Simple Christmas Traditions

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Simple Christmas Traditions


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.


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.


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!




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.



Felt gingerbread baby ornaments for the tree by mama is inspired.


Our First Wet Felted Easter Eggs

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Wet Felted Easter Eggs Mama is Inspired


I belong to some Waldorf crafting groups on facebook and for the past month I’ve been seeing a whole lot of photos of  homemade felt Easter eggs. I have been finding them delightful but with no experience with wet felting I didn’t think I would be making any myself. But then last week at my son’s small homeschool preschool meet-up, my friend who was leading us all for the day taught us how to wet felt flowers. We used plastic Easter eggs for the base! I was so excited to do this project with the kids and thought that now perhaps I could make a bunch of Easter eggs using this method…but of course not this year. I’m far too too busy. I should have known myself better! At the beginning of the week I found myself wondering if my husband and I were going to end up doing anything at all for the kids for Easter. By the end of the week my four-year-old  and I had made twenty-one wet felted Easter eggs for slipping Easter treats into!


Playing with Felted Egg Mama is Inspired


Playing with Wet Felted Easter Egg Mama is Inspired


To wet felt the eggs, we wrapped lengths of wool roving around plastic eggs that I borrowed from my mother. Then we dipped these into hot, sudsy water and began to quickly pat the wool down onto and around the plastic egg. I learned from my friend that you want the wool that is next to the plastic egg -the inner wool- to felt first. We kept on patting the eggs, dipping them in the hot water repeatedly and adding squirts of soap onto the eggs. After the felt seemed snug on the inside layer of our eggs, we alternated dipping then in cold and hot water, continuing to pat and squeeze the eggs until they seemed quite firm.


Wet Felting Egg mama is Inspired


Wet Felting Easter Egg in Sink Mama is Inspired


When we made flowers with our preschool group it became apparent that wet felting is a very long process. For some it might seem tedious. I wanted to speed it up at home so that we could make lots of eggs in time for Easter. We worked on each egg until the inside layer seemed felted, then put a little more soap on each, and placed all the eggs into a pillow case which I secured shut with an elastic band. I threw the case of eggs into the washing machine on the hot cycle for a moderate amount of time and this is where we let the rest of the magic happen. (Some of the plastic eggs opened up in the washing machine producing smaller eggs but these are still beautiful and useable). When the cycle was finished we let the felt eggs air dry.


Wet Felted Egg with Button Closure Mama is Inspired



Wet Felted Easter Eggs Mama is Inspired


Once the eggs were all dry I began cutting them open with my small thread snipping scissors. I embroidered the edges and added a button to each so that they can be closed once the Easter treats are place inside. I am looking forward to hiding these handmade eggs in our garden this weekend!



Hoppy Easter! Mama is Inspired

Happy Easter!



Bunny Mobile for Baby

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Baby Bunny Mobile by Mama is Inspired


At around the eighth month of my pregnancy with my daughter I was overtaken by a strong nesting urge. The power of this urge was a surprise to me as it had much more in common with desperation than with simple desire. Although I successfully kept the feelings to myself, I was entirely fixated on creating the nursery for my baby. I was desperate to get started on her room. Only there was not going to be a bedroom for my baby! No nursery to plan and no nursery to complete! I felt a bit sad about this fact but at the same time I was able to remind myself that these feelings were only temporary and would subside as soon as my baby was born.

Even though I had no nursery to decorate I found myself going back time and again to look at this nursery. I adore almost everything about this room: the colours, the ottoman, the calm. And especially the mobile. I fell in love with the felt elephant mobile. It’s so sweet.

My daughter would not have her nursery but she would have one tiny space of her own. Cuddled up next to my bed she would have her little co-sleeper and that co-sleeper would give her just enough space to have her own handmade mobile.

I wanted to make a yellow and white mobile but the only one hundred percent wool sweaters that I came across in thrift stores were blue. Blue had to do and it did nicely. I fulled the sweaters in the washing machine by washing them twice in hot water along with with a large towel and a bit of detergent. Then I put them through the dryer on high. Essentially, the fulling process turns a knitted or crocheted garment into felt.


Bunny for Mobile Mama is Inspired


The next stages of this project consumed many, many hours. I was lucky to have a little staycation near the end of my pregnancy while my husband and son went away without me for seven whole days. This time alone was a little peace of heaven. I might have spent it relaxing, writing, catching up with friends over tea, or just staring at the ceiling. But I didn’t. Instead I lived in a state of frenzied crafting, trying to get as much made as I could in my first alone time since my son had been born three years earlier. It was an amazing week!!!


Baby Bunny Mobile Stars and Clouds by Mama is Inspired


When my son was born I had been given a mobile that my friend’s mother-in-law picked up at a thrift store. It was a surprise to me that my son enjoyed watching the airplanes go around and around as much as he did. I took this apart and used the frame and music box for my daughter’s new mobile. For the new mobile I cut and sewed bunnies, clouds and stars from the fulled wool sweaters and then stuffed the bunnies and clouds with organic cotton batting. I attached all of these to ribbons and tied them to the frame which I then wrapped with some bamboo fabric I had on hand. As corny as it sounds, this project was truly driven by my heart.


