My First Pattern

Pre-puppy, when life was (relatively) calm, I finally got back behind the sewing machine.  I haven’t done anything since my skirt attempt a few months ago, and since that went (relatively) well I decided to test my skills and do something that totally frightened me: A Pattern.

Now, patterns are frightening in a myriad of ways.  First, the instructions.  They read like freaking Greek.   Second, the laying out process.  What direction does it go?  What does a fold have to do with it? What on earth is nap? And finally, there is the inevitability of having what I made look absolutely NOTHING like the picture on the front of the pattern.  But I faced my fears and lived to tell the tale.

I went shopping at Hobby Lobby (aka the greatest store EVER) during a ninety-nine cent sale awhile back and came home with what I thought were going to be easy patterns.  It even had the word “easy” in the title!  Turns out….not so much.

I called my  mom in defeat, who very kindly searched patterns online until she came up with a list of beginner patterns that she thought I should start with.  Back to Hobby Lobby I went (patterns were still on sale!) and came back laden with patterns, fabrics, and “notions”, a sort of catch-all word referring to anything that isn’t fabric.

I was enthusiastic,  but still nervous.  All pattern instructions operate under the assumption that the user has some basic sewing knowledge.  Which I don’t.   It’s written in an obscure Sewer’s Code for which I don’t have the cipher.

I Googled frantically, searching the Web and YouTube for SOMETHING to break this thing down for me, but alas, my quest was a failure.  I would have to rely on myself (and my mom, via phone). I painstakingly went through the process, line by line, until I had my Eureka moment:  I broke the code.

Just in case I can save somebody else the same heartbreak and woe that I went through, I’m going to walk you through the pattern the way that I did.  Now, I could very well have done this COMPLETELY the wrong way (and if I did, somebody please tell me), but in the end I did end up with a wearable garment!  It’s not “Project Runway” ready or anything, but it’s a start.

Here’s what I did:

I bought Simplicity pattern 2228, which is a pillowcase dress. On the back of the pattern, it has a chart telling you how much fabric and what not you’ll need for whichever size you’re making.  For instance,  I made it a size 7, which means that I used 7/8 of a yard of fabric for the main piece of the dress, and 5/8 yard of different fabric for the contrast band along the bottom.  I also needed thread, 2  3/8 yard of 5/8″ wide ribbon, and a  package of 7/8″ wide single fold bias tape.  I’ll get to the bias tape thing in a minute, but it’s ridiculously confusing.  Hint: it’s over by the thread.  Last freaking place that I looked.

Okay, so the first thing you do is pull out the pattern pieces and cut them out for the size that you want them to be.  Just follow the little black lines; this is the easy part.  The instructions say to press the pattern pieces with a warm, dry iron, but honestly I skipped that part.  In retrospect, I probably should have done it.   Also, make sure to pre-shrink your fabric by washing, drying, and pressing it.   One thing I’ve learned about sewing is that it makes you VERY familiar with your iron!  In some cases, too familiar, as is evidenced by this loveliness:

But I digress.

Now take your nicely pressed fabric, and fold it like the little diagram in the instructions.  Then lay your pattern piece with the arrows pointing right to your fold, pin it, and cut it out.  Next, take your pattern piece, flip it over, and cut it on the fold again. I know that I’m not explaining this part very well.  It’s really better if you can see it.  Do the same with the contrast band piece.

Once you have everything cut out, it’s time to start sewing!

Step 1: Sew the front to the back at the side seams, making sure that you’re sewing the fabric with the RIGHT SIDES together – the wrong side of the fabric will be facing out.

Step 2: Break out that bias tape!  Here’s what the package looks like:

I got pink, to kind of match my fabric, but I really don’t know if the color matters or not. It’s going to be folded like this:

Now what you have to do is UNFOLD it and press it flat.  Next, fold the tape in half, lengthwise with the raw edges even, and press that flat.

Step 3: Take your dress and spread it out at the side seams with the RIGHT side of the fabric facing you.  You want the armhole to look like a big “U”.  Now pin the bias tape to the armhole edge, trying to keep the raw edges even.  Sew the tape onto the armhole with a 3/8″ seam.  Trim the seam, and clip the curves (this was a tricky part for me – turns out curves are harder to sew than straight lines).  Repeat on the other armhole.

Step 4: Turn the tape over to the INSIDE (wrong side of fabric); press it and pin it.  On the OUTSIDE (right side of fabric), top-stitch the tape.  Repeat on the other armhole.

