Jun 17, 2008

welcome craft sanity visitors; this blog has moved

A big welcome to all of you who followed the link from CraftSanity! This blog moved a couple months ago to its new home at www.sewliberated.typepad.com. You can see all the archives over there.

I also want to remind subscribers to this RSS feed to update your bookmarks to www.sewliberated.typepad.com. There's lots of stuff to read about over there since the blog moved - house floods, our big move back to the States, and lots of pictures of my students (who I am going to miss very much) being their natural, creative and inquisitive selves.

But, perhaps most exciting of all, is that today I am announcing the release of the Lola Apron pattern, which includes a child's size verson! Here is today's post about it. Hope to see you over there!

xo,

Meg
________________

It’s about time for some big news, isn’t it? As much as I wish that I could be announcing this kind of wonderful news, that will have to wait until the chaos of moving subsides and the stars of serendipity and grad school schedules align. Instead, I have another “baby” that’s ready to make its way out into the world – the Lola Apron pattern!

lola_front

I’ve already mentioned how smitten I am with this apron. So smitten that I went ahead and made a mini-version, which comes as part of the deal. And a BIG thanks to my wonderful testers, Monique, Lucy, Shawnee, Beth and Melissa - these ladies are extremely talented, and they've made the pattern very user-friendly and typo-free.

Oh – and yes, that’s me, my former student, and, perhaps surprisingly, my Mexican kitchen featured on the pattern front. The dark interior made it a challenge.

But Miss Lola was insistent. She refused to be photographed in front of a run-down fence. She was pure kitcheny kitsch, and her place is the kitchen. How in the world could I possibly have a photo shoot in my rather hobbit-like kitchen? Answer: white bedsheets, this flash, a particularly patient husband, and lots and lots of fun with photoshop. My saving grace? These plates. They make the whole photo, in my opinion.

One more thing, which is a big announcement in of itself – have you listened to the most recent Craftsanity podcast? I haven’t yet, out of fear of hearing my own voice bumbling about and making embarrassing statements. I was so honored to be invited on the show and to spend an hour or so chatting with Jennifer, who is a delightful person and a fellow apron aficionada.

Craft on!

Meg

Apr 9, 2008

THE BLOG HAS MOVED TO TYPEPAD!

Here ye, here ye! I'm finally saying goodbye to blogger and my inability to reply to comments! From now on, you can find me over at www.sewliberated.typepad.com. (Yes, the blog has a new name, too! Read more about it here.) Please, please, please ... change your blog feeds/readers to my new address ... I would hate to see you go, especially now that I will have the chance to reply to all of your thoughtful comments through the wonder that is Typepad.

So stop by, say hi, peruse my new "about and FAQ's" page, and read my review of Amanda's new book, The Creative Family. The only sad thing about my move is that most of my previous comments have been wiped out. I'm working to fix the issue, and will be slowly going through the blog and redirecting certain links, so please excuse any goofy links or formatting as I work through the kinks.

Thanks for reading!

Apr 6, 2008

how to make recycled paper

recycled paper journal 1

I've recently been bitten by the paper recycling bug. My symptoms? Ogling over multi-colored paper scraps and a strong desire to never buy construction paper ever again.

open recycled paper journal

Some of the mothers in my school make beautiful things with recycled paper, such as this journal which is hand-bound with string coated in beeswax. The edges of the cover are delicately burned for a real artisan touch. (You can find beeswax here, which you apply to a single strand of hemp string, working it in with the heat of your fingers. Bind the book by sewing the layers together with a large-eyed needle, then thread some beads on each end.)

let scrap paper soak

The process of making recycled paper varies from one source to the next, which can only mean one thing - the process is the kind that is open to experimentation and variation. I encourage you to do just that. Children will love experimenting with different kinds of paper and procedures. This little tutorial illustrates what has worked for me thus far.

