Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bento Box Tutorial

bento box quilt tutorialAs I've shared, my oldest child is graduating to high school this year, and I wanted to mark the occasion. At the same time, my husband has been telling me that "we" needed a new quilt for our son's room since the one he currently uses was a preschool graduation gift from his Gagi(my mom). It is still in fine condition, but it has an appliqued circus train on it and, while I find it the perfect girl repellent, both husband and son believe he is ready to move on to a slightly more mature look.

(OT: That reminds me of a quilt I saw one year at the East Cobb show that was a gift for a young man going off to college. It was a great, masculine quilt, very simple, with a giant spider appliqued in the center. The spider left you scratching your head for a moment until you read the description and the title "Girls are Afraid of Spiders." I loved it!)

Anyway, I have been dying to do a Bento Box quilt, and this seemed like just the opportunity. I found some lovely flannel plaids and mixed in the colors of his high school and my alma mater, Florida State (because the boy is a 'Nole fan - I always knew he was my favorite!)

The thing about a Bento Box, though, is that every time I looked at the pattern I thought there must be a better way to do it. Logically it would seem so much easier to make large Courthouse Steps blocks, cut them in quarters, mix them all up, and then sew them back together. Right? Right. But I couldn't find a pattern like that. If I figured it out myself there was all that math. And you know how I feel about that.

Then one day I was googling-when-I-should-be-working and came across this blog and tutorial and person who obviously thinks like I do (poor soul!) and had gone to the trouble of figuring it out. Now, she hadn't done all the math for me for the particular sized blocks I wanted, but by looking at her work I realized it was really very simple and nothing to have a phobia about.

The down side to this method, according to Melissa, who has made several gorgeous Bento Box quilts, is that you don't get as much variety. She has a terrific method for making every box different, which I hereby challenge her to write as a tutorial for her blog. That actually was okay for me, though, because I made this out of plaid flannels in certain colors and didn't have time for lots of shopping. My choices were pretty limited anyway, so going to a lot of trouble to mix them all up was going to be a waste of time.

So here's what I did:

I bought 1/2 yard of each fabric - 6 darks and 6 lights. You could use as many different fabrics as you wanted and you would still need the same amount for this size block. Just make sure to get an even number of darks and lights.

My Bento Box units finished at 10 1/2" and the Bento Box blocks finished at 21". The quilt is set 3 x 4 blocks, for a total of 12, and was 63" x 84" before any border. This is a nice twin sized quilt.

You have to cut these just right to get all of the pieces out of 1/2 yard of fabric, but there is almost no waste. The following instructions are for each fabric, and you will need an equal number of lights and darks:
  1. From each 1/2 yard, cut 2 - 8" strips. Cut ONE 8" square from EACH strip.
  2. Cut ONE of these 8" squares in half to make 2 - 4" x 8" strips.
  3. Cut the first strip to a length of 22", then in half lengthwise to make 2 - 4" x 22" strips
  4. Cut the second strip in half lengthwise. Then cut 4 strips 15" long for a total of 4 - 4" x 15" strips.
Now you should have:
  •  1 - 8" square
  • 2 - 4" x 8" strips
  • 4 - 4" x 15" strips
  • 2 - 4" x 22" strips
Let's move onto the sewing. Match up pairs of dark and light fabrics so that you have a nice variety. I have given the instructions for the half of the blocks with dark centers and outsides, but obviously you reverse that for the other half of the blocks.
  1. Sew the light 4" x 8" strips to either side of the dark 8" square and press.
  2. Sew the light 4" x 15" strips to the other two sides of the square and press.
  3. Sew the 4" x 15" strip that matches the center square to the first two sides that you sewed and press.
  4. Sew the matching dark 4" x 22" strip to the last sides and press.

    bento box quilt tutorial
  • Fold the block in fourths and lightly press as a cutting guide. Measure and cut each block into fourths.
Now is the fun part of laying out the blocks and rearranging them. I chose to do this one day when the Wanna Bees were there so I could get some input. Taking a picture helps you to visualize the quilt from far away, so you can see it without getting overfocused on each individual block.

I sewed them together in pairs and then again to make the actual blocks, then sewed the blocks together to make rows, and then sewed the rows together. Easy as pie!

I chose not to add borders, but you could if you wanted to adjust the size. I laid mine on a twin sized bed and found it to be a little wider and several inches longer than the quilt he has on there now, so I decided to go with that.

For the back, I found this great flannel, but there wasn't enough left on the bolt. I divided it in half and then pieced some of the binding fabric into a center strip to make it long enough. Be creative! Pieced backs are very interesting. If I had flannel in my stash that didn't have reindeer on it, I would have shopped from my stash instead of buying fabric.

