Apologies for the long silence. I am taking time off to remember my father.
Apologies for the long silence. I am taking time off to remember my father.
This week I enrolled in an online mapmaking class. I love map drawings. Brief diagrams showing direction, shopping maps in unfamiliar territories, google maps with notations – any of it. My drawing skills are meh but I LOVE illustration and it’s a deep regret that I just don’t have the patience or the skill to create unique visual works of art. I’m hoping that this inspiring three week course will help bolster my creativity and get me on the way to creating a bit of lovely on paper. If you’re interested in the course topic – please let me know – I can share some of the inspriation sources from our instructor… I suggest starting with this fun art quiz (can you identify a Bremen vs. and Abstract artist? I must admit the dog and cat threw me off but otherwise I scored great). The no-pressure/work-at-your-own-pace online platform is really just the thing to inspire me out of my February winter funk. It’s quite a charge to make connections with literature, compositions, interviews, as well as to be inspired by singlular works of art.
I wanted to share the work of Oliver Jeffers. No doubt you’re familiar with his work in some capacity (notably commercial illustration and children’s books). On topic, he makes whimsical illustrative maps: see America, DC and Paris.
If not, let me introduce you to him via this quirky video:
I haven’t drawn my first project just yet but I have a scanned map of Prague from an old travel journal that features where to get a bagel, the bank and the local AMEX office – this image helps me remember a story: the essentials from 1999. I needed the AMEX because all of my cards were lost in Amsterdam and bagels became the central focus of each day. My intention is to take an illustrative story approach with my map drawings. I am not so much interested in being technically accurate as I am in being whimsical. So you better believe I started a mapmaker, mapmaker make me a map pin board last night.
Finally, I wanted to introduce you to my Tumblr page. At first I was skeptical of this Tumblr thing. But it’s a fun way to embed content quickly without having to write a huge post about it – it’s much more of a virtual sketchbook platform. I read that only 6% of the internet population over age 29 is using it. Are you? Do you have any favorite sites? Want to join me in class? Have no fear, you can catch up in no time… I just started last night.
This is deliciously easy. How many times have your kids wanted pom poms but you were too frugal to buy something so frivolous? (for me, the answer is once or twice) It need not happen again! Last night I succumbed to the confetti system tassel garland craze in preparation for valentine photo booth decoration. While sitting in the basement rolling and twisting tissue together I realized that a simple addition of a lollipop stem would translate this concept into pom poms, a perfect prop for the photo booth. So easy to do, my three year old and I made four in less than 15 minutes.
I present a quick tutorial for turning tissue paper into pom poms, this will literally take you five minutes. Hip hip hooray!
I noticed the kids were spending too much time in the digital universe and decided it was time to DIY the Valentines. After a trip to Michael’s I can say with certainty that it is not cheaper to make your own (unless you own all of the supplies – but I needed fresh new things to command attention). I wanted to make sure I had enough to keep them busy for a week, making about 16 valentines each. Supplies ran me somewhere in the neighborhood of $45, and that was with a coupon. Looking at it another way, this is about one hour of entertainment and creativity every night for a week – well worth it! And they are coming up with some pretty spiffy color combinations (see Aidan’s card, above). Genevieve is a little behind with her cards – lacking the desire to maximize her output in one sitting – so I think we timed it about right to finish by next week.
This mélange of creativity is exactly what I had in mind for the table when we bought it. (more…)
Many of us are inspired to sew after we have children. Perhaps the highest compliment is when our children ask to learn how to sew because they are, in fact, inspired by us. Honoring the natural interest with a well-curated sewing kit is an empowering way to encourage them to value and care for their own tools as well as to respect a shared workspace by keeping it organized. Here are a few ways to get started.
4-6 year olds may be encouraged most with a simple selection of sewing cards, spare shoelaces, felt, embroidery floss and metal or plastic embroidery needles. Allowing them to cut and attach freely is an empowering lesson in trial and error. If your child learns best with a bit of structure you might try cutting geometric shapes or create a simple paper doll-type activity sewing the clothes to the doll form. Made by Joel features several modern unisex kid-centric embroidery projects that can be created with a bit of parental guidance.
