Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Browsing Category Creativity

Creativity / Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood / Poetry

Few Words

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 18/52

few words, many thoughts
rollercoaster of calm and chaos
ordinary tasks bound to thoughtful introspection
never pausing with the moving on to something new
dishes washed, dishes dried
toys in bins
pride laid down for humble joys
again and again
full but empty
a cycle familiar but still uncomfortable
the giving up to gain what waits beyond my vision

aches hang bare and lonely
longing for heaven
but living something close
living yes the best i can
giving more
focused attention
moments that can never be replaced

spring to follow hard
live a journey traveled less
a mess with heart and soul
the art of doing love


DIY Fabric Tote

So, for some reason, every time I’m just about to have a baby, I get crazy amounts of inspiration for creative projects. Nesting. Yes. Except I’m not really into the organizing, cleaning, purging – mostly because I’ve already been doing that over the past several months. So after I finished making the baby blanket over the weekend, which happened to be early in the day, I decided I hadn’t done enough sewing, so I marched myself over to the fabric store and bought the following fabric. Actually, my husband drove me to the store, and all the kids were along, so I couldn’t afford to sit and consider and ponder and change my mind one hundred times about what I was going to get. As a result, I picked out this combo in record time. I had poked around on Pinterest looking for some ideas for simple fabric totes, and came upon this tutorial for some guidance.

In the past, I have been very shy of committing to colors in any creative project. I always choose plain, safe, practical, and rarely anything very flashy. The ironic thing is when I’m photographing families, I absolutely love it when they coordinate bright or bold colors in their wardrobe, so when I was thinking more about this tote, I wanted to choose fabrics that would challenge my plain jane habit. I went into it knowing I would be making this for a friend, so I considered fabrics that reminded me of her aesthetic, and also had a bit of color that I might not normally choose myself.

I followed the tutorial fairly closely with regard to measurements, but decided to leave the frills behind. Ruffles aren’t really my thing. I also couldn’t get it gathered quite right, so I made the front ruffles a flat panel instead. Below is the front side of the tote. I was excited to incorporate the D-rings into the handles as an added touch, even though my straps and loops ended up being just a little wide. I love that its not quite perfect.

The inside is fully lined, and I sewed in a few pockets that can hold necessary items like a phone, keys, pens, etc so they are not floating around the bottom of the bag. I have made several other totes in the past, but this is the first time I’ve followed a tutorial or measured anything for a tote…and let me say, lining the inside of a bag is way easier when you know what size the bag actually is. Sometimes being a free spirit does not make things easier! This time it came together so seamlessly…I may just start getting a little more serious about measuring things instead of winging it. Maybe.

This is the first time I’ve ever done boxed corners. They were really much easier than I expected. I followed this tutorial to learn how to do them.

Overall, I am really pleased with how this turned out. In fact, I think it is the most sophisticated thing I’ve sewn to date, and I’m really looking forward to making another sometime soon. I did finish it in one evening (bonus for short attention-span me), and if I could give any advice, I would recommend completing some of the smaller details first. Straps. D-ring loops, interior pockets. Then when you get the structure put together, you can proceed to attach those pieces as you’re ready for them instead of having to stop and do each side-project in order to move forward.


Simple DIY Baby Blanket

Spent the morning making this little beauty for the little one that is waiting to join our family in a few weeks. I have made these blankets for each of the kids, and for several friends over the years. What I love about them is they are the perfect size for swaddling baby, especially between 1-3 months old. They are admittedly a little on the large side for newborns, but that stretch of time is so short, and I love that these are useful beyond the first weeks. I find they are also large enough to stand in for a nursing cover if there isn’t one handy. After the swaddling stage, they also make great tummy-time blankets.

Another reason I love these is they are super easy to make. I am really only at a beginning/intermediate level of sewing, and I find that I get bored easily with projects that take too much time without the gratification of a finished product. Just being honest! So if you’re interested in making one yourself (they make great gifts for friends!) I put together a little tutorial to help.

First, choose 2 fabrics that complement each other. You’ll want 1 & 1/3 yard of each print/color, and I have only made these with snuggle or quilting flannel from Joann Fabrics. I have made it with just 1 yard previously, and find the blankets turn out just a bit too small to be useful to me. Before starting, I square up the two pieces of fabric by folding them in a triangle and cutting (or tearing) the edges to match, then pin the edges every 6-10 inches or so to keep them aligned, with the ‘right sides’ turned in to each other.

