Friday, January 23, 2015

Family Trip to the Water Park


I wasn't a bit surprised when our first encounter at the water park started out with tears. Don't let the picture fool you though, Abby loved our time at the water park. It just takes her awhile to warm up to new things. When we got there Kayden immediately went for the slide so we tried putting Abby down it too....that probably wasn't the best choice. Abby is like me in a lot of ways, she wants to take things at her own pace. She'll get there eventually, but on her own time. After we got over this round of tears she splashed around in the 1-2 inch deep water for awhile avoiding anything that squirted water on or near her. She was perfectly happy playing in ankle deep water.


I'm super disappointed that I forgot my big camera so I was stuck with my iPhone. Honestly, it takes decent pictures especially for being a phone, but it has nothing on my big camera in sport mode where you can catch all the action and none of the blur. So, sadly I only have a few pictures for the water park. We're headed to the Dells in a few months so I promise to remember my camera.


We got to the water park early afternoon on Saturday after a delicious lunch with the family at Vinny Vanucchis. It's one of my favorite restaurants of all time and their garlic bread is to die for...literally...it's covered in butter.

After a few hours at the water park the "big kids" ditched the "little kids" with my parents and we went to a movie!  I haven't been to a movie since Ryan's birthday last year. Seriously, its just not something you do when you've got little one. Or, I should say, it's not something we've made time for in the past year. We went to see Unbroken. It was a great movie, though not a pick-you-up sort of movie.  HA!  The boys loved it though. They sold buckets of beer at the theater so they were set. Joey and I were perfectly happy with our large soda and large popcorn. We got back in time to have pizza with everyone and put the girls down to bed.


The next morning we hit the park again before we had to check out. We were getting every minute out of our time there! Plus, the added benefit of wearing the littles out is hard to resist! We spent a few hours trying out the slides and floating around the lazy river before heading up to the room and packing up. All in all it was a great weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Safari Moon - Progress (Quilt)


I love making quilts for other people.  Indulge me for a minute.  When I'm sewing or knitting the project usually already has an intended recipient.  Very rarely I decide "this is for ME!  It's mine, mine, all mine".  When I'm working on a project for someone I think about them a lot.  I wonder if they will like the colors or fabric I chose.  Wonder which squares they will come to love above all others.  I think about how this blanket will show up in family photos for years to come.  Not staged and meant to shine, but just there keeping people warm, being a part of their memories etc.

Often my handmades are for a super special occasion.  So I spend time thinking about how fun their wedding will be or what they'll name their new little baby.  I'm connected to that person through the many hours I spend on these projects.  I remember special memories I have with them and dream about the memories our kids will make some day.  Almost like I'm sewing those memories, along with my love, right into the fabric.  So when they pull it up to their ears and snuggle in for a nap, I'm there too, in spirit.

It's strange, but Ryan once told me all of the things he thinks about when he's on a 6 hour bike ride....craft time is that time for me.  It's time to decompress and just "be".  All that time alone in your head can be peaceful and scary!  HA!


What does that have to do with this quilt?  Well, for the first time since I started quilting, I'm working on a project that doesn't have a home yet.  It might live here with us on our couch, or maybe it'll just vacation here for awhile until it's called into action for a gift.  But that makes this quilt different.  I love the personal connection I have with my projects but it's also fun to be able to share the process with you guys via Instagram, Facebook and the blog.  Since almost everything is an eventual gift, I don't end up giving many sneak peaks away.  Which may lead you to believe that these handmades sort of "make" themselves.  You'd be wrong!


There are hours and hours behind each and every one I make.  This quilt for instance, I started it on Christmas break, so just about a month ago.  My usual pace isn't quite so quick but the larger blocks (3.5 inches) and the fact that I had two long weeks off over Christmas really helped keep this quilt move forward.  Oh, and the fact that it's cold outside!  I'll be snuggling up with this quilt as soon as it's washed and dried.  One of these days I'm going to try and log the hours I spend on a project just to get some perspective.  On some level it doesn't matter, as long as I'm enjoying myself, who cares how long it takes.  But, the type A in me just want to have the data to analyze.


I can take zero credit for the fabric arrangement or pattern of this quilt.  I copied Faith's pattern exactly as she wrote it.  She did such a great job with color placement and the bright rainbow colors are hard to resist in winter.  The quilt top is comprised of 558 squares all set on point which was an interesting twist for me.  I worked the pattern in diagonal rows from the bottom left corner to top right.  A traditional quilt would be worked top down but the rotation of the blocks made these diagonal lines easier to work with.


