A Productive Day

It's funny what constitutes a productive day around here.  Something crossed off my to-do list.  A small corner of the house cleaned up and organized.  A sewing project finished.  I've actually had a couple productive days around here lately.

And while getting car in to be serviced this morning (oil change, sunroof and wiper blade recall) let me check something off my to-do list, I was even more excited to finish my first sewing project for Christmas.  Yes, 10 days before Christmas and I am just starting those sewing projects.  But that's how it works around here.  And they are all relatively small projects.  And none of them are necessary - except for the giant sheep cushion which I will start tonight.

Back for Ollie's birthday, I started a pair of sheep pajamas.  They weren't finished in time.  The bottoms were ready so I paired them with an appliqued T and he was happy.  He has been waiting, though, for the complete set.  I finally made the top.  Now I just need to sneak the bottoms out of his closet (they have jumped into his regular pants rotation) and wrap them up for Christmas Eve.  Check Handmade Gift #1 off my list.

** I actually made the top and bottom from two different Oliver + S Patterns.  The bottoms are from the older Bedtime Story Pajamas pattern and the top is from the newer Sleepover Pajamas pattern.  Love them both - and still learn something new everytime I sew with one.  Understitching?  Who new?!

Moving Forward

The sun has been missing around here for a while. It's been grey and pretty gloomy.  But I have been plodding along.  Feeling like I am getting things accomplished but at a slower rate than I would like.  I will focus on the 'getting things accomplished'.  Including multiple trips to get things out of the house.  So while I don't feel like I'm checking things off my list, I do feel like I am moving forward.  And for that, right now, I am happy.

Here are some of the things happening around here this week:

On my kindle: Buddha in the Attic  This is not a book I would have ever picked up on my own, but I am loving it.  It is heartbreaking and fascinating at the same time, told in a style I couldn't imagine a whole book in that somehow works.  Now I want to go learn more about this whole wave of Japanese mailorder brides.

In my kitchen: Super Natural Every Day  I made the two cookie recipes last weekend.  The carnival cookies (with peanuts, chocolate chips, and popcorn!) were healthy and fabulously yummy.  The Dad is already asking when I am going to make the Ginger Cookies again.  Yum.

In the shop: Posting is going slowly since we are so short on great light.  I did manage to get the velveteen and voile scarves posted.  And a great sheep dress that I had actually made for Art Star.  When I packed up for the show, I couldn't figure out why I was short a 12 mo. dress.  It drove me crazy trying to figure out where I miscounted.  When the show was over and I returned home on the third evening, Ollie took me by the hand up to the office.  He wanted to 'show me something'.  He pulled the missing dress, this sheep dress, out from under the bed.  He loved the fabric too much and didn't want me to sell it.  "Ollie, you can't wear this dress."  "I know, but you can cut it up and make me something."  Um, No.  This boy loves sheep.  Wait 'til he sees what Santa is bringing him.

Conversations about Santa: Ollie is convinced that Santa is going to bring him a machine that makes stuffed sheep.  One with a pedal that you push.  That screws to the wall.  I tried explaining that Santa probably couldn't bring that for him.  In tears, he cried "But Mama, Santa can make anything.  And he has his elves to help him."  The Dad is convinced that we can come up with something...  We still have two and a half weeks.

A Yummy, Treaty Recipe

Last night we were all wanting something "treaty" after dinner.

This has become my go-to, ready-in-a-moment treat over the last couple months.

Adapted from the Happy Herbivore's Instant Cookie Dough recipe, it is just that perfect combination:

1 cup rolled oats
2 T cocoa powder
2 T almond butter (or any other nut butter)
2 T maple syrup (even better with the dark Grade B)
1 cup frozen berries (blueberries or raspberries are our favorites - the photos are of a batch with crushed up

Mix the oats, cocoa, almond butter, and maple syrup together until fully blended.  Then stir in the frozen berries.  Great both right away and later after sitting in the fridge.  The kids like it as a treat in their lunchboxes, too.


December 1

Tomorrow is December 1st.

The Dad reminds me, on a somewhat regular basis, that it has been scientifically proven that writing down your goals increases your chances of accomplishing them.

I don't think he means the multitude of To-Do Lists that I create, scatter, replicate, and misplace every day.

Tomorrow I am beginning a 6-month experiment project. I am thinking of it as 6 months of homemaking.  Of domestication.  But really?  6 months of trying to make the life that I really want to be living.  A lot of it has to do with the state of our house, but it also is about how I spend my time, how I feed my family, and how I create the home that I really want to be raising my children in.

For my own sake, I am breaking it into monthly chunks.  With goals for each month. And writing those goals down here - since that make me more likely to accomplish them, right?