Obviously you can quilt it any way you want, but I always hate when books say "quilt as desired." Like a suggestion would kill them? I decided to do a large crosshatch design through the actual boxes. Then I quilted two concentric squares inside the squares that the crosshatching created. It made a really nice design and quilted up beautifully. I hope you can see it in this picture:
bento box quilt tutorialThen I just bound it with some of the gold flannel and added a label that included a picture from his first day of school and one from graduation.

Let me know if you try this and what you think of the tutorial. Did I leave out anything essential? Please share and link back. I love to see pictures of how ideas grow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Princess Protection Program Party Countdown

Only 2 days to go!

Gracie has selected ice cream flavors and pizza toppings. She's chosen her outfit. And yesterday she and I made the paper shoes that the favors will go in.
These are so cute I could just squeal like a 9-year-old girl. It was so much fun to choose all of the pretty scrapbooking paper and make them.

Here's the link to Ellen Hutson's blog in case you missed it. I love this pattern, and so many of the other creative things on her site.

There aren't a lot of detailed directions, though, so here's a few tips from me:
  • I wanted the shoe to be large enough to tuck a few favors into - a lip gloss, a nail polish, emery board, and toe separator (all from the Target Dollar Spot!). I enlarged this pattern 129% (standard upsize on a copy machine) onto 11" x 17" paper. Now the pattern fits beautifully onto 12" x 12" scrapbook paper.
  • I chose matching scrapbook papers for each shoe. This is one of the most important parts, so take your time.
For instance, I love the papers on this shoe, but I think it could have used more contrast.
Like this:
A real bargain can be had if you find a double sided paper that you really like. I found this one for the same price as all of the other single-sided ones. It saves you a whole cutting/gluing step and looks a little more finished because no white shows at any edges. It was also a little thicker, so it holds up just as well, or better, than the two papers glued together.
  • Carefully cut out your templates. I found it much easier to work with one out of thicker paper or cardboard; just be careful to trace and cut accurately. I still used the paper template for my folding lines. The only adjustment I made was in the liner. Do you see how the white edges show inside this shoe? This was my first try.
After that one, I altered the liner pattern to match the same section of the shoe pattern so that the white wouldn't show. Doesn't this look much better?
  • Glue the two pieces together carefully and quickly. I just used Modge Podge that I had on hand, but I'm sure there are better choices. It dries VERY QUICKLY, so work fast and don't lay the piece down anywhere you don't really want it to go. I did this assembly line style, so that each piece had a chance to dry before moving onto the next step.
  • Make all of your folds, according to the pattern.
  • I glued the wings that hold the sole of the shoe to the sides first. Hold them in place while they dry. It is important that these line up correctly, so play with it a little before gluing.
  • Then I put glue on the large part of the heel. Line these up so that they overlap exactly.
  • Next I put a dab of glue on one small part of the heel. This doesn't overlap perfectly, but just holds these pieces together for support.
  • Last, you could glue the toe of the shoe. I chose to make slits on opposite ends, like Ellen did, to about the halfway point, and slip them together. I thought it made a nice detail on the toe of the shoe.
  • When the shoes dry, tuck in your party favors or invitations. Viola!
Isn't that cute? I did six of them in about 3 hours, intermingled with cooking dinner and flipping laundry. Of course, now that I've done a few, I am much faster and my last one came out better and faster than my first. I could easily see doing the smaller version of these to decorate a tiny Christmas tree, or as place card holders on a dinner table.

I hope you have a fun and creative day!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

better tUesdays - week 4 - Wii Mock U

It has been a hit and miss week here at better U. I FAILED miserably at my new goal of walking with Daisy. It has been miserably hot and Gracie has been sleeping in; not a good combination for tempting me outside the house. I only managed about 90+ minutes on the WiiFit as well, planning all along to squeeze at least one long walk in over the weekend. It never happened.

(We do, however, have new front porch lights that my DH installed all by himself. On Father's Day. What a guy! And a freshly cleaned out garage. Do I know how to celebrate or what?)

For the good news, we have gone a second full week with no fast food, and I am now 4+ weeks with no diet Coke. Although it is not one of my goals, twice I have been offered ice cream for dessert and been too full to eat it - and didn't cram it down my throat anyway! Hurrah!

Of course the one week I really fell off the wagon, I lost 1.1 lbs and my WiiFit age is down to 22 (I ROCKED the COB test!). Go figure.

