December 29, 2011

Stuff I Made: Vintage Handkerchief Collar

My sewing machine and I had our first rendezvous in a long while today while Tessa was napping. I put on Radiohead's Live from the Basement: The King of Limbs (listen to this, please: it's so pretty) and the light was bursting into the living room so I sat there in the sunlight to do my measuring, cutting and photo-taking. It was bliss I'm telling you. And I got to do this project, which I've had in mind for months, ever since I found this sweet vintage handkerchief and imagined it as a collar.

A Google search reveals that I'm not the first blogger to ever repurpose an old hanky as a collar, but this blogger's (from Adventures in Dressmaking) is a Peter Pan collar. Mine's not. What might my collar be called? A Tinkerbell collar?

It's a decidedly spring-y project to "spring" on you in January, but it's been a mild winter in Nashville so far, and I'm already fantasizing about the days when the trees, grass and flowers will throw everything back into color.

Supplies Needed:

Pretty handkerchief
Plain tee-shirt or tank top
Sewing machine
Needle, thread, scissors
Water-soluble fabric marker
Paper and pen

1) Put a piece of computer paper inside your shirt, smooth out the shirt, and trace the outline of the collar onto the paper. Cut out this pattern piece.

2) Cut your handkerchief in half. 

3) Play around with laying your pattern piece over one of the halves of handkerchief that you've cut out. This way you can decide how big you want your collar to be. I put a dot in the bottom center of the pattern piece to remind me to center everything. Once you're satisfied with the placement, trace the pattern onto the handkerchief with a washable fabric marker. Duplicate this on the other half of your handkerchief. Cut out your collar pieces leaving a very generous seam allowance. 

4) Place both pieces of your handkerchief over the collar and make sure your marker line matches up exactly. Mine didn't at the tops so I retraced this part. 

5) Clip along your seam allowance every half-inch or so. 

6) Fold your seam allowance over the collar and pin in place. 

7) Sew down with your sewing machine, but leave the very tops of your collar unsewn (near the shoulders) as you'll want to make sure these are even before you make a hem and sew these down to your shirt. (This is what it looks like inside out once it's been sewn. You can trim the seam allowance when you're all finished.) 

8) Turn your shirt right side out, iron and finish the tops of your collar with a simple hem. I used a couple of hand stitches to secure the collar down at the shoulders. And that's that.  

December 28, 2011

Baby on the Hip.

My baby on my hip. It's an age-old emblem of motherhood. As I swing Tessa into my arms and head out the door or ferry her from car to coffee shop, I've taken it largely for granted. But I've begun thinking a lot about how powerful the mother-baby-hip connection is. The physical weight and emotional reassurance of having her in my arms, at the curve of my waist--it means everything to me. And I think it means so many different things to different mothers. Baby on the hip as .... a shield, a weapon, a badge, a comfort, a distraction, a symbol of fertility, a symbol of femininity, a source of pride.

As Nekos and I talk about making another baby one of these days, I'm trying to figure out what makes me feel ready for that all of a sudden, when a few months ago I would have told you no, hell no. Besides that I want to continue to build our family and our future and want the next baby to be somewhat near in age to Tessa and all that blahblahblah, it's that I'm scared. I'm scared because Tessa is getting older, and I'll miss having her there on my hip. She still loves to be carried around most of the time (all 27 lbs. of her), and I still love it, even though my arms ache and I get sweaty and disheveled. I honestly can't tell you how much I love having her ear right there to whisper "I love you" into, how much I love having that velvet cheek to gobble on until she giggles. And when she tucks her head under my chin and rests it there, as though she is weary of this world? Oh Lord. It's truly the best. But I know one day soon she'll be too heavy and too willful to carry around, and my arms will be empty most of the time.

Speaking of empty arms, I ran into a woman the other day who I'm not a big fan of. She's certainly no fan of mine either. But before I knew what I was doing I smiled and waved at her. Afterwards, I tried to decide what had momentarily cracked my cold reserve toward herother than, you know, human decency or the element of surprise. Later that day I figured it out: She didn't have her baby with her. Because our differences lie in the way we parent, I'd come to interpret her child on her hip as a sort of weapon. Whenever she carried her kid around, she looked to me to be armed, her ammunition within reach. Without the baby, she was just a woman.

Without Tess on my hip, I am just a woman, too. A woman who is not yet ready to also be the mother of a child who no longer needs carrying around.

December 27, 2011

The Happiness Project.

