September 30, 2015

Personal: A Tale of Surgical Repetition

I don't like getting personal online. It feels weird sharing stories with strangers I may never meet. But sometimes, when I encounter others with similar issues, or wonder myself if there are people out there who go through what I do, I just want to share.

Without getting too deep in details, I went through cancer treatment soon after Penny was born. The cancer itself was treatable, though advanced, and at the time, the solution seemed straightforward. Surgery and chemo, then I'm good. In that time, it's actually been dozens of surgeries, rather than one or two, and the complications are never-ending.

I went for nearly a year without any complications and thought I was all good. Unfortunately, for who knows how long, I'd had fluid building up inside my abdomen and it wasn't happy to be there and caused complications. The fix for this was to be a simple surgery, but that really didn't fix the problem. My faith in getting a final resolution so I can live my life without thinking of how I got to that situation was waning.

After a second opinion and a lot of frustration and tests, it was decided that I could postpone future surgeries as long as I could live with what I was living with, which is uncomfortable and annoying, requires some self-care, but isn't painful. 18 months later, I can't ignore it anymore and need to take next steps.

I'm waiting to know what my options are. Without any clue of why I continue to have fluid that won't drain away, I'm fearful of any potential fixes as they're not likely to be permanent. Next step is probably more surgery, followed by more surgery, and then more surgery. It's cyclical.

Some days I feel like the point of surgery is to need more surgery. I know that's not really true, but as someone going through it, it's just how I personally feel at the moment. If future surgery solves everything, I promise I'll take it back.

September 28, 2015

Pattern Review: Jane's Little Boxy Bag

I make time for sewing more than any other hobby. If I could spend a week off from work sewing all day, I would. There's nothing like the feeling of making something useful from fabric! Sometimes, I create my own design, sometimes I adapt a pattern, and sometimes I work from a purchased pattern. With bags, I prefer to buy a pattern. I feel more confident that the results will hold up if I work from someone's tested idea.

When Penny signed up to take dance classes with a friend, I decided to make each girl a little bag to hold their shoes. I wanted a bag that could stand on its own, would be small enough for the kids to carry, and could fit in a larger bag on occasion.

Jane's Little Boxy Bag Pattern from Projects by Jane was just what I was looking for. I made the two bags at once, one exactly as instructed, and the second bag using thin fusible fleece to underline the exterior.

Both bags came out cute. The shape is the same and the style is the same. The main difference is that the padding makes the bag more sturdy. It's a bit more effort to sew this way, but the result was a more professional feeling bag. Both look great.

I was glad I bought the pattern because it was accurate with clear instructions, doesn't waste fabric, and is a cinch to construct. I made both bags in an evening.

Some ideas to make it special:

  • add rhinestones or jewels
  • when using a fleece batting, quilt the outer shell with contrasting thread
  • use bold, repurposed or store-bought handles
  • use dupioni silk for the outside, lined with china silk or cotton batiste

When you're ready to make this bag for your little girl (or perhaps you want it for yourself), check out Jane's Etsy shop to purchase the pattern.

When I get caught up on all my sewing projects, I have a feeling I'll be making a few more of these bags as gifts for family and friends. They are super cute and so easy to make!

September 23, 2015

Review: Yumbox Leakproof Bento Lunch Box

I obsess over Penny's lunch. While I am not a mom who worries about a beautiful, fancy experience of gourmet school lunch delights, I do care about using a box that is easy for her to open and close, keeps food where it needs to be, and holds the right portion sizes for a young kid.

We've tried individual boxes that fit together, sandwich bags, wraps, and other random equipment, but it all has annoying drawbacks. Just picture a little girl pulling out 6 individual boxes with removable lids. Guess what happens after lunch? It's all piled back in the lunch box with sticky leftovers flying around on the ride home. It's gross.

Bags, plastic wrap, and foil are all well and good, but our school is very green and doesn't want unnecessary lunch trash. As a recycle first family, I do my best to avoid those options.

There are adorable bento kits on Amazon, but the best ones seem to cost more than $35 and I wondered if there was something out there under $30 that was kid-friendly, slightly better for the Earth, and easy to clean.

I came across the Yumbox container and was a bit skeptical. I remember checking it out several times before I ordered the purple one. Honestly, I wasn't really confident that the yogurt, applesauce, and ketchup I pack would stay put.

Here's what I found after actually using the Yumbox for three weeks:

1. It fits in our usual lunch totes. It's not square, but it's in there and it doesn't shift around.

2. Filling up each section provides just the right amount of food for my daughter. We're not getting food back at the end of the day! I'm also more aware of how much meat, grains, and veggie to send. She's not a cheese eater, so the dairy section usually has yogurt.