1. Go room by room through our house and get rid of anything that is extraneous - the clutter, the things we don't use or need anymore (and maybe never did).  For this I am inspired by William Morris - "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." and Kim John Payne's Simplicity Parenting.  The organizing and decorating will come later - for starters I just need to purge.

2. Eat a 100% plant-based diet for 30 days.  After reading some great books like this and this, I have been eating this way 80-90% of the time for the last eight months.  I'd like to go all the way for the next 30 days and see if it is something that is truly sustainable (and helpful) for me.

3. Sew at least one thing for Ella and Ollie for Christmas.  I spent September through mid-November cramming for the Art Star Craft Bazaar.  I am really looking forward to doing some sewing for my family.  I've got a gazillion patterns I want to try.  And a request for a giant (!) stuffed sheep pillow from the little boy who thinks I can make anything.

4. Spend at least one hour every day doing something for eieio. It could be sewing. It could be photographing or posting in my shop.  I have the habit of just feeling burnt out after a big show, letting my shop fall to the wayside and not capitalizing on the momentum and publicity.  I don't want to let that happen again.

I think that's enough.  Wish me luck!


I think we are all recovering from the last couple days right now.

Art Star was a great success and a really fun weekend.  I met some cool people, purchased a fabulous set of prints, saw some repeat customers, and was reminded repeatedly why I do this.  And then I got home to face the aftermath.  Hmmm... 

Next up, Thanksgiving.  And my 20th (Eek!) High School Reunion.  And lots of thought and discussion about balance and benefit.  While I will keep sewing, I will also be starting on a new project when we return home: Six Months of Homemaking.

One of the things I love about reading some of the crafty/family/lifestyle blogs out there is the inspiration.  They help me clarify how I really want to be living my life.  I've been doing a lot of soul searching (while sewing, mostly) since the kids went back to school and I've found some focus lately.  And some motivation.

About eight months ago, I totally changed the way I eat.  Cold Turkey.  And it has had amazing effects on all of us.  Monday, I am changing the way I spend my days.  And I am hoping it will have an even greater effect.  There are multiple pieces to the equation.  I'm guessing they will be factored in slowly.  But it will happen.  And life will change.  And really, I'm so excited.

I figure the more I write about it here, the more likely I am to stick with it.  Some come visit!  Leave a comment!  Suggestions, questions, all are welcome.  I'm diving in.


She turned seven and a half today.  Which means I have been home for seven and a half years.  Sometimes I worry I've forgotten how to hold a grown-up conversation...

Inspired by habit.

Holiday Art Star Craft Bazaar - This Weekend!

Down to the wire, as usual, I am still making just a couple more things.  And awaiting the arrival of the rest of my hangtags...  that are supposed to arrive on Thursday, just in time to price and attach for Friday.  No, I've never been a procrastinator...

I'm so excited for this show, though.  I've had so much fun at the Spring shows that I've done.  They do such a good job and draw such an eclectic group of people.  If you are anywhere near Philly this weekend, definitely come and check it out!  The very first Holiday Art Star Craft Bazaar at the 23rd St. Armory.  Parking may be difficult, but it is just a couple blocks from 30th St. Station - I, personally, will opt for Septa Saturday and Sunday mornings.

If you go, make sure you come say Hi!  I will be at Booth #16 along the back wall.  Can't Wait!

As excited as I am, though, I may be even more excited about what will come after Art Star.  Things are going to change around here, with a shift of focus.  And no, I'm not pregnant.  I just feel like I spent the last two months cramming, to the detriment of the rest of my home, and am excited about some solutions I'm planning to remedy that.  6 months of solutions.  Stay Tuned...

Business - Busyness

This is one of those weeks where there just doesn't seem to be enough time to stop (or even slow down) and play.  I am in full swing gearing up for the Holiday Art Star Craft Bazaar and a smaller local fundraiser the weekend before.

The kids are out of sorts - Ella yearning for a pet (more about that later) and Ollie just soaking up all Kindergarten has to offer faster than his little brain can handle.

So I have to remind myself to slow down.  To slow everybody down.

I get carried away at this point in the process.  Where it feels all about production - I think it carries over from the studio into the flow of our days, which really isn't much fun for anyone.

This afternoon we will play, read, and do a little bit of homework.  With my undivided attention, which is really what they want need.

One Last Weekend of Summer

Somehow, on our fall trip to New England, we encountered one last weekend of summer.


While mornings had a chill, the days were clear, blue, and hot.

Perfect for a walk to the beach, dipping hands (and feet) into the water, collecting shells, and finding their first live spitting clams.

We ate ice cream and found ourselves sunburned at the end of the day.

We fell into bed salty and exhausted, just as it should be.



We are heading up to New England for a weekend with family and friends.

