Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Into the Gardens

How lucky am I that my little man begs me to go see the flowers at Longwood Gardens. How can I say no?

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New Items for Second Saturday Event

April is right around the corner, and I've been busy preparing, gathering my beading supplies, sewing notations, and warming up the glue gun in anticipation of spring. I have a number of new items ready for Media's next Second Saturday event, happening April 9th. I'll be in store at Local Home + Gifts right on State Street between 6:00 - 9:00 pm.

Second Saturday is a great time to get out and see Media. On the second Saturday of every month, most of Media's businesses stay open late and host local musicians, crafters, and artists. It's a wonderful opportunity to meet the many talented residents of our wonderful town.

And, to meet me! I'll be hanging out at Local along with all sorts of baby goodies (including some free giveaways!) between 6:00 - 9:00 pm. Please stop in! I'll have all sorts of new things with me, made just for this event, including an organic diaper wreath, nursing bracelets, and my new favorite creation - organic knit teething bibs with an all natural wooden teething ring attached!

Take a peak! Here's the new organic diaper wreath I've created. Made of 12 organic diapers (which make wonderful burp cloths as well), this wreath also features two "flowers" created of two organic burp cloths and is fastened together using 12 diaper pins. The main giraffe decoration is an adorable and soft baby rattle. The whole wreath is useable! This wreath also comes with 20 wish tags. On one side is a place for baby shower guests to write their wishes for the new baby, and on the other side, a place to write their wishes for the new mom. The tags can be tied to the pins on the diaper wreath making it a practical, eco-friendly, and beautiful keepsake for any new mom.

I've also put together a number of new nursing bracelets. My nursing bracelets are just a little different from others you may have seen. They were created out of necessity. Many of the nursing/feeding reminder bracelets that you find are created out of wire that wraps around your wrist multiple times. Unfortunately, my two-year-old liked to uncoil my original bracelet, making a "snake" out of the bracelet. It ended up too loose, with the wire ends catching on my newborn's clothing. So, I created nursing/feeding reminder bracelets using durable stretch cording; no wires to catch or snag. And, I've started to making a number of my new bracelets using semi-precious stones and gemstones. I'll have new bracelets for Second Saturday which feature amethysts (February's birthstone), peridots (August's birthstone), jade, and agates.

I'll also have a number of new sweet confections with me, including some creative "bun in the oven" gifts, and my new favorite, a teething bib made of organic knit featuring a handmade wooden teething ring attached. I'll be sharing a bit more about this creation and my collaboration with another fellow Etsy artist in a future post soon.

Please stop in and say "hi" on April 9th. And, if you tell me you that you follow me on this blog, my Twitter account, or the Babee Crafts' Facebook page, I'll give you 10% off your purchase!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Staying Home

My Mid-Life Motherhood has a great idea - Top Ten Tuesdays. Today she's posted a list of the top ten things she loves about Tuesdays. Each week she hopes to post a top ten list and connect with other bloggers doing the same. Inspired, I thought I would come up with my own top ten. And, since I realize that my maternity leave and year away from teaching is already well over half over, I want to focus on what I love about being home with my two boys this year. So, here it is.

  1. I am witness to all the firsts - first smile, first giggle, first roll-over from my littlest and first complete sentence, first run, first time up the stairs without getting on his knees from my two year old.
  2. Being home means I get to focus on hobbies long since packed away. I've spent time sewing and crafting, snapping pictures and blogging, taking classes and writing - things that I just don't seem to find time for while teaching.
  3. I get to play in the sandbox.
  4. Time spent with my children is relaxing. I am the least stressed I have ever been in my life.
  5. My children are getting to know me.
  6. I am getting to know my children.
  7. I've connected with a whole new group of friends, also stay-at-home moms. Their friendship and support has been invaluable.
  8. Being at home with my children has allowed me to take advantage of all the great opportunities in my area. I'm a member of the largest conservatory in the United States (and there so often that I didn't have to show my i.d. the last time!), a member of our local arboretum, and a member of the coolest dinosaur hall in our area (Philly's Academy of Natural Sciences is awesome!). My kids and I go to art classes and concerts, art shows and story times. I know my area better since becoming a stay-at-home mom.
  9. I get to spend a lot of time outdoors.
  10. Being at home means I get to share what I love with my kids - crafting, cooking, reading. And they get to share what they love with me - dinosaurs, music, and animals.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Joy of Luck: Day 5 and 6 - Who Brings Me Luck

I'm playing catch up. Technically, Willette Designs' Joy of Luck series has ended, but I thought I would take some time to blog about my last few pictures from this online photography course.

