Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tales of Stitchery

I have found when telling tales it is best to begin at the beginning...and so, let me begin.

It was a dark and stormy afternoon, the dwellers of the little green cottage were busying themselves with chores and other activities of industry whilst draped in sweaters of questionable repair. Amidst the cacophony of wind and rain hurling against the windows, the lady of the house discovered herself ticking off the last item on her to-do list. "Well now..." she sighed and spied with her little eye a small hat box on the mantel. Inside the box was a rainbow of floss and a half finished piece of embroidery that whispered sweet enticements.

Seeing as the wee lass that lived in the cottage was occupied with a rainy day movie and a plate of toast and jam, the lady thought it would be the perfect moment to take up thread and needle. She soon found herself in quiet reverie, stitching onto crisp vintage linen. After a while the lady left her cozy spot on the sofa to attend to a domestic matter in another room.

Suddenly she noticed an eerie silence come over the cottage and felt her blood run cold. Someone or Something was in the house! The lady ran down the hall, heart pounding breath shallow turning the corner to see the empty chair of the wee lass. The child was nowhere in sight, what she did see stopped her heart in terror. Over at the sofa, grabbing hold of the nearly finished stitching was the awful, dangerous, devastating and quite messy, Jam Monster!

"Noooo!!" the lady cried and ran to defend her hearth and home from the terrible beast. The lady demanded of the monster, "What have you done, where is my daughter?" To which the monster roared, "I just wanted to sew something." Fortunately, the lady was quite good at thinking on her feet and banished the Jam Monster with a good dose of soap and water. The lost daughter emerged with a rather exaggerated lower lip pout and a dramatic apology for inviting the jammy handed monster in for tea. "It's alright," said the lady, "would you like to sew something too?"

The wind died down, the rain let up and a very pleasant hour was spent... two heads bent together over stitches. The lady teaching the wee lass how to hold hoop and needle, how to keep stitches going in the desired direction. When the lady asked the child, "Who is that you've stitched there?" The child looked up with pride and joy and said, "That's you Mama!"

After admiring her work, my daughter said to me, "I'm going to put it in your shop for someone to buy, it will cost 2 dollars."
Thinking that was quite a bargain and really not being able to imagine parting with such a masterpiece, I handed her 2 dollars and bought it as a present for myself. I am one happy customer!

I'm off now to keep a date with The Fraulein to stitch up some pretties for my own shop update this coming Friday. More details about that in my next post.

The End

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hello Monday

March came in like a lamb and seems to be going out a lion, reversing the usual order of things. "It's raining hammers, it's raining nails..." and I am busying myself with the Monday chores.

Today I thought I would share a couple of my flickr favorites to tickle you pink.

by jasna janekovic

by dottie angel

by smile and wave

Oh and by the way, since the bunnies and chicks and eggs are on their way, I thought I would mention my Fabric Eggs pattern and tutorial. It can also be found on the right sidebar under the Make it Yourself section. There is still time to whip up a couple of these little treats.

I shall return soon with tales of stitchery.

Friday, March 26, 2010


We have reached about the half way mark of our year of A Challenge of the Utmost Kind. A year of only buying second hand or handmade goods for the home and closet. Is it just me, or is time flying by at an alarming rate?

We have learned from this weeks posts that it is easy being green, it is good to live local and now a small recap and thoughts on this challenge business. It's all connected you see, at least in my mind.

I have to tell you, it has not been nearly as challenging as I would have thought. I have not fallen from grace at all. Not even a whisper of temptation, I have remained steadfast and righteous through and through! Alright, that is a bit of a fib. There was that one wee wobble concerning some footwear, I tortured myself by looking at their loveliness a little too long. In the end though, I remained strong. Then I heard the talk about Liberty of London coming to Target, be still my beating heart! I discovered during an unrelated trip to said store, I really had no trouble passing it by. Although my cart did mysteriously make a sudden lunge towards the Liberty puddle jumpers and I had to act quick to get it back on track to the band-aid aisle.

The challenge has rekindled my passion for thrifting, which is a bit of a double edged sword. I have come across many lovelies that have made my heart sing. I made my first ever purchase from etsy (see the cool textile bobbins in the picture at the top of the post) and then I made another. I have received amazing gifts from fellow challengers (see the beautiful bouquet of vintage knitters in the top pic. from the utmost challenger herself, Dottie Angel!). These treasures have made me feel most grand and I love them more than any mass produced item that may tempt me. It has also taught me what an amazing community of "friends" I have here.

I made some exceptions recently. For Pony Girl's birthday I bought her a gift of a new camera, the extra tough kind, can be dropped over and over (it said so right on the package), and I am feeling pretty good about that purchase. As well as the paint that will soon be bought for the lounge (I will be sure to go good on the environment when selecting).

