23 December 2009

Nativity Tunic/Costume Tutorial

Occasionally, being able to sew is a very useful skill.

I love all the free sewing tutorials that are all over the internet. People are so generous with their instructions and pictures and I have benefited many times.

So last week when I was looking for a tutorial for a basic Mary & Joseph nativity costume, I was surprised to find that there wasn't much available. The only thing I found were some very basic instructions on blurtit.com. The woman that posted those proved to be my lifesaver, though, as I was trying to put something together to help out a friend desperate for a costume for our church christmas program the next night.

Her instructions said this:
This is the method I used:
2- 2/3 yards (8 feet) x 2 ½ feet (30) inches for gown. Cut a 8 inch circle in center.
22 inches x 22 inches square for sleeve. Fold in half.
Cut a slit down front and bind edges. Hem around neck
pin center of sleeve to gown length center. Sew side and sleeve seams.

In hoping to give back a little to all who have shared a tutorial with me, I wanted to expand those basic instructions with some pictures, and perhaps someone else will be able to make a very simple tunic-style gown that is useful for many costumes.

Woman size: uses about 3 yards of fabric (I used 45" wide muslin)
Man size: uses about 4 yds fabric
1) For a woman's size tunic, cut fabric 28" x 3 yards (108") For a man's size tunic cut fabric 30" x 3 yds. 14 inches (122") Fold in half and cut out a half circle on the fold for the neck hole. 6" diameter circle for a woman 7" diameter circle for a man
2) Cut a 3-4" slit starting at the center of the circle you just cut
3) Hem the slit
4) With the remaining scraps of fabric, first cut two pieces for sleeves.
16" x 22" for women,
22" x 22" for men.
Set these two sleeve pieces aside.

5) With what is left, cut bias strips 3" wide and stitch together to make a bias strip about 30-35" long. Press this bias strip in half and then each half to the inside to make bias tape, pressing one raw end also to the inside.

6) Sew the bias tape around the neck, starting with the finished end of the bias tape.When you get to the other side of the neck you will need to trim the excess tape and turn under the end before you finish sewing.
7) Fold the two sleeves in half. For the woman sleeve, fold along the 16" side. Pin the center of the sleeve to the gown length center. Serge (or sew and then zigzag) around this sleeve seam.
8) Match and pin the insides of the sleeve right at the armpit, then serge (or sew and then zigzag) along the inside of the sleeve continuing all the way down to the bottom of the tunic.

9) Press all seams, then hem sleeves and bottom to desired length.

It is a very, very basic gown/tunic, but I was able to quickly sew four of them--two for my friends who played Mary and Joseph and two for me and Jeff. I also made a couple of vests for the men to wear over their tunics using the same basic pattern, by cutting and hemming the neck slit all the way down the bottom of the tunic, and leaving off the sleeves.

At one point in the evening, Jeff had to remove his brown vest and be the Angel Gabriel for someone who didn't show up.

I hope this tutorial is helpful--If you use it and find it confusing, please comment with any questions or suggestions and I'll try to help.

22 December 2009

The biggest word you've ever heard and this is how it goes, oh

My obsession with Facebook Scrabble is rubbing off on my boys. The scrabble tiles are currently the toy-of-the-week in our house.

One of my favorite things about James is how much he loves words. This morning we sat together and did the newspaper crossword puzzle and he loved it just as much as I did. I'm a bit of a word junkie myself.

I predict, in the not-so-far-distant future, some very serious games of scrabble with him, and I can't wait.

19 December 2009

Two cuties

James, 7 months old, 2003

Henry, 7 months old, 2009

Two look-alike boys, six years apart, learned first to scoot only backwards and got stuck underneath the same bed. Is it embarrassing that we've been using the same flannel sheets for six years? At least we finally got a bed skirt.

17 December 2009

A New Obsession

I just finished reading three really great books. If you're my friend on goodreads, you would know that I gave each one 5 stars, which for me is rare. I am very picky with the books I choose to read.

These three books were all written by midwives, who tell, in their own words, the different stories of many, many births. These women take you into their lives and into the lives of their patients' homes, where most of the babies are delivered. For some reason, I never tire of reading birth stories, especially when they are written with such detail that you feel like you are there witnessing the actual event, as these are.

