by S. Carter Studios

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meng Menu

I was racing to get grocery shopping done yesterday. I squeezed it in between church and meeting with a friend for coffee at 2:30. As much of a chore menu planning, coupon "clicking," and shopping for two weeks is, IT IS DONE for two weeks. Such a relief. 

I spent around $250 this week (Budget: $300) which included 3 toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner for me, and paper towels. Not bad, not bad. 

Sunday: Sesame Chicken Pot stickers, rice w/ veggies (New recipe on the pot stickers. Fun but labor intensive! Plus, holy cow, I know now why they call them pot STICKERS…)
Monday: Hot dogs, chips, apple and orange slices
Tuesday: Slow cooked pulled pork sandwiches, baked fries, carrots and celery
Wednesday: Grilled pork chops, baked beans, salad
Thursday: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans
Friday: Out to eat

Saturday: Roast beef sandwiches, chips, fruit salad

Sunday: Sloppy joes, baked fries, Green beans
Monday: Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, carrots and celery
Tuesday:  Grilled pork chops, roasted red potatoes, salad
Wednesday: Parmesan chicken, parmesan rice, broccoli
Thursday: Spaghetti, salad
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Chicken w/mustard cream sauce, rice, broccoli 

If you read our menus frequently, you might see some repeat dinnersum, sloppy joes? That is because Sloppy Joes are Aaron's favorite meal. Yep. Low maintenance, that man. He could eat them every day. That, and hot dogs, which Micah says is his favorite meal. I, on the other hand, love to try new meals and have a bit more of a "foodie" palate. So…I try to keep my men happy while also preparing recipes I like too. 

How do you keep your family happy at dinner time? 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Step into Spring" Skirt: Tutorial

It's been a long Winter in Virginia. We finally had our first warm day of Spring today on April 2nd. And Spring weather calls for spring clothes, like this sweet skirt! I've designed and made two "Step into Spring" skirts so far! This skirt is so easy and comes together in an afternoon. 
Want the tutorial? Keep reading!
1 and 1/4 or 1 and 1/2 yards knit fabric (mine is a poly/cotton blend; one way stretch)
Small piece of heavy-duty interfacing
2 inch wide elastic
Sewing supplies

Before you begin:
Wash and dry your fabric. Don't skip this step! My red fabric actually shrunk and got all wonky. I had to be pretty creative about cutting the pieces. If I hadn't washed and dried before I sewed, my skirt would have shrunk and been ruined the first time I washed it. :( 

Measure: Natural waist (mine = 29)
Natural waist to knee (mine = 20. Yep. I'm a shortie)

The pieces you'll need: 
(click on the picture to enlarge and read the captions)
Here's how to cut each piece: First Fold your fabric in half so the stretch goes from side to side, not up and down. 
Measure from your natural waist (smallest part) to your knee. Add 6 inches. 
Measure down and then cut across your fabric at this measurement. Mine was at 26 inches.
 Next, cut your two pieces apart at the fold. Set one of the rectangles aside. 
This is the back of your skirt.
From the Front piece cut a 6 inch strip. Keep the same form of stretch being side-to-side and not stretch up and down. 
This 6 inch strip is your waist band. 
Divide your waist measurement in half. Add one inch. Cut your waist band length to this measurement. 
Mine: 1/2 waist = 15 + 1 = 16 inches long
Cut a piece of interfacing the same size as your waist band. 
The unique thing about this skirt is the slash pockets!  I used this tutorial to learn how to sew these pockets. I drew my own pattern on computer paper. The slash pocket seem intimidating but they are really easy to sew! 

The piece on the left is the outer pocket; the right is the inner pocket. Cut two of each piece. 
 Fold the skirt front in half and use the pocket pattern to cut a curve. You will attach your pockets in this curve. 
All done! You should have these pieces cut for your skirt. 

Let's start sewing! 