This quilt top is ready to be basted and quilted hopefully this weekend.  I finished piecing the back last night so I'll start pinning here soon.  I choose to pin baste instead of spray mostly because that is how I was taught but also because I don't like the idea of all those stinky chemicals so close to something people will snuggle up with.  I know it washes out and it's perfectly safe...but the old fashioned way works just fine for me!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

1 Family x 12 (Jan)


This past weekend we met up with my parents and my sister/Andy/Kayden in Dubuque at one of those fun water park hotels.  My parents had gifted us the weekend as part of our Christmas present and we had such a fun time.  Like last year Abby started out a little scared of the water and overwhelmed by all the activity but it took her FAR less time to warm up to the whole thing.  I'll be doing a full post on our weekend in a few days but for now I wanted to share our family picture for January.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Adventures in Potty Training

Back in June a friend of mine posted this blog post and I was empowered to try it out with Abby.  Abby was set to turn 2 in August and was intrigued by the possibility of getting out of the diaper buying business and really believed that Abby was smart enough to get the concept.

I asked my sitter when they typically started potty training (she does spend a HUGE part of her days with them) and they discouraged me trying before she turned three.  I think it was partly based on past experience but also motivated by the fact that diapers really are easier than potty training....it takes time, effort and most of all patience.  Part of me gets it, they have 8+ kids on hand at any time, it would be hard to give one child as much attention as potty training needs, but I wasn't interested in spending another year and a half in diapers "just because".

The hardest part?  Finding the suggested 5 straight days to concentrate on potty training and nothing else.  I work full time.  I get two days, three max (if it's a holiday) unless I take vacation time.  I knew I had a good chunk of time off planned around the holidays so way back in June I set my mind to the fact that we would potty train on Christmas vacation.

Fast forward to now:


This has been my view for the past few weeks.  I posted on Facebook that we were starting potty training and I got so many sweet comments of encouragement and people wondering how it was going.  Sorry it took me a few weeks to post, but here's a run down on how it went for us.

The first day was ROUGH!!  I looked back in my journal (read Britt's post....she did an amazing job with writing it and I basically followed it to a tee) and we logged a whopping 4.5 hours in the bathroom that first day.  I pumped that kid full of liquids and we sat there until she went.  It was 100% a "right place, right time" sort of thing, but I wanted to have some successes before we tried adding any distractions to the mix (like TV, toys etc).  She had 3 accidents that first day, but we she did go a few times, so we called day 1 an overall success.  


Yep, lots of bare butts around our house these days!!  She'll kill me for that pic when she sees it in high school...

Day 2 started out worse than day 1.  We put on our training pants (unlike Britt I decided to go with training pants instead of full undies.  They look like these but I got them in a  three pack for like $6 at Walmart (I bought two packs).  Abby didn't make it to the potty a SINGLE time before naptime on day two.  I was totally discouraged and needed a naptime recharge myself.  So diaper, bed, and we'd try again in the afternoon.  Little did I know, during that nap, something clicked for her.  She woke up and all of a sudden understood that she needed to ask to go potty before she had an accident.  We'd be playing downstairs and she jump up saying "Mommy, I gotta go potty".  Not one more accident that day; she just "got it".  I'm not sure what clicked for her, or how, but I do know enough to be thankful.  I don't think it's always quite that easy.


We spent the rest of vacation working on it.  She never had more than 1 accident any day and now that we're back at daycare I can officially call Operation: Potty Training a success.  This past week Abby had only 1 accident at daycare the WHOLE week which is even more impressive when I explain that we started at a whole new daycare this week on top of it.  So, not only was she learning how to use the potty, she was also learning a whole new daycare and new kids.  I'm beyond proud of this little girl and am so thankful it went as smoothly as it did!!

A few notes on how we did it:

1.  I used training pants (link above) instead of full on undies.  We are still using them because they absorb a bit more if she does have an accident.  I don't totally love the idea of Pull Ups.  I think they are too close to diapers and make kids too comfortable to really "get" the "peeing in my pants sucks" feeling.

2.  I really wanted to train Abby on the regular toilet like Britt did.  I think she has some great points for why she chooses that way.  However, Abby was too afraid when I put her on it.  She spent all of her time worrying about falling in or being uncomfortable and never could just relax enough to go.

3.  Abby isn't fully potty trained yet.  She still gets a diaper when she naps and at bedtime.  She's still in a crib and can't get out without help.  We'll get there...soon enough.

