Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Checking in

Here we are, nearly six weeks into summer vacation.  I can hardly believe it.  It is going by so quickly.  This afternoon, a good friend with bad allergies came for a visit, and her presence made me aware of all the dust in my home.  Dust, cat hair, general untidiness (no funk, I assure you…the bathrooms and kitchen are not unclean!) and I realised how long it has been since I did much other than soak up summer with these two little girls and a lack of schedule.  Hallelujah for that!  How blessed and lucky!

For our fun craft project, we dove into marbleized paper à la Artful Parent with shaving foam and liquid watercolours.  This is an excellent, satisfying summer project!  I highly recommend you set it up outside with a ready hose to wash off all the extra shaving foam the kids cannot resist.  Clean-up of the table and trays was simple too.  The results: awesome.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy Homemade Sew-along

Success!  This may be the first sew-along I have actually completed in the history of me trying to sew.  Woo-hoo!

The hoodie is pattern S from Happy Homemade Vol 2, a Japanese sewing book (now available in English).  I have sewn pants and tops from this book, but the hoodie stayed off my list 1) because my girls aren't big hoodie wearers and 2) (more importantly) the pattern made no obvious sense to me whatsoever.  Japanese pattern books have illustrations for the major steps involved in each garment, but I couldn't make heads nor tails of the hood attachment.  Enter Meg of elsiemarley and her wonderful photo tutorial, and voila--two completed and completely adorable hoodies!

Modifications: lined hood with contrast fabric, added kangaroo pockets (inside matches hood lining), and simply hemmed the bottom (no drawstring or elastic).
Withstands constant motion with ease.

I think these would be great in knit fabric or fleece.  The arms are a bit small and tight-fitting for the quilting cotton I chose.  This is more noticeable for my big 8 year old girl, who is at the top end of the pattern fit spectrum.  Hers--the pink polka dot--is a bit too small, if we're honest, but bless her, she said it was totally fine, though she didn't keep it on long enough for a picture.  We may need to pass it on to a friend or save it for her little sister.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Craft for craft's sake

This week, I'm participating in the Happy Homemade Sew-along with elsiemarley and you and mie.  We're making the hoodie (pattern s) from Happy Homemade Vol 2, a Japanese pattern book I have used before and enjoy.  While I suspect neither of my girls is particularly interested in wearing a hoodie, I'm sewing them up anyway.  I can tell there is a fiddly bit to this pattern, so why not sew along with others who know what they are doing and can give some pointers?  I already followed their lead on lining the hood with a contrast fabric and adding a kangaroo pocket on the front.  I'm enjoying developing my sewing skills, and, whether they want a hoodie or not, both girls seem eager for me to finish their new tops.  Win.

I've been reflecting on craft lately, how much and when to do and why.  The other night, I read a scathing review of a publication I truly enjoy, a cause for more reflection.  The criticism attacked the publication as elitist and anti-feminist (racist, hetero-centric…the list was long and unhappy), which made me feel more than a bit uncomfortable because I could see the point.  If I still enjoy the publication, indeed I hope to successfully submit work there, what does that say about me and the values I promote?  This morning, it seems clearer.  It says simply that I don't see it that way.  While one can read in those criticisms, one also cannot.  Taken at face value, I find enjoyment and relaxation there, plain and simple.

I see the same attacks focused on particular blogs, on certain bloggers, criticisms for portraying their lives in a way others find threatening or showy or elitist or wholier-than-thou (yes, misspelling intended).  At times, I have felt that way myself.  During those times, I simply tune out.  Honestly, those moments are more about my own insecurities than anything those bloggers portray.  I don't think any of them intend to show how morally-, environmentally-, socially-, what-have-you-superior they are to the rest of us.  They are sharing what they do because they enjoy it.

Which brings me back to craft.  Strangely enough, craft for craft's sake can easily be seen as an elitist endeavour.  In an age when buying ready-made clothing can be so cheap, when even high-quality goods can be less expensive than a similar handmade item, there may no reason left than the joy found in doing.  At the end of the day, haters gonna hate, but I can find enjoyment where I may (seems more appealing than the alternative).

Where are you finding joy these days?  In a good read, in craft, in downtime or uptime or out-time or in-time…I hope you are finding some moments for yourself that make you smile.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Catching my breath

Months ago, I signed up for an online Squam course for the month of May (Pitch Perfect, which I highly recommend to anyone wondering how to start a writing career path for print media).  I remember the final months of school seeming to drag on and on last year, for the kids and for me, and I was excited to have a month of good work just for myself.  The reality was, as usual, slightly different.

