Looking for the Quiet

 In November, I had grand plans for December.  I was going to bake and sew and string cranberries and popcorn.  There were going to be handmade teacher gifts and mama-made clothes under the tree.  The house was going to be peaceful, joyful, and holiday-laden.
 And somehow, life happened.  And my last free days while O was in school were suddenly so overscheduled I felt like I was being pulled in ten different directions and getting nothing done.

And I searched for the quiet where I could find it and promised myself it would come.
And you know what?  Today is December 22nd.  I was up (happily) at 6am making pumpkin muffins for Ella to take in for the teachers and staff at her school.  It is just after 10 and I have sat and read with O, needle felted my first little ladybug, and sewn cloth Christmas bags to put some gifts under the tree.
O is playing quietly by himself with a fusion of Playmobil, blocks, and The Dad's old GI Joe vehicles.  The house is quiet.  And all is good.  It's a little late, but it is here.  And I am oh. so. content...

O's New Favorite Pants

I love that O loves for me to sew for him.  The glee, the pride, the desire.

I took Liesl's sewing-with-knits class last weekend and came away with a pair of the Nature Walk Pants for him and an almost finished nightgown for E.  I used Michael Miller's new-ish Interlock Knit and while it was challenging, it wasn't bad!

O had the pants out of my bag before I even got into the car and had them on in less time than it took to fill the tank at the gas station.
They are his new favorites.  They are oh so soft and comfy.  He wore them for three days before I wrangled them away for the wash and asks for them every morning (unfortunately they haven't actually made it into the machine yet!)

Two more pairs are in the works.  One in a solid black and the other in a brown stripe.  They come together in less than an hour and I figure the more I practice sewing with this fabric, the better I'll get, right?

Somehow I Missed November

Somehow, I missed November.  Life got busy around here.  I did a big show at our local Waldorf School the weekend before Thanksgiving and at the last minute we ended up traveling for the holiday.  I told myself that things would quiet down after that, but they haven't really.  And somehow I am feeling even busier and overscheduled now than I was before.  And now it is December.

We have begun the tradition since moving here (this will be our fourth Christmas back on the East Coast!) of cutting down our own Christmas tree at a local orchard.  It's not quite the taking-a-sled-out-into-the-woods-on-a-snowy-day-and-dragging-home-a-tree that I had envisioned, but it has become its own family tradition for us.

At O's nursery school yesterday, they began talking about holiday traditions and things we all do that could be shared with the school.  Kids spoke about lighting the menorah or the advent wreath, sledding, and getting a Christmas Tree.  They also talked about Advent Calendars (which I am a little behind on this year and need to hang this morning!).  O raised his hand and said that one of our traditions is roasting marshmallows...  What?

But really, it is.  The orchard where we cut down our tree has a small bonfire where you wait to get on the hayride out to the trees.  They have benches, hot chocolate, and marshmallows for roasting.  So, in that little 4 year old brain of his, it is a tradition because every year, when we go to cut down our tree, they get to roast marshmallows. It may not be as heartfelt or reverent as lighting the menorah or an advent wreath but, evidently, it is tradition.
What is your favorite tradition of this holiday season?

The Halloween Costumes - The Snow Queen

Growing up, my mom made all our our Halloween costumes.  Every year, I think about what I can make but more often than not have ended up buying.  I think it's always a struggle finding the balance between cost and time...  and cost.

Last year, O wanted to be a puppy dog.  I figured I could easily build a costume off of a hoodie and sweatpants.  That I could find pretty cheap.  So we walked into Old Navy and right into their Halloween display.  Hmmm...  $20 for a super cute (and warm) monkey costume?  Or that much for the sweats plus whatever the rest of the materials would cost plus my time.  Honestly?  I bought the monkey costume but over a year later still kind of wished I had made what he wanted.

This year, E wanted to be a Snow Queen.  Complete with cape.  I told her we could put it together from most of what we had.  Plus some not-too-expensive extras and a handmade cape.  She really got into it.  The Snow Queen had to have long brown hair, though.  And tap shoes.

I was able to talk her out of the tap shoes and we went with standard Target silver glitter flats (like the ruby red slippers).  I also found an 'alluring' long brown wig that once worn looked a little more Lil' Abner than fancy fairy tale character, but...

And I made her a cape.  Which was much more expensive than I had planned but which I loved making and which we will have for a long time.

And while she looked nothing like the original costume she spied in a catalog, she loved it.  And I will always remember this one.

An Unscheduled Weekend

For the first time in what felt like a long time, we had a very unscheduled weekend last weekend.  And I was reminded of how important this is.  Especially with school in full swing and afternoon free play for the kids shrinking with the commute home from school, home work, and an earlier bedtime, it was wonderful to just let them be.