I think that thing should be called Wii Mock U, because every time I get on the balance board it says, "Oh!" as if it has been shocked by the burden of my massive weight. Also, when I weigh in, it gleefully says, "That's obese!" Out loud.

Is that really necessary? My 12 year old son has better manners.

I did finally collect last week's reward. Gracie and I went to get a pedicure with the girls yesterday. We decided to get confetti toes in honor of our rapidly approaching birthdays. Okay, my rapidly approaching birthday. She, at almost nine, does not share my disdain for the celebration.

Looking forward to next week, I am going to keep the same goals and try to actually achieve them:
  • Goal 1: I will increase my activity to 210 minutes, including AT LEAST a 10 minute walk with Daisy every day.
  • Goal 2: I am going to try to extend the "fast food fast" for one more week.
My reward is going to be to buy a hand-dyed back for Gracie's Orange Crush quilt instead of piecing it from my stash.

My major obstacle to this goal is that it is hot, and it is sooo much easier to hop on the Wii Balance Board than to put on running shoes and leave the house.

What I can do to overcome this obstacle? I am going to try getting up with my DH when the alarm goes off and get my walk in before the heat gets out of control. The dog will be happier and then I won't feel as guilty if I have a busy day and don't get to the Wii that day.

Have a healthy day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Princess Protection Program Party Favors

The plans for the Princess Protection Program birthday party are in full swing. The menu was a breeze - make your own ice cream sundaes, since my girl doesn't like cake, and pizza has been on the menu since her daddy bought her a pizzeria!

So we moved on to the favors. I was entranced by the idea of these gorgeous invitations that Crystal featured on Sonnet of the Moon for her Marie Antionette themed bachelorette party. Then we changed the invitation style to look like a telegram or urgent alert, but I still had those shoes in my mind.

Viola! Check these out! They will be used as a favor holder, since part of the storyline is also about Carter's (Selena Gomez) transformation, as this tomboy who works in a bait shop finds her "inner princess."

Tied up in tulle in each shoe will be the pedicure set, lip gloss, and nail polish that I found in the Target Dollar Spot!

We also have one more special item in the works, but I am not going to post until they are done. Hopefully they will get done without a marathon sewing session like last year's all nighter to complete the Kit Kittredge doll quilts.

I hope you have a magical day!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Princess Protection Program Party

It's party time again! Gracie's birthday is around the corner, and I am hard pressed to come up with an idea to top the 7 year old Nancy Drew party, complete with a series of clues (mailed so the girls had to decode their invitations) and sleuth kit goodie bags, or last year's American Girl party with cigar boxes full of Kit Kittredge movie themed favors and a handmade doll quilt for each girl. Phew!

But Disney saved us! Leave it to those magical geniuses to have their next fabulous TV movie premier ON HER BIRTHDAY! Yes, Princess Protection Program comes out next Friday, on the actual day Grace was born, 9 years ago. And it's kind of a mystery, which has become somewhat of a trend for us.

In case you are not up on your latest Disney facts (translation: subject to several hours a week of the Disney Channel broadcast throughout your home, complete with music videos and ads for things only available on TV), let me fill you in. The very flimsy premise of the movie is that the Princess Protection Program has been set up by royal families to keep princesses safe. When a threat is detected, one of their secret agents has to move in and take custody of Princess Rosalinda. To protect her identity, he brings her home to his own daughter, who then gets to teach Rosie how to act like a normal American teenager. Hilarity ensues.

So, we have sent the following invites to an exclusive five special girls (the most that will fit in my car):


My favorite thing about this party is that it will be like an old fashioned birthday party - no expensive entertainers or venues, no hordes of children, just a few friends over for pizza and ice cream and some games to celebrate. It won't feel gluttonous, it won't feel over-the-top, but it will still be exactly what she wants and so fabulous! Plus, since the movie is free and the pizza is cheap (I know a guy!) I can splurge a little with the favors and decorations without a bit of guilt.

I'll keep you filled in on our plans in case you want to invite some friends over to watch the movie yourself.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In the Garden

Up until about this week we were having a very mild spring with plenty of rain - unusual in our drought plagued area - so we have been truly enjoying our time in the garden. I planted a blueberry bush for the first time after wanting one for years. It is growing nicely and gave up the expected first year crop of about six blueberries. Sadly, the birds got to them before I harvested. I was warned but underestimated how disappointed I would be the day I went out to check if they were ripe, only to find an empty bush. Next year I'm buying a net.

