It takes a Child to Raise a Village

Living in a two bedroom temporary apartment with only 700 lb of belongings has been challenging. We face holidays with open minds and try to create the festivity and excitement-sans tree stand, stockings, etc.-for our boys. My initial goal during this year was live a life less cluttered by material things and come together as a foursome, learning to find fullfillment without, well, things.
I think it has been a rewarding experience so far, and has shaped our children into being less of the typical "I want it NOW" american kids, and more into being imaginative and creative. I would rather they look back to memories of things they made themselves, not things we bought them. So there have also been a lot of handmade gifts that will be bestowed on family this year, made with the messy little fingers of Little P and Nate. Salt dough ornaments and other memorabilia that I hope will be a big hit with the grandparents. And the boys learn the joy of giving this way, not with a credit card.
So maybe our holidays will be a bit more mis-matched than Martha Stewart, but who wants store-bought perfection anyways?
I saw on the Pottery Barn Kids holiday catalog cover a train display with a homemade cardboard village-very creative! However, we had the idea first! Ok, I can't take all the credit. I did see the tutorial for cereal box houses here:
We followed her idea, then covered the houses in gift wrap. Bottle-brush trees, and glittery white felt pads followed for the scene. These were super cheap details we picked up at Micheals.
Little P had fun arranging tthe village on a ledge. Another day we played with glitter glue and pom-poms to decorate a few trees. Electric streetlamps followed, because I just couldn't resist. During a naptime, I tried to fashion a schoolhouse.
And finally, a string of Christmas lights made of felt. We had made snowman and reindeer puppets from felt (I'll share another time. They turned out quite well!) and I always keep my scraps. You just never know! So at least the string of lights I can claim is original.
I think.

DIY: Hearts on Your Sleeve

Its not February yet, I know, but I've been REALLY yearning for one of those sweaters with heart patches on the elbows. Thank you, Pinterest! This would be a really cute valentine's day project to spruce up an old sweater or pair of jeans or maybe even a skirt.
Once I had all the supplies I needed, I couldn't put this project down. And once it was done, I wore it all weekend. The hubs knows what I'm like when I get my mind set on a project, so he didn't tease me at all. Not when I wore it to the Zoo saturday night. And again, when I couldn't help but wear it when we went out for pho. But I might wear it again today. Or tomorrow. Or as long as it takes until another living person says, "wow, where did you get that adorable sweater?!" Because the hearts make it scrumptious and slightly silly.
Step One, get yo' self a warm sweater that is not baggy in the sleeves. I picked up this wool sweater at Unique for five bucks. Point to Heather for being thrifty, yeah!
Step Two, pick a pretty color of corduroy fabric. Even better if you can find it in the remnant bin at your fabric store, because you only need a little-less than 1/8 of a yard (unless you have vrrrry big elbows). Cut two identical hearts in the proportion you like, and apply Fray Check to the edges. This was my first time cheating with the stuff, so I was a little heavy-handed. Oh well, live and learn.
Step Three, pin onto sleeves and stitch with a tapestry needle and matching embroidery thread. Mine didn't exactly match, but I used large stitches so it looks like it's supposed to be that way. Okay? Just humor me.
Saturday night we packed up the kids and took the train to the National Zoo for ZooLights, braving the weather and about a hundred drunken santas-seriously D.C.?
There were gorgeous holiday lights, and iceless skating rink, gingerbread barns, carollers, and a train display. Happy kids-see those adorable dimples? I took off my coat for a gratuitous sweater pic, that's how much I love this DIY. Now I must go, and pin my own project. Yay me.


I'm a little late to the party, but finally jumping onto the owl bandwagon. Whoever first twisted their cables to create owly patterns is my hero. Super knitty hero. I have always had a thing for owls, dragging my kids over to the raptor exhibit at every country fair so I can see the beautiful birds with those bright eyes.

My mother sent a care package a few months ago, containing (among other wonderful things) a ball of hand spun green goodness-she doesn't exactly remember where it came from, but its super soft. I whipped up some fingerless mitts and had quite a bit leftover. Both the mitts and the coffee sleeve were such quick knits-I absolutely LOVE instant knitting gratification.

There are unfinished sweaters or big projects that need to be fixed in my knitting bag that have been siting there for around a year. Could have some gorgeous cardigans. Or perhaps find a purpose for those eight skeins of charcoal-colored yarn from Knit Picks that are going to waste. No, I get a thrill out of mittens. And coffee sleeves.

