Every November blogs get taken over by gratitude posts, a month of Thankful.  Yesterday (November 1) it occurred to me that writing a month of gratitude posts might be a good writing exercise and good for my mental health.  But yesterday was a loooonnnngggg day and by the time the kids were in bed I only had energy for Masterpiece Theater, so I wrote nothing.  If you are curious- I was going to write about being grateful for medical science.

Which brings me to today, where fate decided to mess with my head.  It all started last night when Phoenix had an earthquake, one that I felt but told myself it was the wind because, earthquakes in Arizona?, right. About 2 am one of my daughters woke me up to tell me that her throat still hurt- really bad (the same throat that only hours ago tested negative for strep). I made a mental note that the sore throat should probably stay home from school with the other child who tested positive for strep.

Cue sun-up and the off-spring who was going to school chose not to get up….its a long drawn out story that I’ll spare you to save the embarrassment of all involved but suffice it to say the whole experience ended with a screaming match between a parent and child about the child not taking responsibility for themselves. The child was an hour late to school.

In the middle of the above “situation” our cat barfed on the living room carpet. She kindly decided to spread the love around, it wasn’t all in one place.

I was trying to go with the flow, two kids home from school, one legitimately feeling bad and the other just waiting for that magical 24 hour since antibiotic window and feeling just fine (read- doesn’t want to lay on the couch and rest all day). Everything had calmed down and I decided it was safe to take a shower.

On my way to start the shower I noticed that the cat missed her litter box by an inch and there was cat poop on my floor. I took a deep breath cleaned it up and realized it wasn’t even 9:30am yet and good golly what else does Monday have up her sleeve?!

It was about this time that the thought popped into my head that I was going to write about gratitude. My inner self rolled her eyes, laughed and said something snarky about gratitude smatitute. Underneath all that snark though, is an understanding that this is all temporary and that there are plenty of good things to be happy about.

In the midst of this crazy morning I got a text saying the Cardinals won yesterday, which means half priced drinks at Sonic ALL DAY. So I know there will be a large Diet Coke in my future- and that makes me relax my shoulders a little bit. While my children might be sick, I know that it too is just temporary and unlikely to be serious. I have a roof over my head, clean clothes to wear, food to eat, a husband who will stick with me through this crazy roller coaster called “parenthood”, and good friends who will listen to me complain about my day.

Its all about perspective, how we choose to frame our days and our lives. When people have asked me about being a glass half empty or half full kind of person, I’ve always responded that I am a realist about life.  But really, I think I’m a closet optimist.  When I was fifteen I had some life changing epiphanies, one of which was realizing that I controlled my own destiny and that tomorrow could be as good as I made it.


Weight-y Matters


I have written this post in my head many times over the last four years, but I think its finally time to proverbially put pen to paper. This is an open letter to any of my friends who have ever lamented their weight in front of me.

Dear Friend,

I don’t see your weight.

Even if you think you are 50lbs or 150lbs above your target weight, I simply don’t notice it.  Maybe the first time I met you I made a mental and general assessment of your weight; something like, “My new friend Jane, she is tall and round. Fran, she is short and slender.” That’s it, that is probably the only time I ever thought about your weight. Oh- and maybe the times you were pregnant and never looked more than 6 month along even though you were ready to deliver.

Recently your weight has crept into our conversations more and more, I can tell it bothers you.  Maybe that ugly voice in your head is telling you that every time you step out the door everyone sees you as a fat girl? I’m writing you this letter because I want you to know what I think of every time I see you…

I see the woman who has cried with me over the frustrations of family life. The woman who inspires me to be kinder and humbler than I am. I see the times we have laughed until we cried. I see the woman who will patiently listen to me as I whimper about my first world problems. I see your strength as you bare the burdens life has thrown at you. I see the woman who makes me feel better than I am. I see all the things I love about you. I never see your weight.

In college I worked at a bookstore and one day one of my co-workers told me that our boss had recently lost weight. She told me that our boss had worked really hard to loose this weight and that if I had a chance I should tell her how good she looked. I never even noticed that she had any weight to loose, but I was all for cheering on anyone who had worked hard at something that was important to them.  The next time I was alone with my boss I commented that I had heard she was loosing weight and that she looked good.  She took it as the compliment that it was intended, but to be honest I felt super awkward about the whole thing.

