My birthday dress

Ferris Wheel, Castaway Cove, Ocean City, NJ

As I write, the evidence of our recent long-weekend away is strewn about the living room. We left the house in a relatively clean state on Thursday night, but Tuesday afternoon when we returned, we pretty much exploded through the front door, leaving beach-related debris in our wake.

I cleaned up the kitchen yesterday, because it was important to me to set out a vintage table cloth and hang up a birthday banner. Also, I had briefly toyed with the idea of making myself cupcakes again like last year, and I wanted a clean place in which to do that. I have since rejected the cupcake idea, but I’m enjoying the clean and decorated kitchen nonetheless.

The living room, however, still shows all of the signs of a family who dumped their getaway bags and skipped off to get back to their normal lives. It was going to be my Thing to Do this morning, but I got distracted by something shinier, and since it is my birthday today, that is my prerogative.

Let me back up here a moment and tell you about one of my favorite shops on the Ocean City boardwalk. It’s called Barefoot Trading Company, and every year I go in there and buy myself either a wooden decoration for the living room, a beaded piece of jewelry, a casual dress, or maybe all three.

This year it was a wooden duck named Molly and a dress. It was a simple sheath dress, comfortable and relaxed, and it was on sale for $10: a real bargain. In fact, it was enough of a bargain that I went back later and bought a second one.

New Dress #2 I had noticed that the dresses were constructed quite simply, with no darts or real shaping of any kind. That meant they would be perfect for taking apart and using to make a pattern! I could crank these suckers out by the dozen this summer, if I wanted to.

I wore both dresses at one time or another during our trip, and then yesterday I set to taking apart one of them, and tracing the pieces to make a paper pattern.

Making a pattern, at Polka Dot Cottage

Making a pattern, at Polka Dot Cottage

Making a pattern, at Polka Dot Cottage

So, you see, my original plan of cleaning the living room just could not be realized because I had to make a new dress out of a funky vintage thrift shop sheet, and then I had to take a bunch of pictures, and finally I had to sit down and blog about it. And I feel not one ounce of guilt about this because see above re:birthday prerogatives.

Birthday Dress, at Polka Dot Cottage

If it weren’t for the binding around the neck and arms, I would call this the easiest sewing project EVER. Binding causes me no end of misery nearly every time I try it, either because I do it wrong and end up ripping it out, or because I do it wrong and end up leaving it but hating it and never wearing the garment again.

This time, however, in what can only be described as a Birthday Miracle, I got the binding right (right enough, anyway) on the first try. It was still time-consuming as all get-out, and if I’d had packaged white binding I would have used that and consumed slightly less time, but at least it worked. And I’m happy with it. And I will, indeed, wear this garment again.

Birthday Dress, at Polka Dot Cottage

Birthday Dress, at Polka Dot Cottage

And now it’s time for me to go about the rest of my day, wearing my new dress, and cleaning (or not cleaning) the living room as I see fit.

Happy 43 to me :-)

P.S. Knowing me, and my penchant for greens, you may be wondering why I took apart the green dress instead of the red one. Well, it turns out the green one had some fading on it that, once I noticed it, bugged me every time I looked at it. If I change my mind, I can always put it back together!


Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

Neil's Birthday in Ocean Grove, at Polka Dot Cottage

It was Neil’s birthday on Saturday, and we decided to have a night out in Ocean Grove. It’s rare that we do that on a weekend, since we don’t enjoy crowds or traffic, but hey, it was a special occasion!

I didn’t feel like lugging my DSLR around with me (another rare occurrence) and so I borrowed Aidan’s cheap camera and brought that instead. “We don’t need any artsy shots, really – I have so many – let’s just get some fun family snapshots,” I said. And that’s what we did. Mostly.

I’ll admit, I still tried to get some artistic photos… I had limited success, but it was a fun challenge, nonetheless.

Traffic was easy, parking was hard, waiting for a table for supper was even harder, but in the end we had an enjoyable few hours in a place we like: Supper at Nagle’s, a walk to the Asbury Park boardwalk, dessert from Ralph’s Italian Ices, and some fun family snapshots.

Happy Birthday, Neil!


Just the right amount of fanfare

142/365: May 22 - Birthday cupcakes for me! 22 bday 01 22 bday 02 22 bday 03 22 bday 04 22 bday 05 22 bday 06 22 bday 07 22 bday 08

Wednesday, I turned 42. And it was a fabulous day.

