The Anatomy of a Win

My friends all know that I’m a competitive person. I LOVE contests. When I was younger, it was rough. I really, really, really wanted to win. But nobody wins all the contests, all the time. Though I ended many a contest in tears, it didn’t dull my love of competition. Thankfully. Because as an adult, I see contests as more than just a chance to win. It is an opportunity to complete something (nothing helps me finish like a deadline). I have a reason to stretch myself – try new skills. And I get to see what other like-minded creatives have come up with. I love getting to see other entries! I get inspired by what they came up with. And while I still get a little jealous when I see an awesome idea and think, “Man, I wish I had come up with that”, it is now combined with an appreciation for the craftsmanship behind it, and excitement by the inspiring idea.

three different dresses

So, when the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA – now AFCI {Association For Creative Industries}) announced their “Fashion Fusion Challenge” I KNEW I wanted to be a part of it. I’m much more of a quilter than a garment maker, but I’ve successfully made several garments. And considering that the show is filled with crafters, not all sewists and garment makers, I liked my chances. Plus – it would give me a chance to stretch myself.

 

Here are the basics of how the contest was going to run: There were two tracks – accessories and garments. People could sign up as individuals or in paired garment/accessory combos. We would all show up on Thursday at 11am. We’d have several hours to work in the workroom, using the supplies generously donated by sponsors. If we didn’t finish, we’d have access to sewing machines on the show floor on Saturday and Sunday. We had to turn in our completed designs Sunday afternoon for judging. Winners would walk the runway Sunday night.

supplies from sponsors

On the website were photos of the patterns that would be available for us to choose from, the fabrics we would have, and some of the notions and accessories. For a contest, they really gave us quite a bit of information up front. I loved it, and decided to use this information wisely!

 

Fairly quickly, I found a friend to team up with. We started sending design ideas back and forth. We came up with a feather theme. I’d convert the pattern for a top into a dress with a high front and low back. We’d add feather designs on the inside back for extra interest. I would bring Espadrille soles to make coordinating shoes which would lace all the way up the calves. I ordered the pattern online to play with it, and try my pattern adjustments at home – I knew from experience that the first time I make a garment isn’t nearly as successful as my third or fourth.

sharing the pattern

But then she had a family emergency, and couldn’t come. Luckily, Simone offered to step in for me. We re-planned. The pattern I had ordered came in and I sent her photos of my first attempt.

first attempt at design

It was not great. The dress was baggy where it should be fitted. It was uninteresting. And I wanted to take advantage of my quilting knowledge. So I tried again.

dress with quilted pieces

This one was more interesting, but the length made it look like a housedress. And while the log cabin piecing was perfect for quilting … it did nothing to enhance my figure. But, I had taken two passes at the pattern, knew what was working well and what was not, and more importantly, I was out of time.

 

On Thursday, I was late. My flight arrived on time, and I was able to get from the airport to the hotel. But my hotel room wasn’t ready for check-in. I had to rummage through my bags for the items I planned on taking with me, stow my carry-on items in my suitcase, and check them at the bell desk before running to the conference center. Late is not my favorite way to start!

 

Once we were both there, Simone and I wasted no time getting started. She was going to create a headband and purse. I was going to create the dress. And (time permitting) Espadrilles. We went through the items from the sponsors to see what we could use. WOW! So many fancy items that I didn’t even know existed!

Other than being late, I had a second hiccup. I had brought my own rotary cutter and ruler, but there was no cutting mat. My design hinged on cutting strips of fabric and piecing them back together. Not possible without a cutting mat!

Luckily, we were able to wrangle one from one of the booths on the show floor, and I started piecing my dress.

pressing and working

The workroom was loads of fun. Hanging out with the other gals sewing and crafting, chatting with my friend Simone, learning about the cool Brother machine and the Brother Scan-N-Cut. There was lots to keep me entertained while I stitched together strips of fabric.

sewing photo

Unfortunately, Simone and I weren’t able to take advantage of all the workroom time. We were both scheduled to speak at a roundtable on social media that overlapped with the last hour. Simone had nearly finished the clutch (there was adhesive drying on it), and I was at a good stopping place. We packed up what we had, and crossed our fingers.

In the hotel room, I did as much prep as possible. Pinning and marking don’t require a sewing machine. Simone was able to finish embellishing the clutch. She started on the headband.

Pinning on Bathroom Floor

On Saturday, I headed back to the sewing machine. Between working in booths and attending events on the show floor, I snuck in about an hour of sewing. I had forgotten to mark the neckline, so couldn’t progress any further. I also stitched the pieces for the Espadrilles. Saturday night I’d have to stitch the fabric to the soles, as well as mark the dress. And hope that I’d have enough time in the morning to stitch the neckline, sew the sides together, and hem the dress!

