Wild Apple and Maple Granola

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wild apple and maple granola. big leaf maple keys. http://mamaisinspired.com/

This has been the first real autumn I have experienced in seven years and the first ever for my children. In southern California, autumn became a time that I dreaded. The fall, accompanied by oppressive heat waves, struck fear in me at the mere mention of the season. Fall in California meant shuttering all the windows and still arriving home to a thermostat reading in the high 90s or 100. Fall meant sleeping restlessly without any covers. Fall still involved a lot of sunscreen and staying under the shelter of trees that did not lose their leaves. Fall most definitely did not involve any desire to get into the kitchen and bake – the added extra heat of the oven would have been more than overwhelming.

This fall has been different. I have returned to the Pacific Northwest and my kids have been eating up autumn. We are lucky to be living in a place where we can experience the season in all its fullness. The house that we just moved out of across town had two mature Big Leaf Maple trees…it is hard to imagine the number and size of leaves such trees drop! Perfect for months of massive mounds of raked leaves. Young imaginations transform piles of dried leaves into scenario after scenario of play.

 

wild apple and maple granola. playing in the autumn leaves. http://mamaisinspired.com/

wild apple and maple granola. raking the autumn leaves. http://mamaisinspired.com/

wild apple and maple granola. playing in the autumn leaves. http://mamaisinspired.com/

A fall storm knocked over a tree down the road, and therefore knocked out our electricity for 50 hours.  We spent much of the weekend huddled by the fire place for heat and moving around our dark candlelit house with flashlights. The same winds also brought down a large tree limb, which once found on the ground was transformed into the basis of my son’s first outdoor fort.

 

wild apple and maple syrup granola. fort building. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

wild apple and maple granola. fort building. http://mamaisinspired.com/

The kids enjoyed an afternoon of leaf rubbings.

 

wild apple and maple granola. enjoying autumn leaf rubbings. http://mamaisinspired.com/

We have feasted on many delicious dinners of wild mushrooms that we harvest in the forest down the street from our new home. I have thoroughly enjoyed piling on my hand-knit wool sweaters again and the kids are delighted with their rain boots that are actually a necessity here.

 

wild apple and maple granola. wild apples. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

And of course there have been the large sacs of wild apples my husband and son harvested from abandoned orchards. I have no clue how many hours I spent processing these apples! I know they were many! The freezer is filled with sliced apples ready for pies, crumbles and muffins. I also pulled out the dehydrator and dried tray after tray after tray – hopefully we have enough apple chips to make it through the entire winter.

 

wild apple and maple granola. peeling apples. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

wild apple and maple granola. apple peeling. http://mamaisinspired.com/

wild apple and maple granola. drying apples. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

My favourite use for the dried apples is in granola. I have a dear friend who inspires me immensely. She and her family are also in a new home this fall, further north and east than us. Ironically, she probably feels that they are finally having a real autumn after years spent on the coast! She once mentioned that she makes her own granola and that was the spark that set me on my way to baking granola for my family, too. Home made granola has become a staple in our household, eaten almost daily and always on the cupboard shelf. My lovely friend also provided me with the instructions for the homemade yogurt which tastes especially yummy with our granola. (So easy to make, I will share that on another day).

Here is my recipe for this autumn’s Wild Apple and Maple Granola:

Dry ingredients:

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Wet ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275 F. Mix all dry ingredients together except for raisins. Place into glass bakeware dishes (uncovered). Mix wet ingredients together and pour over dry ingredients. Stir well. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, add raisins and stir. Bake for another 45 minutes, remove from oven and stir again. Let cool. (I store my granola in a sealed jar. I add a couple saved packages of dessicant/silica to the container to keep the granola dry and crisp).

 

wild apple and maple granola recipe. http://mamaisinspired.com/

Enjoy both your autumn and your home baked granola, whatever the weather you are having!

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homemade herbal salve – summer remembered

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mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

It is Labour Day weekend and summer is coming to a close. Summer is not quite over yet – my son went into the ocean today, fully dressed! However, it is definitely on the way out – I was standing on the same beach today wearing a woolen poncho.

This is our first summer in our new hometown. In our first week, before a lack of summer rain turned the lawn brown, the kids and I went outside our door and I taught my son the names of some of the plants in our yard: self heal, plantain, chickweed, St. John’s wort, wild mustard, red and white clovers. I taught him how to pick some of these generous weeds and he quickly and joyfully filled a bowl. We went indoors again and my son sorted his plants into a smaller glass bowl and poured olive oil over the plants so that all the goodness of the wild herbs could infuse the oil. We were all smiles. Already we felt like we were home.

