Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drawstring Toy Bags

When I was a kid we lived with our grandparents for a few years and there were lots and lots of old toys and games still around from my mom and her two brothers were kids.  I loved playing with these toys as much as my modern 80's counter parts (fashion plates anyone?).  However, it seems like there were always missing pieces rendering the games unplayable and the toys lacking a little in the fun department.  What good is mousetrap without the trap?  I like to think this is why I am so anal crazy fastidious about keeping my kids toys together as I count blocks and separate pieces into their proper places at the end of the day.  I've learned to dial it down a little bit and not count the blocks every single time, but every month or two... youbetcha I do a head count.  I finally decided to take my compulsive toy sorting tendencies up a notch by creating some super easy drawstring bags to keep little toy collections contained because you guys, not all toys come with containers in which to hold them.  What?  Ridiculous.  The other bonus was that soon as I made these bags, Lamp was actually playing with her tea set and baby Stella doll because she didn't have to go digging in a giant toy bin to find all the pieces.  I mean who wants to do that?  So really these little bags are practical on many levels, from crazy-mom-who-counts-her-kids-toys to kids-will-play-with-them-more-if-they-know-where-they-are.  Anyway, as the title implies these are easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and come together really quickly.

muslin or cotton fabric
1/2 inch twill tape
paint or marker
scissors, thread, sewing machine and serger if you have one, definitely don't need one.

1) Fold your fabric and cut two rectangles the same size.  I didn't even measure, but if you want a specific size you know, measure and add a little extra on top for the drawstring.  Figure out which side of the fabric is the top, then serge the top and down one side of each piece of fabric.  You can also just do a zig-zag stitch on a regular sewing machine, or iron a 1/4 fold on each side and sew.
2) Now take the top of your fabric and fold it down leaving a little larger than a 1/2 gap for the twill tape.  Once you know how far the fold needs to go, mark this with a pin on the side of your fabric.
3) Now put both pieces of fabric together (right sides together if there is a right side--muslin doesn't have a right side) and make  sure those finished edges line up, now sew from the pin down just that one side.  Now serge the other two sides together, or if you don't have a serger just fold over and press a seam then sew.  Because these are some pretty basic little bags you don't really need to worry about having unfinished seams on the inside, but of course it always looks nicer.
4) Now you have a bag sewn together on 3 sides, except the very top of the first side, it's time to create a casing for the twill tape.  So now fold over the top again leaving room for the twill tape (so a little larger than 1/2 inch) and press with an iron.
5+6) Sew around the casing.  You should have an opening to insert your twill tape.
7) Cut a length of twill tape about twice the length of your bag + a few inches.  If you attach a safety pin to the twill tape and push through the casing.
8) Then tie off and knot ends together.

So I painted 'tea set' on the first bag and it looks OK.  For the next two bags I just used a calligraphy marker and it looks so much nicer.  Of course it's not permanent, but I don't really plan on washing these anyway...and if I do, I can just go over it again.   So whatever works for you.

So that's it!
These would be great to make right after Christmas and the new toy rush.  Enjoy!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Merging Traditions

**Winner of the art print giveaway is Kimmy Crosby!  
Email me at thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com so I can get your address!**

You know when people talk about how engaged couples need to discuss important things like finances, religious beliefs and other major differences in the way they were raised before actually getting married?  I think you could also throw holiday traditions on that list.  While B and I definitely had different traditions around Christmas, I don't remember this being anything that caused any major discord.  I think we have tried doing things his family's way one year, then mine another until we settled in the middle where we have each kept traditions we enjoy, while letting go of ones we're not so attached to.

Sometimes however you find yourself embracing new traditions that were brought about by circumstances outside your family.  The (dark and grainy) picture above is from last night as all the houses on our street lit up luminaries and then met at a neighbors driveway for cookies and hot cocoa.  Technically, this was something B's family did when he was growing up but this is the first time we've done this in our family.  And really, we participated when we found out it's something our whole street has done for the past several years.  The girls loved it--as did B and I--such an easy way to be festive together and makes for a super simple neighborhood holiday gathering.