Then I stitch down all four sides about 5/8″ from the edge, except for a 6 inch bit on one side that needs to remain open so you can turn it right side out for the next steps. I do not measure the distance to the edge, but try to keep a straight/even stitch all the way around. Then, through the opening left at the end, I turn the whole blanket right side out and flatten out the corners and edges, using an iron to press them down.

I do typically follow the ironing with a few pins around to keep the pieces in good position for the next stitches. First, I stitch down as close to the edge as I can (1/2″ or less), starting with the 6″ portion that I turned the blanket through with. If you fold the edges in to the right place and pin them, they stitch together nicely.

After sewing the 1/2″ all the way around, I like to make a second stitch about an inch toward the middle from the original stitch, just to help the edges lay a little flatter and to add a little touch to the final result. And that about does it! It takes a little less than an hour to make from start to finish, most of the time going into the prep, pinning, turning, pressing…the sewing itself is pretty easy! Straight lines all the way.

Creativity / Family

Game Day Buzz

The city is alive with spirit for today’s big game. I’m not a huge football fan, but I have enjoyed the excitement of this season, and as I learn more about the strategy and working parts of the game, I like watching it more and more. Per the husband’s request, we decided to show a little Seahawks-spirit in this week’s family photo by including a banner I made in support of them. The kids have no idea what the touchdown hands are all about, but they obliged for the photo. If you ask me, the little one stole the show this week.

One photo a week of our family throughout the year. 5/52

After posting a photo of the banner on my Facebook timeline earlier this week, several people asked me how I made it, so the following is a (rough) tutorial. I rarely have a real plan ahead of time when I am doing a creative project, so much of the following was improvised on the spot. All I had decided on going into it was the colors I wanted to use, and the shape of the letter flags. I bought simple cotton broadcloth in all the Seahawks-related colors, and started by layering up the blue so I could cut all 10 layers for the flags at the same time. I folded and cut a piece of computer paper to size first to make sure the angle would be even on both sides and then proceeded with cutting the fabric.

Next, I went searching for a font I thought could work for the lettering, and printed out everything at the desired size. I printed it out twice, as the first time the letters seemed like they would be a little small on the flags and larger letters seemed necessary. That’s the fun part of figuring things out as you go!

To get fabric letters out of paper ones, I used paper-backed iron-on adhesive transfer on the back side of my white broadcloth. After first cutting the letters out of the computer paper, I traced them backwards onto the back/paper side of the transfer, so I could cut the fabric out without any marks on the front side. After the letters were all cut out from the fabric, I removed the paper backing, placed each letter carefully on its flag, and ironed it on.

The next step was to figure out how to use the bright green to liven up the banner, so I spread the flags out on the table so I could think about what to do. I had plans for a more involved design, but as the time got later and my patience wore out, I decided on simple long rectangle flags between/behind each letter-flag. Sometimes simple is better!

It wasn’t until the next morning that I tackled the Seahawks logo for the final flag. The 12th man flag was the first one I did, even though it’s not pictured until later. I went about the same process for the logo (computer-printed, cut out – painstakingly piece by piece – and the ironed together in successive steps). This was by far the most tedious part of the project, but I am pleased with the final result, even though I would have loved a little more precise lines on the beak.

To bring it all together, I pinned the pieces together with a 1/4-inch navy ribbon and sewed down the ribbon with a zig-zag stitch. This is the final result! If you’re in the market to make any kind of banner, I recommend the broadcloth/iron-on transfer combo. While I chose not to finish the edges of the flags as of yet, I think they’ll hold up for many seasons to come. Go Hawks!