 

mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 homemade herbal salve mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com//

 

But summer did not quite go according to plan! One week later we received the news that our new house was selling! We would have to move again in six months. Over the next couple of weeks, as my husband and I tried to figure out what our new plan would be, I realized for the first time how destabilizing such a big move as the one we had just made is. Even in the midst of the unknown, though, I would look out our windows at the giant trees all around us, and calm would take me over again. As difficult as it was to look at packing up all over again, to think of the great undertaking for my husband of setting up yet another studio, and to have no idea where we would be putting up our Christmas tree, I was immensely grateful that we received the bad news two weeks after our move rather than two weeks before. Would we have shipped off all our belongings, would we have packed our family into our car and driven up the coast to our new location, if we had been certain that our move was only temporary? I hope we would have but I cannot honestly say that we would have. Taking a leap into the unknown is scary. Would we have gone for it? I will be forever thankful that I didn’t have that stroke of bad luck to find out.

 

homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

We planned for a calm summer where we could slow down. It turned out to be jam packed with paperwork and uncertainty as we looked for a new home and also took care of many other bureaucratic glitches. Still, the kids were happy to run around outdoors. Our son who would never play outside on his own was asking to go outdoors long before I was ready go out with him. He discovered, much to his surprise, that he loves nature. Our daughter was delighted with our new location, too, except for the tearful wailing when her brother would go outside while she was stuck indoors with me until my work was done. In the midst of our turmoil over an insecure housing situation (far more common in the Pacific Northwest than many of us would like. We talk about the cost of housing up here Vancouver way more often than we talk about the weather! No social gathering is complete without this conversation), the plants, the trees and the ocean kept filling me with peace. I absolutely love where we our living!

 

homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Our family also went to New York City for one and a half weeks this summer. Such a fantastic city. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a real highlight. Central Park is lovely. We also had the opportunity to meet up with several friends we haven’t seen for some time, and that was quite special. But the noise, the buildings, the traffic, the lights. They are all so much. I missed the trees and the long moments of complete silence, interrupted only by the birds. Always, always I am reminded how much the trees and the plants fill my heart and heal the parts of me that may be tired or wounded.

 

homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Having begun to make our herbal salve in our first week, we left our herbs soaking in the oil far longer than I had intended. I had planned for two weeks before my son strained out the herbs and we melted the bees wax into the oil to finish up our salve. Instead, the plants sat for two months. That is just how long it took to secure our next home. The salve didn’t suffer any. I don’t think our family did either. We are tremendously excited about our upcoming move (minus the packing and the ACTUAL move) and my son is thrilled that he has made his very own herbal cream practically all by himself. He is already talking about how we can make the salve a little differently next summer. (Always the inventor and improver, he is). Next summer will be different in other ways as well… Perhaps it will be more calm. Maybe we will be moving more slowly. If it doesn’t pan out, though, that will be okay: we will be surrounded by the trees, the plants and ocean. What could be more amazing than that?!

 

mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/ It is Labour Day weekend and summer is coming to a close. Summer is not quite over yet - my son went into the ocean today fully dressed. However, it is definitely on the way out - I was standing on the same beach today wearing a woolen poncho and it is about time I pull out my house slippers to wear on the cold floors in the morning. This is our first summer in our new hometown. In our first week, before a lack of summer rain turned the lawn brown, the kids and went outside our door and I taught my son the names of some of the plants in our yard: self heal, plantain, chickweed, St. John's wort, wild mustard, red and white clovers. I taught him how to pick some of these generous weeds and he quickly and joyfully filled a bowl. We indoors again and my son sorted his plants into a smaller glass bowl and poured olive oil over the plants so that all the goodness of the wild herbs could infuse the oil. We were all smiles. Already we felt like we were home. mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/ mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/ mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/ homemade herbal salve mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com// But summer did not quite go according to plan! One week later we received the news that our new house was selling! We would have to move again in six months. Over the next couple of weeks, as my husband and I tried to figure out what to our new plan would be, I realized for the first time how destabilizing such a big move, the one we had just made, is. Even in the midst of the unknown, though, I would look out our windows at the giant trees all around us, and calm would take me over again. As difficult as it was to look at packing up all over again, to think of the great undertaking for my husband of setting up yet another studio, to have no idea where we would be putting up our Christmas tree, I was immensely grateful that we received the bad news two weeks after our move rather than two weeks before. Would we have shipped off all our belongings, would we packed our family into our car and driven up the coast to our new location, if we had been certain that our move was only temporary? I hope we would have but I cannot honestly say that we would have. Taking a leap into the unknown is scary. Would we have gone for it? I will be forever thankful that I didn't have that stroke of bad luck to have to find out. We planned for a calm summer where we could slow down. It turned out to be jam packed with paperwork and uncertainty as we looked for a new home and also took care of many other bureaucratic glitches. Still, the kids were happy to run around outdoors. Our son who would never play outside on his own was asking to go outdoors before I could go out with him. He discovered, much to his surprise, that he loves nature. Our daughter was delighted with our new location, too, except for the tearful wailing when her brother would go outside while she was stuck indoors with me until my work was done. In the midst of our turmoil over an insecure housing situation (far too common in the Pacific Northwest than many of us would like. We talk about the cost of housing up here Vancouver-way more often than we talk about the weather!), the plants, the trees, and the ocean kept filling me with peace. I absolutely love where we our living! Our family also went to New York City for one and a half weeks this summer. Such a fantastic city. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a real highlight. Central Park is lovely. We also had the opportunity to meet up with several friends we haven't seen for awhile, and that was quite special. But the noise, the buildings, the traffic, the lights, it is all so much. I missed the trees and the long moments of complete silence, interrupted only by the birds. Always, always I am reminded how much the trees and the plants fill my heart and heal the parts of me that are wounded. We left our herbs soaking in the oil far longer than I had intended. I had planned for two weeks before my son strained out the herbs and we melted the bees wax into the oil to finish up our salve. Instead, the plants sat for two months. That is how long it took to secure our next home. The salve hasn't suffered any. My family is tremendously excited about our upcoming move (minus the packing and ACTUAL move) and my son is excited that he has made his own herbal cream practically all by himself. He is already talking about how we can make the salve a little differently next summer. Next summer will be different... Perhaps it will be more calm. If it isn't, though, that will be okay. We will have the healing trees and ocean all around us to get us through. Until then, I am sure we will enjoy all the seasons ahead.

Hoemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

Hoemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

Hoemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

Homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

 

self heal. homemade herbal salve mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/self heal

 

white clover. Homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/white clover

 

chickweed. Homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/chickweed

 

Plantain. Homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/plantain

 

psyllium husk Homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/psyllium husk

 

fox mask and homemade herbal salve by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/wildcrafting fox!

Button Down Before the Big Move

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Handmade boys button down shirt by Mama is Inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

I have made my son several pairs of shorts and we have created t-shirts together. I knit him lovely little pants for when he was a tiny baby and I crocheted him countless pairs of booties and slippers. He has a large collection of homemade stuffed animals and dolls. He also has a few hats he requested but won’t wear because they are too scratchy. Despite all of this, lately I have been feeling like his sister receives many more handmade clothes and that there is a large discrepancy in the quality of work going into hers compared to his. Therefore, a couple of months ago I decided that I wanted to make my son something a little more special than just another pair of shorts. I decided on a button down and set our moving date as my deadline.

 

Handmade boys button down shirt by Mama is Inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

I managed to get the shirt made…with just a little more than a week to spare. I also pulled off a kaftan for myself. Three days ago I packed up my sewing machines and remaining supplies.

 

Handmade boys button down shirt by Mama is Inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

I have made jackets and one long coat, but never a button down. I would love to create patterns from scratch for my kids but I am not there yet, so I spent hours online scouring for a pattern but came up empty. It appears that barely anyone sews for boys! Unless you count shorts, of course :) I should have checked out professional patterns at the fabric store (which I will do for the next shirt) but out of impatience I pulled out a pattern I inherited  a couple of years ago. I don’t know why I ever hung on to this pattern: it is for an extremely ugly shirt! It is oversized, boxy, and lacks any touches that might give it style. I had to completely revamp the pattern. (This took much longer than the drive to the nearest fabric store would have). I began my work by taking my son’s measurements and looking over a few button downs he already owns. Then I slashed, folded, taped and redrew the pattern. My son and I are delighted with how his new shirt turned out! Still, I think I will buy a new pattern next time.

 

McCall's Pattern 4164 boys button down shirt http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Sewing relaxes me and gives me time to think. Before I had kids, there were aspects of sewing that I considered tedious and was never able to enjoy. Fortunately, I now love the entire process and when I sew alone in the evening, I savour the quiet time I have for reflection. Lately, I have been spending a lot of this time thinking about our move, what it will mean for us, and about what we will be leaving behind.

