Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Easy T-Shirt Hack

hacked shirt in action
T-shirts aren't made for women. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about. They're too tight in the chest, too loose in the waist, never fit right in the sleeves area, and they choke you when you're not looking.

Enter: Your scissors.

For a relatively fitted look, start with a shirt that is just a bit too tight in the chest and a bit too loose in the waist. Like, you could wear it as is but it's just not quite there.

To fix the neckline, lay the shirt flat so that the creases are on the center back and center front and so the shoulder seams line up.

Cut along the back of the neckline close to the seam, then taper down on the front to create a scoop neck. If you don't want much of a scoop just don't go too low. Put the shirt on and note where the neckline hits, and cut down to that.

Next: the sleeves. Lay the shirt out flat and get the sleeves in particular nice and flat.

For a short sleeve that just grazes the shoulders, cut it like I did right close to the armpit. For a longer sleeve (like the photo below) start your cut further down, but keep the same swooping shape.

There! That was easy. Being a knit, the t-shirt won't fray - no hemming needed!

Opening up the neckline and the arms helps with the tightness in the chest, and a scoop neckline is flattering on so many body types. For another look, you can start with a large t-shirt and cut a wide neckline and go all layered with a tank underneath. I did that with an 80's-esque T, it's pretty epic.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Canning Jar to Travel Cup

Max demonstrating Step 5
I saw this really sweet product that turns your canning jar into a travel cup. Essentially, it's a molded plastic lid with a sippy hole that fits inside the ring and screws on. I was going to buy a ton of these, then I realized:

Totally hackable.

Canning jar
Canning jar ring
Canning jar lid
Flat plastic lid (from yogurt/take out/etc)
Small knife (optional)

Step 1: Take a canning jar lid and trace it on to the plastic lid.

Step 2: Cut it out.

Step 3: Cut an X in the plastic lid to insert a straw. (stabbing with a knife works well) OR Cut a square/rectangle close to the edge to use it as a sippy (it helps to cut a small x opposite the square for air release).

Step 4: Assemble the jar using your plastic lid instead of the metal lid. (duh) Insert straw & tasty beverage.

Step 5: Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Future Farmer

excuse the blurry cell pic
Max is currently obsessed with tractors and all of the awesome things that go with them, like farming. We visit the farm up the street pretty frequently (thank goodness they're good natured about it. Max likes the horsies and cows and tractors so much that when he was having a I'm-two-and-everything-sucks meltdown the other day the only thing that snapped him out of it was going for a walk to see the horsies and cows.

While we're there he usually just stares at the animals, silent and still (I love that). The cows love him and stare right back. The pregnant cows in particular are pretty obsessed with him. (In case you aren't familiar with cows, they're extremely nosey)

It's a pretty large production for the area, over 400 cows. This family has been farming for generations, and the most recent generation has really embraced the new technology available to small farmers. They recently erected a new barn that has clear walls made of heavy duty plastic that can be rolled up for ventilation and a layout that encourages cleanliness and efficiency. They have four automatic milkers, poop roombas (I'm sure they're called something more technical than that), and a giant roomba thing just for shoving the feed back towards their hungry mouths. My favorite thing - auto head scratchers. They're these giant bristle wheels that start spinning when a cow nudges it and they get all the head itching they could ever want. I also love that whenever we go there's always music playing on the speakers, whether the farmers are in the barn or not. Cows love music. :)

Look at that tidy, light filled barn! And all those happy cows!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pesto Burgers

So, now you have all of that carrot top pesto, what are you going to do with it?

Make burgers!

Pesto Burgers

1 cup carrot top pesto
4 lbs ground chicken and/or pork (I used 2/3 pork, 1/3 chicken)

Mix well and form into patties, grill as normal.

These turned out great - a bit of a kick without being overwhelming. Hubby dressed his as normal with ketchup & relish while I had one plain just to check it out (it was very good). The leftovers reheated well and were super tasty!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Carrot Top Pesto

Did you know you can use carrot tops to make pesto? Woah, mama, is it good! It tastes a lot like a normal, parsley based pesto, but with flair. I compared a few pesto recipes, searched the fridge, and my pesto went a little like this:

Carrot Top Pesto

4 cups chopped carrot tops (from approx one bunch of carrots)
1 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1 cup loosely packed basil
4 garlic scapes (or 2 tsp minced garlic)
3-4 Tbsp minced garlic from the jar (I like a garlicy pesto)
1 cup olive oil or enough to make a thick pesto
1 tsp salt or to taste

Blend it all in food processor (or in batches in your Magic Bullet like me), refrigerate & enjoy!