Baby Mobile Bunny by Mama is Inspired


At one year of age my daughter is still captivated by the wool bunnies as they dance by above her head. Most of the time, though, now that my daughter can reach the mobile, she likes to yank on the bunnies as hard as she can and thrash them back and forth, back and forth. Obviously, she still loves her mobile :)


Baby with her Handmade Mobile by Mama is Inspired


A Lovely Way to Store the Toys – Crochet Sacs

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Crochet Toy Sacs and Nature Shelf by Mama is Inspired


I was craving something more calm and beautiful than the mish-mash of plastic baskets, transparent zippered-bags (like the type a set of sheets comes in), and the assorted cotton sacks we were using to store our kids’ toys in. I wanted something aesthetically pleasing that I wouldn’t mind finding strewn across my couch and living room floor. I just couldn’t find the time, though, to make this project come together. There were just too many other tasks to fill my time.

Then last summer my family was given the generous offer of staying in a guest house in Vancouver for the month of August. We decided to do it! I’m so glad we did: it was a magical summer. I introduced my son to all that I love about Vancouver. We reinserted ourselves back into this city I love and I was pretty happy to root my young son in the community and culture that are so dear to me.


Pacific Spirit Park by Mama is Inspired

Pacific Spirit Park, Vancouver

An element of the magic was also the guest house, itself. It is a gorgeous modern building that you only see in a magazine. It is constructed from concrete and glass and the ceilings are fantastically high. It is well designed and liveable both inside and out. It is also teensy weensy tiny. Together, my family of four lived in a 200 square foot home. And what a relief that was! How relaxing to have so little work to do in order to maintain our living space! Finally I had some time to do something creative again for the first time since the birth of my daughter in late winter. Exciting!!!


Guest House Mama is Inspired


With our living space being so small I also had to keep my project small. Living in a small space so well designed also brought back to mind my own desired project of finding a nicer way to house my children’s playthings. I took the bus (how fantastic to be back in a city with wonderful public transit!) to the closest wool store and the lovely woman working there helped me to find a pattern upon which to base my design. I picked out some pleasing and inexpensive burgundy and cream Peruvian wool and got started right away.


Skytrain Vancouver Mama is Inspired

community Garden Vancouver

Vancouver Skytrain and one of many, many community gardens across Vancouver


I am not an expert at crochet by any stretch so the pattern was essential. I love the way the original nesting baskets look but I quickly changed things up by doubling the wool, using a 10mm/N hook and substantially increasing the number of stitches around. I also experimented quite a bit with the stitches I used for each row. It was really fun!

Finally last month with the help of my husband we got the hooks up in the kids’ room and the sacs all hung and the toys organized. I love the idea of the Waldorf nature table so we added a narrow shelf above the hooks. My son really loves his nature shelf. And I don’t mind so much anymore when he leaves his bag full of matchbox cars on the sofa.

Applique T-Shirt and Emergency Shorts

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Applique Emergency Light T-shirt by Mama is Inspired


As exhausted as taking care of two kids, a house, and a vegetable garden (it’s kind of growing itself these days!) leaves me at the end of the day, I’ve been managing to get some sewing done in the evenings. This is the best way for me to unwind and relax after my children are in bed. This time is essential to keeping me both calm and happy.

Once in a while I also find a way to work in a few minutes of sewing in while my son and daughter are awake. These are my charmed days.



Emergency Vehicle Print Cotton Fabric


I am really fortunate that my four year old actually loves to accompany me to the fabric store. A few months ago he picked out an emergency vehicle print. I have an easy pattern for kids shorts so I promised to make him a pair. After he tried them on he asked me to make another pair so that he will still has some when he grows out of these. I love it that he loves them! I am also happy that I always buy too much of any given fabric.



Tree Climbing in His Emergency Shorts

Oops! This is the pair that is supposed to be in storage.

After making the shorts I decided that I wanted to make a couple t-shirts to match. I keep on hand plain white t-shirts and also any stained white shirts that we receive (as hand-me-downs) so that I have something around to dye when I’m feeling inspired. I quickly had a red t-shirt and a blue t-shirt done. I use procion dyes and I could get a uniform effect if I dyed the garments in a pot but I like the mottled look so I use the same squeeze bottles that I use for tie-dyeing. I just squeeze the dye all over the white t-shirt this way and try to make it as uniform as possible. Inevitably the dye isn’t that even, giving me just what I want in the end.

Sewing on the Emergency Lights

I also wanted to put an applique on the blue shirt so my son and I sat down together and we traced emergency light patterns onto paper. We decided to copy a light from his shorts. We then chose the fabric from old t-shirts that I keep in my fabric stash and I cut out the parts for the applique. I finally got around to sewing it up last night. My son was really happy to wake up to his new t-shirt this morning! I think it looks adorable on him.

Emergency Light T-Shirt Applique

Handmade Doll

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handmade doll by mama is inspired

My baby is one! For her birthday I gave her a  handmade doll. I didn’t plan to make such a large doll but I was already committed to the project before I realized that this doll would be about the same size my daughter is. My local YMCA has shelves of free books and I picked up this booklet from the 1980s. Nowhere did the booklet reveal the measurements of the doll. A friend and I both ordered supplies to make the dolls for our kids and got to work immediately after the supplies arrived.