 

Handmade boys button down shirt by Mama is Inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Handmade boys button down shirt by Mama is Inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Handmade boys button down shirt by Mama is Inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

There have been moments when I have worried that we are not making the right decision. Moments when fears creep up, the kind of worries that exploit the unknown. All I have to do to move these fears over is to remind myself of last year’s drive home after our summer spent in Vancouver. The further we traveled away from the Pacific Northwest, the sadder I felt, until finally we drove into our own driveway and all I could feel was the sinking feeling of despair. When I am in the Pacific Northwest, I feel whole. Returning to Southern California, there is a piece of me that disappears. Others have told me how fortunate I am to have that sense of home, of knowing the right place for me. I believe they are right, I am lucky. I remember the first time I traveled to Vancouver when I was 21. On the second day, while standing in a shop on Commercial Drive, I knew that I was home. Spending time in the forests there and on the Pacific, that feeling only increased. I have tried over the years to live away from the area but I am always called to return. It is the place where I belong.

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much! Mama is Inspired http://www.mamaisinspired.com/

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much! Mama is Inspired http://www.mamaisinspired.com/

 

However, I have a husband and children now. I would never ask them to make this move if I thought it would be only me who would benefit. I won’t deny that I put the pressure on, but I also waited for my husband to decide for himself that this move would be the best one for our family, especially for our children.

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much! Mama is Inspired http://www.mamaisinspired.com/

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much! Mama is Inspired http://www.mamaisinspired.com/

 

My children will have clean air to breathe. At the present they inhale the most polluted air in the country. (I feel a bit guilty bringing this up as my children are obviously not the only children living where we are). We have found a public school that I am extremely excited about. If we stay where we are, our son would be in a wonderful private school but our daughter would be spending two hours a day in the car for that daily commute. In our new community we will all be surrounded by trees, spending every day in contact with “nature”. My youngest in particular loves to be outdoors and to explore. We will still be close to the Pacific and I fantasize about many days spent on the beach with my kids and about maybe taking some walks on my own, by myself. I am also very excited about the proximity to close friends. I left Vancouver eight years ago, but I have continued to nourish close friendships there and I look forward to spending more time with these women, and their families, that I hold so dear in my heart. My children also have friends of their own nearby who they love and have known their entire lives. It will be a gift to watch those friendships continue to unfold and grow. This move feels so right. I feel so grateful that together my family and I will be close to so much that we already love, but at the same time going somewhere entirely new to us, that  together we get to head on a new adventure.

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much!

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much! Mama is Inspired http://www.mamaisinspired.com/

 

As thrilled (and I am thrilled!) as I am about moving into a new home in just over a week, I know what I will be leaving behind. This past year of homeschool hockey has been fantastic for all of us (one of my daughter’s favourite first words: “hockey”). We have discovered the magic of Orff-Schuler music lessons – I cannot imagine a better music teacher than Mrs. Danuta! What a treasure the class has been, along with the other children and parents we get to spend time with every week. And that brings me to the friendships I have made and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time I move, it is friends that make even an eagerly anticipated move bittersweet. You know who you are and we will miss you very much!

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much!

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much!

 

And that brings me to the friendships I have made here and how much we will miss some very special people here. Every time, it is friends that make even a eagerly anticipated move a bit sad. You know who you are and I will miss you very much! Mama is Inspired http://www.mamaisinspired.com/

 

My son’s shirt is complete and we are (almost) ready to go. I am pretty sure that every time I see my son in his shirt, I will look to both the future and the past and if I am lucky, I will be feeling settled in the present.

Boys button down shirt by mama is inspired http://mamaisinspired.com/

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The Tale of our Story Blanket

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Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

A couple of years ago I came across my first story blanket while browsing pinterest. I instantly knew I wanted to knit my own. I also figured this would never happen. What a huge project to undertake!

But then last year, when my daughter was just shy of turning one year, I received the results from her CT scan and learned that she would in fact require serious surgery. During my routine prenatal ultrasound scan at 20 weeks of pregnancy my husband and I discovered that our daughter had a lesion on one of her lungs that measured 3 cm across: initially, after our ultrasound we felt elated by the news that our son would have a baby sister. We were running emotionally high. It was a particularly wonderful day. Then the phone rang. My husband answered in the other room but I could tell from his tone alone that there was something terribly wrong. I got on the phone with my midwife. She told me that the scan had found a lesion on our tiny daughter’s lung. The technician suggested a condition that was incompatible with life. My husband and I had already lost our first baby at the end of a healthy, full-term pregnancy. There was so much flying around my mind in this present moment. However, I stayed calm on the phone. I asked our midwife several questions. I asked for the size of the lesion. “3 cm across”, she answered. I wondered if she had meant 3 mm? She hadn’t. “How large can a 20 week old fetus’ lung be?”, I asked. “I don’t know”, she answered, followed by a pause and “I know.” My midwife and I were both aware that a 3 cm lesion had to be very serious. I got off the phone, I made another call. I scheduled a more comprehensive ultrasound for the following day.