Owls. adorable. Pattern here:


Hmm...what has happened since May? Well, we are seven months closer to Thailand, that's fer sher. What a long process! First we reunited with my dear hubby in July, ending what was probably the saddest, scariest, and loneliest year of our lives. I won't go into that, but it was nasty. Celebrated N's first birthday with a party on the beach. Took a looooong staycation and wrapped up some things. Then we started amovin' and ashakin'.
The house got packed up. We said goodbye to most of our belongings, as they would be in storage for the next ten months. Picked about 600lbs of necessities (it really isn't that much!) to keep with us in Virginia. And goodbye house. So sad.
Now on the market (overpriced I know, and attempted in vain) and soon to be for rent. Driving away was bittersweet-this was certainly not the house I saw ourselves living in for the rest of our lives, but it was a good place to live with our kids. Lots of space, a view of the ocean, fantastic neighbors, and lots of memories. We brought two babies back from the hospital to this home. That means a lot. And the next 15 years or so we will be moving every few years. For some, apparently this was difficult to understand. There was just a teensy bit of disapproval. Probably more than a teensy bit, but I wasn't really listening. All I heard was "blah blah blahblah...."
Spent quality time with family for one last week, then loaded the kids, canine, and clothes in the car and took a little drive down to northern Virginia. Lovely place. Really. Saturdays we drive out to the country somewhere and hike-Manassas, Harper's Ferry, etc. Philip makes friends with little creatures. Nathan enjoys the view. Myles romps for, well, miles. Sundays we head in to the District-almost everything is free, never crowded, and kid-friendly.
Living in a little apartment is not as challenging as I thought-the boys adapted right away. They don't even notice that their massive toy collection has disappeared with the exception of a few trucks and their Lincoln Logs. We have more fun making our own holiday decorations and gifts.
Like these nature impressions in clay. We attached magnets and sent them to the grandparents. It also led to a basic lesson in seeds and propagation.
After a hike at Great Falls, we created a spooky terrarium. Terrariums are cool, even cooler when you get a spooky inhabitant like the skeleton dude. But this required me stuffing moss and ferns into my bag while the guys kept a lookout. Please don't report me to the State Parks, but it was for the sake of education!!
We toured a gazillion monuments and museums. Cruised through Eastern Market, discovered new foods and a newfound love of pho. Seriously. Love it.
Christmas is now upon us, and we are already so settled in and happy that I know for certain this decision was for the best. No material things matter-we don't miss a thing. Seriously we didn't even bother with a Christmas tree. (But Philip and I did have some fun creating a christmas village out of cereal boxes.) Being together and raising our children with love, a sense of wonder and adventure, a healthy and active lifestyle, but mostly striking out on our own and being able to determine our own values without the influence of others has been for the best. We now live among a very diverse community, where no one feels the need to 'fit in.' The children are not your ordinary children. In fact, they are each extraordinary. For some, they get to this jumping-off point and realize its not for them at all. Luckily, for me it has been validating, and I feel reassured that taking the harder path was the best choice we have ever made.

Ten on Tuesday

I usually don't participate in these, but after reading Carole's list of Ten Favorite Things to Do Outside I wanted to think about summier weather and make my own:

1. Seaglass Hunting. Its an addiction, I admit. But the charm of holding seaglass in your hand, or spotting a bright blue shard in the rocks is greater than precious jewelry to me. Jewelry just means you hand over your credit card. whoopee. Seaglass is something rare, a discovery.

2. Ice cream. Not for me, actually. But taking the kids for ice cream. I love it, don't misunderstand, but I love being skinny much more. That doesn't mean my boys should be deprived, and what kid doesn't have special memories of going to the ice cream stand, picking their favorite flavor, and getting handed a dripping cone?

3. The deck. Our has a limited view of the ocean, but you can always hear the waves. I love planting pots of scented geraniums on our deck, decorating it with colorful lanterns and cushions, reading out there, making a spritzer or cocktail and 'lounging'. Who doesn't love lounging? That brings me to 4.

4. GRILLING. Yeah this one deserves all caps. Need I say more.

5. Shopping. Thank you to the clever people who are designing shopping areas that are open, like Wrentham, Hingham, etc. Walking is good for you, people! So park in the farthest area of the lot and WALK.

6. Gossip. There is something about my neighborhood in the spring-you can't check your mail without bumping into a friendly neighbor. I love it. It feels like the hibernation is over and we all linger out front, catching up on the good, the bad, and the drunkies. heh heh.

7. Soccer momming. Yup I just made a word up. But its my blog and I throw spellcheck and grammar to the wind! Phooey! Soccer momming is the act of signing your tots up for a sport even though they don't have the slightest interest or clue in coordination or organized sports. This way you again, get out of hibernation, and socialize with other parents. I love it.

8. Weeds. I can now take my compulsive behavior out on the lawn. Going outside means I can take a spray bottle of weed zapper and wage war against dandelions. Unfortunately, this means my yard is scarred with dead dandelion pimples, but it felt good.

