Thursday, December 31, 2009

Giving up the goods, part two

I'm sharing more of the gifts we made because as always, my hope is to inspire others. I often never take pictures of the things I'm making and post them. It starts to feel like bragging or something closely akin. That's not how I am at all. I'm confident, but I try to be humble. I don't want to minimize myself or the things that I choose to do, but I don't want this space to be a braggart's book. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that hopefully my sharing is inspirational for you. Maybe I should just stop rambling, and show you the goods!

These are a new pattern I created for jumbo crayon rolls. They were fun, but I found that when they are actually rolled it is not as smooth as pencil rolls because of the crayons' chunky nature. Also, I think kids this young probably need an elastic rubber band closure, and not a tie. Still, they turned out remarkably cute and the hedgehog fabric is my new favorite.

A roll for my daughter which she bugged me endlessly about. She somehow felt neglected because her brother received one from me in August. It cracked me up because of course, I was only waiting for Christmas to arrive to give it to her. Silly girl.

Another new favorite for me, is this robot roll for a boy. I want to insert a quick "thank you" to all who purchased pencil rolls from me in the past few months. I had no idea how popular they would be and by Christmas I had made about forty. That's a lot of pencil rolls since August. Some day I will share the pattern I created, including a little tutorial.... you know, with all my free time.

One of the things that I enjoy is my children's excitement about creating gifts for others. The act of creating and giving is something that is very much a part of my family. My mom and dad have done it for years. They both have an incredible array of talents. Every Christmas to this adult day, my dad gives us each a bundle of hickory and often, black walnut chips. He carefully gathers the nuts every year, dries them, cracks them open, and then sits with a needle hour after hour picking out the nut meat. Isn't that just phenomenal? We call him a squirrel.

These are two pillows that my daughter drew, and then specified that I sew a certain way. She used Pentel fabric crayons, and her designs will not wash out. The Santa scene was for our family and the cardinal and nest was for her brother on his bed. He was thrilled to discover she'd made him a gift. I think he's old enough now to understand how special that is.

Finally, even though it was just a couple of days before Christmas I made a doll quilt for my niece. I just had to, really I did. I had made one for my daughter, and my niece is super special to me. So... I focused on that six year old girl's excitement and I got busy.

Design-wise, I wasn't that crazy about my the front of the quilt, but I love the back. The nifty thing is that no six year old will pause to care about color and value in a quilt top.

I was inspired by the size of the doll quilt. I think in the coming year, I will be creating more small, artistic wall hanging type pieces. I still get to draw with thread and play with fabric, but on a smaller scale. We'll see.

Anyhow, now I'm off to go enjoy an afternoon walk with my family. Presents for the holiday are done, and now it's time to ring in a new year. We are staying in tonight... we pretty much always do on New Year's Eve. It's board games and baked brie tonight... oh, and some red wine for mama, of course. Happy brand New Year to you, wherever you are. May it be filled with health, peace, joy, and creativity!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Giving up the goods

Alrighty, then. It's time to share some of what we created before the holidays, now that it's no longer "top secret." There really were some good reasons for why I was so tired the other day. Even though I did simplify, there were still gifts I wanted to make, and I'm glad I did. It is gratifying for me to give handmade. The excitement of making something for someone is what jazzes me up. I love to make things and give them to people, but find I have less and less time for it.

I needle felted an entire flock of birds, but neglected to take pictures of most of them before I gave them away. There was a cardinal, a gold finch, a chickadee, this blue bird, and a brown robin (of course.) Then I got busy on a honey bee for my husband, and this sweet little cat for my sister. Needle felting can be a wee bit obsessive, but I love sitting quietly and being toasty warm when I work. My sewing "porch" is drafty and I would much rather be curled up on the couch or my bed this time of year. Really, these ornaments were my selfish pursuit of evening meditation.

