Friday, July 31, 2009

Not according to the plan

Wow. This week has just unravelled somehow. In the last 24 hours, my husband hurt his back and it's left him incapcitated. Poor guy. It's pretty bad; he can't drive. So I spent a large portion of yesterday driving him to various appointments, getting medications, taking care of him, and taking care of kids. Today is a new day, but looks like it will involve much of the same. It's especially nerve wracking because his job is a very physical one and he's our primary bread winner at present. My word has been "breathe."
So... my little giveaway is still going on as planned and ends tonight, but I'm not getting the things done that I thought I would. It's o.k., though. Suddenly, my task list doesn't seem so important.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Word Wednesday

I'm been thinking about sharing this little thing I do with you all. Sometimes I choose a word for the day that I feel could be helpful to me to focus on at different times during the day. I don't find that I make time for any formal meditation or relaxation exercises, but focusing on one word helps me lower my blood pressure in the moment. The most frequent ones I use are "breath, relax, compassion, focus, flower... " You get the picture. Somehow it seems manageable to bring a single word to the forefront of my mind through out the day. And here's the weird thing. It centers me. It takes me out of the chaos, and suddenly I am more present. My disclaimer is that two minutes later I may be harried again. It's not a cure all, but the power of the mind is phenomenal and directly linked to our physiological state. I haven't really researched this technique, but for me, it works. There are no rules; I just made it up. Try it and let me know what you think. I'm interested in hearing. So... today's word is balance.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My first birthday....

This blog is one year old this month, and I'm simply can't believe it! Really. How can it have been one year? Before I started blogging I probably spent an entire year pondering it. I had to think it through. Why would I blog? Would I be seeking external validation when my aim in these last few years has been about giving myself my own kudos and not worrying so much about what other's think. In the end, I think I simply needed to share... and to see what it was like. Honestly, I love my blog community.

I have connected with so many in ways that I might not have otherwise. It has broadened my universe. I am embarrassed to admit that I am a girl who has never physically travelled outside of the North American continent. But in my research, my conversations, my readings, and finally in my mind and heart, I have travelled far. This blog has helped me to communicate with so many I might have not otherwise met. My life is deeper and more rich.

So... as a sort of thank you, I want to offer up a giveaway. (Sorry for the terrible lighting of these photos. I need a professional, people!) These are a set of patchwork potholders that I've made. If I were a wealthy woman, I would give everyone a gift. Really. I would. Instead, I will make it a bit of a game. Nothing new in the blogging world, but not too complex either. Just leave a comment! I will close the comments to this post on July 31 at 8 pm eastern standard. (That's the time of night when my brain is mush and I'm sooo done for the day.) I'll announce the winner on Aug.1, Saturday. I know blogger can be tricky for some to log into, so feel free to log on "anonymous"; just be sure to sign an identifying name and email on your post. If you haven't left me an email, no biggy, but you'd better check back in. International shipping? Bring it on! (I just hope you don't cost me a small fortune. Honestly, though, I can't bear to leave out my Australian friends.) One last request, but no obligation... spread the word about my blog/giveaway/shop, if you will. I would love to connect with even more people in the next year. Life is simply an amazing adventure. Thank you for being a part of mine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Checking in...

Hey folks! I wanted to post more, but this day has been one full of twists and turns. Maybe just a wee bit like the quilting on this bag I finished for a friend this weekend. I wanted to write today so I could give you the heads up. I'm gonna do a giveaway! Come back and see me this week... all you gotta due is leave a comment. (I'm such a tease, aren't I?)