This book was recommended to me by my high school friend, Paige, who said, "it made me want to change professions", and I might have to agree. Peggy Vincent is a great writer. Each chapter tells the story of another unique birth, mostly happy and healthy, though sometimes quite frantic and even sad. Her stories take place mostly in the 1980s and '90s in Berkeley, California, where she was a nurse-midwife practicing home births. I laughed and cried through this book and learned much that I didn't know about the whole process of birth.

A Midwife's Story, by Penny Armstrong & Sheryl Feldman

I enjoyed this book not only because of the amazing birth stories it told, but also because it taught me many things about the Amish culture/society that I did not know. They are an interesting people, and Penny Armstrong lived among them and delivered many of their babies.

The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth, though not a nun herself, lived with and trained to be a midwife in a convent with a group of nuns. Worth, along with these Sisters, delivered the babies of the poor, working-class women living in the slums of London in post-war 1950s. The living conditions of these people with which she worked are described in disturbing detail.

The countless birth stories she tells are fascinating and well-written, and occasionally we step away from her day-to-day midwife responsibilties to learn a bit of the history of her patients.

If you have any interest in this topic, these books come highly recommended by yours truly. Let me know if you read any of them.

15 December 2009

This one is for Donnie

Okay, so I don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty proud of the word I just played in Scrabble, and, well, I just had to brag. Donnie, this one was worth only 65 points, compared to your 89 for DEADBEAT, but I also used all 7 tiles, a first for me.

I'm also loving this Facebook Scrabble--I have been playing with my sisters and sis-in-law for the past few weeks. That is the best thing about it--you open a game and play whenever you get around to it. So a game can be as short or long as you want it to be.

G&G Troxler would be so proud of the way we're exercising our minds. We'll see if Alisa and Emilee can compete with AVIATION. woot.

05 December 2009

Ode to the couches

Jeff and I decided to buy each other a couch for Christmas this year, since we've had the same couch and loveseat the entire eight years we've been married. We very gratefully acquired these free couches one month before our wedding. They were very comfortable and in great shape, but originally made of a cream-colored shiny brocade fabric which was impossible to keep clean.

In 2003, after owning the couches for two years and apologizing too many times for the stained, ripped cushions, I decided to try my hand at some custom slipcovers. Turns out they were much harder than Hildi made them look every Saturday night on Trading Spaces, but after all was said and done, I was proud of how they turned out.

Today, a nice couple came and bought the couches. It was inevitable, we only have one living room and our new one will be delivered soon.

But still, it was sad. The couches have followed us to three apartments and one house, and have countless memories of nursing babies, reading stories, taking naps, and watching football.

Stay tuned for a reveal of our new living room.

27 November 2009

Hometown Thanksgiving

This year, since moving to Eugene four years ago, we didn't leave town for Thanksgiving.

In fact, we had a lot of firsts:
  • We went to cheer on Jeff running in the 5K Turkey Stuffer
  • Which ended up at the local indoor pool and let all the families of race participants swim for free
  • Finally used my china
  • Cooked my first turkey--stuffed the skin with yummy sage butter.
  • Finished off the day eating a fabulous dinner with great friends

23 November 2009

What's for dinner?

I checked out this book from the library to get some new dinner ideas and the first one I made was delicious. The book is full of all kinds of stews and casserole-type meals which is just what I always want to eat at this time of year.

This one is a Latin American Pork Stew and what made it so good was the combination of pork, sweet potatoes and cilantro. Even Jeff who hates cilantro loved it in this stew. I think it's because cooked cilantro has a more subtle flavor than fresh.

We ate it with corn tortillas steamed for one minute in wet paper towels in the microwave. I also ate it with raw cabbage, but that won't surprise anyone that knows me. I eat cabbage with everything.

Latin American Pork Stew

4 servings

olive oil
2 large pork loin chops (or whatever pork you want), cut into small pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1) Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil and brown seasoned pork pieces. Transfer to baking dish with a lid.
2) Cook onion in pan drippings for about 5 minutes then add garlic and cook for one minute longer.
3) Add tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, salt, coriander, cayenne and chicken broth. Heat to boiling, then add to baking dish with pork. Cover and bake 15 minutes.
4) Stir in sweet potatoes; cover and bake 30 minutes longer. Stir in black beans, cover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

I'm sure you could also do this in the slow cooker and add potatoes and beans at the end.