I do have some concern over my closet for the second half of the challenge, it is quite poor in the summer clothes department. I shall have to devote a couple of my precious thrifting safaris to hunting down the elusive animal that is the summer wardrobe.

All in all, it has been a good first half and I so appreciate what I have been blessed with in this life. What more could I want?
Can a trip to the islands be considered handmade?

Have a lovely weekend dears!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Living Local

Saturday was opening day of the Portland Farmers Market. The Vernal Equinox presented a perfect bluebird day with just a slight morning chill. The family set off, pretty handmade market bags in hand, giddy with anticipatory delight and readying ourselves to make hard choices over fresh produce.

There was definitely something magical in the air, the smiling faces of the locals made it apparent.
What a feast for the senses! So vibrant are the colors, the textures so intricate, the smells so scrumptious! The order of business is to make a meandering loop past all of the vendors; to ooh and ahh over displays of freshly baked bread, rows of daringly colorful flowers, sample locally made preserves or blackberry honey.

For us, the temptations are great and the selection vast, so we bring with us a budgeted amount of monies; once that supply is deleted and our bags full, we head home. This helps to keep us in check and to purchase wisely so that there is no waste.

After our first go 'round, we discuss what we saw, what we thought looked especially appetizing, and how we could incorporate those items into our meals for the week. Then if the balloon man is spotted, Pony Girl gets a balloon animal/flower/hat and we wander over to the music stage and listen whilst the kiddies dance about adorably.

Then it is on to our points of purchase. We stuff our bags with the fruits of local labor, exciting in the possibilities and looking forward to the taste.

Now, for me, buying produce and artisan food stuffs from the market is not only a joy but, it is also part of my belief in supporting small local organic farms. I also firmly believe that these foods are healthier, taste better and nurture a sense of community. I can meet the farmers, makers, bakers, growers and have a conversation with them. I can ask questions about how they grow the food I will later put on my table. I know the name of the man who grows the greens for my salad, the woman who makes the delicious Sunchoke Relish we put on everything is a dear friend; all of these people are part of my community.

It seems like a natural extension of The Utmost Challenge, as the challenge seems to me, it is just as much a lifestyle choice and the challenge is to take that next step, to include more of these kinds of choices into our life. To live with intent and mindfulness everyday. It can be difficult in a mass produced world, we can take it one step at a time, change as we go and do our best.

I have to admit it's easier when you live in a place that has such a banquet of local splendor. We are truly blessed to have a community that celebrates this kind of life. I feel very fortunate indeed.

In case you're curious, we dined on the most beautiful gratin of potato, leek, parsnip and local artisan cheese. Accompanied by a lovely salad of fresh baby greens and multi-colored carrots. Everything on our plates had been grown or made within 50 miles or less of where I live, by people who actually care about what I eat for dinner. Divine!

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's easy being green...

...and pink!
For Pony Girl's birthday dress this year, I gave myself a wee challenge. I wanted to make something unique, fun, lovely, and I wanted to make it using almost entirely recycled materials.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, I did not sew the original pattern I started with, the one mentioned in an earlier post. I did use another pattern from the book Sewing Clothes Kids Love,, the Feliz Dress. And what a happy dress it is!

I channeled my inner Scarlett O'Hara and made the dress from the curtains. Not my curtains but, rather a formerly loved curtain from a thrift store that I found for $2. Originally a massed produced piece of decent quality, of cream background with pretty embroidered swirling flowers. I did on more than one occasion refer to the dress as "Frankly Scarlett!" The under-dress was cut from a piece of fabric that was given to me and I think used as a tablecloth or some such usefulness. The trims and ribbon were recycled from grosgrain present wrapping from the past or vintage pieces from my collection. Even the bits of elastic were cast offs from other projects. Only the thread and clothing labels were new but, also part of what I already had in my stash. Oh, and a little vintage doily from my grandmother.

I did not make any modifications to the pattern (shocking I know), I followed it precisely. It made up just a treat, and the design of it accommodates for a little growing. In fact, she will be able to wear this for a couple of years I imagine.

As I was putting it all together, the dress suddenly implored me to add butterflies! Oh yes, butterflies in the garden indeed. So, I took my fabric paint and mixed a color that was tricky as can be, I grabbed a butterfly stamp, a crafty sponge brush, and I proceeded to apply paint to the stamp then stamp to fabric. A wee butterfly landed upon a flower and looked so sweet I added some company, repeating my steps for each one. It was time consuming but, such a joy to do! Then each butterfly needed to be heat set for longevity.

In the end, Pony Girl was absolutely pleased and looked like a dream in her new frock. I found that the challenge I had undertaken of creating a special dress from recycled materials wasn't in fact, all that challenging. Actually, it was a blast! When I thought about the total cost of the dress, including the pattern, all told I had spent under $5.00. Also, I proved to myself once again, that it is indeed easy being green...and pink. Now that is awesome!

