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Monday, November 25, 2013

The sewing pattern is HERE!


I'd planned on having an incredibly productive weekend. Shawn was home and available to watch Liam, so I made tea and turned on Pandora and was all set up to tackle several Brighter Day orders and finish up the clutch tutorial. And then, all of a sudden, I accidentally grabbed my rotary cutter by its blade and sliced my thumb all the way down to the muscle. Ouch. The doctor at the urgent care center took one look and said, "Yeah... that's gonna need stitches." So he stitched me up and it's feeling terrible but looking really good. And I realized quickly that your thumb is one of those things you need to get any sewing done... or cooking, cleaning, packing for Thanksgiving trips, or tending to a one year old. The Lord knows exactly what we need. I thought I needed productivity. He knew I needed rest. He won.

All that to say, I am very thankful I was still able to wrap up the pattern and tutorial for the Sydney clutch and it's available HERE! I'm so excited! I also have some DIY clutch kits available in the shop, both for the hardware and for the hardware + fabric. I've been as thorough as possible with pictures of each step, and I even included a page of fabric resources to let you in on my secrets of where I purchase all my supplies. Even the beginner beginner can do this and come out with a classy purse to give as a gift or keep for yourself. 

While the digital pattern is available as an immediate download as soon as you purchase it, the kits will be sent out Monday, Dec. 2 as soon as I get back in town from Thanksgiving.

It feels like the most wonderful time of the year to be making hot chocolate, dusting off your sewing machine, and creating handmade gifts for those you love. So happy shopping and happy sewing!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A boy and his books.

The day we brought Liam home from the hospital, I felt what most brand new moms undoubtedly feel: a little lost. He was just 24 hours old, I was as hormonal and sleep-deprived as I'd ever been, and I wished he'd come with a manual of what to do next. Though I had plenty of experience babysitting, being a mom was a completely new experience. 

But the moment I cozied up in his big brown rocker, held his warm body on my chest and read to him, I felt a little less lost. I read the The Jesus Storybook Bible out loud, and even though I couldn't get through more than a sentence without tearing up, reading to my one-day-old son calmed him. It calmed both of us. Reading to him became one of the few times I felt natural as a mother. So we read. Every day.

If we're home for lunch these days, we have a few minutes after we've eaten before he takes his afternoon nap. So I strip him down to his diaper and as I clean the kitchen, he heads to his favorite spot: his box of books. He pulls them out one by one, flips the pages quietly, and makes my heart sing. There may be very little evidence right now that I'm doing something right as his mother. But this? This feels right. I might even go so far as to say it feels like a legacy. If in a small way I'm passing down a love for reading and learning to him, I'll consider it a big accomplishment as his mom. 
Maybe you're looking for good books to give as Christmas gifts for a niece, a nephew, or your little one? The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing are by far our favorites. We read them every day. But we also love these:




Do you have book recommendations for Liam? I'm sure he'd love to hear...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Brighter Day Patterns: Sydney Clutch.

I've been working hard on my very first digital sewing patterns, and I've decided to release the Sydney Clutch pattern first. It's a super popular design, simple enough for beginners, and will be available in plenty of time for Christmas. If you weren't sure what to give your mom or best friend or sister? Make them a clutch! There's nothing like giving something handmade, and something you've personalized with your own fabric choices. I've designed this pattern and tutorial so that even a beginner can tackle it, zipper and all. There are photos of each step and plenty of explanations.

Some questions answered: 
How long does it take for the pattern to be delivered? Once your payment goes through, you'll be able to download the pattern immediately, print it at home, and get started.

Can I sell what I make from the pattern? Yes! The Sydney Clutch is one of my top sellers, and you can now sell it in your own shop or handmade market.

How long does it take to make one clutch? This definitely depends on your sewing experience, but allowing two to three hours should be plenty of time.