Friday, July 24, 2009


Happy Friday, everyone (except those in the other hemisphere!)
To you, happy Saturday...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Keeping busy

Besides for another particularly early morning wake up on my part (this morning), the rest of the family is up early every morning. It seems to be our natural rhythm around here. So by8:30 on summer mornings we've already zoomed through several activities and accomplished plenty. Sometimes they're inside, sometimes they're outside. Sometimes there is play that has evolved from their imaginations. Their favorite "game" is some form of playing puppy where one takes care of whoever is the puppy. This game has endless variations on the theme, but they usually play nicely for long periods during this one. I love it when this occurs because I can get tons done. The glitch is when they start fighting to the point that intervention is needed. Still, it is really pretty amazing to see how far they've come this summer in terms of playing together... and so sweet.

Other times they request an "art project" (their term) that is directed by me. So I scramble through my brain. Hopefully I've had enough coffee at this point. Lots of time we collage fabric scraps, paint, draw... you know the bread and butter. This time they brought to me a butterfly my little guy had made in Montessori. What a relief! We had clothespins, filters left over from the beach last year, paint, and of course, fishing line to hang them. (This family has got plenty of fishing line.) What amazed me about this project was how long it entertained both age ranges. An almost 3 year old and a 6 year old wear both totally into it.

Now I just need to hang these beauties!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This morning

I want to be outside, sipping my coffee looking at these. It's one of my favorite things to do in the morning (that, and cuddle in bed reading with my kids.) It's dark outside right now, though. What am I doing up so early? Worrying a little, I guess... about the small things, and the big things. I had a friend tell me once that her theory is women are just hard wired for worrying. She had noticed that if she didn't have something to worry about, she would automatically and unconsciously come up with something. The ridiculousness of this made me laugh until I realized that I do the same darn thing. So... I'm trying hard to focus on the present, stay positive, be a little more gentle with myself, and well... sew. It's my therapy right now. Have a wonderful day, friends!
P.S. A lovely soul left a first time comment yesterday. She said my blog "brightens her day." My heart just soared; it made me feel so good to think about being a shining part of some one's day. Every time someone comments to let me know they've been by to visit, it brightens mine. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Guess what I made some more of?

I know, it's a little disgusting how often I'm subjecting you to pictures of my bags. But that's what I'm making right now. I'm anticipating teaching again in mid August, and then there will be less time. So, for now, you're seeing lots of posts from me, and much of them are pictures of completed bags....

All in my shop, of course! Spread the word....

Monday, July 20, 2009

This weekend...

Let's see.... there was sewing, swimming, eating from the garden, fishing, running, playing, napping, and some reading. All the usuals really, plus a nice visit with friends and also a couple of hours away at the Southern Highland Craft Guild fair by myself.
One of the parts of this weekend that I most enjoyed was sharing with two women who are both close to fifteen years older than me. Each has children that are teenagers or college students now. It was refreshing to be around so much laughter and I appreciated their perspective on my life. Over and over again, they marvelled at our garden or my sewing. They made me feel as if our life was really spectacular when some days I truly feel that it is not. They reminded me how quickly this time will pass with young children.... that these young ones will soon be grown and not want to spend so much time around me. They remembered the fatigue and the fears, and they didn't gloss over the reality of that. It is really such an amazing thing when women can share their experience in a way that buoys you up and doesn't bring you down.

So... this weekend was full, in a good way. Oh.... and I forgot to mention the toe painting experience. Who's do you think these are? It's important to photo document as many of the "firsts" as you can, don't you think?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Study in blue

Pulmonaria in the garden.... a piece given to me from my mom and dad's home in Tennessee.

A combination of some all-time favorite Amy Butler prints... free motion quilted and in my shop.
Cornflower by our mail box... I've always adored this wildflower and it grows like a weed all over the south.

A variation on the first, quilted a little differently, just for grins.... in my shop as well.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Waste reduction

Ha ha. The title... get it? That's not waist reduction... nope, not mine. Maybe I'm getting punchy as we're half way through our summer. I've notice that right before our garden starts busting out the tomatoes, I get a little stir crazy... every year. It's like I just can't wait for the menu to change over. Of course, it could be that by mid July, a large percentage of my brain cells have been sacrificed by meeting kids' constant needs.