There are pumpkin muffins in the oven - the first of the season.

I am re-reading Simplicity Parenting, ready for a re-boot.

I am happy to realize that I can pack for all four of us to go on a 3 night trip (including 14 hours in the car) in under an hour.  It tells me that my house isn't quite as chaotic as it feels sometimes.

I am still wondering how I woke up in Ollie's bed this morning having no recollection of getting there in the middle of the night...

I am fighting the desire to spend just 5 more minutes here. Follow Me on Pinterest

I am drooling over the new Mini Boden catalog and wondering if I should really just try to make some of the things I am looking at since I know I am not going to buy anything.

I am feeling good about being ready for the Holiday Art Star Craft Bazaar just 5 short weeks away.  Or...  I was until I just typed that it was only 5 short weeks away... 

I am wishing for a Kindle Fire or an iPad for my birthday but knowing that I will genuinely be happy just with cake!

And I am loving the quote I just found by William Morris: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Have a great holiday weekend.  Enjoy.

Back to Where It All Began

A week and a half ago, The Dad and I finally took the kids up to the camp where we met.  I think it has been 11 years since we've been back. 

An amazing place, it has definitely changed.  There's a giant gym now and a large swimming pool, more new buildings here and there.  Even the remaining cabins are in some ways unrecognizable - winterized with added decking and new entrances, I had to look twice at some of them to orient myself.

Yet the feel of the place is the same.  You can close your eyes and breathe the air and know where you are.  For a moment on the trail between areas of camp, it is exactly the same as it used to be.

The kids, of course, were more interested in the playground and the farm animals (a pig!) than the front steps of Cabin 19 where we had our first kiss.  Ella, though, asked if she could go to camp there in the summer - so I think she caught at least a little of the vibe.  We explained that the camp wasn't appropriate for her but that if she wanted to work there some day she could.  I would love for them to work there.  Those were some of the most valuable, enriching summers of my life.

It's been 14 years since that first kiss.  And like camp, we have changed and grown.  But I like to think that when we close our eyes and breathe, we are still the same.  Just a lot older, a little wiser, and with two monkeys pulling at our shirt telling us to open our eyes and pay attention...

The Timmy Plane

About a month ago, Ollie got it in his head that he wanted to make a plane with The Dad.  A plane, evidently, that was the size of a wagon - in which he could sit and be pulled down the block.  Ummm...  Let's draw up a plan first.

So Ollie did the drawings.  They scaled it down but maintained the necessary detail: a trunk, a crow's nest (doesn't everything have to have a crow's nest?).  The Dad wanted to make it about a foot long.  Ollie wanted his stuffed animals to be able to ride in it.

So the Timmy Plane was born.  The two of them disappeared out into the garage for a couple hours, scavenging scraps of wood and hardware.  Coming out only on a search for wheels - eventually re-purposed from an old garage sale skateboard. When it was all done, Ollie insisted that he needed to paint it.  I love the way it turned out.  And even more that he believes that we can make anything.  Just as comfortable in the garage as he is in my studio, he is a creator through and through.

Striving for Balance

I'm beginning to realize that you can spend your whole life striving for balance.  Balance between work and life.  Between income and expenses.  Between time spent on the computer and everything else you need to get done.  Between working and taking care of your house and taking care of your family.  Between the attention you give your children and ...  There are a lot of balls to juggle in life and I think balance - or near-balance - can only come intentionally.

So the kids have been in school together for two and a half weeks, now.  And I know it will take some time to catch up on all that was neglected over summer vacation, but I am still floundering.  I think I need a schedule.  The two largest pieces of my day should be made up of sewing (I was recently accepted into Art Star's very first Holiday Bazaar!  WooHoo!) and cleaning/working on the house.  By cleaning, I don't mean just dishes and putting laundry away.  I mean deep purging and organizing.  This house is messier than it has been in a long time.

I can break the day (really 9-230) in half.  I can stagger going back and forth.  But really, I just need to do it.  And do them both.

So I am going to pick one room each day (on top of the regular dishes, laundry, picking up) and spend two hours on that room - I am deciding this as I am writing it, but let's see how it goes.  I will start at the top of the house and work my way down.  Since things from the first floor tend to make their way up and stall on stair landings where we look at them everyday when not tripping over them.  This way, things can work their way down and then out of the house.

I have more - about what happens after the Holiday Bazaar - but I'm going to save that.  Let's see how this goes for starters.

** These pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the post.  I can't very well show you pictures of my incredibly messy house, can I?  They were taken a couple weeks ago up at a Girl Scout Camp nearby.  See the image in the sky in the third photo?  We watched, amazed, as a pilot practiced painting smiley faces in the sky.  Pretty cool...