Creativity / Family

Advent Activities Update

My goal for December is to keep things simple but be very intentional about celebrating Christmas together, making fun memories as we go along. We have been keeping up with our Advent calendar activities, and I thought I would give a report on what we have already done and how they have gone. As of yet, we have not missed a day, although we did rearrange a few days that seemed to conflict with our schedule.

december 2  – pick out one new christmas album – We chose Justin Rizzo “Christmas” and I love it.

december 3  – color a christmas picture – I printed several coloring pages out from the internet for the kids to color. Totally simple, but they were all about it.

december 4  – have hot chocolate with marshmallows together

december 5  – donate used toys, books, and clothes – This is the one thing we haven’t completed. We have done the sorting, but we still need to actually deliver our boxes of toys, clothes, and items to donate to their destination(s).

december 6  – put up a ribbon for christmas cards – At first I was going to put up something new/different, but when I pulled the paper garland I made last year out of the Christmas box, it seemed fitting to just use it for the cards that started arriving. There are a few more up now since these photos were taken (pinned up with small wooden clothespins) and we have lots of room for more! This garland was made with a thick yarn and paper triangles strung on. The kids helped me put it together last year, and the paper held up pretty well in storage & handling. Eventually I would love to make a fabric one.

A closer look at my growing belly for the curious. Baby seems to be right on track with her growth. This is the first/only photo of myself and my round shape that I’ve shared this pregnancy.

Above is the adjacent wall, where more cards will be added as they come to us. On the Advent calendar, I just turn the numbers over and discard the slips of paper that had the activities on them.

december 7  – buy a new ornament or christmas decoration – We had a sick baby at home for a few days, so my husband took the kids to Leavenworth on his own and the treasures that found their way back here were: a miniature light-up snow globe, a nutcracker ornament, and a horse ornament.

december 8  – cut tree & decorate house for christmas – I put the few photos I took of that day on this post and this post. I hope to share some more when I get around to photographing the whole decorated tree. We are still adding to it.

december 9  – make a popcorn garland – This was a fun activity, but was really mostly enjoyed by the oldest. The others started off with gusto but were quickly frustrated and became disinterested in anything except eating the popcorn. We used blunt needles and embroidery thread, and I provided a giant bowl of salted stove-top popcorn for eating alongside a smaller bowl of unsalted popcorn for threading. I would say this is a great activity for 7+ year olds. Even when everyone abandoned her, she kept at it and filled her whole string (about 3 feet).

december 10  – make and mail christmas cards for grandparents – Everyone had fun with this. I’ll have photos of them soon.

december 11  – make felt ornaments – This is always a hit as well. The three older kids (ages 4, 5.5, and 7) all made their own ornaments by sewing two pieces of felt together and stuffing fluff inside. I cut out their shapes (which I cut from a pattern I made out of cardboard first), got them started with a threaded needle, and let them go to town. The ornaments pictured are the ones A & J made last year and are hanging on the tree.

december 12  – $5 present shopping with kids – This is what we did tonight, and it was really fun. We split up into teams (boys team and girls team) to head out shopping and each of the kids were given the name of another sibling they had to choose a $5 gift for. To me, it was not as much about what gifts they ended up choosing (although they are sweet), but the excitement they had about choosing thoughtfully for another, and the experience of knowing (and having to keep) a surprise. Each of them was involved in choosing and wrapping the present they will to give to their selected sibling, except the toddler who doesn’t understand yet. We’ll see if they can keep the surprise until Christmas day!



Creativity / Family

Handmade Christmas: Our Advent Calendar

For years, I have had the best intentions about making memories together during the season of Advent, but to be honest, it has never come together in any sort of successful effort. We always talk about buying an advent calendar to countdown the days, but I have found myself creatively uninspired by the paper/disposable ones you can buy with little candies inside, too frugal to buy anything of the quality I would desire for a calendar we could use again and again for years, and in times past, I have been too scattered and stressed out to make a DIY advent calendar project happen.

Last year was the first year it dawned on me that I really hate buying Christmas decorations and ornaments. Of course, there are some exceptions, and we do have some really meaningful ones that we have purchased over the years, but really, what matters most to me is that we have a personal investment in the creation of the trimmings we put up. Last Christmas, the two oldest kids made sewn felt ornaments for the tree, and I fell in love with them. This year, and for the years to come, I am planning to add many handmade projects to our Christmas collection.

I started off by creating an Advent calendar that we can hopefully use for multiple years. It is very simple – just a craft board, painted silver, little clothespins attached with hot glue, and a ribbon to hang. The tags came blank and pre-cut in a package and I decorated them with stamps and paper punch snowflakes. After I finished all the elements, I compiled a list of activities that are printed on slips of paper and clipped behind each tag. (See list below.)

