Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Love Story

This is a picture of my hubby and I about 14 years ago, shortly before we were married.

The Man and I circa 1998
Later that year on 11/30/98 we eloped and moved to England together where we spent the first 3 years of our marriage.  Brandon was in the USAF at the time and we lived on a little sheep farm in Feltwell, UK.

The Man and his MWD "War"
While we were terribly homesick, some of my fondest memories are of our first home together, our first Christmas tree, window shopping in London, visits from our loved ones and, of course, the birth of our oldest daughter, Shannon.

Me with a brand new Shann in front of Ely Cathedral - 1999

Chilli Cook-Off on Mildenhall AFB with Shann

The Man and Little Shann

On a Visit to Uncle Jason in Germany

Sometimes Mommy got bored...don't judge me..
After moving back to the US, Brandon and I bought our first house (in my home town!) and shortly after, our second daughter Riley arrived.

My girl Ry..she eats her chocolate like her Mama ;)

Blowin' Bubbles

Game Faces


Birthday breakfast cupcake!
The last 13 years have been the most joyful of my life. I love our little family, love being a Mom and love knowing that with every year that passes, I find something new to love about that man o' mine ;)

The Man and The Shann

The Man and Ry

Piggy back :)

Sisters <3

Shark Attack!

Fancy Moo-staches

Me and My Man <3
Hugs and Smooches,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review - Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas: Crafts, Decorating Tips, and Recipes, 1920s-1960s

This fabulous little book was one of the recommendations that popped up on my Amazon page a few weeks ago.  Christmas AND Vintage??  Count me in!

The book is set up by decade, beginning in the 1920's and ending in the 1960's.  The first few pages of each decade covers a little history of what was going on at that time (ie, the depression, WWII, etc.) and how it affected the holiday.  It discusses color schemes, decoration preferences and the reasons for them and then goes on to offer a few project ideas geared towards decorating your own home.  A few of my favorites:
  • Paper Cones (made from pretty patterned paper and decorated with ribbons and maribou) used to hold treats
  • Tulle wreaths in bright 1960's colors like pink and teal with little bird decorations
  • Candles with glitter stripes made to look like candy canes
  • Matchboxes made from Christmas cards (one suggestion is to fill them with M&M's and give them as party favors!  Such a cute idea.)
The back of the book has a section on recipes for candy and treats.  Mackinac Island Fudge, Caramels and Butterscotch Haystacks are a few of the really yummy offerings.  There are also color templates included with the book to use in making some of the projects, or for gift tags and Christmas cards.

This was such a wonderfully sweet, nostalgic book with really easy to use craft ideas and recipes.  I highly recommend it for the vintage Christmas lover!

(Because I liked the recipes for the fudge and caramels so much, they will be the subject of the next Home Ec post!)

Hugs and Smooches,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest - Finding Use for Hideous 80's Sweaters

Each year my husband and I host a Christmas party for what we still optomistically refer to as "the kids" (which includes my siblings, cousins, close friends and their kiddos).  It's one of my favorite get togethers of the year.  I was blessed to grow up in the same town as my cousins on my Dad's side of the family, so we're all as close as siblings and we share a lot of great memories.  It's never a dull moment when we all get together!

One tradition we like to keep (suggested a few years back by my adorable sister-in-law) is an Ugly Holiday Sweater contest.  Even the kiddos get in on the act!  There's an extra gift for the winner of the contest and it's fun to give new life to those hideous 80's theme sweaters ;)

Here are a few of my favorites in the running for this year..

Oh, wow.  That was fun.  (I actually caught myself snickering as I went through some of these listings.  I'm deeply amused by hideous novelty sweaters ;)

How about you?  What are some of your favorite traditions?

Hugs and Smooches,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Eat or Not to Eat..Is That Really the Question?

Recently, I posted a link on my Facebook page with a picture of the newly slimmed down Jennifer Hudson, indicating my dismay at how gaunt her features seem and how she's fallen prey to that mainstream "Hollywood look".

