Saturday, April 21, 2012

Caterpillars Are Cool, Metamorphosis Rocks, and Butterflies Are Absolutely Amazing!

Aubrey recently received one of those Interactive Butterfly Kits for Christmas from her Grandma Moses.  I've always been curious about those things, so I was as excited as she was.  We waited until the weather warmed up and as soon as spring was upon us, we sent away for our little larvae friends.  They arrived in little cups filled with food.  All we had to do was find a nice place out of direct sunlight and let them grow.  

Here are our new little friends after they first arrived!

Here they are a few days later.  You can see that one is already getting ready to enter its chrysalis phase because it is hanging upside down in a 'J" shape.

This is absolutely fascinating to watch.  While I have always known that caterpillars form a chrysalis and become a butterfly, I guess I never put too much thought into exactly how it was done.  I figured that there was some scientific explanation for how they morph and change.  One day, I actually witnessed one going from caterpillar to chrysalis.  Talk about perfect timing!  It happens very fast.  Within a minute, I'd say, and the transformation was complete.  They hang upside down as caterpillars from the top of the cup with a strand of the strong, sticky silk they make.  They lay there still, every once in a while you will see it bounce a bit, and then back to stillness.  I happened to check in on them when I noticed on the back of one of the 'J' shape caterpillars, at the curve, there was this shiny silver stuff in a small circle.  I'm glad it caught my attention because before my eyes the shiny silvery membrane looking stuff began to spread down and up and all around the caterpillar all the way up to the tail and then it squeezed out the head from the top of the chrysalis.  It took a couple more caterpillars to go through this transformation for me to realize it was the head.  You can actually see one of the heads in the picture below.  It got caught in the silk and stayed there.  It is in the middle of the top 3.  The black fuzzy thing.  Below the decapitated head ... is our first butterfly to emerge from its chrysalis.  Wow!  Talk about amazing!   

At this point I had to start doing some internet research.  The pamphlet it came with didn't give any scientific description of the process.  It explained what to expect and how to care for them, but that was it.  It turns out that the caterpillar actually splits open its skin to reveal a shiny casing, the chrysalis.  I guess I always figured they made it more like a cocoon and built it around them with their silk.  Maybe that's why they didn't seem to mind losing their heads!  That, and apparently, inside the chrysalis the caterpillars turns completely to liquid and reforms itself as a butterfly.  

Um ... ok.


That is friggin' AMAZING!!!!

I watched the whole process and I gotta tell you, I still find it hard to believe.  I mean, we really can't come up with a better, more scientific explanation than it turns to liquid an, VIOLA ... it reforms into a butterfly?

I'm supposed to walk away satisfied with that as an explanation??

That is nothing short of miraculous!

But then ... science say miracles don't exist .... everything has an explanation.

Something has to give here people!  

This is an everyday miracle!  I'll take the magic butterfly trick as a valid scientific explanations and I'm going to continue to believe that miracles do exist and some things cannot be explained.  Some things just .... VIOLA ... happen!

It is also very inspiring to watch.  I mean, if something so little can make such tremendous change, what am I, myself, capable of becoming?  

I had so many "Aha" moments, I'm surprised Oprah didn't come over for tea.

Finally, all ten hatched from their chrysalis.  Fortunately, there were no casualties.  We had one slow poke, but he still made the magic happen.  Aubrey and I recently took a nice stroll through the Botanical Gardens in the local park near her preschool because we were a little early.  I instantly knew that this was the perfect place to release them into wild.  They have tons of butterfly plants and we can visit.  (I figure there is bound to be a butterfly that resembles one of the ten when we go).   :)

Bayne did not take the day of departure very well.  One look into those watery blue eyes and I could see how hard it was going to be for him to say good-bye.  I love that my boy has such a big, beautiful, sweet, compassionate heart.  He makes me so proud.  He nearly had me in tears, especially when I tried to draw an analogy to how one day he will be ready to move out and go to college and I will have to let him spread his wings and fly .... 

.... *****sob******....

But saying good-bye and knowing that you are setting something free to live a wonderful life is so much better than watching all ten slowly die in 2-4 weeks in a little web cage, thank you very much.  So we were strong.  :)  
(Remind me of this analogy when it's time for Bayne and Aubrey to move out, please!)

