In recent conversations, both in-person and online I have been amazed at how many people (both men and women, for the record) who don’t know how to do what I would consider “basic skills”. For instance, the amount of people who drive a car daily but don’t know how to change a tire is fascinating.

I learned how to do it in Drivers Ed because, just like putting gas in a car and checking the oil, it’s part of basic maintenance and operation of a vehicle. And yes, I’ve changed a tire more than once. I’ve also called AAA; but I know that there are times and places where I won’t have cell reception and I am going to be responsible for myself.

Anyway all of this got me thinking of what skills I want my children to have by the time they go to college. This is ever-evolving, of course, but here’s what I have so far:

Car care/operation: Change a tire, check tire pressure, check/add oil (and/or whatever new technology brings), how to read a paper map

Clothes: sew a button, fix a hem, iron, operate a washer and dryer without ruining the clothes. Bonus – if either kid wants to, I will teach them to use a sewing machine.

Home & Garden: start and use a lawn mower, paint, plant flowers, operate a drill and other basic tools, how to install new locks.

Cooking: make perfect chocolate chip cookies, cook a variety of proteins, make bread, make our family’s favorite recipes, make a good marinara sauce, cook perfect eggs, how to follow a recipe, starting a charcoal grill, cooking on a grill.

Maybe part of it was being the youngest of 3 and having “tired” parents, but I did all of these things by the time I was in high school. I mowed the grass in late elementary school. By 4th grade I was let lose in the kitchen without supervision and became the chief cookie and zucchini bread maker for the family. The summer between my 8th and 9th grade years I removed wallpaper and painted several rooms in our new house. I learned to sew from my mother and my middle school required Home Economics* so I furthered my skills there.

I remember being dumbfounded by a college classmate who had no idea how to use the dorm washing machines. I don’t want either of my children to be “that kid”. Beyond that I think that most of these things are simply basic parts of being a functioning adult and it’s my responsibility to teach my kids how to do them.

What “basic” skills do you want to teach your kid? As an adult, what skills do you wish you had?

*we were also required to take Shop where I learned things beyond basic tools like a drill press, table saw and metal working tools. Those classes were the best! I wish schools still required this.

Season’s Greetings

Now that Halloween is behind us it’s time for the rapid decent into the end-of-year holidays and one of my favorite traditions – the holiday card.

I LOVE holiday cards and look forward to them each year. I love picking photos, searching out the best designs and writing greetings. I also am like a kid in the candy store when it comes to receiving cards. I can’t wait to get to the mailbox each day and I have a huge stack of cards from previous years stashed away with our holiday decorations. If it has a photo I’m keeping it and I’ll pull it out each year and admire it.

I blame my parents for this. They do the dreaded “Christmas Letter” every year (and every year I’m surprised to see what they think my work title is – it changes annually and is never correct). But they also keep all the letters they receive and each year when we are celebrating Christmas at their house both my sister and I pour over the letters and photos. I marvel over old neighbors for whom I babysat – their kids now graduating from college. Or getting a once-a-year update from second or third cousins. I love this tradition.

With a husband who is a designer we’ve gone the custom route before. But, these days it both quicker (have you ever worked with a designer who is his own toughest critic on his personal projects? Good luck getting a final design) and cheaper to go the pre-made route. Plus with the number of layouts to choose from there is a slim chance people will see your card over and over again in their mailbox.

Enter Shutterfly.  I’ve been using Shutterfly since the days when you sent them your film and they sent back your photos. Remember film? Yeah – it’s been that long.  I’ve even managed to get my mom hooked on the site and if it’s easy enough for her to use then anyone can use it. She loves to make photo books for the grandkids – chronicling her adventures with them. Those are some serious treasures; M loves reading her special books as bedtime stores.

Anyway, we’ve used Shutterfly for holiday cards before and will be doing so again this year. Seriously, with over 500 designs to choose from how can you go wrong? But, yeah – 500 designs to chose from. I need you to help me pick. Here are the 3 I’ve narrowed it down to:

I love this one because we had Wonderful World played at our wedding. Plus I would give us the opportunity to show off some of the great photos Heather took of the kids.

I like how this one is part photo card part “family update letter”

I really like how simple this one is and how it doesn’t scream “holiday” from the outside. I could hang a card like this on the fridge and not worry about it being out of season.

So help me pick – tell me which one you like best. And tell me – are you a holiday card collector like me? Do you write a letter or just send a card? Or do you skip it altogether?

Disclosure: I received 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly for this post.  All opinions are 100% mine and based on previous services/products for which I paid.

Super Heroes Can Sew

It’s no secret that I like to sew. I actually like knitting better but sewing has the instant gratification thing going for it. (Don’t ask me about MAD’s baby blanket that I started knitting almost a year ago). I don’t consider myself a very good seamstress but I can find my way around a sewing machine. In my middle school you had to to take both home ec and shop – something for which I will be forever grateful. My mom taught me how to sew, but Home Ec gave me some structure and cemented most of  my skills since we had to make an article of clothing and a stuffed animal for grades. As a side note – do schools even offer home ec and shop anymore? Those classes taught me some wonderful life skills and everyone (boys and girls) had to take 2 years of each. It was brilliant.

Anyway, while I do plently of sewing for our household I don’t often consider sewing for others. I’m too self-conscious of my lack of skills. I once made roman shades for our friends/neighbors and I was nauseous the entire time I worked on them because I feared screwing them up. I can guarantee that you will never find me on Etsy as I think that kind of pressure would give me an ulcer. So, I stick with fun projects for the kids and easy things like curtains and repairs.

Then Heather posted this pic of a superhero set she made for her nephew I thought “I think can do that!” and we had a birthday party for a 3 year old girl the following Sunday. So, I started looking around the internet and came across a ton of instructions and tutorials. I ended up mostly using this one. As luck would have it, satin is on super-sale due to Halloween. That plus felt and thread and I spent a whopping $7.39 on supplies. I figured it was a pretty small investment and if it sucked we could go buy a more conventional gift. However, I think it turned out pretty well:

Of course, in my sleep deprived and somewhat rushed state, I put the appliques on the wrong sides (I intended for the purple star to be on the pink satin and the pink circle to be on the purple side – oops!). And having never worked with satin before the seams are a bit overworked – that stuff is slippery! But the birthday girl didn’t seem to care & put it on right away:

And, since I was on a sewing roll I whipped up a matching number shirt for her to rock during her 3rd year. Do you know much 3 year olds loving sharing their age? This shirt makes it easy:

The project was so much fun I already have the materials to make a cape for M. And I think I may be taking more handmade gifts to future birthday parties.