Luckily the luminaries was something we were really excited to do, because it can be tricky if you feel like a tradition you're not OK with is being forced on you.  Which, again, is sorta how it is when you get married--eek!  As of now this is how we've blended our Christmas traditions to fit our family.  We make and eat a nice meal on Christmas eve with something a little fancy like crab legs or Lobster and eat by candlelight (B's family).
Then we gather around the Christmas tree, read the Christmas story from the scriptures (both families) and divide all the presents under the tree then open one by one youngest to oldest (my family).

Some people think this is strange opening all our presents on Christmas eve, but it's how I always did it growing up.  Of course Christmas morning there are still stockings and Santa presents, so personally I always thought it was extra fun having 2 days of presents!  This was probably the one thing that was hardest for B to get on board with, but over the years as we've tried different things it just stuck.  And now I think everyone like it.  Christmas morning is also when we open our letters.  (B's family)  We get letters from B's parents, then we also write a letter to each other and one for each of our kids.  I've kept all these letters in a binder and I love looking back and reading these letters and seeing how we've grown and changed over the years.  Some other things we do this time of year include making gingerbread houses like the year we made a scale model of our MCM home in Texas (or ginger bread cookies as my girls did with my mom last weekend), homemade marshmallows, sometimes I figure out a Christmas craft or two, I love sending out and receiving Christmas cards, we have an advent calendar that we do with little notes saying things like "eat a piece of chocolate" or "share a favorite Christmas memory" and I always, always watch It's a Wonderful Life.  Just once--which is perfect--and I get all watery-eyed at the end errrytime time.

Of course we now have Baby Zuzu's birthday thrown into the holiday mix.... so I'm just not sure how that's going to play out in the years to come.  I will say that coming home with a new baby on Christmas eve last year and the girls waking up to a new baby sister on Christmas morning?  Nothing will top that Christmas.  They've already told me so and I agree.

I love what we do right now, but I'm also open to these traditions adjusting and morphing as the kids grow older.  I remember one friend telling me that all the kids slept in the same bedroom on Christmas eve, drinking hot cocoa and talking until the wee hours.  I would love to see my girls doing that in a few years.   For some people Christmas eve is the big dinner, for others it's Christmas day.  Some people stay in, home bound and close together, while others get out skiing or going to a movie.  As a kid I will admit that some of the traditions my parents tried to push just didn't feel 'natural' to our family or just plain didn't excite me as a kid.  So I think it's important to make most traditions fun, uplifting, engaging and something kids want to participate in.  As my kids grow older, I'm excited to see what their personalities bring out and change about our traditions.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?  Anything your spouse brought to the table that you had a hard time getting on board with?  Have you ever had a tradition forced on you--like in a neighborhood or family?  Those of you with older children, in what ways have your traditions changed as your kids grew?  I also love this article from the New York Times about the importance of having a family narrative (traditions play a big role in this).  Turns out it's not just kinda important, but it's the thing that helps keep a family together.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

True Beauty

This is my friend Erin.  I know!  I can't believe I actually know this gorgeous girl in real life.  She's a wife and mother of 3, an amazing yoga instructor who also happens to do some modeling on the side, as seen from these beautiful photographs above.  She lives in NYC and was the friend I stayed with on my visit last month.  Erin is truly one of the most beautiful people I know inside and out.  She has the most amazing heart and capacity for love and she has taught me so, so much.  She is a gem and I consider myself lucky to know her.

When I say she's as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, I really mean it.  She is so full of light and love, and she freely and frequently shares her light and love with others.  A couple days ago Erin posted the photo at the top from her most recent shoot on FB.  The next day she posted the following photo and words.   With her permission I'm sharing it here today... enjoy!

