Kendra + Jared

We just got back from a week in Ohio having fun at many wedding festivities in honor of my brother-in-law Jared and new sister-in-law Kendra! Now it’s back to the madness of teaching summer school and those final dissertation revisions/edits/additions/rewrites (did I mention I am submitting it to my committee in about a month? and defending in mid-September?!) But let’s relive some of that wedding fun in pictures now, shall we?

Rehearsal Dinner:

Wedding Day:


Flower Hair Clip Giveaway Winners

We have our winners!

Commenter #12, Mary, who thought “Carnival” would look cute on her granddaughter.

Commenter #10, Sara, who had many favorites, but particularly liked the country-looking flower prints that would match her wardrobe.

Commenter #3, Lucia, whose daughter has strawberry-themed outfits to match “Petite Fraise.”

I know I said there’d be three winners, but taking the above clips out of the pile still left me with more than I can use at the moment, so I doubled the fun and picked three more:

Commenter #4, Stacy, whose daughter will wear “La Vie en Rose Encore” for the 4th of July

Commenter #7, Emily, who picked one of my personal favorites, “Deauville” inspired by the beaches and umbrellas of that French city.

Commenter #5, Alyson, whose vintage style will soon be accessorized by “Vintage Floral” and “Belle Epoque.”

I’ll e-mail you for your mailing addresses. If you don’t hear from me before seeing this post, feel free to e-mail me at rachel (at)

But wait! There’s more! Winners, let me know if you like any of the following new styles instead and I’m happy to send your new choice instead of the original one.

#11 + #12: Just Beachy, Big and Small

#13 + #14: Fête d’été, Big and Small

#15: Golden Girls

#16: Georgia

Thanks to all who commented. I appreciate the feedback! Happy weekend.

My other blogging project…

This is something I should have started years ago to keep track of my teaching materials and ideas, but better late than never. I’ve just started a blog about teaching French at the university level, and it’s called (in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way) En français, classe! My goal is to create a resource other instructors can use and maybe even someday contribute to. Check out my About page over there to read a more complete explanation of what I hope the site to be.

There are still a bunch of things to fix, like having drop-down category boxes in the toolbar, and making that header image a tad shorter so you can actually see some of the content, but these things can wait. I just wanted to get this going as I prepare to enter the academic job market post-defense (which, by the way, is scheduled for mid-September!) ?? What better way to show my teaching philosophy and methods than to refer potential employers to this blog? Now I can write about what I’m doing anyway, and it gives me a more productive break from the dissertation than, say, catching up on every craft and design blog I can think of.

What do you think?

Old Chair, New

My latest before and after:

This is a classic chair update, nothing too fancy or unusual here, but it’s so quick and easy, I thought I’d photograph the process and encourage others to take on a similar project. You can do this in an afternoon (including drying time), and the actual active time is only about an hour or so. That means that instead of taking coffee/snack breaks, just take a quick painting break and it really takes no time at all.

Before: We picked up these two chairs at a now-closed antique shop in Cold Spring. I think we paid around $10 each and the seller believed them to be from the 1920s. They were cool and rustic-looking, but had some issues, one of which was smelling kind of stale. I knew those chair pads had to go.

The wooden parts are pretty beat up, especially in the cut-out backing and around the bottom where feet have weathered away the corners.

So let’s get  going! First, I took off the seat, which was really easy. I turned the chair over and just had to unscrew four screws.

Next, I sanded it down so that the paint would adhere better.

I used white furniture paint and brushes, but would probably recommend a spray paint for an object with so many nooks and crannies.

The first coat will look terrible, but after 3 coats, it wasn’t looking too bad. I let it dry about an hour in between coats.

While the paint was drying, I dealt with the seat. See how there are 2 layers of fabric? That checkered layer is actually a napkin from Pier I. I figured it out as I took it apart: its still had its original tag with a $3.50 price. The orange layer is probably original, and below that was that old-school stuffing that just falls apart. I’m not sure what it’s made of. Animal hair of some sort? Anyway, I pulled out all of the staples and upholstery tacks and got down to the wooden base.

All clean and ready for new padding.

I just took the wooden seat to a sewing store that cuts foam to size and had a new foam pad (2 inches thick) in minutes. I discovered a place that does this only minutes from our house, so this was really an easy step in the process.

I measured the old fabric for size. I figured I needed a square about 22 inches wide.

So I measured my new fabric and laid the foam and seat on top to make sure I was giving myself enough clearance for the new pad height. I think most upholsterers use more than just the foam padding in this process: they would at least add a layer of batting to the top, but I was keeping it quick and simple.

By the way, the fabric is a Japanese print I found at Purl Soho a few months ago (no longer available there) and bought specifically for this project, since it has a heavier canvas-like Lose Weight Exercise. It’s by Nani Iro for Kokka and called “Antique Label.”

