Hi there! Mama here.
Have you ever hand stitched? I've seen tons of adorable hand-embroidered wall decor on Pinterest and I can't help but feel a little envious of some of those crafty stitching sistas! So what did I do about it? Well, I decided that for Week 3 of my "30 Goals in 30 Weeks" series, my goal would be to learn to stitch and create some of that handmade loveliness! 

Now I have to admit I've had this pretty colored embroidery floss sitting in my sewing box (aka three rubbermaid tubs that cover my entire closet floor) for over a month, but I've been too afraid to touch it for fear of creating some knotty, ugly mess and forever shaming myself in the world of stitchery. So naturally, my first step was to find and repeatedly watch (what else?) a youtube video about basic embroidery by embroiderer extraordinaire Jenny Hart, founder of Sublime Stitching. It's a short, easy-to-follow video, perfect for any stitching beginner, and the girly background music makes it even more fun while you learn.

At first I wasn't quite sure what to make, but, much like in Week 1, the perfect opportunity presented itself. My friend Stephanie was throwing a first birthday party for her sweet girl Claire and the theme was "You Are My Sunshine," with yellow and orange decorations (including an absolutely adorable birthday banner she made...don't get me started on how much I adore any kind of hanging banner--I have an entire wall in my dining room devoted to a large wall banner that I change for every season and holiday). These past couple years I've gotten into the habit of giving handmade gifts, so as soon as she told me the theme, the wheels in my Martha brain started turning and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to set out on my hand stitching adventure.

I decided to stitch the words "You are my sunshine" onto burlap fabric and add some felt rosettes, and the result was pretty gosh darn adorable... Click "Read More" below to see how I did it!

Hi there! Mama here.
So you know those things you always think would be so great and fun to do (pilates for pregnancy, hip hop moves, guided meditation) that you go out and buy an instructional video? For me, it was learning to dance with my husband for our wedding. We bought Drew's Famous Step By Step Wedding Dances while we were still engaged, intending to learn all six dances and impress everyone at our reception. As the months went on, however, we decided on an outdoor picnic wedding and ended up foregoing dancing in favor of volleyball and horseshoes (which, sadly, didn't pan out because it rained that day) and naturally, the dancing DVD was shoved aside and forgotten.

It's not like we never tried again--we attended a free swing dancing group on campus during our last semester in college. We tried really hard, but for some reason what we were doing just didn't look like what the teachers were doing and it was hard to keep up. We tried to practice what we'd learned later on at home, but without much success, and so with great sadness I hung up my proverbial dancing shoes and vowed never to swing dance again.

Fast forward to last month as I was making my "30 Goals in 30 Weeks" list: I thought about how my husband and I have been together over seven years and still haven't learned a single dance together. I thought about how cool it would be if we could actually do it, but then I remembered how frustrated I'd been when I couldn't keep up with the teachers in that class we took and I almost put the idea out of my mind, but then I remembered the wedding dance DVD! For nearly seven years, it's been packed in a box, unopened and forgotten...until now! Click "Read More" below to find out what happened!  

Hi there! Mama here. 
Don't they look pretty?

Well, I finally finished loading all of the pictures for this post and phew! Talk about visual overload! I went a little overboard, but I feel like it was necessary. You see, this was my first time canning, and even though it's a fairly straightforward process, I think it's definitely something you need to see done once by someone who knows what they're doing. Thus, the insane amount of pictures.

So here's the story: It all started out with our annual summer pilgrimage to my best friend's family homestead in Rockford, Michigan. I was talking about my "30 Goals In 30 Weeks" blog series, and when I mentioned that one of my goals was to can something, what started out as a typical visit ended in an afternoon making delicious homemade pickles! 

It was a happy coincidence that I got the opportunity to complete my first "30 Weeks" goal with my best friend Tiffany, with expert advice from her mother Connie of Grand Shire Farm. Connie is a Master Gardener who sells herbal soup and dip mixes at Fulton Street Farmers Market, the oldest and largest farmers market in Grand Rapids. She was at the market bright and early Friday morning, and when she heard I'd never canned, she loaded up her trunk with fresh pickling cucumbers from the market so that we could can and pickle them!
I'll show you our process below, but if you're going to try this one yourself I highly recommend working with someone who's done it before! Never having canned, I had no idea all that went into it when I'd made it one of my 30 goals. You need a large pot called a "canner" with a special rack insert to hold the canning jars (you can get one for anywhere from $20-$70 on Amazon or at your local all-in-one store), a few tools to make the process easier, and then of course the pickles and seasonings to make the pickling solution that you pour in around the pickling cucumbers. 