First Day of School, 2008

When Ella was three years old, she took her favorite stuffed dog to nursery school for show and tell.  The rule routine was that, when you arrived, you put your show and tell item in a basket and it stayed there until show and tell.

When I picked her up, her teacher apologized and said she felt really bad for making Ella cry. 'What happened?', I asked.

First Day of School, 2009

Ella couldn't leave her precious puppy in the basket.  She wanted to share nursery school with him.  So the teacher gave her a warning, took the puppy, and put it back in the basket.  Later, Ella took him from the basket again to play.  So the teacher took the puppy back again and put him up high on a shelf where Ella couldn't reach him.

So Ella took a chair, pulled it over to the shelving, and tried to get her puppy down.  I don't remember what her punishment was.  Honestly, I really think that seeing her puppy up high and not being able to get him back was punishment enough.  She was reprimanded.  She cried.

First Day of School, 2010

I don't know why I thought of this story this morning.  Maybe because this story is so classic Ella.  I'm sure she comes by her strong-willedness (I know that's not really a word - what is the right one?) genetically.  And her passion as well.  And we struggle with it every day but we also love her more because of it.

She still will do almost anything to get what she wants.  We're working on that.  But how do you temper that without breaking the piece that will be so important in the future?  Our focus right now is teaching her to think about how her actions affect (actually looked up on dictionary.com if that was an a or an e) others.

First Day of School, 2011

And even though as I drove her home from nursery school that day I talked with her about how important it is to listen to your teachers and follow directions, I still know that she was only three and she wasn't hurting anyone by wanting to hold her puppy.

Summer Is Not Over Yet

Over the last couple days, I have found myself getting sucked back into my studio.  This is a good thing - especially since there were many moments over the summer where I believed I was ready to put eieio to bed.  I think, though, that that had more to do with the sweltering heat in my studio and close to zero time for work than a lack of desire.  For the first time this summer, I've had a babysitter come in for a couple hours just so that I could get some work done.  And I have gotten some work done.  Now all I want to do is more...

But there is still a little bit of summer vacation left.  And I don't want to waste that. Ella starts next Tuesday and Ollie starts the week after that and then there will be plenty of time.  I have a little mother/daughter time this morning and as much as I would love to take her fabric shopping, I know that that really isn't the best way to spend our time.  Some day it will be, but not today.

So, there is a brand new batch of Lunchbox Napkins in the shop.  And hopefully another Reversible Roundabout and some Trick or Treat bags coming soon.  And after September 12th things should get a lot more regular around here.

Today I have a lunch date and some hair accessory purchasing to do with my 2nd grader.  2nd grader.  That just blows my mind.  And a Kindergartener, which blows it even farther.  I'll wait until they are both settled in and I am sitting alone in my house to think about everything that comes next...

This Boy

This boy

who wanted his head shaved but settled for a mohawk,

who has no interest in starting Kindergarten next month because he would love to stay in nursery school forever,

who requires more patience right now than I sometimes feel I have,

who knows exactly how he wants things and cries when his young hands can't comply.

I've said it before - It's so hard to be a little kid...

Zealand Falls on the Appalachian Trail

My first year out of undergrad, I applied to grad school.  Just one school in a program that I thought would give me what I needed to become a Child Life Specialist.  While waiting to hear, I decided that if I didn't get in I was going to Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

I actually started buying my supplies (there was an EMS right down the street from work) - a pack, a sleeping bag (that I still use), a 2-person tent.  I attended a workshop on what you needed to do to prepare.  Then I got into the program I had applied to.

When I graduated high school, my family went on a backpacking trip (my parents, 5 kids age 7-17, and an Irish Setter).  We travelled up to the White Mountains and camped somewhere around Zealand Falls or Thoreau Falls.  We have some great pictures of us five kids out on a flat rock in the middle of the Falls.  I remember it raining.  I remember the dog carrying its own food in saddle bags.  I remember stopping by the AMC's Zealand Falls Hut and thinking it would be a really cool way to do it.

I've done a couple shorter sections of the AT over the years, including a solo trip in NY state where I camped out on a summit in a thunder and lightning storm (yes, not the brightest idea).  I've been excited to take my kids backpacking for a very long time.

This trip didn't let me down.  The falls were beautiful.  The complaining was kept to a minimum when the kids took the lead.  The weather was perfect.  The Hut Croo gave us the bunk room for four.  With a door.  Instead of mixing us into one of the bunk rooms for 16.  We only needed to hike 3 miles in to the hut.  A nice mix of meandering trail and straight up over rocks and boulders.

Even more importantly, the kids are ready to go again.  While backpacking again will need to wait a little while, I think I am going to attempt to take them camping by myself over the next couple weeks.  That way I get to start the fire - an ongoing battle between me and The Dad...