I used these tacks to attach the new fabric to the seat with a hammer. One package contains 24, but I actually needed 28, so I used some of the really old upholstery tacks I recovered from the old padding and used them on some of the parts that wouldn’t show as much (not that any really show being underneath.)

I used the same technique to do this as you would to stretch a canvas: Start in the middle on one side, then the middle on the other. Then turn 90 degrees and tack the middle right and middle left. Work this way slowly extending to the corners, leaving the corners for last.

All attached.

Now all I had to do was reattach the seat to the chair with the four screws I had taken out at the beginning.


Heritage Crafts Day at Van Cortlandt Manor

The rain couldn’t keep us from having a picnic by the river and then checking out the Heritage Crafts day at Van Cortlandt Manor. The event showcased crafts like dying wool, making butter, working with tin, blacksmithing, and open air cooking. It seems all we do each weekend is visit some sort of historic farm or museum! When you’ve got a toddler who gets excited about a haystack, and you’ve got a membership to Historic Hudson Valley, it’s really a no-brainer.

Walking down the hill to the picnic grounds.

Throwing stones into the river.

The blacksmith demonstration.

Was the sausage in the foreground there as decor or was it their lunch?

Playing the triangle.

Abercrombie & Fitch pose.

Jax interrupted his run to the hay to point out the “airplane sky” he probably thought didn’t fit in with the 17th-century surroundings.

New favorite game: jumping or falling down objects or stairs to be caught. He’s very trusting!

Home-made Finger Paint

I’ve made my own playdough before and it is a really easy project. But finger paint seemed so much more difficult! I don’t know why. If you have the patience to stand over a stove for 15-20 minutes stirring, then you can make the stuff. It’s just about time and having corn starch in the cupboard. Sheesh.

Three recipes can be found here. I used the first one, which was basically: combine 1/2 cup cornstarch, 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp sugar in a pan and stir over medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes, until it becomes a thick, almost gelatinous substance. Let it cool completely, then divide into jars and add food coloring. We made three colors using 15 drops of yellow, 15 of red, and 10 of blue.

Then we took it outside along with a bunch of brushes and a big piece of cardboard (white on one side!) and tried it out. It was a huge hit! Bonus: it washes right off and seems to clean easily from clothing, too.

Flower Hair Clip Giveaway

I’ve never done a blog giveaway before (I’ve never had a reason to), but I’ve been making so many of these clips in between dissertation edits and starting a new professional blog (more on that later – it’s not ready for public scrutiny yet!), that these things are starting to pile up. They really don’t take very long at all to make, but if you’re not into figuring it out, here’s your chance to have one anyway!

I’m going to give a bunch of these away, one larger clip or 2 smaller clips each to three different commenters. Just comment on this post by midnight Eastern Time, Friday, June 18 and tell me which one(s) you like best, and to what fun summer activity it/they will be worn. If the flowery frufru isn’t your thing, think about a young girl you know who might have fun with one of these. The giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere (that means international commenters, too!), so why not? If more than one winner chooses the same clip design, I’ll just make a duplicate. I have piles of these fabrics and a jar full of buttons. Also, feel free to let me know if there are different color/fabric/button combinations that you’d rather see.

I don’t think I’ll have the time to open up an etsy shop anytime soon, but I am curious to know which ones people like, for hand-made holiday gifts and the like. The ones with two fabrics measure about 8cm wide, and the smaller, single-fabric ones are around 5cm. I may add a bunch more after this weekend, so I’ll verify with the winners which one(s) they prefer, in case they change their minds if the options expand. In the mean time, feel free to comment away!

#1: A Little Bit Country

#2: La Vie en Rose

#3: Deauville

#4: La Vie en Rose Encore

#5: Carnival

#6: Pinks and Purples

#7: Vintage Floral

#8: Belle ?poque

#9: Petite Fraise

#10: Prairie

DIY Yo-yo Flower Hair Clips

Sometimes I dream of making a whole blanket out of fabric yo-yos. The technique is so quick and easy and it can make even old scraps of cothing look cute and cheerful. The reality is that it would take hundreds of yo-yos to make such a thing, and knowing myself, I’d loseWeight Exercise steam after barely finishing a quarter of them.

These flower clips are a great way to use yo-yos with almost instant gratification. You can make them out of any fabric you can hand-sew a needle through, and it’s a great way to use up scraps and random buttons you have laying around.

The variations are endless: you can layer several yo-yos of varying sizes, or just keep it simple and use only one. Instead of a clip, they could be made into pins or attached to headbands or off-center on the neckline of a boring blouse. I think they would be great gifts for a young girl, especially in the summer.