I love how my daughter’s doll turned out. I decided to make the doll look like her. Due to the size it’s more like a twin than a mini me!

I embroidered the doll’s eyes to look like my daughter’s bright, big eyes.

handmade doll embroidered eyes

 I ordered a pattern for the mohair doll’s hair but didn’t use this. I wanted something less dense so I used a half double crochet stitch instead of a single crochet. I did use the technique offered with the pattern of removing the mohair from the carrier thread to give the hair some fluff.

handmade doll mohair wig

My baby has an innie so I made the belly button accordingly

handmade doll belly button

The soft bodied doll is made of cotton interlock and is stuffed firmly with wool batting.

handmade doll body

I made discs cut out of hard, plastic gesso containers to insert into the limbs to make articulated joints for the arms and legs.

handmade doll leg

handmade doll articulated foint

My daughter was fascinated by the doll even before it was put together.

handmade doll with baby Mama is Inspired

The limbs were sewn into the doll using a 7 inch long needle. The arms and legs are amazing: they are moveable!

handmade doll wiht moveable arms and legs

When my daughter met her new doll on her birthday she quickly embraced the doll, cooed happily, and pulled at the doll’s nose and grabbed her hair. I was delighted and heartened by my baby girl’s reaction to the handmade doll that she just might have for all her life.

Handmade Christmas – A Family Tradition of Tree Ornaments

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Handmade Christmas – A  Family Tradition of Tree Ornaments

Welcome to Week One of the month-long Carnival of Creative Mothers to celebrate the launch of The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood by Lucy H. Pearce. Today’s topic is Nurturing a Culture of Creativity at Home. Be sure to read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Join the Carnival and be in with a chance to win a free e-copy of The Rainbow Way!
November 27th: Creative Heroines.
December 4th: Creative Inheritance.
December 11th: The Creative Process.


Handmade Christmas – A  Family Tradition of Tree Ornaments


Our Handmade Christmas Tree Ornaments made from Saltdough
Our Handmade Christmas Tree Ornaments


I love handmade and so does my husband. Our son seems to be arriving at the same conclusion. We’re not big consumers in our family, so it was disturbing when several months ago our young son began to list off all the new things he “needed” on a daily basis. Each time he would finish up by declaring that we could just go out and “buy it”. Fortunately he has changed his tune a little. He still goes on about all the things he wants, but at least instead of “buy it” he informs me that we can “make it”. He thinks we are capable of making the craziest things. Items that by no means do we have the skills to make. I think it’s wonderful that my son believes we can!

Last December my husband and I brought home our first Christmas tree. My husband wasn’t particularly into the idea. I completely understood where he was coming from and somewhat wished I felt the same way. I have special memories of my childhood Christmas trees and especially the ritual of trimming the tree. Every ornament had a story of its own and I loved to recall and retell these stories as we decorated our tree each year. I’m not sure that my siblings enjoyed my obsession with Christmas past, but my mother, at least, appeared to be an appreciative fan. Behind my desire to have a Christmas tree was another greater desire to share this same tradition with my own child.

I have mentioned previously that practically everything of sentimental and material value that my family owns is in a storage space in another city, in another country. Included in our stash is the box of ornaments that I have been collecting since I was a small child. Some decorations I received as gifts: for instance, my mother gave my siblings and I each a unique ornament every year when we were growing up. Many other ornaments were handmade either by myself, family members, or friends. I love them all and know the background story behind each and every one.


Saltdough Plaid Snowman Ornament
Plaid Snowman


So here we were with our own Christmas tree – a full size Christmas tree – and no trimmings. There was only one thing to be done: make some. Make a bunch! And make a whole lot we did. It was amazing. All year I have looked forward to making a new set of ornaments. A tradition was born.

Last December we made salt dough ornaments and also dehydrated lemon slices from the tree in our California backyard. This year we have already begun to make felted (or more precisely, for those who care about the difference, fulled) gingerbread men. This creative process has been so much fun! I invited some friends to partake in the salt dough experience last year (one of these friends has still been unable to convince her own husband to succumb to a Christmas tree) and it was delightful to share in the festivities. I am eager to watch my son’s creativity and abilities progress and blossom from year to year. The ornaments he has made this year are beautiful and already light years ahead of those formed last Christmas. Next year our new baby girl will be able to begin to take part in some kind of limited way and I am excited to see where that goes.


1 year old toddler decorates saltdough ornaments
My Son Makes His First Christmas Tree Ornaments


Once the tree was up, the ornaments hung and the tree lit, we were enchanted by our ‘handmade’ tree. What a pleasure it was to sit for a few quiet moments each evening, in our darkened living room, with only the tree lights blinking. These moments were magic. I doubt I will ever forget them. Neither will my husband. He fell in love, very hard, with our tree. He was the saddest of us all to see it go. My husband is already anticipating this year’s tree and has begun to deliberate on where it should stand! We are so excited about our fledgling tree tradition and now we can’t imagine having anything but a handmade Christmas.


Saltdough Snowflake Ornament

Saltdough Ornaments

For the saltdough recipe, here is the one I used. I have made saltdough ornaments in the past, but never before have they been so smooth and risen so evenly. You can go directly to the site, there are some gorgeous examples of her ornaments there. I am also providing the way in which I used the recipe:

1/2 cup table salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour

You will also need parchment paper and ornament wires. I bought a large package of tree ornament wires at my local 99 Cent store. If you do not like the way these look, you can punch a hole in each ornament and then add a ribbon after they are baked.