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

After my son went to bed, I spent a long evening alternating between researching from my computer, crying my heart out, and attempting to calm my husband with my findings. By the end of the night I knew exactly what condition I wanted my daughter to have. I wanted her to have congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation (CCAM). And I knew what category of CCAM I wanted it to be. This could give our baby her best chance at life. It was a very long night. I experienced every fear possible.

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

IMG_3416

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Then I woke up the following morning. A new day. I spoke to my baby girl and promised her I would be calm. That I would not worry. That I would love her immensely. That I would believe in her birth. That I would believe in her life outside of my body. I knew that if she was going to be strong, if she was going to make it, she needed me to be strong for her. She would require lots of loving attention. My husband and I went to our appointment with our new obstetrician and suddenly finding out that my baby had a congenital malformation became the best news of my life. She had just what I wanted her to have! It was a new kind of elation.

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

During her life inside of me we also met with the wonderful doctor who would ultimately become her surgeon. I held out for the hope that she would be in that 15% of children where the mass resolves itself on its own and disappears. She did well at birth. No respiratory problems! We took her home. We continued to see our specialist and my husband and I ignored what we later realized were her symptoms. Our doctor didn’t try to scare us with all the facts, just a few. I assume he would have if he didn’t believe we would go for the surgery that she did need. Her lesion did not go away. At 14 months of age the abnormal lung tissue had a diameter of 10 cm.

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

What does any of this have to do with my story blanket? If you have read my earlier posts, you will know that knitting is tremendously grounding for me. Somewhere inside of me I knew that I needed to knit. I also needed a project that was easy. I needed to be inspired by a project that could become dear to my children. I was so afraid of the general anaesthesia. I was scared of death. I knew it wasn’t likely, but still I knew death could happen. It has happened before. I also knew that letting these thoughts run away with me would not serve anyone, most especially not my children. So several days before the scheduled surgery I knit my first square. And then another. While our daughter was in surgery – we left her, sedated, at 8:30am and at 2:30pm we received the news that the surgery was successful and that she would be going up to the PICU where we could go to her – I knit. My husband read and we talked. We drank coffee. I knitted square after square. We stayed calm. But every time there would be news of a call from the OR I would become terrified. Fortunately, the news always quelled our nerves. And I kept on knitting.

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Our daughter had her surgery a year ago today. She is no longer a “great sleeper”. She doesn’t cough through her meals. She doesn’t frighten me by seeming to stop breathing followed by gasps for air several times a night. She loves to nurse – she doesn’t choke. She has gone up 60 percentile points for her height. She is now thriving. We didn’t realize she wasn’t. We thought that all those other things were just who she was. Rationalizing everything was our way of living without fear. A way to stay present with our baby girl. We thought the coughs were an attention-getting charm. We thought we were blessed by an amazing sleeper. (She stopped napping before she even turned two!) I thought that I must have an over-active let-down while nursing (she actually taught herself very early on how to nurse without stimulating a let-down.Amazing!) All of this would have been just who she was for much longer than 14 months if I hadn’t have gone in for that routine ultrasound. I wonder about how much suffering through years of oxygen deprivation would have effected her? We are told that eventually she would have had the surgery anyways as in the end there is always an infection that results in emergency open-chest surgery. The gratitude we feel for all of our caregivers who together helped us avoid this fate, is absolutely immense.

 

Story blanket / playscape hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

A month after the surgery we left for our summer spent again in Vancouver, Canada. I expected to get much more done on the blanket while we were there…during long nap times! I am happy to say that that these extended nap times never manifested. This play mat took much longer than anticipated but it was a joyful project and I am thrilled by how much both of my children seem to love and even treasure this story blanket.

 

Story blanket / playscape / play mat hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

Story blanket / playscape hand made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

 

story blanket playmat by mama is inspired

PS this is a wonderful book for finding stories to tell on the story blanket!

