march

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Hi!  It’s still March, right?  I’m getting this post up just under the wire, of my personal March deadline.  Yes, no problem.  When I only post once a month, it seems like there is so much  that happens!

Our lives have been a flurry of kid-paced activity these days…which is to say, sometimes I feel like we are whirling around doing a thousand things at once and sometimes I feel like time has never moved so slowly. (i.e., while I’m waiting for someone to put their own shoes on….)

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year in Portland.  It’s rainy and grey and still cold — I am sick of wearing corduroy pants and wool cardigans.  I’m tired of soup.  And yet — the daffodils bloom all over town early March and I feel like they are speaking to me personally!  As if to say, “hold on, Mary.  Spring is around the corner, summer is coming!”  Have you ever seen a friendlier face than that of a daffodil?  Oh, I just love them.  The spring blossoms in Portland are just outrageous — all the flowering trees make it seem like a magical kingdom and their soft pinks and sweet lavenders and buoyant whites poke out in colorful majesty against the grey sky.  It’s breathtaking just walking/driving/biking down the street.

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Orlis and I have been busy with projects — grabbing our duo hours here and there while Lenox naps and doing messy things with them.  Glueing fabric scraps to pieces of cardboard and making volcanoes with baking soda!  Endless fun!  This past Christmas, Orlis’ most beloved godmother gave him the greatest gift ever — a subscription to Green Kid Crafts.  Every month he gets a box in the mail with 3 craft projects inside.  They are great!  We’ve made soap, shadow puppets, volcanoes, stuffed animals, paper lanterns, and all kinds of other cool stuff.  The crafts in the box get us going and then we get craft-minded and start making up projects of our own.  I love making things alongside little hands.  It’s like having a new pair of eyes.  Wonder-filled.featherhangingfeather

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When you live in Portland, you need to have indoor hobbies.  That’s what I always tell the checkout folks at the grocery store while we watch the rain outside — “it’s a good thing for indoor hobbies!”  I’ve been sewing every little chance I get.  Reversible sun hats for the boys (hoping the sky will take a hint), some placemats out of a table runner that I made last year and never used, a fun springy version of the Washi dress (hoping the temperatures will take a hint; I’d actually like to make about 5 more of these in every cool fabric I see), and some very cool little feather quilts for my walls.  I felt these two walls flanking our little living room side window were begging for some art, so I decided to turn Anna Marie Horner’s feather quilt into some mini’s for the occasion.  Anna Marie gave me the pattern, and wonderful Melissa from her blog gave me the courage.  They bring such a softness to this room, and a sense of whimsy.afterlenoxo.w:farmtablerunnercut tablerunnerplacemats.ongreenpants

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Mostly we are spending our days remembering to breathe through the moments that require lots of patience and reminding our hearts and bodies to laugh.  Growing pains are hilarious if you allow them to be.  Rough little hands can so quickly become soft hands with the right coaxing, and I know someday, I’ll sleep!  In the meanwhile, summer is coming soon, and my mind shifts towards that moment when I realize we are spending more time outdoors than in.  With that in mind, we have mud piles and sand piles to create for summer fun, and maybe — if it doesn’t incense the neighbors too much — the makings of an outdoor sound wall in the backyard.  And in the meantime, there’s leftover birthday cake to eat and an endless supply of fabric in my studio…..

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lenox hatorlisringcakebirthdayblowoutHappy Spring!  See you next month….

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february

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Happy Love Month, friends.  Here I am, checking in mid-February, as promised.  It’s been strange, wild weather around here — most of January sunny, bright, and in the 50s, and then the last 4 days we’ve been completely covered in snow and ice.  We didn’t leave the house for 3 whole days and I think they were the 3 best days of Lenox’s life.  (re: no carseat time).  We’ve been busy — especially with our hands!  Late January and through this ice storm, we have had our hands in a hundred projects all at once, just the way we like it.  Oh, how I love these winter days with some good excuses to stay inside and delve into our “indoor hobbies” as I like to call the best things in life (cooking/sewing/crafting/baking/reading).  The rituals of this time of year are dear to me — slow-cooking winter soups on the stove, flannel pajamas worn into the lunch hour, and time to dream and make bucket lists of all kinds.  We’ve been talking a lot about our nighttime dreams these days — sometimes acting them out and sometimes just remarking how weird and wonderful it is to dream.  And, we’ve been dreaming about all the things we want to do before…hmmm…I don’t know, summer?  Like make more goop.  And make more flubber.  And make more playdough in every color.  And make more baby quilts out of old sweaters and make more magnetic fish for our magnetic fishing pole.  (Sometimes Orlis can catch 5 fish on his line at one time!)