The original recipe says to blend all the ingredients in an electric mixer until the form a sticky dough. I don’t actually have a mixer and it worked great for me to just mix it all together with a large, wooden spoon.

Next, knead the dough by hand for 7 to 10 minutes on a well floured surface. Once the dough is smooth and elastic grab a ball of it and transfer it onto a hard floured surface again. Right away, you need to wrap the portion of dough you are not using in plastic wrap. Otherwise, with such a high ratio of salt, the dough will dry out before you can use it.

Roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness. Cut with your favourite cookie cutters. Transfer to a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper (you can use the same piece of parchment paper over and over. Do not try wax paper. It will not work and may even catch on fire. Yes, I know this from personal experience!) Before placing the cut dough shapes onto the cookie sheet, I push an ornament wire 1/2 to 1 inch into the top of each shape.

Bake at 200 degrees for four to six hours, until they are hardened. Take them out to cool. At this temperature, you are actually dehydrating the dough rather than baking.


Handmade Saltdough Snowman Ornament


Toddlers Can Decorate Salt Dough Ornaments with Washable Markers
Toddlers Can Decorate Saltdough Ornaments with Washable Markers


Toddler's Saltdough Gingerbread Boy
Gingerbread Boy


Toddler's Saltdough Christmas Tree
Christmas Tree


I have a large collection of Letraset Promarkers left over from when I was in fashion design school. My husband and I decorated our saltdough ornaments with these. Fine point Sharpies would work well, too, and they come in a variety of colours. Our son used his washable crayola markers. We planned to varnish our adult ornaments but that never happened. Perhaps we’ll get that done this year.


Lemon Slice Christmas Tree Ornament
Dried Lemon Slices to Decorate the Christmas Tree

Lemon Slice Ornaments

Years ago I saw a mobile made out of slices of dried lemons, limes, and blood oranges. It was lovely. I have never forgotten the way the light shined through the paper-thin discs. Our Meyer Lemon tree was packed with lemons, so I thought I would give it a go. I searched around online and found these great directions for drying citrus slices.

To dry lemon or other citrus, you will need cooling racks – the kind that you use to cool baked goods on after they come out of the oven – in order to preserve the colour of your fruit. I experimented and did some this way but also dried some lemon slices on parchment lined baking sheets. I am glad I did it both ways. The darkened lemon discs are just as beautiful as the light ones.

Citrus Slice Christmas Tree Ornaments
These Lemon Slices were Baked on a Cookie Sheet to Obtain a Darker Shade

To begin, I sliced the lemons into the thinnest discs that I could. I really did not do a great job. They could have been much thinner. I then bent the ornament wires and pushed them into the peels. By bending the wires first, I was able to push the wires  into the peel only and avoid the centres which would not be capable of holding the wires in place once they dried. As well, this would have been ugly.

I placed some of the slices with attached wires onto the cooling racks and others onto parchment lined cookie sheets. I put them into my oven heated to 170 degrees. If your oven can be set lower, that is even better. After two hours, turn all the citrus discs over. Continue to bake until they are fully dry.

Our lemon ornaments were especially beautiful when placed directly in front of the lights on our tree. These dried citrus discs would also create a stunning garland. Maybe some other year.

Happy Family Holidays!

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Handmade Christmas Homemade Ornaments and Wrapping Paper
Our Handmade Christmas


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  • Carnival host and author of The Rainbow Way, Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares an extract from the chapter Nurturing a Family Culture of Creativity.
  • Lilly Higgins is a passionate food writer. Now a mother of two boys, she’s discovered a new calling: to instil in them a love of food and creativity in the kitchen.
  • DeAnna L’am shares how visioning the New Year with your child is an invitation to be inspired: use creativity and resolutions to create a fun road map for the year ahead.
  • Molly at Talk Birth on Releasing Our Butterflies – balancing motherhood with creativity.
  • Laura shares some of the creativity happening at Nestled Under Rainbows and a few thoughts about creativity.
  • Georgie at Visual Toast celebrates her own unique culture of creativity at home.
  • Esther at Nurtureworkshop spreads the love of the ordinary, the delights of everyday things that can be an adventure of the imagination.
  • For Dawn at The Barefoot Home creativity is always a free form expression to be shared by all in a supportive environment where anything can be an art material.
  • Naomi at Poetic Aperture is a mother, artist and photographer who tries to keep her daughter away from the expensive pens and paints.
  • Aimee at Creativeflutters writes about keeping your sanity and creativity intact with small kids in the house in her post: Mother + Creativity – They Must Coexist.
  • Amelia at My Grandest Adventure embarks on a 30 Days of Creativity challenge…you can too!
  • Becky at Raising Loveliness explores creating with her smaller family members.
  • Jennifer at Let Your Soul Shine reveals how children help us connect to our souls, through music and movement.
  • Mary at The Turquoise Paintbrush shares her experiences of creating with kids.
  • Joanna at Musings of a Hostage Mother explains why creativity at home is important to her in her post “I nurture a creative culture.”
  • It took until Amy at Mama Dynamite was pregnant aged 35 to discover her dormant creative
    streak – she has found lovely ways of tuning into it every since.
  • Emily at The Nest explores how creativity runs through her family’s life together.
  • Jennifer at OurMuddyBoots sees that encouraging creativity in children is as simple as appreciating them for who they are: it just means overriding everything we know!
  • Lisa from has discovered that a combination of writing and traditional crafts can provide a creative outlet during those busy early years of new motherhood.
  • Anna at Biromums shares what nurturing a culture of creativity means to her.
  • Zoie at TouchstoneZ argues that the less they are interfered with, the more creative children become as they grow up.
  • Darcel at The Mahogany Way celebrates creating with her kids.
  • Sally (aka The Ginger Ninja) of The Ginger Chronicles is continually inspired by her own mum and grandmother.
  • Just being creative is enough, says Nicki at Just Like Play, as she ponders her journey of nurturing a creative family.
  • Allurynn shares her creative family’s musings in her post “Creativity… at the Heart of it” on Moonlight Muse.
  • Laura at Authentic Parenting explores how being creative saves her sanity.
  • Mama is Inspired talks about how she puts an emphasis on the handmade in her home, especially in the holiday season.
  • Kirstin at Listen to the Squeak Inside shares with you several easy ways for busy mamas and dads to encourage their children to be creative every day.
  • Mila at Art Play Day always lived in her dreams, sleepwalking through life … now she is finding out what creativity is all about…. her inner child!
  • Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From describes how picture books can nurture creativity in young children.
  • On womansart blog this week – nurturing a creative culture at home.