Step 5: Keep that bias tape handy, because we’re using it again!  Get a piece that still has the weird little fold on it – like this, remember?

Now open out just one of the edges and press it.

Step 6: Next,  we’re going to make a casing for the neckline of the dress.  With the RIGHT sides of the fabric together, pin the tape to the upper edge with the raw edges even.  Turn it under when you get to the armhole on each side.  Stitch in a 3/8″ seam.

Step 7:  Fold the fabric over to the INSIDE of the dress and press it.  See? It’s like a hem or a waistband because now you’ve got a little casing.  Pin it, then stitch close to the inner edge (make sure you’ve got enough room to slide in that ribbon!).  Do the same on the other side of the dress.

Step 8: Cut the ribbon in half for the ties.  Insert the ribbon through the front and back casings, making sure that the ends extend evenly (you’ll tie them in bows at the shoulders when it’s worn). It’ll look like this:

Step 9:  Time to get out that contrast band!  This part was really confusing for me, so I have no idea if I did it the right way or not.  You’re going to stitch the front part of the band to the back part of the band at the side seams.  Fold the band in half lengthwise with the WRONG sides together, having the raw edges even.  Press it and pin it (the instructions say to “baste”.  I have no idea what that means.  In my little world, it means pin).

Step 10: On the OUTSIDE of the dress, pin the band to the lower edge of the garment, matching the centers and side seams.  Stitch the seam.  Stich again 1/4″ away from the first stitching.  Press seam toward the garment, pressing the band down.

Step 11:  On the OUTSIDE, top stitch the front and back close to the seam.

And voila! You have something that is actually wearable, albeit way too large in my case.  Here it is:



I may even try to re-use the pattern and making matching dresses for the other two girls.  Eventually.





It is a truth universally acknowledged that the moment things in my life start to become slightly easier, I feel the compunction to complicate things.  It’s summer vacation, which means no school to deal with.  L learned how to tie shoes.  C can entertain herself for hours.  A is walking and talking, which has cut down on the tantrums considerably.  Things were going well for us.

So of course, we had to complicate things.

We got a puppy.

“Got” is a relative term.  In actuality, my husband called me to come outside on Saturday night after I’d just put A to bed. He and the big girls had gone out for ice cream, and were playing in the yard until bedtime.  I walked outside, expecting to see a rainbow, or maybe a wild bunny.  I certainly didn’t expect to see a six-week old rat terrier puppy nestled in my husband’s arms.  And I CERTAINLY didn’t expect to hear these words out of his mouth: “Do you want a puppy?”

Now, my husband has had to be coerced into just about every pet that we’ve gotten in the past nine years.  Emmitt, our ten year old Boston Terrier, was mine before we met, so the hubby had little choice in that matter.  And as for the cats, let’s just say that L’s “Please Daddy?” works a LOT better than any of my attempts.  Even earlier that day the girls and I had peeked into a Petco adoption day, where I texted “Do you want to adopt a puppy for Father’s Day?”  He responded, “You might need to adopt a new husband, too.”

So you can imagine my surprise when he actually suggested that we take this puppy that had been so kindly offered to us from our neighbors.  He was the last of their dogs’ litter – the first one chosen, apparently,  but the prospective owners never showed back up.   The puppy parents were so well trained that we usually saw them around the neighborhood walking with their owners, sans leash (apparently rat terriers are very intelligent).

As soon as I took that little bundle of fur into my arms and inhaled the intoxicating scent of puppy breath, I was hooked.  There was no going back.  We named him Woodrow, Woody for short.  Sure, I could pretend that we named him after someone noble, like Woodrow Wilson, but let’s be honest – we all know that he’s named after the character from “Toy Story”.

And now, we are the proud managers of a menagerie consisting of  three kids, two cats, and two dogs.  I spent nap time Googling “how to get your puppy to sleep through the night” and taking the puppy outside to tinkle every hour instead of working on the five piles of laundry waiting to be folded.

Like I said.  Complicated.

But look at this little face and tell me if it’s worth it:

Searching for Super Recipes: Hawaiian Meatball Sandwiches

I know, these sound a little weird.  But they were actually pretty fantastic, if I say so myself.  They are an amalgamation of several different recipes, mixed in with a little bit of “I watch Top Chef, I should be able to put together a recipe”.

And here is the result.

