February 18, 2015

Stolen Time

"Traditionally, women have always made their art out of stolen materials and stolen time."
-Elizabeth Gilbert

I read this great article the other day, which discusses how mothers throughout the ages have always made their art in the midst of "stolen time." As Tara Mohr writes, "You see, I thought it was a problem that I was writing in bits of stolen time. I thought that I had to somehow get back to that pre-motherhood existence when not only did I have hours of uninterrupted time to write, but more importantly, I had an alert mind (imagine that!) oriented mostly around writing and the preparation for it - observing the world and listening to the aha moments and emotional currents of my inner life. And (forgive me) I thought my problem was somehow a new one."

You see, I have to confess, before our oldest arrived, I didn't realize how distracting motherhood would really be. Which is exactly why I scheduled a painting show (while I was pregnant) to take place just days before Isia turned four months old. Because all newborns do is sleep- right? She was colicky, and I was wrong- but somehow it still got finished and hung up anyways. How did it get done? By painting when I should have been sleeping, or cooking, or fill-in-the-blank. By having friends come over to hold the baby for an hour here and there. By creating in the midst of stolen time- and throwing in some older works too. Not that I would recommend having a solo painting exhibit with an infant, but I also wouldn't warn completely against it either. Part of my desire in motherhood is to walk through these refining fires of diapers, nighttime feedings, tantrums and cuddles, and still recognize myself on the other side. And for me, this means making time to create. That might mean typing this one-handed while my children run around the room and the baby nurses (ahem), or getting up early/ staying up late- but it needs to happen. 

What does this have to do with my sketchbook? It has become my baseline lately of whether or not I'm creating. This blog usually has that purpose, and I look forward to that being the case again, but in the meantime I have my portable one-minute-here-and-there sketchbook. Committing myself to at least, in the very least, creating time to scribble something there when I can.

Those first scribbles just sat on the pages, waiting to become something more. But now I'm finding, weeks into this practice, that the scribbles are coming easier. Melding more easily into the pictures I see in my head. Which is good, because there is a lot floating around my head these days. They don't (usually) get done all at once...

...some even take days to complete. But in the end, they're there. Little reminders of what's occurring in our journey: a bedtime tale we love right now, a mantra to grow into, an aspiration- or sometimes just something I like.

Little pieces cut out of stolen time and sewn together, that will someday (I hope) make up a whole sketchbook's worth. Reminding me of the present, giving me strength & inspiration for the days ahead. 

January 30, 2015

Cherry & Coconut Granola Bars

When Esther was first born, I joked to friends that I was surviving on the "cookie diet." And it was pretty true! When she woke up throughout the night I would grab her, then rub through the kitchen with my free hand grabbing a snack before we settled down to nurse. And what's delicious & easy to grab with one hand? A cookie, or two... or three. You get the idea. Then I remembered this sweet little recipe, simple enough for sleep-deprived me, and these replaced the cookies. Most of the time. Easy to make with kids, and especially great for cooking with toddlers because there's no "raw" ingredients if their hands make it to their mouth during the process.

You just need oatmeal, sweetened condensed milk, and some add-in's. If you avoid this recipe because of the sweetened condensed milk (like I did), compare it to the box of a regular box of granola bars and see what you think. There are also great tutorials for making your own sweetened condensed milk (including using coconut milk only), so those are possibilities too. No matter how you make them, just try them. Also, feel free to adjust the add-in's to clean out all the almost-empty's you have sitting around the pantry. It's a great way to use them up!


Cherry & Coconot Granola Bars

inspired by this recipe by Three Many Cooks/ Pamela Anderson
(they have a gluten-free version too)

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried cherries or cherry craisins, roughly chopped
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 325F and place oven rack in the lower-middle. Grease a 9x9 baking pan with cooking spray. For easy removal, place a 9 by 18 inch strip of heavy-duty foil on pan bottom and up the two sides. Grease once more with cooking spray. 

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix together using a spoon or clean hands (especially fun for littles). Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Pat down until firmly packed by placing a piece of plastic wrap on top and pressing down (our favorite, so everyone can help) or with a spatula. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

Cool to room temperature and put pan in freezer. You might be tempted to skip this step, but don't. They magically transform in the freezer from a loose cookie to a granola bar. When bar is firm, remove from pan using foil handles and place on cutting board. Cut into 16 1x4 inch bars*. Can be stored for a week in an airtight container or frozen. 

*Sometimes I'll cut them into smaller squares and store them in a jar for easy nibbling. Perfect for tossing to hungry kids while you're waiting for the pasta water to boil (wink)

January 19, 2015

Mermaids & Pirates, Part II

The best part of Isia's mermaid costume was her contribution. In years past, we would go to the fabric store & I would just pick out a few options for her to choose from. Not so this time. She loved looking through the fabric (just like her Mama) and found this pink one all by herself. I wasn't sure how well it would sew, but it ended up doing nicely. And it made her so happy that she was the one who found it!

To make her seashells, and Esther's seashells too, I ended up doubling the fabric over itself and sewing around a seashell template that I created. I then pinned the seashells onto their shirts, sewing them on around the outline, then sewing the seashell's "ridges" directly onto the shirt to keep them firmly in place so they wouldn't pucker. (Please ignore the lone seashell ridge above, I hadn't formalized my plan yet.)

The end product looked like this! The shirt was a long-sleeve cream one we bought at Target to keep her comfortable & warm. It's also made a great addition to our dress-up basket because she can put it on all by herself. Billy's pirate hathas been a fun addition to our dress up basket too. He's all about "bad guys" these days (which means any character, not just the villains) so he loved his pirate get-up.

Returning to mermaids, I was inspired by this tutorial for Isia's skirt & found this perfect fabric when we were shopping:

Aren't those ruffles perfect? I was so excited, and it was easy to work with too. Since it's stretchy I only made a folded-over waistband at the top & didn't worry about any additional elastic. I also made it pretty snug, which helped it to stay up. For the bottom I trimmed the fabric directly under the bottom ruffle, and no other hem was needed. Since I wanted her to be able to walk, I did cut out a triangular portion in back (not pictured) starting at her knees and ending at the bottom of the skirt. The pink fin pleats (see above) can be found in the tutorial, very simple! The only modification I did was to sew the sides on- to make them sturdier- while leaving the bottom pleats open. 

And what do you get when you cross a mermaid and a pirate?
Mermaids & Pirates

A little girl who's ready for adventures!


January 6, 2015

Mermaids & Pirates: Part I

Do you mind if we take a quick visit back to October? I could wait until next Halloween to share them... but I'd rather not (smile). Isia is smitten with mermaids right now, and luckily I still had this mermaid costume left over from her very first Halloween:

Isia mermaid

Her little tail was first a pair of cotton baby pants that I opened up & seamed together. I sewed scales on the front, and a double-sided fin at the bottom in fleece, to keep it soft for baby toes. I then hot-glued shells onto a plain long-sleeve onesie, and used a fabric marker to draw the straps in. She liked it a lot, and made it "flap" very realistically with her kicking legs. And then, to Mama's delight, it got to be put to good use again. 

So Esther could have her chance as the littlest mermaid! Isn't she sweet? I'm smitten with those little hands right now. She was perfectly comfortable in this little outfit too, which made for a happy  first Halloween. Her tail stayed exactly the same, but I did make her a new top to match her big sister's mermaid outfit. More details on the big kid costumes to come next, stay tuned!