Friendship

Hi, I'm Charlotte and I'm guest blogging in this space for Meg while she prepares for Quilt Market this month.  I feel honored to be writing here on this very page where our special friendship began.  I started reading Meg's blog before Finn was even born and sometime during his early months I realized that Meg and I lived in the same town, with boys just a few months apart.  So I wrote to her, and it felt something like writing to Punky Brewster when I was seven years old, only instead of a junky fan club postcard and Punky headshot, I got a playdate with Meg, the crafting and parenting rockstar. (Guess what?  Despite being starstruck in the beginning, she's just like you and me!) We found some common ground.  We got to know one another.  Then we got pregnant at the same time again, this time with Lachlan and my little girl, Kenzie.  We rode that rollercoaster together, and our bond strengthened.

Meg is one of my best friends, and when I thought of what I could say during my time in this space, I kept coming back to Meg herself.  I hope to share the things I love about Meg with you, and give you a more intimate look at the woman behind the blog.

This week we headed to our favorite river spot together, me with my four kids and Meg with her two. We hope to make this a weekly adventure through the seasons and this week's visit didn't disappoint, with clouds and rain and sun all in the same visit!  The rain didn't dampen our spirits and even made the views more beautiful.

I suppose to an untrained eye, nothing remarkable was happening.  Kids played.  Kids got wet.  Boots got muddy.  Insects and snails were captured.  There were smiles (a lot) and tears (a few) and lots and lots of snacks for our busy adventurers.

It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind.  We could spend that extra half hour cleaning house or doing one more work task or simply  choose to stay inside on a slightly damp day to avoid the mess and fuss.  But we wouldn't want that, now would we, Lachlan?

No.  Because the outdoors has lessons to teach us.  My own over-active brain slows down and breathes deeply.  Questions bubble forth from my older ones with regularity - do trees have DNA?  How do the leaves in the river affect the ecosystem?  Did the rocks erode from rain or from the river when it was higher?  They relax and open themselves fully to the experience, with creativity and problem solving blending into one seamless experience.  And Kenzie?  Well, she's been hesitant around steps lately.  My house has six sets of steps inside (yes, six!  they vary from 1-3 steps all the way to a full flight) and she was refusing to go up or down them, protesting to be helped each time, even transitioning from room to room.  But outside?

Despite their size and irregularity, she conquered that fear.  Thank you, nature!  And thank you, Meg, for bringing this city-girl out into the wild every week and reminding me that we have so much to learn just by being present.


rah-rah storytelling

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Show Me a Story, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways ... did you recognize the stones in my calendar? Just a small tribute to what I believe to be an absolutely magnificent new book.

As a blogger, I receive the occasional catalogue of soon-to-be-published titles, and this one immediately caught my eye and I requested a review copy. That was six months ago or so, and I've been eager to have it in my hands the whole time.

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We love a good story. From the time Finn was a wee one, we would tell him stories about his day - mundane stories that he would listen to with as much rapt attention as an eighteen month-old could muster. Lachlan, though prone to more movement than his brother was at that age, now requests a Sparkle Story when we're in the car.

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Patrick is a self-made storyteller, having a wide array of humorous, real-life tales that he conjures up in social situations - from living with two elderly, Irish uncles who wandered his suburban neighborhood looking for a pint to sleeping on the edge of a cliff in an indigenous community in rural Mexico.

My storytelling is self-conscious. Hesitant. But for my boys? For my boys I can tell a story. And that's what I love about Show Me a Story . Like a puppet show, it adds a visual dimension to storytelling that takes the focus off of the teller and gives hesitant tale-crafters - either a parents or young children - something visually concrete - a hook, of sorts - on which to hang their stories.

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The book is filled with craft ideas to inspire and expand a child's (or family's) storytelling passion. The story rocks are just the beginning, and most of the projects require little by way of specific crafting skills (i.e. sewing or knitting - although some of the ideas do involve fabric and simple sewing.) I found many of the projects to be appropriate for Finn to use, if not make. Each project does have a suggested age range for use as well as an age range for making the material.