Far too often, I find myself feeling a smidge disappointed at the end of a birthday. I know some adults like to be low-key about the whole thing, but I’m really still a little kid when it comes to my birthday, and how much of a Big Deal I believe it should be.

In my house, I am the Birthday Fairy, for the most part. I make the cakes, I plan the parties, and I hang the festive bunting in the kitchen. And when my own birthday comes around? No cake. No party. No festive bunting in the kitchen. Just a vague feeling that maybe the men in my life could have shown a tiny bit more enthusiasm.

Don’t get me wrong! Neil does a lovely job with the gift-giving (he has completely nailed it the last couple of years for me, I must say), and he always takes me out to dinner. But it doesn’t occur to him to pepper the house with celebratory decorations and smells. In the past, this has bothered me, some years more than others.

This year, I decided recently, would be different. I thought about the whole thing objectively, and it comes down to this: if I am the fanfare provider in this house, and only I really know just how much fanfare I require to be happy, then maybe it’s time I take control of my own celebration. I can make myself a cake, I don’t particularly care about having a party, and I can hang my own festive bunting in the kitchen.

What a simple, simple idea, and yet such a revelation to me!

So yesterday, I took myself out to O Bagel for lunch and had my very favorite sandwich (a rare midweek treat for me). In the afternoon, I tied on an apron, played my Pandora shuffle really loudly, twirled around the kitchen, and baked myself some cherry cupcakes. Then I stepped up on the stool and hung my banner over the kitchen table. I spent most of the day alone, and yet it was full of simple pleasures.

Later, Neil and the boys took me out to the Stirling Hotel for supper, and they gave me a super cool birthday present: a 35mm f/2 lens for my camera (I totally love it – it is great in low light, I can get nice and close to my subject if I want to, and the background blur is dreamy. *swoon*).

There is no doubt in my mind now, that there are just some parts of the birthday celebration that I am better taking charge of myself. I live with a man who would be perfectly content with nothing more than a wave and a “Happy Birthday” when his turn comes around. His requirements for a successful birthday are simple, and mine are anything but. It’s not that I want a lot. It’s just that I want things that don’t even occur to him. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t wake up thinking about bunting and cherry cupcakes. But I do. (And, maybe next year I will wake up thinking of balloons and brownies – who knows? I don’t yet, and Neil certainly doesn’t either.)

My new recipe for birthday happiness: let the guys stick with the parts that they are good at (picking out gifts and taking me to a favorite spot for supper) and I’ll take care of anything else I may require, whatever that looks like from year to year.

P.S. Those cherry cupcakes were pretty good, if a little dry. I adapted them from here. The dryness was probably my fault, not the original recipe’s. But I’ll have to make another batch just to be sure…

Ahead of schedule

58/365: Blanket-making leftovers

Guess what this is.

This is the unused yarn that I have after hooking the last stitch on Aidan’s hexagon blanket.

Wait, did I just say last stitch, as in, the blanket is finished?

Indeed I did. And I’m about 3 weeks ahead of schedule!

55/365: Crochet day

Last time we talked about it, I had a small handful of full-size hexagons to finish, and eight half-hexes – a task I allowed myself a week to complete. But, see, Saturday was a very social and busy day for me, and after one of those kinds of days, I – introvert that I am – tend to need a peaceful day in my PJs, doing quiet things. This particular peaceful Sunday resulted in me finishing 95% of the week’s crochet in one day.


And that got me thinking… If I could do that in one day, maybe I could do the other two weeks’ worth of work in two more days. And if I could finish the blanket in a matter of three days, I could actually give it to Aidan for his birthday!

26 blanket 01

This explains why you may not have seen much of me around the internet this week. Monday and Tuesday were heavy on the crochet, and light on anything else. Seriously. I hunkered down with that blanket so intently, that my hands were cramping up and I had “yarn burn” and a deep groove on my left index finger.

That was some hard-core hooking.

Er, well, you know what I mean.

By the time Aidan came home from school on Tuesday (which was his actual birthday), I was almost finished.

I was so close, I decided to gift it to him anyway.

There were only two places that needed work. The border has five rows, and I had completed 4.25 of them. Also, there was this:

57/365: Shaggy!

In my haste to get the whole thing crocheted, I skipped the end weaving on the zig-zaggy sides.

It was ok, though, I hid all of the ends, and folded the blanket so that the side where all five border rows were complete was showing, and when I presented it to Aidan, it actually looked like I had finished it.