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Matryoshka Nesting Doll Dress

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 The Nesting Doll Dress is made using the pin tuck dress pattern as the base. Made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/
The Nesting Doll Dress is made using the pin tuck dress pattern as the base. Made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/My daughter’s matryoshka nesting doll dress is probably her favourite piece of clothing, aside from the tutu she received for Christmas from friends (one of my late-talking daughter’s first and most frequently used words has been “tutu”), and of course any pair of shoes. I used the pin tuck dress pattern and didn’t change its design at all. I also made a second version of this nesting doll dress for a friend. For the new version I did away with the pin tucks and decreased each side of the centre front by 1.5 cm to make up for the loss of the tiny pleats. I also gave this second dress 3/4 length sleeves since our friends (who happen to be the same ones that gifted the tutu!) live in a colder Canadian climate than ours. Instead of contrasting, store-bought, black bias tape, I made my own out of the same very sweet nesting doll fabric from which the rest of the dress is sewn. I love both versions of the matryoshka dress.

The Nesting Doll Dress is made using the pin tuck dress pattern as the base. Made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

This delightful fabric dictated that each dress must have a nesting doll of its own! For each dress I picked a couple of the dolls from the fabric, sewed them together and stuffed the resulting dolls with wool batting. Then I sketched out a cradle pattern on paper first and for each doll I cut two pieces of wool felt from the pattern. The bottom piece of felt is cut just a hair shorter than the top piece, but each are the same width. This makes room for the tiny nesting dolls to fit comfortably in their beds. I stitched the two layers together with black thread and then used the aqua thread to sew the cradles onto the dresses. To give the cradles a greater sense of depth, I decided to stitch around the cradles, as I attached them to the dresses, with a twin needle and two shades of aqua thread. I had never actually used a twin needle before. It was very easy to use.

The Nesting Doll Dress is made using the pin tuck dress pattern as the base. Made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

Now that my daughter will soon be growing out of her matryoshka nesting doll dress I really regret not buying more of this fantastic print. I would love to make another to put away for her when she is a bit older!

The Nesting Doll Dress is made using the pin tuck dress pattern as the base. Made by Mama is Inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/

Follow this link to get to my classic pin truck dress post and onward to buy the pattern from Heidi & Finn for size 12 months to 12 years.

Knitting a Tree House

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I have finally finished knitting the tree house to go along with the story blanket I have made for my children. I began knitting the story blanket at the end of May. When I started, I imagined I would make all kinds of fantastical accessories to go along with their playscape. So far I have only made a few but have had much fun in the making, and I look forward to crafting more add-ons over the following years.

My family again spent our summer in Vancouver, whose forests very much ground me and inspire the type of play I imagine for my kids (these same imaginings make me wish I still had a young mind to engage in child’s play with fervor). I also enjoy all the walking I do in this city and while out on one of the last days of our extended visit, I happened upon Book Warehouse. It wasn’t on my summer to-do list, but when the opportunity presented itself I took advantage because I love this chain of bookstores. The shops are full of obscure titles that are “bargain priced”. The craft and sewing sections are fantastic. My kids and I were in just long enough to discover two books I Had to Have. I am not much of a consumer and possess tremendous self discipline when it comes to stifling an urge to impulse buy. Until, that is, I am presented with fabric, wool, or anything related. Then all good sense evades me. (Just yesterday I came across a large quantity of European wool yarn at an amazing price. I am still trying to process what happened). As I am someone who is prone to guilt, I am forced from within to put much effort into finding a variety justifications: “Well, I rarely drink. I could have easily spent that much on alcohol during the last year”, “I could be washing my hair every day. The cost of shampoo can really add up”. Ridiculous.

One of the books I picked up that beautiful August day is titled Mini Knitted Woodland by Sachiyo Ishii. It is full of knit and crochet patterns for all sorts of forest creatures, gnomes included, and also mushrooms, tree stumps, etc. On our road trip back down to Southern California, in between passing out snacks, activities, comforting young tears and answering “why” questions from the back seat, I followed the lovely tree pattern as directed (except for needle and wool sizes). Then I had more fun and used this same pattern to start a tree house.

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Using thick hand spun wool from Colombia (my MIL brought this back from one of her trips), I knit another big tree, this time creating an opening I hoped could be filled with resident rabbits.  Over the next several months I kept working on this project. Finally this January, back in Canada again, I started to finish up. I began by sewing up the roots which I weighed down by filling them with rice. If I had have thought it through better, I would have started the doorway higher than the root line to make room for more  weighted filling and thus stability. I also would have had large glass beads on hand to use instead of rice. Once the roots were done I had to think about how the opening could support the heavy, wool-stuffed tree above. I decided to stitch in channels for extra wide popsicle sticks. Again, if I had have been more organized I would have used more than five sticks I was fortunate my MIL had on hand. I made loopy leaves for the branches and I attached a wooden tree swing for the dolls.