I'll also be putting a few "hardware kits" in my shop which include the pre-cut faux leather pieces for the corners and zipper pull, as well as the metal zipper. You can definitely find these things outside of my shop (and cut your own faux leather), but I thought it may make things easier to have them cut and sent to your door. I'll also be selling full kits - fabric, hardware, pattern and all - in the very near future.
Woohoo! I'm excited to make this available to all of my DIY friends out there, just in time for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Phil Vischer on Dreams.

If you've grown up in the US and haven't been living under a rock, it's likely you know of Veggie Tales? Well, Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales (and voice of Bob the Tomato), gave a talk at Liberty University a couple years ago that is absolutely profound. It's on dreams. On dreams that God gives and takes away. On why He might ever do such a thing.
Shawn and I heard him at Moody Bible Institute's Founder's Week in 2009 and I remembered snippets of his speech since then. It's that powerful. If you have half an hour, I think it will bless and challenge you immensely.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In the kitchen again.

My sous chef, sorting strawberries.
Just after we got married in December 2008, Shawn and I moved into a corner apartment on W. Elm Street in downtown Chicago. Being in such a central location, there were two grocery stores within a block of us. As I walked home from work each day, I'd stop at one of them and think, "What should we eat tonight?" and pick something up. Our dinners were usually simple - lots of pasta with veggies and chicken - but they felt lavish. We felt the warmth of newlywed bliss and our cozy apartment as the snow fell outside. Elm Street remains our favorite spot we've ever lived. We ate salmon once or twice a week, I baked muffins or breads almost every day, and we soaked it up. Our budget could hardly handle it, but it was all we knew. Eating well, often, together. Every restaurant you could imagine was just outside our door, but it usually felt better to stay out of the cold and cook.

Within a few months, though, my gluten allergy reared its ugly head. We spent months not knowing why my health was declining, and finally got an answer 8 months and countless doctors' visits after my initial symptoms. With my diagnosis - Celiac disease - came a mix of relief and anxiety. We were grateful to know how I could get better. But what was I supposed to cook without half the ingredients I knew and loved?

I picked up a gluten free baking mix at Whole Foods and made my first scone. What came out of the oven tasted dense and sprouty, and I cried. It wasn't the taste that brought the tears. I was convinced I'd never eat a baked good that tasted good for the rest of my life. I grieved the loss of my favorite ingredients and the comfort they brought. I had just gotten the hang of cooking for my new husband, and now, I had to start all over. I had to relearn how to cook.

Then came our move to Nashville which commenced an intensely busy season. We lived a 20 minute drive from our favorite grocery store, which meant I really had to plan or we'd end up eating out. I was juggling a part-time job teaching painting classes, then working from home on Brighter Day, and going to nursing school. Planning, prepping, cooking, cleaning - it all felt like such a burden. I didn't want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking because I felt like whatever I made usually didn't taste good anyway.

So when Shawn would ask about dinner, I would get defensive, as if he was insinuating it was my wifely duty to take care of all the cooking on top of everything else I was juggling. (A man's gotta eat, though, right?) We ended up at Chipotle more times than I can count. We would eat there 3 to 4 times a week for months. Seriously. I blamed it on busyness, which was partly true. But mostly I was just so frustrated by my limitations.

That catches us up to today: here in Raleigh in our first home with our first child. With one of us in full-time ministry and one working from home, we have a budget that demands we eat in more than we eat out. We also have a one year old who does not behave kindly in restaurants.

And finally, five years after my gluten allergy diagnosis, I'm beginning to feel really comfortable in the kitchen again. These days, I actually want to be there. I've begun to plan meals out two weeks in advance, which takes less than an hour and spares me so much time agonizing when meal time rolls around. It's a different season for us. Less fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants in many ways. But I'm learning to love it.