Pumpkin Harvest Muffins

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Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Feeding Your Family This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared recipes, stories, and advice about food and eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Pumpkin Harvest Muffins

Pumpkin Harvest Muffins Recipe. An Autumn Treat.
An Autumn Treat

This year we grew pumpkins in our first year garden. It was my first time to grow pumpkins in Southern California where planting and harvesting schedules feel strange and perhaps even wrong. I had to suspend my sense of disbelief when I planted pumpkin seeds straight into the ground at the beginning of February. I could have even planted them in January right along with my other winter squash!

Backyard Pumpkin Vines
Pumpkin Vines Unfurling

My squash germinated quickly and grew beautifully. The pumpkin vines made our garden feel like a lush jungle. It was truly amazing. Then June Gloom hit. Back in Vancouver, where I spent many years (and wish to someday spend many more), June is traditionally a rainy month. Cool weather tends to accompany this summer rush of rain. Further down the coast in Los Angeles, we experience a similar weather pattern. However, instead of rain, we are hit with a daily morning fog that lifts at around noon each day. Unlike on the southern coast of British Columbia, the accompanying temperature is quite warm. This combination of damp air and heat seems to create a perfect breeding ground for disease and pests alike. My pumpkin vines were hit with a speedy, heavy case of powdery mildew. Every few days I was outside spraying the plants with some kitchen mix I put together. I tried milk and water (spray it on while it’s sunny), hydrogen peroxide and water, baking soda and water, and finally potassium bicarbonate and water with a splash of vegetable oil. The first three concoctions each worked to varying degrees, but it was not until I applied the potassium bicarbonate, stocked by wine making shops, that I reached the success that was necessary to give us a successful pumpkin harvest.

Pumpkin on the Vine
Young Pumpkin on the Backyard Vine


Homemade Solution for Preventing and Eliminating Powdery Mildew in the Garden

  • 2 Tbsp of Potassium Bicarbonate
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil

Mix all the ingredients and spray on when there is no sun present on the plants. Morning is best. This ensures that the leaves aren’t wet in the evening…which might foster a whole OTHER set of problems. At the end of June I harvested the first pumpkin. June! Crazy! The majority of the pumpkins were harvested in July and there were a few stragglers into August. This kind of blew my mind. I had intended to can the pumpkin puree until I learned that this is not safe. So plans changed. I did cure a few outdoors in warm weather and then stored them in the storage closet beneath our house, but I could not convince myself that it was cool enough down there. Ultimately, I pureed all the pumpkins and threw them into the freezer. I scooped 31 oz in each yogurt tub because this is the same amount contained by a large can of pumpkin, give or take an ounce.

Pumpkin Harvest
First Pumpkin of the Harvest!

I have made one pumpkin pie, but we all love muffins so much around our house that most of the pumpkins have so far gone into baking pumpkin harvest muffins. Here is our recipe. Bon Appetit!

Baking Pumpkin Harvest Muffins
Baking Pumpkin Harvest Muffins Together…in July!


Pumpkin Harvest Muffins by Mama is Inspired

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • ½ cup flax meal
  • 2 cups white flour (unbleached)

(as long as you have 2 cups of white flour, you can switch around all the other quantities above and make substitutions for any or all of them such as kamut flour, spelt flour, etc. Flax and almond are added for nutrition and flavour but can be replaced with any other type of flour. You can also substitute in oat bran, wheat germ, ground walnuts, etc.).