While hanging out in the hotel lobby with friends on Saturday night, I stitched up the shoes. I LOVED the way they turned out, and knew that they would be perfect to wear with the dress.

stitching shoes

Sunday I was exhausted. When I attend the show in January, I usually just go for Saturday and Sunday. Just two days. By this time I was on day FOUR. Four days of chatting, planning, partying, staying up way too late, and waking up WAY too early. But I was determined to finish!

oh so very tired

When I finally had the dress sewn together and ready to hem, I was so excited to try it on. Of course I took a bathroom selfie to send to Simone!

ready for hemming

After hemming, I tried on the whole outfit, with shoes and clutch. Just needed the headband from Simone, and we were ready for judging!

try on dress

The judging was incredibly nerve-wracking. Quite a few contestants didn’t make it to the final judging. In the “teams” category, my main competition was a teen who had made a skirt. It was the second garment she had ever sewn, and she had done quite a bit of hand-sewing in order to get her look finished on time. I barely knew her, but was incredibly proud of her for getting it all done.

The worst part of hoping that you will win is knowing that someone else will lose.

judging

When the final result was announced, I was so excited! WE WON!! But that meant being runway-ready that night. Luckily for me, it was as easy as messaging my friend Jessica. She had done my hair and makeup for more than one of these types of events, and knocked it out of the park each and every time.

Makeup session

With the perfect hair and makeup to go with my outfit, I felt fierce as I walked down the runway a winner! Here I am with the other contestants and their awesome looks. To the left of me is the individual garment winner from The New Craft House. To the right, the individual accessories winner. And on the end, the outfit that was my competition. No, we are not all glowing – the lighting in the bar just made us look that way!

fashion show winners

The whole event was such a fantastic experience. It was so fun to alter a garment, work in my quilting skills, partner up and collaborate with a friend, and (of course) come away a winner!

the three dresses

Usually a good win comes with a great prize – this contest was no exception. As the winning team, Simone and I were given a Brother sewing machine and a Brother Scan N Cut. We had them send the sewing machine to Simone, and I’ve been able to give the Scan N Cut a new home!

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The biggest Social Media lie I ever told.

At some point, we’ve all lied on social media. They are usually lies of omission. Sharing a photo of our beautiful dinner; omitting the chaos of family surrounding it. Showing a photo of our freshly cleaned kitchen; omitting the photo of our hair that hasn’t been washed in 3 days. Social Media allows us to frame our lives in ways we feel comfortable sharing – omitting the less glamorous parts.

I omit things all the time. Often, because the rest of the story is not mine to tell. I’ll share a photo of the beach – but not the friend I met there to console. I’ll share a landscape – but not that the reason for the trip was to visit someone in the hospital.

I’ve been wanting to tell this story for some time. I waited so long because this one isn’t entirely mine to tell. But enough of it is. And enough time has passed. I’m ready to split this secret wide open. It is a big one. This lie wasn’t a single post – it was an entire vacation. I lied about an entire trip to London on Social Media.

The backstory

I was 25, and Jane was about 5 years older than me. She and I became close friends. She had been told she might not be able to conceive. “You would make a great mom – I’ll carry your child.” I told her flippantly one day over coffee. I was taken aback by my own statement. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that I would do it if she needed me to.

I got married, and birthed two beautiful babies. I discovered I make a terrible pregnant woman. I’m not cute when pregnant. I’m a fat, swollen, grumpy, and tired when pregnant. However, I was absolved of my promise. Jane, through IVF, gave birth to a girl, and later a  set of twins.

Throughout the years, I heard the stories of so many friends who had trouble conceiving. I’ve lost track of the number who turned to IUI or IVF. The tearful calls from friends when they mourned another failed cycle. Or miscarriages. Or being faced with the decision to reduce a multiple pregnancy.

One of these friends was Rachel. Rachel and I were very different. She is a decade older than me, has her MBA from a top-10 school, and has faced some serious health issues due to a car accident years before I met her. But she quickly became like an older sister to me. It was an unlikely, but perfect friendship.

Rachel and I stayed friends for over a decade. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding, I was a bridesmaid in hers. She moved away, and so did I, but we remained close. And she confided in me her pregnancy struggles. The fertility industry feels especially cruel to people like Rachel. Over and over again, it filled her with hope, emptied her pockets, then left her with nothing. She exhausted all of her options, until doctors told her she had to stop for health reasons. She would never carry a child.

You might wonder why she and her husband didn’t rush to adopt at this point. But that part of this story is not mine to tell. I will tell you that they knew their best option was surrogacy.

Building up to the lie

The remnants of my past promise to Jane lingered in my mind. I found it, dusted it off, and offered it to Rachel. The promise was weightier this time. Filled with a better understanding of what it was I’d be offering. Rachel needed to be a mother – she needed a child in her life. One that would turn her world upside down and right-side up again. The only way for that to happen was with a hand-me-down uterus. I didn’t need mine. I was giving it to her. With one catch – medicine and science said it had to stay in my body.

We started talking every week. Wednesday afternoons we would hop on an international call (she was living overseas by then), to talk about everything. Life. Relationships. What this all meant.

Rachel and I discussed all the details we could, with one goal. We would keep going until we hit a “no.” She hired a lawyer to write up a contract. I talked to my OB, who had seen me through my two pregnancies. She consulted with fertility specialists. I was on the path to becoming an unpaid surrogate. She was trying yet another path to becoming a mom.

So many details to arrange. Then re-arrange. When we started, I was living in Nevada, and would fly to San Francisco for the implantation of her embryo. A year later, I was living in San Diego, and would fly to London for implantation of the 5-day blastocyst conceived from a donor egg that had been fertilized by her husband’s sperm. We’d jumped numerous hurdles, but we had not gotten to “no” yet.

