Friday, October 31, 2008

My "Day Job"

As I've mentioned, I'm a graphic designer/web programmer and own a company with my husband. Recently we launched THREE websites within one month. That means we've been busy!!

First up, Jakobe Furniture in Kansas City, Kansas.
Overview and before and after photos

Second, Wine & Roses, a popular charity wine tasting event in San Diego.
Overview and before and after photos

And last, but not least, San Diego Public Library Foundation
Overview and before and after photos

So, what have I done with these sites? I pretty much rebuild them from the ground up with the design and function. Some are more involved than others - for example, the San Diego Public Library Foundation site required a feature where the text and photos could be editable by the client. That meant that I had to program a database and the "public" and "administrative" ends of the website all while making sure the site looks "pretty."

Designers don't necessarily dabble in the programming and tend to design sites without thinking of how things will work with dynamic data. Programmers are more like the "nerds" who can make things work, but sometimes they don't think about making user-friendly interfaces. I like to consider myself as both nerd and designer. Yes, I got good grades in school, graduated top of the class, etc. But I've had a long-time love for design, arts and crafts. It's a nice balance.

We don't just do websites, although it is a majority of our business. We do print items (business collateral, brochures, etc) and marketing consultation as well.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

NO... WAY...

Microwave cookies... WHAT?!

I had some leftover pre-cut chocolate sugar cookie dough from Mya's Halloween goodie bags for her classmates. There were only 5 pieces in the fridge that didn't make it in the oven (didn't want to waste energy for 5 cookies). So in desperation for a cookie, I threw one in the microwave oven on top of parchment paper for 45 seconds on high. I stopped the microwave when I started smelling something burning. I pulled out the cookie and sure enough, the center was a bit charred but the outside was perfect. So I ate it anyway.

I experimented again (in the name of science, of course). I threw another in the microwave for 45 seconds at 70% power. I had to stop it after 40 seconds because I had a feeling that it might burn again. It didn't burn, but it did cook a bit more in the center than on the outside. I ate that one as well.

My last attmept (remember, this is for science - not hunger), I threw another one in at 40 seconds, 60% power. I think it came out just right. Just like regular sugar cookies, I had to let it cool off before it hardened. It tasted just fine.

I think I may have to experiment more with microwaving cookie dough. It might be a nice trick to have when I need a cookie. I seem to always have cookie dough in the fridge or freezer.

What happened to the other 2 pieces of cookie dough? Leave it to Thom to eat it raw.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The latest addition to our family

Solana Corrine was born on Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 2:02 PM. She came out weighing 6 lbs, 13 oz and is 20 inches in length.

After many weeks of nesting, a week full of sporadic "real" contractions, and a false alarm last Friday, I decided on Saturday that I wanted to get this baby out. I walked the dog around the neighborhood (and up hills) in the morning, we went to the Linens N' Things liquidation sale (which was a madhouse), we visited two malls, went to our neighbor's grandson's birthday party, then walked the dog again - this time as a family.

I finally started feeling strong, consistent contractions around 6:30pm. Around 8 pm, I realized that I wasn't going to make it to church in the morning and told Thom to go to the church drop off some brochures that I was supposed to hand out on Sunday. That was when he knew that this was the real thing. Once he got back, we got Mya in her jammies and took her to my parents' house.

Long story short, I started at 4cm, we took the last bed in L&D, I was slow to dilate, water bag had to be broken twice, epidural didn't work for delivery (ouch), and baby was born after 15 hours of being in the hospital. We left the hospital a little less than 24 hours after Solana was born. I know people say you should take advantage of your hospital stay and get your rest and help. But I had the hardest time getting up and down off the bed because I'm short. I was in so much pain that I had to figure out creative methods of getting the baby out of the bassinet without having to get out of bed (again, because I'm short, I couldn't just reach over and get her). Hospital food was okay. I liked my breakfast.