My daughter, who has gotten really good at felting cookie cutter ornaments wanted to make her own three dimensional animal. I explained some of the concepts to her, and she barely paused. She's six and half years old and felted this bunny, almost entirely by herself! Then she needed some food for the bunny...
The month of December is really not complete until my husband and I make beeswax candles. Making candles was one of the nice parts of the snow storm. Between the two of us, we melted and poured almost six pounds of bees wax. That's a lot of candles!
This was my first time to purchase sheets of beeswax for rolled candles from Brushy Mountain Bee Farms. We buy all of our beekeeping supplies and beeswax from them; they are a wonderful North Carolina small business. Then I found some polymer clay "cookie" cutters. We stamped these shapes and my daughter rolled the candles and put different shapes on simply by applying pressure (sometimes with the warmth of a hair dryer to help in melt in a little.) This activity was a little frustrating for my outgoing three year old, but a thrill for my six year old.

During nap time one afternoon, I made peppermint bees wax lip balm. This is something I've wanted to try for a long time. I bought a $20 kit from Brushy Mtn. It was easy peasy and so much fun! Now I want to experiment more with other recipes and try some body balms as well. I was simply amazed at how well the lip balm turned out, and between beeswax candles and beeswax lip balm, I had plenty of teacher and friend gifts. (Just so you know, all the ingredients and the containers, plus the recipe came in the kit.)

For teachers, I made each a little quilted zip pouch with a container of lip balm tucked in side, along with another treat or two.

I had big plans of making more for my friends and sisters, but that was one of the things that got nixed in the interest of simplifying.

Now, if you haven't had enough yet, come back tomorrow and I'll share just a little more.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The aftermath...

... of the storm, plus the holidays, for me has been mind numbing exhaustion. I really did simplify. I'm proud of myself for this. We baked just one kind of cookie this year. I made less handmade gifts then I had originally planned. We consumed a can or two more of soup then we usually eat around here.

Still, as of this morning I was just exhausted. So I forced myself out the door early, and went for a walk in the still snow covered woods with one of my long time friends. We have been friends now for fourteen years, and it set my world straight to spend the morning with her. I whined and complained, often making no sense what so ever. And what did she do? She gave me exactly what I needed; it was the greatest gift. We walked and talked, and she listened and loved me anyway. Then she offered me an acupuncture treatment.

Today, she treated me on a point on the body that is loosely translated "New Chapter" in acupuncture. I love that. Yes, indeed, it is time for the next chapter. I got up from the acupuncture table no longer needing to look back...
New Chapter.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The beginning of winter...

... and the longest night of the year. Here in Western North Carolina, we are experiencing the biggest snow storm we've had since 1993. I'm feeling so many emotions on this Winter Solstice, so I'll share.

Awed... by the shear enormity of it all. I am so small, and in reality, I have so little control. Many of our friends and family members have had struggles during this time. So many people have lost power and one can only imagine what it would be like to be without a home.

Grateful... for the blessings and the unexpected bounty of this past year.
Amazed... by the beauty of it all. Enough said.

Joyful.... it has been so much fun to play like children, and stop for a few days all of life's commitments.

Sad... just a little bit, because I was looking forward to an evening with good friends tonight to celebrate the solstice. (Those friends are healthy and well, just stranded in their home so we'll see them soon.)

Expectant... in my own imperfect, optimistic way. I am looking forward to all of the good that is to come in the next year. This night... tonight, marks the longest, and in my mind, a magical one of the year. So I will just say, because I can, "Peace be with you my friends." In our hectic world, it is just fine to live with a lovely mixture of imperfection, comedy, joy, and grace. We all do the best that we can.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

three year old boys...

On our walk today, he found some rocks. Then he started stacking them. Then he knocked them over. He looked up and noticed me watching, so he said,

"Look, mom they stack... and they're muddy... really muddy! Yucky!!!! And they go crash, and can cut, cut, cut. Mom.... can you hold them in your pocket for me?"

And what did I do? Well... I put them in my pocket, of course. I walked along, feeling the weight and muddiness of them, marvelling at the differences between my daughter and son. I was remembering her when she was three, then it hit me. This would be the very last December that he will be three. Next year, walking along that same path in December, he will be four. He will have changed. He will have grown, just like she has.