For our fifth day of the class, we were to photograph what has brought us luck. "What in your life has brought you the most luck or blessings? When, in your life, do you believe that your life became filled with luck, blessings and joy?"

I'm certain that every parent participating in this series quickly snapped a picture of their children. I did. My children have taught me more about patience, empathy, and creativity than I ever could have imagined. I am more in balance since becoming a mother. Becoming a parent forced me to get outside of my head, to leave my inhibitions at the door, and embrace glee. My children don't care if I haven't applied mascara or am wearing the same jeans as I did yesterday. My boys just want to spend time with me. And I find that the more time I spend playing in the sandbox, giving horsey rides, and blowing raspberries, the happier I am. I am a better me when I spend time with my kids. The poetry in my two year old's observations, the quick smile and giggle of my 6 month old son, make my heart leap. My children are my saving grace.

And Day 6 of the series has me reflecting on who has been a blessing in my life. This is another easy prompt. I wouldn't have all that I do, be who I am without the love and support of my husband. I've mentioned this before, but for some reason I'm always a little hesitant to share that I've known my husband since I was 12. In eighth grade we would write stories in Mrs. Zeinstra's English class poking fun of one another, eager to read our creative fiction aloud to the class just to work in a playful jab. But we didn't date until we were almost out of high school. We went to separate colleges, pursued our separate academic interests, but always stayed connected.

He pushes me to be better, to try new things, to embrace the world. He challenges me to be a better writer, a better thinker. And he calls me on my bad habits and surprises me with gentle kisses. He is always there for me in just the way I need him to be. And I need to remember to thank him more often for these blessings.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Secrets of Adulthood

Our local book club meets in a few weeks. All women, mostly mothers, from various walks of life. I offered to host our next discussion, which means that with some input from the group, I got to make the call for our reading selection. Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project has been sitting on my nightstand for a few weeks now, keeping Understanding Exposure and Literature and the Web company. I wish I had kept better track of how I learned about this book. I know I first stumbled across it through a tweet or a blog post, which quickly lead me to The Happiness Project site where I found myself glued to my computer screen reading post after post. But I don't remember who lead me there. I wish I did so that I might thank that person.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the book, and not just because of its easy, conversational style, but mainly because Rubin has me reflecting on my own life and what I might do to be more engaged in the present, more fully aware of my own happiness. So for fun, I used one of her early project starting ideas, creating a list of the Secrets of Adulthood, as a springboard for creating my own. So here it is, with some input from my husband, the list of lessons I have learned over time, my secrets to adulthood:
  1. What you do daily is what you are doing. Aristotle wrote, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
  2. Consistency matters most.
  3. Don't buy cheap shoes. Your knees will thank you.
  4. Because that's the way we've always done it is not a valid reason.
  5. Cooking from scratch not only tastes better but teaches patience and understanding.
  6. Tip well.
  7. Buy local.
  8. No matter how much space and seating you have in your living room, everyone always ends up hanging out in the kitchen.
  9. Learn to sew. You'll learn so much more than just how to fix a hem when you pick up a needle and thread.
  10. There's no such thing as strong coffee, just weak people.
  11. Just because you haven't ever done it, doesn't mean you can't.
  12. It's almost always worth the extra money. For example, fresh squeezed is better than orange juice from concentrate.
  13. Write it down. You will forget.
  14. There is an art to gift giving. It is an art that must be practiced.
  15. You will fill whatever space you have, so consider what you really need, not just what you want.
  16. Mean it when you say you are sorry.
  17. Practice brevity. Repeatedly.
  18. Home improvement and craft projects will take three times longer than you anticipate. This is due in part to the five extra trips you will need to make for forgotten supplies.
  19. Always proof read. Always.
  20. Many problems can be solved by going for a walk.