4.  The dreaded #2 - I hear lots of parents have a hard time with getting their kids to go #2 on the potty.  Again, I'm not sure how we got it so easy, but after only 1 week of potty training Abby went #2 all by herself.  Since then, she hasn't gone #2 anywhere else.

5.  Errands and general life - outside of daycare and our house, we're still in diapers.  Abby's temporary (hopefully) fear of regular potties means that if we'll be out of the house for any extended period of time she's in a diaper.  I worried she'd get confused going between the two but she does really well with it.  I just remind her that she's in "unders" (her word) when she's got them on and she remembers she needs to ask to go.  Just like weaning off diapers when she's sleeping I know we'll get there soon enough.  I'm completely happy with the progress we've made and know the rest will come in time.

6.  Journal - I kept one just like Britt suggested.  She was right...it's SUPER helpful to see trends and document your successes.  I was lucky that the true "training" part of this process didn't last long, but the journal did help keep me going.  I wrote down times, successes, accidents, times she asked but didn't go...everything.  Seriously, a great idea!

7.   Books, Ipads, Candy and other such distractions - The first day we started potty training I dug out some of our larger story books and read to Abby while we sat there waiting to go.  I enjoyed reading to her and she enjoyed listening.  For awhile.  After about hour of that I gave into the Ipad.  We've got games and a few TV shows loaded on there and potty training instantly became easier.  She'd sit for a good 30 minutes just watching (and waiting to pee).  She's smart though, and learned that if she wanted to watch Mickey all she needed to do was say she needed to go potty.  We weaned off the Ipad after the first week and are down to only giving treats about 1/2 of the time.  Sometimes she asks before she's even gone, other times she's too excited to get back to playing to worry about her M&M. 

8.  Support - Britt was the sweetest friend in those first few days when she knew we were just starting.  She checked in with me every day to see how it was going and offered kind words when I was feeling low.  If you're a mom and ready to start potty training, reach out to me!  I'd love to pay it forward as Britt did for me.  We're all in this together...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

That time we bought a camper....in January


So - this happened today.  Sure, most people wouldn't consider purchasing a camper in the middle of winter, but the Mcgraths?  We when we see a deal, we don't let it pass us up.  We weren't really looking to upgrade, well, I should say that I wasn't really looking.  Ryan, he's always looking/thinking/planning about upgrading something.  Let's just say that we threw out a low-ball offer on this Craigslist posting figuring they'd never come down that much, and then they did.  


There are two big reasons we decided to upgrade. 
1.  Rooms with doors so everyone sleeps better
2.  The "pull up and camp" appeal of a hard sided camper

Let's talk about the bedrooms first.  The above picture is the "master".  You'll notice it's open to the rest, but keep in mind I did marry a carpenter.  We plan to fill in that half wall above the couch and add a small door where the walk way is.  One bedroom solution down, one to go.  


Here is the kitchen.  You can see it has a three burner stove and microwave along with a nice sized fridge/freezer (below).  


Plenty of people, including us, would call this "glamping".  Don't get me wrong, I totally agree.  But after 4 season of camping out of a popup and coolers Ryan and I both fully appreciate the convenience of having a fridge to keep the basics like milk, butter and meat cold, while being able to keep frozen stuff frozen for longer than a few hours.


The back side of the camper houses this bunk bed room.  Well, it's not a room until you've got a door, but again, that will come.  We plan to reduce that larger bed down to a bunk (like the bed above) and add a small door to this room as well.  Once we've done that we officially have a two bedroom camper where I can put Abby down to bed and close the door....while keeping lights on in the rest of the camper.  HUGE bonus.

When I was a kid we grew up vacationing in a popup.  It was perfect for our family and I always knew it was something I wanted to do with my kids.  Back in 2011 I convinced Ryan that we should buy this popup.  It was cheap and kind of crappy but it was our entry into the campers.  We put a lot of love into that camper and were able to flip it for a profit back in 2013.  For some reason, I never blogged about our 2013 camper which we still own today but will be selling in the spring. It stinks that I don't have that post (isn't that why I started a blog in the first place?) because I'd love to show you the evolution....but I can post that later.


The small door to the right of the bunk room is the bathroom.  It's small, but it'll do.  I've never owned a camper with a bathroom before.  Neither Ryan or I are afraid to use the campsite bathrooms or the nearby woods for that matter, but with a two year old potty training, access to a potty closealong with a bathtub (ever try showering with a baby?!?!) will be awesome!!  I don't know that Ryan and I will shower in here much, but who knows..