Here is Jennifer before (around the time Dreamgirls was filmed):


Here she is a few months into her Weight Watchers diet:

Image Credit
..and here she is now
Image Credit OMG on Yahoo
Now, please let me get this out in the open first.  I am not a skinny-hater.  In fact, my own wee Mum is a size 00.  But it suits her.  She's athletic, she has a tiny bone structure (like a little bird!), she's 5'1", and most importantly, she's healthy.

I also don't want it to seem like I'm picking on Jennifer.  I see this happen time and time again with people in the public eye (in fact, Gertie of Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing covered this topic a few weeks ago in this post)  Jennifer is just the most recent and seems to be a good illustration of what does bother me.

What I find distressing is the media's one-size-fits-all approach and how it eventually seems to obliterate individuality.

When Jennifer first appeared on the scene (as a contestant on American Idol) I admired her beautiful voice, her presence on stage and her chutzpah.  She wasn't afraid to be who she was.  She knew she had talent and that was what mattered.  I liked her for her personality and her beautiful voice.  When she first signed on to Weight Watchers, I admired her initiative and her desire to be healthy, but the further her weight loss progresses, the less healthy she appears.  Her beautiful curls have been straightened, she wears the typical, mass appeal "starlet" clothing and her expressiveness seems to have suffered.

You may ask, why do I care?  I don't know Jennifer.  She's not a friend, a sister, a daughter...but she could be.  The message sent is that our worth as women should be measured not in talent, individuality and creativity, but in pounds.  That it's better to work hard to look like everyone else than to take a stand and be yourself.  That we should all assimilate and aspire to a size 0, indifferent to our personal comfort and healthy weight.

So, after this rant, what would I like to see happen?  I'd like to see all (healthy!) shapes and sizes in the media.  I'd like to look at an ad and see my friend, watch a movie and see my neighbor, see a commercial and recognize my mother.  I'd like people to be represented as they are, not in whatever fantasy version Hollywood has drummed up this week as "acceptable".  I'd like to see people recognized for who they are, not how much they weigh.

Hugs and Smooches,

Monday, November 21, 2011

Style It - Chessie the Cat Scarf

Today's style it features a great gift idea, The Chessie the Cat Scarf. It comes with an adorable story (Chessie was part of a promotion by the Chesapeake Railway) and it's so versatile!  Here is a great link on multiple different ways to tie a scarf (I've shared it on my facebook page as well, but it's so great, I'll share it twice!)

The first look is so cute for a weekend shopping trip! Tie the scarf around your head headband style with a messy bun, or in a bow around your neck.

Chessie Scarf - Weekend Shopping Trip

Chessie Scarf - Weekend Shopping Trip by constantlyalice featuring a bangle bracelet

The second look would be adorable for a family holiday party!  Just tie the scarf around your ponytail 50's style and wear a pretty full skirted dress :)

Chessie the Cat - Party Dress

Chessie the Cat - Party Dress by constantlyalice featuring puffy dresses

How would you style the Chessie the Cat scarf?

Hugs and Smooches,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Grown Up Christmas List

The holidays are always a source of joy for me...

Pssh.  Who am I kidding?  I would LIKE the holidays to always be a source of joy, but sometimes, just sometimes, they make me a big ball of stress.  But I want to love the holidays.  I want to soak up all the family time, drive around and look at the beautiful decorations and enjoy the gift giving.  Which is where my steps for holiday planning come in..

I am an organized soul (no really!)  I know it doesn't appear to go hand in hand with creativity, but the only way I can truly feel free is to have a place for things.  Knowing where my supplies are, having a system of organization for my clothing and accessories and a process for buying, cleaning and selling my vintage items allows me to not have to think about the details.  The same holds true for planning my holiday gift giving.  Here are some of the steps I like to take to make the holiday season a joyous one.