We found that it is easier for us to be creative in this free time, too.  I was able to steal away to the studio for a couple hours to finish this commissioned bunting.  A local school has an (amazing) annual used kids' clothing sale every year right around Halloween.  (It is here this weekend, October 30th and 31st) This year a friend asked me to make them a bunting that they could use as signage year after year.
I've made bunting before and really love the process of finding the prints to put together.  I hadn't appliqued letters on before, but had done enough applique on other things to know what I was doing.  The request was for a wool or felt binding, ( I used wool) which I wouldn't have thought of but I love the way that came out.  It adds a more classic feel to what is a mix of more contemporary fabrics.  And I must admit, laying the triangles out, rearranging the order, picking and choosing fabrics...  made me start itching to make a quilt.  Hmm...  we'll have to see what happens with that.

And, while I was up in the studio, The Dad and the kids were hard at work out in the yard.  As I said earlier, the yard is definitely growing as our family does.  And while I am constantly amazed at my children's creativity, I am also usually quite impressed with my husband's, too!

This weekend, they added two new elements to the yard:
A 'Bar' made out of some PVC pipe (filled with a wooden dowel for extra support) and lashed between two trees.
And a cargo net.

I love the repurposing of things, too.  This cargo net was originally purchased in pieces at Ax-Man and made into a retractable fence to keep the kids in the back yard and out of the driveway when we lived in Minneapolis.  It was three years age this week that we moved so it was beautifully ironic to me that The Dad decided to pull it out now.

I know...  A bit cheesy.  But they are growing so fast.  It's nice to have reminders of life when they were so little.

The Fort v.3.0

Our backyard is always changing.  The kids play out there, forget about it, rediscover it, and recreate it constantly.

Introduced way back here, you have also seen bits here and here. This is The Fort.

What began as a small fort with an attached sandbox has grown.  An upper level was added.  Some sides and a door.  A pulley.  A roof.  Some ladders. A trap door.

It has grown with the kids. I love that they have designed and drilled and hammered and helped. I can't imagine what will be added next.

Shop Update and Weekend ReCap

Is it really Thursday already?  Which really feels like Friday since we are going into a four day weekend?  I swear it was just Sunday...

So I did the Highland's show last weekend.  It was fun.  And a bit different.  It was a show where you had to pay admission (a fundraiser for the historical gardens) and the bulk of the exhibitors do this full time, travelling the circuit of higher end shows.  I have to admit that at the end of the weekend (technically 3 days with set up Friday morning and a preview party/opening that night), packing up, I felt a bit like a Carny.

And then all the sudden the weekend was gone and it was Monday.  And then we said good-bye to The Dad as he set off for conference #1.  And tonight we welcome him home.  And tomorrow is Friday!!

While the week has flown by, the skies today cooperated and time stopped for a moment. I found this perfect spot of sun on the side of the house with a picnic bench conveniently placed right in front to stand the mannequin on, and I grabbed some new dresses and my camera and snapped and snapped.

And then, with still some more time before I had to pick up the boy at school, I actually sat down at the computer and got them posted in the shop.  Five of them.  I think I may be on a roll.  Now if the weather could cooperate tomorrow, too, so I could get the bibs shot and then the Treasure Totes, and then the SnackMats (formerly the Lunchbox Napkins)...  Whew, I'm tired again already.

Happy Long Weekend!

Nature Does Not Hurry...

...yet everything is accomplished.

I bought this little bowl for myself last year at Artista and this week it has become my mantra.  Especially in the morning when I keep watching the clock as the kids get ready for school.  I've noticed that less worry and less hurry gets me there at exactly the same time as rushing around and fussing at the kids about not wanting to be late.  Hmmm...

I was also happy to see that the artist, Sharon Bartmann, will be showing at The Highlands with me this weekend.  I have been coveting her pears.  Her work is just beautiful.

On another note, thanks for the comments on my last post.  Have I ever said how much I love comments?  They make me feel a little less like I'm just sitting here talking to myself!  I think those bags may just be Treasure Totes.  You're right, Kathy, that's exactly what they are used for.  Thanks!

Introducing the Itty Bitty Tote Bag (That Needs A New Name)

So I wanted a couple new things for The Highlands this weekend.  My hope had been to have a design for a larger girl's dress (size 4-8) but it just wasn't ready in time.  So instead, I bring you the Itty Bitty Tote Bag.  Reversible like the Roundabouts.  Some match dresses, some don't.

O saw them in my studio and immediately said "I want one!"  He calls it a "Church Bag", as in bring it to church stuffed with little things to keep him occupied.  I made a couple in non-girly prints, too.  I know first hand that the desire to carry around a little bag stuffed with treasures (that some may call a purse) is certainly not gender specific.