Anyway, after we left the hospital, we headed straight for Solana Beach. Thom took Solana with him while standing in the ocean. After we got our photos, we headed for an oil change, then went to my parents house to eat and finally headed home at 7pm. We had visitors (the dog sitters) for a little bit and then finally went to bed as a family of 4.

Solana is nursing well. She's a good baby - hardly cries. Mya is a proud big sister and a good helper. I'm doing fine. Pain is much more noticeable this time around - even though Mya's birth was more traumatic.

Yaay - I get to do projects for two grls now!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crayon and Scratchpad Roll

Ah, I'm finally caught up! This was one of my latest projects - a scratchpad and crayon roll.

Mya got invited to a birthday party for a set of fraternal twins - a girl and a boy. So I racked my brain as to what to get them for a gift. We usually opt not to get toys for gifts (unless it's educational or promotes creativity) for the same reason we dread any addition to Mya's toy collection - it just becomes clutter after she loses interest in it. I did a search online and remembered seeing instructions for a crayon roll. What a perfect gift - it's practical, portable, refillable, and can be used for as long as kids like to color with crayons! I wanted to add some paper to this crayon roll. I thought about how it would be handy to have when you need to keep kids busy while you're running errands with them.

I found these instructions online: Crayon Roll Tutorial and made an additional 4" width and overall 1" extra in height to make room for the scratch pad (available at any office supply store). It was quite easy to do and I cranked these babies out in about an hour. Instead of using ribbon to keep it together, I used black elastic loop. I figured that little hands wouldn't be able to properly tie a ribbon to keep this together. My husband recommended that next time I make these, I should create a top flap so that the contents of the roll won't fall out. I agreed - my makeup brush roll has a top flap and it does the job! Well, now I know what all my friends kids are getting for Christmas!!

Here's a pic of the girl's and boy's crayon roll:
I used brown for the inside back of both rolls with pink pockets for the girl, yellow pockets for the boy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tropical quilt

Ever since I took the quilting class, I've been planning on making a quilt for Mya's room. When I was pregnant with Mya, I designed her room so that she could grow into it and not have it be so baby-ish. I made all the crib bedding and matching curtains. Now that she moved on to a "big girl" bed, she didn't have any coordinating bedding. I did a search and found that comforters (especially quilts) ran around $100. I was on a mission to beat that price by doing myself.

I found a quilt that I liked online and based the layout after it. I wanted to add my personal touch with some appliqué work. Thom and Mya flew out of town for a week to visit Grammy and I worked on the quilt and pillow sham for 5 days straight. It was really fun to do. I learned a lot while making this quilt:
  1. Fat batting = pin closer together (I had a lot of bunching in a few places - the top was not taut enough)
  2. Quilting with a darning foot and dropped feed dogs is a balance between the speed of the needle and speed of the fabric
  3. Quilting uses A LOT of thread
  4. A lead pencil is sometimes better than the water-soluble pencils when drawing on your quilt.
  5. Using a zigzagger on straight-stitch machine can make you dizzy.
  6. The ripper is my best friend

Here's a shot of the appliqué work. I zigzagged around all the appliqués since it would have taken me forever to hand-stitch it. There's a bird of paradise, a nipa hut (my homage to the "bahay kubo" in the Philippines), a tropical leaf, plumerias, and bamboo. On the side is a butterfly and a palm tree with the sun setting behind it.

By the way, material cost me $65. Extra thread and bobbins - $6. Time and effort - priceless :) .

The MACHINE (that almost killed the cat)

Notice a theme here?

Let me introduce you to my Vintage Singer 301a - a badass, all-metal, gear-driven, slant-shank, straight-stitch machine with a longbed and carrying case.

I was on the hunt for a good sewing machine for many months when my friend, Pam, steered me towards this vintage machine. She said that Singer machines made in this era (1950's-mid 60's) were very reliable and were built to run forever (or something to that extent). I did some research and found rave reviews of the 301a and even got to try Pam's. I loved how quietly and effortlessly it ran (I quilted my sampler quilt with her 301a) so I went on a mission to find one.