I think storytelling as an art is woefully overlooked in most curricula. The ability to "hold" an audience, to think on one's feet, to craft a compelling narrative - fiction or non-fiction - often gets lost. It gets lost in our emphasis on being consumers of stories rather than makers of stories. Of course, reading and writing skills - from listening comprehension to communicating via the written word - are key skills that play a huge role in the potential formation of the person as "storyteller," and certainly enrich our lives in their own right. But we often stop there and never explore our full potential as storytellers. For many of us, (myself included) we're just beginning to tap into storytelling as creative expression now that we have a doting and forgiving audience in our young children.

When I was living in Mexico, I had the pleasure of getting to know a wandering Italian puppeteer, a lanky fellow who sewed his own felt vests and made bread from a culture he carried around with him in the pocket of his baggy pants. His Spanish was more Italian than not, but the children loved his stories. Not all of us are destined to be nomadic story minstrels, but anyone can be a storyteller, in any profession. Patrick is one. I think his ability to tell a good story has helped him both professionally and personally. If you're interested in exploring your own inner storyteller, or if you'd love to encourage your children tap into their storytelling spirit, please grab a copy of Show Me a Story . You'll love it, I know.

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How can you not love a book that ends like this?


hanging in there

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Hello dear friends ....

I'm so glad you loved our little calendar. Ironically, it's been tough to keep to these past two weeks. First the boys got sick, then the parents got sick. I've been thinking a lot about establishing a "normal" routine in our home, but we're not there yet! 

I've really missed being in this space. But, of course, I can't do it all, and since I my parents are on vacation and Quilt Market is fast approaching, something has to give. Shoulder shrug.

I'll be here when I can, but I've lined up some guest posts from now until the end of October, when my parents are back and Quilt Market in Houston is crossed of my list. My dear friend, Charlotte, whose children you've seen many times before playing with Finn and Lachlan, will be taking the reins for me starting next week. You'll love her as much as I do, I'm sure of it.

Until the time is right ... :)


what's today?

Here's my answer to Finn's question:

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Turns out, our days are pretty simple. Simple enough to be described by one or two main activities a day, in three year-old terms. In my terms, it's more like "wakeupprocessphotosbloggoforarunshowerpacklunchremembertoscrubthepoopoffofthatdiaperetc ..."

You know.

But isn't it nice to look at it like this instead? I think so, too.

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I've edited out the name of Finn's Waldorf nursery as well as a friend's name, but here's the low-down:

- Everything I used here was found either in my scrap fabric pile or in my art closet, except for the metal clasps - I think they're called findings? - which I found at Michael's and hot-glued to the activity squares.

What you'll need:

-smooth stones, one for each child

-mat board. I found mine a while back at the Scrap Exchange, a creative reuse center

-fabric and paper scraps

-one larger piece of fabric (brown linen in my case)

-thin cardboard - cereal box thin (this is for the brown labels)

-hot glue gun

-metal findings, both rings and clasps

-Mod Podge

-acrylic paints or other paints if you wish

-Micron pen for little details

-random stuff around the house

-felted wool sweater for the "day" pockets for the stones

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Go at it! I can't really give you any specific instructions other than I used collage, got crazy with the Mod Podge and hot glue, and had a lot of fun doing it!

Happy weekending, y'all.


our art porch

Thank you, thank you. For the little break from this space that I needed, for your words of wisdom, for your notes of solidarity and encouragement. I have come through the awkward transition phase, which found me working double time on both my business and my home environment to get all the eggs in line, so to speak. Now? Now I am living right now. Up at 5:30 a.m. in order to get a shower and a blog post in before the three boys amble in with sleepy eyes. A small and gracious to-do list written out last night. A few art projects in my head, a plan to have the boys explore with magnets after Lachlan's nap, the brown rice to put on the stove this afternoon, a reminder to get the black beans out of the freezer after lunch. Just hanging out in the now-ness of it all. 