What you will need:

-Keep a bucket of water handy next to your recycling bins. Shred by hand any used paper (a perfect job for a toddler!) and throw it into the bucket to sit for at least a day.
-An old blender
-Used frames (minus the glass and backing) of various sizes. The size of the frame will determine the size of your finished sheet of paper.
-Very, very fine plastic screening which will be stretched over the frames and used as a sieve
-Thumb tacks for attaching the screening to the frames to make the sieve
-A tupperware bin large enough to so that you can easily submerge the frames in it
-Newspaper cut slightly larger than the dimensions of your frames for blotting
-Absorbent sponge
-Rolling pin

blend well-soaked paper into pulp

1.) With a ratio of about 1 portion of well-soaked paper scraps to 2 cups water, blend into a pulp in your old, trusty blender. Blend in short spurts so as not to burn out the motor. You will need about two half-blender-fulls (shown above) of pulp per tupperware bin batch. *If you would like to make your paper scented, add 6-10 drops of essential oils during the blending of the pulp.

pour pulp into tupperware tub filled with water

2.) Fill the tupperware bin with several inches of water and pour in the pulp. Swish the mixture around so that the pulp is evenly distributed in the water. *You can add dried flowers, leaves, etc. at this point in the process, or you can wait until you have lifted the sieve out of the water and press them neatly onto the paper.

slowly lift framed sieve out of water

3.) Submerge the frame-sieve into the bin and slowly lift out. Place a piece of blotting newspaper on top of the pulp/paper. Using a sponge on top of the newspaper, blot away all of the excess water. Flip over the sieve and carefully remove the paper. It should still be attached to the newspaper on one side.

4.) Place another piece of newspaper on top of the paper. The paper sheet is now sandwiched between two layers of newspaper. Roll out any excess water using a rolling pin. Remove the top piece of newspaper and let the paper dry completely in a sunny spot. Carefully peel the recycled sheet from the newspaper.

Here's a video that demonstrates a slightly different way to go about it. Figure out what process works best for you. Before you know it, you'll be planning to write down all of your recipes on recycled paper, too!

Apr 2, 2008

it's an aprony april thus far

Amos and Adelaide's Children's Aprons

I think I've gotten myself tangled up in some hard-to-meet expectations. Ever since test-running this new chef's get-up in my classroom, all they can say is "Are we going to have a chef's outfit for baking cookies? And one for baking bread? And one for preparing snack? And one for making granola? And one for cracking nuts? And one for making tortillas?" One child wanted to do his math work in the chef's costume. Hey... now that's a good idea. It might add a bit of pizazz to tax preparation process.

Amos and Adelaide's children's aprons

A few of you might recognize this apron from the earlier version that I sold briefly as a PDF pattern. It's been jazzed up with an appliqu├ęd kangaroo pocket and will be available in various sizes. A smock-style child's apron will also be part of the same pattern - I'll post some pictures of it in a few days' time.

Things are getting done here, but why does it seem like the "getting done" occurs at the speed of poured molasses, while the passage of days happens at the speed of light? I must be getting older. I'm reminded of this every time a child says to me something along these lines:

Meg, do you remember when, a long, long, time ago ... when I was REALLY little, and we made ornaments to put on our Christmas trees?

Why, yes. For me it seems like last week that we were making holiday decorations in the classroom. Oh boy. I know what this means. Measuring time as I perceive it, we will be moving back to the US in a little less than a week.

Holy Crimeny! I'd better get to packing!

Mar 31, 2008

the rebirth of the WC

toilet plant

In a cheery little apartment bedecked with warm rays of sunshine, there lives a funny little toilet with a happy little plant.

blender plant

Very nearby, a wrinkled old man of a blender relishes the new green life sprouting from within.

These photos were taken almost a year ago at my friend's Mexico City apartment. I'm not sure why they've been sitting for so long in my picture files, but its high time they were resurrected. I mean, really ... how can these not bring a smile to your face? They speak to me on so many levels.

Aesthetics - Perhaps the most shallow of reasons, yet significant nonetheless. I love the bold innovation coupled with the homeyness of the plant life. I think every morning would start off right if I had my bowl of oatmeal next to a repurposed toilet-planter. Don't you think?

Roots - Antiques and thrifted finds enrich our surroundings and provide fodder for our imaginations. Who were the people that used them? What kind of home(s) did they have? What was life like when they were brand-spankin' new? And the toilet? Reflecting on its past life is just plain funny. But gee - it is one useful invention!