I recently picked up Gretchin Rubin's one-year memoir The Happiness Project because I'm always hot on the trail of happiness, and I thought her concept was fascinating. For a year, she dedicated a different month to diving headlong into a happiness-related exercise, drawing from philosophers, psychologists, the insights of her inner circle and her own gut instincts.

In the end, I found Rubin too pragmatic and perfectionistic in her search for happiness, which I think is unruly by nature. But, also, this was her own personal quest for happiness and she had different things to work toward. My quest would have been different. Each person's would be different, which is something she points out. Still, Rubin gifted me with lots of good ideas about how to bring more joy and order into my life. Here are some that spoke to me; I thought you might enjoy them, too.

1) Do a better job of being Ellen. As in, embrace my idiosyncrasies and accept my true likes (i.e. celebrity gossip and being alone) and my true dislikes (i.e. going to sporting events and staying out really late).

2) Go to sleep earlier. Most people get only 6.9 hours a night (7.9 hours on the weekend); this amount of sleep leads to impaired memory, a weakened immune system, and maybe even weight gain. Mostly, it makes me miserably unhappy to be tired.

3) Quit nagging your husband. Rubin wrote a lot about how making other people happier is key to making oneself happier. As such, she worked hard on nagging her husband and children less and expecting less praise and appreciation from them. I can be guilty of this in my marriage, griping at Nekos about everything from his diabetes to his assertiveness at work and constantly asking him to help me fold this or straighten up that.

4) Quit nagging your kid. I was shocked to read that studies show that 85 percent of adult messages to kids are negative ("no," "stop," "don't") so I've been working on doing less of that. Not so that I'm a more permissive parent but just rewording things so that instead of saying "No, not until after lunch," I can say, "Yes, as soon as we've finished lunch."

5) Employ the "one-minute rule" and observe the "evening tidy-up." Rubin found that her house was leagues neater and she was in turn happier when she applied what she called the "one-minute rule," whereby she didn't postpone any task that could be done in less than a minute. For example, putting a coat on a hanger and into the closet or putting a glass into the dishwasher. Likewise, she began observing an "evening tidy-up" by spending ten minutes before bed to do some simple tidying. She found that the effort of putting things in order was actually calming and helped her go to sleep more easily.

6) Work smart. Because I work from home, I struggle with distractions (Tessa needs this or that, Facebook beckons, the dogs need to be let out) and with prioritizing. Rubin suggests devoting smaller, concentrated blocks of time90 minutes or 15 minutes evensolely to work, finding these periods surprisingly productive.

7) Make time for friends. I love and adore my friends and their presence in my life, and I feel guilty when I'm bad about remembering birthdays or I forget to send wedding presents or to visit new babies. Turns out, I should feel guilty for these things, as these remembrances and generosities are exactly the kind of thing to do if you want to deepen friendships and be happier.

December 26, 2011

So That Is That.

"Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes— 
Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week

Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully— 
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly underestimated our powers. Once again

As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long."
—from "Christmas Oratio" by W.H. Auden 

I was hunting down "The Gift of the Magi" to reread yesterday when I came across this poem in Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book (which I love, love, love). I thought it was nice, even if it doesn't fit our sentiments to a T. We're not exactly sad about putting the decorations away. Actually, the compulsive de-clutterer in me gets a high from packing away all the holiday ephemera and putting it back into our musty basement. First thing this morning our living room was emptied of the Christmas tree and restored to its former self. Nekos is happy about this, too, as the tree was blocking access to half of his record collection.

Christmas this year was really, truly lovely. We did Christmas Eve at my mom's house in Kingston Springs with spaghetti, friends and everyone's new favorite board game, Wits & Wagers. (My mom, by the way, gave me a gorgeous, working typewriter from the 1920s for Christmas—very much worthy of its own post one day soon.) And Christmas Day we lazed around until it was time to go to my cousin Kathy's house in Brentwood for shrimp and steaks and catching up. 

And, this kid? She had a good time, too. Unwrapped her presents on her own and could even be coaxed into saying "thank you" for them, which is tops in my book.

Mostly, Nekos and I just got a kick out of watching her play with her new things and having her along to bring us the greatest holiday cheer we've known since we were kids ourselves. Speaking of that and of Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book, my mom reminded me that she'd taped all of my Santa photos from over the years inside the inner and outer covers of that well-thumbed book. I found this of me in 1984 at Tessa's age. Though I hesitate to say that parenting is the be-all and end-all in most regards (because, c'mon, now: were our lives really so terrible before we had children?), I can say with certainty that Christmas is better when there's a toddler involved. Long lines for Santa? No problem. Loud, troublesome toys? Still no big deal. It's all worth it to see a little girl smile. 