I shall return day after next to share more thoughts on green and other colors, talk of the utmost challenge and 'living local'. Until then my friends, go dance in the garden and look for butterflies!

Friday, March 19, 2010

"I'm almost big enough to drive the car!"

Whoa there Pony Girl, not quite.

First, Pony Girl and I would like to thank you all for your sweet comments and birthday wishes. Thank you!

Well, as you may know, plans are just plans and things can change in the blink of an eye. Still, if you can just roll with it, it all turns out ok in the end. Better than ok some times. The party was a success and of course being mama, I was too busy doing to get the photos I would have liked to but, that's ok too.

Yes, there was a pinata! I modified a pony pinata with some rainbow glitter Pegasus wings and it wasn't long before the wholesale slaughter and whacking commenced. Very medieval, barbaric even... but still, loads of fun!

The birthday girl had a blast. I can't believe how grown up she's getting. Many thanks to our dear friends for opening up their beautiful home to host the party. All in all, things worked out just lovely!

On Monday I will share the birthday dress (which became a different dress completely), also for next week, I will share some thoughts on reaching the half way point of "A Challenge of the Utmost Kind".

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


My Sweet Girl,
Today you are tall and impossibly five. You are a wonder. You are funny, smart, quirky, imaginative, determined, empathetic, beautiful and have the most amazing enthusiasm for life of anyone I have ever known. There never was a doubt, even before you made your way out of my belly, that you were magic and a star of the utmost kind. You have already changed the world at this tender age, just imagine what you may yet do!
Knowing you has changed me, made me a better person, made me want to continue to be a better person. I am so glad you found me, I can't imagine it any other way. I can not begin to express the amount of joy you have brought me, the joy you bring to all who know you. Keep singing and dancing and dreaming, keep going your own way.
I love you
Happy Birthday

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Final Countdown

Good Gravy! It is one week to the day, to Pony Girl's 5th birthday! FIVE! Incredible, no don't worry, I wont go on and on about how they grow up so fast, even though it is indeed true. I will say however, that I am in a bit of a panic. There is ever so much to prepare and make and do and yes, I've left it all until the last minute. To be fair though, I have been a bit diverted by other things and infirmities have taken their toll.

Lets see...what all needs doing?

Pony Girl has requested a "Rainbow Pegasus Party!" Uh, sure? With a Pinata...ok? So, whilst I am uncertain how all that plays out, there are invitations to make, decorations to make (because surely the party store is out of rainbow Pegasus(what is the plural of Pegasus?)), securing a place to have the party (our tiny house can't hold the gaggle of children and parents who might attend without it turning into a full scale riot), and then the food which will be needed to keep those children and parents from starting said riot. A week to go, no problem right?

image from here

At least we have the cake chosen. Now when it comes to cake, I've found that there are cake people and then there are frosting people. I am a cake person, I like the cake for itself and too much overly sweet frosting must be removed from my cake so as not to spoil it. I'm not against frosting, I just like it a little less sweet and in small amounts in proportion to my cake. Pony Girl is definitely a frosting person. In fact, in the past, frosting gets licked off of the cake/cupcake and the actual cake gets left behind. Recently we have discovered that she adores carrot cake, both cake and frosting are consumed with great enthusiasm. As a side note: those of you who believe that carrot cake is a healthy alternative, I am in admiration of your denial.

Pony Girl and I did a test run of a carrot cake recipe yesterday (she is becoming quite the little cook), making cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. They turned out quite good and with a few adjustments, the recipe will be making it's debut as birthday cake with "pink frosting with a rainbow on it."

Lets not forget The Dress. Last year I made two birthday dresses because...well, obviously I had lost my mind.
There was this one...
...and this one.

This year, I will be making The Manhattan Dress from the book, Sewing Clothes Kids Love. Thank heavens it only has a gajillion pattern pieces and a whole lot of fiddly sewing bits!

Here is the question, do you think I can do it? Can I pull it all off? Please someone, be kind enough to hand me a small paper bag to hyperventilate into.

In light of all this and grandparents coming into town tomorrow, I shall be taking a short bloggy break.
To all of you that have left me such lovely comments of late, I thank you and apologize if I have not been able to return the favor. I do try to come over and read your wonderful blogs even if I don't leave a note.
Take good care my friends and wish me luck.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Breath of Fire

"It's ok, it's organic."