6-10 year olds are ready to do some simple sewing. Initially you’ll want to work together at the sewing machine, guide fabrics together until your child is ready for some simple straight stitching. Again, felt is an easy material to work with because the ends/seam allowances are always tidy. Many sewing books are geared toward children and readily available at the library.
Starter Project: Have your child draw a picture of your house on white fabric with fabric markers or a water soluble pen. Embellish the lines with embroidery or use the sewing machine to follow the lines with metallic threads to add dimension. Help sew a coordinating backing fabric and fill with stuffing to create a pillow. Add a pocket for a lost tooth and you have an heirloom tooth fairy pillow.
First Sewing Kit
Begin with an attractive box or container to store tools. Fill it with some of the most loved items from your own collection. Consider sharing your ruler, sharper cutting tools and seam ripper, and doing the ironing for a while.
This little bundle of energy and loveliness is just the sweetest thing, yet capable of stirring the pot to no end. She is in love with the Nutcracker. She wants to be Clara one day. We play the takeaway DVD performance from our local Nutcracker daily. We dance. We discuss dreams. We wonder if Clara was scared when the mice held her. This little darling will wear one of two long satin, fancy nightgowns from her overstuffed pajama drawer. Nothing else, don’t speculate that the other non-fancy gowns will do. They won’t. They simply won’t dance like Clara’s.
Today she wore her purple tutu, last year’s dance recital costume, to her big sister’s dance class. At the end of class she looked into the other studio and recognized one soul, her inspirational Clara from December’s Nutcracker. She bravely wanted to say hello but could not catch the dancer’s eye. We inquired about Clara’s real name. A thoughtful lady from the office called her over to meet and greet. I was touched when the dancer sat on the floor to get to Gen’s level and told her how she loved her dress. Genevieve described how it danced like Clara’s nightgown. Clara said they were like sisters. That alone made my daughter the happiest girl at the studio and all the while home. I am thankful for our Clara’s grace – for coming over and for engaging an enchanted three year old and creating a memory so impressive it is sure to stay for a while.
I feel compelled to draft a gown for rotation through the Clara obsession. With a few more sophisticated mods, this little Butterick number seems like it could solve my problem all the way down to Clara’s lacy pajama pants.
It’s cold here in Maryland, though I shouldn’t complain because while it may have been in the twenties this weekend we are rumored to hit 65 this Wednesday. Oh and it did some kind of sleety thing this morning… Friends, summertime seems like forever from now but some of you are lucky enough to be skiing and indoor swimming with your kids because you live awesome jet set lives (or maybe you live in Australia and are finishing up that last warm holiday – I’m still envious). Well, my holiday life is not quite as super-fantastic, but that doesn’t stop me from reveling in the future.
We’re almost ready to sign up for spring brush-up swimming lessons and I thought these suits were just the thing to break the winter blahs and get the girls in the mood. I particularly love the neon paintbrush and green tankini. My oldest (5 going on 16) really wants a bikini but I’m just not there yet. You hear me?
Lucky for us Gap is having a great 30% off sale with code GAP30. Good deal, right?!
Need a quick project for Valentine’s Day?
Here’s a very quick and simple accessory project inspired by the charming, imperfectly handmade spirit of St. Valentine. The tutorial will show you how to fabricate a flower blossom from heart-shaped felt flower petals with optional barrette clip or badge finishes. Consider wearing the badge on a woolen coat, hat or even a adorning a clutch – it’s the right token for a special teacher in your life. Of course, the barrettes should be donned all year round when just the right touch is necessary, but are especially charming and of-the-moment over the next few weeks.
This project can safely be made with a crafty child under appropriate supervision. (more…)
Happiness is a form of courage. - Holbrook Jackson
I came across an article on the New York Times yesterday, Secret Ingredient for Success. The main subject of the article is the Momofuku Noodle Bar. Until the owner, David Chang, decided to dramatically change the menu offerings from what he thought a traditional noodle bar should be – to cooking like it was his last meal with non-traditional ingredients found at the market, he was just getting by, and the restaurant was not yet a wild crazy success. Once he brutally self-assessed and changed his pattern, his life changed.