The Lie begins

The last month, there were so many times we came close to “no.” And on social media, I lied through it all.

The day I underwent a procedure to remove uterine scarring from my past c-sections was also the day I stopped in to my son’s jog-a-thon at school.

The day I was in tears on the phone with a customs agent who wouldn’t release medication I needed to take the following day without copies of my passport e-mailed to her was a day without social media.

The following day I had to find someone to inject me with the first medication. That day I shared the kids eating fast food in the car. Hashtag “real life”.

And then we discovered that I had fluid in my uterus. This was disastrous. Fluid in the uterus meant that the chances of implantation were virtually zero – the fluid would wash the blastocyst away before it could implant.

So I underwent a procedure to remove the fluid.

Twice.

And disappeared completely on Instagram. I didn’t have the energy to lie to the world.

We already had flights booked. We had overcome every obstacle. We could do this. We had not yet found “no.”

A week of lies

I flew to London. We met with her specialist. The fluid was back. The doctor was telling us no.

Having overcome every “almost no” that had been thrown into our path, we weren’t ready to take this no. We convinced the doctor to give it a chance. I’d take a new medication to see if it helped. I’d see the acupuncturist to see what Eastern Medicine had to offer.

And I lied all over social media. I shared pictures of a fabulous London vacation. We took a picture of me at a London phone booth on our way to the acupuncturist. A quick snap of me with a postcard of the queen on the way to the pharmacy. A very few friends knew what was really going on, but to the rest of the world, I was having an awesome London getaway with my best friend.

For days we did what we could. I saw the acupuncturist several times. I drank the most horrible tasting tea. I threw up the most horrible tasting tea. I ate food high in iron. Took long walks. We googled everything that might help while waiting in line at the London Eye. I shared none of this online.

Then we went back to the doctor. Her answer was still no. Unbelieving, we sat at a cafe trying to come up with alternatives. Wanting a second opinion, we found a clinic that specializes in ultrasounds. Their results were the same. We called the doctor in San Francisco, and the doctor in San Diego for confirmation. Nobody could provide a clear reason why it was happening, it was a fluke.

They all agreed that transferring the 5-day blastocyst at this point would result in almost certain failure. And they all agreed that if we tried another round, we’d almost certainly get better results.

I thought of all the times I drove up and back to the fertility center in San Diego in the months before coming to London. All the hours my boys had to wait. The procedures I underwent. The time I was spending away from my family now. All the times I sacrificed my family for the sake of her growing hers. I didn’t want it to be for nothing. I wanted to move forward. But this wasn’t forward, this was going back. I couldn’t commit to doing it all again.

We had found “no.”

On a beautiful day, in a park somewhere in London, I lay on the grass and looked at the sky while the reality sunk in for me. 100 yards away, Rachel and Sam were dealing with their own reality. Theirs so much harsher than mine.

 

The following day, we pushed through. We stopped by the prime meridian and walked through Greenwich market before heading to the airport. I flew back to the US. I hugged my children, and spent the next few days resting as the fertility drugs worked their way out of my system.

After, I tried calling Rachel.

She responded by text. She respected my decision, but it was too hard to keep in touch. She was in a dark place. Afraid that she’d try to convince me to change my mind. She and Sam were trying to move forward, looking into paid surrogate options. She’ll contact me when it is over.

It has been 18 months.

I don’t have it in me to lie anymore.

I lost my best friend. She may have lost her last chance at becoming a mom.

There is nothing left to omit.

 

*names have been changed.

Pokemon Halloween Costumes

I thought I’d share our family Halloween Costumes this year. My boys, in all the Pokemon Craze, decided they wanted to be Pikachu and Raichu for Halloween this year. I figured they would be easy enough to make out of fleece. I went to JoAnns to get fleece in the colors I’d need, and looked for a basic pattern that would be easy to adjust with a tail, stripes, ears, and such. I found McCall’s 6106, and it was perfect!

I spoke to my SIL who lives here in San Diego. Her boys wanted to be Pikachu as well. Making 4 costumes really isn’t much more work than making 2, so I whipped up all the costumes and had them done by mid-October. Pretty much a Halloween miracle, as I’m usually finishing costumes the night before. So of course I took to Facebook to brag a little.

Pikachu and Raichu Costumes

Karma. Karma, karma, karma.

My other SIL, who lives in Northern California has a couple Pokemon-obsessed kiddos as well. 3 of them. She asked if I could whip up some costumes for them as well. I’m never going to say “no” to making costumes for my nieces and nephews, and by this time I was a Pikachu expert, so of course I said yes.

And then discovered they didn’t want Pikachu.

They wanted Charmander, Nidoran, and Squirtle.

This was going to be more challenging than I originally planned! But a challenge is just a solution away from genius, so I bought more fleece in different colors, and started stitching. I used the same pattern, just with more adjustments.

more pokemon costumes

My SIL took these photos of the kids in their costumes:

Charmander and Nidoran costume

Squirtle Costume

Kids traveling to Halloween parties often need to hop in and out of car seats or Booster seats, and I didn’t want their costumes to get in the way. So I made the tail, spikes and shell detachable with magnets (these are traditionally purse clasps).

squirtle shell

Since I was already making a record number of costumes, and we had a good Pokemon theme going, I told my husband I’d make him a Snorlax. He was game!