Well, I've just about had it! I have been much too serious and much too ill and I am darn well over it. For the last week I have gone about in my house clothes, not pajamas but, rags so closely resembling pajamas that semantics are really all that separate them. First it was the bum arm (which I neglected to mention previously), then the tumble down the stairs which led to a bum bum and other injured parts, then the torture ahem...I mean treatment for the bum arm, and lastly this seasonal cold we will call "a most nefarious sickness". Oh, I also went in for my first mammogram, and a well woman appointment...I dare say I have seen more of my new doctor than my husband of late, and she more bits of me than he. I have heard the words, "You will feel some discomfort here..." more times than I care to recall.

Is this what it means to be 'a woman of a certain age'? I have even found myself using the 'small voice', you know, that frail cracking self deprecating passive wobbly voice that goes along with the shuffling of slippers and cat hairs in the candy dish.

I haven't sewn a stitch or picked up hook and yarn, led a parade or sang in the shower, had an adventure or put on a funny hat, made pancakes or tried something new for two weeks and it's made this dame a down right cranky pants. Things were getting quite desperate I tell you!

No more! For today is a new day - of a new week no less, and I am determined to turn things around. If it takes a little spit and elbow grease (with the good arm mind you), I am going to hop to it.

I am starting off my day with "the breath of fire" ala Harold and Maude. I am dressing for success - in my own mad hatter fashion of course. I am going to stand on a bench/table/stump/overturned flower pot and use my big voice. The neighbors will think that I am somewhat cracked...as usual.

But that's alright, "Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much."

So, today is a good day, a silly day...I am putting on my sunflower hat and I'm going to watch Harold and Maude for the umpteenth time. What will you do?

"I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They're so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be?"

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why it works

"When you are sick, it all falls apart." - The Engineer

I take that as a compliment. I take it to mean that when I am not sick, I am the stitch that holds the whole quilt together and keeps us all comfy, cozy, well fed and dressed in clean clothes. O.k. so I am one of the stitches, an integral one to be sure but, were it not for The Engineer...well, it just wouldn't work.

When I say I am just going to lie down for a moment, he knows that I am a very sick mama. He knows this because I never just lie down for a moment at 6 PM, or any other time that is not my normal bed time, unless I am indeed unwell.

He brings me a glass of water and some aspirin without me asking. He wants to know if he can pick up anything from the store for me. He lets me sleep until morning.

He does the dishes...

...sometimes the laundry.

He gets our girl in the bath and ready for bed.

So you see...it doesn't all fall apart, it just gets a little fuzzy 'round here.

...and I will return the favor when you get sick.

Thank you my love.

all images from here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Color Therapy

Waking up this morning with a wicked cold, I thought I ought to take my vitamins along with some color cure.

Vitamin C

Vitamin E

Vitamin D

The orange and blue are speaking to me today, shiny happy colors!
I think I will let these colors work some restorative magic on me. I will see you on Friday.

Monday, March 1, 2010

7 year itch

Yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of moving into our little green cottage. Of course it wasn't green then, in fact many things have changed since we came to live here. One thing that hasn't changed in those 7 years, is the lounge, or living room if you prefer.
I may have mentioned recently that I've been hankering for a change. It's actually been a long time coming but, in the past there has been resistance when I have mentioned a do over. The need for a change was growing to a fever pitch, my wheels spinning, cogs were turning and I decided one evening that I must declare my intentions to The Engineer like it or lump it!

I began by stating firmly that I was going to paint the walls, so there. Imagine my surprise at meeting no resistance, in fact he was enthusiastically for the idea! At his receptivity to the plan, I felt emboldened to mention a couple of other changes I'd like to make. We then spent the evening discussing options and making drawings. Oh yes, this was going swimmingly.

Now let me be quite clear, this is not one of those magazine makeovers from the pages of House and Garden or Country Living. No, we haven't quite the resources for that sort of magic, instead we will be adhering to the challenge as much as we can...I'm thinking paint will have to be bought new.

This entertainment cabinet will have to go, though made by The Engineer (and a lovely piece), it's much too imposing for our small space. It will be sold and the proceeds donated to the cause.

The couch that mocks me must stay but, will be getting a fresh look some how (I see pillow and coverlet sewing in my future). We are currently in heated negotiations over the coffee table issue, no resolution has been reached as yet.

Curtain rods need replacing and hung at the proper height, curtains will be sewn, and did I mention fresh lovely paint? The floors need sanding as well, though that may come a bit later. I have no real time line for all this transformation but, I thought it prudent to present our obligatory "Before" photos now because you never know when the opportunity might strike to begin the 12 coats of paint surely required to remove evidence of that dark reddish wall.

I have to confess, I feel a little exposed inviting you into my home like this and showing you the less than fab bits. Of course you all are the best sort and understand that sometimes a shot of real life is just the order of the day. I will keep you updated on our thrifty, handcrafted re-do as we go along.

Enjoy your Monday, or whatever day it is where you are. I'll be back again with more harebrained ideas I'm sure.