  • 11/2 Tbsps baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ Tbsp ground ginger
  • ¼ Tbsp ground cloves

Wet Ingredients

  • 30-32 oz of pumpkin puree (approximately 1 large can or 1 medium sugar pumpkin)

(If you don’t have that much puree on hand, you can half that and substitute in 4 mashed bananas)

  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 1 ½ cups molasses

(you can leave out the raw sugar and use only the 1 ½ cups of molasses. You can substitute even more of the molasses with pineapple juice and throw in pineapple chunks)

  • 3 ¼ cups water
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups raisins (optional)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups chocolate chips (optional. I scoop all of my son’s mix into mini muffin tins and then I add chocolate chips in for the regular sized muffins that my husband and I will eat)

Directions Makes 24 mini muffins plus 24 regular size muffins Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients together. If you are making muffins from fresh pumpkin, bake the pumpkin first and then scoop flesh into food processor and puree. Fold dry ingredients into wet. Scoop mix into oiled muffin tins. Bake for 30-50 minutes. To test, place clean, dry knife into centre of muffin. The knife should be clean when removed. Bake time depends on whether your oven is electric or gas and the heat circulation in your individual oven. Please subscribe to Mama is Inspired. Follow on facebook and Pinterest.

Pumpkin and Pollinating Bee
Grateful for Bees Pollinating our Backyard Pumpkins


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Nut Free Desserts for the Holidays — Becky at Crafty Garden Mama will be talking about navigating the holidays with peanut allergies in the family.
  • Making Peace with My Picky Eater — Once upon a time, there was a boy who would try anything. And then he turned 3. Thus began the dinner chronicles at Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s house.
  • Foodie Morphed by Motherhood — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis reflects on the changes of her family’s food culture since becoming a mother, and shares a snapshot of their current food rhythm.
  • Introducing First Foods — Wondering what your little one should take a bite of first? That Mama Gretchen explains baby-led weaning/baby self-feeding and answers a number of questions that may come to mind!
  • Feeding Your Family — Coconut Oil!!! — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama is a coconut oil devotee. In this post, she shares her favorite ways to include coconut oil in her family’s diet as well as why she feels it is important to do so.
  • We Thank the Earth for its Food! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle spends hours in the kitchen each day trying to make medicine in the form of food.
  • Focusing on Healthy, Gluten-Free Foods for My Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what her family is doing to eat healthily along with her recipe for gluten-free peanut butter oat bran muffins.
  • Intolerancesustainablemum laments the misunderstanding surrounding food intolerances.
  • Don’t Let Food Sensitivities Ruin Your Holidays! — Rachel, the Titus 2 Homemaker, talks about ways to enjoy the holidays even if you wrestle with food sensitivities.
  • Losing grains, keeping empathy: Paleo and fat acceptance — Lauren at Hobo Mama vlogs about her family’s decision to cut grains to improve health — and hopes she can retain her position as a proponent of size acceptance even as she loses weight.
  • Easy Homemade Crockpot Mac & Cheese — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, shakes off the blue-box blues with an easy crockpot mac-and-cheese recipe with no artificial dyes or excessive preservatives … just creamy, delicious, comfort-food goodness.
  • Extended Family Dinners — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about sharing family dinners with housemates and why it works for her.
  • Five Suggestions for Eating Healthy During the Holidays — No need to feel powerless when it comes to our highly sugared/processed food culture during the holidays &emdash; Andrea at It Takes Time offers tips to stay on track.
  • How to feed your family — no food required! — Jessica at is kind of obsessed with food. But, lately she’s realized there’s more to nourishment than what she cooks up in the kitchen.
  • Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama sticks to her gluten-free guns but sees room for improvement in her pursuit of a real-food family table.
  • Feeding My Family — Challenges and Growth — Susan at Together Walking shares what has been most challenging about feeding her two kids and how she has grown in the kitchen since becoming a mother.
  • How I Lost 75 Lbs — What I Eat & My Top 5 Tips — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how she and her family became healthy, happy and active.
  • The Weight of Motherhood — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution rethinks her relationship with food after struggling with post-pregnancy weight gain.
  • Geek Food: Pumpkin Pasties — While Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and family might have food sensitivities, their geekery knows no limits. So, when faced with a desire to recreate Pumpkin Pasties from Harry Potter, they do not shy away!
  • Pumpkin Harvest Muffins — This summer Mama is Inspired and family grew pumpkins, and this autumn they are baking scrumptious, healthy muffins out of those pumpkins.
  • Reintroducing Meat to the Vegetarian Tummy — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares some of the considerations she explored before transitioning from a vegetarian diet to reintroducing meat as a protein source and a few tips on making it an easy one.
  • Thanksgiving Meal, Thankful? — Jorje of Momma Jorje has never felt terribly thankful for Thanksgiving itself. Perhaps that could change if she’s a little more invested?
  • 5 Ways to Use Healing Bone Broth — It’s that time of year again, when unpleasant little bugs make their way into our homes. For Megan of The Boho Mama, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, homemade stock or bone broth is a natural remedy.

Humpty Dumpty Costume for Halloween

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Humpty Dumpty Halloween Costume by Mama is Inspired
Happy Humpty Dumpty


On his first Halloween, several months before he turned one year, my son was proportioned just right to be a perfect Humpty Dumpty for Halloween. Unfortunately, he was not keen on any sort of alone time, so sewing was entirely out of the question. A hand made Halloween costume would  have to be put on hold. My little boy’s second Halloween rolled around and despite the fact that he no longer looked exactly like Humpty Dumpty, I still felt the same desire to transform him into the loveable Mother Goose nursery rhyme character.

