DIY: Easy Stitch Art (or Australopithecus Embroidery for your Unborn)

You know what’s a cool scene? A bunch of archaeologists on a dig in Ethiopia in 1972 discovering pieces of a 3 million year old lady skeleton. The angle of the knee joint of this skeleton showed that she walked upright, meaning that our evolutionary ancestors walked upright way earlier than we previously thought. The scientists named her Lucy after the one in the sky with diamonds (the most played song at camp).

I made some art for the Goose’s nursery this morning to honor this important evolutionary discovery. (Also, I’m not sure I can really get into Darwinian finches in the age of “put a bird on it.”)

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Yes, it’s weird and a little creepy, but if this kid can’t get into weird, then she’s in for a long life.

You can use this stitch technique on anything. I used the same technique to create a small framed portrait of Jay Z for my piano once:

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Start by finding or creating the image you want to use. If you’re not that into drawing, download something from the internet, and use your tablet like a light box to trace the outline.

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My original drawing got some tweaking when I stitched it in, mostly because the hands were too complex and the ribs/face/hair were really not cute.

Gather your materials. For the stitch art part, all you need is your drawing, scissors, a Sharpie, a couple pieces of tape, felt or fabric to stitch on, embroidery floss, and an embroidery needle. I also used a few bits of brightly colored felt to cut the letters out of it.

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I fit my felt to a frame I had lying around beforehand. Nobody’s gonna miss this guy:

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Once you’ve cut your felt or fabric down, tape the drawing to the felt where you want it. To transpose the image, I use a very technical technique called “poking it with a Sharpie.”

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Just poke holes into the felt through the drawing until a rough outline comes together. This will guide you on where to place your stitches.

To start stitching, just thread the embroidery floss (a.k.a. the stuff you used to make friendship bracelets out of) through a large-enough needle. I double the floss up on the back end but don’t tie it off. After you place your first stitch, tie the loose end to the part you just pulled through. Then just edge up your Sharpie dots with a simple back-stitch until you run out of thread. Thread some more on and keep going!

You absolutely do not need to know how to sew to make one of these things. If you’re not sure what kind of stitch will work or have no idea what I’m talking about, test a couple or stitches out of a piece of scrap fabric before you get started.

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To tie an end off, just loop through a preexisting stitch a couple of times and tie a knot (on the back side).

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Make sure you don’t pull any of your stitches too tight, which will warp the fabric.

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If you mess up or end up with a huge wad of knots somewhere, try not to freak out and make Chewbacca sounds at your husband as he innocently tries to walk through the room. Instead, calmly just cut the thread, tie it off, thread a new piece and start over.

When it’s all done, it’ll look something like this:

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You can stop right there if you want, just frame your portrait and call it a day. She looks pretty good! But since mine is for the nursery, I decided to add some bright, block, 70’s style lettering to the bottom.

I made a rough drawing to estimate what I wanted the font to look like, and then cut them out of colored felt with a pair of scissors.

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Hot glue ’em down while your cat tries to figure out what you’re doing and why it doesn’t smell like food.

And that’s it! Frame it up and admire your handy work. Start to finish, a little project like this takes just 2-3 hours; my kind of timeline.

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Hopefully the Goose will admire her gilded hominid for years to come. If not, maybe some ex-hippie septuagenarian will get lucky at GoodWill in a few years, with this reminder of a particularly memorable acid trip. Either way, success.

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DIY: Yarn Woven Basket

It’s 12:30pm on Thanksgiving day, and I just realized I didn’t get a hostess gift for the woman who’s having us for thanksgiving dinner tonight. All the stores are closed, I’m not dressed (unless you count the XL stained sweatsuit I’m in again), and I’m exhausted from spending the entire morning fulfilling my “nesting” urges via intermittently closet-cleaning and sobbing.

Thank god for Pinterest, the best place to stow away easy DIY ideas until you desperately need to make something out of the crap you have lying around your house. I loved this idea, and have a few random baskets lying around that my mom passed on to me when my husband and I moved into this house. (Such a mom thing, right? Who else wants to ensure you always have ten or fifteen baskets stacked in your laundry room?)

I made this:

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You can find baskets like this in any thrift store. I’m always on the lookout for this kinda thing: easy pieces that you can hot glue some pompoms on and mail to someone on their hamster’s birthday. I also like vases, bell jars, ceramic or wooden ducks, lamps, and picture frames. Pair with puffy paint, old gift ribbons, yarn, glitter, googley eyes and magazine cut outs from Cat Fancy. Have this stuff around for a rainy day and you’ll never be bored.