In preparation for Christmas day, each day we flip around the appropriate tag on the calendar to reveal the activity on the slip behind it, and each night we read Luke chapter 2 (the birth of Jesus) from a different bible (with some repeats, of course), sing a few carols together before bed, and talk about different topics like love, peace, generosity, and the things that Jesus says are important to Him in the New Testament…the foundational things I hope my children will glean from why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. My list starts on Dec. 2 because I hadn’t pulled it all together in time for Dec. 1. Real life!

  • december 2  – pick out one new christmas album
  • december 3  – color a christmas picture
  • december 4  – have hot chocolate with marshmallows, together
  • december 5  – donate used toys, books, and clothes
  • december 6  – put up a ribbon for christmas cards
  • december 7  – buy a new ornament or christmas decoration
  • december 8  – cut tree & decorate house for christmas
  • december 9  – make a popcorn garland
  • december 10  – make and mail christmas cards for grandparents
  • december 11  – make felt ornaments
  • december 12  – $5 sibling present shopping with kids
  • december 13  – holiday party
  • december 14  – have a fireside night together
  • december 15  – make gingerbread houses
  • december 16  – watch a christmas movie
  • december 17  – christmas crafts with friends
  • december 18  – go out to see christmas lights
  • december 19  – make dough ornaments
  • december 20  – build legos together as a family with hot chocolate
  • december 21  – make and decorate christmas cookies
  • december 22  – make a christmas decoration together
  • december 23 – sing christmas carols
  • december 24  – open a gift & watch a christmas movie

To me, the activities are fun, but are not the main point. Most are easy and will not require a lot of time or energy, but will probably be a great delight to the kids. If we miss one, oh well. I see them as opportunities designed to bring us together, make memories and meaningful projects that can go in our Christmas box for the years ahead.

Creativity / Life & Faith

Writing Adventures

The leaves are turning and with the season’s change, I’ve decided to embark on a personal writing challenge that I hope will help bring my lost words out of hiding. For years I have wanted to write. And I suppose I have written a little bit here and there. Bits and pieces of my little life for blogging, but at the prospect of writing more purposefully, more extensively about the things that hide away in my heart, I have started, stopped, and frozen up more times than I can count. I’m not sure why now seems like the right time to dig in with more gusto, but I’m at a place of peace, relative calm, and I feel drawn to start in to a more involved writing journey than I have engaged in the past.

I wonder if you’ll join me on the journey? I will not be sharing complete free-writes for the duration of my challenge, only because I think it will make me freeze up again, but I may share excerpts from time to time here on the blog, and will probably proceed with sharing some of the other posts I’ve already been working on. What would be superbly helpful for me is for those who care, to check in with me periodically between now and December 1st to see how it is going, to encourage me in the little ways you can, and to pray for big victories in this area. My goal is to write 60,000 words between today (yes, I started!) and December 1st…and hopefully at least some of those words will be deeply real, worthwhile, and something more substantial than the “I don’t know what to write today” fluff. I’m totally going to need the encouragement and accountability! Also, I’m all ears for tips, writing prompts, and subjects to write about for the days I don’t have a springboard to leap off of. I will be writing creative non-fiction, and mostly about my life, experience, journey with God, motherhood, etc. Thanks in advance for your support.

Creativity / Homeschool

Making Colors New

This is how we spent the morning. I didn’t mean to start into this project, but while I was organizing other things and the kids were getting on my nerves with their bickering, I knew I had to give them a task to do. The crayon basket had already been dumped out and needed to be picked up, and I had the brilliant idea of asking them to sort the broken ones from the others. A bit later, when that task was almost finished, I suggested they take the papers off the broken crayons….more to keep them busy while I finished my task. Only then did I think about actually melting them down to “make colors new” as E put it.

Just so I didn’t find myself in a messy pickle, I did google up a few different tutorials before jumping in. We decided to sort the pieces by color. I sprayed the muffin tin with cooking spray so they would pop out easily when cooled. It definitely did the trick and cleanup was a breeze. I put them straight in the oven at 275 degrees for about 8 minutes. The trickiest part was pulling them out of the oven while hot, but once the tray was safely on the cutting board, all was well.