I did a search on Craigslist and one lady said she had one. By the time I got there to take a look at it she already sold it. So I turned to Ebay. It was the first time I've ever bid on a popular item. Boy was it competitive!! I lost about 3 auctions until I finally won this for $108 (including shipping). What a great deal! I eventually bought a zigzagger (which is interesting to use - it moves the fabric, not the needle) and a set of attachments/presser feet.

My 301a arrived the Wednesday after I made my shirred dress. It came with the same blue thread and a fabric/stitching sample that they showed on the Ebay listing. I tried it out and absolutely loved it. So I let the machine and case "air out" its antique smell for the day.

Here's where the cat-killing comes in. Thursday morning, I woke up to Hugs puking on our bed. I immediately thought of the machine and ran downstairs. The spool of blue thread was still there but the machine wasn't threaded. I couldn't recall if I had wound it or kept it threaded. So we took a wait-and-see approach to our cat's puking. We hoped she would cough it up like she did the brown thread.

A week goes by and Hugs is not getting any better. So I took her to the vet and they found the blue thread wrapped around her tongue. They gave us the option of either $1500 for the surgery or euthanasia for $100. Long story short, we talked them into another alternative where they would try to pull the string out while the cat was tranquilized. They did the procedure and called me 15 minutes later to tell me that they noticed that her belly moved and that the thread was wrapped around her intestines too. So that meant I had to opt for euthanasia. Sobbing, I went back to the vet and waited to say goodbye to our dear cat. I got called into the exam room when the surgeon came out and said, "Well, we got it out!" Boy were we lucky. The string was 2 feet long with about a 1 inch knot at the end of it (where it was getting into her intestine).

The vet was amazed that she lasted more than a week like this. He said that in most cases that he's seen, the thread caused the cat's intestines to tangle up within 1-2 days. Hugs was definitely very lucky. She's probably used up 8 of her 9 lives with this ordeal.

Now I keep a good eye on my thread and machine. I can now use my 301a without the guilt that it killed my cat. (cue the "Debbie Downer" theme song).

Shirred Dress (that almost killed the cat)

My husband and I were invited to a Luau for an acquaintance of his in mid-August. While I had a few pre-pregnancy "tropical" outfits, I didn't have one that would fit my growing belly. So I did a search online and found a few shirred dresses worn by pregnant celebrities and was inspired to make my own.

A few months ago, I was going through my stash of fabrics and found a cute white eyelet fabric that would make a perfect summer top for Mya. I wanted to try shirring for a while but never had the guts to do it until I found this tutorial: Sunny Day Dress and Top Tutorial. It seemed so easy - and it was! So I went to Joann's, bought some elastic thread and sewed away.

I still had a lot of elastic thread leftover for my own dress so I found some comfortable stretchy fabric that had sort of a tropical feel to it. I worked on the dress late on a Saturday morning and had it ready to wear by the evening, complete with adjustable straps. I wasn't satisfied with my hemming job (my machine kept hanging up on the fabric) and had a few crooked stitches. But I was in a hurry so I figured that I'd fix it in the morning (no one would notice my mistake at night).

Here's where the "almost killed the cat" came in. On Sunday morning, I went back to my sewing machine so I can fix the hem and noticed that my spool of brown thread was empty. I immediately thought of my string-aficionado cat, Hugs, who must have eaten it. We went to church and when we got back, we were welcomed by some cat puke on the floor with a bunch of brown thread. Boy, was I glad she got it out. I knew that string consumption can do quite some damage to a cat.

The photos that you see here are pretty recent and showcase my 9-month belly during my baby shower. This is a photo of my childhood friend, Aileen, who made this super-cute diaper cake.

I have worn the dress quite a few times and it is very comfortable. I'll even be able to wear it postpartum! Hooray for shirring!