Lay the inner pocket against the curve, right sides together (of course on knit, it doesn't really matter). Pin and sew along the curve on both sides. I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance (against the foot).
Fold the pocket over so the finished seam is showing. Press lightly. 
Open up the seam and press the seam allowance toward the pocket lining. 
"Under-stitch" the seam allowance toward the pocket lining by sewing down the seam allowance.
Under-stitching ensures that the pocket lining stays in the skirt and has a smooth finish. 
I was skeptical about this step (recommended in the tutorial linked above) but it really works and looks nice!
Next, fold the inner pockets in so the finished seams are showing. Lay the outer pocket piece on top of the inner pocket. Pin along the outside curve. Sew along the curve only. 

Line up the pocket pieces flush against the skirt edge. Tack down (sew very close to the edge) these three layers (inner pocket, outer pocket, skirt front) to keep the pocket in place. 
Don't tack down the top part of the pocket yet! 
Turn over your skirt to the right side: This is what it should look like so far!
Next, set your machine to the longest stitch. 
Pull the pocket pieces out of the way. 
Sew a gathering stitch between the two arrows. 
Pull your gathers up as tight as they will go. 
Next, fuse your inner facing to your waist band (if applicable). Then fold your waist band in half (inner facing inside) and iron. Next, iron a 1/2 inch fold along one side of length of the waist band. 
Carefully fold in the top pocket pieces on the back side of your skirt and pin to the gathered part. Tack down the pockets to the gathers using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. (Don't forget to change your stitch length back to a normal setting!!) This step also secures the gathering stitches. Trim threads. 
On the wrong side of the skirt, pin the waist band edge that is not ironed. Sew, using a 5/8 seam allowance. Be careful: it will be thick in parts!
Flip the skirt over and fold in the 1/2 inch ironed portion. Pin carefully, making sure you hide all the seams inside the waist band. Sew along the waist band, keeping stitches about 1/8 inch from the edge. 

Your skirt front is all done! Plus you just made slash pockets!! Great job!
Next take the Back skirt and iron a 1/2 inch along the top of the skirt. 
Then, fold down 2.5 inches and iron. This is the casing for the elastic.
Pin and sew, keeping stitches 1/8 from the edge of the fold. 
Cut your elastic. I used this formula: 1/2 of waist measurement (15 inches) minus 3 inches
My measurement was 12 inches. 
Work the elastic into the casing using a large safety pin. Tack elastic on one end. Then push the elastic to the other end and tack. 
The back of the skirt is done!
Pin the front and back of the skirt, right sides together. 
At this point, I had to trim up the bottom of the skirt so the front and back matched. Hey, it's a homemade pattern, after all….
Sew the front and back together using a 5/8 seam allowance. 
Open up the seam at the waistband and sew the seam open at the top and bottom of the waist band to keep the seam smooth. 

Hem or leave un-hemmed as desired. It's knit, after all! It won't ravel. 
I hemmed my blue skirt (the fabric didn't shrink in the wash so I made the pieces 2 inches longer for a nice chunky 2 inch hand-sewn hem) but left the red skirt un-hemmed. I may hem it by machine after I see how it washes. 
Here it is! The "Step into Spring" skirt. 
 My lame attempts to get a picture of myself: Bathroom selfie, shirt tucked...
Then I asked my 6 year old to take this picture: Shirt untucked. Great shot of the outfit but I cut off my head because his vantage point gave me a double chin. And I do NOT have a double chin IRL (in real life)…do I? 
Here is the "Step into Spring" skirt in blue. 
I have already worn this one twice! So comfortable and fun. 

So go ahead, Step into Spring…and make one of these skirts for your own spring wardrobe! 

Please let me know if you have any questions. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Miscarriage and Faith: Searching for Beauty

It was January 15, only about two weeks since I learned about my miscarriage. I hadn't even shared about our miscarriage publicly yet, only privately. My prayers were still raw and desperate, crying out, "Why did this happen, Lord? Why? Is it something I did? What are you trying to teach me, show me?"

There was no answer.

Then, that morning, I got this email:
Hi friends.
So it's been heavy on my heart to launch a Mother Grief Support Group. Once a month. No heavy pressure. No agenda. Just honest leading, sharing and experiences surrounding miscarriage and child loss. The Lord has put you two on my heart as co-leaders. The Motherhood Collective would do all the behind the scenes leg work (leader manuals, location, publicity, etc) you would just be asked to guide, listen, share and lead.
Would you think/pray about this?
I know there is a need.