Responsibility - Repurposing. Keeping used objects out of the landfill and keeping us from going out any buying something new.

Did you see that Blue Yonder is having a repurposing contest? The toilet-planter won't be entered because I can't claim it as my own creation, but I'm sure you all have some excellent ideas and/or repurposed works of art. So empty out your trash bin and get crackin'!

Mar 28, 2008

gravity experiment goes curiously awry

gravity experiment gone curiously awry
the culprit assesses the situation from high ground

the culprit assesses the situation from high ground

Aside from this riveting feline-style scientific experiment, what in the world have we been up to this past week?

The week began with an overnight trip to big-city Chihuahua where we stocked up on gouda cheese, cashews, olive oil and red wine (all of which we consider vital to our gustatory happiness, but which we can't find here in Creel.) Upon return, we were greeted by red and orange blinking lights on our modem. In other words, bad news. For days, our internet connection cut off every 10 minutes or so. Several visits from Telmex technicians later, we apparently are up and running once again.

Fortunately for me, this lack of access to the 'nets helped me to buckle down and get all of those instructions written and diagrams drawn for the Elsie Mae and Lola aprons. And there's more - but that's a surprise, and you'll have to wait until I have pictures to show for it!

I've also immensely enjoyed your comments and ideas about homemade/thoughtful/non-commercial gift giving. If you haven't had a chance to read through the comments yourself, I highly suggest it - it's a great resource for future gift-giving.

Off to sew things ...

Meg

Mar 21, 2008

and celebration number 27 passes quietly

27

For posterity's sake, and the little old lady me, I thought I would record the bit of requisite gluttony that occurred yesterday in honor of the vernal equinox and my 27th birthday.

The day passed with a nod and a smile, devoid of all of the hubbub generally associated with birthdays. All of our friends are out of town for the Easter holidays, and Patrick and I enjoyed the quiet day, sipping a rare coke from recycled glass bottles (so much tastier this way - why do we stand for all of this PLASTIC? Plastic toys for children, plastic food containers, etc. Have you watched this video yet? If not, then consider it my birthday wish!)

The dearest birthday gift I received this year came from my Mom, in the form of a short email, describing our first meeting. I must preface this with a bit of a birth story - I was born by emergency C-section after three days of labor, in an age where medical technology hadn't caught up with the most pressing needs of mother and child to connect right after birth. My mother was under complete anesthesia, and I was born at 7:28 P.M. I'm sure it was even a while before I was put in my father's arms, as they washed, bundled, and did whatever else they deemed "necessary" for a newborn before handing her off to bond with family. Nonetheless, my Mom's description was lovely:

I have a memory of our first eye to eye contact that I cherish. Bundled tightly in a soft blanket you were placed in my arms at about 4:00 in the morning. Your eyes were wide open and you seemed to be ready for conversation. I brought you close to my face and told you how happy I was to finally see you and hoped I would be a good mother to you. Your little mouth puckered an "o" and your eyes seemed to open even wider. I was dumbstruck by the realization that we had been "talking" for many months and that while you grew and rested under my heart - loved sight unseen - nothing had prepared me for the outpouring of love that funny little face evoked!

I'm touched beyond the scope of words that my Mom offered me such a thoughtful, immaterial gift this year. Patrick and I have a bit of a tradition of "gifting" in non-traditional ways ... by turning commercial holidays on their heads and using the occasion, instead, to find little extra ways that we can express our love for each other. For example, yesterday I was the recipient of breakfast in bed and a heavenly shoulder rub. In the past, we have written out "coupons" on index cards, which could be "redeemed" at any time. Here are a few examples from a batch that Patrick gave me on our first anniversary, right before we moved to Mexico. (And yes, Amelie is actually an anniversary gift!)

gifts of love coupons

Do you eschew the commercial, the contaminating, and the mass-produced for thoughtfulness and homemade gifts? I'd love it if you could leave a comment and share your ideas and suggestions for giving more meaningful gifts for parents, partners, and especially children. Who knows - perhaps our small efforts will make an impression on our own children, friends, and families, and we can stamp out at least a small patch of that omnipresent commercial wildfire, fed by corporate marketing to children. If you have a chance, read this article that was published around Christmastime. It's certainly food for thought.

xo,
Meg

Mar 17, 2008

seeing green

Okay, who let loose the frolicsome leprechaun? Really, I can't think of another reason why it would have snowed in Mexico on Saint Patrick's Day.

