sweet potato. I occasionally feel little movements but they're very sporadic. We are so in love!
- Charlie was pretty sick last week but is better now and continuing to be the perfect vision of a supportive husband and loving dad. He now only slightly rolls his eyes 
   when I mention wanting ice cream for the 15th time each day!
- I am still having bouts of fear regarding baby B but doing much better as well. I've been meditating on this song and singing it as a prayer. "You surround me with a 
   song of deliverance from (the Enemy) till all my fears are gone. I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God. ... You drown my fears in perfect love!" 
- I was excited to get lots of beautiful tomatoes out of my garden (first time growing veggies!) and spent my last week off work cooking them into lots of different dishes 
   for our freezer. Much to our dismay, after some bad storms, we discovered that the freezer outlet had shorted out and everything we had put away (10 containers 
   tomatoes and 15 of corn) had been ruined. To say it was a major bummer is quite an understatement, but such is life! Thankfully, I was able to get another small 
   batch of tomatoes before some blight took all the plants down. I would share an after photo but frankly, it's just sad at this point. Oh well!
- We've also recently joined bible study groups at our church and are so excited to continue connecting with new friends and growing together.

Now on to my first "nursery" project! Nursery in quotes because baby B only gets half the room. Regardless, I knew early on some of the artwork I wanted to put up. In addition to two adorable prints from Trafalgar Square on Etsy (whose artwork I adore!), I made the wooden plank sign below:
Just $5 from Hobby Lobby, I started by painting it all grey (though it looks a weird shade in these photos). 
I formatting the lettering digitally and printed it off to scale. I liked the idea of doing a fancy font, but decided to stick to something simple so baby B can read it more easily later. Since the boards are off-set, I cut each line so I could center them better. 
One board at a time, I penciled the letters in and then carefully painted them. I added the blue moon accent before lettering on the bottom three boards.
Sadly, the colors look really weird in photos. And no, we're not necessarily having a boy just because we're using lots of blues! The top four colors are our base colors and then if it's a boy, we'll add the dark blue; if it's a girl, we'll add a little of the pink.
The phrase on the boards is from a kids' song "Skinnamarink" popularized in the 1980s. Though I have no idea where my mom first heard it, she sang it to us almost every night, hand motions included. I have occasionally sung it to Charlie in jest and thought it would be the perfect way to incorporate one of my strongest childhood memories for baby B, who will undoubtedly be hearing it often. The video below is amazing so check out the first minute and you can learn Skinnamarink too!

That's pretty much it for us right now! I'm working on more projects so I'll be back to share soon. Have an incredible week!


tidal waves

When we were little and would wake in the night afraid, my mom always had us recount our nightmares to her. She used to say that once you spoke your fear, you could get rid of it. I don't know the medical truth to this, but it did always make us feel better. Here, many years later, I need to speak some fears so that I can try once again to banish them. Bear with me, please.

For most of my life, I dreamed of the day I would become a mother. This isn't so for every little girl and that's totally okay, but it has always been that way for me. I've loved babies and children and been fascinated by pregnancy and birth for a long time. As an adult, I've now put that love into practice as a doula. However, no amount of daydreaming could have prepared me for how things really feel now. Not the borderline moodiness on certain days or the occasional bout of feeling really yucky -- those I expected, what I was totally unprepared for was the fear. Not being fearful of the birth or of being a parent or the many changes this new life will bring to our routines...in complete honesty, I've seen too many births to think it is anything other than incredible and the rest we will just figure out along the way. For weeks, what I have been battling the ever crashing tidal wave of fear that this little life could disappear and there is nothing I can do to control that.

Already many people have commented that my experience as a doula should mean I feel very prepared for what's to come. But the truth is that it also means I know the exact statistics on loss at every stage and all the many minute things that can go wrong. And as someone connected to the birth community, it also means I know a great deal of moms who have struggled with infertility and loss at every stage. Almost weekly, I see friends on Facebook who are grieving unexpected losses or celebrating the lives of babies who have spent far longer in heaven than they did on this earth. It is devastating. They are incredibly brave women and I fully support their choice to share their experience for a number of reasons. But at the end of the day, I am a new mom who is also terrified for this tiny life.