  • Make a list (and check it twice!) - Write down all of the people you need a gift for (don't forget teachers, postal workers, etc.!)  You can do this in a notebook or, if you're like me, on an excel spreadsheet.  Next to each name, jot down a few gift ideas and a budget.  As you gather gifts, check them off the list and adjust your budget accordingly.  If you plan on making gifts, this is also a good time to create a separate list of what you plan to create, along with a column of supplies that will be needed.  I like to use a second tab on my excel spreadsheet for this purpose (..and I maay cross reference it with the database I created that lists all the supplies I have on hand..  I told you I liked organization ;)

Sock Octopus from my Inspiration Pinboard on Pinterest

  • Start gathering ideas - I like to begin with places like Etsy and some of the blogs I follow.  Sometimes something will get my creative juices flowing, and other times I will just purchase an item outright.  I like to use Pinterest as a tool for tracking my ideas, but you can also print down pictures and keep them in a folder, or add to your favorites on Etsy.  If you prefer to buy from more mainstream shops, you can also go through sale fliers from your sunday paper to get ideas or check out Black Friday ads for deals.

    Image Credit
  • Create your plan of attack! - Schedule in time for gift making.  Make it fun!  Have some girlfriends over, make some cookies and cocoa and have a gabfest while you create.  Give yourself plenty of time and make it enjoyable.  Then, schedule a few shopping trips (or an evening to shop online) to fill in the items that you will be purchasing.  Try to schedule it so everything is completed one or two weeks ahead of the holidays so you can relax and take time for some fun ( like picking out your tree or watching holiday movies!)

    National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
  • Wrap, Decorate, Give - Plan a day to wrap your gifts.  Include friends and loved ones (but not their gifts!) to make the time fly by.  Make the wrapping just as thoughtful as the present.  Everyone loves getting a pretty package :)  You can also plan to decorate your home or tree together on that day.  You are now prepared!  All that's left to do is give your gifts and receive hugs and smiles in return ;)
Hugs and Smooches,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review - A Stitch in Time v. 1

 This book is without question my FAVORITE vintage knitting pattern book of all time.  Susan Crawford does an absolutely beautiful job with this collection of actual vintage patterns that she has put into an easy to read format with the most stunning photographs you've ever seen.

Fortunately, Susan also has a Ravelry account where you can go take a peek at some of the items you can create from the patterns in the book.  Here are some of my favorites:
Light and Lovely
Dark Red Pretties

With a Touch of the Military
Accessory for Your Spring Suit
I'm in the process of working on this one below.  I've got a back and two sleeves :)  I had meant to complete it for the fall, but I kept getting caught up in other projects.  I've put it aside to work on holiday projects for now, but I'm excited to complete it.  Those cold winter months are perfect for knitting by the fire!

To Set Off Your Summer Frocks
Susan also has a number of other lovely knitting books including Vintage Gifts to Knit (which is marvelous for the holidays!) and A Stitch in Time v.2 which was recently released (and appears to have sold out on Amazon!)

What do you think of these patterns?  Would you be interested in doing a knit along with one of the patterns from this book as one of the Home Ec posts?  Let me know in the comments :)

Hugs and Smooches,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Have YOU Hugged a Veteran Today?

The three very handsome gentlemen below are (in order) my Gramp, my Papa and my Hubby.
Richard Beaudette (My Maternal Grandfather..with my cute little Mum on his lap!)

Leonard Hanley (My Paternal Grandfather)

The Man (Aka, Brandon, love of my life and father to our beautiful girls ;)
They all have one thing in common (besides the handsome part..and they fact that they are all my heros).  They are all US Veterans.  I am so proud of them, and of all the men and women who serve our country.  Please be sure to thank a veteran today for your freedom.  It is a remarkable gift.

Hugs and Smooches,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Home Economics - The Jane Austen Tippet

I'm so excited to share the first of the home ec posts with you all!  I decided to begin with something seasonable and simple, a fur tippet from Jane Austen's Sewing Box.

This book is full of really fun project ideas inspired by the works of Jane Austen.  The tippet is a lovely fur scarf that drapes nicely over the shoulders and can be styled in many different ways.