Amazing right?
Life is beautiful.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Art Print Giveaway

Hey guys--seems like a good day for a giveaway.

I'm going to give away 2 prints (one of each) to one of my lovely readers and instagram followers.  One print for you and one for a friend.  Because giving and getting... it's Christmas ya'll.  Just to be clear these are Giclee prints on 100% cotton paper with archival ink, featuring original oil paintings by moi.

Here's how it works:
You can enter by leaving a comment below telling me which friend you'd like a gift a print to.  To enter on Instagram start by following my account at @thislittlemiggy, then comment and tag the friend you'd like to gift a print to with the #tlmprintgiveaway.  You can also repost the IG image with the hashtag for an additional entry. So that's three chances to win--one on the blog, two in Instagram.     Contest ends Sunday at midnight PST and winner will be announced Monday morning.

I still have some more prints available in the shop at the pre-sale price.  Prints will be shipped next week!

Thank you for all your love and support through the years.  You guys are the best.

Monday, December 08, 2014

DIY Christmas Presents

When B and I first got married we decided that each year at least we would make one present for each other for Christmas.  The first few years we were really good at this, but as the years (and kids) have piled on, it's been harder and harder to make this happen.  I love a good homemade gift, even though some years our efforts have been--how do I say this--hilarious, I still love that we give it a go and try to do something more personal and meaningful for each other.  I also like doing something handmade for the girls, although again sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn't.  Last year I had the best time making tiny doll clothes for both of my girls.  These are a few ideas I'm looking at for this year (and a couple I've done in the past) so I just thought I'd share them here.

bow ties/first day dress
jess brown style rag doll/pretend make up kit
photo book/painted blocks

If you're feeling a bit more ambitious here are some of my favorite home goods DIY's from around the web.  We actually really want to make that modern brass chandelier for our dining room.

color block clock/industrial table
landscape pillows/baby swing
woven pendants/modern brass chandilier

I'd love any links to any homemade Christmas presents you're working on or thinking of working on.  I can't believe it's almost Mid-December--I've got to get cracking!  

Friday, December 05, 2014

Special Needs Spotlight || Kyle Maynard

You guys. (!!!!) (deep breath)(!!!!)  You guys.  I am so, so excited to for today's spotlight featuring none other than Kyle Maynard.   This is my 101st spotlight and you probably can't even begin to understand how awesome this moment is for me right now.  I'm smiling ear to ear, but there is a lump in my throat as well.  It's that kind of moment.    

If you follow me on instagram you'll remember that last month on my way to NYC I saw Kyle and his bff Joey in the Dayton airport.  Dayton--you guys... not a major hub.  I had just gone through security and was waiting for my laptop, shoes, etc. when I look the next line over and see Kyle.  I do a double take and then suddenly I've got ants in my pants waiting for the rest of my stuff on the conveyer belt because I can see Kyle is almost done and ready to head off.  So I just grab my laptop and walk over barefoot and introduce myself.  I tell him about Lamp and how amazing this is to meet him and ask if I can get a picture.  Kyle was so nice.  He asked questions, took a picture and generally acted as if he had all the time in the world to talk to me.  Then I tell him about my blog and the spotlight and on the spot, I ask him if he'd be willing to participate!  He graciously said yes.  This is a guy whose story I first came across when I saw him on Oprah.  In general his media coverage is pretty broad and impressive, yet he agreed to be a part of the special needs spotlight.  Pretty amazing, right?  The funny thing is I had been thinking about interviewing someone really big for the spotlight, maybe a celebrity who had connections to the special needs world.  And then the Universe was like, "Hmmmm, a celebrity with a disability and a personal connection to you and your family?  Is that all?  Here you go."  I couldn't have scripted it better myself.  And then the Universe was all, "And that's why they pay me the big bucks."  Well played Universe, well played.  Without further ado, here's the 101st spotlight, featuring Kyle Maynard.  

