welcome to three

partial layout

Due dates are elusive…and that goes not just for babies, but for births of all kinds, projects included.  Well over a year and a half ago — late January 2011, to be exact — we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs in what seemed like endless anticipation of having an official moving date for our big venture out West.  With all the bureaucracy associated with both buying and selling, we were at what seemed like an interminable standstill.  Not knowing the timing of big things (like a cross-country move) can make some personalities (ahem) go a little crazy.  What does one do when one can’t control (or speed up) the timing of major life changes? Well, one makes a quilt, of course.  I remember vividly, during that excruciatingly endless period of waiting, some thoughtful friends of mine encouraged me to engage in big projects to take my mind off of what I couldn’t control.  So, I got out my brightest scraps of fabric and started cutting.

cut strips

Now, I’m a big believer in preparation — getting ready, psychologically and physically — for not only what is going to happen, but also what you want to happen.  Around the same time that we were anxiously awaiting a green light for our move to Portland, some very good friends were deep in the process of trying to get pregnant.  Trying, that is, and not succeeding.  As I anxiously twiddled my thumbs, obsessing over my own problems, I thought of them, of how long it had already been that they had been hoping for a pregnancy, and how badly I wished I could do something to help.  And thus, my mindless fabric cutting became something else entirely.  I remember thinking, there’s not much I can do besides hope hope hope for these lovely people, but in the act of hoping, I can prepare a welcome gift…perhaps even summons a baby with some handmade love.

layed out

Usually I do things the other way around — I receive pregnancy news from someone special and I happily trot into my sewing space and commence the process of creating a welcome quilt.  This ritual has become one of my most treasured.  For this child — the very spark of whom was already so wanted, so beloved in the hearts of these lovely friends and a whole community of people surrounding them — well, we needed to pull out the big dogs and work every angle we could.  I put as much love into that quilt as I could muster, hoping someone out there would get the message and work some conceiving magic into the Brooklyn air.

The project at hand worked wonders for my restless spirit.  I worked away on it, loving the simple design, feeling cheered by the bright colors during a very grey January, and enjoying how meaningful it already felt.  Someday, I knew it, this quilt would have a baby sitting on it.

Of course, a week or so after I started the quilt we received our green light to move, so I packed it up, in its unfinished state, and hauled it cross-country with the rest of our belongings, unearthing it months later, still unfinished…still no pregnancy.

Months passed, I worried.  I finished the quilt back, sent the whole thing out for quilting, got it back, and tacked on the binding.  All it needed was a label…and a recipient.

And then, pregnancy news broke.


finished quiltupclose flipback

No one moved during those early months, and then 2 months turned to 5 to 7 and then to 8 and a half and with bated breath, the insular world of these fine friends quietly waited as he made his appearance about a week ago, in perfect health, a sweet little being.

The best things in life truly are worth waiting for.  And hoping for, and praying for, and summonsing in every which way we can possibly imagine.

Oh, welcome, welcome to three, my dear dear friends.



big boy bed


Hey, wait a second!  When did my little boy become such a big boy, and a big brother at that?  It’s a fascinating thing having a baby ’round these parts, and the effect his tiny-ness has on my perspective of Orlis.  Who seems so huge.

A few months ago, as my nesting phase went on longer than expected, I did what any semi-insane pregnant woman would do — I made a quilt.  While making baby quilts — for gifts — has become a symbol of my very existence, I had never ventured past the 3X3 foot terrain into larger, truer, longer-lasting bed quilts.  Seeing my [now older] child grow inches on the wall, and make his way s.l.o.w.l.y out of the family bed, I figured it was time he get a bonafide, mama-made quilt of his own with which to grow into late-toddler, little boy, (gulp) older boyhood.


For many years, I’ve had my eye on the simple, fresh design of the sunny-tied quilt from the Purl Bee.  I decided it would be the perfect design for my color-loving boy in his bright orange bedroom.  I had a great time picking out lights and mediums and darks and patterned fabrics to accentuate his two-toned bedroom, and got to work immediately, cutting them into scraps and piecing it all together.  Without much deliberating, I also decided that doing that many yarn ties (as the tutorial dictates) to hold it all together would exacerbate my pregnant crabbiness and poke a hole in my thumb, so I sent it out to be quilted instead.  As soon as this sweet thing got back, I tacked on the binding and threw it on his bed.