Finally, I got around to making a simple valance for our dining area window and then Orlis and I sat at my machine and sewed a heart garland to mark Valentine’s week.  We caught wind from the preschool that it’s ok to bring a Valentine for everyone this Thursday so, as you might imagine, we got right to it and cut up our garland scraps and started collaging some paper hearts.  Orlis chose the word “friends!” to mark his sweet creations.  I just love them.

Lenox is getting to be quite the tubble-butt — boy, does that boy like to eat.  (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree there.)  Now he crawls around following Orlis wherever Orlis goes (which is in mad circles around the house from dawn until we strap him into his bed at night….j/k)  To prompt brotherly cooperation, we’ve taken to letting Orlis brush Lenox’s 6 teeth which makes everyone giggle and still gets the job done.  The soup/stew section of our family favorites recipe book is getting a lot of love — we go back and forth between potato leek soup and baked potato soup and throw in some winter root vegetable chowder for good measure.  I’m finally getting into the groove of bread-baking, finding a natural rhythm with it, and finding it is, of course, so easy.  Just a whole lot of do-nothing, really, with this recipe.  It’s SO delicious and makes our house smell the way I imagine heaven smells.

I’d like to make a bucket list of slow-cooker recipes but only absolutely delicious ones, and make my way through them in the next month or two.  I have a few I like but not enough.  I’d love some vegetarian ones too — maybe something Indian-inspired.  Do you have anything you’d love to share?

Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way.  I’m thinking we’ll start ours with a dance party to appease the mini-bootyshakers in this house, and end it with a round-table appreciation ritual at dinner time.  Now that’s lovin’.

See you next month!

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things to do on one’s due date besides have a baby

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A few years ago, I got into the practice of keeping a gratitude journal.  Have you heard of such a thing?  I think there’s no real “right” way to keep a gratitude journal.  Here’s how I did it:  I decided it should be the last thing I do before I go to sleep, so as to flood my consciousness with positive images and memories and to allow my brain to purge whatever was lingering before I shut off for the night.  I did this gratitude journaling just listy style for a good while, and I have to say, it was a wonderful ritual.  It served me in thousands of ways.

As much as I loved (and reaped enormous benefits from) gratitude journaling, it fell by the wayside, as things tend to, when I had a baby.  I think nursing or trying-to-keep-my-wits-about-me replaced journaling as my final to-do before bed.

Over this past weekend, as I faced my still-pregnant body in the mirror and thought to myself, “what should I do?” — gratitude journaling came to mind.  Perhaps some gratitude for this 40+ week state I’m in could do this gal some good.  I won’t lie to you — this waiting game is torturing me in some ways. But, when I really look at it, I must admit, there are some sweet things arising in these un-planned-for-still-pregnant-days.

So, I pulled out a notebook, and got some ideas down in my gratitude journal yesterday. I was not surprised to see that a few things were obvious (1. more time with just Orlis,  2. the opportunity to teach myself how to crochet a granny square,  3. getting a head start on May’s book club book,  and 4. indulging in a few more episodes of Breaking Bad after Orlis goes to bed than I thought I’d have time for).  Those rolled right off the pen as I perused my week in review.

But then, I noticed a few more ideas flowing onto the journal pages that sunk a little deeper in my heart, as yet another reminder that things happen in their own good time.

1. I do love the feeling of being “held” so closely in the thoughts of so many people I love and who love me.  I’m reminded of this via text, voicemail, email, and phone call by many good people each day.  There’s a lift I feel in this, like being suspended in the air on a big balloon.  This feeling is so so very rich.  I wish I could bottle it.

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to feel more empathy for the way this end-of-pregnancy period affects, I would guess, most women both physically and mentally.  Having had Orlis at 38 weeks, I didn’t go through this last time, and I am appreciative of the experience this time around — specifically being with the not knowing; being so physically uncomfortable and also being with the gradual nature of birth; feeling pressure of all kinds.  It’s its own special psychology, and knowing how universal it is makes me feel bonded, in some small way, to women everywhere, and from the beginning of time.

3. I’m glad to be learning, by happenstance, the way I think the other half lives.  Which is to say — without so many simultaneous projects and lists and to-dos going all of the time.  A week with not much planned at all and few goals — this is foreign to me.  I wouldn’t want it all the time, but I’ll admit, I like it right now.