What secrets have you learned?

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fun Weekend Recipe - Vietnamese Pho

I love Pittsburgh. My husband and lived there for just shy of four years right after we were married. And each time we're back for a visit, we have to stop by Tram's Kitchen, a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant run by a very energetic and intense Vietnamese gentleman. The traditional Vietnamese soup, pho (pronounced foo), is heavenly. The perfect blend of fresh, crisp ingredients. The only thing better than Tram's pho is perhaps his spring rolls, but that's a recipe for another day.

In an attempt to recapture Tram's pho, my husband and I have tinkered with a number of recipes we've found online. Here's our best effort, though it still does not compare to Tram's.

PHO - Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

  • 1 pkg. chicken legs (approx.6-8)
  • 2 large yellow onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, scraped and thinly sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 pieces dried star anise
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • Chili garlic sauce to taste (rooster on bottle)
  • 1 pkg. rice vermicelli
  • Salt to taste (approx. ¾ tbs.)
  • Couple bunches of scallions (at least 6 stalks)
  • 2 limes, halved, then quartered
  • bunch of fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • Bunch of fresh Asian, Thai purple basil
  • 10 cups water
  • Nouc Man (fish sauce) to taste

  • Put chicken legs in a frying pan in about an inch of water. Cook covered on low to medium heat for about 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove meat from bones, discard bones. Keep the broth for the soup, though skim off some of the grease.
  • Add the broth from the pan to a large soup pot. Add 10 cups of water, onions, mean, can of broth, ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, and peppercorns. Slice the scallions into ½ inch sections and add the white ends to the soup; keep the green pieces for later. Bring to boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 1 hour.

  • While soup simmers, put rice vermicelli in another pot of room-temperature water for about an hour to soften the noodles.
  • Once the noodles have softened, boil until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain and rinse.

  • Blanch bean sprouts.
  • Wash basil.
  • Arrange bean sprouts, basil, green portion of the sliced scallions, and limes on a plate. This will be passed around for people to add toppings to their soup after the soup is served.
  • Put chili-garlic sauce within reach of those who would want it (caution: might be too hot for young palates.)

  • Fill up bottom of soup bowls with cooked noodles.
  • Ladle soup on top of noodles. Make sure to avoid (or strain out) star anise, ginger, cinnamon stick, and peppercorns.
  • Let guests top their own soup with desired scallions, bean sprouts, and big pieces of ripped up, fresh basil. Guest can also mix in a bit of chili garlic sauce, Nouc man, and lime juice. Enjoy!

  • The broth for this soup is very light compared to European style chicken soups.
  • Do not combine noodles and broth until you are ready to eat. After eating, store leftovers in separate bowl, otherwise the rice noodles turn to goo.
  • A spoon just won’t work. You’ll need chopsticks or a fork to eat the solid parts, and then have fun slurping up the broth.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday: Rainy Day Fun

It has been a rainy start to spring this week. Luckily, I stumbled across a number of really great ideas and activities to do with kids indoors. I haven't tried them all yet, but I've filed them away for future rainy days.

  • I love this cute idea from Skip to My Lou, and since I just picked up a big role of freezer paper last week, I can't wait to give it a try. You'll find a free printable bear pattern and tutorial on her blog with directions for how to print this easy project out on fabric using your home printer! This would be a great activity to do with slightly older kids as a way to introduce them to sewing. With my two year old, I plan to have him pick out embellishments he would like to add to his bear - what color bow tie we could add or what color buttons for the bear's eyes.