So here's the sandwich wrap. I like the way this opens up into an impromptu place mat for my kids. You fold the sides together first, and then the top, using the velcro to hold the fold in place. I'm becoming a little overzealous in my approach to cutting out plastic baggies, but it excites me to feel like I am making a difference. I zipped around the Internet for 5 minutes and according to

“Much of the trash we generate comes from the packaging on the food we buy, and lunch foods are no exception. In fact, it has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school.”
Saving a little space in the landfill works for me. No big deal, really. These hand wash or you can throw them in the machine. Air dry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Groceries versus garden

Does anyone else feel like their grocery bill is cratering you? We really have cut out so much processed and prepackaged food. We're growing so much more in our garden this year too! So what's the deal?! I gently remind myself that we never eat out and that the high quality food we eat is health insurance. Still.... the amount we spend every week on groceries is mind numbing. Do you all feel it too? Well... enough of my ranting. You surely don't need to hear it.

We've been having treasure hunts with our potatoes, digging them up, and making plenty of potato salads cause that's a personal favorite around here. My family's recipe uses fresh dill, minced red onion, chopped hard boiled eggs, minced celery, mayo, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper. Easy peasy and oh so good.

This tiny chocolate pepper would be a photographic example of how much produce gets plucked by the "almost" three year old before it's ready. We haven't made it into the house with a single bean yet. Our first patty pan squash is probably ready today, along with some cherry tomatoes, cukes, and the first Romas. That is, if I get out there before he does. We had some squash from down the road for dinner last night; it was so sweet and tender. We bought some bean from them too, but those are getting snarfed up, raw, like carrot sticks. They're the perfect summer snack; bag it and go.

Now, back to those squashes. This is one of our favorite recipes. I have no idea where it came from... probably a magazine years ago.

Zuchini and Fresh Herb Fritters

salt and pepper
2 lbs. zuch, coarsely grated
2 eggs, beaten
1 bunch scallions, minced
1 c. dried bread crumbes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon mint, chopped

Salt zuch and set aside to drain in colander for 30 minutes. Mix all ingredients. Film skillet with oil. Cook fritters over med heat until all brown, flip. Serve hot with salsa and sour cream (or plain yogurt.)

They also taste just dandy cold. I had the leftovers today for my lunch. I didn't share a one with the kids.

One of these sweet sunflowers just had to come inside to keep me happy. Makes me forget about food bills....

Monday, July 13, 2009

More bags in the shop!

Yesterday was MY day. I do believe I needed it. I went for an early morning trail run and saw a solitary blue heron take off in flight from the water. I think I've been seeing the same single heron for years, off and on. I always take it as a sign of peace and serenity.

I spent most of the day by myself. I had my hair done, and had the best conversation with the woman who cuts my hair. I've known her for years now, and I enjoy the friendship that we've developed. We talked about the drive to create, and it's spiritual aspects. She pointed out that she had once heard someone say that to ignore that need within ourselves was to deny our divine connection.... or something to that effect. It made perfect sense to me. Creating makes me a better person, and it is such an intuitive thing that it's hard for me to put into words.

Then I perused Big Crafty in downtown Asheville, and got totally inspired. So, of course, I came home and sewed. (It was waaaaay too hot to garden.) Here's a couple more bags for the shop. Last week, the bag I posted sold in 24 hours so I kind of felt like a tease. But here are some more! A nice start to the week, all in all. I could use plenty more days like yesterday, but the one will have to do for now....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thank goodness the sun came out this morning

Yesterday was wet and cool. It's been that way all week, and it looks to be the same. So, unfortunately for you, you are getting subjected to ridiculously long posts on my part. I figure just about no one made it through yesterday's essay. What can I say? The nice thing is you can click off and never have to respond, eh? I am definitely starting to feel stir crazy. The kids are too... it's not good. At some point yesterday we all lost it, each in our individual ways. It was not pretty. We walked in the rain... TWICE. We had already maxed out the library this week. We've done drawing and painting, exploring for bugs in the wet, wet garden. I even let them race around outside in the rain without me one day, and I seriously debated whether or not I would allow them back in the house. So... I had to break out with some creative projects in a big way.