Aubrey was not phased by the good-byes.  She helped me find the spot where we were releasing them, so I think that made it more exciting, than sad.

To get ready for the big day we painted some butterflies in the morning.  Hoping a little painting would lift my little man's spirit.

We arrived at the Botanical Gardens and found ourselves a nice quiet spot off the trail.  

Here are all ten butterflies!  Can you find them all?

I lost track of all the names, but the majority were named after Sonic and Mario characters.

I think this is Yoshi. Or maybe Knuckles.  Or it could be Silver.  

We had one fly out pretty quick after we got there.  The breeze in the air really perked them up and they all began eating like I hadn't seen them eat before.  You could tell they were fueling up before their freedom flight.

Go free my little minions and do my bidding!

Here is a video where you can see two fly out!  So so cool!  Bayne was much more excited once we got there and he could see what nice place it was for them to be.

I was able to pull one out on an orange, so we could get a closer look.  They are stunning creatures.  We gently pet it's back tail.  It was kind enough to let us all get a gentile touch before he flew off into the wind.  They have this gorgeous brown fuzz on a them that is so soft.  

I see two Miracles!

The last butterfly flew out and right onto the rosemary bush next to us.  I tried to sneak in and get a picture, but his wings were closed.

I got an action shot of him, though.  I'm thinking this must be Sonic!  

These are the empty chrysalis left behind.


Be free my little butterflies!

Enjoy the cool breeze on your wings and the sweet nectar of life!

After that I let the kids spread their wings and enjoy a good hour at the park.  I enjoyed the new issue of my favorite magazine, Stitch. 

Sweet nectar of life ... ahhhhh.

We were all pretty tired out after all that fun, so we didn't get around to finishing our butterflies until just before bed.  Here are all the butterflies we made from paint, paper, glue, and an empty toilet paper roll  magic butterfly liquid.



and it's not fun unless Mom plays, too, so here is mine!

Thank you, Grandma Moses, for such a wonderful and magical gift. 

I think we may just do this again.

I know we will definitely be making another trip to the Botanical Gardens soon.

Now if I could only get that dang Crazy Town song out of my head ...

Come my lady, come come my lady
You're my butterfly
Sugar baby


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just a Few Pretty Things for Spring

The sun is starting to shine a little longer and feel a little warmer and it makes me want to wear pretty little things.  

So I decided to make some!

Remember my Fun With Free Vintage Fabric  post where I scored a bunch of free vintage fabric odds and ends from a neighbors friend?  I already made my son and I matching "hippie" pants with some of this fabric below.  I've been dying to try out a wonderful pattern I have for a vintage style button up dress.  It was a bit of work, but I love the pattern and I love how this dress came out!  I wore it today with my red Toms.  It's a new favorite!  I think it would look really cute with a belt, too.

Here is the pattern below.  I want to make one in every style!

I made yet another maxi dress.  My third now (original link to tutorial in this previous post).  They are so easy to do, I can't help myself!  I found this old, size too big tank top in my fabric scraps and started digging for matching fabric.  I have another stash of vintage fabric given to me by my Mother-in-law, with some of the most beautiful floral pieces.  I love them all and am very careful with how I plan to use them because once it's gone, it's gone!  I didn't get a full picture, but it's a long skirt.  The top is a little loose, but I think it still looks nice.  What's nice is if I get sick of it or the tank stretches out I can just turn the bottom into a stand alone skirt.

I have a print like this in navy blue and peachy florals that I just cut up and am hoping to squeeze it into a dress.  It's even more gorgeous than this fabric print, if you can imagine.  Most of the vintage fabrics I inherited from Grandma Moses are exactly one yard and it's very hard to make a dress with only one yard of fabric.  I'm doing my best to make it happen, wish me luck!

I'm very proud of this next project, even though I made a few mistakes along the way.  Next time I know I will be able to do these right and it makes me sooooo happy because I can NEVER find a pair of shorts I like.  I recently found a pair of high waisted, vintage inspired, shorts and tried them on.  They fit so good I had to buy them.  I am totally feeling this style.  I used some of the fabric that I am using in my upcoming grey wool suiting collection of bags.  I had a lot of this fabric and it looked like it might look cute as shorts, plus I had plenty of it, so great for practice! 