Start by gathering your essentials. You’ll need a basket, yarn or string, an embroidery needle of some kind, and a pair of scissors:

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Start by threading your needle (very annoying if your needle eye is tiny and your yarn is alpaca). Then thread the yarn through and around a piece of basket so you can tie a knot.

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Have you thought about your design yet? Me neither. Do something really easy that will look good wonky. I chose a zigzaggy thing.

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And… Go! Just weave the yarn through the basket, going over each line a couple of times so it’s nice and bold. Half an hour later, you’ll end up with something like this (and early onset arthritis):

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I thought mine still needed some extra pizazz (neon) so I did a quick weave around the edges with some bright yellow:

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In the end, you’ve got something a little cooler and weirder than a regular mom basket:

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Use your basket for anything! Like cuddling with some back issues of PROG magazine:

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Or hanging out with that plastic horse you named Captain Oats because you were at one time completely obsessed with the OC (Marissa and her drinking problem in particular):

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Jewelry storage on your dresser is also quite practical:

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However you use it, you now have one more strange thing in your house that people will admire when they come over. (Like last weekends guest who proclaimed with shock and awe, “you actually make things from Pinterest?”)

Yes. Yes, I do.

Pregnancy Back Pain & Fancy Grilled Cheese

After a pretty rough first trimester, I sailed through my second. Everything people said about those middle months was true: you get the good kind of hormones, feel happy, get that glow (or in my case, go to Sephora and buy a $32 blush because you really, really want that glow), the nausea goes away, you get to feel your cute little fetal parasite use you as an inside out punching bag for the first time. Glorious! I loved everything about it.

Towards the very end of my second trimester, I started to get some occasional, nagging back pain, always in the middle right of my back, sort of under my shoulder blade. I thought it was just a sleeping-on-it-funny thing, and it would come and go. Fast forward a few weeks, and it’s become a constant, someone-is-slowly-stabbing-me-with-a-jagged-dagger-all-day situation. I’ve tried heat, ice, massage (husband, not professional), tiger balm, Tylenol, yoga stretches, and 2 chiropractors. I’ve asked nurses, doctors, and midwives what to do about it. So far, nothing has brought any consistent relief.

I have a newfound respect and sympathy for anyone suffering any kind of chronic pain. Also a lot of medical bills. Chiropractors are pretty expensive considering they may or may not be actual doctors (my desperation outweighs my skepticism). The one I’m seeing now treats hockey players which I think is a good sign. Pregnancy is a lot like hockey: full body assault, and you might lose some teeth (I lost half of one last week, but that’s another story).

Anyway, there is one thing in this world that always makes everything better: grilled cheese. It makes first trimester nausea subside, gives the baby a reason to somersault cutely in trimester two (at least this baby loves her carbs), and now in the third, it still brings its little comforts. As a bonus, it’s easy to hold and eat with one hand while you balance a plate on your huge belly and readjust the ice pack under your back.

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This particular grilled cheese was made with good sourdough bread slathered in mustard and layered with shredded gruyere, a handful of cooked lentils, and a few threads of sauerkraut (a nod to the classic Reuben). Served with a pile of pickles and arugula.

Little Goose: you are welcome for that sandwich. I know you liked it because you keep kicking me in the bladder. I’m cool with that, as long as you’ll at least consider unwedging your tiny feet from my ribcage.

I wish fetuses weren’t too young/unborn to negotiate.

Nursery DIY: Big Wall of Polka Dots

Just because I don’t want my future little girl to have a pink nursery full of barbies and doilies¬†doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be relentlessly adorable. What’s cuter than primary colors? Primary colors that are also polka dots, that’s what. And not this kind:

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We decided that instead of painting the entire nursery any one color, we’d leave it a crisp white and DIY some kind of “interest wall.” Pinterest was sort of helpful here, but I didn’t want to have a huge wall of the Goose’s name written in script (sounds hard) or something super trendy that will look weird in two years (like a giant wall of chevron). We decided to go with polka dots. Classics never die, right?

