Piper turns 6, thoughts on Kindergarten, and a purse.

Last weekend we celebrated Piper’s 6th birthday – let me just go ahead and say the usual…I can’t believe I have a 6-year-old, blah blah blah (but it’s very true). 6 seems pretty big as it is, but then I realized that next year she’ll turn 7 – WTF?! SEVEN?! That seems way older than 6 for some reason. I remember being 7!

Anyway, this year her birthday was on a Saturday, and our parents (and my brother) joined us for dinner at Piper’s restaurant of choice. Aside from slipping off her high-top chair and slamming her chin into the table, I think she had a good time. She insisted that we not let the servers sing to her, but happily accepted the free ice cream sundae 🙂      sundaeAfter dinner we all came back here for cake & presents. Except for the present from her sister, which they mutually agreed she could open before dinner (it was a Pinypon, and somehow Kady reasoned me into letting her get one too).

girlsbday

m party2

The next day, Piper had a “friend party” at Michael’s (the craft store), where 9 little girls painted suncatchers and decorated (and ate) cupcakes. And acted totally crazy with a bunch of balloons.

group2hands

On another note, I can’t believe there’s only a month left of school! Piper’s kindergarten year has absolutely flown by, more than any other year since I’ve been a parent. Overall, it’s been an excellent experience for all of us. Her teacher is wonderful, and we’ve been really happy with both her school, and the school district as a whole.

Somewhat aside: Her principal is particularly awesome. On different occasions, I’ve seen him: moving carts of large musical instruments, taking pictures at the kindergarten holiday parties, refilling the hand sanitizer they keep in the hallway, facilitating the kindergarten bus lines on a 2-hour-delay day (no small feat), and, at an outside-of-school event, wearing his own infant in a baby carrier on his chest while socializing with students. While I’m sure they did important work, my main memory of my elementary school principal(s) are listening to them speak at assemblies.) I think it’s great that even the littlest students know him by name and face, and he’s out and among them often and not just some authority figure sitting in an office. The Assistant Principal seems nice too – after one PTA meeting, he came up and told Kady he liked her dress. And told me a bit about how his own young daughter also wears only skirts/dresses too 🙂

I definitely noticed too (although it wasn’t a total surprise) that kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. I don’t remember my kindergarten experience, but according to my mom, it was a lot of playing and just getting used to being away from our parents. My Dad says that he took naps and colored in kindergarten. All of this (except the naps) sounds more like what happens in the 2-year-old class at the girls’ preschool.

In Piper’s kindergarten class, at this point, every kid can read (albeit at different levels.) Most of them can sound out and write words and sentences without assistance, at least to enough that  you can decipher them despite any mis-spellings. They’re finishing up working on single-digit addition & subtraction. They do read stories as a class – but then they talk about things like fiction vs. non-fiction, themes, plot, characters, etc.

I give kindergarten teachers so much credit (for many reasons), but I think their jobs are particularly hard because the kids start off at such vastly different levels. I volunteered in Piper’s class a few weeks after the school year started, and noticed there were a couple kids who were just learning to identify their letters, and others who could practically read chapter books. Yea – those were the extremes of each side – most kids, Piper included, fell somewhere in the middle. But I’m sure it’s a challenge to help the kids on the lower-end catch up while still challenging the higher-achieving kids – and not “neglecting” all those kids in the middle who still need to strive and improve. Especially when you’re one teacher in a room of 20 kids. But  I have to say that Piper’s teacher definitely knew what she was doing, and while there will always be kids of varying abilities, there is a vastly smaller range between what the more-and-less advanced kids in the class can do these days.

I’m so ready for summer. It never seemed like that big of a deal when the girls were in preschool, but now I’m so looking forward to not to deal with the dual AM kindergarten/PM preschool rush. The IL’s generously got us a pass to Coney Island for Christmas, and I anticipate spending tons of time at the pool this summer, making several trips to the zoo, and just hanging out with nowhere to go/be.

Since this whole post was entirely outside of the apparent-theme of this blog, here’s a picture of a purse I made last week (the print is tiny butterflies, and the lining is a floral vintage sheet.) It was the first thing I ever sewed from a pattern (this one), and I found the whole process way more time-consuming than I expected. I’m pretty happy with the results, although in the end, I don’t love my fabric choices (I think it needs more of a color “pop” somewhere.)

purse

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Felting Fun

I realize the timing of this post is a little off, since most of us (myself included!) are thinking Spring (and not wool sweaters) but I’ve had it half-written for a while, so here goes.