Below, she's having grapes, yogurt, carrots, mushrooms, and heart-shaped sandwiches with ketchup for dipping.

3. The box doesn't leak! One day, my daughter forgot to close the latch and a bit of yogurt remnants made its way outside the box. But, when closed, the food stays put, not only inside the box, but within the sections. The Spaghettios you see below didn't end up in the pineapple.

4. My daughter isn't a big protein eater. This isn't the fault of the box, but sometimes I feel bad sending her with less protein than fits in the protein section. She won't eat much meat, so I look for other ways to get protein in her diet. Those don't usually end up in the protein section.

I'm so happy with this lunch box, I pop the insert in the dishwasher each night to make sure it's the only one we use. Next on my list is to get another one so we have a backup.

Want one for yourself? Here's the Amazon link (it's an affiliate link):
Yumbox Panino (Lavande Purple) Leakproof Bento Lunch Box Container for Kids and Adults

The Yumbox comes in different colors. Pick one that makes your kid happy and enjoy making school lunch again.

September 15, 2015

All-Time Favorite Sewing Patterns

Embroidered dupioni silk underlined with organza
Sewing is how I relax after a difficult day, what I enjoy during a quiet afternoon, and is definitely my favorite hobby. As a kid and in my 20s, I sewed a little, but starting around 2006, I got into it more seriously and now, I'm confident that I can make a dress, create doll clothes from scratch, and come up with cool pattern modifications for my daughter's outfits.

Here are a few of my all-time favorite patterns. Be sure to check them out if you're looking for new ideas!

Crepe by Colette Patterns
I've made the Crepe dress twice, once for my mom and once for myself. I loved the detailed instructions and a pattern that is quick to sew.

With both dresses, I underlined, which isn't part of the instructions. The dress for my mom is a cotton vintage Betsey Johnson print. I wanted a more stiff shape, so the underlining helped the skirt look more full. For mine, the fabric is a lightweight cotton batiste that was fairly see-through. I underlined and then lined the bodice to ensure modesty at work.

Vogue Patterns V8648
At first glance, this pattern looks a bit dull, but it's versatile and by selecting unique fabrics and making a few minor adjustments to the bodice and waistband, you can make it however you like. There are a lot of pieces to cut, but the shape is flattering. I found there was more ease than I like for the bodice, but that's an easy fix if you make a muslin first.

Simplicity Project Runway Collection 1814
This adorable pattern for girls offers flexibility to add or change details like the waistband and skirt. My version is a cotton print with a tulle overskirt and a satin bow at the waist. Gold rosettes add a little sparkle along the neckline. I'll post a pic soon!

September 4, 2015

eSalon Review Update: Still Awesome 9 Orders Later!

It's been nearly 18 months since I visited eSalon headquarters for a behind the scenes tour and in-house color. In that time, it's been the only brand I use for hair color. I just visited my eSalon account and found I've colored my hair 9 times since my trip!

Touching up roots is easy with a brush and bowl
If you've read my blog, you know I used to try all the store brands to test them out and post reviews, but eSalon has been so good for my hair, I don't want to use anything else.

My eSalon color
My family has signed up and tried eSalon. My sister-in-law's hair looks awesome every time we visit! Now, my coworker who has been longing to do her outgrown roots for months, is ready to try. As soon as she tries it, I'll post before and after pics.

I got her some products to try on her light blonde hair in the meantime:

Since I'm a huge fan of eSalon, I wanted to point out a few products I enjoy, remind you that you can get $10 off your first order, and share some past hair color links, just to reminisce some of my good and bad hair color moments over the past few years.

If you're not familiar with my eSalon story: Hair Color Review

My sister's experience with eSalon:
Coloring Long, Thick Hair: My Sister's Experience with eSalon

Flat hue and stinky hair with Clairol:
Clairol Nice n' Easy Hair Color Review

I was trying to be nice about my experience with Olia, but those hot roots are crazy:
Garnier Olia Hair Color Review

Want to try eSalon?
Let me refer you and get $10 off your first order! Subscribe to their service and your first order is just $9.95 plus shipping.

September 2, 2015

Penny Makes Yogurt Butter Cups

Penny loves Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It's genetic. I'm addicted. My mom's addicted. And I bet, grandma was too.

I've made homemade peanut butter cups but they aren't the same as the yumminess of Reece's. It's all about the peanut butter. Since Penny also loves yogurt, she asked if we could make yogurt butter cups.