Before we became pregnant, I wrestled a lot with God and the idea that I had to trust Him to let us have a family if and when it was part of His plan. This took months of very harsh reflection and truthful prayers. After finally feeling like I had come to some kind of peace with whatever was to come, we were surprised and overwhelmingly blessed with "little b." I immediately vowed to be grateful for every step of this journey and to not rush things or complain or take it for granted -- it was far far to precious a gift for any of that. Yet at the same time, almost from day one, fear of loss has been a constantly ebb and flow through my mind. Not nightmares easy from which to wake, but sometimes graphic images, sometimes the words that would have to be spoken, and sometimes the reactions of friends, all hovering on the periphery of my joy.

I have been meditating on scriptures that speak out against fear and been praying a lot for God to help me to continue to trust Him, no matter what comes. Even though this may help for a time, I feel like I am standing in the face of constant waves of fear, crashing upon me and around me. Once one recedes, it is only a matter of time before another surges up behind it. Gratefully, I know the truth -- that our God is big enough to figuratively and literally part the seas for a clear path through, to calm the storm threatening our hope, and to even make safe passage upon the waters when our eyes are fixed on Him. Even now, the song Good Good Father has just come on in the background as I write this, reminding me that He is "a good good Father, it's who [He] is" and that He is "perfect in all of His ways" and that ultimately who I am, who Charlie is, and who our little bean is...all are rooted in being loved by Him. This isn't a guarantee of any outcome but that reassurance sure does hold back the tidal wave longer than anything I can come up with on my own.

For years, my mom has had a painting of Jesus calming the storm hanging in her living room. It was pretty but I never paid too much particular attention to it. However, last night after reading of another friend grieving the loss of her first pregnancy, I was fitfully trying to sleep and begging God to protect our little one as well as to give me the strength to trust Him. Through the fear, statistics, and mental images...that painting came into my mind and it was all I could do to just focus on it's stillness and peacefulness while repeating 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

I know this is a lot to share today but my prayer is that truthfulness about this very unexpected (and often unspoken-about) part of pregnancy will encourage another as well as myself. Speaking my fears so that they may be gone. And to the many many unbelievable women for whom pregnancy or birth ended in grief, please know that you and your beautiful babies are not forgotten.

I am overwhelmed by love these days -- love for this peach-sized person, love for and from my incredible husband who is already an amazing dad, love from the multitudes of family and friends who are sharing in our joy, but more than anything else, love for and from a God who is and has always been a good father to me, who can stand between me and my fear. And love for you, if you've read all the way through this and if you'll take a moment to pray for me, for other pregnant woman you know, any mom you know, and any mom whose baby is made whole in the glorious presence of Christ. Brief encouragement for any of them never goes amiss.

Thank you

ps - this song was sung at our church on Sunday and it was such a perfect and beautiful message:
"I need to know that you're still holding / the whole world in your hands / and that is a reason to sing"


little b

It's been awfully quiet around this space for a while, but I promise it's for a very good reason:
That's right, friends! We're expecting our first family addition (affectionately called "little bean" for the time being) to arrive around the end of January/beginning of February. We couldn't be more thrilled and have had great difficulty keeping this news to ourselves the last couple months. That being said, we are excited to share with family and friends now and look forward to this next adventure.

Lots more thoughts, pictures, and fun projects coming up, but frankly, everything else has felt very un-share-worthy compared to this lately! :)

"The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy...." Psalm 126:3


backyard compost bin

Ever the patient husband, this week during a break from the endless rain, I wrangled Charlie into yet another building project. I finally got up the nerve to ask our landlord about putting a compost bin in our backyard. He surprisingly said yes so I quickly went to work!

After chatting with Charlie's dad about how he build their bin and a trip to Lowe's, we had a stack of all our materials in the living room. Two 16' boards cut into 3' sections, a roll of chicken wire, nails, and some corner brackets ($35 total). Then I had to let it sit for a few days, taunting me, while the rain kept pouring down.
(Note: I did purchase a 4' craft board which is leaning up against the couch but we ended up not using it.)
When the rain briefly ceased, we hopped outside to put it all together. We started with the two simple side frames.
Next, we added the last two boards to frame up the back with angled nails and corner brackets. Angled nails are much easier said than done, but thankfully, since this is only holding compost, we weren't too concerned with it being perfect.
Lastly, Charlie manhandled the roll of chicken wire around the outside while I went to town with the staple gun to secure it. We borrowed a bunch of wire cutters from Charlie's parents but thankfully didn't even need them -- with the added board diameter, the roll was exactly the outer width of the bin.
We hauled it down to the edge of the yard and headed back inside just as it began to rain again.
To make the system a bit easier, we got a stainless steel under-counter compost bin (while on sale) to hold scraps till we're ready to walk down to the outside bin. I'm so excited to get a pitchfork this week and get started composting, not only for the great free soil but also as the next step in reducing waste in our kitchen!