I have moved on to my tomatoes and herbs. A few years ago I gave Topsy Turvy Tomato Planters to the moms and Cousin Judy for Mother's Day. As I mentioned in a previous post, Judy had great success and a bumper crop; the moms not so much. My dear MIL passed her planter along to me with best wishes. I planted an heirloom variety and it is growing like crazy! So far no blooms, but Walter Reeves mentioned today on his show that I should stop fertilizing until it blooms. We'll try that and see. I also moved my herbs to the front garden for two reasons: one, Daisy likes to eat fragrant plants, and two, it will get more sun. They are all thriving, to my joy. I'm hoping to have a lovely tomato and basil salad from my garden very soon.

As you can see in the top photo, my Rose of Sharon is covered in gorgeous white blooms the size of saucers. I only wish we had planted it in a more visible spot since it is so pretty.

And, even though the drought is officially over, I'm still keeping my water conservation habits. Today I was so excited to score a 55 gallon rain barrel and compost bin at City Hall for a bargain price. I had been unable to compost food scraps before now thanks to a certain puppy dog who can't keep her nose clean. This one is excellent, with a locking lid and long screws that go down into the dirt to keep Daisy and other critters out.

The kids have jumped on board, especially Gracie, who has claimed it as her job to empty the kitchen bucket into the bin every day. My better half is concerned about bugs and rodents, so lets hope he's wrong. I would hate to have invited them in! Supposedly adding dog hair to the pile will repel deer or raccoons. Hmmm...wherever would we get some of that? ;o)

I hope you get to do something relaxing this weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

better tUesdays - week 3 - Fast Food Fast


I'm not doing such a great job at posting about anything else (since I haven't touched my sewing machine in almost a month!) but I would like it noted for the record that this is my third post in a row about goals and health and all that stuff. I think it was just a Monday thing.

I was expecting the no fast food goal to be much harder and whinier, but my kids jumped all over it. I bought 40 calorie no-sugar-added fudgsicles and the makings of several yummy dinners, and they were a huge help. I have still had no diet Coke for over three weeks now.

I also did my 180 minutes on the WiiFit, and now it's turning into the motivational tool that I originally envisioned when I bought the darned thing 9 months ago. I was trying to get my last few minutes in on Sunday evening, and had gathered an audience. By the time I was done they were all clamoring for a turn to beat my now excellent scores (except heading soccer balls - I cannot do that!). Gracie can hula hoop on the 10 minute round like nobody's business, and none of us can even come close to her score. My boys can do the balance games far better than I - why can't they stand up straight without leaning on a wall or chair or me?

The best part of the week, then, was weighing in today and finding out that I lost another 0.7 lbs, for a total of 0.9 lbs. Not a lot, but definitely in the right direction. My WiiFit age was down to 30 at one point, although I bombed the body test this morning and it went back up to 38. I have also - possibly - lost 1/2" in my waist. I'm not 100% sure because of my primitive measurement technique, which consists of embroidery thread and the ruler on my cutting mat.

I will joyfully collect my reward this afternoon at the salon in the form of a much deserved pedicure.

Looking forward to next week:
  • Goal 1: I will increase my activity to 210 minutes; however, my addition to this is to get Daisy back in on this. Her walks with me have suffered since my new romance with the WiiFit. I am going to commit to AT LEAST a 10 minute walk every day, in addition to the walks and playtime she gets with the kids.
  • Goal 2: I am going to try to extend the "fast food fast" for one more week.
My reward is going to be to buy a hand-dyed back for Gracie's Orange Crush quilt instead of piecing it from my stash.

My major obstacle to this goal is that it is hot, and it is sooo much easier to hop on the Wii Balance Board than to put on running shoes and leave the house.

What I can do to overcome this obstacle? I am going to try getting up with my DH when the alarm goes off and get my walk in before the heat gets out of control. The dog will be happier and then I won't feel as guilty if I have a busy day and don't get to the Wii that day.

Have a healthy day!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Teresa!

My wonderful friend, Teresa, turned 50 in May. She is one of the dearest people you would ever meet, with a generous heart and loving spirit. Some of her kids are older than mine, and the nicest kids you could find, so she is great to ask for parenting advice.

She also has a wonderful husband who decided to throw her a fabulous surprise party. I'm talking about an over-the-top, talk of the town, pull out all the stops kind of party. The other husbands were joking that "he took all of my ideas for YOUR birthday, Honey. Oh well!"

Amazing food, live band on the patio, and fireworks off the dock. It was breathtaking.

But what do you get a friend like that who, in the words of her sister, has it all? The only thing I have or do that she doesn't is my crafty, creative side. I didn't have enough warning for a whole quilt (and I didn't want to start a trend that I might not be able to keep up!), so I decided to make an oversized fabric postcard.