Snorlax Costume

That’s how 2016 became the year that I made 8 Halloween Costumes. From Scratch.

I’m thinking it is also how 2017 became the year that we bought our costumes instead of making them! Ha!

picachu costumes

Work in Progress

This past year, I focused on the inside of the house. Cleaning the kitchen and putting down new shelf paper. Getting the craft room organized. And finding our way around the community. There has been lots to do!

This year, I decided to focus my efforts on the outside of the home. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything else… it just means I’m taking any extra energy, and giving our house some curb appeal (and back-yard appeal).

back yard grass

This yard is so much different than our last yard. Mostly because of all the green! And the trees! We’re living in a 1957 Bungalow, and it has some great trees in the back yard, including an orange tree and a mandarin orange tree.

trimmed mandarin tree

I’ve started some of the work already. The mandarin orange tree needed some pruning, so I took a stab at it first. I hadn’t ever pruned a fruit tree before, so I did some research first. Turns out fruit trees like their canopy, so the major things were to not thin out the canopy too much, and mostly focus on getting rid of any dead branches. It wasn’t too bad. What was a lot more work was the giant shrub next to it… and I found out why!

trim bush

It turns out the purpose of this shrub was to hide the vent pipes for the bomb shelter that is under the house. So, I trimmed it back as much as I felt comfortable doing, and will see how it grows back this year – then trim it down a bit more next year, allowing the new growth to take over.

I have some “before” photos of some of the other areas of the yard I tackled. The side yard has a great raised bed that I wanted to plant vegetables in. But first, I had to weed it.

side-yard-to-back

side-yard-to-front

The dead tree was trimmed down, and my 3-year-old and I tackled the weeds. Then we planted onions, carrots, lettuce, and peas along the length of it. They’ve started to grow, and I’m looking forward to sharing progress shots when I have actual vegetables to show off!

The other side of the house has a small planter bed, with vines in it.

side-and-orange-tree

We took out much of the vines, and added a raspberry bush and a blueberry bush. We’ll see how they grow, but hopefully we’ll have some sweet berries to pick this summer.

The back patio needed a little help as well.

back-patio

on-the-patio

We were gifted some great patio furniture, and once we rinse off the boys’ outdoor toys, the patio will be even more functional.

The last big hurdle in the backyard was the orange tree.

orange-tree

This poor tree was insanely overgrown! I had to trim off all the sucker branches from the bottom, and all the dead branches from inside the tree. And pull out so many branches from the neighbor’s tree that had gotten tangled inside. It took the better part of a day. But it looks so much happier, and we’re hoping it will give us even more amazing oranges this next year. When we moved in we were told that it might be an orange tree… or it might be a grapefruit tree. Luckily, it turned out to be an orange tree with the sweetest seedless oranges! Perfect for snacking, or fresh-squeezed orange juice!

Hopefully soon I’ll have more images for you… and I hope to share front yard photos when the flowers start to grow in.

Persistence

At the end of  2014, it was time to pick a word for 2015. In 2014, my word for the year was Forward. I’d made great forward strides, so I chose Thrive as my word for 2015. I was excited to take all I’d done in my year of FORWARD, and use it to THRIVE. I went to CHA, met lots of amazing brands, and was prepared for an amazing year.

They say when men plan, God laughs. But what they don’t tell you is that when women plan, God says “You should know better.” We’re not completely in control of our own destiny. And so it was just a few weeks into last year – we were moving! For all the right reasons. My husband was offered a promotion, which we were (and still are) very excited about. That promotion came with a move to San Diego – which would put us closer to family (and the beach!)… it was a good thing.

But after 8 years and two babies, moving wasn’t what it had been in the past. And packing up an entire house and moving it out of state – then unpacking into a new home… it took a lot out of me. More than I ever imagined, and more than I’m willing to admit. By the end of last year, I was ready to admit defeat. The year of “thrive” became the year of “survive.” But I did survive. Which brought me to deciding on a word of the year for this year. Because despite the catastrophic miscalculation of the previous year’s word… I was determined to find a word for this year. I had some ideas… but then I came across this quote that resonated with me.

persistence quote

All the talent, all the smarts, all the education in the world… none of it will stand in for actually doing the work. And that’s what this year is about. Doing the work.

I made a little plaque for myself to have in my office, and remind me.

supplies-for-persistence-ca

mod-podge-in-place

2016-one-little-word-is-per

We’ll see where this year’s word takes me…

 

A Birthday gift to me

Friday was my birthday. My 36th birthday. Which meant three things. The first was that I got notifications all day long from Facebook, people wishing me a happy birthday. Lots of people that I love and care about… and some people that I can’t remember why their on my friends list at all! Each Facebook message – and each phone call from family – was a precious reminder that I’m loved.

The second thing that happens is that I make a call to schedule my mammogram. I’m 36, and my two closest female relatives have battled breast cancer. For those of us with a family history, we start making our annual dates with this pretty machine when we turn 35.

The mammogram machine

Yup, that’s the photo I took last year, on my first date with the mammogram machine. It wasn’t so bad. There were no flowers or chocolates… but I also was told not to put on deodorant. Any date where you don’t put on deodorant as part of the getting-gussied-up process is going to have a different bar for success, don’t you think?