Whereas cooking just last year felt like such a chore, today it's feeling much more like a privilege. Just this weekend, we had blackened chicken tacos for lunch, rosemary tomato soup with homemade parmesan croutons and a salad with lemon vinaigrette for dinner, and apple crisp for dessert. I make most of Liam's baby food and I love seeing if he'll enjoy what I've steamed and mashed and created for him. And today when I cook, it's rare that I think, "Is this gluten-free?" It's become so natural to cook gluten-free that it's not an issue anymore. Instead, I chop onions and glide across the hardwood floor and stir soup and feed little bits to the tiny boy hanging onto my leg. And at mealtime, I watch as my boys' bodies are filled and nourished, and their souls can breathe. It's something no restaurant - however delicious - can do for my family. And in that way, it feels like such a gift.

PS - I just went looking for our old apartment on Craigslist... sure enough, this post came up and the first four pictures are pictures of our apartment when we first moved in! Gotta love our blow up mattress, Shawn's guitar case, and the cross wall in the living room. Makes me nostalgic. (And whew... prices have gone way up!)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Real books.

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If you've hung around this blog for long, you know I'm a reader. A lover of books. The bookworm in me would love to section off a corner of our home and create a library where I'd spend a couple hours each day under a thick blanket devouring novels. Someday, perhaps.

Right now, though, I typically do most reading for pleasure on my iPhone or Kindle before I fall asleep. I'm a little embarrassed to say that, though, because I'm still very partial to physical books. There's just nothing that replaces the feel and smell and weight of real pages between my fingers, not to mention the deep breath I take when I'm away from technology.

Two articles - one a lecture and another a blog post - have expounded on this perfectly. And their passion for reading books (real, physical books!) thrills me. Selfishly, I want Liam to grow up in a world with books and libraries and librarians and not just screens.

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming
This is the abridged transcript of a lecture given by author Neil Gaiman, which is "an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things." His is a convincing argument (and it's peppered through with delightful British terminology, which I love). 
"I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content."

RJ Palacio: What E-books Can't Do
RJ Palacio authored Wonder which you must read if you haven't already. This post about her mother's handed down books brought me to tears. 
"I had forgotten about this habit of my mother’s: to underline in pencil the sentences or paragraphs in a book that moved her. So I read The Land of Spices as annotated by my dead mother, who I missed more than words can possibly express, and it was, for a while, like I was having a conversation with her. She spoke to me through these mysterious underlined passages. She whispered confidences. She reached me, briefly, from that place beyond words. We shared secrets. I loved the book and I think I know why she loved it. And this all happened after she died."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

DIY: Falling Leather Stars.

This type of DIY project is my favorite: low cost, low time commitment, and high impact in a kid's room. I felt like Liam needed some "kid" elements in his room to make it feel less formal and decorated, and this is a good start.
Supplies: 
1/2 yard faux (or real) leather - like this or this (I used faux leather/vinyl that I had on hand)
Scissors
Sewing machine
String
Small hole punch or awl
Scotch tape

Cut your leather (or vinyl) into long strips that are at least 5" wide. Place two strips wrong sides together (so that the leather faces the outside). If you're using real leather and concerned about your sewing machine, pick up a set of leather needles. With the vinyl I used, it was lightweight enough to be no problem at all.
Remember drawing stars in elementary school? That's exactly what you're going to do with your sewing machine. They do not have to be perfect. In fact, it looks way more fun if they're not! If you're nervous about sewing without a line to follow, use a knitting needle or a mechanical pencil without the lead to trace out your lines before sewing them. If not, just go for it! You want to make sure you're sewing the two layers together as you sew the shape of a star. Repeat this for at least 8-10 stars.
Once you've sewn several stars on a strip, cut them out with your scissors, leaving a small edge around them. Then with a tiny hole punch (or an awl or ice pick), make a hole in the top of each star. 

I used cotton string to thread through the hole, tie it off, and cut off the end. Repeat for each star. Make sure to leave several feet of thread (up to 5 feet) on each star so that you can play around with the different lengths once you choose a place to hang them. Finally, using a small piece of scotch tape, tape them to the ceiling at different heights over your baby's crib, your child's bed, or over a play area. Trim off the ends of the string and you're done! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I shall not want.

This lyric is stuck in my head (again). In case you missed it the first time, listen to the song here. It's a powerful reminder as the holidays approach that His goodness in our lives is all we need.

