Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baby haze

I spent this past weekend in Denver, soaking up the snuggles with this little lovey.  She's just seven weeks old, turning the corner from newborn to baby.  Her mama is a dear friend from college, and we have shared a lot of stories along the way.  Sharing a few sleep-deprived nights, fussy days and peaceful snoozing felt like precious time.  It brought up so many memories for me, and it was exciting to watch new memories being made for her.

There is so much (too much) advice for new parents, so much pressure and judgment and frustration, that I was reminded of the favourite bit of parenting advice Hubby and I were ever given:

With each child, you write your own book.

Try what works for you and your child, and you will know when it is right.  Have faith in your ability to nurture this little person who has been gifted to you, even if it is not what well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) strangers, friends or family members suggest is "best."  You can do this.  Congratulations!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

National S'mores Day

Today is National S'mores Day, so enjoy the excuse to break out the graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows!

In addition to traditional campfire enjoyment, you could roast the marshmallows over the grill, toast inside in the oven in case of poor weather, or try the super-cheater, slightly-tacky approach of roasting them over the stove (actually holding them on sticks over a hot stove set on high).  In a pinch, the stove is fast and easy, with no prep or clean-up…not that we have ever tried it (ahem).

Friday, August 8, 2014

Atypical back-to-school supplies

I don't know what it going on with the weather here, but I love it.  The temperature has been stuck in the most gloriously comfortable range of the upper 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (in the 20s Celsius).  The rain and humidity that marked the early summer have passed for the moment.  I know it's boring to talk about the weather, but I can't help it when it is this gorgeous.  I learned the hard way last winter how quickly weather can affect mood, so it's no wonder we're all feeling rather content these days.

We bought school supplies this week.  The girls don't go back until the first week of September, but that time is approaching so quickly.  My big girl needed a flash drive this year, and of course, she insisted it be cute and fun.  Three big box stores later (sigh), she found and loved this one.  My wise friend skipped that shopping nonsense and went to Amazon for all supplies in one place, where she also found this fantastic selection of flash drives for kids.  Smart cookie.

Our school supply list dictates the kids' pencils should be labeled with their names.  I have seen so many crazy attempts at doing this by hand, usually resulting in parental swearing.  Two years ago, I ordered in bulk personalised pencils for my big girl, and she still hasn't run out.  Even if you only want a dozen or so, this shop is reasonable and ships quickly.

Thinking ahead to school lunches, I've been drawing inspiration and trying recipes from the lovely Kate of Lunch Lady.  Her first post hit rather close to home, and the Can't Be Flapjacked recipe in it is delicious!

Speaking of lunches, our lunch boxes are these (we have the Rover).  This will be year #4 of use, and we still love them!

Still thinking about school lunches and also reminiscing about our camper trip, I had a lightbulb moment and remembered these, which I bookmarked ages ago but never decided how to use until now.  I uploaded 100 photos of the girls and our family from the past year and had them printed on mini cards for $20, giving us 50 lunches with a photo tucked inside for each kid.  The backs of each mini card will be blank for little love notes.  I can hardly wait to see them.  I haven't told the girls.

Compared with some lists I have seen, our required supply lists were quite reasonable, giving us room to splurge on fun stuff here and there.  Sometimes, it's the little things that help get them through the day.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blue floral Wiksten Tova top

Finally, a bit of selfish sewing for me!  After much waffling, I purchased and traced the Wiksten Tova top pattern…and there I stopped, waiting for a nudge.  That nudge came in June on a weekend trip to Seattle, when I spied two Tova tops in one afternoon while wandering the boutiques of Ballard.  Both Tova sewists were happy to share their process, and suddenly, the pattern seemed accessible.  I let a good week of settling back into routine happen before I sorted through my fabric stash and cut the pieces.  But again, I paused with uncertainty…until I found an old but still-kicking Tova sew-along online.  Woo-hoo!

Thank goodness for that sew-along.  Despite the massive gushing amongst sewists online about the fabulous pattern design and easy instructions, I just squeaked by with a moderate amount of swearing during the bodice assembly.  I really couldn't visualise what should be happening there.  Then, the collar gave me fits and reduced me to tears after ripping it out twice.  I think I was stressed beyond all my skill-set at that point and lost the plot.  Unable to find any tips online for dealing with the collar, I felt like a lonely sewing failure.  Sniff.  I sadly hung up the almost-complete blouse and left it until our California trip was done…only to find I had no trouble at all with the collar when we returned.  Clearly, I just needed to cool down.*

So, was all the hype merited?  Will I make this again?  Definitely.
It's a gorgeous blouse, comfortable and classic, one that merits cutting into the precious Liberty I bought years ago (the highest compliment I can give, actually).  The fabric I used on this first go-round is Japanese, Liberty-like, a solid trial run.  It has a very similar weight and even similar pattern.  I feel I ironed out a few my kinks with the pattern skills, and I am ready to repeat.

