September 9, 2012

quilting with my mom

Some of the happiest times I've spent with my family have been times when we are all creating together.  We love to get together and try out a new project idea or technique.  Recently, my mom and I decided to learn a traditional but (relatively) newly popular quilting technique known as "Cathedral Windows".  The allure of this pattern is not only that it looks gorgeously textured when finished, but also that it is does not require the actual quilting, batting, or backing of other quilt patterns because of the way that the fabric is folded.  It combines fabric folding reminiscent of oragami with quilting in a way that is right up my alley, and I was itching to try it. 

With one of her tried and true quilting books in hand, my mom arrived at my house ready to get to work.  Many traditional quilts made this way use muslin so that you can really see through it when it is held up to light, but we used Robert Kaufman's Kona cotton, which is a lovely weight for this application.  You can also choose to use lots of different fabrics for the "windows" or to do as we did and use a single fabric throughout the project.  I loved the effect of Emily Herrick's Sea Star with the crisp white "frames" of the windows. 

As we worked, we made a couple of variations to the pattern we were following, and we were very pleased with the effect we achieved.  The steps that I outline below are the ones that we ultimately settled on.  After you get used to the steps of the pattern, I highly recommend playing around with different fabrics and variations, as small changes make a big impact with this technique.  It's very simple to vary the size of each of the blocks, for example, and that makes the whole design play differently.  I do find myself referencing the steps over and over as I work, though, so I created this handy project card that you can print and keep next to you as you cut and sew.  Simply click on the card to get to a pdf version that you can print easily.  I love to have a quick reference that I can glue into my project notebook.

So try it out--I'd love to see pictures of your projects!  Feel free to post any to my Facebook page.  Consider yourself warned, however.  This can be addictive!

June 13, 2012

juicy fun

For Mother's Day this year, my family bought me a juicer.  Mother's Day, and most holidays for that matter, are usually a pretty low-key affair in our house, with handmade cards and the like.  But I've been hankering for a heavy duty juicer for some time now, so they spoiled me.  Was it a good gift?  There's no way to sugar coat it-- I'm obsessed. 

The juicer has five speeds, so you can juice almost anything.  I can't even focus when I'm in the produce aisle or the farmer's market now.  My mind is just whirling with the juicing possibilities.  I have always loved to eat fresh fruits and veggies, but I like drinking them even more.  It feels like the nutrients are rushing into your system.  The kids enjoy the simpler juices (a pear, carrot, and apple blend, for example), but my favorites have kale and beets.  I also got a big, fat, colorful book called The Big Book of Juices by Natalie Savona, and we've been going through it juice by juice.  Each blend has a listing underneath telling how good the juice is for energy, detox, immunity, digestion, and skin. 

Here's one of my favorites:
3 carrots
1/2 apple
1/2 orange
1/4 beetroot
1 stick celery
2 large kale leaves

I always double everything because my husband and I each have a glass.  And I usually up the beets a smidge because beets are my favorite.  I really do feel better after I drink it! 

And if juicing for health isn't your bag, there's another incentive: fresh juices make amazing cocktails.

May 6, 2012

another reason to love Ed Emberley

I was a fan already.  You may remember that I credit Ed Emberley with the rekindling of my four-year-old's love of drawing.  His books overflow with joy and color, and now the man who describes himself as an "old grandpa kind of guy" has let all of that spill into Happy Drawing, his line of organic fabrics for Cloud 9.  The line is based on his first drawing book, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals, first published in 1970. 

Resisting the urge to buy a bolt of every print in the line, I pre-ordered a selection from Hawthorne Threads and waited (quite patiently, I think) for them to arrive.  I was not disappointed in the least.  Each print has its own distinguishing details-- a little "kaw' from the crow in Forest Friends, for example.  So charming!

The colors are every bit as rich as the drawings in his books.  Take a look at the giraffe print--orange on a field of bright blue.  I'm in heaven!
Now, to decide the sewn-up fates of these beautiful fabrics.  They are delightfully unisex and will work well for all sorts of projects.  I started with a little Pajama Pillow in Elephants.
I just love when talented illustrators give us wonderful fabrics to work with.  Thanks again, Ed Emberley!

April 10, 2012

art tote giveaway

Goodness-where did March go?  It was a busy one for me, filled with birthdays, lots of sewing, and even a little travel.  But now I'm ready to get back into the swing of things--and what better way to do that than with a new giveaway!

