Sponsored: Penelope’s Summer Style



This post is sponsored by Sven Clogs. Original hand-crafted clogs since 1974. Clogs made-to-order with premium styles and materials for Man, woman and child.

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As evidenced by Penelope’s porcelain skin, she hasn’t been out as much this summer as she was last. I can’t believe it’s finally drawing to a close! Now I’m craving sewing time so I can make a couple of special clothes for the school year.

I don’t often make clothes for the kids because they grow out of them or destroy them so quickly, but this was a fun little number to whip up from extra fabric I had lying around after I made a dress (coming soon!). So yes! We’re totally matching. I have a few mother-daughter looks queued up.



I didn’t use a pattern, I grabbed some shorts and a shirt and started cutting. Next time I make her a romper, I have a few ideas to make it a little more balanced between top/bottom (the bottoms came out tighter and the top looser than expected).

In fact, I ended up cutting the bottoms too small entirely. I got clever and grabbed some white fabric with tiny red anchors on them and made stripes to add width to the bottoms. Hindsight, I should have added more. But she owns them.



Here’s what I did:

  • I traced a pair of shorts and sewed them up. Seeing that they were snug, I added the racing stripe by cutting down the sides and adding the strip.
  • I topstitched the strip to make it look more finished.
  • Next, I found a loose fitting shirt and cut out a pentagram shape. Leaving the top part a little longer so I could make a loop.
  • I cut the back taller than the front.
  • To assemble the top and bottom, I sewed up each of them separately, attached elastic to the shorts, then put right sides together and added the top (two rows of stitching at the waistline).
  • I hemmed the shorts, the arms and the neckline. I cut a tube of extra fabric and threaded it around the loops at the top and tied it in a bow.
  • Fini!

Penelope knows how to tie bows, so getting in and out of the romper isn’t a big deal for her. It would be a little more complicated for a younger child.



Sometimes I wonder how she got so old and grown up, then I get her a My Little Pony and I realize she’s still in the throws of her childhood. I sigh in relief.

She’ll be starting second grade any day now. Am I the only one that loves back-to-school season? I love getting supplies, I love the new clothes, organizing everything and a fresh start with new teachers, new classmates and new things to learn.

Outfit details: 


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    Design: Emily and Taylor Wedding


    My sister got remarried! I’m so excited for her. As a gift to them, I designed their wedding invitations. She was the easiest to please bride I’ve ever worked with. All she wanted was something casual, but nice. I decided to go with some brush work with the design.


    I used a more formal brush hand, but kept it in the casual zone by varying the letter sizing just a touch and pairing it with a simple sans serif. My favorite sans serif at the moment: Museo Sans 300. I swear I use this for everything. It’s like the denim jeans of fonts for me. It’s more round than Helvetica Neue, so a tad more casual, but so classic.

    I created and scanned in a teal watercolor wash. I used Daniel Smith Cobalt Teal Blue and Daniel Smith Phalo Turquoise for the gorgeous colored washes. They’re incredible watercolors!


    Em wanted them really simple, but I felt like they were too plain as-is. Since she was only doing a few dozen, I bought some white vellum and cut out overlays with a heart goign around their names. It’s really hard to photograph, but if you look closely you can see.

    I didn’t cut them by hand. I used the design as a reference to create the heart-shaped overlay in Illustrator then I cut using my Silhouette.



    I bought teal envelopes to coordinate with the watercolor washes and addressed the envelopes in a more formal brush for the names and a casual print for the addresses.


    Pic c/o SaltyBooth

    I love how this mini wedding suite turned out, but most of all I’m glad to see my sister found a great guy.


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    Demystifying Baby Food


    Back when Penelope was a fish in my belly I was gifted 100 Baby Puree book at a baby shower. It intrigued me. My mom always made our baby food. She was the original natural mama raising us on natural, homegrown foods. It wasn’t a trend or health thing. It boiled down to plain old economics. Continuing my mom’s legacy of showing love through good food, I decided that I would make my baby food, too. When I had Penelope I needed to be as economically responsible as possible so we could survive in the Bay Area! Now I love to make baby food because it’s easy and delicious (I’m constantly catching Felix sneaking bites of June’s food!).