The costume I came up was pretty simple to make. I worked mostly with items we already had in our stash of old clothes, but the labor would have been even less if I had picked up a few new items, such as shorts and the correct size of tights.


Humpty Dumpty gets the Hang of Trick or Treating
Humpty Dumpty gets the Hang of Trick or Treating


Tutorial for Humpty Dumpty Costume for Halloween

To create Humpty Dumpty, I purchased a three pack of white onesies in my son’s size. I altered two of the onesies: I cut a panel out of the center of the first onesie, at around the point of the waist line that was about 4 inches wide. Then I divided the second onesie into two pieces by cutting right around the waist line. (The third onesie was left intact).

I sewed the panel I removed into the middle of the two halves of the second onesie. I have a great sewing machine with a stretch stitch, but if you don’t have this stitch on yours, you can substitute with a zigzag stitch.

Next I cut vertical strips of wool batting, each about two inches wide. I put the intact onesie onto my son and pinned the vertical strips onto his onesie so that all strips lay flush next to each other, all the way around. In hindsight, I cannot believe I dared to put straight pins into a garment that my son was wearing! However, this worked out fine at the time and fortunately no struggle ensued. No one got hurt and I never would have attempted this had I been worried! Safety pins would make a great substitute for straight pins.

Next I began tacking the vertical strips of wool batting onto the intact onesie (this time, my son was NOT wearing the onesie…) I did several layers of batting like this, with each set of strips a little shorter than the set beneath, so that an oval shape was achieved. You can use as many layers as you want in order to achieve the effect you are going for.


Humpty Dumpty Costume Tutorial Vertical Strips. I Added Five Layers of Vertical Strips of Wool Batting to give Humpty Dumpty His Shape
I Added Five Layers of Vertical Strips of Wool Batting to give Humpty Dumpty His Egg Shape


Finally, I cut a horizontal piece of batting to wrap all the way around the vertical layers in order to smooth out the lumps. I secured this horizontal piece with snaps so that it could be undone before putting my son into the costume. Once my little guy put the costume on, I did up the snaps.


Humpty Dumpty Costume Tutorial. Add Horizontal Batting all the Way Around to Smooth Out the Lumps.
Add Horizontal Batting all the Way Around to Smooth Out the Lumps


At the shoulder seams I tacked the onesie with the extra bit added on at the waist, onto the onesie covered in batting.

I put the egg costume onto my son and my husband painted the cracks.


Cracks are Painted onto the Top Layer
Cracks are Painted onto the Top Layer


An egg-shaped hat would have been fantastic, but I ran out of time. This could easily be made from the fabric of a fourth onesie.

To make Humpty Dumpty’s shorts, I altered a bibbed set of overalls that were now too small for my son. I cut up the upper piece and made inserts into the sides of the shorts. It would have been far easier and quicker to instead buy some shorts that were one or two sizes too large.

For suspenders I cut up an old woven shirt of mine (a t-shirt would not work because of the stretch). I sewed on snaps at the cross in the back, and also where the suspenders attached to the shorts. My suspenders were extremely basic. You could make something far more elaborate. Conversely, if you buy pre-made bias strips in the novelties section of the fabric store, you can simplify your work even more.

I bought a pair of white tights at my local dollar store. Again, if I’d found a pair the right size, my work would have been decreased. Instead, all I could find was a pair that was far too long for my son. At thigh level I folded the extra length up and used my machine’s stretch stitch to fasten the folded layer down.

For the final touch I bought a pair of black Mary Jane’s off Craigslist. My son loved the Mary Jane’s so much that I felt bad that he only got to wear them for Halloween.

This year I have it easy. My son is wearing a darling clown costume that my own mother made forty years ago! Next year I’ll have double the work, though, making costumes for a three year old and for the baby who is currently in my belly.


40-Year-Old Hand Made Clown Costume
40-Year-Old Clown Costume!

Happy Halloween!

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A Child’s Terrarium is Magical Too

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A Child’s Terrarium is Magical, Too

Creating terrariums has been an adult project that I have very much enjoyed doing all by myself. My son also loves the terrariums I make. He enjoys staring into the glass vessels and inspecting their miniature habitats. He has managed to mostly control his impulses, and follow the “Eyes only, no hands” rule that accompany my glass worlds. He even manages to do so when we have a couple of ladybugs crawling around inside a jar for one or two days. He likes my terrariums so much, however, that I wanted him to have his own that are accessible and hands-on. I wanted to find a way to replicate the creative experience for him, as well, to create with him a child’s terrarium.


A Child's Terrarium is Magical. Bean Seed Planted Within.
A Child’s Terrarium is Magical


On Pinterest I was reminded of a project I had seen before: starting a seed inside of a clear, plastic container stuffed with a damp piece of paper. I tried this project out a while ago. As with all of us, my son is perfectly aware of how a seedling appears above the surface of the soil. But also, as is the case for so many, what happens beneath the soil was still a complete mystery to him. We followed the conventional instructions to unearth this secret and it was fun. My son thoroughly enjoyed his peas and beans growing on the windowsill next to our kitchen table. I enjoyed his excitement and I like anything that grows. Still, this was not my favorite project. To tell the truth, it was really ugly.