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my blessingway

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Oh, my heart is full.  I’ve been musing much these days about the most amazing weekend 2 and 1/2 years ago when many of the most important women of my life gathered in my honor for my Mother Blessing weekend.  I was 36 weeks pregnant then, and at 37 weeks now, I am looking back at these photos and remembering (and still feeling) the strength of all we did that weekend to help prepare me for the end of pregnancy, birth, early post-partum, breastfeeding, and the unbelievable transition to motherhood.

That weekend — when women of multiple generations and from many corners of my history came in to be with me — reigns among (or even at the very top of) my favorite weekends ever.  All weekend we picnicked and play games and gathered in different combinations.  In particular though, what stands out still, are those handful of sacred hours when we gathered in my home for the Blessingway Ceremony, so thoughtfully curated by a few close friends and family members.

*we sang together; they sang to me

*we introduced ourselves by our matrilineal lineage, bringing in the presence and power of our mothers and grandmothers

*we revealed fears during a fear ceremony

*we honored, with ritual, the complexities of breastfeeding for the first time

*they pampered me, massaged me, honored me with significant gifts

*I offered a soliloquy ritual of my own, bringing in the aspects of these amazing women and declaring who I hoped to be as a mother

*we ate and ate and ate — beautiful, delicious, symbolic foods

*we wore white

*we wore crowns

*we cried a lot

*we made red and blue birth leaves for the tree on my wall — in the room where I planned to give birth

*we collaborated on a pregnancy silhouette quilt

*we were present for each other

*we made a phone tree and handed out candles to light for when I went into labor

*we were, unabashedly, women together — women supporting the biggest rite of passage for women: birth and motherhood

 

I still feel so intrinsically held by this circle — 2 and 1/2 years later and at the same juncture again (hours or days or weeks from birth).  I feel strengthened by our collective creativity, by our vulnerability in sharing, and by our womanness, one and all.  By this Blessingway, I still feel so very, very  blessed.

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fabric-covered pegboards, oh my!

I am so excited!  My office walls (well, one of them) finally received some love and attention.  In truth, this post could be alternatively-titled, “Fabric Projects for when your Sewing Machine is in the Shop.”  Because sometimes, machines need a little tuning here and there, and during those [excruciatingly] idle days and weeks, hands like mine get antsy and need to work with fabric.

I wanted a place in my already-technicolored office/studio to, you know, hang things. (before/after pictures of the whole office coming soon, when it is complete-for-now)   Mostly I wanted to hang pictures and some inspiring notions right above my ironing board where I find myself standing, quite often, staring at a blank, blue wall.  While surfing around on Pinterest, I found this easy tutorial for making multiple fabric-covered cork boards.  The author of the tutorial suggests using old, dirty cork boards which would have worked just great if I’d had any laying around or if I’d had the patience to find some at a garage sale, but my nesting enthusiasm got the better of me and I headed to Target and got what I needed.  I’ll give you a quick walk-thru — this project was SO easy and is enormously satisfying.  Now my wall is covered in my two favorite things: fabric and friends.  What could make me happier?

So, you get your hands on some cork boards and then pick your fabrics among your stash and press them.  I made all different sizes, so even some little scraps of fabric will work.  Lay your cork boards on a cutting mat and use a rotary cutter (and your quilting rulers) to cut them into different shapes.

Cut your fabric with your rotary cutter and quilting rulers too — it doesn’t need to be perfect (like if you were making a quilt) but it should be about an inch and a half larger on all four sides than your cork board piece.

This part is almost like wrapping a present.  Apply your glue (I used Elmer’s) to your corners, and adhere all four.

Then apply glue to the sides and adhere all four.

Easy does it — you are done!  Make a bunch!  I let mine dry overnight with the glued side facing up.

Now, you are facing your empty wall that is begging for some artwork.

I started with a few of my larger pieces first.  Oh, I forgot to mention that my cork boards from Target came with some double-sided adhesive tape stickers, so I applied 3-4 of those to the back of each board, and then eyeballed where I wanted them.

With some foundational pieces up first, I just placed the rest of the boards one at a time until I had used them all, ending with a cornucopia of color!

Cute, huh?

And here they are up close.  For a week, I left them like this, and enjoyed just the beauty of the fabrics, but then decided it was time to put them to their originally-intended use.

And here they are — adorned with my favorite people and other ideas and projects that I’m excited about right now.  And alas, my office/studio is alive with color, warmth, and meaning.

 

 

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it all comes together

Forgive my absence in this space on Monday.  It’s been, well, a flurry of activity.  Now, as I sit here and the first wet snowflakes of the season whip around outside my window, I am filled with both a sense of peace and excitement.  It does all come together, doesn’t it?