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Yesterday afternoon, Lachlan and I found ourselves together, just the two of us, as Finn took a rare nap upstairs. As is his tendency, Lachlan found his way to the front porch, a few books in hand. We read for a good, long time, then we decided it would be fun to take you on a tour of our "Art Porch."DSC_7034

Hop along, will you? Lachlan wants to start by showing you all of the things with wheels. He also implores you to help him "ride tike" (ride the trike - too big for him just yet!)

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While you're at it, he's wondering if you could give him a push, please?

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An appropriate Nikki McClure print and an even more important Lachlan masterpiece are on the walls next to an old coat rack that I shortened to kid-size. It holds our rain gear.

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We had fun making our melted wax bunting together.

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On one end, we have a hammock chair and on the other end (of our rather long porch) we have this child-sized picnic bench that was handmade by a friend of Finn's Waldorf nursery teacher. It's our art table.

The paper lantern was painted by the boys several months back, then covered in a protective layer of Mod Podge. It's survived several afternoon storms thus far without getting soaked and moldy. We'll see how long that lasts - it's a bit of an experiment.

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There are a few blocks in one of Maya's buckets (you can find the pattern plus many more mouth-watering ideas in her book, Reinvention.) 

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A bit more about our crayon wax bunting - I found it via the Artful Parent. What an easy and beautiful piece of functional children's art! I wish I had another porch to decorate. I'm sure this won't be the end of our crayon shaving art projects, though.

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Thanks for stopping by! 

And so my day begins, with an urgent statement: Mama. Diaper. Pee pee. Got it, little man. I'm on it.


where we're going

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We never know where we will end up when we start along a path, do we?

Things evolve organically. Our family is changing, and we're taking a turn in a different direction. 

Patrick took a leave of absence from his PhD program in history to take a computer programing job. He would like to finish his dissertation one day, if he can do so while working full-time as a programmer. (A high five for my brilliant and hard-working husband who is both a humanities guy and a mathy, programming guy. How often do those two talents get put into one (darn cute) package? :) 

He will start work soon. We will get a regular paycheck, which is a huge stress relief for us. We were working way too hard to get Sew Liberated to make up for Patrick's grad school stipend which was about to run dry, and it just wasn't happening. It's a good source of supplemental income. It's not enough for a family of four with hefty medical bills. We're tired of money stress. We needed to do something about it.

You know, part of me cringes at the mention of money. I have - as many of you have, too - embraced a movement toward simpler living. Less stuff, less technology. Focusing on time instead of income, living slowly instead of doing everything. Perhaps part of me wishes that I could fully jump on board and simplify our lives to the point where Patrick didn't need to work outside the home. Many families are able to do this, and I am grateful for their ingenuity and gentle influence. I'm moving toward a self-acceptance that we are not one of those families. But thankfully, I know now that we will be ok. We have health insurance. We will have enough money to replace our roof (which is a "green roof" by the happenstance of thirty years rather than ecological standards.) We will be able to buy plane tickets to visit my grandfather who can't travel anymore. We've had many sighs of relief around here.

Of course, Patrick's job precipitates a huge shift for both of us. Since Finn's birth, we have been co-parenting full-time - he worked half the day, and I worked half the day, and we each took the boys when the other was working. Patrick will be leaving around 8:15 AM, and will return around 5:30 PM. I will be with the boys all day, with the exception of three mornings a week when Finn is at his nature school and Lachlan is cared for by my parents. During those three mornings, I will work on the blog and Sew Liberated. It will be an exercise in letting go of the unnecessary, streamlining my productivity, and learning how to delegate. My parents will be gone for four weeks right before Quilt Market in Houston this October, which I am attending this year. I have four new patterns in the pipeline. It will be an interesting Autumn.