One ended up green with orange handles.  I looked at it.  And looked at it again  It screamed Halloween at me.  So off to the fabric store I went for some Alexander Henry Halloween fabric.  While The Dad had the kids up in NY for the weekend, I whipped up some little Trick or Treat Totes.  Hooray for new ideas!

The only issue I have is with the name.  While Itty Bitty Tote Bag is what popped into my head while I finished the first batch, it has evidently popped into lots of other people's heads, too.  So I need another name.  I thought of The Reversible Out-and-about (sounds cooler when said with a Canadian accent) but it doesn't quite roll of the tongue.  Or the Kiddo Tote.  I'm kind of leaning toward that one.  Any ideas?  What do you think?

In the Studio

I've gone from no time in the studio to spending what feels like every waking minute.  The kids have been kind enough to come in and join me, playing at my feet and creating what E has dubbed their 'Book Nook'.

I'm preparing for the Highlands Craft Show the first weekend in October.  I'm excited to be doing something different.  I'll be sharing a booth there with Jahje of Baby Jives.  We'll be outside in the tent, Booth #8, if you're in the area and can make it!

I'll have a huge stash of Reversible Roundabouts, including a small batch in corduroy, plus bibs, lunchbox napkins, and some new surprises.  Stay tuned!

Happy First Day of School

For us, summer is not quite officially over (O doesn't start school until Monday) but it certainly feels that way.

We celebrated with a Back To School Feast last night.  The kids requested home made chicken pot pie, mashed sweet potatoes, and the vanilla cake from this cookbook.  It definitely tasted like Fall.

This morning, E headed off to a brand new school for first grade.  Hopefully ending a yearlong saga of worry and concern.  We live in a city.  (I think) a great city.  In a fabulous neighborhood.  Unfortunately it is a city with a reputation for really bad schools.  We believe (and know) that they are not all bad.  And that everything is relative.  And we really hoped that our neighborhood school would work.

When E came home from her first day of Kindergarten saying she never wanted to go back and that she 'hated that place' we were concerned.  She reported that the Kindergarteners had been yelled at at lunch.  We waited.  Then she came home a couple months later looking conflicted.  Finally, after some prying, she asked "How come it's okay for my teacher say "Shut Up" but not me?"  But she loved her teacher.  And she was not getting yelled at.  Then after the winter break, she started talking about being bored with her specials.  A kid who loves art and music.  But we had no other options and while she was struggling with the envrionment she was making some good, good friends and excelling in reading and writing.

Then late last Spring we found out that they had a seat for her for first grade at a local charter school.  A highly ranked charter school.  The only one in the country to sit on the grounds of an environmental education center.  And The Dad and I sat and breathed and acknowledged once again how amazingly lucky we are.

Then we spent the summer deprogramming.  When anyone would ask her where she went to school she would say: "I'm going to ___  Charter School.  Where they're not allowed to yell or say Shut Up or Boy or Girl."  As in 'Get out of my face, BOY' or 'Sit down in your seat, GIRL.'

She had her first day of first grade today.  For Art they went outside and picked a tree ('We each got our very own special spot') and drew it.  She had a fabulous day.  No one yelled.

While I am not breathing my sigh of relief quite yet, I am almost there.  And oh so grateful.

The Crayola Factory, Easton PA

One more little weekday getaway with the kids before school starts.

We've lived in Pennsylvania for almost three years now and had not yet made it up to the Crayola Factory in Easton.

Much more than a 'factory tour' (in fact the actual factory is located 7 miles north of the Discovery Center), this was a creative experience, a cacophony of color, a history lesson, and a playday.  Not to mention the hand-on Canal Museum occupying the top two floors of the building and also included in admission.  And of course, the on-site McDonald's where my kids experienced their first Happy Meal today.  Oh, the look on O's face when he peeked in the box - Look!  I think there's a toy in here!

Really, a good time was had by all.

When In Doubt, Get Them Out

We are in the home stretch, with two more weeks until the kids go back to school.
Blackberry and Raspberry Picking

It is still hot here.  E is starting to freak out a bit about going to a new school.  She will be attending a local charter school with an Environmental Ed focus this year for first grade - and hopefully staying through until 8th!  She doesn't do well with big transitions and is getting anxious about a new school, new teacher, new kids, and the great unknowns.  I am sure she will love it.  We just have to get her there.
Hopewell Furnace

The kids are starting to get on eachother's nerves, as well as mine.  I love them dearly and am surprised (and a bit sad) at how much I am looking forward to the start of school.