Here’s what you need:


1/3 cup of barbecue sauce (any kind will do)

2 Tbsp soy sauce/tamari

1 Tbsp grated gingerroot

1 Tbsp honey

1 tsp sesame oil


1 lb lean ground turkey

1/3 cup plum sauce

1/3 cup Panko

3 Tbsp finely minced green onions

1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro

1 egg

2 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp grated gingerroot

1 tsp sesame oil

Salt and Pepper to taste


1 package King’s Hawaiian rolls

Approximately five chunks of pineapple

1/2 bell pepper (any color), sliced

1/4 white onion, sliced


Here’s what you do:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Spray a rimmed cookie sheet or large baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2) Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Form meat mixture into approximately 30 1 to 1-1/2″ meatballs.  Place on prepared pan.

3) Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and browned on the outside.

4) While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the sauce.  Whisk together all sauce ingredients and set aside.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Cut a Hawaiian roll in half.  Spread a dollop of the sauce on the bottom.  Top with a meatball, followed  by onion, pepper, and a slice of pineapple.  Put the other half of the roll on top and voila!  Hawaiian meatball sandwich!

I served three sandwiches per adult, and one per kid with fries and salad on the side.  We even played Hawaiian music via Pandora, until it began to get annoying (which was about five minutes in).




Somebody’s Got a Case of the Mondays

Cover of "Office Space (Special Edition w...

Cover via Amazon

That is probably one of my favorite lines from “Office Space“, which is one of my favorite movies.  Not only is in filmed in my hometown of Austin, TX (they actually drive by my husband’s old apartment in one of the scenes),  but it’s got to be the most quotable movies of my lifetime.

But I digress.

Normally when somebody says that they’ve got ” a case of the Mondays”, it’s a bad thing.  It’s a grumpy, depressed, weekend-is-over kind of thing.  In my case, however, it’s the opposite.  I LOVE Mondays.  I love the return to our regularly scheduled programming after the general mayhem of the weekend.  I love that my house is clean, because my fantastic husband has helped me scrub it.  I love that I’m the best version of myself, because I’m rested and restored from having a second set of hands around the house for two whole days.

On Mondays, I sing.  I bake.  I cook elaborate meals.  I let the kids make messes without going (totally) ballistic.  I concoct games and craft projects.  I’m even in a halfway sociable  mood by the time that my hardworking husband gets home, and may actually have enough energy for a conversation.

This is a far cry, however, from Fridays.  By Friday, I am the very WORST version of myself.  I am tired.  I am grumpy.  I am overworked, overtired, and burned out.  I cannot wait for the weekend to come, for the respite from being with three very young and very active children by myself for twelve hours a day.  At the end of the day on Friday, I want nothing more than to lock myself into a dark, silent room and wait for the stress to seep out of my system.

But today is Monday.  So I’m going to enjoy it while it’s here.

Summer Sanity Saver

It’s summer time. And I LOVE summer time.  I love sleeping late, going to the pool, eating copious amounts of popsicles, and everything else that goes along with summer.

One thing that I DON’T love about summer, though, is the boredom.  Not my own – I don’t think that I’ve been “bored” in almost six years, when L came into the world (because when you’re a parent, there’s no time to be bored).  No, I’m talking about my kids’ boredom.  On the first day of summer vacation (you know, yesterday), I heard the phrase “I’m boooooooooored” at least two thousand times.  And that’s a conservative estimate.

So I have decided to repel summer boredom.  The girls and I are going to make an “I’m Bored” book.  Basically, I’m going to re-purpose L’s three-ring binder from school and fill it with pictures of things to do when the dreaded Bored Syndrome strikes.  It’ll be like my household management binder (, but for kids.  I’m in the early planning stages right now, but I’ll share it as soon as we’re finished.   Don’t worry, it’ll be finished soon – there are few things in life that I get as excited about as a good binder!

In the meantime, though, we decided to implement our first “I’m Bored” project, which I got from an old copy of  The Toddler’s Busy Book: Tape City.

This has got to be the easiest project ever.  Do you have masking tape? Do you have toy cars?  Then you, my friend, are ready to make a Tape City.

I took a roll of masking tape and laid it across the carpet in our dining room in a road-type fashion:

Obviously, not a lot of forethought or artistic planning went into this.

Add a box full of old Matchbox cars and you’re in business!


All three girls – even my 16 month old – played with this for HOURS.

And I got to make dinner in (relative) peace.  Then, when clean-up time game, we just peeled the tape up and threw it away (warning – don’t leave it on overnight or it could gum up your carpet).  It was so easy, we might even do it again tomorrow.