Kyle Maynard is a motivational speaker, author, entrepreneur and athlete. Despite being born with arms that end at the elbows and legs near the knees, Kyle’s wrestled for one of the best teams in the Southeast, set records in weightlifting, fought in mixed martial arts, and most recently became the first man to crawl on his own to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

His story has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, ESPN’s Sportscenter, HBO’s Real Sports, ABC’s 20/20 and Good Morning America, and as a cover story in USA Today. He continues to inspire as the author of his book, No Excuses (2005), a New York Times bestseller.  Read Kyle’s full bio on his website here.  


Miggy:  Hi Kyle!  Thank you so much for being willing to participate in today's special needs spotlight.  This. is. amazing.  To be featuring you on today's spotlight is a full circle moment for me, as well as a full-heart moment.  Again, thank you.  So I first heard about you and your story years ago on the Oprah show.  (!!)  This was long before I had children of my own and of course could have never imagined I would one day feel such a close connection to you and your story.  One thing that stood out to me during that interview was that your parents raised you with a 'no excuses' attitude, meaning they treated you the same as your other siblings and didn't let you use your disability as an excuse not to do something.  At the time I was struck with how remarkable their philosophy was but also found myself thinking, "Oh yeah...of course.  Of course that's the best way to raise a child with physical disabilities."  Thankfully I've remembered that perspective now that it pertains to our family and especially our daughter Lamp.  Tell us what did "no excuses" look like in reality and on a daily basis as you were growing up?  Were you resistant at times?  How did your parents help push you forward through the rough times?
Kyle:  Thank you for the very kind words! I do feel like I won the parent lottery. The thing that still blows me away about their approach was that nobody, other than my grandparents, really helped them with any guidance when I was young. It was also before the days of Google searching where you could see people doing really cool stuff with disabilities. They really had no idea how my life would turn out or what would be possible.

The best way I can describe the day-to-day in my house growing up was my parents played the ultimate Jedi mind trick on me. We didn't really talk about the disability a whole bunch, and most of my friends that I spent time with were just typical kids. It wasn't that they avoided the questions I had, but they never really focused on the disability.  My mom was the best at organizing neighborhood street hockey games or inviting kids over to play super Nintendo at my house.

                                                                                                                                      Herman's Gultch

Miggy:  When I met you at the airport last week I also met your friend Joey, who has been your best friend since you were 11 years old, which is awesome.  As a mom one of the biggest concerns I have is how my daughter will be received socially as she grows up.  She is 4 years old and full of spunk.  She is outgoing and friendly and I hope these traits continue to flourish as she grows.  Can you tell us what it was like for you growing up?  What was school like and did you encounter bullying as a kid?  More importantly, how did you handle tough situations and what advice would you give to a child going through something similar?  Any advice for us parents in helping our children navigate these tough waters?  

Kyle: I feel pretty lucky in that I never had to deal with too much bullying. I really think that one of the major defining factors in keeping me from it was my mom being very proactive in helping me be around a lot of friends from an early age. It's hard to really explain the extent of it, but I feel like my mom had higher hopes for my social life then she did academics or sports or really anything else. That's not to say she didn't care about grades, as I was told I would be homeless if I ever brought home a C on a report card.

Having lots of friends from an early age makes such a huge difference for a kid-- whether or not they have a disability. These friends can come from sports or theater or church or chorus or any activity-- but I think having these friends is 300% more important when you have a physical disability. Just don't ask me where that number came from, it's just science.

Miggy:  I've talked a bit about using people with disabilities as "inspiration porn" on my blog and would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.  Admittedly, I am torn.  I have definitely been inspired by people with disabilities--you included--like I have been inspired by my own daughter as I've watched her learn to work with her body and the natural challenges she faces.  On the other hand, I see how talking about people with disabilities as "inspiring" for simply doing day to day things like "being so positive!" or having a job can be condescending.  As someone who has been the focal point of inspiration for others I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Is there a right way and a wrong way to be inspired by people with disabilities?  Do you even think it's really a problem or do you think that positive attention and inspiration are always a good thing?   