Obviously, these aren't perfect.  I messed up on the top waist band.  It was supposed to be longer on one side, so it would overlap and extend over the waistband on the other side and buckle.  The directions on the pattern were very unclear, but after all was said and done I had an "Aha" moment and realized what the heck the markings on the pattern were trying to tell me.  Next time that won't happen.  I also think I will stick with a matching color for the thread details, rather than contrasting.  I think it would be better not seen, but it works on these.

The other mistake I made is that I made them a a little too short because I didn't read the pattern through all the way to the end before I started.  I had already zig zagged the seams together on the inside leg seams.  You have to roll the bottom up to form a cuff on the and then the inside raw seams show on the sides.  You are supposed to leave the seams apart, press them open, finish them separately, and then tack them down along the cuff where it will be showing out.  I had done a very sloppy job with finishing my seams, not thinking they would show.  I had the idea to cover them with some binding, to make them look a little more finished.

You can see the little pink strip of binding in the side view.  Which seemed like a fantastic idea, except I couldn't get it close to the bottom because I already had finished the bottom raw edge and wasn't about to go to a bunch of trouble ripping out thread over the aesthetics of the tiny little sides of my cuffs.  Long story short, I had to roll my bottom cuff much wider than originally intended to hide the raw edges of the binding, so they became a little shorter than they are meant to be.

What is awesome about this pattern is it has several different styles of shorts to choose from, but they are all made from the same basic pattern.  

I love the two on the girls modeling the pattern.  I want to do those next.  I went for the most basic one on the bottom for my first shot.  I also ditched the belt loops.  Seemed like a ton of work for nothing.  I think the next time I will make the shorts just a tad longer, even longer than these had I done them right.  Not much, just maybe 1-2 inches.  I am seriously considering trying to make pants from this pattern, too.  I don't think it would be that hard and I love the way the shorts fit.  I think once I get comfortable with the pattern I can extend them down into pants and then I'll be able to have awesome high waisted, vintage inspired pants, too!  I finally think I am starting to get a handle on the whole pants - shorts construction.  They are very confusing and tricky at first and different patterns have different ways of assembling them, but I think I am getting the hang of it!

Now I have some pretty little things to wear for spring.  I have a few more planned, but I have to get back to work on my bags.  I am about to start the diaper bag from the same wool suiting that I used to make my shorts and I have wristlet I need to finish up.  

Lots of interfacing to cut and ironing to do .... which happens to be my least favorite part about my craft ...

I hope there is something good on tv too keep me conscious!

Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

For the Love of Super Mario Brothers

Show of hands ... who loves Super Mario Brothers???

ME, ME, I DO, I DO!!!!

My kids do, too!

I love that they love the Mario Brothers.  I grew up playing those games on my Nintendo and Super Nintendo.  I beat all 3 Super Mario Brothers games.  Not to mention, I loved the cool Super Mario Brothers Show, do you remember that?  I had to buy the dvd for my kids.  Cartoons are so different these day, aren't they?

Back in the day you couldn't buy a plush toy for any of the characters, that I know of.  While the games where popular, there didn't seem to be as much love for the characters that there is today.  My kids each have one plush character from the video game series.  Bayne has Yoshi (my favorite!) and Aubrey has Toad.  They play with them ALL the time.  Bayne recently learned about the joy that is youtube and loves to watch videos of anything Mario or Sonic, whether it be cheats and walk through videos on the games, or just other kids silly homemade videos of themselves acting out sketches with their stuffed characters from the game.  As much as youtube bugs me - cause you never know what they are going to hear or see, I am so thankful for it, as well.  It has completely inspired my kids pretend play with their stuffed buddies way more than they ever have in the past.  The TV is on far less and these kids are off in make believe world with their pals Toad, Tails (Aubrey's two), Knuckles, and Yoshi (Bayne's two).  It is adorable!  Bayne wants to be tucked in with both his buddies each night (YAY - there is still a little boy in my big 7 year old!) and so does Aubrey.  They have to go to Pops house and sometimes in the car with us on our errands.  It just makes my heart smile.  I know they won't be so young and innocent forever and some day these little friends of theirs will be packed away in a box along with the Sesame Street gang that no longer get any love.