A Bean Germinating in the Garden. What is Happening Beneath the Soil?
A Bean Germinates in the Garden…But What Takes Place Beneath the Soil?


Building terrariums for myself and my family gave me the idea that we could create something better, something beautiful, instead of a straggly plant in plastic.


A child's Terrarium by Mama is Inspired.
A Child’s Indoor Seed Sprouting Project can be Beautiful


First of all, we switched to glass jars. Aesthetically, this already made a world of difference. Another difficulty I found with the basic bean and pea projects we tried the first time around involved how much the plants wanted to grow. They did indeed manage to grow – our pea plant even produced a pod containing one mature pea! However, they looked starved. The plants were pale and stringy and dropped many leaves. I imagined that in our new version a little soil could be added in just the right way, making sure that the seeds were not occluded, but that there would be nourishment for our tender seeds. This way the plants could have longer, much prettier lives. Another challenge was that peas and beans like to climb. With no support system they would grow up as far as they could manage on their own, and then fall over. The plants were a straggly mess. This is what I had to look at each morning when we had breakfast. Not good enough! I knew these lovely little plants could start off my day with far more inspiration and magic. Instead of a child’s science project, I wished for a child’s terrarium.


How my Son and I Built a Child’s Terrarium Together


We rescued two transparent, glass jars from my mother’s recycling bin. My stepfather was an angel and he washed the containers and removed the labels for us.

I poured about a half an inch of light, sterilized potting soil into the bottom of each jar. Sterilization is a hassle but absolutely necessary. From personal experience, I can share that you don’t want to contaminate all your indoor plants with pests that come into the house in commercial potting soils. Potting soils sold outdoors at big box retailers are the worst culprits of all.


The Child's Terrariums are Filled with Soil
The Child’s Terrariums are Filled with Soil. Paper Napkins and Seeds are Ready to Add.


My child crumpled up unused napkins that we brought home with us from our last flight to Montreal. I can never bring myself to toss out unused napkins. I know that at some point they will come in handy.


Place the Crumpled Ball of Paper into the Glass Jar that is the child's terrarium.
Place the Crumpled Ball of Paper Napkin into the Glass Jar


Then my son, two years old, placed two or three of his crumpled balls on top of the layer of potting soil in each jar. He was so delighted to take the responsibility for preparing and placing the paper into the jars all on his own.

I reached into each jar and fiddled a small bit with the crumpled paper to make a natural shelf in each. Each shelf was meant to hold a seed where it could be easily viewed from outside the jar.

Next, my little boy placed a pea seed onto one shelf, and a runner bean seed onto the other.


Plant Bean and Pea Seeds in the Terrarium
Seeds are Placed on Paper Shelves in the Terrariums


Together, we gently poured some water into each jar: just enough for the paper to wick the water up to the seed. Pea seeds easily get too damp and rot, so a lighter touch is better for pea seeds. If you need to add more water on a later day, you can do so.


Proud of his Work in his terrarium
Satisfied with the Responsibility of Preparing his Terrarium all on his Own


Place the lids on the jars, and set your child’s terrariums in a bright place. Our kitchen windowsill is bright and does not receive direct sunlight.


We Placed our Child's Terrariums on a Bright Windowsill.
We Placed our Terrariums on a Bright Windowsill


Every morning we inspect the growth. These sorts of seeds sprout so quickly! It is so much fun to watch the young growth. Once the plants were high enough that they were growing back downward again, we removed the lids and the vines popped out! My little boy found this step to be hilarious. The popping plant stem inspired a gleeful, toddler squeal.


Germinating and growing Quickly, we Prepared Trellises for our Child's Terrariums
We Prepared Trellises for our Terrariums


To support the upward growth, we made trellises for our plants. We collected sticks from a local park and we cut lengths of wool yarn at home. I built an organic looking trellis by wrapping yarn around the joints where the sticks met. My son thickly wrapped his lengths of yarn around his sticks. He laid them out on the table for a while. Then he surrounded the jars on the windowsill with his yarn strewn branches for a day. Then one day I noticed his sticks stuffed into and poking out of his pea terrarium! This works, too! It is not necessary that the trellises be traditional in design. Trellises merely need to support the growth of the young plants.


My Son's Sweet Version of a Trellis for his Child's Terrarium.
My Son’s Adorable Version of a Trellis


Once the lids are removed, you have to keep on top of watering. In the summer months, the paper tends to dry out quickly. After several weeks of growth, we added more soil to the jars.  My son poured in more soil just up to the level of the seed, so that we would not have to water as often, and also to provide more sustenance for the small plants. Having my son complete this step was a bit messy, of course but again he was delighted to do so on his own.


A Homemade Trellis Supports a Bean Plant Growing in a Child's Terrarium.
A Homemade Trellis Supports a Bean Plant


Our glass jar planters are beautiful! My son knows the secrets of the life of a seed beneath the soil and we both get to start each morning off right, with the inspiration and grace that a child’s terrarium offers.


My Son's Trellis for a Child's TErrarium is just as Lovely as Mine.
My Son’s Trellis is Just as Beautiful


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