We celebrated the last of the Hanukkah evenings in darkness and candlelight over the weekend, and slurped up one heck of a yummy, traditional meal: matzo ball soup, challah bread, and Rob’s potato pancakes slathered in sour cream.  Oh yes.  We finalized our gift supply list and then proceeded to buy more than our combined weight in flour, flax meal, coconut, and powdered sugar, opting this year for a more streamlined approach — most of our beloved family members will receive the same gift.  Oh, I do hope they like homemade goodies.

We spent nap times scrounging up what we had in the way of “wrapping paper” — knowing that a few holes here and there could always be blamed on what happens in the mail.  Boxes were procured and stripped clean of old addresses, and gift items were securely packed.  We are having a few friends over to celebrate the Solstice this Friday, so with Hanukkah wrapped up and the gifting part of Christmas becoming a list of crossed-off names, we moved on to planning the Solstice meal.

I just love the symbolism of the Solstice — the darkest, longest night of the year.  In honor of the season and the dark, I knew I wanted to incorporate seasonal and symbolic ingredients, and decided it would also be a fun challenge to create a meal of only black and red foods.  Here’s what will be gracing our table this year, if all goes as planned:

*beet and goat cheese dip

*black rice with chestnuts and cranberries

*cranberry muffins with brown sugar-almond streusel

*black bean soup with lots of fixins’

*red velvet bundt cake with cream cheese frosting

and cheating here on the black/red, some mac ‘n cheese for all the kiddos.  Let’s be realistic.

We’ll have some cranberry juice spritzer cocktails to go around, and will cheat on the color-scheme once again and have eggnog, spiked and not-spiked.  ’Tis the season.

 

As it all comes together this time of year, I am reminded once again of how magical and memorable these December days are, how there is time for everything important, and how most of the details of this frazzling display we call “the holidays” work themselves out.  Cold weather ushers in some fine excuses to stay in the kitchen all day, the right-size box seems to land itself at my feet at the moment I need it, and one patient toddler miraculously agrees to make his own cookies in his own oven alongside me from time to time so that I can move at an adult speed.  I’m reminded that, despite my sometimes overly-ambitious ideas, the rituals and traditions of holiday time are just beginning to form in our young family, and indeed, it is the simplest ones that will likely continue year after year.  It’s with this in mind that I smile as I plug in our two strands of white lights each morning and I sigh blowing out our advent candles at the end of our evening meal.  These dark days are good ones, indeed.  Long, dark, and full of light.

 

 

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sweater skirt pants

I have a new addiction: up-cycling old sweaters and turning them into toddler pants and a women’s mini-skirts.  I had seen both projects done individually, but never both at the same time.  I realized I could take ONE sweater and make both a pair of pants AND a skirt.  So, I perused Prudent Baby’s pattern for making the pants, and Readymade’s instructions for making a skirt, and did both.  This project was so, so easy.  I had never sewed sweater material before, and it surprised me in how easy and forgivable  it was.  Let me walk you through it.

Here’s the old sweater I started with — worn often and well-loved; in need of some re-purposing.

I lopped off the arms. (and it didn’t hurt a bit)

Here are the two arms, sized to match each other and ready to be made into pants.

I cut down the inseam 7 inches.  Then I sewed the back seams together and then the front seams together.  It’s easiest to see this and get it right if you turn both legs inside out.

Here are the pants, ready for a waistband.  I folded and pinned down all around the waist about an inch.  Then I sewed it down, creating a casing for the elastic, and leaving about an inch for inserting the elastic.  I used 1/2″ or 3/4″ inch elastic — the biggest that I had on hand to fit in in the casing without bunching.

I threaded the elastic all the way through with a safety pin.  Then I roughly measured the waist against an existing pair of Orlis’ elastic-waisted pants that fit well.  I sewed the elastic together, and then sewed close the inch of casing left open and waalah!

The finished pants.

Isn’t he stylin’?  (and so warm and dry).

 

Now, remember this gal — the sweater with the lopped-off arms?

I layed her down.  I found a mini-skirt of mine that fits well and layed it on top of her, upside down, with the waist band of my mini-skirt at the bottom of the sweater.

Then I cut across the sweater, about an inch below the bottom of my mini-skirt to allow for a hem.  I then created a waistband and made the elastic waist just like I did for the pants above, this time trying it on myself to get the correct size.  I sewed the elastic together, closed up my casing, and then turned under and sewed an inch-or-so hem at the “bottom” of the sweater-skirt.   Waalah!