I will be giving away one of my Beeps' Peeps art totes.  Should you win, you will be able to choose boy, girl, or gender neutral color schemes.  The tote comes with a coloring book and crayons, ready for creative fun?

Who can enter? Anyone 18 years or older in the US or Canada.

How do I enter? Simply use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter.  You will see that you can enter a few different ways.

When will I find out if I won? I will choose a winning entry within 48 hours of the contest's close at midnight on April 17. I will notify you via email and will also announce the winner on Facebook and Twitter. I will get your mailing address at that time.

Good luck!

February 9, 2012

an open letter to moms

photo by momp photography
Ladies, we need some new terminology.

One day in the car, my son asked me, "If a baker bakes and a teacher teaches, does a ninja ninj?"

We moms have the same problem as ninjas.  The names that we have for what we do, well, they do not actually describe what we do.  I first started thinking about this while I was catching up with a friend, the mother of twins, at the beach one summer.  In the course of the conversation, I asked her if she was working, part time or anything.  She started to answer, but her mom piped up from her chair.  "I hated when people used to ask me that.  Yes!  I have two young children!  I am working 24 hours a day!"

She was right, of course.  I myself am a teacher with two young children and a small business.  I am a "working mom".  But what mom isn't working?  Similarly, in an understandable attempt to get away from the completely inaccurate title of "stay-at-home mom", women have started to self-identify as a "full-time mom".  OK, that's more accurate, but does it imply that I am a part-time mom, letting my familial concerns float away as soon as I clock in at school?  Perhaps that is overly defensive, but the reality is that many of these terms are loaded in a way that we, as women, have allowed.  Many of our descriptors have taken on a this-not-that element that somehow passes judgement. 

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe the negative connotations are in my head, the result of the guilt we inevitably feel no matter the path we take.  I would like to think that women are rooting each other on, thinking that each of us is just doing what's best for us and for our families, though that might not be what's best for the mom or the family next door.

What do you think?  Do we need a branding overhaul on motherhood?

February 4, 2012

a new design and my first-ever giveaway!

There's a new car mat in town. 

Girls like to play with cars, too, right?  And certainly plenty of little gals have played with the original On-the-go Car Mat, but when a friend suggested that her sweet niece would love one with more feminine flair, I thought--why not?
Here's the thing: I don't want to call it the Car Mat for Girls.  First of all, there's no reason why a boy couldn't play with it.  But also, the original Car Mat is for girls if they feel like playing with it.  I say, let kids play with whatever they want!  Well, maybe not power tools or broken glass, but you catch my drift.

So, I am leaving it up to YOU.  What should this car mat be named?  I want a name that indicates that girls might like it, but not a name that excludes boys.  It could be a town name or whatever you can dream up.  The new name will appear as "On-the-go __________________ Car Mat".  If I choose your name idea, you win one!

Take a good look and then enter below!

Who can enter?  Anyone 18 years or older in the US or Canada.

How do I enter?  Simply use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter your name idea.

When will I find out if I won?  I will choose a winning entry within 48 hours of the contest's close at midnight on February 11.  I will notify you via email and will also announce the winner on Facebook and Twitter.  I will get your mailing address at that time.

You may enter once only.  Good luck!

January 26, 2012

bridal emergency kit

When I was getting married, a lot of my friends were too.  So, like many women, I found myself in a bridal whirlwind in which napkin colors, the d.j. vs. band conundrum, and tent rentals were all of monumental importance.  At this time, I came into possession of a Bridal Emergency Kit.  I was not the first bride to get it.  It came to me from a friend after her wedding, and it was a mammoth drawstring bag full of tons of little travel-sized items, all of which some bride along the way had found to be handy on her big day.  The idea was that you would add something after your own wedding and pass it on, which I did.