Green kitchen

Needless to say, the outside environment was not so generous in its showing of green. I had to look elsewhere. I found a bit of the sought-after green in my kitchen, in the form of a reusable grocery bag ...

Irish Soda Bread

... whose contents, with the help of that same impish leprechaun, eventually morphed into some delectable Irish soda bread (recipe here.)

So let's talk Irish, shall we? I have not a nip of Irish blood in my veins, but I've been hankering to be Irish for a long while now.

It all started when I was 18 and I got into Notre Dame. For four years, I could officially claim to be Irish without anyone raising their eyebrows. Suspiciously soon after my Irish-ness expired when I graduated from ND, I married a Mr. Patrick McElwee. Some might claim that the shotgun wedding was simply my way of hanging on to my Irish (better) half for good. I took his last name largely for the Irish mystique. Oh, yes ... we did consider hyphenating or coming up with an alternative name, but we figured that Anderson-McElwee or Andlewee just didn't work. So wee McElwees we shall be, the whole lot of us.

Patrick is as genuinely Irish as they get. He looks the part. His father was barely born in the US, and I was fortunate to have known his late grandmother, who always sang "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" in her dementia. No joke! Here's a little video that Patrick and his siblings put together last year, soon after her passing:




Patrick has many more Irish stories, old and new. Consider this one - he is a proud descendant of Michael McElwee and Nial Shiels, The Fanad Patriots, who gained their fame by killing their abusive English landlord.

In Patrick's formative years, he had his two elderly Irish great uncles living with his family. He's also visited Ireland on several occasions, during which he 1.) was on a bus with cousins while everyone started raucously chanting "IRA! IRA!" 2.) his great aunt, when asked for directions by British soldiers, gave them directions to march straight into the river, unbeknownst to them, of course.

I could go on about this whole Irish business, but let it suffice to say that I am proud of my adopted heritage, and yes, in case you were wondering ...

we do dance the jig.

Mar 16, 2008

horsing around (sheepishly)

Mexico March 15 420

Mexico March 15 407

Mexico March 15 382

horsing around

We experienced a grand tour of the horse stables this past Friday. One of the dads in my school community gives horse tours in the area, and he kindly told us all about the horses and even "shoed" a horse in front of the children! They got to ride the gentlest of the animals - some even rode by themselves in a corral.

Another highlight of the day was the hilarious sheep "chase." A rope was loosely tied around the neck of a ewe (what a good sport she was!) so that when the end was pulled it would easily come off. Small groups of children were put in the corral with the ewe and were charged with removing the rope from her neck. I'm not sure who laughed more - the children or the adults watching them!

It was a nice way to draw to a close the first half of this second semester. Bring on the vacation!

xo,
Meg

Mar 12, 2008

love me some linen

embroidered patch from berlin's whimsy

Look what arrived in my Mexican P.O. box today! Amber and I did a bit of an exchange - a few sewing patterns for some of her knock-em-dead handwork. I'm hoping that having this lovely piece of Amber's in my home will help filter some of her embroidery mojo my way! You never know.

At the moment, I'm pleasantly paralyzed (creatively) due to the 10 yards of beautiful linen that I can finally call my own. I've waited literally years to find affordable linen. Now that I have it, I'm overwhelmed. There are SO many ideas floating about in my head, but I can't seem to lasso any idea in particular. Part of me is fighting the perfectionist that lurks beneath my more nonchalant surface ... why would I feel like I need to create a masterpiece as soon as the needle hits this wonder-fabric? Silly. So I decided to start with a pattern - a pleasant warm-up of sorts.

quilting bee stichette in progress

You already know how much I admire Hillary's work, and this "Quilting Bee" stitchette is just another testament to all that is wonderful about Wee Wonderfuls. I can already see the finished embroidery hanging on the wall of my new studio once we move to North Carolina!