What a great way to make something special out of compost.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bare Faced

I have a confession: I haven't worn makeup this week. Yes, this is a notable event. I've worn makeup nearly every day that I've gone out in public since the age of 15. It's habit mostly, and because I'm self conscious.

Why am I self conscious? Because of one comment made a long time ago by a well-meaning woman at my high school. She stopped me and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine, thanks (in fact, I was in a particularly good mood that day). She insisted that I looked tired, and was I feeling well, did I want to go home? I thought she was a bit nutty, insisted I was fine, and went on my way. Then it hit me: I wasn't wearing makeup. I looked so bad without makeup that she thought I was tired/sick/needed to go home.


I'm not blaming her or mad at her by any means, but that one comment made an impact. I was convinced from that point forward that I looked sick and tired unless I wore makeup.

My daily bare minimum: coverup or foundation under my eyes to look less tired, and mascara to counteract the lightening effect of the cover on my lashes. My daily usual: add blush or bronzer on my cheeks, eyeliner, and the occasional eyeshadow. This is very much pared down over the years, it used to be full foundation, at least two colors of eyeshadow plus liner, the works. Except for lipstick - being a musician in high school I never got in the habit of lipstick, it left marks on the reed and messed up my embouchure.

So, my current experiment: To go makeup free and see if anyone even notices. So far, so good. No one has mentioned that I look tired or anything (including my overly truthful, makeup wearing friends). I mentioned to one friend that I wasn't wearing makeup and she did a double take and just said, "huh. I wouldn't have noticed. You look good."

Well, there you go.

I feel liberated, being naked like this. I'm not going to swear off makeup forever, but perhaps for the daily norm I'll go bare faced and save the primping for special occasions.

As an afterthought that really should be noted - be careful of what you say to others, even the small stuff. You never know what type of an impact it will have.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


We went on vacation over 4th of July - it was a lot of fun! With all of the gorgeous scenery and such, Max's favorite part was the playgrounds. (hot tip for traveling with a kid - try to scout out all elementary schools on your route) The big playground you see in the photos is right near my aunt's house, that was his absolute favorite one in case you couldn't tell by the huge smile on his face!

 And after all of that playing, we did some sightseeing...
taking a break from feeding ducks

What, dad? There's a State House behind me? But the tractor!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Inexpert Photo Editing

I'm not an expert photographer. Far from it. But, here's something I have learned: PicMonkey (and similar programs) is your friend. Here's a set of three photos, untouched:

Not bad - good clarity, nice color if a bit faded... but the biggest problem is the sun was at Max's back, leaving his face in shadow.

Using PicMonkey (this is not sponsored btw, I just like them) I made a collage with a light blue background to match the sky:

That added more visual interest, but doesn't solve the exposure problem.

Now, I took the collage and (in this order) went into Exposure and increased the brightness to 20, increased the highlights to 40, increased the shadows to 25, and increased the contrast to 10. Then I went into Colors and increased the temperature and saturation by 5 each. This wiped out the sky, but helped Max (the focal point) look better.
Now, let's do the saturation and such first to see if we can keep the sky. Starting with the original collage, go into Colors and increase the temperature by 5 and the saturation by 15. Now to Exposure, increase brightness by 15, increase highlights by 25, increase shadows by 20, and decrease contrast by 5.
We preserved a bit of sky there - yay! The colors may look a bit super-saturated, but if you look at his skin tone you'll notice it looks normal (yes, his shirt is that bright). I'd say this one is the keeper.

Point being - play around a bit. Change the order and percentages of what you change. If you have more advanced features and can do even more, awesome. And, always save the originals!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Temporarily Taking in Pants

affix the snaps
I make a lot of Max's clothes, and what I don't make I tend to get as hand-me-downs or second hand. I particularly look out for jeans since they're so hard wearing, and I don't like making them. Most kids' jeans have elastic in the waist, which is awesome, but by the time they get to us the elastic is pretty worn out and we spend all day pulling up his pants. After some trial and error (and broken needles), I figured out a super easy way to take in those jeans.

Elastic + snaps = no sew & removable

These instructions are to take in pants a total of 2" or less. If you need to take in more adjust accordingly, though the more you take in the bulkier/more awkward looking it gets. Considering that the elastic will be on the interior of the waistband I used elastic made for underpants since it is nice and soft. This would work on adult pants as well - no reason for the kids to have all the well fitting pants!