Kyle: I get how some people could feel uncomfortable with being an inspiration. I feel like I experienced some of that when I was a teenager too. However, the older I've gotten I feel like if I can't be called an inspiration by someone, then it's really my own insecurity.

I am a stoic philosophy geek, so I'll use this short story to explain my beliefs on inspiration. I'm pretty sure it was Marcus Aurelius who told the story and I'll paraphrase:

If we are walking along a trail and come to a place where few people, if any, have been before… Then I say to you, "Look at this beautiful flower! I bet nobody has seen how beautiful this is before." Then we continue on our way leaving the flower as a memory.

The deal is… That flower was beautiful before I acknowledged it for being beautiful. And it remains beautiful after we (the acknowledgers) moved on. And because it was beautiful before and after, the acknowledgment has no real impact on the beauty of the flower. So, the acknowledgment was really for us, not for the flower.

When people tell me I am an inspiration, I appreciate their words, but I also realize at the end of the day the acknowledgment was really for them having an opening to see something in themselves. I hope this makes some semblance of sense… Maybe I just confused myself :-)

Miggy:  From my perspective we have come a long way as a society when it comes to awareness and education about people with disabilities and/or special needs.  However, we still have a long way to go.  In many ways I see disabilities as the final frontier of civil rights--so many things that are not OK in the context of race or gender for example, are still very much OK when thought of in terms of disability.  What are some achievements or even baby steps you hope to see in your lifetime in regards to disability awareness, equality, and prejudice?    

Kyle:  That's pretty cool… My dad has always said the same – that disabilities are the final frontier of civil rights.  I agree. We are pretty lucky in the United States with the way we view disability though. Some areas in the world have a ways to go.

I think the biggest step that we have taken, at least from my perspective, has to do with the integration of people with disabilities into having a "normal life" in a "normal society." The more we keep people segregated – whether that's in segregated classrooms or sports teams or social groups – the less progress we make. Progress in my mind – similar to any other social movement – is made by an increasingly seamless line between what we perceive as normal and different. The less we notice a difference in the life of someone with a disability and someone without, the better off we are.

Miggy:  I'm a big believer in seeing the humor in life and learning to laugh and sometimes with Lamp we've had some really funny moments that related directly to her limb differences especially when she had a prosthetic arm.  For example we'd be in public asking each other,  "Where's the baby's arm?  Did we bring her arm?"  While people look on like we're crazy people.  Have you ever had a funny moment or conversation related to your limb differences?  

Kyle: I would probably need a full blog post with just these stories… But one of my personal favorites was telling a 30-year-old man (who had a major, major surfer accent) that I lost my limbs in Vietnam when I was about 10 years old. He looked at me stunned, but as I recall, mostly believed my story. Plus there was that time I staged a shark attack at the beach… Good times.

Miggy:  Kyle, you have done a lot of really exciting and wonderful things in your life--including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro!  What do you still hope to achieve?  And what do you consider your greatest achievement?   

Kyle:  There's still plenty left on the bucket list. Some pretty random things too. I would love to get into pottery, painting, and a few other forms of art. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a huge part of my life and I will be a world champion before too long. At some point I'd love to disappear and sail around the world. Last, but certainly not least, I'd like to settle down and have a family.

Climbing Kilimanjaro was the most rewarding physical feat, but getting to carry the ashes of a fallen soldier, named Corey Johnson, to the summit was a much greater honor.

Miggy:  Lastly, if you only had one piece of advice or one life lesson to share with the world what would it be?  

Kyle:  If you want something badly, do it. Trust your gut and quit with the justifications of why it can't happen. It's a lesson I am still learning, but 11 months ago I packed a duffel bag and moved across the country to San Diego. I have my family, a business, a lot of friends and a lot of good memories behind in Atlanta, but this year in California has probably been the best year of my life.