First things first, I joined my husband on his most recent pilgrimage to Home Depot. I asked the folks behind the paint counter which color swatches I could choose samples from (turns out it was any of them) and then picked out my three favorite primaries. I went with a bright, sunny yellow (Lemon Zest), a one-shade-down-from-fire-engine red (Fiery Red), and a cool, ocean blue (Isle of Capri), all Behr Premium Plus. I brought the swatches over to the counter and had them mix up samples for me. The whole thing came out to be less than $15. (I’m providing detail here for the other people like me who’ve never Depoted paint samples before- it’s very easy). Then i spent the next half hour sitting on an upturned orange LET’S DO THIS bucket doing crossword puzzles while Kyle hand-selected only the most beautiful giant slabs of MDF (for another upcoming project).

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Next up, assemble your supplies. Hopefully your supplies are a little more organized than mine.

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I used whatever old paintbrush I had kicking around, plus a mask (better safe than sorry, right Goose?) and an old olive jar with a little water in it to rinse between colors (not pictured).

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Lucky for me, my husband had already laid down painters tape and plastic over the floor for some touch-ups he was doing with the white paint (thank god for that, too, because bending over to lay all that tape over the moulding would have been an epic struggle for this mighty and rotund giant). Don’t miss that step, though! You will dribble paint on the floor, and possibly on your clothing (so wear a huge, unflattering sweatsuit and protect your long, flowing locks while you complete this project). I speak from experience.

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When I was ready to start painting, I just went for it, starting with the red. I made the dots a couple of inches wide, and tried to space them regularly, but not perfectly. Some were a little oblong, bigger or smaller. The size and shape matters less than trying to get a nice, crispy edge. They will not be uniform or perfect, much like babies and life (I was a philosophy major in college, as if you couldn’t tell).

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You can go over them all again with Round 2 paint (once they dry), so don’t worry if the color saturation isn’t perfect. Just keep moving.

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After you’ve done the whole wall in your first color, move on to the next.

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Don’t forget to leave room for your third color here. Things should not be evenly spaced at this point.

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I saved the lightest color for last, knowing that I could use it to fill in the gaps a bit. If I ended up needing to add more yellow than blue or red, you won’t notice the lack of balance too much because of the lighter color.

Here I am with the finished wall, looking rather homeless yet accomplished:

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See how unevenly placed they are? That’s what you want! Perfect circles, evenly placed are boring. I think the organic and slightly messy look is much for fun and playful for a little Goose.

Eventually, the crib will live on this wall. More photos to come when the paint dries and things really get moving!

What I Ate Today: the Third Trimester Edition

Here’s a pretty typical day for me lately, except they usually end with a little more effort at dinner. Today ended on a bad note, so I’m giving myself an A for Effort and calling iceberg lettuce a vegetable. Feel free to pretend instead that I ended the evening with a giant bowl of ancient grains dotted with seasonal vegetables and heirloom legumes. While we’re at it, let’s also pretend I haven’t gained 40 pounds this pregnancy and barely fit into my favorite Rush t-shirt.

6:30 am – a bowl of frosted mini wheats with a scoop of crunchy peanut butter, a cup of decaf with vanilla soy creamer, and seltzer with a splash of OJ.

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Here’s what I packed for the next 12 hours (there’s nothing worse than a pregnant lady who runs out of food, so I always plan for a little extra)

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10:00 am – this beautiful office banana. So majestic.

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10:30 am – Am I on 3rd breakfast? Whatever. I ate this bag of mixed nuts.

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12:30 pm – Quick lunchroom photo of my little salad (lettuce, beets, chickpeas, onions, and feta with olive oil and lemony white balsamic) and leftover Spanish tortilla slice. That’s my coworker, Spike’s, hand waving over the food.

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1:00 pm – This tiny little 3 Muskateers. Hey, I wonder what that little stain on my hand is?

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4:30 pm – Unpictured scarfing of single serving popcorn bag I obliterated on the drive from work to my first doctors appointment of the evening.

7:00 pm – My “thank god I made it through this tragic day I am so not cooking right now how the eff am I going to survive 80 more days of this pregnancy” dinner of 3 black bean tacos with cheddar, onion, salsa and lettuce

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Since you asked, work kept me late tonight (again) and I almost missed my first appointment, one I desperately needed to keep because of the stabbing pains I’ve had almost constantly in my back lately. They kept me waiting at that appointment, and then I missed my next one. Cute, right? It is not a thing that when you’re hugely pregnant, you suddenly get magical sympathy from people and are allowed to not get held up at work and stuff.

The good news is that you can come home, change into a full body sweatsuit, and cry hormonal rage-tears into a couple of tacos while watching Chopped. Because nothing goes better with food than food tv.