And, oh glory, isn’t it adorable!  I love the way the few subtle blues pop out, drawing attention to the mis-match lineup of the two sides, and I love the way the oranges and whites bring to life the birds I stenciled on the walls.  Mostly I love how much he loves his cozy quilt — making a burrito of himself during a sweaty nap, and burrowing deep for the long nights.  He’s learning how to comfortably be alone, and I’m learning, too, how to help him do it.  As he is warmed by his own homemade blanket, my own heart is warmed knowing that, in good company my little Blackbird dreams.  ”I want “mama cuddles” he calls the quilt already, as we settle him in for slumber.  And I think to myself, “oh, baby.  You can have Mama Cuddles.  Do take them to college too, won’t you?  But not for a good, long while.”



a reading nook


Forgive me, I’ve gotten a bit behind in sharing with you some of the exciting things going on this house.  There’s been birth, baby, post-partum, yes of course.  But there were other things going on a few months ago during my supreme and most-elongated nesting phase that I had the wherewithal to photograph, but not necessarily the wherewithal to post.  So here we are.

A long while back, I shared with you a few projects that I did around the house as a result of taking a really cool online course called “The Playful Learning E-course.”  It’s a really neat go-at-your-own-pace class that gets you inspired to make some simple changes and doctor up your house so it’s more child-centric.  I did this room, this little space, and this wall organization as homework for the class last summer.

One of my favorite things about this e-course is how the teacher encourages you to find little nooks and crannies around your house.  With a little imagination and usually some objects you find lying around elsewhere in your home, you can re-create these small spaces as mini-learning and playing centers.  The nook you see below, at the top of our stairs, has always beckoned my attention.  When we moved in to this house, we immediately painted this hallway space (you can see a horrific “before” and lovely “after” here).  Once it was sparkly white, I fell in love with this little space that’s about 4 feet by 3 feet.  But I didn’t know what to do with it.

At first, I put a shelf and some toys there in hopes that Orlis would want to play there, but it never drew him.  So, I thought for a few months, and then decided, after taking this course and learning the importance of creating a cozy space for reading, to make it a book nook.


after painting, before reading nook

I took a class to learn how to make some zippered floor pillows.


(I’m very proud of these.)


Then I knocked out four more regular pillows while Orlis serenaded me.  I gathered up some books, a bit of artwork, and a couple of fluffy rugs…


and a reading nook was born.

nook copy

After! A reading nook.

(Wall art by Johanna Wright; faux lambskin rugs by Ikea.)


And, oh, what a cozy place it is — to snuggle up with some good books and my cuddly boys and treat ourselves to a good read.


Note: I updated the books on the sidebar recently — there are some good reads floating around this house (and landing in the reading nook).  Check ‘em out!



my blessingway


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.













good, old birthday




As the days and weeks tick by and we draw ever nearer to the actual birth day of our 2nd babe coming up so soon, I’ll admit, we have needed to remind ourselves to remain focused on the other hundreds of things going on.  (when I say “we,” I really mean, ME.)  Last week, someone around this house turned another year older and despite the strange combination of my elephant-size body and mouse-size energy, we did our best to ensure the birthday man was duly celebrated.

Our ways of feting him weren’t anything particularly new or different, but rather some familiar and beloved rituals handpicked from our birthday basket of tricks — a basket of tricks that, I’ve noticed, is becoming more and more fun for the little man whose birthday it wasn’t. (though you might not have been able to tell that with your naked eye.)  We put up our birthday banner, and quickly balloons were scattered all around the house.  We had loads of fun choosing charms for our wooden birthday wheel, and conjured up multiple occasions to light even more candles and sing “Happy Birthday” one more time.  We had, at the birthday boy’s request this salmon and this pea/prosciutto risotto, some roasted asparagus and this cheesecake.  I received the rare gift of getting to cook in my kitchen for a whole hour All By Myself…without a toddler underfoot while Rob and Orlis were out visiting the neighborhood bees.  With that kind of set-up, everything turned out delicious.

And then came the time for some gifties.  We made sure to shower the birthday boy with lots of admiration and appreciation, and then I broke out the big non-surprise –a set of floor pillows I had been hand-stitching entirely in his presence for the last 3 weeks.  Ever since I saw this pattern for the Purl Bee Hawaiian Style Felt Floor Pillows I have been salivating at the opportunity to make a set.  I thought Rob’s music studio needed a little warming…so to speak, what with all that hard gear in there.  I was thinking these large pillows would do the trick of setting a tone that said, “come, sit, stay awhile, play an instrument.”  



The pattern for the pillows was time-consuming, but not hard.  I had a great time stenciling and cutting out this design…and an even better time doing all the hand-stitching.  I thought I loathed hand-sewing, but in fact, I’m learning to love it.  Perhaps it’s my current state that desires hours sitting on a couch, or maybe I’m just an old dog.  Regardless, I had a great time and after watching me do it for hours, now Orlis is totally excited to learn how to sew too.  (oh, a man after my own heart.)