All of this seemed too fun to be true.  So, I dug into our sweater drawers and found a few more that were ready for up-cycling, like this boxy sweater vest that I knew would make one heck of a cute skirt, as well as a few hole-y ones of Rob’s.

I’m almost ready for ice-skating now.

My addiction is SO thrilling — little Orlis is warm for winter, and …

I’m stylin’ right along with him.

How fun is this?

 

 

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birthday boy turns 2

People keep saying, “can you believe it?  can you believe he’s 2 already?”  Well, actually, yes.  Yes, I can believe it.  In all it’s snuggly glory and moments of tedium and frustration; in all this profound, tear-jerking, laughter-and-growth-inducing, constantly changing, great big dis-organized mess of a thing called parenting, why yes, it has felt like 2 years have gone by.  In every way.  It’s no surprise at all.  I can believe how big he’s gotten.  I can believe he can talk and climb and run and sing and make a giant mess of my cupboards and drawers.  I can believe he’s saying “no” much more often than he says “yes.”  I can believe it all — I’ve been watching closely.  And as believable as it all is, it still seems like a miracle.  Not the growth so much, but the existence of him.  I know every parent feels this — how did I get so lucky?  How did I get the very best kid?  (it’s not fair to everyone else!)  Knowing how very universal these feelings are is what makes the whole thing so funny…and heart-wrenching…and, even in it’s [daily] trying moments, doable.

We took our time celebrating this little 2-year-old over the weekend, in what my mother likes to call “Mary Mulliken style.”  Indeed, Grandma was in town and we made a long weekend of it (hence my absence in this space on Monday).  We filled our wakeful hours doing all the things little O most likes to do — running along the hiking trails near the beach, collecting rocks, and playing in the sand.  We sang Happy Birthday about 100 times, and I do dare say, he gets it now.   We began our birthday morning with our year-old traditions — a small wooden candle scene, a re-visiting off On the Day You Were Born, and a brief but significant few moments wearing the birthday crown.  (My experience with my nephews leads me to believe that by the time he turns 3, he’ll be wearing that crown all day long.)  We collaborated on some cupcakes, and drew out the celebrations so that we might have one more opportunity to sing.  Oh, to hear a 2-year-old sing — it melts my heart.  Rob and I wrote growth letters to tuck into his Time Capsule for a trip down memory lane when he turns 13, and over and over again, we read Orlis’ Shutterfly-made Book of Favorites (the result of a fabric-book plan gone haywire).  My mother is right — he was duly celebrated.  And why not?

He loved it.  We loved it.  I think we’ll keep him another year.

 

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welcome to the scribble house

I’ve had my eye out for two things lately: 1. some creative ideas for displaying kid art, and 2. some interesting eye candy for the walls around our home, specifically, the living room.  I mean, you can’t hang a quilt on every wall (though I’ll die trying).  It occurred to me that perhaps I need not seek out the next Picasso when I might just have him, running around naked, here in my house.  (You never know.)

It seems a little bold, but I decided to adorn our entryway with a few selections from the grand accumulation of scribbled paper that is occupying much of our closet space.  I found a great article on Spearmint Baby with all kinds of good ideas for not only displaying children’s artwork, but also having the ability to rotate it easily.  I particularly liked the framing idea, and decided to replicate it.

I headed to Target and found some pretty cheap frames and then drove directly to the hardware store to pick out some spray paint.  I had to hand over my driver’s license and two other forms of ID just for one can of spray paint and some primer.  Of course, the idea of being a graffiti artist has never once crossed my mind, hence my confusion  when the hardware store employee wanted to get all my information down on paper, signatures and all.  I have to say, though, after spraying down these frames, and seeing them come to life in bright blue, I totally get the appeal.  Oh my goodness…it’s so fun!

So, the project started like this….

and with some white primer, looked like this….

and after a few coats of robin’s egg blue, looked like this:

(you can see, the sun is beginning to set on this project.)

A few nails, some large paper clips, and the difficult task of paring down to the most masterful of masterpieces, the entryway now looks like this:

I loved the paper clip idea — it will be so easy to change these out as often as I like, and soon enough, I hope we’ll relinquish our tight grip on oil crayons (not to mention, my omnipresent fear of mess) and graduate to some more mixed media.

In the meanwhile, I just adore the feeling of walking into my home and seeing all of these scribbles up on the walls.  There’s no question, the colors delight me and the visible signs of artistic process (and a little progress) make a mama proud.  But, I think what I love most is that it feels like a true depiction of what happens here — and in that sense, it feels real.  With every color of the rainbow, this is what’s happening in this house right now.

Yes, welcome.  Do come in.

 

 

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