Much more recently, a young woman I know announced that she would be tying the knot.  She wanted me to create some fun totes for her bridesmaids and mom like I made for another friend last summer.  Now, it is important to note that this woman holds a special place in my heart because she was my long-term substitute when I was on maternity leave with my second child.  She did a fantastic job, really went above and beyond,  and anyone who teaches knows that having a sub who you can really trust makes all the difference in the world.  When it came time to deliver the totes, I wanted to include a little something extra.  A Bridal Emergency Kit seemed like the perfect thing.  Some girlfriends and I brainstormed a list and assembled the following items, all in the small travel sizes:
  • lip balm
  • breath mints
  • ibuprofen
  • little folding hairbrush with built-in mirror
  • lint roller
  • snack-sized energy bar
  • safety pins
  • wet wipes
  • bobby pins
  • a sewing kit
  • clear nail polish
  • bandages
  • antacids
  • tissues
  • dental floss
  • deodorant
  • hair spray
  • hand lotion
  • nail polish remover
  • scissors
  • small disposable toothbrushes
We tossed it all into one of my zippered toiletry bags and she loved it!  My point is, you've doubtlessly got some shower gifts on your list or at least a gal at work who is about to get hitched . . . why not throw together one of these little kits for her?  You can add or subtract items as you see fit.  It is a great gift because it gets her excited about her wedding day and she can just toss into her carry-on for the honeymoon.  Genius! 

January 17, 2012


A cozy sitting area perfect for a little reading or knitting by the fire.
It was William Morris, one of the major players in the Arts and Crafts Movement, who said: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."  This has come to be my Platonic ideal of housekeeping and decorating.  Of course, I am nowhere near living within these parameters, but I do strive to at least move in this direction.  I know a few people who seem to be a little closer to the mark, and they challenge me to create a living environment for my family that is both functional and inspiring.  Two such people are my own parents.
This space was originally an outdoor atrium.  As a sun room, it is used year round and fills the house with light. 
I grew up in a modest rancher in the Oakland Mills neighborhood of Columbia, Maryland.  My parents were among the first to move into the new community in the early 70's, but they began transforming their house into a distinctive and unique home from the moment they moved in.  Comparatively few of their changes have been major structural overhauls.  They've worked within the innovative, open floor plan, adding architectural details here and there, infusing the entire space with antiques, finds from their travels, books and art, and other treasures from their life together.

Though the kitchen has been completely renovated, the large footprint of the room is an original feature of the home.

Because of the flow to the house, the formal dining room is really multi-purpose, working as a central space for congregating.

After traveling in Japan, my parents were inspired to create a spot for quiet reflection in the more private section of the home, overlooking the garden and the public open space beyond.
My parents have now lived in their work in progress for almost 40 years, tinkering all the while, and what they have created is truly exquisite.  My sister and I both feel strongly that growing up in an aesthetically stimulating environment made a huge difference in our world views.  Square footage is not the secret to a beautiful, functional home--love and creative vision are, and I am lucky to have parents with both qualities in spades. 

January 11, 2012

the fun in failure

We had a great project idea today--we were going to make stamps out of stuff we had lying around the house!  Maybe even use the stamps to make Valentines.  I couldn't argue with my boys' enthusiasm, so we got started right away, gathering up the materials: glue, scissors, some pipe cleaners, cardboard from the recycling, a stamp pad, card stock in a few colors.  Our thought was that we could create shapes out of the pipe cleaners, glue them to the cardboard, and then stamp to our heart's content.  We whipped up a few different shapes and waited for the glue to dry.

Then, we stamped.

Underwhelmed?  So were we.  And we got some glue on the stamp pad.  But here's the thing--we didn't throw in the towel.  We started trying some different things, and it turned out that our "stamps" served very nicely for crayon rubbings.  And then we discovered that lots of things were nice for crayon rubbings, like the miniature pie tin from the play kitchen and the surface of our work stools.  Card stock wasn't looking so hot, so we switched to regular weight paper.  That was better.  My older son thought it would be even better if we used the special-edge scissors to cut the rubbings out, and we glued those onto the card stock.

It wasn't what we planned, but it sure was fun, and the boys were using so many skills--problem solving, collaboration, brainstorming.  All in all, our big fat failure turned into quite a successful afternoon.  I think there's a lesson in that, don't you?

January 1, 2012

note to self

Okay, New Year's resolutions can be a little hokey, but in my mind, they do have their place.  Taking a moment to pause and reflect is an important part of living a purposeful life.  I decided that this year, rather than make traditional resolutions, I would just make a "Note to Self", a reminder to myself of the things that need to be priorities even though they may slip through the cracks at times.  I created this postcard using one of Michelle Underwood's wonderful free digital scrapbooking kits available at Two Peas in a Bucket.  I made it in a 4" x 6" size so that I can slip it into a frame and keep it next to my bed throughout the year.  I've made a blank one for you to fill out if you'd like to give it a try, and you can find it here.  Happy New Year!