I made a pact with myself right then to continue reminding myself to savor every minute that I can.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A simple reminder

I'm really writing this post for myself, but I thought I might share it. We went on the nicest walk yesterday afternoon with one of my most grounding friends and her daughter. It just set me straight. I really believe that we bring those into our lives that we very much need to learn from.

The holidays can be such an unbelievably stressful time when really, that's not what it's about at all. Then, if you enter into crafty blogland, well... it's easy to feel as if you should be doing a whole lot more. There are so many amazing ideas out there, and an incredible energy, but let's face it. It can be hard to achieve anything close to what we see other's doing. It just depends, doesn't it? The variables are different for each of us... how many kids do you have, how old are they, how many hours do you work, how many commitments have you made, how many financial resources do you have, what are the family stressors, how's every one's health (including your own)? The list could go on and on.

I like to visit blogs, when I have time, to gain inspiration. There is an incredible river of creativity and parenting out there. I love to learn from others. Sometimes, though, I start to crater into a fit of despair. I am simply not doing enough, not creating what I want, or not parenting as well as I can. It's such a Catch 22. And here's the thing, I hear it all the time from others that visit craft blogs.

So, I'm reminding myself that it's not a competition. There are no judges. If there's an opportunity to create (and give) that makes me feel good (and fits my family's needs), well then, I'm all about it. I do the best that I can as a parent every day, and it is what it is. I'm going to continue gently reminding myself during the month of December to take more walks with my kids, explore, create, and enjoy. Living in the moment and enjoying what we have serves me so well. Worrying about the future, generating gifts, and becoming a driven work horse of craftiness starts to take it's toll. I will simply need to curtail my list of to do's if I'm going to be anything close to the generous, fun-loving, healthy soul that I desire to be.

It's all such a balance, isn't it? My word for today is simplify. I hope that you too, can gain inspiration from the idea of simplifying. Really, I think, we may all be better for it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shop update... pass it on!

Whew! Finally. It's all in my shop. Handmade for holiday gifts.
Now, off to get some of my own together!
Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bees wax candles

The light in me sees the light in you ...

These are pictures from our first candle making experience which was last year with friends for Winter Solstice. We really had no idea what we were doing, but I brought the bees wax and wick, while friends brought the oranges. We dug the oranges out, melted the wax, put the wick in and held it up with sticks spontaneously gathered from outside, then we poured. It really is easy peasy, and hard to mess up. I'm chuckling, remembering our process of figuring it out. I'd always imagined up to that point that it was rocket science and way out of my league. Honestly, though, anyone can do it.

You can use a jar like we did, but you will need to keep a hold on it (with a potholder) as it tends to float around a bit. Whatever you melt the wax in will definitely not be usable for anything other than melting wax ever after. My husband and I have made many rounds of candles now and it's worth purchasing one of these if you're going to continue making lots of candles. We especially love ordering from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. They have all the supplies you'll need, including the bees wax.

So, since that night nearly a year ago, we have had a bees wax candle light nearly every night at our dinner table. It's become a tradition that we all enjoy. Even if we forget, the kids remind us, and it's as much a part of our family dinners as the "gratefuls" we say at the table.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

There is something about a clean home...

The sad reality is that around here we rarely achieve this. It is usually cluttered, dusty, and well, definitely very lived in. Yes, our home is filled with joy, and a rowdy exuberance that borders on chaos some days. It is wonderful in it's own way, but rarely clean.

Each family member prefers to create, rather than keep things clean and neat. A friend always reminds me that it's more important to do all that we're doing than keep a perfectly neat home. She often points out that these years will be gone before I know it.

So... it takes a visitor coming to get us to clean up like this.

Don't laugh. I ran around taking pictures before he got here so that I could relish the cleanliness in photograph form. (The dust is, as I write, resuming residence... and the clutter? I won't say more.)

But, I do enjoy the sense of peace that I feel when things are clean and orderly. It's such a toss up. Do I run around, picking up after everyone and constantly giving reminders to put things away? Or do you let go and give in, enjoying all the moments that you can?