Talking about her weight somehow made it a thing between us, it felt like a backhanded compliment. Almost like I was telling her that she looked bad before, but now was better looking. When honestly I’d never thought about her looking anything other than herself before. I don’t want it to be like that between us.

Twice since then I have complimented someone on their weight and each time it was only because I knew those woman had worked really hard and WANTED people to notice and give them feedback. But I still felt awkward.

I just want you to know that I love you for being you.  I realize your weight bothers you and I’m sorry for that. I wrote this letter because I wanted you to know how I felt about you, and what I see when I look at you.  If you gained 50lbs I probably wouldn’t notice it (you think I’m kidding but I am dead serious). If  you dyed your hair blue and got a forehead tattoo- that I would totally notice!

We’re friends because you make me feel good about myself, you make me laugh, you listen, you care, not because you are short or tall or fat or skinny or anything in between. Please remember this the next time you look in the mirror and that ugly voice starts talking.


Horton Springs- early fall

My kids are on fall break this week. They want FUN! EXCITEMENT! SOMETHING NEW!, I want quiet, reading, sewing and kids who forage for their own meals.


In the name of FUN! we hauled them kicking and screaming (well 1 out of 3) north today for some exercise and family bonding.  We love Horton Springs Trail because its easy, green and has water. Admittedly we have never in the gajillon times we’ve been there ever made the full 4 miles to the end of the trail…we go maybe a mile and a half and play in the water and then head back.


It wasn’t until we were heading back that the switch was flipped for “happy family time”. The kids ran along ahead of us giggling…until my middle child spotted a TARANTULA!! crawling across the tip of her shoe and ran screaming back to me.  Having never seen a TARANTULA! in real life I asked her to show me where it was, we found it crawling in some grass.  No, I didn’t take a picture! I could barely look at it without squealing and running away myself.


We finished off the day with a late lunch at our fav. Payson, mexican place- La Sierra.  The best part was that we were having a good time together, squeezed into a booth laughing together about topics other than farting. We were cracking jokes about what the kids would be like when they were parents.


As the years wax on, I know the kids won’t remember the kicking and screaming that began this trip. They’ll remember the laughs, the tarantula and positive feelings.  The whole experience was a reminder to me that its worth the effort to drag my kids through positive life experiences, they will be better happier people in the end.

P.S. totally unrelated…we switched hard drives and I lost ALL my pretty fonts. boo! What are your favorite fonts? Give me some ideas of what fonts I should be sure to have in my arsenal.

Advance 8279


I picked up 3 yards of cotton lawn for a steal at SAS last week and it was just begging to be sewn!  I’ve sewn Advance 8279 once before and it was pretty straight forward, so I gave it another go.



Last time I made the dress I omitted the button placard and put in a zipper, this time I opted for buttons.  The cotton lawn was really light and I was worried about it not supporting the dress, so I lined it.  I have no idea how to add lining with a collar and a button placard…I did my best and it worked out alright.


I’ve found that each time I’ve made the dress it tended to be very boxy on the sides, despite the darts.  If you want a more fitted bodice I would sew deeper darts or cut the sides slimmer.  The collar always wants to flip up, I think its because of the weight of the piping. I even top stitched the dress to the collar seam allowance and it still wants to flip.


I absolutely love the exterior pockets with piping- I think they are SO CUTE!  I had my daughter wear the dress with a petticoat under it for the pictures, but it looks just fine without it. She loves the dress because it twirls really well and is nice and light weight- perfect for an Arizona summer.

I just bought a vintage pattern for myself that I’m hoping to sew this summer but I’m looking for the perfect buffalo check fabric.  One that isn’t too thin and has a nice drape to it. Or maybe this nice rayon print from Heather Bailey? Any recommendations for what fabric to use?