I adapted it slightly, using tips from the sew along.  I doubled the fabric on the inset so I wouldn't need to wear a tank top underneath the thin fabric.  I also reduced the hem length by almost 3", which surprised me because I have a long torso (think tunic-length on the pattern and adapt for a blouse).  I almost wish I had understood the proportions better before cutting, because I probably would have gone for dress-length in this fabric and enjoyed a new sundress this summer.  The Liberty will be a blouse, but I'm guessing there will be linen, voile, corduroy and flannel variations in my future (glorious ambition!).  On my arms, the sleeves end up just below my elbows, which I find perfect for summer but I might increase the length in other fabrics.  Now, I just need to try the Wiksten tank, and I will feel fully initiated into the fan club.

*Meg at elsiemarley just shared a bit of her sewing and learning process on her blog.  I have found her site so encouraging and fun for her honesty and her attitude.  She sews awesome clothes for her kids.  It seems (to me) that she's always got something in the works, whereas I have a mountain of intentions (and the fabric stash to prove it)…but she makes it seem doable.  It's not all shiny-happy-people-laughing-at-losers-with-store-bought-clothes; it's about channeling creative energy into the process of making, even when it results in a lot of swearing and some tears (so, so familiar).  Thanks, Meg!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Homemade deodorant

For over a year now, I've been using what we (affectionately) call my Weird Hippie Deodorant.  I started using homemade deodorant out of curiosity.  I had read about the horrible toxic chemical effects of certain components of store-bought deodorant, the concerns of aluminium residues, particularly for women and application near the breast area…and I just wanted to see what the alternative might be.  I tried store-bought "natural" deodorants, all of which (for me) were a colossal fail.  Many bloggers have tried and praised a simple homemade deodorant from this recipe:

2 Tbsp baking soda
2 Tbsp arrowroot
3 Tbsp coconut oil, softened or melted

Stir ingredients together until fully mixed.  Pour into a paper baking cup (I set mine in a muffin tin too) and place in refrigerator until solid.
During the summer months, my Weird Hippie Deodorant lives in the fridge.  At room temperature, it becomes a mushy sludge that seems less effective than when it's a solid (probably because I accidentally apply too much sludge).  Using it as a solid hockey-puck of deodorant is so easy.  Just rub it on like regular deodorant and go.  There is a recipe to make it more temperature-stable, but I haven't tried it yet.

The upside?
It doesn't stain clothes.
It doesn't leave a lingering odour.
Most importantly, I don't leave a lingering odour.
This stuff really works.

Yes, you will sweat (maybe a lot).  Your body is designed to sweat out impurities, and you will do that.  It's not the most comfortable feeling, especially if you are used to wearing super-strength antiperspirants (and sweating anyway).  If you do wear antiperspirant and make the switch, you will sweat even more for a while.  Your body tries even harder to sweat when it is being chemically blocked, and it needs time to readjust once you take the chemical blockers away.

I have used this for a year before sharing because I wanted to give it a go through all the seasons.  Our California camper van trip sealed the deal for me.  My Weird Hippie Deodorant got too hot on the flight to CA and the coconut oil leached out of its container all over our toiletries (thankfully, it doesn't damage anything).  I only had tiny bits of deodorant left.  In the remote spots our first few nights, I actually couldn't find chemical deodorant in shops.  There were only "natural" deodorants (it was California, after all), which I bought and re-confirmed do not work.  I ended up scraping up and using  the tiny bits of my homemade deodorant throughout the trip, and even those bits worked!  I'm sold.

What do you think?  Willing to give it a go?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On the road

Last month, our little family of four flew out to San Francisco and rented an old VW camper van.  For just over a week, we puttered around to our hearts' content, not having much of a plan or any real notion of what we wanted to do.  Hubby and I agreed in advance it might be a complete blast or a total bust, but either way, it would be a good story.  The verdict:  it was heaven.  Who knew?

At first, the idea was to see the incomparable parks of California: Yosemite, Big Sur, Muir Woods…  Even two months out, it became obvious that everyone else had the same idea.  Campsites were fully booked.  The crowds were tremendous.  It wasn't for us.  Expanding the search showed that nearly every campsite in a four-hour radius from San Francisco was fully booked for weeks to come.  The trip was falling apart two months before it even started.  That's when we threw up our hands, remembered the whole idea of the camper van is to be free birds with no real plan, and decided to see what comes.  Hubby did manage to find a campsite for our first two nights at Lake Sonoma, just so we would have a destination on the first day.  The fates (and the weather, thankfully) colluded to give us the nicest, simplest, easiest family holiday we've had in a long, long time.

That little camper stripped us down to the essentials: each other, a few days' worth of clothing, some basic groceries (hot tea first thing in the morning for Mama!), and freedom.  There was surprisingly little cell phone reception along our route, so we really felt far from reality.  I was amazed at how rural, open and undeveloped most of the areas were along Route 1.  The scenery was fantastic.  Our girls were awesome, listening to music and audiobooks/stories on their noise-cancelling headphones as we drove (a must, we admit in that old VW).  Wading in the crystal-clear Russian River.  Sea-kayaking near Mendocino.  Camping on a horse ranch and enjoying a little horseback introduction in Bodega Bay.  Did I mention the amazing food everywhere we went?  We all want to go back, preferably now.

Get thee an old camper, friends.  Off you go!