I let them cool for about 10 minutes on the cutting board, and because all of us were getting impatient and they were still slightly warm, I put them in the freezer for about another 5 minutes. I flipped over the muffin tin and tapped the bottoms with a butter knife and they popped right out. Everyone took a turn coloring with them, and they thought it was the coolest thing ever. I’m just glad it was so easy and thrilling for them. Even superheroes like a good art project!

Creativity / Life & Faith / Thoughts

The Stories We Do

I’ve been away from the blog for a few days. My mind is active with new ideas and new vision for the coming months as it relates to my creative work, most specifically photography, but also sewing, writing, and kid projects. I go through cycles of creativity…spending weeks or months doing a little here and there and then a burst of energy and inspiration hits and I’m lost in a sea of thoughts and daydreams and lists and a totally insatiable desire to roll out a new creative piece in whatever form I’m working on at the moment. Unfortunately that means my whole home routine falls to the wayside and I find myself at three in the afternoon wondering where the day went, up to my ears in dishes and the messes that spring up around the house when the kids more-or-less entertain themselves while I’m deep in thought for hours on end. I’m not totally proud of the fact that they don’t have my full attention on these daydreaming days, but the truth is, I think it’s actually as good for them as it is for me. There is less bickering (because they know I’m just going to tell them to work it out) and they really are content to imagine and play together without needing me to pull out one activity after another to entertain them.


I’ve been thinking about the stories we tell with our lives and creative work. I don’t just mean in the art we create (although that is a big part of what I’m thinking about for myself), not just the words that we use to tell stories, but all the things that are created through our action or inaction. How we create meals to nourish and fill, curate home spaces for growing and learning, how we build relationships by taking risks to step out of our comfort zones and into someone else’s world…to see from new perspectives. How we make a life with a spouse and how the decisions we make together mold and shape our river’s path to the ocean. How we speak loud without words what we really value by what we do and don’t do with our time, talents, and resources.

The story I’ve been telling for so many years is changing. I feel like the words of amazing grace are hitting in a deeper place than ever before. I once was blind but now I see. So many things. I was rejected. Low. Lost. Hurt. Broken. I cried out for anyone to notice me and tell me I was important. Loved. Spent all my energy trying to meet expectations (my own or others’) that never led to satisfying fulfillment or gold stars, but mostly led to disappointment after disappointment and the need to dig deeper and do more to fill the hole. Doing more isn’t the answer. Doing better isn’t the answer either. I see, possibly for the first time in the clearest way, that God’s story expressed inside my story is one of freedom, peace, and complete surrender to what He has for me…which is admittedly easy to say and much harder to do.

Instead my story is becoming one of low, found, restored, healed, and eyes fixed of Jesus. Notice the low part stays the same. I think low is something we really need to pay attention to. Emptying ourselves out, laying ourselves low at His feet so we can hear what He speaks and receive what He gives…both of which are often missed if we are not in the right position before Him, both of which can be easily misunderstood if we don’t understand His upside-down ways. I’m learning God’s expectations and desires for me are more simple (not easy) and clear than I make them.

I’ve learned that it’s not enough to speak a story out loud for it the story to change you. You have to live the story, to do the story, for the whole point of the story to be made real. What this means for me is that I have to live the faith I talk about having. As I daily surrender and listen for His voice and do what He says, I am made more like Him. Pouring out myself like He poured out Himself, all because of love.


Time Together

My dear friend Sarah and I like to host DIY Project Parties every so often to create a space of purposeful time together with other women in our lives. I find that having a date on the calendar and a pretty project to do helps me be intentional about relationships outside our home, and I always find myself so thankful to have connected with all the gals who show up to the parties.

Last night, we hosted a Jewelry-Making party at Sarah’s home, and everyone made a few little pretty things to take come. The projects are fun, but for me, it is so much more about the time together, and honestly, I don’t know the first thing about making jewelry. Sarah took a trip to the bead store in advance shared supplies with everyone who came. What a gal! She made this cute little table display to show off the beads, and people arrived, they started creating.

I love seeing other people engage in creative work. It might be a simple project or an involved one, but seeing them think about how to bring their vision to life in a personal piece of art is fascinating for me. It is interesting to me that everyone start with the same materials, and the creations they end up with are all so different from each other…a celebration of our unique personalities and perspectives. If you’ve felt isolated or disconnected from people you care about, think about putting something on your calendar to get those people together! Time together is such a gift.