You will need the following materials:
  • 1.5yd Velboa or Faux Fur (I prefer Velboa because it's soooo soft, but use what you're comfortable with!)
  • 1.5yd Lining fabric in satin, silk, cotton or shantung
  • Pins
  • Pattern Paper (wrapping paper works great for this!)
  • Pencil
  • Sewing machine (or needle if you prefer to hand sew)
  • Thread in a coordinating color
  • Weights (to hold down corners of pattern paper)
  • Tape measure or Quilters Ruler and French Curve
  • Scissors

The pattern is very simple and the measurements are given in centimeters.  You can either draw out the whole pattern, or you can simply half the pattern and put the top center of the neck on the fold of your fabric when you cut.  I prefer the second method because it insures that you will have the exact same measurements on both sides of the tippet. (My apologies on some of the pictures not being as clear as they should.  My camera was having issues and I had to borrow The Man's for some of them!)

First, you will want some paper to draft your pattern on.  I've chosen to use the back of some wrapping paper I had lying around.  (It even has grid lines printed on the back to make it easier to create straight lines!)
Be sure to weight the corners of your paper so it doesn't roll up on you!  I like to use my little snail friends :)

You can use a tape measure to measure out and draw your lines (refer to the measurements in the picture from the book), or you can use a french curve and a quilters ruler.  I like to freehand most things, but if you are uncomfortable with that, you can always bend your quilters ruler in a curve to use as a guide for the corners.

Once you've finished drawing and cutting your tippet piece, you will want to lay out your lining fabric.  If you have chosen to draw out the whole pattern piece, lay the fabric face down and pin the pattern to the wrong side.  If you have chosen to draw out the half piece, fold your fabric in half with the right sides together (the sides you want showing when you've completed your tippet) and pin the pattern with the top collar portion on the fold as I've shown below.

I have the shiny side of my poly shantung showing here, because I want the matte, slub knit side to be exposed when I finish.  Make sure your scissors are extra sharp!  Slippery fabric can be tricky to cut.

After you have cut out your lining piece, you want to follow the same steps with your fur.  I've chosen a leopard print velboa.  Here you will see the pattern piece pinned to the wrong side (on the fold!) and I've folded over the fabric so you can see what the side facing out will look like.

When it's cut and unfolded, it should look like this

Now that you've cut out both pieces, you need to match them up, right sides together, wrong sides facing out and pin them together.  It's ok if you have a few puckers at this point, you can smooth them as you sew.

Some folks prefer to shave or clip the outer edge of their faux fur to make it easier to work with.  I think it's only necessary if you are working with REALLY thick fur.  Velboa tends to be pretty manageable.

Once you have the whole thing pinned together, it should look like this

This is my walking foot..I love it with a passion typically reserved for Clark Gable and chocolate..
Now you are going to want to stitch the edges together.  I used a scant 1/4 in seam so that the tippet didn't turn out too narrow.  Keep in mind that the larger your seam allowance, the skinnier your tippet will be.  Leave a space open at the base of the neck.  This is where you will turn your tippet inside out.

Sometimes it helps to have a knitting needle handy to assist in poking out the corners and edges when you turn your tippet inside out.

One last step!  Now that you've turned your tippet inside out, fold in the bottom and top of the opening at the neck about a 1/4 in. to match your seam and make small stitches to close it up.

You're finished!

Here are some ways to style your brand new tippet.

Wrapped Cowl Style
Tied in a bow

(I used my trusty friend Esmerelda to model here because, to be perfectly truthful, at the moment I am wearing my granny nighty and pink cats eye glasses and bear a strong resemblence to Dame Edna..)

That concludes our first Home Ec lesson! If you have any questions, please ask!  I'm happy to answer them.  If you make your own tippet, I'd love to see it.  Please feel free to share a link here in the comments, or post a picture on the ConstantlyAlice Facebook page.

Hugs and Smooches,

P.S.  This pattern leaves a good amount of extra fur left about making it into cuffs for a pair of gloves to match your tippet?  Or a cute little beret?  The possiblities are endless!
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