    Side note: store bought baby food is great. It’s convenient and it simplifies motherhood. Why be a stressed out mama?! There’s no wrong way to feed a baby (bottle or breast, store-bought or home made) besides not feeding a baby. If you feel otherwise, you’re welcome to meet my inner mama bear. Judgemental parents are not tolerated in my neck of the woods, in-person or online. But if you’ve been intimidated by making your own baby food, let me simplify it for you. It’s easy and rewarding. Let’s talk about common misconceptions:

    It’s hard to make. Getting a recipe book is a great way to get started. It helped me think outside the box and get vegetables I wouldn’t have otherwise given a second thought: parsnips, leeks, cabbage, I’m looking at you! Since making baby food recipes, I’ve been more comfortable including those veggies into our more grown-up meal times, too!

    Most recipes consist of cooking a veggie or veggies to a mashable consistency usually by boiling in water. In the cookbook I got, there are some fussy recipes like salmon and risotto. Not sure I’ll be attempting that any time soon, but it’s given me ideas on how to transform our evening meals into something that June can handle when we’re eating as a family.

    melissaesplin-demystifying-baby-food-3 It’s time-consuming. I’ll cook a family meal and make baby food at the same time or batch cook as much as I can. Sundays are a low-stress day with lots of cooking, so I may do a large batch of multiple “flavors”. If I’m doing it while I’m doing my regular cooking routine, It’s no extra work at all. I just make sure that I have enough jars on-hand to fill with baby food. I’ve bought various types of jars (specialtybottle.com is a great place to start), but I’ve found 4 oz. jam jars are my favorite. They’ve got a wide mouth for easy filling and they’re the perfect amount for an emerging appetite. They’re easy to find at the grocery store, too.

    It’s perishable. Yes. It is. The shelf life isn’t as long as store-bought food. I don’t can mine like my mom would when she would make applesauce just before winter would hit. BUT, I’ve noticed that if I mash the food and store it in canning jars while hot, they’ll seal in the fridge. HOWEVER, they won’t keep the seal at room temperature. I keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to use them (I don’t leave it at room temperature for more than 12 hours). But the jars of food stored this way will last a great while. I would admonish you to smell and taste the veggies before you feed your babe if you’re not sure about how well it’s kept. I haven’t ever had a jar sour on me in the fridge. I’ve had some in the fridge for over a month.melissaesplin-demystifying-baby-food-4

    I don’t have the right equipment or space. The food processor I use Chris and I got as a wedding present. Some are as low as $15, but you can get decent ones for $30. They’re small unitaskers that don’t take up much space in the kitchen. As much as I would love a full-sized food processor, this little bad boy has worked fabulously for us when we had a 25 square foot kitchen. If you plan to make small batches and go through them quickly, regular tupperware is great. For doing larger batches, small jam jars you can find at the grocery store are worth it. The glass also doesn’t stain when it comes to the carrot and beet recipes!

    Basic Carrots

    makes about 6-10 4 oz. servings

    • 8-10 large carrots
    • 1-2 pats of butter (optional)
    • 1-2 cups water

    Peel and chop carrots to 1/2″ discs (bigger discs are okay, but require a longer cook time). Place carrots in a medium sauce pan with 1-2 pats of butter and water. The water shouldn’t cover the carrots!

    Cover and cook until soft (20-30 minutes) on medium high. The water will reduce so you may want to check every 5-10 minutes and add water if necessary. As soon as they’re soft, remove from heat and add to the food processor. Use all the water in the pot if there’s any left over. There are vitamins in that water. For a fridge seal with jam jars, process while still warm/hot. Add water as-needed to the mixture until the desired consistency. I tend to add more when my babies are just learning to eat and less when they’re more experienced eaters. If you’re using a blender you may need to use a touch more water. Add just little bits at a time.

    Store in the fridge to cool. Serve plain or mixed with sticky rice for older babies.