9. Sunroof! Yes folks, now you can all hear me singing Lady Gaga or having an argument with myself! Its fun to broadcast my craziness through an open sunroof on a sunny day drive. Is this really outside if I'm in a car? Who cares. My blog.

10. The Beach. Its only a 10 minute walk away from my house, so I'm there in the sun, the rain, the fog, and of course on many holidays. Ah memories.

Recharge, Restore, Restart

Three weeks ago I folded up my two quilting projects and moved my sewing machine out
of the kitchen. After four long months, the mister was home for a visit. Briefly. But it was a great chance to reset our batteries, remember what its like to be a family, and just focus on the kids. To escape the madness, we ran away. GREAT IDEA.

One week in the lovely Dominican Republic-just what the doctor ordered. When we arrived, I was high-strung and Little P was bouncing off the walls. By the time we left we were all rested, easy-breezing, and totally mellowed out. Its amazing what a difference it made. The baby napped outdoors next to me, caressed by that amazing tropical breeze. We were waited on and served by the most kindly patient people ever. I even stopped caring that I was walking around in a bikini with my post-baby-bod (nobody cares there!)

Now the mister is back to work, I'm positively itchin' to finish my first quilt-now just to figure out where I left off! Back to to order some more Pretty Bird for the border, I believe. I'm also anxiously awaiting my mom's gift for Nathan-she has almost completed his baby quilt, and I can tell you it is totally, wait for it..... gorgeous. One can only aspire to such greatness and skill!!! I promise to share pictures and you will agree.

You have a a bar!

Keeping the Balance

Its catch-up time in blogland-and there is a little bit of this, a little bit of that because I have been busy. You see, this time last year I had a BIG bun in the oven, a jet-setting husband, and a career that required a big commute. It wasn't going to work.

So I decided to keep the lovely bun, the husband of course. But 'sayonara' (?) to career. Yep. I did what I had thought I would NEVER do. Well, besides having kids in the first place. But so long law firm. So long lovely paycheck. So long 45-60min quiet time to myself each way, heh. But hello 24/7 supermom. No more dropping off a desparing teething infant at daycare, no more screeching out of the office lot to hopefully get to daycare by closing time, no more quickie bad meals, no more tearful stressed-out skypes with my husband. This is one really happy, well-adjusted household. There is balance. There is love. And learning for me. The choices we make regarding our children and their well-being are the most important.

Oh, but I get the added bonus of having time here aand there to make things, gifts, etc. Like these lovely rosetty bands for my nieces..

And playtime with fabric, like this snowball-squares quilt that will probably be a picnic blanket gifted to someone. I got the tutorial from the lovely blog Cluck Cluck Sew-she has great ideas, and loves to play with color like I do. And you make look at my layout here and think it doesn't make much sense, but to me it makes sense. In its irregularity and joyful colors it makes perfect sense to me.

Rosettes and Other Tutorials

The internet is a great thing if you get the crafty urge and don't want to leave the house on a rainy day. Say you scrounge around your house and college some scrap fabric, a box of toothpicks, and a ball of lint? Simply go online and ask what you can make with this, and I bet you that ball of lint there would be a dozen tutorials out there, maybe by bloggernuts like me.

Well, I had that need last week, so with nothing but a glue gun and some scraps, I went on a rosettathon. Here's a few:

I have a niece who is cccrrrrrrrrazy about headbands, so that may be the direction those go. Either way, it took basically no skill. If you'd like to try I found a great tutorial here:
Next on the drawing board, while I avoid my first quilt for a few days, is some seaglass art. The beach is just a few minutes away, so once a week I take Myles the happy dog for a walk so I can scan the beach for sea glass. This week I even found a little piece of broken pottery (the blue shard). We head home after an hour, my fingers frozen but pockets full. I bet there are a million tutorials on sea glass ideas....any suggestions?

Doing The Creative Funk

Winter blahs are the least of my problems right now, but would you really want to hear me go on about my problems? The real ones? I'll spare you the details, but to sum it up, in about six months this blog will go into pre-expat status as we close down the house and move to a different state, a teensy apartment, an everlasting and extremely adventurous way of life. Its a welcome change. I swear. But all the little details that go along with it are enough to drive one crazy.
On the other hand, in the middle of this windy, bone-chilling February my mother at long last started to teach me her quilting craft. It means more to me than I can express-there is something about my mother's quilts that make us all beg, hoard, and yes sometimes steal her creations. Being able to sew and gift my very own quilts will be so much fun! So, driving away those winter blahs and the creative funk I fell into after making a dozen of those baby sets (that shall be another blog), I worked the brightest, loudest hues into this Disappearing Nine-Patch. My very first quilt. This week the blocks have been assembled, and its time to decide on the border and backing-suggestions are most welcome!