Final note: I totally didn't plan on it being quite as big as it was...a bit of a miscommunication, but we're going with it! A two-person house may be fine with a 2' or 2.5' cube size.


2016 Anniversary Square

In January 2015, I shared on my old blog A Song for the Birds that I had decided to start an Anniversary Quilt for Charlie and I. Each block would reflect the biggest thing to happen during that year of our marriage. Block #1 represented our move from NC to PA:
This January, I had a hard time coming up with what the biggest thing for the year was. We had such an eventful 2014 that 2015 felt much more settled. Always supportive and amazing, Charlie suggested that my decision to become a doula was the biggest thing to happen over our year.

It took me a while to find a design I liked, but after some deliberating, I chose a pretty mandala with different takes on the word doula surrounding it. "Woman's servant," or "slave" technically, is the original Latin while "the one who holds" is a translation from Navajo that I feel perfectly embodies the heart of doula work.
It took about 2.5 weeks for me to finish and was all done by hand.
For the record, although I love hand embroidery and this was fun, I definitely think I'll be choosing something a little simpler for next year!

Long term goal - to connect all the squares into a wall hanging for our 25th Anniversary.

...so two down, twenty-three to go!


pantry organization upgrade

In my ongoing quest to reduce waste, organize, and make our home a healthier place, I am constantly re-evaluating different spaces to see where I can make small changes. This week, I revisited our pantry with great success!
We love having a closet pantry in this home as our previous apartment did not and it made food storage tricky. However, the built-in shelves here are pretty tall and deep so often I feel like the space is not utilized. But no more. After a quick trip to Lowe's and a small Amazon purchase, things are definitely looking up. Here's an overview of the finished space:
Top shelf: liquid sweeteners, peanut butter, coconut oil, and add-ins like hemp seeds & nutritional yeast; special event items like tea and cake trays are stored behind

Second shelf: nuts, seeds & grains (we use a lot of these for homemade granola & trail mix) and pastas/rice; I also store our canned peaches in the back so they are visible & accessible but not taking up prime front-of-shelf real estate
Third shelf: baking supplies & oats; I also store our unused quart canning jars in the back
Instead of purchasing more pricey shelf risers, I went to Lowe's this week and got two craft boards and had them cut it to size for me; each board was $4 and is 6" wide. The front board is slightly shorter to allow for our sugar container and the back one...
...longer for two-level canning jar storage in the back. As you can see, I used two taller jars as the supports for the front level board - one holds salt, which we don't often need to refill, and the other is empty for the time being.

Fourth shelf: one basket for boxed foods, my hot tea serving box, other treats, and a basket for canning jars & lids

Floor: recycling containers

Inside of the door: we installed two spice racks when we moved in - the top one from Lowe's holds specialty spices as well as our cooking wines/extracts
The chicken-wire holder was from Pier One years ago and came as a countertop set with the glass jars. We decided to mount it, however, to keep the counters clearer.
In addition to the "shelf" boards, the labels on these jars were the other excellent upgrade I've made recently. As you can see in some of the other photos, I started out using pretty kraft paper stickers on some of the jars. Over time I realized the huge flaw in that otherwise cute plan...cleaning. The labels are expensive and not waterproof so if I need to wash a jar or transfer jars, the label either had to be removed & transferred too (difficult) or was ruined. As such, I ditched the "cute" look and got a roll of dissolvable foodservice labels. After a bit of searching, I ordered these which are 1" x 2" and can easily be cut to fit smaller jars. With the spice jars above, I ended up getting 4 jars worth out of each label. A roll of 500 for $18...I'm going to be set on labels for a very long time! And under hot water, they just wash away.

So there you have it - the latest upgrade in our efforts to maintain order & reduce waste.

In addition, here's an extra photo from my garden post earlier this week, now complete with a solar lantern and my first-ever bird feeder.
It's been so fun to look out and see happy little birds in our backyard today.