I stared at my computer, shocked, stunned. I didn't even know what to think.

I remembered a story, the one about the man born blind. The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:2-3).

In thinking about this story, I bitterly scoffed, wondering if the man was angry--I had to suffer my entire life JUST so God could get the glory?!

Did my baby die so God could get the glory? 

This thought just makes me feel ill, and really, I don't think it is true. I don't believe God makes bad things happen just so he can swoop in, save us, and get the glory. 

Ultimately though, bad things do happen, like the man born blind. The man didn't cause his blindness; the parents didn't cause his blindness. The blindness simply happened. It was bad, evil; it caused great suffering in their family. 

But Jesus gave them a new perspective. He showed this family how suffering could be used to bring glory to God. 

As I stared at my email, I realized that this was more than an invitation from The Motherhood Collective: this was an answer to my prayer, my prayer of "why?" 
Maybe it wasn't the answer. But it was an answer. 

It was also an invitation to deeper trust, deeper faith, deeper love. An invitation to life in the midst of death.   

I felt conflicted.

If I was really honest, I would much rather be pregnant than be the leader of a miscarriage support group. Selfish, but true.

But I felt a stir of life and of hope. I felt like I should say yes but not in a I-know-this-is-the-right-thing-to-do kind of way.

I wanted to say yes because my heart and soul were desperate for "right." And saying yes, to walk with other women as they journey though the valley of grief, seemed right.
I told one of my best friends about the invitation to lead this group and said, "I am thinking of the verse 'He makes everything beautiful in his own time.' So, maybe this is the start of something beautiful, even though it really, really sucks right now. How's that for honest?"
Someone once said, your calling is where your passion and burden meet. 
The email was a call. So, I wrote a reply, and this is what I said: 

I would be honored to be a part of leading this group. I would prefer to start in March though as my miscarriage was very recent and I still need some time to grieve and find perspective myself. Thank you for asking me. I hope the  Lord will use this heartache to help bring healing to others.

So, now it's March. And through much prayer and planning, our first meeting of The Motherhood Collective Grief Support Group will meet tomorrow afternoon. I don't know who will show up or exactly what I will say but I, along with my co-leader, Julie, am happy excited honored humbled to be part of this. God is showing me many things, including how this truth is starting to manifest itself in my life: 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

My pain, my heartache, my suffering is real, but God is at work in my life.  He has promised to make "Everything beautiful in its own time" (Ecc. 3:11) and I am walking with him, searching for beauty. 


You can read more about my journey here: 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meng Menu: Two Weeks of dinners!

Here is our dinner menu for the next two weeks. I am patting myself on the back for a job well done at the grocery store today! I saved $59.63 with Kroger savings and coupons (24%!) for a grand total of $191.24. 

That is $95.62 a week! WHAT???

Granted, I usually make 1-2 small shopping trips in week two but I am really pleased with my shopping today. 

Here is what we are eating: 

Sunday: Chicken pot pie
Monday: Waffles, breakfast sausage**, fruit
Tuesday: Baked cod, baked potatoes, green beans
Wednesday: Parmesan chicken, parmesan rice, steamed broccoli w/ garlic butter
Thursday: Lasagna, garden salad
Friday: Out to eat

Saturday: Grilled chicken breasts, baked beans, carrots and celery

Sunday: Sloppy joes, baked fries, Green beans
Monday: BLTs, chips, apples
Tuesday:  Cheesy chicken rice casserole, steamed broccoli
Wednesday: Sliders, baked fries, carrots
Thursday: Spaghetti w/Italian sausage, salad
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Pancakes, breakfast sausage**, fruit

**Did you know you can bake your breakfast sausage? I just discovered this. I slice the roll of sausage into 10-12 rounds (shaping them slightly with my hands) and bake them on a foil lined sheet pan at 400 for 15ish  minutes. Perfect, fast, and no greasy splatters on the stove!

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