I created, organized, and decorated my studio with the intention of fashioning a creative haven for myself. A place of creativity, inspiration, and prolific making. At the time, I envisioned a place for me to be solitary in my creativity, though I did add a chair and a small desk for visitors. Truth be told, I spend more time in this space with company than I do alone.
On my favorite chilly winter days, the boys and I find ourselves secluded there together. Mama, can we make something in your studio? We sort through pipe cleaners and a stack of gold paper I've had for 20 years, play with copious amounts of tape and glue, string beads, twist small bits of wire, experiment with adding salt and sugar to wet watercolors, share a pot of tea. I keep scissors for small hands and a scrap basket full of fabric they can use without ever having to ask. In this space, they have created suits of armor, numerous paper cranes, blankets for baby dolls, glow in the dark bracelets for stuffed tigers, gifts for loved ones, and various medieval weaponry.
There is a sense of calm and companionship that infuses these peaceful hours. After a rough-and-tumble morning, this unscheduled creative time is restorative and so refreshing. I love to share this space I love with my loved ones. I love to witness the creative process of their young, open minds. It only takes a bit of tape or a length of yarn to get started. Often, my personal creativity can seem elusive or - even worse - forced. But my boys approach time in the studio with the same loaded for bear attitude they bring to everything else in life. Let's get started and see what happens.
Eventually, E will wander upstairs to see what we're up to. He sits down, asks the boys what they're making, joins us. He frequently compliments the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere I've cultivated. All those boys, crowded into my little pink room, making things together. It's heartwarming and inspiring, even if it only lasts an hour.
Then there are the evenings, after the boys are in bed and the house is quiet, that we are both in the studio. Sharing a glass of wine, listening to soothing music, each with our own project. I love those times, too.
My youngest and I have long swaths of time together while we wait for his big brother to come home from school. We fill our time at the park, reading stories, running errands, and playing with friends. Even so, it's easy to get bogged down at home: there is always a chore to finish, a meal to prepare. So I made this simple activity jar to give us a few ideas of projects we can do together. Inside this empty candy tin are slips of paper with various suggestions for crafts, projects, and games.
I'm creating time for us together, but I'm also being sneaky in a mama sort of way: many of these suggestions focus on fine motor skill developments such as wooden puzzles, playing with tweezers or eye droppers, sidewalk chalk, tiny sticker art, and - of course - stringing beads.
This sweet, stubborn boy feels special to have his own list of choices we can do together. And it's special for me, too. I know this time is precious; while laundry and dishes and dinners will always be a constant in my life, an almost-four-year-old boy who says 'yuv' instead of 'love' and refuses to get a haircut will not.
So he sat on my lap, sorted through my collection of beads and diligently made himself a necklace. We spoke quitely, I stole kisses from his doughy cheeks, and bead by bead, we made something together.
My husband and I haven't celebrated Valentine's Day in a romantic way in years. After a few years of marriage, with many romantic anniversary and birthday celebrations (not to mention romantic random Tuesday nights), Valentine’s Day started to feel commercial and contrived. Forced.
But with children in our lives, I always relish an occasion to make something together. So as our kids have grown older, I've been scrambling to add a bit of festive fun into this ‘holiday’ for our family.
This was our first year exchanging Valentine's at school. We kept it simple - and handmade - card stock folded into thirds (with rounded corners, of course), potato stamps, a little glitter, a sweet sticker closure. We worked on them a bit at a time over the course of a few days. Just the right pace to keep the project enjoyable.
We hosted my sister-in-law for a festive dinner on Tuesday night. Our table was graced with sparkling wine and sparkling cider, candlelight arranged by our sweet six year old, and the most romantic grilled cheese ever. The combination of luscious pears, oozing brie and thinly sliced turkey is incredibly seductive. Add in the sweet dark/light rye hearts, and everyone at the table was charmed.
The main entrance to our home sees a lot of action on busy school mornings: shoes, socks, backpacks, coats, and HURRY, don't forget your library books! Ever since we started the wild and wonderful ride that is kindergarten, I've been intending to complete this project. Six months later, I've crossed it off my list. It only took four fun elephant hooks and a length of reclaimed barn wood that I sanded and stained one weekend afternoon while the boys played with buckets and scrap wood in the front yard.
Now we are working on remembering to use the hooks when we get home from school. Maybe by the time school ends in June, we'll be up to speed. A good start for first grade!
Nearly a month without an update...but that's not unusual for this poor, neglected project. So, in lieu of sharing anything new, I have images I recently snapped of a gift I made for my mom, oh, fifteen years ago. Purple seed bead daisies woven and wrapped around a glass votive holder. I remember taking the project down to a local bead shop in Eugene and asking for help in securing the wrap to the rim of the glass. The woman behind the counter immediately suggested those simple wire wrapped hooks. After all these years, and a big move, it still finds a place in mom's home. It makes me happy whenever I see it (surely she doesn't keep it out just to please me) to know that I made something for her that she treasures.