It isn’t a coincidence that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and MomSelect reached out to me to share this important message in February. For me, a mammogram in February makes sense because it coincides with my birthday. For you, it might make sense because of Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s day is a great reminder to get an annual check. While you’re in the changing room trying on something lacy – make a quick phone call to the doctor to make sure that the curves that fill out that lace and trim is healthy – and stays that way! And if you’re not in a situation where you feel compelled to buy some lingerie mid-February, maybe you just need a reminder that your breasts need a little squeeze. A mechanical hug, if you will…

Love yourself - Schedule a Mammogram!

Last year I went for my mammogram, I was a little scared. It was like part of me was admitting that breast cancer could happen to me. And running away is so much easier, y’all. Thinking that everything will be fine. But getting the report back, confirming that everything is fine – that feels so much better! If you’re nervous about getting your first mammogram, check out the CTCA website and type “mammogram” in the search box. You’ll find lots of information on what mammograms are all about. Or, feel free to ask your questions in the comment section below – I’m no expert, but I’m happy to share what I know!

So, what is the third certainty that comes with having a birthday? Blowing out the candles and making a wish. A birthday isn’t a birthday without getting to make an annual wish while blowing out those dancing flames. I can’t tell you what I wished (or it might not come true!), but if you know me you’re probably guessing that I wished for something along the lines of a happy and healthy future for myself and my family. And you’d probably be right.

Yes, I received compensation for this post as part of a promotional program with CTCA and MomSelect. I am thrilled to participate because Mammograms are important.

How to rent a home in three days

Yes. How to rent a home in three days. I did it. Together with my husband, we spent 3 very stressful days finding a place to rent in the very pricy San Diego area. Mid-January hubby was offered a promotion, which we immediately accepted. Knowing that it would mean a move from our home of 8 years in Las Vegas to San Diego. This was a good thing. While we loved our friends in Las Vegas, and had an amazing community there, this move not only meant a promotion for him, but also a move closer to our family.

Once we knew the move was certain, we had about a month to find a new place, pack, and move. Not a lot of time. So we got started. If you have a big move in your future, here is how we did it (and some thoughts on how we would have done it differently).

moving truck

Day 1: Prep Work

The first day was preparing for our rental-hunting trip. Thanks to the internet and telephones we didn’t have to be in San Diego to get started. First, we had to decide on our wants and needs. We decided we needed 3 bedrooms (or two and a bonus space), we needed pet-friendly to bring our cat, and we needed garage space (attached or not did not matter). Wants included a yard for the kids, space for our furniture, on-site laundry (preferably in the unit) and a location close to hubby’s new work. We also set our budget, and knew we wanted to consider what school the rental was zoned for. We were pretty confident in our credit scores, but if you don’t know yours – now is a great time to check.

I went to websites to find locations. I started a list with the details: Address, rooms, cost, amenities. Then added the school district, school, and the school’s rank on GreatSchools.org. I checked with family to find out the areas to avoid. I tried to keep within our price range while still giving us as many options as possible: apartments, townhomes, and free-standing houses when possible. Having a list kept me from “finding” the same place twice – some were listed on multiple sites. I also added a couple that were more than we were willing to pay – it is always interesting to know what extra dollars can buy, and some of those amenities might make you re-consider your budget.

I printed out the school district maps, and bookmarked just about every website I visited so I could more easily find it again later. Google doesn’t always give you the same search results – especially if you don’t type in the exact same search term. I scoured property management websites. I made appointments where possible for Day 2 – our first day of searching.

One last important thing: I measured all of our furniture, and wrote down the measurements. We knew that we would be renting a much smaller place (about half the size), and we would need to know what furniture we would be taking with us, and what we’d want to sell/gift/donate before moving.

 

Day 2: Hunting

We started day 2 at a free-standing house in a fair neighborhood, about 15 minutes from hubby’s work. It had a lot of what we were looking for, but we didn’t want to jump on the first house. In retrospect, filling out an application and paying the fee would have been a good idea. It would have given us first right of refusal if we found something better. Even though it would have cost us about $50 in fees, it would have been money well spent for peace of mind.

We went through our list, taking photos as we went. I wish we would have taken more photos. Learn from my mistake: TAKE ALL THE PHOTOS. Take photos of everything. Take video as you walk through the space. It is all digital, you can delete what you don’t end up needing. You’ll think that you remember, but you won’t. Measure walls, and record them so that you’ll know later what furniture fits. Treat each place as if it might be THE ONE. There are no second dates when you’re house hunting with a tight deadline.

Our plan of attack took us across the valley. We started at the West end and moved East. This was an important time saver. Hopping around, on and off freeways in an unfamiliar city would have been a huge waste of time. Instead, we took it as systematically as we could. At the end of the day, we were exhausted. We decided that of all the places we looked at, the first place was the best. We called to get the paperwork started, but someone else beat us to it. We missed out on the first house because of our hesitation. Nothing else had us excited, but we had an idea of what the rental market here looked like.