It hits a note for me. I find myself regularly revisiting the path I’m making, wondering if I’m heading in the right direction with my multiple ventures… what it all means and which signs are actually signs. For example, the night before last I had a dream that I turned down streets in the wrong direction THREE TIMES. In each scenario I was able to correct course and avoided collision - but I wonder does this mean I have already headed down three wrong streets or I am about to do so? Or did I just eat too much ice cream before falling asleep?
I juggle being a present mom, trying to keep up with my other career, volunteering at school, grocery shopping, dinner making, staying home with constantly sick kids, and keeping up with this site. I realize the cliché but I don’t know how families do it when both parents have traditional jobs, multiple kids with multiple extracurricular interests, and commutes. I feel like I’m driving for half of the work day and the house is always more disorganized than I prefer.
All of these issues are compounded by the fact that we are in a self-inflicted busy trap, you must read this article from June 2012 to consider the differences between being busy and being exhausted. The author, Tim Kreider, recounts a story about a friend of his that was caught up in city life and assumed that she was naturally cranky and anxious. Once she took herself out of the city she realized that those behaviors were actually byproducts of her environment. And when she completely shifted gears to an artist’s residency program in France she was actually a happy and relaxed person. Since my first reading of this over the summer I have considered this example many times. It harkens back to an NPR feature on Toxic Relationships (can’t find the link but I remember the story from 2011 or 2012). Do you have friends that leave you emotionally drained after visiting when others that get you energized and feeling inspired? Perhaps you feel anxious driving through the city and suburbs and more relaxed and happy in the country or sitting idle in the sun? Suppose the situations that leave you anxious or unhappy are actually toxic for you. So obvious, isn’t it? Being in tune with our feelings. The hardest part is the honest assessment followed by real action.
These examples show that sometimes drastic changes and following our instincts can bring enormous personal fulfillment. The success (be it financial or personal achievement) follows naturally and in its own time. I know I’m not alone with these struggles – do you have any thoughts on how to manage them? Have you ever taken a leap and come out happier on the other side?
Are you participating in the Apartment Therapy-led January Cure? It’s a daily project for the month of January to help us get our lives in order by choosing one project to complete and fix up a bunch of other little stuff in between. The best part is that if you’re an overachiever, like me, you’ll stampede ahead and work on other stuff like organizing your laundry room and cleaning under the basement stairs because you get so excited and determined about populating your “outbox” with unwanteds. I’ve made one trip to the goodwill already and rid myself of 6 medium sized boxes including the crib set (which made me very sad – why is that?).
Today I worked on Genevieve’s room since the girls were home sick. I’ve been reducing toy quantity since the day after Christmas but that’s a fool’s errand if there ever was one! The kids are lucky to have so much stuff but it makes me feel physically ill to manage it. (more…)
This year, instead of a list of life resolutions (which would include being extra kind and softening the snarky edges of my insight in addition to sticking to my ridiculous exercise program, of course!) I want to focus on things I want to learn, try, and finish. I wish you a happy New Year full of healthy expectations for a brighter future for our children, country and planet.
So here I go with my list!
Clever Charlotte patterns have long dominated my to-sew lists. When Erin asked me if I would like to participate in the Collar Project series I knew it was perfect timing to whip up a quick holiday accessory from the Peridot pattern. Because what kind of lady turns down the opportunity to make something for her daughter to wear that is delightfully festive and girly?
I knew I would use a delicate Nani Iro flannel with glitter dots from last Fall’s collection. On the reverse side I chose a Velveteen print from Anna Maria Horner’s LouLouThi collection. Because the project is very quick and simply constructed, I was able to embellish the glitter polka dots with glass chop and bugle beading from the Alabama Chanin shop. Using beads and button thread the polka dots became a background for showing off some interesting stitch techniques. While hand-sewing is no easy task for the hasty sewer it is a nice break from the frantic holiday chores that seem to fill my date book lately.