  • A bit more involved, but oh-so-cute is Leafy Treetop Spot's The Fishing Hole Roll. Seriously, this is just too cute! Not only would this make a rainy day trapped in doors just so much more fun, but this would also be cute to bring with you to your next play date. I can even see this as a great activity for toddler's birthday party. And, since the fish have magnets in them, it would also be cute to use the fish to hang your little one's art on the fridge.

  • If you've been following my blog, you know that I've been taking a lot (LOT) of pictures lately. I love this idea posted by Modern Parents, Messy Kids. This quick, easy, and super cool kid photography project would be fun to have older children brainstorm what they would like to have written on their photos. Then have them decorate a frame, and voilĂ ! you have an adorable Easter gift for the grandparents! And, if you've never used photo editing software before, no problem! The post even includes links to tutorial for using picnik, a free online editing site.

  • And for those of you with a little, little one at home, I love this idea for an embellished burp cloth that keeps teethers or pacifiers within reach. Posted over at Merriment Design (though I found it through Craft Gossip. Man, I love that site!), this tutorial is extremely well put together and includes a free pattern for the project. I love this idea!

  • I know I've mentioned this before, but I also adore Dana Willard's MADE blog. So many fabulous ideas, especially this week. She had the perfect rainy day activity - turn a room in your home into a butterfly santuary! A colorful craft to do with kids of just about any age.

  • Another cute and colorful DIY project comes from the Green Eyed Monster blog. This tutorial for a bow and barrette holder would be fun to do with little girls. A colorful craft to brighten a rainy day.

In addition to sharing my finds, I want to encourage readers to share their finds, posts, and tutorials. Use the Fabulous Finds Friday linky below to share blog posts on our weekly theme - rainy day fun. You can share your own blog or a post from someone else's blog that fits our theme this week.

And if I've featured you in a Fabulous Finds Friday, please grab a button for your website or blog from the menu on the right side of my blog.

So link up, friends!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Joy of Luck: Day 4 - Material Girl

I know, I have it running through my head now, too. 'Cause we are living in a material world, and I am a material...a material...a material girl. Living in a material...

Sorry, it was the first thing that popped in my head when I read Willette Designs' Joy of Luck assignment for Day 4 of her online photography series. Today I am photographing seven favorite things. "We are all so fortunate for what we have materially. We’re lucky to have these material objects. Let’s focus on our luck and blessings today – capture your favorite seven objects!"

So using the macro lens setting on my camera, as suggested by our lesson, I tried to capture some of my favorite items, those that tell a story about my life.

The Buddha incense burner was a birthday gift from my husband just before we were married. What I love is how he presented the gift to me. At the time, we were just about to get married and also knew that we would be moving from Michigan, where literally all of our immediate and extended family lived to Pittsburgh. He bought the little Buddha from a store just blocks from our first apartment together, a studio in an old house in Kalamazoo. You need to light a charcol tablet and sprinkle powdered incense onto the ember in order to watch the incense send smoke waves from the base of the Buddha. But so the burner does not get too hot, the charcol tablet rests in some sand inside the burner. My husband collected a small jar of sand from the beaches in northern Michigan that I grew up swimming in, knowing how hard it was for me to move away from the lakes and the land I love. It seems so silly, but it was so incredibly thoughtful for him to think of collecting this sand just before we moved away, a sort of physical reminder of home every time we lit some incense.

The hair dryer is just cool. I like to collect vintage items. I have a 1940s typewriter, the same model Hemingway used, a Royal. And another Royal from the 60s. And this hair dryer, from the 1950s, I found for $14 in a thrift store. And, it actually works, not that I would recommend it.

The quilt is one that I have used as a play mat with both my boys. It was my quilt when I was an infant. You can tell it's from the 70's with all the polyester material, and I adore it. My mom made it for me, and she passed it on to her grandchildren. It is not some family heirloom to be packed away and never seen. The way we love this item is to use it every day. And we do.