Back at “base camp”, my Aunt and Uncle’s home, we got back to work. Hubby re-scoured all the rental sites for new listings or listings we might have dismissed too early, and I googled for property management sites. It was the beginning of a new month, and I wanted to see if they’d posted new properties. I also wrote down the name and phone number of each property management company to get us started on Day 3.

view of coranado

 

Day 3: Desparation

We had 4 days set aside for house hunting, and we were only in Day 2, but we felt like we’d already seen most of what San Diego had to offer. And though we knew that our new home would be much smaller and much older than the beautiful new-construction home we were coming from in Las Vegas, the reality was more stark than we’d realized. I began the day at 9am calling the list of property managers I had created the night before, asking if anything new was available that wasn’t on the website yet. After half a dozen calls, someone said yes, and off we went.

The apartment was newly renovated, and they were adding the last touches, installing a new fridge as we looked around. It was also tiny. 900 square feet. I measured the living room and started to cry. I didn’t own a single piece of furniture that would fit. My sofas, my tables, nothing would fit in this apartment that was barely larger than our master bedroom suite back home. Yes, I knew we’d been spoiled at the price of real estate in Las Vegas. Yes, I was ready to give up furniture and live in a smaller space as we made this step forward as a family. But as a work-at-home mom, I couldn’t see myself living, working, and raising my family here. I cried the ugliest cry right in front of that poor property manager and my baffled husband. It was the rock-bottom of house hunting, y’all.

We left. Not sure where to look next, we were close to a home that we weren’t allowed to schedule a tour for until we had driven by. With nothing else to do, we drove by. As we pulled up we noticed “open house” signs out front. Taking that as our invitation, we parked and walked through a cute little bungalow. The property manager was working in the kitchen, so we didn’t wander in there. We walked through the rooms. It was a little more than we had planned on spending, but not by much – and it had everything on our want and need lists – 3 bedrooms, an attached garage with washer-dryer hookups, 5 minutes from hubby’s work and walking distance from a school rated a 9 out of 10. It was expensive… but possibly worth it? We had a “maybe” house.

We spent the rest of the day calling property management companies, and looking at what was available. We went by a condo that was zoned for an amazing school – but it was hard to see the beauty in between the mess of the tenant who was still trying to move out. In the end, the maybe house won. We called, and submitted our forms. The house hunt was over.

house packed in boxes

Epilogue: The Days After

We were approved for the house, so we headed back home to the kiddos. My Mother in Law had watched them while we were house hunting so that we could focus on our task. Before leaving town we picked up an enrollment packet for school.

When we walked through the “maybe house”, we hadn’t taken any pictures. We weren’t seriously considering it at the time. We took a few basic measurements, but didn’t record any. This was a mistake. We knew our big couch would fit, but not which table. We should have done a better job recording these details, even on a house we didn’t think we were seriously considering. Relying on our memories – especially mine which was barely 30 minutes out of meltdown mode – was not a good plan. Especially… well, especially considering what we missed.

As the movers were bringing in the big pieces, I was taking smaller things out of my car. Including the boys’ sippy cups. I brought them into the kitchen to put in the dishwasher… the dishwasher… there … is … no … dishwasher. Our beautiful 1950’s bungalow did not come with a dishwasher. Luckily, we’ve moved one in – me.

the kitchen

There were other things we should have looked at. Like outlets. In Vegas, each wall had at least 2 outlets. Here, you’re lucky to find one per wall – and it probably doesn’t have ground.

outlets

So now, almost exactly a year later, we’re starting to feel settled. I thought I’d bounce right back in a month. Maybe 3. It has taken a year. I think it is all the firsts that makes it so hard. The first Christmas (where will we put the tree?). The first day of school (will he like his classmates?). The first Halloween (how much candy do we need?). It is also all the things that I never thought I’d have to decide again. After trying three different preschools with my oldest, I knew exactly which preschool would be perfect for my younger son – but I had to audition preschools all over again.

It has taken a while, but I no longer need Google Maps to tell me how to get to my favorite fabric shop. Or to the beach. I still need help getting to Ikea or the airport… but we’re making progress.

feeling like home

Craft Room Tour 2016

What do you call your creative space? A sewing room? Craft Room? Office? Studio? Sewing Studio? I use all of these names interchangeably for the room that most of my creativity happens in – and all of my supplies hang out in. I feel a little pretentious using the word “studio” to describe my space – but I don’t think it matters what you call it – I think it matters what you do with it! Here, I’ll take you on a tour of my creative space!

Always Expect Moore Craft Room tour - lots of photos of the pretty details, plus a youtube video where some of the secrets to a pretty space are exposed!

I’ll take you on a photo tour of the room, but if you prefer, you can watch this video tour. I originally recorded it on Periscope, so I’m not jumping subjects randomly, I’m responding to commenters. Pinkie swear.

We moved into this house a year ago. You can see my old craft room here.I’d done some work to spruce up and organize my space, but when my friend Angie from The Country Chic Cottage started planning her Craft Room Tour, I only hesitated a second before I signed up. The hesitation was because my craft room is notoriously messy (I share lots of #honestcraftroom photos on Instagram, like this one), and I knew it would take several days to whip it into shape. But a deadline was exactly what I needed to work miracles in this space, so I signed up. And then did very little until last week. Sure, I did a little picking up here and there, but not the dump-out-the-drawers overhaul I wanted in here. Yes, there are still areas that need some TLC, but overall I’m thrilled with the work done in here! So, let me take you on a tour! I’ll start with the big table that greets you when you walk in…

sewing table

This table is a dining room table I found at a furniture outlet store years ago. I splurged last year and bout a self-healing mat as big as the top of my table. I love it! Great for working on larger projects. On my table I have some sewing baskets, pincushions, a current project, and my sewing machine. I sew on a Bernina 710, which is a model they discontinued last year. It doesn’t do any fancy embroidery, but it has lots of throat space for sewing and quilting.