http://mamaisinspired.com/

It brings me true delight that my son has been so excited about this project, frequently asking to see and play with the knitted tree house through all its progressions. I am sure my daughter will grow into this play, too. Certainly we will be spending countless hours swinging dolls back and forth on the knitted tree house, moving tiny animals about and making woodland creatures speak.

http://mamaisinspired.com/

A Day on the Couch Being Together

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I never imagined that they would want even more time with me than they already have. We made a decision at the end of our day that into our rhythm we will add one day a month where we sit on the couch all day, just being together, doing what we love,deepening our connections with each other. http://mamaisinspired.com/

Today I spent the day sick on the couch. It is rare that anyone in my family gets sick, but this is the worst cold I have had since I was pregnant with my daughter. There were a lot of days spent on the couch then, and my son who was almost three didn’t care much for any of them. I did not have great hopes that today would be different. My husband offered to stay home but he spends a tremendous amount of time alone in his studio painting and he had already promised to take some visiting European artists around LA to visit galleries. I didn’t want any of them to miss out on a fun day. Somebody should be having a good time! The one known entity was that no matter what it wouldn’t be me. I downplayed how sick I was to my husband and silently promised myself that other than mealtimes, basic hygiene, and diaper changes I would tune out everything that needed to get done, I would explain to the kids how much more sick I would get if I did more than the minimum for them. There were already pots of soup and rice in the fridge so I didn’t have to worry about dinner. I would spend the day on the couch. I convinced myself I could do this.

And I did. My kids had a fabulous day!

I would have been more surprised if it hadn’t have been so obvious why my children loved their day so much. They didn’t get to go outside and play in the newly formed puddles in our yard (a big deal since we are having a drought in California), I didn’t cater to their every need and, well, request, I frequently had to tell my son that I couldn’t talk to him because that drained my energy, other than a new board game I didn’t play with my son at all – none of the imaginary games he adores to play and typically begs for multiple times every day. The kids didn’t whine. They got along wonderfully. They smiled tons. All because they had me stationary on the couch. I was close to them. All day long. After our game of Zoologic became too taxing for me in my sick state, I did stitching handwork while my son put together lego. My young daughter toddled around, playing with little toys, climbing up on me for snuggles -thumb in her mouth, hand down my shirt- and then again to the floor for more independent play. Neither of my kids nap, but during one of her trips to  cuddle, my littlest one nursed to sleep on my lap, her head cradled in my arm. Such sweetness. A warm sleeping child is perfect medicine for a sick mama.

What I discovered today is how much my children value their connection and close time with me. I know this extends to their father, as well. My kids and I are together all day every day. Once a week my son goes to the studio for the day with his Papa and that is the only break apart I have from either of my little ones. I never imagined that they would want even more time with me than they already have. We have a weekly rhythm and usually our days spent at home involve playing together and lots of conversation but they are also very full of housework, laundry, preparing meals, important phone calls (usually with the insurance company or Covered California. Although we pay our premiums every month, we seem to never have active health insurance…that of course is another story). Our days are Full. Too Full.There is just too much to get done and I never catch up. I know this is a struggle for many of us. I am with my children all the time and still I don’t feel like I give them enough. They are happy and secure kids but I can tell they still want more from me, more of me. Today I think they felt like I gave them enough. Our day on the  couch together was a beautiful discovery to make. Obviously, I can’t do this all the time. But I can do it sometimes. We made a decision at the end of our day that into our rhythm we will add one day a month where we sit on the couch all day, just being together, doing what we love, deepening our connections with each other. I am so grateful for this cold.

I never imagined that they would want even more time with me than they already have. We made a decision at the end of our day that into our rhythm we will add one day a month where we sit on the couch all day, just being together, doing what we love,deepening our connections with each other. http://mamaisinspired.com/

Felted Wool Cuffs

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Felted Wool Cuffs

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Wool cuffs I noticed on Etsy looked like the right gifts for my 4-year-old and I to felt together for his Québecoise grandmothers. I have only a small amount of experience with wet felting and I had absolutely no knowledge of nuno felting until minutes before we embarked on our project. Still, I was convinced that my son would be able to do most of the work so that these gifts really would be his to give. Right after we watched videos on how to nuno felt, my son referred to our new craft as a science experiment. His choice of words felt great. “Experiment” meant he wouldn’t be crushed if our cuffs were a complete failure. “Experiment” meant that this might actually be his expectation. As I really had no idea what I was doing I was happy that he had given us the room to fail completely and end up with nothing but a mess. At the same time I felt the essential confidence that I could be both patient and stubborn enough that we would like what we ended up with and that his grandmothers might wear their cuffs not only out of love but also because they actually liked the wool bracelets.