I'm aiming for a balance between the two... we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude necklaces and corn husk dolls

We have been busy little bees. Everyone in our family helped with the makings of these. The kids gathered acorns, daddy drilled the holes, and I felted many little colorful balls. We call them our gratitude necklaces and it really was such a fun project to work on together. Honest. We made about 60, enough for all of the children in both kids' classes, plus some to share with friends.

We sent in a little note to the teachers of both classes for them to read when they hand out the necklaces if they chose. It said:

Bears, squirrels, and deer all feel grateful when they find acorns on the ground for their food.
These necklaces can be a little reminder of the things and people in our lives that we are grateful for.
Our son and daughter were so excited to take them to share with their friends at school. It made the effort worth it. My favorite part, though, was how it engaged us as a family. We were all focused on our little project, and it inspired a sense of pride in even our youngest when our task was accomplished. Last night, my husband and I stayed up talking while we glued and threaded necklaces together. If only life could be so simple all the time.

These are the corn husk dolls that we made yesterday in preparation for a craft project that I am leading at my daughter's school today. A very nice tutorial explains the process here. Now, my six year old wants to make a horse to go with the dolls. Hmmm. I hadn't counted on that, but we might have to give it a go.

So... we are looking forward to the holiday tomorrow and through the weekend. We will be spending time with several dear friends... sharing meals, walking in the woods, and maybe even a little crafting. My wish for each of you is a peaceful and joy filled holiday. I will be reminding myself to slow down and take a moment to consider all that I am grateful for.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The magic of fairies in our family...

In the weeks leading up to the Handmade Holidays show, I neglected so many things. Where to start? There was less volunteering, less time for my husband, kids, and friends, a shorter fuse on my part, less running in the woods for me, and no blog posts. I was barely keeping the essential balls in the air (like meals), let alone juggling any extras. I kept reminding myself NOT to "pack my bags and go on a guilt trip." (This phrase is credited to a dear friend who makes me bust out laughing every time she says it.)

At the set up for the show, I was sharing with a friend about the fairy house that my daughter had constructed with her dad. I had no part in it, as he'd been filling in all the gaps due to my craziness to get ready for the show. In describing their deepening relationship, I realized that many of the recent moments between them had occurred precisely because I WASN'T in the picture. Not that I impede their relationship, but I think you get what I mean. My lack of presence gave him the opportunity to be more present for the kids.

I marvel at this creation of theirs. My husband has never seen the info out there for parents about building fairy homes. He just joined in her imaginative process and they created. She left a note for the fairies, asking for a crystal and magically it appeared. (I had no part in that one either. I kept forgetting and the note sat there a few days. Thank heaven for daddies.)
This sweet house has several ramps and doors, a ladder, a swing (pictured above), and a lovely porch with a bench to hang out on. Don't you just want to move right in? I kidded my husband that he should start a new business as he has such obvious talent.

When I look out the window at the fairies' home, I can almost see them flitting about. It is such a nice reminder of family, magic, and what we can create.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Handmade Holidays Show

It all starts with a lot of sewing. (How many bag handles can you count?)

Then comes the fun part.... drawing with thread.

Finally the big day arrived. All that prep, and set up, and suddenly you are part of a show put on by two wonderful women in support of local craftswomen and an amazing grassroots non-profit called Arts for Life.

I have to tell you that it was just a lovely event. The women who are invited to sell at this show are some of the friendliest and most talented. It was really something.... an absolute pleasure.

It wasn't just about the money I made or the money that we raised for Arts for Life, although all of that was wonderful. This was the second year of the show, and I have begun to feel a sense of community with these women. I had some amazing conversations that inspired me to want to create and explore more.

I also received so many affirmations about myself as a blossoming quilter and artist. This last little bit may be hard for me to explain, but I'll try. There were many talented and tasteful women there who gave me compliments about my work. Visualizing myself as an artist is something I've been working through for many years. There are certainly some self esteem issues to sort through and old messages to cleanse. I'm working on it; this weekend was such a positive step in that process. So on that note, I want to say thank you to all of my friends and my family who supported me. It was important to me in more ways than you can possibly imagine.

(P.S. I did have a handful of bags left that I will post for sale on my etsy by the end of this week. If you're local and didn't get a chance to stop by, email me and you can come take a look.)