26 blanket 02

26 ac 13 02

I think he likes it.

Last night I completed the border row, and I’m now working on all of those annoying little ends. It should be good and properly finished within a few days. Whew!

I want to continue the weekly pace of the crochet-along. Next Monday, I’ll show you how to do the half hexagons, the following week we will square up the zig-zaggy sides with partial hexagons, and the last week we’ll do the border and block the blanket. Also that last week I hope to have the eBook pattern/tutorial ready so you can purchase that if you like.

27 blanketI am very happy with this. And I am excited that I was able to go from, “I wonder how I can make a hexagon blanket that doesn’t have all of that uneven zig-zaggy stuff” to actually having a perfectly squared-off hexagon blanket to toss over a chair and keep my newly-minted teenager’s lap warm and cozy.

Hooray for finished objects! :-)



The ants go marching



Somebody around here is turning 43 tomorrow, and it isn’t me.  No, I’m the birthday boy’s incredibly young wife, who spent yesterday baking a chocolate cake from scratch, and a lemon icing to go with it.


My usual birthday routine involves a cake mix and a tub of store-bought frosting, and while I’ve always liked both of those things just fine, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is in all of those convenience items we buy, and feeling that it might be nice to make a cake with real ingredients.


I went local where I could, and organic wherever else possible, and I’ll tell you, the cake itself was delicious.  The icing, on the other hand, was more like a glaze.  It sunk into the cake, and not everybody appreciated that.  I liked it, though.

And so, apparently, did the ants today.

Here’s a little tip for you: when you’ve been seeing big black ants in the kitchen, even if it’s just a half dozen here and there over the course of a few days, don’t leave a chocolate cake with lemon glaze out on the counter loosely covered with foil.  Because, chances are those half dozen ants will invite a hundred friends over for their own party starring your cake, while you stroll none the wiser through the very photogenic streets of New Hope, PA buying trinkets and wishing you’d remembered your camera.

Blech.  Nasty.


Creepy crawlies aside, we had such a nice weekend, filled with a few friends, some family, a spontaneous road trip, and a sink full of dishes.  A party just isn’t a party unless you have no room left in the sink by bedtime, don’t you think?

Hanky panky

Today is my grandmother’s birthday.  Since a lady doesn’t discuss her age, I won’t presume to blab it to everyone here on her behalf.  Let’s just say, she’s one year away from a big number which is one decade away from a huge number.  And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Handkerchiefs in a basket

What I can talk freely about is the gift I made her: five handkerchiefs in a little basket.  I like the idea of handkerchiefs as a Granny gift, and last month when I laid eyes on the rose prints from the Heather Bailey Pop Garden layer cake, well, I knew I had the perfect fabric for them.  At 10 inches square, layer cake pieces are a really good size for a project like this: no pesky cutting or measuring required.

Handkerchiefs in a basket

I was lucky enough to find this little blue basket at a rummage sale a few weeks ago, and realized it would be the perfect size to hold the handkerchiefs.  It’s always nice to have a special container for your gift, and it’s a great bonus when it only costs you ten cents!

Handkerchiefs and a basket

I made these the same way I make napkins – press a double-folded hem all the way around, and stitch it.  The only difference is that I tried to make the hem about half the size, a little more than a quarter inch.  With so little real estate on the fabric to start with, I didn’t want to waste too much of it in the folds.

Now I think I’d like to make a few for myself.  We’re all out of tissues in this house, and for some reason, I’d rather spend an hour at the sewing machine making hankies for the family than making a 15-minute run to the supermarket.  But then, I guess that’s pretty typical of me…

Outside the box

We have a birthday boy in the house today

It’s a certain someone‘s birthday today, and the boys and I collaborated on a banner. My instructions were clear:

Aidan, you write HAPPY, I’ll write BIRTHDAY, and Eamonn, you write DADDY. Then we’ll hang them all up for Daddy to see when he comes downstairs this morning.

Well, my boys are nothing if not outside-of-the-box thinkers, and instead of Happy Birthday Daddy, I got Happy Coke Chocolate Orange Cinnamon Raspberry Lemon Birthday For You Daddy Daddy Daddy I Love You Seriously Eamonn. *sigh*

Admittedly, this is way more interesting than what I had planned, but I can’t help but think ahead to the coming school year, and their homework assignments. Individuality and creativity is not always a prized commodity when it comes to following directions and completing worksheets. Although, I think homework would be a heck of a lot more fun if it were, don’t you?