Nevertheless, it always comes as a relief when the holidays are over. Big sigh. We made it, y'all. 

December 25, 2011

Christmas Morning.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours! 

Tessa was pretty excited about her loot from Santa this morning and the bear-shaped chocolate chip pancakes that her Dad made. 

It's nice enough outside today for a nice long family walk later on. Until then, napping, movie watching, and more napping. 

Hope the holidays are full of good, lazy, loving fun for all. 

December 24, 2011

Stuff I Wore: The Night Before Christmas

My mom gave us an early Christmas present this week and offered to keep Tessa for 48 hours. I miss her and can't wait to see her tonight, but Nekos and I have really enjoyed some extended kid-free time. We went on a dinner-and-a-movie date, slept in, hung with friends and spent one whole lazy day together watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix and crossing Christmas errands off our list. (Including a run to the mall, where Nekos dropped off some blues CDs he'd burned for Santa Claus, who he struck up a friendship with when we took Tess. For real.) I'm so grateful to have my mom on hand because I'm the kind of person who needs lots of alone time and me time to recharge my batteries. Getting away from Tessa for a bit really makes me appreciate her that much more. I spent this morning looking through pictures of her over the past year and I'm awed by how she's changed and how much we've grown as a family and individuals. 

This is what I wore yesterday when Nekos and I went out for a late lunch at Le Peep and did some last minute toy shopping for Tess at Phillips Toy Mart. Nekos gave me the skirt and cape as early Christmas presents so they had to make an appearance in a new Stuff I Wore post. He bought them right off my wish list, which is so brainy of him don't you think? 

Merry Christmas, all!!!

Thermal shirt: Target
Skirt: Asos
Double-breasted cape: Romwe
Shoes: b.o.c. Mirabel flat, TJMaxx
Necklace: had it for years and can't remember where I got it
Bracelet: a gift
Ring: bought it at a bead show this year
Belt: Fossil
Nail polish: Essie Turquoise & Caicos

December 23, 2011

2011 in Review.

This was a great year for the Barnes family. Nekos and I both started new jobs that we love; Tessa Jean started walking, talking and going to a Mother's Day Out program twice a week; I found a fun, creative, supportive group of girlfriends to hang with, and we took some unforgettable trips. And we're really looking forward to 2012: We have more fun trips planned and, best of all, we're hoping to get pregnant with baby No. 2 over the summer.

Here's our 2011 highlight reel:

January: We take a gorgeous family road trip through Tucson, Phoenix, Sedona, Flagstaff, Vegas, and Los Angeles. It's unreal and we're sad to come home.

February: Nekos starts his new job at cj advertising and loves it. We try to get Tessa to eat vegetables.

March: Tessa turns one and we throw her a fun party!

April: Tessa starts walking and Nekos and I go see Kings of Leon and Band of Horses in Memphis.

May: I cut off all my hair, start writing blogs for 14 lawyers (for Nekos's company), and quit my longstanding freelance gig at Gibson Guitar, which is a big deal (read: huge relief) after four years of working with them in some capacity.

June: Tessa starts going to a Spanish immersion Mother's Day Out program twice a week, we take Tessa to Bonnaroo for the afternoon, and Nekos gets Tessa tattooed on his wrist.

July: The month of friendship transitions: I let go of one friendship, welcome an old one back with open arms, and strike up some new ones. Nekos and I see Bon Iver at the Ryman with new friends Faith and Chris.

August: Nekos, Tessa and I get to be in a fashion show for The Hip Zipper at the Tomato Festival. We host our first backyard movie night.

September: Nekos and I celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary with a trip to Barcelona; Nekos turns 31 and I turn 29; Tessa really starts talking up a storm; and my friend Brittany comes to visit from Baton Rouge.

October: I start freelancing 20 hours a week for Euro RSCG Worldwide PR and quit my lawyer blogs job. (I'm in love with the new gig.) We dress up like the Wizard of Oz for Halloween. (Nekos is the cowardly lion, I'm Dorothy, Tess is the scarecrow, and our cairn terrier Garp is Toto.)

November: I redo our bedroom and start a fiction writing group.

December: We throw a Christmas party, spend time with besties who are in town for the holidays (Molly, Rocky, and Brooke), and get jazzed about Tessa's second Christmas.

December 21, 2011

Bloggy Facelift.


The blog has a whole new look as of yesterday, and I'm so excited to make use of this fresh new space in 2012.