18 November 2009


Notice the clutter covering the kitchen counters. ugh

My mom is an organized, orderly person. She keeps a clean, generally clutter-free house and although it drove me crazy as a child trying to meet her standards, I now greatly admire her ability to do so.

So during her visit last month, when she was admiring my creativity and various sewing projects and said to me, "grandma and I just wonder where you find time to do it all," I laughed and told her the way I "do it all" is by being a terrible housekeeper.

"I will walk past piles of toys and clutter on my way to the sewing table," I said.

And she responded with something like, "but that's okay. I think it's better to be making things and creating than cleaning up all the time. I wish I was more like that--able to ignore the messes and be creative. You can always clean, but you can't always sew."

Here is where I pause so that all my siblings can shut their dropped jaws. I know, right? Who knew our mother favored creativity over cleanliness. Who knew?

Up until that conversation I have always thought of this as a major weakness for me. I love to make things and hate to clean up afterward. I will step over toys and piles of laundry and full of dirty dishes and (heaven help me), I will even clear off a little spot on the kitchen counter just big enough for cooking dinner. I am not one of those who can't cook a meal until the kitchen is clean. No way.

More than I care to admit, I've been mortified when someone stops by unexpectedly and they get a glimpse into my cluttered life.

But, hey, mom says its okay. So, at least today I feel a little less pressure to make a major overhaul of my housekeeping skills. Like that will ever happen.

09 November 2009

A new thrifting treasure

A few weeks ago we had a very lucky thrifting day. We found ourselves a copy of this book for 65 cents. It actually turned out to be an even better deal than we knew at the time, because it is currently out of print.

We love Ed Emberley's drawing books. He uses basic shapes drawn out step-by-step that turn into unique animals and faces and other everyday objects. His method is easy enough to make anyone more confident in their drawing skills.

In fact, recently 4-year-old Owen has taken to drawing more than just scribbles and random shapes. I think it is because he discovered that he could follow the few steps given in this book

to draw animals and he and I and Jeff and James were amazed at the final product. It gave him the confidence to draw more.

For quiet time today I surprised him with a new notebook just for his drawings and I can't wait to watch the pages fill up and a new little artist finding his own style in our house.

04 November 2009

What a difference a year makes

My parents were recently here for their annual Halloween visit. They've been coming to Oregon for Halloween the past few years, as our G&G Troxler did when we were little. Halloween is definitely a holiday better spent with children, and we love visitors.

Last week, while waiting for them to arrive, I couldn't help but think about last year's visit. Mom came alone to rescue me from weeks of pregnancy-induced sickness and serious neglect of my children and my home. Also, Jeff was out of town and the thought of making three meals a day for children in my current state overwhelmed me to tears.

She came and stayed longer than her usual three days (because she lives by the adage that guests and fish stink after 3 days), cooked delicious bland meals that soothed this pregnant lady's sick stomach, sewed a vampire cape, cleaned my house every single day, did all our laundry, let me sleep in, transported James to and from school, and listened to me complain about feeling crummy and how I would never, ever have any more children.

I cried after she left. However, I also found within myself a renewed energy to face the difficult weeks full of nausea that were still ahead.

This year Mom and Dad came together once again, and we had great food, watched some great football (go Ducks!) and baseball, and even enjoyed a rare sunny Oregon fall day.

Needless to say, I am so, so happy to be here in 2009 with Henry making me smile and fall more in love with him everyday as opposed to there in 2008 when he mostly just made me run to the toilet.

23 October 2009

To all you nursing mamas

I just finished reading The Birth House, by Ami Mckay (thanks Ilene for the recommendation), which was a good read except for the fact that I think it diverged a bit too much from the birth stories that it promised to tell. The few birth stories it shared were fascinating and I love, loved all the references to the natural remedies used in the older days.