Lately, Bayne has been dropping a lot of hints about wanting a Blooper stuffed toy.  Blooper is the squid in Mario Karts that inks you.  This guy, here:

As far as I know, they don't sell Blooper plush toys anywhere.  Anyway, this is way too easy to buy, especially when I have all the fabric and stuffing I need to make one myself!

A little bit of sketching, cutting out a pattern, pinning, white fleece, black felt, stuffing, and VIOLA!

We have a Blooper!

I didn't get a picture of Bayne when I gave it to him because he was home sick and wasn't doing so hot, but I assure you this helped cheer him up :).  He is inseparable from him.  Now it's Yoshi, Knuckles, and Blooper on a mission across the apartment, day and night.  My heart is smiling!

The only trouble is ... Aubrey is going to be left out and that is NEVER good.  Trust me.  I started thinking about an easy character that I could make for her using what I had on hand.  It came to me instantly, perfect for my special heart warrior ... she needed the Invincibility Star!  

You know the one.  Here it is:
I had a star pattern for a toddler dress, so I just used that to cut out the shape on some yellow fleece and added the eyes made from black felt.  VIOLA!

A very special star for a very special little girl :).

She named him Invincible.  She LOVES him!  Now she has her Toad, Tails, and Invincible and is ready to go on adventures with Bayne and his crew.  

She couldn't look more perfect with her Yoshi shirt on and all!  

I'm already thinking of what I can make next.  Bayne is already dropping hints about how "Aubrey would really like a Bullet Bill, I think." 
 I might have to make myself a mushroom first.

Mom wants to play, too!  ;)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Evolution of My Garden

I'm so excited!  I finally have a raised garden bed.  I have been wanting one forever, but never had the space.  Honestly, I didn't even think I had the space to do one here.  I live in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment and we only have a small piece of grass in the front that isn't "ours", it's shared.  There is a run that goes along the side (where I let Mississippi do her business) with a long strip of grass, but again ... it's not exactly "ours".  I talked to the landlord about doing a small garden (most likely after I already bought the bricks and raked out the side.  Again ... not so good with rules!) and he had no issue with it at all (good thing!).  Then the labor of love began.

Here is the back strip of grass (aka: Mississippi's office).  Some windows face out this way, so I can't use the entire area, just the area below our window.

Unfortunately, the grass is filled with rocks.  I'm pretty sure these were from the roof when he had it redone years ago.  This was SO much work.  It took me a few days just to rake out the small area I needed.  So many rocks!

All raked out.  You can see the huge pile of rocks on the side that I raked up.

Nice and clean!

Now it's time to get the ground all nourished up.  I wasn't about to till the ground, so I opted for a no till garden bed.  The kids and I went out hunting for supplies.  We gathered newspaper, leaves, seaweed, fruit peels and dirt.  We layered the bottom with newspaper about 10 layers deep and soaked them.  Then we covered it with all the fresh peels and seaweed, then leaves, and dirt.

Then we had the gardner save the grass clippings for us to add to the bed.  Aubrey's doing a great job raking them all across the top of our brown compost. 

Then I added a layer of fresh compost. 

I don't have a photo, but we had to buy some compost to add to the bed.  I filled all the holes in the cement blocks and piled it up in the center, so it was a few inches higher than the sides and then covered it with a black tarp.  You can sort of see it behind Aubrey and Mississippi.  I let it sit like this, untouched for 6 months.

Mississippi is loving this already!

Then we got a visit from Grandma Moses and Grandpa!  He taught me all about the wonder that is PVC.  We built this cool green house cage together (well, mostly Grandpa, but I learned a lot!).  

We covered it with plastic sheeting and duct tape - (Erinn's time to shine!)

Here we are in the greenhouse! 

It still needed some sides at this point, but we got it up before the big storm that came through.  I'm glad the storm rolled through when it did because I discovered that it needed a tad more anchoring.  After I got it back in place, :), I added some of those spare rocks I have laying around to each hole where the poles were inserted and so far, a few more storms have rolled through and my greenhouse is still standing in place!