I recently met Jean who writes "The Artful Parent" when we were picking blueberries locally. She is so talented and has such a wonderful blog; it's an incredible resource. We used the directions from this post to dye our silk scarves with Kool Aid. The only problem with my plan was that I had only purchased two packs of Kool Aid and we had four silk scarves. Going out to the store in the rain was not something I could even fathom. So... on to Plan B in addition to Plan A.

Plan B:

We used food coloring and this link helped me navigate my way through the process. (How did I live without Internet access when the first was born? That was surely a mistake.) I was thrilled with the results and will do it again. We had some "neon" food dyes from McCormick. I got these just before Easter this year, and we used them for egg dying instead of buying the prepackaged tabs. I love the colors in this set, and I love the chartreuse green and turquoise blue for the scarves. (This pic does not do the the vividness of the colors any justice.) In fact, the purple came from the Kool Aid and was our least favorite; the other three were food dye. The food dye did just as well as the Kool Aid, better I think. The only difference in the prep was that I pre-soaked the intended food dye scarves in straight vinegar, no water.

I intend to purchase some more silk scarves from Dharma trading post... we use the heck out of the ones we already have. They are also such nice gifts. We can say that because we have been the recipient of some in the past. Next time, we will only use food dye and we're gonna go for some red, orange, yellow, and another in that green, I think.

The second "fly by the seat of my skirt" project was the old melt the crayons in muffin tins. The peeling of crayons did last for quite a while, accompanied by some good music. My little guy became more absorbed in sorting and pouring them all, even though he's great at peeling. We had borrowed my friend's silicone candy forms back in April. Fortunately, we're slackards and hadn't used or returned them yet. What a nice thing they were to have yesterday! When I was googling to find you a link for melting crayons, I found this. Next time we're trying it. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Last Child in the Woods

I recently finished "Last Child in the Woods: saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" by Richard Louv. I think I finally read this book because I was interested in an affirmation for how we live our lives. So many times I question myself. Should I be working full time? Would it be nice to have a bigger house, more money, or a greater sense of economic security? But taking me out of the equation so that I could be in the work force would drastically change our lives.

One of the greatest adverse effects it would have would be less time outside for me and for our kids. The way that we live works so well for us, with the exception that all the pressure is on my husband to be the bread winner. Both he and I have spent a great deal of time outdoors in all conditions. He works outdoors for a living. Our garden is just one big extra room to our house. We're outside as much as we're inside, whether it's perfect weather or not.

I try to hang back and let them explore. I give them a lot of space and freedom outdoors. It's always such a struggle to parent without being overprotective. I have to constantly remind myself that our kids don't need "props" or toys to play with outside. They're imaginative world so often evolves with the natural objects that they find around them.

But, I digress... which happens a lot. The last chapter was my probably my favorite. Louv discussed the "spiritual necessity of nature for the young." I was intrigued. Intuitively, I know that my kids (and myself) are at our best when we're outside. For myself, the spiritual aspect of being in nature is something I can't be without. Going to church on Sundays has never really been our thing. It's not that we don't believe in a higher power, or don't teach our children about different religions. It's really just that our spirituality is something we celebrate by being outside... in nature. (And I'm definitely not dissing anyone who does go to church. Every family has there own unique way of doing things.)

"Last Child in the Woods" quoted Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel and it summed up how I try to live my life and what I am seeking to share with our children...