I'm confident that once I'm done with the Quilting Bee I will be able to skip intrepidly into a future filled with original designs. Do you ever get this perfectionist-induced creativity block?

xo,
Meg

Mar 10, 2008

ode to the lola apron

The Lola Apron 3
Another apron, Meg?

The Lola Apron 1
Really now.

The Lola Apron 2
Don't you think it's time you joined A.A. (Aprons Anonymous) to talk about your little problem?

How could I stop myself? When I found this vintage apron for sale over at Joyful Abode's Etsy shop, I didn't think twice.

vintage apron find

Isn't it lovely? The fabric has the feel of a soft bed sheet, and the circle pockets are just to die for. The voices in my head wouldn't cease until I had made myself another.

And I have a confession to make. As much as I love my two Emmeline Aprons, the Lola is, hands down, MY FAVORITE APRON EVER. I don't know what it is. The fit is super. I love the retro flair of the bias binding and rick rack accents. I love it SO MUCH that I am looking for excuses to wear it. That frying pan? Yep. It needs to be washed again. (And you don't know how much I used to detest doing the dishes. Okay - maybe it's the Flylady that has had me on the right track as of late, but the Lola apron certainly deserves a hefty percentage of the credit.)

So. Pardon my effusive babbling. Of course, this means that Lola, along with Miss Elsie Mae, are both in the process of becoming printed patterns. The good news? Starting this Friday I have fifteen days off, during which I hope to plow ahead in this somewhat arduous pattern-writing process. Maybe if I tell myself that I can wear the Lola apron only when I sit down to write instructions? Now that is an efficient working plan!

Mar 5, 2008

building a firm foundation

building the petronas towers 1

Concentration. A grand plan. A careful touch. The pleasure of being architect, structural engineer, and construction worker all at once. If you stick your tongue out a bit further, that precariously placed block will most certainly stay put. The young visionary learns all too quickly from an error in judgment, but the driving force of the grand plan leads him right back to the construction site to work up a plan B.

building the petronas towers 2

This morning, I was delighted to see that one of my students had placed a photo of the Petronas Twin Towers (once the tallest in the world) on his work rug. With a quick, I'm-on-a-mission gait, he went back and forth from the shelf to his rug, retrieving the pieces of the pink tower and the brown stair. This is the fruit of his labor:

building the petronas towers 3

Right on, little man - take an idea and run with it! I swear, my greatest epiphanies as a teacher come from the students themselves. Hats off to you, Diego, for the following idea, which could be used both in the home and the classroom.

Search high and low (and most likely in old issues of National Geographic) for excellent quality photos of architecture from around the world. Include photos of well-known landmarks, such as the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Empire State Building, and the Pyramids. Don't forget to also include typical houses from around the world. Mount the photos on card stock, write a sentence or two about the building on the back, and laminate for durability. Keep the photos in a special folder titled "The Architect's Library of Inspiration" or something of the sort. Provide wooden blocks and a sturdy foundation.

I've put a good deal of thought into appropriate (and inappropriate) toys for young children. While I'll spare you a soapbox speech at the moment, one thing I can say for certain - if my own children have no store-bought toys other than quality wooden blocks (and a hefty selection of art supplies), I would say that they wouldn't be missing out on a darn thing. But then again, I'm one of those weirdos who has never owned a television and never will and who is planning on having nightly family jam sessions with my future children.

The word on the street is that these blocks are amazing. I'm also partial to the sets that are available from Michael Olaf's catalogue. We have the Roman Arch set in my classroom as part of the physics curriculum, and I'm personally envious of any child that has the deluxe wooden block set. How cool would that be?

To sum it up - provide blocks, and they will build.