Another treasured item, okay this is a picture of two treasured items in one shot, one old and one new, is the photo in the upper left corner. The little dog was a Christmas gift from my mom to my eldest son. She stitched him with care, bought an actual dog collar for him, and one day while in a dollar store my, dad found a keychain with my son's name on it that my mom turned into the puppy's name tag. My son does not have the most common name, named after his great-grandfather, my dad's dad. The same great-grandfather that bought my father the chair that the puppy sits in. It was my father's childhood rocking chair, then mine, and now my son's. The puppy sits in his rocking chair in our living room, family treasures, old and new.

So are the rings - old and new. The peridot ring is from the 1940s. My husband secretly started his own Etsy account and found this vintage ring for me as a Valentine's gift, the peridot being the birthstone of my youngest son. The other ring did not always have a sapphire at its center. My husband had this little ring, that I've worn every day since he got it for me over 16 years ago, reset following the birth of our first son in September a couple of years ago. And you can tell from this picture that it is a well-worn ring. My husband gave me this ring, originally set with an opal, as a gift our first Christmas together. We were both 18 and in our first year of college. I have worn it every day since.

The spools of thread sit in an antique sewing chest my mother-in-law refinished for us. I love to sew. This was not always true. My mom first taught me to sew at 8 when she volunteered to help out with a local 4-H sewing group. At first, I loved it. But as I became a teenager, I wasn't as fond of sitting down to sew my own homecoming dresses. But looking back, I'm so glad this is something my mom taught me. I can create, I can craft with a needle and thread. My mom sewed my wedding dress. She has made my children clothes and toys. There is joy in making something, in sewing something that people will always remember and treasure. I made the quilt on my son's bed. And a blanket for my youngest son. I look forward to stitching together outfits and toys for my boys, that is, if their grandma doesn't beat me to it!

And the last picture, the elephant candle holder doesn't have an elaborate family connection like the other pieces. I bought this on a whim for myself. I love this piece, mother and child. Beautifully carved, they look comfortable, connected. The mother elephant seems content in herself. I look at this piece to remind me that it is our connections with others that make us beautiful. She reminds me to be thankful for my connections with my children and my connections with my loved ones.

So there you have it - seven material objects which I am thankful for.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Joy of Luck: Day 3 - Lucky Me

I'm having a great time reflecting on my luck and how lucky I am to be thankful for so much as I participate in Willette Designs current Joy of Luck photography series. Day 3 of the email course has me looking for lucky objects.

Now I'm not one who believes too much in luck. I'm skeptical that any object has the power to change what will inevitably happen in our lives. Although that said, I'm also not someone who believes that everything we get in life, good or bad, is wholly because of what we've done to deserve it. It is chance that I was born to parents who valued education. It was chance that I was born to a supportive family. I am who I am today, in part, because of the sheer luck that I was born when and where I was born. I could just have easily had a much more difficult upbringing as result of being born into different circumstances. So I am thankful for the luck that I've had. But I still don't place too much faith in lucky talismans.

However, there are a few hanging around our home. There's the lucky quarter given to us on our wedding day by a friend of a friend, someone we had never met prior to our wedding. But for whatever reason, we've hung onto that quarter through five moves, two children, and nearly 13 years of marriage. There's the whole anise star that sits atop our refrigerator. We've saved it for years because someone at some point told us that a whole anise star brings luck and is a symbol for fertility, and having gotten pregnant nearly the second we decided to have children, I'm beginning to wonder if in fact the anise does have some sort of power. And then there's Ganesha.

This little wooden statue, only about two-inches tall, was a childhood gift to my husband from his parents. They found it during a trip, not to India, but somewhere more midwestern, and brought it back as a little token for him. And for some reason, the statue has almost always found a home on a window sill wherever we happened to be living. Currently he calls the window sill in our study home. This is mainly because our desk blocks easy access to the window sill, making it impossible for my children to grab our lucky little elephant. This wasn't always the case. As you can see, the top of the statue has broken off, thanks to an unlucky encounter with my two year old son who loves Ganesha and el-a-fanties in general.