I have learned, though (took me long enough), that when the bickering, whining, fussing, etc. starts, we need to get out.  I have learned that to say "If you can't be nice to each other, we won't go to the zoo/pool/coffee shop..." is tantamount to shooting myself in the foot.  Because if they don't earn an outing, we ALL sit home suffering.  Whereas if we all get out and do something stimulating, adventurous, and or fun, the day passes easily and they are oh-so-much more enjoyable (the days and the kids).
The Mercer Museum

Needless to say, we have been getting out much more the last couple days.  And we are all soooo much better for it.

Have you gone anywhere fun lately?

Kids' Sewing with Liesl's City Weekend

I have to admit that I went to the Vermont Sewing weekend with grand (and knowingly unrealistic) visions of a bit of free fabric involved.  A girl can dream, right?

We did receive, in our little welcome bags, charm pack of Liesl's new fabric line City Weekend.

The kids were fascinated by all these little squares and in a moment of desperation on Monday I sat them down on my studio floor and spread the squares out between them.  Then I let them choose, taking turns, one square at a time until they were all divied up.
O wanted to make a tail.  Attached to a belt that he can wear.  Which he's been fascinated with since seeing If You Give A Mouse a Cookie last Spring.

O lined his up in the order he wanted them and I stitched them together and then stitched them to some webbing for the belt.  One snap later and he was all set.  And beaming.  Oh, if things could always be that easy.

E wanted to make a barbie quilt.  She, who has been asking to sew with my machine for about a year, was determined to piece the squares herself.  After a little guidance in the beginning, she was quick to push my hand away when I tried to help guide the fabric.  "Mom!  I'm six years old.  I know how to do it myself."  And really?  By the end?  She did.

I backed it with some minkee and she was good to go.

Of course, the next time I went to use my machine it was kind of dead...  The result of the 6 year old foot on the pedal?  Or just too long since the last servicing...  Keep your fingers crossed.

O's New Sketchbook Shirt

In planning for the Vermont Sewing Weekend, I really struggled with projects to work on.  I had a couple of new skills I wanted to try out and practice but I couldn't decide on a big project.  I thought, with Heather and Liesl both there, that it would be fun to do an Oliver + S pattern in a Heather Ross print.

I had the Jumprope Dress pattern and had been wanting to make that for E, but I knew I was going to make her a zippered pouch for school while I was away and felt like I should bring something home for O, too.

I'd been eyeing the Sketchbook Shirt pattern since it first came out.  It looked similar to Heather's Kai Shirt pattern from Weekend Sewing that I made O in Spring 2009 and he loved.  Her pattern only went up to a 3T so I needed Liesl's pattern to make O one that would fit him now.

Luckily Liesl had one in her studio and brought it with her for me to purchase in VT.  Combined with some Mendocino fabric I'd had in my cupboard since back here, I was all set.

I love the way it turned out.  I did the inside button placket and the underside of the color in a complementary fabric and love the contrast.  The Oliver + S patterns are so incredibly well-written and detailed that even when I get stuck I can figure it out if I read a little more closely - rereading the last step and previewing the next step usually helps.

Thankfully, he loves it.  And actually wore it two days in a row, which says a lot.  There was a moment, though, where he looked down at it and back up at me and said "Oh mama, you forgot the pocket!"  I see more in the future.  With chest pockets.

Sewing Weekend at Blueberry Hill

I spent three days this past weekend in the mountains of Vermont.  Where it was chilly enough that I actually donned a fleece and slept snuggled under my covers.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the area, surrounded by lush green mountains and blue skies, the bulk of my time was actually spent inside a barn, converted into a sweat shop sewing center.
Wine and Cheese at the Tipi

I joined 14 other women to spend the weekend working with and learning from three fabulous instructors: Heather Ross, Liesl Gibson, and Kelly Wilkinson.  I was surrounded by creativity.  And I have not laughed so much in a long time.
Heather Ross and Ava

But really?  What I think hit home the most?  Being surrounded by so many like-minded people.  It reminded me of the high school summers I spent at music camp, when after the first couple days I was struck by how amazing it felt to be surrounded by strangers who I had so much in common with.  This weekend, people would stop to borrow scissors and ask "Can I borrow your fabric scissors?"  Really?  Other people have fabric scissors and paper scissors!  Really?  Other people hoard fabric!  And are afraid to put in a zipper?!?!  It was great.  Better than great.
My main project - The Sketchbook Shirt by Oliver + S (Liesl) in Mendocino fabric by Heather Ross

I came home motivated, too.  I watched garments being constructed from scratch around me throughout the weekend.  We sewed uninterrupted for hours.  I came home wanting to go fabric shopping and needing to end this summer long studio hiatus I have been on. 

Really?  It was summer camp.  And I can't wait to do it again.