Mar 3, 2008

never in a million years part two. the cat speaks.

amelie on the new lens

Dearest Very Large Animals Who Have Warm Laps,

Amelie here. I thought I'd bring you up to date on the latest news from the Amelie-Timoun Kingdom, since Meg seems to be a bit preoccupied with all of the new things that Patrick brought back from his trip to the U.S. in Timoun's traveling bed (I think they call it a suitcase.) There's this new thing that she's been sticking in my face - she said something about a camera lens. She's been babbling on in that odd language of yours about the magnificence of the low aperture number that allows her to take photos with an awesome depth-of-field in low-light conditions. Yawn. It's time for me to take a little nap. Here are a few more pictures to keep you occupied while I doze.

vintage apron find

bag of goodies from the other side!

Okay, that was a nice nap. Thanks for your patience. I know you humans like to be doing things all the time and neglect your hourly naps. Personally, I don't understand how you get through a 24 hour day without sleeping for 16 hours of it. You should try out my circadian rhythm. I think you'll like it.

Well, I really should get to the point because before you know it, siesta time will once again be upon us. Meg wanted me to tell you that she had a lovely time reading through all 347 comments with your name suggestions for the new apron, and that she has finally settled on a name! While my own vote was clearly for Amelie, she ended up picking Elsie Mae.

A big congratulations to Melody, who suggested the name Elsie in honor of her own great-grandmother. Meg went ahead and slapped Mae onto one end because she "just couldn't resist!" Humans. You all are so funny about your naming obsession.

Goodness me! It's nap time again. I must curl up immediately into a ball. Wishing you all a purrfect evening!

Paw print,
Amelie

Feb 27, 2008

never in a million years ... part one

Closer view
Check out this bring-on-Spring Emmeline by Melissa! Freshcut fabrics make for such a sweet rendition of any apron. Make sure to head over to the Flickr group and see how others have (brilliantly) interpreted the Emmeline Apron pattern!

... would I have guessed that I would have sold out of my first printing of Emmeline Apron patterns in three week's time! Thanks to your overwhelmingly positive reception of Miss Em, she'll have to be on backorder for a little less than a week while we wait for the second printing to ship out. I know you'll understand if you order a pattern and it takes a little longer to arrive, but we are aiming to get out any orders for Emmelines around March 4th. Thank you so much for your patience and support!

In the meantime, if you're just itchin' to get a-stitchin', please consider supporting my wholesale retailers by purchasing the patterns from them. I know that Yuki at LA Chakra has about 25 Emmelines in stock. Also, be sure to check out some of the pattern/fabric kits available at Monkey Foot Designs! I'm so excited to see that Kris has unearthed some of that hard-to-find Gnome fabric for her Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag kit! She's also put together the Chocolate Lollipop fabric and some beautiful out of print Urban Chicks fabric that would make a stunning duo for the Emmeline Apron.

gnome_1_shadow

read_pill_1_shadow

emmeline_2_small

Stay tuned for "Never in a Million Years ... Part Deux" to find out the name of Little Miss Apron #2 - and boy do I have a lot of choices!

xo,
Meg

Feb 24, 2008

name that apron

the second apron pocket 1

the second apron ruffle

waist band gathers

The Next Apron Pattern

Number Two apron pattern is no longer just a drawing on paper! Here she is, in her first workup. Number Two features all the fifties' flair imaginable, with a ruffled hem, two pockets with cloth-covered button details, a gathered waistband, and some optional bodice bows. For a perfect fit, Number Two offers a curved seam bodice and skirt, which lend it its retro vibe. Fully lined, Number Two has no exposed seams and will last long enough for your great-granddaughter to put it to good use. The only thing Number Two doesn't have is a name!

That's where you come in! Help me give Number Two a name she can be proud of! Leave a comment, and in a week's time I will pick the name that most tickles my fancy. Keep in mind that I like the idea of old-fashioned women's names for my aprons (i.e. Emmeline) but I'm open to other possibilities as well. The winner will receive a copy of The Apron Book by EllynAnne Geisel!
2167058117_639acfb41e

After the naming, all that's left is writing the instructions, drafting the pattern pieces in Illustrator, laying out everything in InDesign, sending the draft out to testers, revising, re-sending, and printing. Nothing at all, really! But this naming contest should be so much fun. Maybe I'll even get some ideas for naming my future children, as well. :)

Happy naming!