It's funny. We're not a particularly religious family but my two year old son knows the story of Ganesha, Parvati's child, the one she wanted so desperately that she created him out of the sweat and dirt of her body. The child that her husband, Shiva, was so surprised by that he accidentally cut off the child's head. Realizing his terrible mistake, Shiva replaced the child's head with the nearest he could find, an elephant's head. And the child, Ganesha, lived. So lucky that he survived, Ganesha, is a symbol of good luck, the clearer of obstacles. He is prayed to first by Hindus before beginning any ceremony or event.

My son loves this story from his little (very cool) Hindu deities book. And the statue and story remind me just how lucky I am to be raising a son who is already so interested in other cultures, especially in their stories. He doesn't judge. He gobbles up the the world, hungry for more stories, wanting to learn more. How lucky am I!

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Shop Local...literally!

It's official! You can now buy Babee Crafts gifts at Local Home + Gifts in downtown Media, Pennsylvania!

I was tremendously excited when Monica from Local contacted me about mixing up a few of my food-inspired baby creations to add to her great collection of baby and shower gifts. So now you'll find a number of cupcake sets and sushi sets on the shelves at Local. Of course I had to prepare one of my best sellers - my baby washcloth sushi set, which comes with five maki rolls (created from 10 baby washcloths) and one salmon sushi roll (made of an adorable orange fish bath toy and white baby washcloth). And it's packaged in a practical way as well because the miso bowl the gift comes in really works perfectly for baby's first few sponge baths!

I also mixed together a few different types of cupcake sets just for the shop. There is a lovely girl's set that includes four violet and chocolate colored onesies (one even has a cupcake applique on it!), four baby washcloths, and two pairs of cherry red socks - a sweet little confection for a new little girl. There's also a boy's bib set and an adorable duckie-inspired creation, perfect for either a girl or a boy.

And that's not all! I'm excited that Monica has asked me to join her for Media's next Second Saturday event, happening Saturday, April 9th. I'll be hanging out in the shop along with all sorts of baby goodies (including some free giveaways!) between 6pm - 9pm. Please stop in! I'll have all sorts of new things with me, made just for this event, including an organic diaper wreath (a perfect gift and decoration for a baby shower), nursing bracelets, and my new favorite creation - organic knit teething bibs with an all natural wooden teething ring attached!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Joy of Luck: Day 2 - Going Green

I love having these daily photography prompts. It is a reminder to capture, snap up all the little and big things I have to be thankful for, to capture for a future me the life I am so thankful for today.

And since March is a celebration of all things green - St. Patrick's Day, clovers, and first blooms - today's prompt from Willette Designs has me snapping pictures of everything from limes to lawn.

"Green is also symbolically the color for newness, new beginnings, spring and life. Today I want you to find the green – this can be anything that is either the literal color green or something that brings newness, new beginnings, life, or hope to an otherwise dismal situation. Look at your day not as a series of hurdles/problems, but as a blessing! We are so lucky for all that we have. Capture this with your lens!"
And so I click away - pictures of the newly emerged crocus, of new craft projects, and new adventures in potty training.

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Joy of Luck: Day 1

Willette Designs is offering another online photography course through email. Okay, she's been offering it for almost a week now, but I'm just now finding time to reflect on the assignments and the photos I've been clicking.

Our assignment is to focus on a gift we take for granted. What inanimate object or concept do we take for granted on a daily basis? What would someone who is not as fortunate say about my good fortune to have such a thing in my life? We are to focus on our blessings, focus on the opportunities I have everyday that are an unforeseen blessing in my life.

I know exactly what I want to photograph as soon as I finish reading this assignment in my email inbox. I know just how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to take a year away from my teaching position in order to stay at home with my two boys. So many people do not have the means or the opportunity to do what I can this year. And even greater than that, I am so fortunate to have a supportive husband that gives me time and means to immerse myself in my passions outside of teaching - namely, crafting.