(Feel free to download this and use it as the background of your phone or print it out and tape it to your mirror. If you click on the image, it will take you to a large image that you can drag to your desktop.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Coming soon: Patterns.

Since Liam has been much more mobile, it's been nearly impossible to get anything done, especially when it comes to sewing. (You moms are all nodding your heads... you could've seen this from a mile away.)

So the whole trying-to-sew-while-Liam-is-awake is just not working. As I've opened the shop back up, it's been equally exciting and overwhelming to see orders rolling in because my time with the sewing machine is just so limited right now. 

But I think I've come up with a solution. I really want to keep Brighter Day going, but would love to spend my free time doing something other than sewing. 

The solution? 
Sewing patterns! 

In just a couple weeks, I'll be unveiling my very first sewing pattern to purchase for immediate digital download. The first pattern I'm working on is a roomy ruffle tote with an inside zipper pocket and a magnetic snap. It will be available in my Etsy shop as well as here on the blog. I'll guide you step by step with photos and diagrams, so that it will be perfectly suitable even for beginners. There will also be pattern pieces to print out and tape together and use over and over again. Purchasing the pattern will also allow you to make the bag to sell - either in your own Etsy shop or elsewhere. And it's coming out in plenty of time to make these as Christmas gifts!

How does this sound? Intriguing? Overwhelming? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions... and even what other patterns you'd like to see. I know lots of you have asked about a pattern for the Sydney clutch, so that may be my very next venture. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tuscan White Bean Soup.

This soup has become a staple during cooler months. It's flavorful, very filling, and naturally gluten- and dairy-free. I've made it for three winters now, but with more frequency than ever in recent weeks as we've discovered it's Liam's very favorite food. He'll spit out pieces of chocolate cake, but he'll eat bowl after bowl of this. Go figure. I like to double the recipe to save in the fridge for easy lunches. It also freezes well.

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Kale
Adapted from A Lovely Morning

1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium size yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
3 15-oz. cans white cannellini beans
A few handfuls of chopped Tuscan kale, de-ribbed
Pinch of red chili flakes
Salt & pepper

1. Cook chopped onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat with a pinch of salt until soft, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and rosemary, then add carrots until the mixture is soft and fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper as you go, tasting the mixture along the way.
2. Add tomatoes and juice, along with a pinch of red chili flakes. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add beans and their broth and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, then use a potato masher to mash some of the beans. If you like an even smoother consistency, you can use an electric hand blender. Finally, stir in the kale. Add salt and pepper, if necessary, and (if you aren't on a dairy-free diet) garnish with sharp parmesan or cheddar when serving. It tastes even better the next day.

PS - The kitchen help… 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Liam turns 1.

Last weekend, we celebrated one year with Liam. I was determined to make it a simple event, and promised myself I'd stay far away from Pinterest. There's nothing wrong with going all out for a first birthday, of course. There's so much to celebrate! But for us - with a move just two weeks before and a whole lot on our plates - it felt right to keep it simple this year. Liam had everything he needed: all four grandparents in town to celebrate, a trip to Pullen Park, a roast dinner with his favorite sweet potato fries and baked cinnamon apples, and his first taste of cake. He had the sweetest blessings spoken over him by both his grandfathers. Little does he know how sacred that was.

On the morning of his birthday, I found myself nursing him early in the morning and whispering to him the story of his birth. How my water broke all over daddy's car and we knew right then we wouldn't leave the hospital without a baby in our arms. How he was blue when he came out, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. How his daddy caught him and placed him on my chest and he looked up at me like he'd known me for years. How he was was perfect. The most beautiful little thing I'd ever seen. It's a tradition in my family for one of my parents to recount the stories of our births every year on our birthdays, and now I understand why. It's a bigger day to the parent than it probably ever will be for the child. One of the most joyous, most memorable days of our lives.

I know that he felt so loved all weekend long. You could see it all over his face. As his mom, I couldn't ask for anything better.