"our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. Heschel would encourage his
students to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes
nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never
treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed."
And that's it really... for us, to be in nature (and to be spiritual) is to "live life in radical amazement." I just sat down and cried when I read this. Nothing has ever so completely defined my spirituality for me.
Richard Louv recognizes how many of us face the challenge of sharing our spirituality in nature without "tripping on the tangled vines of Biblical interpretation, semantics, and politics." I had never really struggled with that until this year when my daughter entered public school Kindergarten. Suddenly she was exposed to a heavy dose of southern Christianity. Before that she had been buffered by more diversity among her friends and family... Buddhists, Quakers, Christians, you name it. Certainly, she had never encountered any heaviness about "how the world was created" or Jesus as a personal savior.

It became clear to me that we would be the ones providing the tether while she explores the worlds of religion and spirituality. I knew that, but it happened a little sooner than I expected. And I should add that I try to embrace every one's belief system without judging or alienating. I really do think that diversity is what makes this world spectacular.

Paul Gorman said,

"As a parent, you don't encourage children to experience nature because it's
pretty, but because your children are exposed to something larger and longer
standing than their immediate human existence."
This quote in the book struck me as such an obvious point that it is simply exquisite. Of course! I am always working towards helping my children understand that, to put it bluntly, they are not the center of the universe. I want them to know from a place deep within that there is so much more to this world than the single individual, and that they are loved immensely. I want to increase their sense of connection, so that they may not dwell long in any perceived sense of domination. I want them to live in radical amazement.... always.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

pillow for her doll

Yesterday we just took some down time. I needed it and the kids were being little devils, really. I struggle with this. It's always a balance.... give rewards, give consequences, focus on the positives, actively ignore... blatantly ignore. I took the "pool privilege" away because I knew that would be an attention getter. However, it never really worked. Maybe they knew that secretly, I wasn't really up for it anyway. I finally just went out to the garden and got some work done, authorizing the six year old to make lunch for her little brother. I know that sounds a little harsh, but she was totally up to the task. In fact, oddly, it was a turning point. She LOVED being in charge and making him his requisite peanut butter and honey. She became the "little mother/boss" for better or for worse. I could hear them through the open windows, but I vowed not to go back in unless it came to blows. And... THEY HANDLED IT AND DID BETTER WHEN I WASN'T AROUND! I swear it.
So in the afternoon, she asked me to make up the pillow for her doll. She had already gone through my scrap bag this weekend and picked out the fabrics she wanted. Then she showed me the size she had in mind. I sewed it up, and she stuffed it. She cut scraps from my scrap cotton quilting batting and stuffed it through the hole until it felt right to her. Then she gave it back and I hand sewed it up. She probably could have done that last task, but she's a bit like her mom... always in a hurry to have that finished product. So... we'll see how today goes. Being a parent has more ups and downs than the Blue Ridge Parkway.
P.S. One last little tidbit that I can't resist... The fabric that she picked for the back of this pillow is the one that I used for the backing of her sixth birthday quilt. It' s an Alexander Henry print that I bought at my favorite quilt shop (now closed), intended for her twin quilt backing, when she was just over one year old. What warms my heart is that she loves the fish now as much as I knew she would when she was so very little.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What our honey bees are lovin'

It is amazing how quickly we have adapted to having thousands of bees in our garden. We all watch out for them as we are working and playing. No one wants to accidentally harm a bee. They are a part of our family, and we can't imagine a time when it wasn't that way.

These volunteer sunflowers were such a lovely gift. They seeded themselves all in a neat row and stand about 8 feet tall, beckoning to us when you look out our bedroom window. I will be so sad when they fade.

Goat's beard, a native plant to this area, turns out to be a favorite of the bees.

Red bee balm is a flurry of activity for the bees and for our increasing population of humming birds.

Our honey is ready to harvest when we get around to it. The poplar flow is over and the sourwood has begun. I grinned with pride the other day when my six year old declared that "My Big Backyard" magazine got it wrong because they identified a honey bee in a picture and called it a "he." Indignantly, she exclaimed, "that bee's a 'she'!" I looked more closely and she was absolutely right. The picture was of a female worker bee, not a male drone. She wants to write them an email... that should be interesting.