Fan Quilt

It’s finished!!!! 3years of working on it and it is washed, dried and ready for use!! #fan #quilt #quilting #scrappyquilt

A photo posted by Heather Hales (@heatherhalesdesigns) on

I finished it, FINALLY!  Yes, it really did take me 3 years to make this lap sized quilt.

up close

I started by hand cutting all of those wedges, I used pink, red and blue scraps left over from projects I’d made in the past. I love quilts where the fabrics tell a story (the red and pink striped fabric was from a dress I made my youngest as a baby, the pink Japanese print is from a messenger bag I made my middle daughter) Because I am a sucker for the old ways I hand stitched the wedges together into fans. Then I began hand appliqueing them to the 9″ white square. After 2 years nearly half the blocks were finished and I decided hand sewing was for the birds.  I machine stitched the rest and put together the sashing.

fan quilt
I wanted the quilt to be a little warmer than the others I’d made, so I used two layers of Warm and Natural batting. Have you ever tried to quilt a double layer of batting on a home sewing machine?!  This is the worst quilting job I have ever done- it was so thick and so hard to quilt. Thank heavens when I washed and dried it- the crinkle effect hid a lot of my mistakes.


The quilt has been added to my pile of slowly growing quilts!  Honestly, I’m kinda proud of myself for not giving up on this project.  It could have easily died a death in the back of my closet, but every summer I brought it out and did a little more work on it. I’ve already put it to use on the back of our couch.

Super Easy Summer Dinner

Super Easy Summer Tortallini

Summer in Arizona is akin to living in an oven; which means I try really hard not to have to use my oven for cooking.  This week I planned a whole menu of foods that do not require the oven, only the stove or the slow-cooker.

I found this great site and made a whole bunch of freezer meals on Saturday that I can just throw into the slow-cooker, I’m very excited about this notion of freezer dinners! I’m really lazy about remembering to thaw out meat early in the day. I also find by 5pm I’m melting-ly hot and the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen prepping food. I’m optimistic that this freezer meal thing is going to revolutionize my cooking…I’ll let you know how it goes.

One of the two non freezer meals this week was tonight’s Cheese Tortellini  & Vegetables in a creamy tomato sauce.  I made it up as I went along and it turned out great! So great that I wanted to write out what I did so I can do it again.

Super Easy Vegetable Tortellini

16oz package of Cheese Tortellini
1c Chicken (or Vegetable) stock
3T butter
1 small onion diced
1 orange bell pepper cut to bite size pieces
3 carrots peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2c cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1/4c Parmesan cheese shredded (+ more for garnish)
small handful of fresh basil chopped
1T flour
1/4c prepared (or homemade) marinara sauce

Cook pasta according to package directions. Sautee carrots, garlic, onion and bell pepper in butter until desired tenderness. Mix in flour. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  When sauce begins to thicken add Parmesan cheese and Marinara sauce, stir until combined- drop heat to low and add the tomatoes.  Mix cooked pasta with the vegetable/sauce mixture.  Salt and pepper as needed. Top with basil and cheese then serve. Approx 20 min start to finish to make this and it served my family of 5.

A-Line Dress


My friend Bonnie wrote a dress pattern (the Infinite A-line) and asked me to stitch it up. She said she couldn’t wait to see what an experienced seamstress came up with.

A big fat beautiful oops!- that’s what I created.

My first mistake was to print the whole pattern without reading it through, I could have saved a lot of paper that way. If I had read the pattern first I would have seen that Bonnie explains the tricks on printing just the size and pieces you need. Next I cut the wrong bodice piece, but I didn’t realize it until after I’d spent 4+ hours embroidering the front and stitching it to the skirt.


I just want to mention the trick on page 15 for attaching the bodice to lining at arm seams…GENIUS! I’ve never seen it done before; now I want to sew all the sleeveless tops just so I can use that trick!

After I stitched everything up I had my daughter try it on, it was gaping at the bodice. I went back over the pattern and measurements trying to figure out what I had done wrong…turns out I used the bodice for the ruffle top- oops.

I am pretty upset with myself for the mistake I made- I put a lot of time into the dress and to fix it I’d have to completely deconstruct it.  I’ve decided it would make a great tunic top for an 8-10 year old girl if I just bring up the hem a bit more.

The A-line is always a great project for any level of seamstress, it lends it self to a myriad of variations and options for embellishments. I would totally recommend the pattern…you know, just read it through first.