Here they are, these sweet mirror-image pillows — larger at 36 X 36 inches than my body is, currently, if that’s possible.  And once I tied the final knot I snuck them down to Rob’s studio to see how they looked and snapped a few photos.  Not bad, next to the organ, wouldn’t you say?


Of course, immediately upon receiving the pillows, Rob wanted to test them out in the studio too — to see how they might work, and quickly he started having all kinds of ideas.  ”oh!  You could sit on the floor and play a little slide guitar…and then then you are done, they make a nice soft guitar stand.”


Yes, my dear.  They do.  They do make a nice guitar stand.



Candles out, another birthday, another year gone by.  Life seems sweet and soft and cushy.

P.S. Portlanders — this Wednesday the Elimination Communication group meets again at Alma Education Space from 9:30 – 11:00.  Join us!  We’ve been having lots of fun together and the group is growing!  More info here.  And, next Wednesday (April 10th) I’m leading another workshop about Elimination Communication at the same space. It’s one hour and chock full of great info to get you started on this terrific practice.  Do come.


mama-made quilt for baby #2

Oh, baby baby baby #2 — we are ready now!  Your very own, mama-made quilt awaits you. (It’s not true.  We aren’t ready. We have birth supplies to gather, lasagnas to make, and cupboards to organize.  Not to mention, you have some more cookin’ to do….) But in the your-quilt-is-ready-for-you way, we are ready.  Oh, and not to brag, but I’m just thrilled with how this one turned out and I had so much fun making it.

It all starts with some piles…like these…

…that get honed down and organized and cut up into this…

and then a most beloved Aunt comes for a visit and late into the night she eats all your chocolate-pecan turtles and drinks all the wine you aren’t allowed to have and sits and talks to you.  And while you cut and iron and make crucial color decisions, the two of you dissect all the important topics — death and dying, and parenting, and being easy on ourselves as women and as moms, and how to keep kids off drugs, and good books, and the intricacies of family, until eventually, those piles of fabric becomes this:

and this….

Oh, homemade quilts.  Their very time and cost ineffectiveness is part of what I love most about making them — they can only be a labor of love.  I do believe some things should always remain only a labor a love.  And love indeed — right here in every stitch of these lovely fabrics.  Love in the color hues and love in the mistakes (please don’t study this quilt with a magnifying glass.)  I can’t wait to get a baby on there — preferably mine!

For those of you who are interested in the details, I hunted around on Pinterest for months, searching for the right quilt pattern for this baby — something that said, “I’m numero dos and look what a cool quilt I got.”  (there are some benefits to being 2nd born.)  Finally I found this fun Sparkle Quilt quilt-along and knew it was the one.  Even more fun — I got to decide everything about it — the size, the colors, the number of blocks, and whether or not to include some “negative space” — which you can see in the photo at the top, I did.  Not to mention, I did something I had never tried before — I totally winged it on the backside, starting with one sparkle block and then building around it with scraps I had laying around, just like in the olden days, until it was the right size.  It’s make-shift and haphazard and full of pieces that might not exactly go together, just like parenting.

Front and back and imperfectly aligned, I love it.  Just like I love this growing babe.  Upon receiving the quilt back from my right-hand quilting gal in Colorado, I sewed up the binding and brought her outside last week for a dose of fresh air on the front porch.  I like to think she received a dose of good energy from the spring greenery just starting to show itself, and also, perhaps, a sense of her true purpose — to keep the most important people warm and cozy — with every stitch of her being.  Come to think of it, that might be my true purpose too.



fabric buckets gone crazy

When I was 5-years-old (or so), and living with my family in Portland, I remember my mother going through one of her big sewing phases.  This time, specifically, she hooked herself on making stuffed geese.  She made one — they were life-size, as I remember — as a floor decoration for our living room, and I think loved it so much she went on to make a life-size stuffed goose for everyone she knew.  I remember it well, the sewing part of this frenzy, but I also have distinct memories of bringing the geese to other peoples’ homes when we visited.  ”Here’s a stuffed goose,” we might say as we entered their home for a small dinner party or a playdate, and then we’d giggle, hoping they liked the fabric selection for the body, the beak, and the webbed feet.

I recall not totally comprehending the magnitude of my mother’s frenzy or why our home was all-of-a-sudden filled with so much fabric and so many half-finished stuffed geese (and she may, upon reading this, challenge me a bit on the details of this story), but 30 years later and in the heat of an extremely intense “nesting phase” I can safely say, I get it.  This frenzy is precisely what happened to me with a fabric bucket pattern I found a few weeks ago.

the inspiration bucket

Last summer, I happened upon a midwest farmer’s market where a talented woman was selling adorable fabric buckets (see above) and I purchased 2 or 3 — excitedly toting them home and filling them with Orlis’ blocks and other sundry items around the house, only to wish immediately I had bought more of them.  Recently, I decided I needed to find a tutorial and make some.