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    1. Emily B says:

      I love homemade food, but lease be careful with food storage! Just because the lid has suction in the fridge doesn’t mean it is as safe as a properly canned jar. The prolonged, intense heat of canning kills all microorganisms and then the seal prevents any new ones from entering. Without properly heating and processing the jar, you haven’t killed the germs and they will continue to slowly multiply in the fridge. This is especially true of foods that are low in acid and sugar. You cannot always detect if food has gone bad by smell and taste alone. You are much safer freezing your food!

      • Melissa says:

        Totally agreed!! I’ve found that my partial seal allows the food to last longer than if I store it in plastic containers. But yes! Always be careful!

    2. Katie says:

      Great post! I’m finally past the new eater days, but I made baby food for all my kids too (except #3 who did baby led weaning) and I’d agree with all of your points! I’d also add that if anyone is worried about homemade baby food going bad, purees freeze really well and will last several months in the freezer, long past the time that baby will need them. So there’s really never a reason to worry about homemade baby food going bad!

    3. Kristie says:

      One more useful kitchen gadget that might help with stuff is a mandolin slicer. I recieved one as a wedding gift, and didn’t use it much those first few years, but I use it all the time now. I slice cucumbers for my kids to snack on. Or potatoes to cook for yummy potatoes. But it would make slicing anything to cook it up easy and fast. My slicer has minimal parts so clean up is quick and easy. I wish I had this post several years ago. Making your own baby food always seemed intimidating. But I think you are right, putting it together as you make dinner for everyone else it isn’t that hard. Especially if you have the family eat non mashed veggies!

    4. Michelle Richard says:

      In australia (well amoungst the friends/family i know) it’s usual to make our own baby food and save the store bought stuff for holidays/emergencies etc. Steaming the veggies retains far more nutrients than boiling and it isnt any harder. Also don’t be scared of Salmon. I just oven baked or steamed a fillet and then flaked it quite small. My girls LOVED it. I would sometimes mix it into some pureed veggies too.

    5. Robin says:

      This is great! With my son, I fed him Beechnut natural purees. They had a great variety of flavors with some less common ingredients and never any extras (like putting pear juice in it just to add sugar like Gerber does). They even beef up some of their stage 3 foods with things like oatmeal and quinoa to make them a bit more hearty. But I’m expecting another baby in Dec. and I would LOVE to make my own food this time. You make it sound totally doable, so I think I’ll give it a shot! Plus I saved 50 baby food jars for no reason, so I might as well put them to good use, right?

      • Melissa says:

        I had no idea about Beechnut versus Gerber. That’s definitely good to know when I’m in a pinch and need to stock up on store-bought baby foods!

    6. Angel Y. says:

      Great post Melissa! I pureed foods at home for my little one and it was super easy. Now she’s BLW and I enjoy seeing how much she’s grown eating healthy organic foods.

    2015 IAMPETH Pangram Exchange


    In march, just off the heels of a wonderful meet-up with friends in Vegas, I got this idea that we need to exchange pangrams at the upcoming IAMPETH (the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting) convention. Selfishly I want to collect originals or prints from among the greatest and most passionate penmen and women.

    The most common pangram out there is “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog”. It’s one of the shortest sentences that (a) makes sense and (b) uses all the letters of the alphabet.


    Surely I had plenty of time to design something epic with lots of color, fun printing and gold foil, but that didn’t happen. Working in advance never happens. Coming up with my own pangram seemed so daunting a task that I put it off. I had found an awesome pangram in a book I inherited from my great, great grandfather: “Go! Lazy fat vixen, be shrewd! Jump quick!” But for some reason the layout wasn’t jiving with me. I wasn’t connecting with the words. Then I thought of jazz hands.


    I busted out the pencil and started writing. I wrote the alphabet down and I started to put words together with the tougher letters to use in a sentence. It just came together. And I think it speaks to who I am as well. I’m not one for clever prose, but I was proud I came up with this by myself.