This past winter I decided to try out felting (after seeing an awesome patchwork throw blanket in a magazine) and found it to be a really fun, easy, and versatile craft. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this form of felting, you basically machine wash and dry wool sweaters, which (as you’d expect) shrinks them up, creating a thick, dense wool material that’s easily cut and doesn’t unravel, making it ideal for all kinds of projects. Both of my daughters’ teachers got felted wool projects as (part of) their Christmas gifts this year –

Felted wool wreath –

wreath

Felted wool business card/gift card holder –

card holder

(I also made myself one)

felt

Although I’m far from an expert on felting wool, I’ve been having fun with it for a few months now. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way 🙂

Be picky when choosing sweaters. Stick to those that are at least 80% wool. Still, I’ve had, by far, the best luck using 100% wool sweaters. While I’ve heard that other animal fibers will also felt well, that wasn’t true in my experience (I also had minimal luck getting merino wool to shrink up to the consistency I prefer). Keep an eye out for bright fun prints & patterns, but be aware that knits with “things” (animals, letters, etc.) may be rendered undecipherable by the felting process. I got my sweaters at thrift stores, almost all of them on “half-off” day (for $3.50 or so).

Don’t over-shrink. It’s fine to run a sweater through another cycle if it didn’t shrink as much as you’d like the first-time around. But do this with a bit of caution – I had a couple sweaters shrink too much, making the material too rough and almost wavy in texture.

Use very sharp scissors (or rotary cutter blade) These are kind of obvious, but since you don’t hem felted wool, it’s important to cut with a nice sharp blade for a clean edge.

Take advantagcupe of sweater parts. For example, in probably the quickest project I’ve ever done, I made this pencil cup by cutting off part of a  sleeve and sliding it over a tin can.

 

 

 

Hand vs. Machine Sewing felted wool. You can sew felted wood either by hand or using your sewing machine. I tried it both ways and strongly preferred to do it by hand. It’s very easy to work with, and I liked the flexibility of using colorful crewel wool or embroidery floss and various stitches to create different looks. If you do choose to machine sew your felted wool, in most cases you can just “smush” the edges of the pieces you’re sewing together, and use a zig-zag stitch to sew across the both pieces (use a ball-point needle for knits).

I got great info about working with felted wool, as well as neat project ideas, from the book The Sweater Chop Shop by Crispina Ffrench (totally genuine, non-affiliate, non-sponsored recommendation).

Old Stereo Speakers Upcycled to Cat Tree

My inspiration for this upcycle was a double-decker cat bed made from an old suitcase that I saw a picture of. While keeping my eye out for a suitcase to use, I came across a set of mismatched beat-up stereo speakers on the side of the road. It was actually pretty interesting, because as I picked these up, the man who lived at the house came outside and told me to help myself to whatever I wanted (I also got a like-new artificial Christmas wreath). He then told me that he actually does “this” for a living, and proceeded to share the best nights to check out different neighborhoods and recommend an auction house if I ever decide to consign anything.

the crappy “before” pic I almost forgot to take

Despite having 1,001,001 projects waiting, and a few in progress, I got started on the speakers right away. It actually turned out to be a lot harder of a project than I anticipated! Part of it was due to my lack of certain power tools – a circular saw, in particular – and a real work table. I’ll be getting these things before starting anything else that requires sawing off 2x4s trying to cut a shape out of plywood.

As usual, I failed to take many “during” pictures. Steve helped me with the demo-ing, and that was the fun part. But I had failed to account for the fact that these weren’t real wood, rather a cheap particle-board material. The sides ended up falling off the smaller speaker, and it proved tricky to do any nailing or screwing without cracking a whole piece. But, I figured out that by relying mainly on L-brackets for support (and using tiny screws) I could make it work.

The top level was kind of an after-thought. I just cut a (rough) circle out of a piece of plywood that I had lying around and then used my staple gun to attach batting and then fabric.I sewed the pillows out of an old vintage sheet and hot glued a strip of velcro to the bottom and the surface so they wouldn’t constantly be falling off. I didn’t put a ton of effort into making everything look perfect – after all, this is just a cat tree, and it’s for my own home. But I think it turned out pretty cute, and it was definitely a TON cheaper than the carpet-covered cat trees you can buy in the store! Really, my only expense at all was the fabric and paint, which I already had, (and which barely cost anything anyway – the paint was from the mis-tint section, and the fabric was a remnant and an old sheet.)