Alas, a quick google and Pinterest search yielded many inspiring ideas, and I landed on this tutorial for fabric buckets which ended up being pretty darn easy.  Easy enough, that is, that I just couldn’t stop and went on to make about 10 of them in a weekend — grabbing moments wherever I could and staying up late finishing a line of them that, upon viewing, elicited this remark from Rob: “your studio looks like a gift shop.”  Touché.

The tutorial was quite malleable, and I ended up making lots of different size buckets, changing up the dimensions according to my prospected needs as well as the amounts of fabric I had on hand.  My mother’s frenzy (as so many of them did) benefitted others — which is to say, at least she gifted her geese.  In my extreme nesting state, however, I must admit (save one twin bucket for my mom and another for a friend desperately in need of a knitting basket) I filled each and every one of these sweet little containers with odds and ends collecting around each room, and scattered them around my house.

Suffice it to say, we are well-bucketed for now.  Things are contained, and this nester is feeling just a tiny bit more organized.





swaddling blankets

If I could make a prediction about the general theme of these blog posts in the coming few months, it would be: Nesting Takes Over!  Because, let’s face it, there is the regular amount of nesting for regular pregnant ladies, and then there are those of us who nest, well, constantly.  I even nest in hotel rooms.

Alas, my brood of just-completed all-flannel swaddling blankets for this spring baby on his/her way.  We’ve all probably noticed how the ancient swaddling technique that even our ape ancestors probably used in some form or fashion is, of late, back in high style with infants, accompanying the whole back-to-sleep campaign.  A good tight swaddle in a soft blanket — now who doesn’t want to take a nice nap just hearing that?  (Well, I’ll tell you who — my 1st born.  But, I have a different feeling about this child-in-utero….)  I figured, getting a couple of these easy blankets made up and ready-to-go for baby #2 would create some good sleeping karma.

I just couldn’t resist all of these dreamy colorful printed flannel-cottons at a most recent trip to my neighborhood fabric store.  I have made a handful of these blankets before (including a couple for Orlis before he was born), using Joelle Hoverson’s pattern from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts which was especially easy because I used plain white cotton flannel, made a binding, and tacked it on.  (Sorry, no photos.)  But…these recently procured dreamy flannels, while irresistible, came with one small issue — they were’t double sided.  So, I doctored the pattern and used some plain white flannel for the backside — sewed the two large pieces together, and then did a super-simple quilting pattern (3 long lines, not detectable in these pictures) through both layers to hold them together before making my binding and sewing it on.  The blankets turned out thick and even dreamier than the originals.  Oh, if only I was, myself, 2-feet long, I’d swaddle myself right now.

Are you wondering this:  will I be keeping all four of these sweet little bundles or sharing the lot?  Well, it’s nearly springtime, readers, and  I’ve got too many friends with buns in the oven to horde.  I let Rob pick his two favorites to keep, and the other two will get packaged up to gift this weekend, indeed.  But for now these four buddies sit nestled in their basket, warming my office studio and my heart for what will, so soon, be wrapped up inside.  (sleeping soundly.)

By the way, just a reminder about the workshop happening here in Portland this Saturday from 10 – noon at Alma Education and Movement Space, 1233 SE Stark Street.  It’s a workshop for soon-t0-be parents and new parents of any religious affiliation to learn how to plan a unique and meaningful Welcome Baby Blessing for their little one.  I am SO excited.  A full description can be found here — and you can register by emailing me at mary@treelifecoaching.com  It’s only $20 if you pre-register by tomorrow night.



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?




cozy table

Good things need protecting, and what a nice match for this fabric-loving woman who likes to adorn anything with a quilt.  Now, you can’t put a quilt on a table — that would be crazy — too much possibility for staining, what with the work involved.  But you can quilt yourself up some easy placemats and bring a little coziness to every meal.

I found a very easy template at whipstitch online — simple to follow and so fun to broaden our options and make these gals reversible.  Really, though, if you’ve cut and sewed before, you barely need a tutorial.  You need 1 and 1/2 yards of 2 fabrics, and it’s basically two rectangles of contrasting/coordinating fabric (13 X 18 inches), a layer of batting in between, and and some thread…and there you have the fixins for 6 placemats, aka mini-quilts.  I’m loving them so so much: the added warmth they bring to the table, the way they compliment my still-new-and-beloved table runner, the thickness that assuages my fears of creating [more] rings, the way the colors play off the dishes and bring out the grey on the walls.  And also, the way that Orlis already says, “where’s my placemat?”   That-a-boy — table setting is your job, my friend.