Dirt Roads


As a kid I remember warm sunny afternoons when my Dad would pile my sister and I into the back of his truck (it was the ’80’s) for an adventure.  He would drive us through the San Bernardino foothills on poorly maintained fire roads.  We rarely had a destination in mind, it was all about the journey. My sister and I bobbing up and down with every dip in the road, gripping the sides of the truck to keep from sliding around too much and coughing through the dust.

This Saturday I had a deja vu moment as I put the truck into a lower gear and steered us up a steep and very rough road while my own children bounced around in the backseat.  I felt like I had come full circle without even realizing it.


I told my kids this was what we used to do for fun when I was younger.  They were shocked to know my sister and I had ridden in the back of the truck. I told them about fire roads and how my parents had to get out of the truck to turn the four wheel drive on. They asked me if I liked going on adventures when I was a kid.  I stopped to think for a minute and realized I didn’t like or dislike it, it was just something we did, like the way your family hangs the toilet paper inside or outside.  It just was.

I pointed out how different the experience was for them, as they were sitting in the nice air conditioned cab of the truck, clean of dust, securely held in place by their seat-belts. We were doing the same thing, but their version was different than mine.

We finished the afternoon off with cheap mexican food, a very different experience from my childhood. Growing up we went out to eat a handful of times a year. They have it good these kids of mine, I’m giving them the very best that I’ve got and I hope they remember it fondly.

Books of 2015

books 2015

Every year I keep track of the books I read so when december comes I can feel like I accomplished something. Is there a book you just loved, leave me a comment, I love suggestions!

Previous Lists

1. The Friday Night Knitting Club This book was alright. I didn’t like it enough to read the sequel.

2. Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time I liked this book for the insight it gave me on how men view marriage and relationships. I really found it illuminating.  I was familiar with some of the music he and his wife recorded on their mixed tapes, but not much- mostly because I was still in Jr High at the time.

3. American Wife: A Novel (Random House Reader’s Circle) This was a fictionalized version of the GW Bush and Laura Bush story.  It was a well crafted and interesting story.  Having read Laura Bush’s biography I read this book seeing all the glaring differences.

4. The Dressmaker: A Novel I enjoyed this story of a Parisian dressmaker who under values himself and through the love of a woman he begins to realize his potential.  I think part of the reason this story appealed to me was because I too sew clothing and i understood and appreciated the details of sewing in the story.

5. A Hundred Summers I loved this story because it was set in NY during the 30’s, but the story is captivating too!  A story of love and jealousy and family obligations. There were some crude parts as well…

6. Summer People: A Novel (P.S.) I did not like this book. It was equal parts lame and vulgar. There was almost no plot.

7. If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Marri ed I literally laughed my way through this book, Jenna is HILARIOUS.  I think there should be a pre-requisite to reading this book: Married 10+ years (but less than 20) and have at least 2 children under 16. If you meet this criteria the book will be even more enriching!

8. Clair de Lune

9.The Ladies’ Lending Library: A Novel

10. The Queen’s Handmaiden – the seamstress in me loved this book. I loved the detail about the clothes and fabrics.  The story behind all the clothing was equally fascinating. I don’t know a whole lot about the British Monarchy so I don’t know how accurate the story was, but it was interesting with a twist at the end.

11. Dad Is Fat– a quick and funny read, lots of good stuff from Jim Gaffgin, one of my favorite comedians.

12. My Name Is Resolute -Wow!!  I loved this book! I loved Nancy Turners other books as well, I love her tradition of strong -yet culturally realistic- female characters.

13. A Good American

14. The Secret Life of Violet Grant

15. The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Koppel, Lily (2013) Hardcover – with the new ABC series coming out, I wanted to read the book that sparked the show. This book does not read dry like a typical non-fiction account.  Koppel wrote with actual dialogue and almost in story form, I really enjoyed the book and I am NOT a space/science person at all.  I think it kinda turned my husband on when I could talk astronauts with him.

16. Secrets of a Charmed Life

17. The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War (P.S.)

18. The Red Leather Diary byKoppel

19.Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

20. The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

21. A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

22. Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith

23. A Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman



Valentine Printables

Looking for some fun last minute Valentines to print and share?  Here are a few of my favorites from years past.

valentines by

Cute as a button printable cards to affix your candy to (or sticker sheets).


Matchbook candy filled Valentines.


Need a Valentine that doesn’t require candy? Download these cuties HERE.