At first, I kind of giggled because it seemed kind of unusual, but then I thought we ought to experiment and see if chocolate stuffed with yogurt actually works. Penny provided all the direction for this experiment. I just did what I was told.

First, I made the chocolate "wet," meaning I microwaved some chocolate chips she pulled out of our baking cabinet.

Next I put some melted chocolate in a mini silicone mold, topped it with a little Activia, and poured more chocolate on top. Penny didn't want to add sugar, butter, or other ingredients. Keeping it simple!

To speed up the setting process, I popped it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then, we each took a bite.

It's not the most pleasant candy I've tasted, but it did work. We had chocolate stuffed with yogurt. The yogurt is a little watery, so the texture is like having one of those cordial-filled chocolates. Penny did not like the result.

We may stick with peanut butter cups, but it was fun to try something new in the kitchen!

August 27, 2015

7 Awesome Back-to-School Must Haves

Did you wait until the last minute to buy school supplies? Me too. Here's a list of handy things to grab for your little ones as they get ready for the first day of school.

1. Animal Pals Pencil Case
My daughter has dozens of pencils, markers, and crayons and loves to bring a few along in the car. Whether your children need one for school, or if they're on the go and want to color in the car or plane, have them bring their drawing and coloring tools along in one of these super cute pencil cases. I love the yellow zebra one, available on Amazon at Cool Pencil Case - Animal Pals Pencil Case- Zebra. It's currently only $4.49 with free shipping.

2. Elmer's Washable No-Run School Glue
Chances are gel glue is on the school supply list. Our school requested gel glue, but it's actually hard to find in my town. So, I order Elmer's Washable No-Run School Glue, 5 oz Bottle, Clear (E305) from Amazon.

The clear glue doesn't leave those white globs when dry and can be used for some interesting art projects. With my kindergarten class, I had the kids use the glue to draw the outline of a picture on dark paper and then they colored inside with oil pastels and cut out their pictures around the glue line. Get a few extra for home!

3. Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers
When it's time to order back-to-school supplies, I always look for Crayola brand markers because in my experience as an art student, part-time teacher, and mom, the color is brighter, Crayola markers handle abuse better, and they last longer than other brands. Make your child's teacher happy with a pack of Crayola Ultraclean Broadline Classic Washable Markers (10 Count) from Amazon.

4. Yumbox Bento Lunch Box
You can't go wrong with the Yumbox Panino (Lavande Purple) Leakproof Bento Lunch Box Container for Kids and Adults. The dividers indicate which type of food can go in each section, which takes the guesswork out of portion size. I always struggle to know how much protein or grains to include with Penny's lunch, so this will keep me informed so she can enjoy a healthy lunch all year. It's also BPA-free and dishwasher safe.

Penny's excited for the little condiment section in the middle. I usually include a little sauce box but it's a pain to clean and sometimes doesn't come home in her lunch box. Now I can have one box for her entire lunch.

Modern Labels for the sophisticated kid

5. Mabel's Labels Ultimate Back-to-School Combo
You've bought new clothes, stocked up on supplies, and ordered a super cool lunch box. Your kids are sure to lose a few things this year. Label everything so you have a good chance of getting those lost items back. With the Mabel's Labels Ultimate Back-To-School Combo, you get 108 customized, waterproof labels and tags, perfect for coats, shoes, gloves, lunch boxes, backpacks, and school supplies, for just $42! And the best part, you get free shipping at Mabel's Labels.

I've used other labels for Penny's school gear, but what I love about Mabel's Labels is all the customization options. Penny picks the theme and font. I pick the label package based on how much we need.

6. Fiskars Blunt Tip Scissors
Kids learn to be more independent with scissors in kindergarten. Start your younger ones off right with blunt tip scissors until they are ready for longer, pointed ones. Though they are offered in several colors, I love the bright, cheerful pink ones: Fiskars Blunt Tip Kids Scissors, 5-Inch, Pink.

7. Kids Konserve Waste-Free Lunch Kit
We're asked to be as conservative with waste as possible when packing school lunch. Avoiding plastic and paper bags is easy with the  Kids Konserve Caterpillar Go Wild Waste-Free Lunch Kit. It comes with the cotton bag and cloth napkin, plus a drink bottle, and stainless steel food containers. There's even a sandwich wrap.

Some Amazon reviews commented that the sandwich wrap isn't sealed, so if you are concerned about the bag getting jostled around before lunch, it would be super easy to add a velcro strip to keep the end closed.