In the story, Miss B is the resident midwife and healer of sorts in the small Nova Scotia village who has a vast knowledge of herbal tinctures for use by women in every stage of their "courses". Her willow book is an encyclopedia of remedies like:
  • rubbing dill seed oil on a colicky child's belly
  • sage to help with afterbirth pains, but careful! it dries up milk. brew sage tea when weaning a babe
  • brew mother's heart with babyberry bark to make a tea to stop excessive bleeding
Being a nursing mama myself right now, I was most interested with the references to the galactagogues: natural agents which promote the secretion and flow of breast milk. I discovered this tea which includes a combination of three galactagogues--fennel, anise and coriander, and have been drinking it daily. It is surprisingly delicious, soothing and promoting healthy lactation for this little chubster:

21 October 2009


Whether the actual h1n1 virus really did invade our house is yet to be known; I'm assuming it did on the basis of the high fevers, bad coughs, and congestion that have manifest themselves in my boys for going on 4 days now. This thing is really quite bad.

I did what the CDC requested and kept them home from school, and it has been an interesting week to say the least. James, who has a pretty great immune system and didn't miss a single day last year has now missed three in a row and might even miss the whole week. Jeff mentioned today that the school district attendance numbers have been so wonky that they can't even use them to calculate statistics like they normally do.

I'll say I have never administered so much ibuprofen, tylenol and squirts of anti-bacterial gel in my years as a parent. But surprisingly, having three boys quarantined at home has been calmer, and less stressful than I expected at the beginning of the week when I realized the normal schedule was going to be thrown out the window. I'm sure it is just because they have very little energy to fight with me or each other.

Even stranger than how calm I've been is how the littlest Fuller appears, so far, to be immune to this thing. He's been a bit grumpier and more whiny than usual, but the things that appear to make him grumpy and sleeping bad are not the things that are making the other two grumpy and sleeping bad.

Here's to hoping that this is our one and only rendezvous with the swine and that the youngest and oldests in the family never get it.

11 October 2009

Three things. . .

. . .that completely overwhelm me:

1) the constant clutter of daily living, including, but not limited to: cooking, eating, getting the mail, wearing clothes and sleeping in beds
2) switching out my children's summer and winter clothes and trying to keep all the sizes organized for next year's use
3)the lack of freedom to buy on a whim that comes along with living on a tight budget

. . .that I really love:

1) cooking more soup and comfort food for dinner on cool fall nights
2) college football games every Saturday
3) the peace-of-mind that comes along with making that tight budget really work each month

07 October 2009

What are you making?

When I find myself at the cutting counter, the employees will often ask, "what are you making?" I want to work at a fabric store just so I can ask that very question. I would love to hear what projects people are creating in their heads and piecing together in their sewing rooms.

Sometimes I think I hear creative juices bubbling as women read the pattern books or browse and handle the prints and textures on the fabric aisles. I get a litle giddy when I'm among seamstresses; I always just want to glean a tidbit or two about their technique.

If you ever want to make my day, just ask me what I'm working on--but then again, I might talk too long about it. So as long as you're willing to tell me what project you have in your head or on the cutting table, we could sit and talk about it all day.

It is also for this reason that I want to work at a grocery store. It is, in my opinion, another place where creative juices bubble in the minds of the aisle browsers. If I was a grocery checker I would pose the same question over and over to my customers, "what are you making with all these ingredients?" I also know that 75 percent of them would stare at me blankly with nary an answer to that, because they know that they will be asking themselves that question at dinnertime tomorrow when they realize that nothing they bought will actually make a meal.

So, in case you were wondering, at the moment I am working on a meatball gnocchi for dinner and a diaper bag for my sis-in-law. Thanks for asking.

05 October 2009

Little Artists

So I have discovered that encouraging the budding artists in my house can be a messy endeavor.

If I had a nickel for each time I almost stepped or sat on this:
I would be a very rich woman by now. (I promise I didn't stage that photo)

But I've also discovered that these are the kind of messes I don't mind cleaning up, stepping over or pushing to the side because of the creations and creativity that result.

26 September 2009

Garden 2009: part 4

So it turns out I'm not the worst gardener in the world. Apparently the vegetable varieties I planted this year were just late bloomers. The green beans finally blossomed, as did the yellow squash and one very large butternut squash is now growing on that vine.

It has been a delicious September with this late harvest and the unseasonably warm Oregon weather.

***Oh, and to all who asked, zucchini relish is a delicious condiment introduced to me by a lady in my ward last year. I found the recipe she uses and I used this year here. It's easy to make, a great way to use up all your zucchini, and is delicious on hot dogs and mixed into tuna.