Meg

Feb 23, 2008

rummage sale for the birds

collecting items for the birds

I can't tell you how much joy this little basket of bits and pieces brings to my heart. It is a harbinger of spring, the first sign that winter is in its last throes. In this diminutive basket near the art supplies, we are collecting items for the birds, who are busy making their nests in preparation for the boom of new life that will be happening in the next few months.

Yarn leftovers, embroidery floss, downy chicken feathers, a left-behind piece of the cloth mop, scraps of fabric, a bit from a torn sponge, a ball of hair after a thorough hair brush cleaning - all of these things would have been thrown away, but our trash is the bird's treasure. After this indoor basket is full, a child takes it outside and deposits the loot in a larger basket, where the birds are free to take what they please at their leisure.

We're hoping that we will see evidence of this gift to the birds in nearby nests. Our eyes are peeled for pieces of bright yarn.

Feb 20, 2008

my february ten

pink food

I've decided to follow in the footsteps of dear Amanda and squeeze out some of the sweet juice that February has offered thus far. It would be so easy to take my bow and head off right stage instead of facing the rest of formidable, frigid, ever-funky February, but I think it would be more effective simply to kill this month with compliments and kindness. February, you weasel of a month - you are no longer my foe!

1. Let's begin with another tribute to naturally pink food. This beet, apple, pineapple and walnut salad is the perfect marriage of root and fruit. Adding fresh cream makes it a thing from the fluffy clouds above. The children, who were drawn in by its deceptively unnatural bright color, dubbed it "delicious" and served themselves second helpings. Plus, to prolong the color appreciation, the beets give you pink pee. And there is, quite possibly, nothing cooler than pink pee when you are four years old.

2. The ray of morning sunshine that graced my kitchen windowsill with it's camera-loving warmth. Now I know that if I want to photograph anything inside my house in natural light, I have to take advantage of this fleeting moment between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. (Precisely when I'm not in the house, but rather at school. Why was I not in school this morning? That's a long story involving a sick cat and the busting of a window when someone broke into the house. But, eh ... let's stick to the good parts of February, shall we?)

2262842253_d6d2cf1552

3. The incredible reception of the new patterns. Wow. I most certainly was not expecting this! After two weeks, the aprons are already into their second printing! Emmeline Aprons and Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bags are popping up all over the planet, like the one above, photo courtesy of Monokultur in Austria. And you love them! I'm couldn't be happier, and I certainly hope that you will start sharing your creations over at the flickr group.

4. These guitar lessons, found through the inspirational parenting blog, Blue Yonder. For years (we're talking since college) I've been wanting to refine my guitar skills beyond the standard chord realm. Perhaps this will be the push that gets me a finger-pickin'! Patrick's been working on his jazz improv on the piano, and with a few minutes of technical practice every day, we might just be able to start that band. (To my future children - I'm so sorry that your parents are the Duke and Duchess of Dorkdom. Perhaps you should consider picking up the banjo, harmonica and fiddle so that we can be the nouveau generation of the Trapp Family singers?)

5. The glad tidings in the mail, from the incredibly sweet and thoughtful Dee, who sent me the most scrumptious package full of chocolate! I would have taken a photo, Dee, but the a chocoholic got to it before I had a chance to recharge the camera battery. Ahem. Dee also included some lovely vintage trims and incredible cuts of fabric. Thank you so much!

6. Five months and counting until we're back state-side. Five months until we're much closer to family ... five months until I can buy all the spices that my little heart desires ... five months until my windows are properly sealed and my roof is properly insulated ... five months until we can go out to eat at an Italian/Chinese/Thai/Indian restaurant ... etc. I think I need to commit to chanting the "enjoy the present moment mantra" with more frequency.

7. Discovering this site for affordable, quality linen. I could never stomach buying linen before, but you can't turn your back on their prices. Thanks to Amber for passing on the info! (And if you haven't yet, check out the lovely linen items in Amber's Etsy shop.)

February shadow

8. The lanky shadow produced by the low-angled February sun.

stubby bather

9. The comic "stubby bather" effect in the warm waters of the hot springs.

dia de campo 12-07

10. The joy with which children embrace the outdoors, no matter the season, no matter the month.