The redesign was a Christmas present to myself and was pulled off by Melissa Esplin (and her pixel-pushing husband) over at I Still Love You, whose blog, calligraphy, design work, and crafts I so love.

I have no idea how they did what they did, but I love it. And it's really inspiring me to put more effort into my blog and to spend more time thinking about what I want this place to be about and what purpose I want it to serve in my life. I really hope you enjoy the new look!

December 20, 2011

Little Bits.

1/ Santa hat strawberries. (Lots of perverted jokes were made about these at our XMAS party.)
2/ Tessa at the Science Center.
3/ Swinging in a fur.
4/ My favorite XMAS buy this year--vintage Santa with a light up nose.
5/ Purple sweet potatoes!
6/ Vintage Cosco stool I got at OMG last week. I love it so much.
7/ Rainy, windy Nashville.
8/ Sleeping Tess.
9/ Garlic, olive oil, castiron.
10/ Proclaiming my love.
11/ Crayon explosion.
12/ Big, puffy clouds.
13/ Union Station.
14/ Close-up.

These are some snapshots of life recently. These are all good little bits, but I'm not going to lie: I've been under a lot of stress lately and am fantasizing about having a whole entire day to myself sometime soon. Even though all I might do on this fantasy day is sleep.

Over the weekend I caught Tessa's cold from a few days earlier, and I felt like death for about 48 hours. My voice now sounds like Demi Moore's or Angie Harmon's. Nekos thinks it's sexy but it just signals a coughing fit is near. And Tessa's Mother's Day Out program is out for the next two weeks, which means I have to be creative about when to get my work done. It's a vicious cycle because my anxiety about juggling so many things has been giving me insomnia. Again. That motherhood/work balance just eludes me some weeks. But I love both parts of my life so much that it's worth the struggle.

But there have also been lots of moments for which I'm grateful, including: A really lovely visit from some of our most favorite people (Molly and Rocky, who live in Tucson), watching Tessa play in the new "super kitchen" my Dad got her for Christmas, socializing at Nekos's office Christmas party (where he won a Kindle and then gave it to me!), and lots of time spent curled in bed reading (an upside of being sick).

I am also so grateful that this blog is on the verge of a makeover. I finally coughed up some bones to someone much, much more qualified than myself to juggle my html and make a logo and spiff this place up. I think you're gonna likey!


December 14, 2011

The Florida Keys to My Friggin' Heart.

Trigger officially pulled. Plane tickets booked, poolside bed & breakfast reserved. Nekos and I are going to Key West for a long weekend in February! (Tessa will hang in Nashville with my mom. Thank you, mom!) This will be our third time there. We're sort of obsessed with the place because, for us, it's the perfect mixture of relaxation (read: beaches and lazy, sunny barefoot bike rides) and adventure (read: mojitos). And there's this little place we always stay where everything is white and clean and we get to eat breakfast by the pool and "plan" our day like there's ever anything on the list other than 1) eat fat mahi-mahi sandwiches and key lime pie at Blue Heaven 2) lie on beach at Fort Zachary Taylor for 30 minutes until I get bored and start getting heinously sunburned 3) decide to go for mojitos and watch bad Jimmy Buffet impersonations at some little outdoor cafe 4) nap 5) more mojitos + oysters.

This time I want to revisit Ernest Hemingway's house and his six-toed cats with a fresh eye. Before I'd never read any of his books, but this year I finally got around to reading A Farewell to Arms (liked) and The Sun Also Rises (didn't like so much). I bought For Whom The Bell Tolls today; I think it's supposed to be the crowd favorite. Have you read Hemingway? Which of his do you like best?

So, I love, love, love booking a tropical vacation in the middle of winter. Not only is it magical the few days we're there, but it gives me something to look forward to every day until then. And ... it motivates me to get my ass into some sort of shape.

I hate talking about weight, but I'm also fascinated by it and how most every woman has a deeply rooted opinion about hers. And sometimes I like to let this blog be the accountability-holder I know it can be and has been for me. The picture above was me nine pounds, one baby, and two-and-a-half years ago. It's me at my happy weight. It's me at size 8. It's a weight I can maintain pretty easily without feeling deprived. And I can so get back there in two months time with a little help from my old pal Weight Watchers and some visits to the gym. To motivate me, I bought this. Yeah, that. A bikini. It's about time for me to tell my one-piece to kiss it. I still have one year left in my 20s after all. What are your 20s for if not for bikini-wearing?

Merry Christmas to me! Eek. Did I really just post a picture on my blog of me in a bikini? I think I just did.