The table is in front of two giant windows at the front of the house. They face SouthWest, and get great light in the late afternoon. These windows are the reason this room was the perfect room in this house for my craft studio. The windows face the street and don’t offer a lot of privacy, so I put a thin cotton curtain on each. These provide privacy while filtering the light – perfect for photos! You can see that I haven’t decided yet what the perfect height for the curtain rod is – they’re both at different heights. We’re renting this house – a 1957 Bungalow in San Diego – so I’m leaving the blinds up, but they’re pulled all the way to the side.

On the left of the table is a tall cabinet with wicker drawers. This holds jars, fabric, and projects in progress. On top are my quilting rulers, in a file-folder holder from the office supply store.

And yes, the chair has an apron tied to it. It is this Apron back from the AGF fabric challenge.

To the right of the table is a big ironing board. Behind that is a large cabinet. It stores a few craft supplies, but my favorite are these jars with various items in them. Decorative and functional. Exactly what you need in your creative studio.

odds and ends storage

On top of the cabinet is a big basket for storing Styrofoam.

styrofoam storage

And to the right is my thread storage.

thread storage

Which takes me to this wall of the room.

desk in the craft studio

Another window (oh, the light!), and my desk. This is actually my childhood desk from back home. To the left is cube storage with baskets. They hold all kinds of random surfaces to craft with. Lots of good stuff going on there. In the drawers of the desk I have a drawer filled with glue guns, and a drawer with my metal stamping (you can check those out in the video above). The desk itself is well decked-out.

notes and buttons

Lots and lots of buttons I’ve collected from people at different events, and a beautiful row of Expressionery Stamps. But I’m about to run out of space (yikes!), so I’ll need to figure out a new solution soon.

Over the desk I have an IKEA lamp that has been converted to work as a camera holder to do overhead video. I’ve used it a couple times… and I love it! I need to do more with this.

over the head video

Continuing counter-clockwise around the room is this giant wall of storage.

lots of creative storage

I have a giant IKEA unit with baskets and bins for holding everything. And lots of room on top for scrapbook storage.

scrapbook storage

And a little room for some decor. But it is functional. Ribbon storage, odds and ends of floral in a large vase, and lots of washi tape in a large jar.

decorative storage

To the right is a tall IKEA shelf which I call my “Tower of Power”. One of the challenges of living in a house built in the 1950’s is the “charming” electrical. Our last house was built in 2007, and had two outlets on each wall. This room has 3 outlets in the whole room. Only one has ground. The other two outlets each have only one working socket. That means I have a lot of extension cords running behind furniture! Having all these appliances near the doorway is also helpful for the family – they can print to the printer, and don’t have to wade through a messy craft room to get their printout.

creative storage space

On top are some smoothfoam half-spheres for an upcoming project, and a wine rack holding rolls of vinyl. Then a rack with paper. Then my Silhouette. Then my HP Envy. Then the Sizzix eClips2, Laminator for Thermoweb Deofoils, and my laptop, then (hidden in this photo), the Sizzix Fabi and my Samsung Laser printer, and finally the Accuquilt Go! and a case of paper. Whew! Lots and lots going on in the “tower of power”. Let’s move to the right…

design wall

You see my design wall, which is hidden behind the door when the door is open. Above it I have some ribbons I’ve won. The red one is a recent win from 2015. The two ribbons on the left are actually from a pie-baking contest. That’s right, I’m an award-winning baker and an award winning quilter!

Next to the design wall is my scissors storage. You can make one yourself with this tutorial, and it is crazy useful.

scissors holder

This whole wall is super colorful and busy.

wall of creativity

Next to the scissors storage is a bookshelf that has (from the bottom up), mason jars, block printing and adhesive, paint, a sewing box, and a bulletin board. The bulletin board is from my wedding – we made it to hold place cards for guests almost 10 years ago, and it is still going strong!

The shelf is actually in a doorway – that goes to the half bath. But, we don’t need that entrance to the bathroom, and it is the perfect place for me to have a shelf.

paint in color order

To the right of the shelf is a quilt rack with quilts in various stages of completion. The bottom has a basket with more projects. To the right of that are the closet doors – which double as a quilt wall for mini quilts. Some of these I’ve made, and some are from friends and swaps. I love this use of space!

quilt wall

Inside the closet is more stuff! Lots of fabric, sorted by type and color, and more craft and quilt storage up top. There is a lot going on in here, but it doesn’t have to be picture-perfect, because I like to keep the closet doors closed.

fabric storage

That’s the craft room! Scroll back up to the top to check out the video, if you haven’t already, I chat in more detail about a lot of the items you’ll see in this room. And if you’d like to see more fun creative spaces, check out the other craft room tours over at The Country Chic Cottage.