Here's what I ended up with:
I love the background fabric. I used lots of bright scraps because Teresa always looks for the bright side of even the darkest situation. I had fun playing with Rene's fancy stitches, because Teresa is usually casual but is stunning when the occasion calls for it. I added a little bling because of her sparkling personality and flashing smile.

I know it's not much, but I hope she loves all the memories that go with it of a special birthday with so many friends and family members.

Happy 50th Birthday, Teresa!

Better tUesdays -Week 2

I have survived Week 1. I am going to say that I have accomplished my goal, because even though I only did the WiiFit 4 times, I did accumulate well over 150 minutes. My WiiFit age has gone down from 42 (older than I am) to 32 (I wish!). I only lost 0.2 lbs, but I am not going to get overfocused on the scale.

I didn't take my reward, because I hadn't completed the goal until yesterday morning; also, I have not had any time to go to the bathroom without being interrupted by one of my offspring demanding socks/lunch/a ride to some sort of sports practice, much less time to fill the tub and actually get in it.

Still no diet Coke. I am about to float away. On a positive note, my oldest has learned how to make the iced tea himself.

I am going to chalk this one up as a success, minor as it might be. Onward!

  • Goal 1: I will increase my activity to 180 minutes. In theory this is 30 minutes 6 times per week, but I am going to cut myself some slack if I do 5 days and it still adds up to the right number.
  • Goal 2: I am going to stop eating fast food. This is huge, but one of my biggest weaknesses. For the purpose of this goal, I am going to define fast food as a restaurant that has a drive-through lane. Yes, the Chick-Fil-A in the mall counts, because most of them do. No, Bruster's does not count, because that is TOO MUCH for one week.

Since that is a BIG thing and a hard thing, I'm going to give myself a nice reward to stay motivated. I need a new pedicure, and I don't feel like doing it myself. If I go the whole week with no fast food, then I will have easily saved enough to treat myself to some pampering. I really want to do this. I would love, in a year's time, to be one of those women who casually says, "Oh, nothing for me, thanks. I don't eat fast food."

My major obstacle to this goal is that I am busy, busy, busy even though it is summer, and it is easy to run through someplace on the way home from lacrosse or football or piano lessons. Also, I am not good about planning a whole week's meals and going to the grocery store and having sufficient stuff in the house so that I don't just say, "Screw it," and head for Wendy's. I'm being honest here. You don't get to be this size by eating some extra M&Ms.

What I can do to overcome this obstacle? I am going to make a meal plan for the week, including breakfast and lunch. (Those kids! You feed them, and then a few hours later they want to eat again!) My favorite thing about summer is all the good stuff to throw on the grill, so that will feature heavily into my plan. Also making slaw and deviled eggs that can be pulled out for the boys when they come home late from practice, or for a quick lunch.

Who's with me? I really could use some moral support here! Going to add "Supersize Me" to the Netflix queue for inspiration.

Have a healthy day!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Better tUesdays -Week 1

June 1 has arrived!

decided to switch her posts to Mondays, but we know my track record for Monday self-improvement posts, so I'm sticking with tUesday. Turning over a new leaf and all that stuff.

When you sign in to the program - which you can do right from that little button on my sidebar - how helpful am I? - you will be prompted to set some goals and decide on a reward.

Goal 1: I will wake up my Mii and use the WiiFit for at least 30 minutes 5 times per week. And not just for the fun stuff. I will actually do some of the yoga and cardio.

My little baby reward for this tiny baby step will be to come home after the lacrosse tournament on Sunday and close the door and pretend I am single; i.e., I will turn up my Mamma Mia! soundtrack and light candles and sit in the tub and read a trashy, mindless, purely-for-fun book. Janet Evanovich sounds about right.

My major obstacle to this goal is that I am LAZY as hell and I don't feel like it. How's that for laying it all out there?

What I can do to overcome this goal? Hmmm....I am hoping that by telling all of you that shame will factor into the equation at some point. Also, I am considering (not sure yet, so don't hold me to it) making a deal like my mom once did; she and a friend had a competition going, and if either of them gained weight they had to confess their ORIGINAL weight. I think that would be strong motivation. Although I'd probably die first. Or lie.

That's all I've got so far. Oh, and I'm an idiot. I made such a huge big deal about the 6 weeks and how it was fate that it ended at my birthday and blah, blah, blah.

Duh. The program is 12 weeks. I can't even read. I'm so desperate for a "sign" that I made one up in my own head. I guess THAT would be a sign that I need to get off the computer and take the dog for a walk, right?

Have a healthy day!
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