I’ve photographed the process and tried to create an easy explanation of how to make these. Let me know if you need any further clarification, and do share if you’ve tried it yourself!

DIY Yo-yo Flower Hair Clips

Step 1: Cut out your circles. You’ll need two different sizes for this version. I used a CD and the lid of a food container. I cut out a bunch of each size and play around with the fabric combinations once I have several.

Step 2: Make your yo-yos. Heather Bailey has an excellent tutorial for this.

Psst: you don’t even need to iron the fabric first!


Tie a knot to secure shut.

Step 3: Repeat to create a smaller yo-yo. When you pull the smaller one tight, make a knot but do not cut the thread. Using the thread, attach a button to the center of the yo-yo. I used this little strawberry one, which makes it look more sweet and child-like. A much larger button has a more funky effect. After attaching the button, make a knot in the back of the yo-yo, but still do not cut the thread.

Step 4: Attach the smaller yo-yo to the larger one by sewing into the middle of the larger yo-yo.

You now have two needles and to threads coming out of the back of the larger yo-yo.

Step 5: Tie the two threads together several times to secure. Cut one of the threads now (I did this a little out of order in the photos, which is why the second thread still appears in the 2 following photos.)

Step 6: Take a clip and lay it on top of the back of the yo-yo.

Step 6: Attach the clip to the yo-yo in three places on the clip, beginning in the middle. Cut the thread after securing each spot and re-knot it to begin the next. Technique:

First stick the needle into the yo-yo, under the bottom of the clip. Stick it back out just below the top part of the clip (photo above). Pull tight.

Now stick the needle into the top of the top part of the clip and stick it out on the top border of the bottom part of the clip (photo above).

Repeat until you’ve secured both the top and the bottom about three times.

Voila! Wear in a variety of ways, to accent a messy bun (like the photo at the beginning of this post), or just clip to one side to keep whispy hair out of your eyes. You can’t go wrong and you’ll feel instantly accessorized.

Memorial Day Weekend: Baby Animals Day at Muscoot Farm

For weeks I had my calendar marked on May 30th: Baby Animals Day! I couldn’t let Jax miss the excitement of good ol’ farm-themed fun. Plus, the visit is entirely free and is about 15 minutes away. He and I went with our friend Amanda and her now 4-month-old. While still too young to make all the animal sounds, I think the baby found the surroundings quite stimulating, especially the shady trees and the quite vocal cows!

In addition to a gathering of several historic farm buildings housing many animals, Muscoot Farm is also the site of a Sunday farmer’s market, so we hit that up first while the little ones napped. Then it was on to the stables and fields.

These lambs were only two weeks old.

Still too tired to check out the Jacob sheep.

When Jax woke from his nap he was delighted to discover himself surrounded by cows.

But he was quite apprehensive about petting the chick and kept a safe distance.

He wouldn’t get any closer to the duckling, either.

The  chicks were on the left and the ducklings on the right and he stood in this corner looking back and forth, pointing and saying “chicken, duck.”

And then, the mother of all farm birds: a gigantic turkey.

You can never stare at a tractor too long when you’ve only ever seen one in a book.

{Try to spot him pointing at the bottom of the video window.}

We saw cows get milked and remarked upon how the milking machines use the same mechanism as a human breast pump. I guess we’re all mammals.

We went back to look at the sheep and poney, which Jax had missed as he slept.

Jacob sheep, meet Jacob.

We went for a second round at the farmer’s market to pick up some dairy products and raisin bread. Jax tried the milk and bread immediately, but mostly had fun just ripping it apart.

Good-bye for now. We are sure to be back to watch the baby animals as they grow!

Memorial Day Weekend: Animals and Acrobats

We kicked off the long weekend on Saturday with a trip to the Van Cordlandt Manor. This 17th-century manor hosts a couple of big events each year, and the one that celebrates the opening of the summer season is called Animals and Acrobats. It’s an old-school carnival/circus show, with music and puppets and various performers (the eponymous acrobats of course). Birds of prey and horses were also a hit.

The event was also a great excuse to hang out with another family we recently met that also has a 1-year-old. While the boys are still too young to really understand playing together, they enjoyed the same things, and it was a great time chatting with the parents!

See the bales of hay in the foreground? That was a major attraction to the toddler set.

We are all staring at a huge owl sitting in the grass over in the shade.

“Hoo hoo”

Both the boys loved this puppet show. It was classic Punch and Judy, and most of the jokes were about drinking too much, but it was captivating to them.

Watching the musicians on our walk back to the car.

In all, the event is probably one that will only get more interesting as Jax gets older. Eventually he’ll want to watch the juggler of fire and learn about the hawks. For now, the music and puppets, the owl and climbing on the hay were entertainment enough!