We made two kinds of pickles in one canning session (bonus!): Sweet Bread and Butter Pickles and Dill Pickles. So consider yourself warned: This is a ridiculously long, photo-jammed tutorial!

Hi there! Mama here.

So I was looking at my calendar last month, and it turns out I'm turning thirty next year. When I first realized this, I thought to myself, "Awesome! Woo hoo! Great! I can't wait! I'm so excited to be approaching this important milestone! After all, who doesn't want to turn 30?" 

*cue crickets chirping*

Thirty. 30. Three, zero. The big 3-0. The first in a series of milestone birthdays that makes women want to cry, deny, or pass right by their annual date of birth. My best friend turns thirty in less than two months (you're welcome, Tiff!), but she says she'll just be celebrating the first anniversary of her 29th birthday instead. Pretty sly, no? ;) Now I know many people pass 30 proudly, with their heads held high and without much ado. After all, 30 is supposed to be the new 20, right? (Riiiight.) To those people, I salute you! 

But me? I imagine it's going to be more like this...
I cried on my 20th birthday because I wasn't a teenager anymore (in fact, my dad wrote me a birthday card that year with those exact words, which he thought was really funny), so I can't imagine what's going to happen on the day where I realize my twenties are gone forever. It's not so much the idea of growing older that gets to me...at least I don't think so. It's more like I thought I would have my stuff more together than I do at this point in my life.
But in all seriousness, I just feel like this is such an important time in my life. I've been thinking about it for a while, and at first I decided that in honor of this upcoming milestone I need to do something BIG! Something incredible! Something that shows I've got something to show for my 30 years on this earth! Something that will make everyone say, "Wow! She's only thirty? She looks great and seems so carefree, not weighed down by the cares of this world. How has she managed to stay so youthful and do so many meaningful things with her life?" 

It's similar to when I was seven months pregnant with my firstborn, when one day out of the blue I burst into tears, thinking, "I'm going to be a mom and I don't know how to sew! How could I have let this happen?" Without stopping to think, my Martha brain kicked into gear and I signed up for every class at Jo-Ann Fabrics so I could learn how to sew, knit, crochet, quilt, and decorate cakes in the eight weeks before he was born (because yeah, that's what motherhood is all about). Sure, I learned a lot of really awesome domestic skills, but I also spent a lot of money that--at that time--I probably shouldn't have, and got stuck with a king-sized quilt in a pattern I'm not crazy about and too many yarn balls to count!

There are definitely some things I want to do before my 30th birthday, and I think it's really important that I do something, but this time I'm starting a little sooner and I'm trying a different approach. The fact is that my life is different now that I have children to raise and a household to manage, and I don't have the same kind of time or money I did when I was in college or when I was first married. Right now I've got a little time in the evenings and occasional nap times (because most of the time I'm passed out right along with the kids during nap time) where I can get something extra done, so it's got to be something that I don't need a lot of time all at once to accomplish.

So when I realized last month that there were exactly thirty-four weeks until I turn thirty, I decided that in those next four weeks I would plan out 30 things I want to do before I'm thirty, and do one each week in the 30 weeks leading up to my 30th birthday. I don't have a particular order because some of the things are alternates that may only happen if certain situations present themselves (witnessing a live birth, for example), but the point is just to do something, accomplish some goal, no matter how small, each week for that 30-week period.

Two weeks ago was Week 1 and then last week was Week 2, and I have completed my first two goals: to can something and to learn a dance with my husband. I'd never canned anything before, but I'd always wanted to learn and I had a very timely opportunity while visiting with my above-mentioned and turning-thirty-before-me best friend, Tiffany. As far as the dancing, I had an eight-year-old Wedding Dances DVD that I bought before my wedding in the hopes of being really impressive on the dance floor...it still had the plastic on it!

So that's my plan: 30 Goals In 30 Weeks Before My 30th Birthday 

Wish me luck!

-♡- Mama

In my next two posts, I'll tell you all about my first-ever canning experience and about dancing with my husband, and then I"ll reveal my goal for Week 3! In the meantime, are there any small goals you've set for yourself that you just want to get under your belt? I'm sure you've got something, and I invite you to join me this week and make that do-able goal happen!