Kyle, not only are you an amazing guy in so many ways, but you're also hi-lar-ious.  Thanks for your science-backed facts and Vietnam/shark victim stories.  I was dying!  I am definitely going to need to hear the long version of that one some time.  And can I just say I love your parents.  I know that the internet is a huge advantage for those of us raising kids with special needs today--the ability to connect with families online and in person who have walked a similar road has been so helpful.  Your parents are clearly wise and wonderful people.  And I love that your dad says the same thing about disabilities and civil rights.  For some reason I was a little nervous to put that out there like that, so I'm glad I did.  I knew I was right!  :)  Thanks again for participating.  This has meant so much to me and I think my readers will be pretty blown away as well.  

Am I right everyone?  Was that not amazing?  One thing I find especially inspiring is Kyle's determination to push himself physically.  It's easy to take our 'typical' bodies for granted.  With Lamp in mind I have thought a lot about not wanting to create negative body issues in our house--something that seems to plague girls in general, coupled with the fact that I have a daughter with a very unique body type.  I used to worry about working out at home--would my girls think I was obsessed with weight/fitness/being a certain size?  It is so important to me that all my girls love the precious bodies they were given.  Which led me to realize that of course I want them to see me honoring my body through healthy yet balanced habits.  So yes, I work out at home and will always encourage them to take the best care of their bodies that they can.  If anyone had an excuse not to work out, Kyle could probably have played that card his entire life.  He really, really lives his 'no excuses' motto and it's inspired me to step up my game as well.  

OK you guys, no pressure to follow that spotlight or anything--ha!--but please I'm always looking for new spotlights so please if you or someone you know would like to participate in the special needs spotlight email me at thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com.  If you'd like to refer a friend please have THEM email me directly.  

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

DIY: Velvet Cross Pillow Cover

I've been itching to update a few pillows around our house and wanted to start with our beloved white couch which now resides in the master bedroom.  This giant cross (or plus sign?  not sure) is a simple but classic design, so I thought I'd share with you all.  It's just like piecing a quilt, but if you've never pieced a quilt it might seem a little intimidating--but it's super easy once you have the math figured out.  Also, we had some chairs recovered shortly before we left San Antonio in a beautiful navy velvet and I've been wanting to use some of the left over velvet in a project.  I really love how this pillow came out!  Also, I'm loving navy and black these days and remember when that combo was a big fashion no-no growing up, but now it's so sleek.

This is a 20x20 pillow cover.
For the front you'll need:
1 8 1/2"x20" fabric for the cross
2 8 1/2"x6 1/4" fabric also for the cross
4 6 1/4"x6 1/4" fabric for the corners
For the back (not pictured):
2 20"X13" fabric in the same color as the corner pieces

1.  Sew 2 of the corner pieces to the top and bottom of each of the smaller cross pieces,  by placing the right sides together and lining up the 6 1/4" sides.  (If using velvet, pin this mother good...that stuff gets really shifty under a sewing machine unless you have double feed dogs.  I should have used my serger.  Still turned out well though.)
2.  After you have both of those pieces sewn together, sew each one on either side of the long cross piece.  Again place right sides together, line up the sides and pin, then sew.  **If using velvet it's important you make sure the nap is going the same way.  Simply brush your hand over the velvet to feel for the nap and place all the pieces so they're going the same direction.**
3.  Now the front should be finished.  Next take the two 20"x13" pieces and sew them on the sides.  Again, place right sides of fabric together, pin and sew.
4.  The final step before making the envelope part of the pillow case is taking the two short edges and ironing a 1/4" seam, then sewing.

The last step is simply folding the sides over the front (right sides of fabric together) and sew along the top and bottom.  If you have a serger, you can just run this through your serger for finished edged.  

Then ta-da!  Turn inside out and fill with a pillow form.  

Still can't decide if I'm going to make a matching set or stick with just one, either way I lurve it.