    The design ended up being a bit of a fiasco as well. I wrote it out, scanned it and printed the piece as-is. I used a sepia ink to get some slight variations, but my hairlines were too thin for the digital printer. Wa, Wa. Saying your hairlines are too thin is like a body builder saying that their one-rep max squat wasn’t heavy enough. It’s a blessed problem to have. But I was down to the wire. I had 3 days before I left for Tennessee to get the piece printed. I put on my big girl pants, dusted off my wacom tablet and vectorized the whole thing. It took about 3 hours. I printed it.

    THEN after I printed them, I showed up to IAMPETH with the cards and I wasn’t happy with them. So I added more flourishes to each one (you can see above the lines in the corners that aren’t perfectly smooth) and little bits of silver foil from my hot foil pen and called it a day. I’m pretty pleased it didn’t all blow up in my face considering how last-minute it all was.


    I was impressed at how amazing and creative the pangrams were. Many were done by hand! Incredible.


    So, I’ve got a few extra. If you’d like to do a little pangram trade, fill out the below*.

    *While supplies last. Your information will not be shared with anyone.

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    1. PLEASE, PLEASE teach a class on how you vectorize so perfectly!!

    2. Katie says:

      I’d love to see all the pangrams from the conference (especially the rest of the Jennifer Lopez one!), are they online somewhere? I would also LOVE a print of yours, but I don’t expect you to ship to the UK!

    3. Kieran says:

      like the commenter above, I live far away but would LOVE a print. Would you charge shipping so that we can get one without the guilt? I submitted my details just in case!

    4. Pauline says:

      Your flourishes are amazing! Lovely work as always, Melissa.

    FREEBIE: Penelope’s Tea Party


    At the beginning of the summer, I scored a precious set of cups and dishes perfect for a tea party. I told Penelope she needed to gather her friends for a tea party at some point and use them. She squealed.


    It wasn’t until a few days later that she came up to me asking to get everything out for the tea party. After explaining to her that she needed to give her friends some kind of advanced warning if she wanted them to show up, her finger in the air as she enthusiastically said, “I need you to make me invitations!”

    Well OKAY, my dear! The cutest little art director hovered over my shoulder to make sure all the details were correct. She needed gold bits on the invitations (see the little foil dots in the above pic?). And she needed them sealed with glitter washi tape to deliver to her friends.


    I was thrilled to have a little peace and quiet while she walked the neighborhood, dropping them in the neighbor’s mail boxes. Since it was a Monday and she was inviting her friends to a party on Tuesday, I made sure to text each mom to double-check invitations were received. All but 2 girls showed up. We had a full house of giggly girls with their pinkies high as they sipped “tea”.

    I served honey chocolate toasts, mint oreos (at Penelope’s request) and raspberry lemonade. They thought it was the best tea ever.


    (taken from an entirely different party, but I love this pic of her)

    Penelope was the most gracious host exclaiming, “Welcome!! I’m so glad you could make it!” while I sat there, hands over my mouth, trying not to squeal and giggle at the same time. She is incredibly more socially astute at her age than I was in college. The girl knows how to throw a party.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 8.11.34 AM

    Download the freebie by clicking the image above! By downloading you agree to the Terms of Use below. Are you new here? Check out the “printables” tab at the top of the page for more freebies!

    *This tutorial/freebie is free for personal use and should not be distributed/republished without my consent. Altering any files is NOT ALLOWED. If you would like to use this freebie for commercial purposes, please email me. Thanks!
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    1. Helen says:

      How precious. I miss those days so much I enlist the neighborhood girls to bring their American girl dolls and we tea party. Even the grand children are too old now. But such memories. Just keep making them

    2. Mim says:

      Yes!! Josie has tea parties all the time, and she will just die when I show her this template. So perfect! I always make her cucumber tuna mini sandwiches (the cucumber slices act as the bread), makes them feel fancy when I have no sweets on hand😉

    3. Deborah says:

      I have the exact same plate as shown here. Just no cup. 😕

    4. Angela says:

      Thanks for sharing! I’d be willing to host a little tea party just so I can send out the invitation :)

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