My glue gun, sewing machine, crafts paints and papers have been collecting dust in the back of a closet for years. That is until this year. Taking time away from teaching high school English has opened up a world of crafting for me. I started my own baby gifts business, started a new blog, and have been creating up a storm. I am so incredibly lucky to have time to be passionate, to be creative, to sew, to craft, to create.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

In Bloom

It might just be because it is that time of year - the time of year when the crocuses start peaking out from the earth and you once again wake to the sound of chirping, birds having returned from their winter homes. But with spring popping up all over, I'm inspired to buy everything cherry blossom related from Etsy sellers. Because in addition to having an Etsy shop, I am an Etsy buyer. In fact, I joke that I opened my shop just so that I could support my Etsy purchases!

I grew up in northern Michigan, surrounded by family and lakes and cherry trees. My extended family has orchards, cherry and apple trees as far as the eye can see. And my sister and cousins and I ran the orchards at six, seven, eight years old. We'd play hide and seek among the drooping branches, heavy with fruit, hold pit spitting contests until we felt sick to our stomachs from eating too many Bings. But my favorite time of year was spring, when a gust of wind would loosen the snow white petals from their branches and you could walk through the most fragrant snowfall of blooms. Cherry blossoms remind me of this time, remind me of the importance of family. So because I'm not able to make a trip back to visit with my family this spring, I'm buying up all Etsy has to offer on this theme as my tangible reminder of my family.

Cherry Orchard

Tailgating to get to its heart,
dangling from the gate of the pick-up,
bounding over irrigation hoses
to find the sweetness at the center
of the orchard.

We cram our cheeks full,
spitting pits with force.
A contest of cousins,
juices dribbling
onto hand-me-down t-shirts.

Skinned knees and shabby shoes,
we are content,
surrounded by the branches
of family
rooted deep in this orchard.

And if you want to know more about my two recent purchases, check out Joy Kolitsky's art at Sugar Beet Press and the work of Michigan photographer Kimberly Blok.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Japan, With Love

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I Am Not Superwoman

Sierra over at Actual Mom is due in a few short weeks. She has been posting other's birth stories on her blog, gearing up for her big day. She has me reflecting on my own birth experiences, particularly that of my first born, now two and a half year old son.

It didn't matter where I was - standing in the check out lane at the grocery store, the women's bathroom in a department store, pumping gas - mothers and grandmothers would approach me wanting to share their story. At 40 weeks pregnant, I was huge with my first child, a baby boy. And as every expectant mother surely knows, the stories that you hear most often are not encouraging. I heard so many horrific tales of 20+ hour labors and breech births and unimaginable pain that I was starting to second guess my decision to have a natural childbirth. No drugs. No epidural. Nothing. What was I thinking?!

I am not Superwoman. My husband knows this best. I am a wimp. If I cut myself just a tiny little bit, tears go coursing down my cheeks. I grab band-aids for every little nick and scratch. I am not good with blood, blisters, or pain. So why did I choose natural child birth at a birth center? Because I knew without a doubt in my mind that I wanted to be present and clearly aware for the birth of my child (now children). I didn't want pain relieving drugs to crowd out my memories of this life-changing event. And given everything that I read, I knew that some of the medical interventions currently used by hospitals actually hinder the laboring process. So as my belly grew larger, I clung to something my midwife said during one of my routine visits halfway through my pregnancy: "Remember that women have been giving birth naturally since the beginning of time. Our bodies were meant to do this. The second your baby is born, you will forget all the pain. Why else would so many women choose to have multiple children?"

I was told to expect a slow labor for my first child. First children are notoriously late and always slow in their delivery. Although logically I knew better, I expected it to be like the movies. My water would break. I would go to the birth center. This is not what happened.

I went to bed feeling a bit crampy, but since I was only two days away from my due date, this was to be expected. I thought I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. I tossed and turned for hours but did manage to fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning.

When the alarm rang at 6am, I bound out of bed with a "thank god!" Now I am not one that wakes easily, much preferring to smack the snooze button three to five times before ever considering allowing my feet to touch the floor, but not this morning. I wanted to get up, didn't want to lie still any longer. Still thinking I was headed into work, I jumped in the shower, started packing my school bag for a day of teaching. It took my husband pointing out that I was standing at my dresser mirror swaying my hips for me to begin to entertain the idea that maybe today was the day. "Hey, didn't we see this is a video? Aren't you doing the birth dance?" And it turned out that my "cramps" were four minutes apart. No water breaking. No instant pain. But I was in labor.