Then Easter came and my Mom, who is a total Green Thumb, helped me prepare the bed and plant my crops.  Here is Aubrey helping Grandma spread the soil.  
This makes my heart happy!  I have many fond memories as a child helping my mom plant flowers in our beautiful backyard.  I love watching my daughter do the same :).

Here are our crops!  I got a red bell pepper and two tomato plants.  One is a cherry tomato plant and the other is a yellow tomato plant, but the exact name is escaping me.

And I FINALLY got a potato to sprout.  I believe this one is an organic potato from Trader Joes.  I have tried to sprout at least 5 potatoes like this (all organic) and so far, this has been my only success (weird, right?).

I got Mr. Potato a nice big pot and my Mom helped me carefully plant it.  I'm excited to see what happens!  My mom had the nice idea of spreading out some of those extra rocks around the pots to make it more aesthetically pleasing.  My mom has mad skills in that arena.  She fixed the whole garden bed up, in, and around making the whole area look so nice and neat.  I see where I get my gumption from!

There is something so cool about growing more veggies from another veggie.  I want to experiment a little more with that.  I hear you can do that with the base of a celery plant, too.  And of course, garlic and scallions.  I did a few of those in this old tire.  The scallion has completely taken off!  That is on the  left and the garlic on the right is doing pretty good, too.  I have no idea when I should harvest these, though ... so I better read up on that!

Uncle Mat, JJ's brother, taught me the cool trick of using an old tire as a pot.  You can stack them to make a deeper pot.  I found this baby just laying on the side of the road.  

Out of nowhere, this crazy white lady rolled up and threw this old tire in the back of her SUV.  What in the world could she want with an old tire ?????

:) :) :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Break Sewing Projects

I haven't had as much "free time" as I would have liked to work on my sewing projects over Spring Break, but if you have been following along, you know why!  I did tackle a few things and my grey wool suiting collection is slowly being put together.  There are several steps involved and I am tackling the two messenger bags and the pair of shorts all at the same time, slowly working through the prepping, pinning, pressing, and repeat cycle.  The diaper bag I decided to put aside until I finish the other bags, so I can really focus on it, since I have never used this pattern before.  The shorts are a new pattern for me and those alone have been a challenge.

Here are a few projects I did get to that were on my to-do list.

I finished Bayne's shirt.  These were two shirts I put together into one.  He loves his Bowser is Cool shirt that we had custom made for him for free at the Wii Convention we went to a few years ago.  Unfortunately, the white shirt had gotten covered in stains.  I have had the red shirt sitting in a drawer forever and have been meaning to make Bayne a shirt with it, but never got around to it.  Looks like the time is now!

He loves it!  He gets very attached to his clothes, much like is Mama.

I finally figured out what was wrong with an old dress of mine.  This wasn't on my to-do list, but I wanted to wear it this week.  Every time I put it on something about it bugged me, so it hasn't made its way into my normal wear.  This was a thrift store find and I've had it for quite a while.  It fits better on me now that I have lost weight and I really want to wear it lots this summer.  I didn't take a before picture, but the waist was always off center and the dress felt crooked.  Also the straps on top use to tie behind my neck and it always bothered me because my bra straps would show off to the side.  Now that I have sewn so many garments I am better at figuring out how to fix things.  This time when I put it on I was able to identify exactly what I needed to do to fix it.  The elastic across the center waist band had gotten stretched out on one side making it pull to one side at the center, so I took apart the casing and put in new elastic and re-sewed it.  Then I made the straps into over the shoulder permanent straps, so that they go along with my bra straps.  I think this will get lots of wear this summer and the style is perfect, since the 80's seems to be making a come back.

I did finish a few work projects.  I got to work cutting up the rest of my hearts and peace sign fabric and turned them into ear bud/blue tooth key chain coin purse dealimabob things. 

You can purchase them here in my

Lots of color combos available.  They are fully lined and interfaced, so super durable.

I also made some cute little zipper coin purses.  Perfect for credit card, money, and random little things.

These can be purchased in my 

And here are a couple more smaller zipper pouches great for stashing little things.  

Also can be purchased here in my

Now it's time to try to get a work out in before my Mom comes to play with me and the kids!  Enjoy your weekend every one and Happy Easter!!!!