If you're taking in jeans or other pants with belt loops, measure the distance between the side loop and the next one back.
Cut two pieces of elastic to that measurement minus an inch, or to 3" if you're taking in regular pants. I used pinking shears to prevent fraying. Affix a male snap to each end of the elastic. Now affix two female snaps on the interior waist of the pants under the side belt loop and the next one back. If you're using regular pants, affix them to the side 4" apart. Repeat on the other side.
If you put the snaps in under belt loops they will be almost completely hidden when worn.
hidden snap
For those of you (like myself) who tend to have that pant gap at the lower back, this is a good option. Just move the snaps back one belt loop.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dinosaur Photo Bombs

You know, that dinosaur keeps popping up all over the place.

I need to start keeping my camera with me just to take pictures of it (and its buddies). I'll try to make that a goal this summer - document the dinosaur. My favorite so far was walking up the stairs and having three dinosaurs staring at me at eye level from the landing. Wish I'd gotten a picture, but by the time I got back with the camera they'd been moved again.

RAWR pillow!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Frugal Luxuries: Tractor Thrills

Max is obsessed with tractors (and trucks, and construction vehicles...). I try to time my hardware store purchases for rainy days when he needs a distraction so I can let him sit on the lawn mower displays. The employees at my local hardware store are very amused by him, and are very tolerant of his sitting on the display for 15+ minutes. It helps that he's very well behaved and just sits there pretending he's driving, and that I am a regular customer (as well as my extended family). Thank goodness for small towns.

My dad (aka Papa) recently got a new job at Max's dream land: a tractor & equipment store. We went and visited Papa at work and Max got to test out the display tractors, look (from a distance) at all of the tools they use to do repairs, and check out a particularly large monster tractor that barely fits in the 2 1/2 story garage. He was in heaven (and Papa was pretty excited to have Max there too!).

Later that day for even more tractor/truck thrills, we went to Big Truck Day at the next town over. It was a pretty awesome day - and it was all free. Big Truck Day was making their money from selling food (we did buy lunch and a snack), but for just the price of gas and $5 for lunch we had great entertainment and lots to discuss for days.

For another cheap thrill, there's road construction going on near Max's daycare and it has been a fantastic source of free entertainment all summer for the kids to watch the trucks drive by.

If you also have a little (or not so little) person interested in trucks/tractors/etc, see if there's a local Big Truck Day, ask if you child can sit on the display pieces (which are usually disabled so they can't be stolen), or even find a construction site and watch the trucks work (staying a safe distance away, of course). If you have a video camera, you can even take those trucks with you. My MIL made a video for Max of all of the construction vehicles (and even a street sweeper!) around her neighborhood. Alternately, you could take photos and make your own tractor/truck/etc flip book to look at when the real deal isn't available. I have a flip book on my list of things to make Max... I know what I'll be taking pictures of this summer!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Front Yard Reveal

The title of the post is a little misleading - we don't have a front yard. We have a front patio and a strip of dirt. But, work with what you have, right?

So, to better define the property line (and discourage people from walking on our front patio) I had a fence installed. Nice, right?

Yeah, our house is gray on gray on gray, but I'm ok with that. Not a high priority for me - I figure it's a neutral background waiting for me to accessorize it.

Here's how it looks from the house side:
A reminder of the before:

To help with the accessorizing, I dug up the strip of dirt, which turned out to be almost completely pulverized gravel. No wonder nothing wanted to grow in it besides weeds.

yucky dirt - but it's good for filling in holes in the driveway!
Since the strip has poor drainage I filled it with potting soil and watered in some seeds.

I already have a few sprouts, yay!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th!

Have a wonderful day filled with parades, fireworks, sunshine, barbecues, and remembering that while the politics of our country may not always be perfect, the huge community of people and the beautiful land that comprise it are worth it. Take a moment to send a mental thanks to those who fell long ago to fight for our independence.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

HALT Parenting

I had read this article by Megan at Sorta Crunchy a while ago and came across it again recently. It is so worth reading, not only if you have kids (though especially if you have kids) but when you're dealing with people in general it's a good reminder that if someone's cranky there might be a very simple reason for it.


That's it. So simple, and covers such a large percentage of child meltdowns. Fix the reason, fix the meltdown.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Scrappy Throw Pillow

What do you get when you have some pretty leftover fabric, a pillow form (that I got in 2005 and has traveled with me across the country and through several closets), and a toddler? A scrappy pillow and an awesome photo shoot, that's what! Everything's better with dinosaurs.

The fabric is leftover from reupholstering my free $800 chair. I had enough to do one solid side, but the other side is a piecework of the odds and ends - and I love it. Especially the raw and selvedge edges. The back panels weren't lining up just like I wanted it - so I got out my favorite sewing accessory/toy, my snap pliers. But a plain white snap is so boring... so a bit more scrap fabric later and I have a flower snap closure. Who says the back has to be boring?