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The project did in fact work out! I also learned a lot. In spite of doing it differently next time, any experienced felter would surely shake her head at even our revised process. I still don’t know what I am doing!

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My son enjoyed laying out all the wool roving, wrapping the wool up in bubble wrap and then rolling it over and over. He lasted much longer with the rolling pin than I had expected. He actually did 8 minutes straight before asking me to take a turn! I was impressed. My youngest child also delighted in splashing her little hands in the pyrex dish of water after we introduced a second “technique”. The extra step brought everything together and also provided me with a wave of motherly relief to know that even my one-year-old was having a great time. Success!

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Classic Pin Tuck Dress

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Classic Pin Tuck Dress

 

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The Pin Tuck Dress is my favourite child’s pattern to work with. While there are lots of other kids patterns I regularly sew from, this one by Heidi & Finn is the design I find most versatile. Before I became a mother I used to design patterns and sew a lot for myself. My pattern drafting tools are all in storage, though, and anyways I no longer have enough time to work on anything too complicated or that actually has to fit.

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Playing around with the Pin Tuck pattern provides me with the creative moments that feel so essential to me, that keep me well oiled. These moments of pattern manipulations are brief and this is exactly what makes them doable at this stage in my life. I share almost every moment of waking life with my two young children! These kids have a lot of needs that are more essential than my creative time!

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Even without any changes, the Pin Tuck Dress is a beautiful pattern. Here it is in a  simple gray knit fabric trimmed with black bias tape. I usually make my own bias tape but in this case I used store bought. This is a dress that might be too sophisticated for a one-year-old! I keep thinking that I would like to trade in my own wardrobe for my daughter’s. This dress would probably be a good place to start.

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Simple Christmas Traditions

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Simple Christmas Traditions

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It is winter time again. Recently in a homeschooling group that I am part of, a mother asked about the favourite winter holiday and Christmas traditions in our families. I felt lucky for these glimpses. It was heart warming to have a window into the intimate and beloved celebrations of other families.

After reading about others, it was simple to identify what have become the favourite traditions of my own small family.

What I love best about our own Christmases are the handmade tree ornaments that we make each year. I also love the handmade ornaments that are given to us by others. Just last night a 6-year-old friend brought my son a wooden decoration she made for him. This sweet tree ornament has now joined our collection of memories that we will share together each year.

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Baking gingerbread cookies is also a moment together that my son looks forward to and begins asking about months before the Christmas season. “When are we going to make gingerbread cookies?”, “Can we bake the gingerbread cookies today?!” I think he was happy to return the gesture of gift giving by handing his young friend and her family a box of our gingerbread cookies. My daughter is not really at the age to help, but she loved smelling all the spices and picking scraps of dough off the floor while her brother and I worked away.

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I also love our Christmas stockings that I have made for each of us as our family has grown from just my husband and I into a family of four.

The most relaxing moment of Christmas, though, is also probably the most relaxing moment of my year. I treasure this time dearly. I should probably make this my happy place whenever I need a vision in a chaotic day to bring me peace. After the gifts are opened and the kids can be occupied with the novelty of new play things, the time arrives to sit on the floor, slowly sip coffee, and nibble on warm, toasted panettone with butter on top. A few days ago, my young son asked about the box of panettone that has been on our shelf for two weeks. I told him that we eat Italian cake for breakfast on Christmas morning. His eyes grew wide: “We eat cake for breakfast?” He had to repeat the question twice, he was so incredulous with my simple answer of “Yes”. It is the simplicity of our Christmas traditions that I savour the most.

 

Felt Gingerbread Men Tree Ornaments

One of my favourite ornaments to make have been the felt Gingerbread People. This was before I had learned to felt, so I used the technique of fulling: on an extended cycle, I washed old 100% wool sweaters in hot water (make sure you add laundry detergent) and then dried them on the hottest setting of our dryer. This successfully felted the wool . Using cookie cutters, I trced paper patterns to use to cut out the gingerbread men. With embroidery thread and a few different embroidery stitches, I doubled up the felt pieces and stitched them together around the edges. I added buttons for eyes and the traditional buttons. I love these ornaments! Since my son was too young to sew, I cut out a bunch of trim pieces from lace, the felted sweaters, ribbons and even stamps from Christmas cards. My son would pick the trim and let me know where he wanted me to apply the fabric glue for him. I love his ornaments even more!

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The bell was a surprise for my son on Christmas morning. I am really happy that he has an appreciation for the handmade and that he actually loves his bell.

 

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Felt gingerbread baby ornaments for the tree by mama is inspired. http://mamaisinspired.com/.

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