What I am both very excited about and very nervous about is orchestrating each day solo, from breakfast to dinner, with Finn and Lachlan. Right now I'm trying to get myself organized, so I know what kinds of fun activities we can do together while at home. I know many can fly by the seat of their pants, but I need to have a flexible plan. I also need to figure out how to recharge. As a borderline introvert, I need head space to myself. I'm contemplating daily quiet time for my non-napper, and looking into a yoga class on Sunday mornings. 

This is where I am - getting everything in line for the next turn in life. I'm full of optimism that with it will come new lessons, less stress, and a soon-to-be-found groove.


my craftsy course is live!

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Surplice Empire Waist Dress, maxi variation, from Sewing with Knits

I love the juxtaposition here of maxi dress and curled hair next to unmatched boy stuffing sticks in his pocket!

You should feel comfortable in your clothing. It should make you proud of the full range of movement of your body, and it should make you feel beautiful. 

You can sew your own clothes that fit. You can sew your own stylishly understated clothes that make you feel confident. You can sew them easily and quickly. Like, two naptimes quick. It's empowering to be able to sew with those oh-so-comfortable knits. And I can teach you how!

All that to say that my Craftsy course, Sewing with Knits: Five Wardrobe Essentials is available now! If you purchase the class through the links on my site, you get 50% off. That's six patterns (there's a bonus skirt pattern thrown in for fun) and six hours of instruction for twenty dollars. Each pattern has a ton of variations, so you can seriously remake your casual wardrobe for the price of a little more than a typical indie pattern.

Plus, I designed the class for YOU. Yep. I thought of no one but my loyal blog readers when writing the outline and designing patterns. You've had lots questions about knits, and I hope I have addressed them in this course. It's almost like hanging out with me for six hours. Except that I do all the talking, which is not something I would normally do! The great thing is that you can take this class whenever you want, and your access to it never expires. Also, the Craftsy platform is wonderfully interactive, and you can send me your questions or comments and I'll respond within a day. You can also "meet" and interact with your fellow students, as well as share pictures of your finished knitwear!

Conquer your fear of knits and make some seriously stylish, wonderfully wearable clothes! Can't wait to see you over at my course!

P.S. Everything at my shop is 15% off through the end of the week! Enter code AugustNews2012 at checkout. That includes patterns, kits, and supplies. (I have a bunch of supplies, including the best baby jersey knit with spandex that I recommend in Sewing with Knits, available now.) 


spoonflower is giving away fabric and an ashland pattern!

Be still your heart? My generous friends (and neighbors) at Spoonflower are giving away four yards of fabric (of your choice) and an Ashland Dress pattern

Ashland Dress made into a top

I recently made a top for myself out of Spoonflower's cotton silk (totally dreamy) substrate, printed on Holli Zollinger's Grey and White Diamond Linen. I think it took me weeks to decide which fabric of Holli's to print - I had a total sewing geek-out over all of them. This understated print worked perfectly, sewing up smoothly into an everyday-with-a-bling top, given the slight fancy pants sheen of the silk. 

Ashland Dress made into a top

I used a pared-down version of the Ashland Dress pattern, omitting the pockets and waist sash and shortening the hemline so that it hits at my hip. I'm loving it. I can already tell that I will wear it often - it's comfortable, it's grey, it is cool to wear in the summer and it will be great under a cardigan come autumn. 

I had a little virtual chit chat with Kim at Spoonflower, and I hope you'll pop on over to their blog to check it out and to leave a comment to win the Ashland Dress pattern and four yards of fabric! 


lil' slugger

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Do you hear me laughing through the computer screen? Good. Because this one is just so perfect. 

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 And don't forget the peanut gallery!

A nice way to spend an otherwise slow afternoon. Humidity, cicadas buzzing in the trees, and the occasional "pop" of ball against bat, followed by laughter. 

P.S. Have you heard of Summer Camp Adventure Club? It's jam-packed with really engaging creative play ideas, book reviews, recipes, art prompts, and other family fun projects that are organized around a weekly theme. If you're looking for ways to maximize this last month of summer, you should sign up - August subscribers also get access to all of June and July's content! It's a great homeschooling resource that I'll be hanging on to!