In our birth preparation class, we were told that beginning labor could take a while. We called the midwife to let her know my labor was started, and she suggested I try taking a walk to help my labor progress. I barely made it to the car before strong contractions had me doubled over. No time for a walk. Time to have a baby.

By the time we arrived at Bryn Mawr Birth Center, a 20-minute car ride at most, I was already in transition. There was no time for drugs even if I had wanted them. My midwives, calm and reassuring through the whole process, were not phased by my guttural screams. Everything I had learned about breathing and focal points and calming one's mind...right out the window. Less than two hours later, my son arrived. And my midwife had been right. When she lifted my little boy into my arms, still attached to me, the pain was gone, replaced by overwhelming awe. His big blue eyes became my entire world. He let out a tiny cry and instantly went in search of food.

I am not a Superwoman. And in most circumstances, I don't share my birth experiences with others. Not because I want to keep them private, but because I'm almost embarrassed that I don't have a heroic birthing story to share. My son arrived unexpectedly quick, without complications. I loved the entire experience. Feeling the pain of birth meant that I was present, aware the very moment my son arrived. I remember his birth vividly, with love. I wish someone had shared with me that labor, although honestly difficult, could also be so amazing.

I may not be Superwoman every day, but I was the day my son was born. His birth helped me realize all the strength and power I have within me.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Join Me!

So if you've been following my blog, you know that last month I participated in Willette Design's online photography series called the Joy of Love, a free course with instructions and inspiration through a daily email. Each day we learned a new photography skill and used it to capture a photo of our daily theme.

Well, now Willette Designs is offering a free Joy of Luck series. Here's how she describes the series,
"This is a FREE one week online photo inspiration class where i email you a daily prompt to help you explore and document in photos all that you are lucky for in your life – we will explore the blessings that life has brought to us."
You choose the extent you want to participate, and Willette Designs has put together a number of helpful tutorials, tips, and venues for sharing your work. Here's what the series consists of:
  • a daily email photo prompt
  • a flickr group to share the photos
  • photo tutorials/how-tos
  • daily shot lists that correlate to the day’s topic/lesson
And all you need to participate is a camera, an email address, and a desire to document your luck and your life.

Join me! Sign up today because the class begins March 16. Sign up HERE!

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Easy and Delicious Swedish Apple Dessert Recipe

I'm craving sweets. But this late in the day, I don't have time to whip together a cake from scratch. So, I turn to my trusted Swedish Appelkaka recipe. Yes, I know. The name is unfortunate, but it is so easy and delicious, I just had to share!

  • 8 tablespoons(1 stick) butter
  • 2 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup crushed ginger snaps
  • 2 1/2 cups chunky applesauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons soft butter

In a heavy skillet, melt butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add bread crumbs, ginger snaps, sugar, and cinnamon and stir with wooden spoon. Continue stirring for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is evenly but lightly browned. Preheat over to 350 degrees.

With pastry brush, spread a 1-quart mold, souffle dish, or deep cake pan with the 2 teaspoons of soft butter and cover bottom with 1/2 inch layer of browned crumbs. Pour on a thick layer of applesauce, another layer of crumbs, alternating until all the crumbs and applesauce are used. Top with layers of bread crumbs and dot with 2 tablespoons of butter cut into small bits. Bake 25 minutes in center of oven. Serve with vanilla sauce (or vanilla ice cream).

Vanilysas (Cold Vanilla Sauce)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yokes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 1 teaspoon light cream

Mix sugar and cornstarch in heavy 2-quart saucepan. Beat the egg yokes and cream together in a separate bowl; pour slowly into sugar and cornstarch pan, beating constantly with a whisk. Continue to whisk over low heat until sauce is smooth and thick. Do not boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Serve chilled.


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