Perhaps because the winter dragged on into April this year, the spring term felt rather whirlwind.  The girls being older meant bigger, longer term projects that all came to a head in the final weeks of school. My volunteering as kindergarten room mom took on new dimensions of engagement, as I attended various functions to round out the year and worked several late nights (hello, procrastination!) to finish personalised memory books for each child in the class.

It all might have been fine, though a bit manic, if Hubby hadn't broken a bone in his leg during that last week of school.  Did I mention the flood in the kitchen the same morning of the painful bone break?


Now, summer vacation is upon us.  In the US, that means three months of no school.  I can hardly believe we're here already!  Like last year, we will use this time as a mini-homeschooling session, working on our reading, writing, math, science and even history this year.  And of course, art.  There must always be art.  Creating too often fell to the wayside this year, and we all miss it.  As for the writing, I hope to get back to that, too.

What has kept you busy lately?  I hope you find a way back to something you enjoy and currently miss.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pushing past fear

I'd like to talk to you for a moment about fear.  I don't mean fear experienced as terror or a phobia; I want to talk about more everyday fear that goes unrecognised, sneaking into our minds and hearts as procrastination, perfectionism, and self-reproach.

What started this morning as a dig through my fabric stash became a full-on frustrated guilt binge as I was forced to confront the mountain of my good intentions gone to waste.  I own so much fabric that it is truly unreasonable, because all that gorgeousness is doing no one any good packed away unused.  One find in particular pushed me over the edge from "should" to action: the simple Anna Maria Horner voile pictured above.  I bought it years ago with the express intention of creating this simple dress for myself, just perfect for Australian summers that were my reality at the time.  The fabric I found is washed and even cut into four strips, and thus it remained, packed away out of sight.  Seeing it today, I remembered how reluctant I was to start it, waiting until I had more time, until I understood sewing better, knew better seaming, had any idea how to sew voile as opposed to quilting cotton.  Exactly when did I think I might magically be granted more time and experience without working to make that happen (and probably stumbling along the way)?

It was fear, plain and simple.
Fear of making a mistake, but who doesn't make those?
Fear of wasting the material, as if its current state is anything less than waste.
Fear of it not turning out perfectly, which is crazy because I am not a professional seamstress.

Recognizing that fear for what it is made action obvious.  Not wanting to waste another minute*, I marched right out of the basement and started to work, complete with French seams that I have never tried before.  What's the worst that can happen?  Surely whatever I do will be better than this lovely material languishing in a box in the basement.  Even if it comes out a mess, I might learn something.  It's a small thing, but it is time to move on from fear.

If the notion of fear holding you back resonates with you but you aren't sure where to start, I highly recommend the Buddhism for Mothers series of books by Sarah Napthali.  Another regular dose of mindfulness can be found on Zen Habits.  This month, he is running a self-compassion module in the Sea Change program.  Warmest wishes to you.

*and yes, I know it's all well and good to say so while you actually have a minute to spare…and which mothers among us have that?  Choosing to conquer this today meant my to-do list went neglected.  Tough luck.  It's one day.  Attacking this fear head on while the motivation was fresh felt worth it.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pondering Twitter

I'm making a concerted effort to be more open-minded about social media.  My instinctive reaction to most of them is wariness, and thus far I've opted out because I simply don't need them.  Two pivotal conversations this morning have me reevaluating my position.  Pondering Twitter, I looked into the feed of a few bloggers I admire to see how they are using it, and I found this gem:

Tee hee hee!

May I ask...
Do you use Twitter?
How do you use it?
Any recommendations or tips for a beginner?
Thus far, I have completely avoided it, but I would like to be more open-minded and better-informed about it. I'd love any feedback you would like to share!

Happy weekend, y'all!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Broody hen: the epilogue

It seems that old-fashioned butt dip in cool water did the trick!  Miss Broody Chicken has gotten (at least part of) the message.  She has been out motoring around with the other chookies both yesterday afternoon and this morning, though she still likes to sit an extra long while.  Yesterday, she laid the strangest egg we've ever seen.  It looked like a normal egg (light brown, correct shape), but when we picked it up, there was no hard shell.  It felt almost rubbery and had no yolk.  Crazy.  Her body is out of practice.  Naturally, our intensely curious six-year-old wants to keep this egg forever.

Random aside: Did you notice the huge difference in photo quality yesterday of my broody chicken (DSLR) versus the photo from the day before (iPhone)?  Wow.  I need to use the big camera more often!

Even more random: have you ever tried to take a chicken's portrait?  They. Don't. Stop. Moving. Ever. A bit like sweetly endearing little kids…with pea-sized brains.  Hee-hee.