January is off to a slow start for me. I have immersed myself in the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, after an absence of over twenty years. Her stories are so clearly written, and evoke a time of simple pleasures and back-breaking work. The writing is inspiring, capturing my imagination with descriptions of Pa making bullets in front of the fire; or a house built into the ground and covered with blooming morning glories; or a little girl playing with a corncob named Sally wrapped in handkerchief, because she had no rag doll. Laura didn't mind. As the story says, it wasn't Sally's fault she was only a corncob.
Here's to 2012. Let's be happy and satisfied with what we have. Let's enjoy our work and the simple pleasures in our lives. For now, I'm off with my little basket to feed the hens and collect the morning's eggs. How I love my little house....
Every December, I fall in love with our Christmas tree. With our precious ornaments (which become more so annually as a few are broken every year) and tiny white lights on a sparse, wild tree, we are truly bringing nature and light to our dark winter days.
I have wanted a proper tree skirt for years, but could never find the serendipitous combination of one I liked and the funds to procure it. This year I considered something thrifted before discovering I could make my own with materials I already had. Ha! I love it when that happens. About eight years ago I purchased yards and yards of chocolate brown ultra suede, intending to recover a chair. Obviously that's not going to happen. So I cut a simple circle, the perfect size for our small corner, wrapped it around my tree stand and felt very merry indeed.
We are in full swing holiday mode around here and I've been loving it. In fact, there has been very little stress involved in the preparations. This is a direct result of my decision not to give as many handmade gifts. Oh, we have nearly three gallons of coffee liquer infusing in the pantry, and there will be a batch of muffins later this week, and plans for peppermint bark, but not the crazy a-crocheted-hat-for-every-person-in-my-family kind of thinking that usually consumes my December.
Yesterday, I finished a huge project that I've been working on for several months, got the boys started on a holiday painting project, wrapped all the teacher gifts, and put together 80 holiday cards. And I was in bed before 11pm! It feels miraculous. I'm about to treat myself for my productivity by getting bundled up and doing some local shopping downtown, but not before I tell you about the wrapping paper we made.
I found the instructions in Kid Made Modern, an inspiring library discovery. Simply put: paint with festive, pearly colors on bubble wrap, press an opened brown paper bag (even I forget my reusables at the grocery store sometimes!) on top, let dry. Ta da! Holiday polkadot wrapping paper. So fun! And pretty! Nearly free!
Years ago, in a previous chapter of our lives, my husband and I traveled to Belize. We floated underground river caves, dived along green walls rich with coral deep under the ocean, slept in a shack on a tiny island. We returned, deliciously relaxed, with a rainbow striped hammock, a maxed out credit card, and a tiny new life growing in my belly. It was a dramatic end to the first chapter of our married life.
The hammock was hung on the deck of third-floor apartment, consuming all the outdoor space we could boast. I rocked there, sipping virgin pina coladas, dreaming of our vacation, and watched my tummy grow. Months later, my new baby and I swayed together.
Eventually I went back to work. Got pregnant again. Prepared to move to Oregon and start yet another chapter of family life. We pulled the hammock out of retirement to discover the red section had faded to orange and been eaten through by a very industrious mouse that had moved into the balcony.
This summer, I spent several days sitting on the back patio, weaving a new stripe into our old, loved hammock. Over under, over under, breathing and weaving, I attaching the yellow and blue with a vibrant red. I wondered who made the hammock in the first place, I remembered the rejuvenating vacation and the whirlwind of change that ensued.
We have come full circle, and the life we dreamed of under palm trees in Belize, in California, is a reality. We swing under the juniper, the sun and the stars, on our own tiny island of home.
The annual Earth Day celebration in downtown Bend is not to be missed. Little kids dress up as animals, fish, insects, all manner of living things and parade around the block. A drum circle and a pair of belly dancers led the procession. There were a few people on super tall stilts and another two guys wearing giant Burning Man-style puppets that my youngest son found highly untrustworthy.
And, of course, there were my two tiger cubs. They are adorable, cuddly, and only slightly tame.
They make friends with their own kind easily.
The best part of these costumes - for me - were in the making. I purchased a half a yard of this furry fabric (at a 50% off sale) when we picked up the materials to make the birthday banners. Happily, I remembered it just in time. Following Amy Karol's swing swing smock pattern from Bend the Rules Sewing - used before when I made M his suit of armor - I created the tops. The ears and tails followed easily. Two evenings of relaxing on the couch with a bit of hand sewing and ta da!