Here is the view from the bunk room.  You can see the small dinette area to the right here and a pullout couch against the wall for the master.  You can easily see here where we plan to close in the half wall and add a door to create that master room.

We've had some great luck with flipping our campers so far.  And, having a handy husband sure makes buying something from 2005 with a few issues a reasonable purchase.  Sadly it'll be a few months still til we can try her out ourselves.   But, that gives us time to build in the walls, convert the bunk room into two bunks and buy some new bedding (does anyone really like camper interior fabrics??).

The other huge benefit of this hard sided camper is that we're already mostly set up when we arrive at camp.  A popup is a great option, and certainly affordable, but, anytime you set up or tear down, there's about an hour and a half process of pulling everything out and getting camp set up.  With this camper, things will all have their spot, we can pack groceries, clothes, toys etc in the driveway and have very minimal setup when we get to the site.

We're super excited about our newest purchase.  Who wants to plan a camping trip with us??!?!?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tree Wall Hanging - Quilt


The Christmas elves has been VERY busy down in my sewing room.  A few days into December I decided that I wanted to tackle this wall hanging for my mom as a surprise Christmas present.  When I took my "start quilting" class back last October my very first project was a log cabin wall hanging.  Actually, now that I'm writing about it, I don't think I ever even blogged pictures of that. Anyways, way back when I did that I gave it to Mom and she's been hanging it on one of the walls in her house for the fall months.  She's been asking for a set of them for the seasons but I've had plenty of projects to keep me busy and truthfully I just couldn't find a patter or fabric that inspired me.  



That is until Amy of Diary of a Quilter posted this tutorial for the prefect tree wall hanging.  I'd been envisioning something like this for the last year or so but didn't have the quilt smarts to figure it out for myself so I was so excited when I read her post.  A quick trip to my local quilt shop and I came away with the perfect fabric and I was set....all I had to do was actually make the thing.  HA!  I started this quilt on December 7th and miraculously managed to finish it on December 23rd.  The turn around time on my quilting projects is usually a few months but the fact that this hanging is tiny helped a lot.  And, I was motivated by a deadline. 

Since I bought the fabric locally I don't have a good way of figuring out the designer/collection on it but most holiday prints are just around for the one season.  I usually order most of my fabric online but the short deadline on this project made a local purchase a must. 

This quilt is 25x33 and will fit perfectly on Mom's wall.  I decided to try straight-line quilting for the first time.  Small projects = a great time to try new things.  I'm really happy with how it turned out.   These lines are quilted 1/4 inch apart (the size of a standard quilting foot) and quilting that closely together makes for great texture.  It also takes a TON of time and thread.  I learned a few things along the way.  Mostly that if you quilt down on the first line, you need to quilt the next line from bottom to top.  If you don't you end up just pushing all the fabric and batting down making it off center.  I learned that in my quilt class but I didn't understand it in practice until I actually saw the results first hand. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Abby's Kitchen


Nearly a year and a half ago I stumbled on this solid oak TV stand and instantly saw the perfect kitchen for Abby (read: a giant project for Ryan).  Decidedly it needed some work to get this thing looking like a kitchen, but I had a vision and a carpenter for a husband so I was set.  The stand was listed for $100 and I talked the guy down to $35. 


A year and a half later (about about 4 days of work) Ryan morphed it into this awesome looking kitchen that I can stand looking at (the plastic ones just KILL me) and Abby adores.  I figured I'd get a few questions about it so I decided to do this quick post to detail it out.  You can find a million DIY posts on the web and tons of inspiration on Pinterest but I got most of my design ideas from this post from one of my favorite bloggers.  Ryan was pretty convinced we should paint both the fridge and the stove silver to match our REAL kitchen better but I'm personally glad we decided to go with all white.  It helps it all to blend in and be less of an eye sore. 


The door of the fridge though we painted with magnetic primer so it would hold a few cute magnets just like a real fridge.  The magnetic primer is cute and a good idea but a word of warning, it holds, but you need light magnets and it probably wouldn't hold a piece of paper under the magnet....so it's mostly for show. 


The oven knobs really turn and you can sort of see the light in the oven in the above picture.  We painted the inside of the over black and added a push light in the oven so it really works!!  The sink is made from a normal metal bowl and the faucet really works (well, it's not hooked up to water but the handles turn etc). 


I'm really happy with how this project turned out.  I can take exactly ZERO credit for it though.  All I did was provide the vision and point and Ryan did the rest....he's a real sweetheart!!  I think Abby will get a ton of use out of this in the years to come and I can't wait til all her little friends come over to help her cook!