Why my Elf on the Shelf is Boring

Let me start off by saying that I have no problem with one-upmanship. Or one-upMOMship. I’m totally fine with moms who want to spend thousands of dollars on their child’s first birthday party (though I’d suggest spending some of that money on a professional photographer so the child will remember it), or who make their children get up an hour early on the first day of school so they can get the perfect in-front-of-the-door-first-day-of-school photo. Partly, because I’m guilty of some of these crazy antics as well (I threw my son a half birthday party), and partly because I know that while you are taking a photo of their child dressed in the perfect princess costume, accessorized with rhinestone-studded kitten heels you DIYed the night before, you are wearing yoga pants, uggs, and yesterday’s mom bun.

Why-my-elf-on-the-shelf-is-

But your Elf on the Shelf baloney is one step too far. Sure, it is cute to have your elf make a mess of cookie crumbs on the counter, have snowball fight with marshmallows in the living room, or play dress-up with Barbie’s clothes and mom’s makeup. But that isn’t the point. The point is: READ THE BOOK.

The Elf on the Shelf is a family tradition that was Hallmark-isized. It was mass produced as boxed sets and manufactured dolls. And I bought one. I read the book and fell in love. Haven’t read the book? There is a movie. But if you missed that too, here are the Cliff’s notes: the elves are spies sent down from the North Pole to check on children. Each night they fly home to the North Pole to report to Santa, then fly back to your house to find another hiding spot so that they can listen to conversations and take notes on the behavior of small children. And if someone touches them, they lose their magic and can’t fly home.

THEY ARE SPIES. Sent to live among us, in secret. And wherever they stay during daylight hours – they are not supposed to be touched.

These moms who create elaborate dioramas that span the length and breadth of their dining room table – you really leave these up all day? You’re not worried that the ants are going to find that sticky syrup trail that Snickers McCandyCane left? You are going to walk around the livingroom, avoiding the cocktail party that Chappy Stockingfill is throwing with Rainbow Brite and and the My Little Pony twins? Really? Between Christmas shopping, baking, and shipping, you have time to dedicate sections of your house as shrines to a stuffed toy?

elf-binge-drinking

When I was a child, the warning that “Santa is watching” was enough to keep me in line. It seems kids today need a little extra coaching. But what kind of sports metaphor has the assistant coach pitching goals into their own basket? Not a successful one.

We’ve taken a story that was cherished by one family, shared it with the world, and allowed social media to bastardize it.

The Elf on the Shelf is the silent, unpaid Nanny who reminds our children to be good. After a two weeks of fall break in October, a week of Thanksgiving Break in November, and two more weeks of winter break in December, we moms need all the help we can get. So why are we tossing down tequila shots with our nanny elves each night, and leaving the trail of salt and lime rinds for our children to witness in the morning?

elf-shooting-down-lego-guys

If you must be a Pinterest Mom or Instagram show-off, have your elf dress up, challenge the kids to do a good deed each day, or leave treats for the kiddos as an early reward for good behavior. Remember that your elf is on a mission from Santa – not out on Rumspringa.

That one time I became an Award Winning Quilter

One of the most interesting and frustrating things I learned when working at a quilt shop is that quilters collect fears from other quilters. One quilter will look at a pattern and exclaim that it is “too hard” because of the inset seams or curves, and the other quilters within earshot will nod… and those originally contemplating the pattern will shy away.

I was determined that I wouldn’t take on the fears of other quilters – but then I did. Shortly after starting at the quilt shop, I attended the local quilt show there in Las Vegas. I asked a friend if she had any quilts hanging. She told me “Oh no! If you have more than one stitch in the corner of your binding, they mark you down!”

Wow. That sounded scary. So I didn’t enter my quilts. I took on a fear of quilt shows.

Ellipsis Quilt(If you’re interested, you can buy the Ellipsis Quilt here.)

After moving to San Diego, I decided to enter the quilt show here. For a small extra fee, I could get feedback on the quilt entered. I wasn’t looking for a ribbon – I was looking for honesty. As a quilter, I think my work is pretty good. But I’m not the best – and I can always use some constructive feedback from an expert. So I chose two quilts to enter. Including an unfinished quilt I (coincidentally) started about the same time I collected my fear of entering quilt shows. I would get these quilts finished, and I’d learn how to get better at my craft. That was winning.

The first night of the show, I went to see all the quilts. I was thrilled to see some beginner quilts hanging – they didn’t take on a fear of quilt shows! Good for them! I wanted to see which quilts had ribbons so I could see what I should aspire to – but none did. Yet.

After chatting with a few friends, the organizers started announcing the awards. When they came to the modern category, they announced my name as the second place winner. WHAT!? I wanted to shriek! But I knew almost none of the ladies there, so I stayed silent as I did a happy dance on the inside. I WON! What had I been afraid of this whole time? How many potentially award-winning quilts have I made, and not entered? Maybe none… but I will never know. Because I accepted my friend’s quilting fear as my own.

I’m so glad that I overcame my fear, and entered the quilt. I only wish I’d done so sooner!

Later that week, I picked up my quilt, my red ribbon, and a check. I also was given an envelope with feedback from the judge. Which told me I need to work on my binding. Maybe my friend was right about quilt shows – but that didn’t mean they were something to be afraid of.

Ellipsis close-up

If you’d like to make this quilt (it is SUPER simple to make, and uses 2.5″ mini charms and a jelly roll), you can buy the pattern in my pattern shop.