Archive of ‘outside’ category

sandy…that old hurricane that blew through town

it’s been a wild week in new jersey.  that great big popeye arm called hurricane sandy hooked a left and hit us pretty hard leaving a metaphorical black eye of amazing proportions.  for our little family, the damage was thankfully minor.  we lost power for around 30 hours and internet and tv access for 3 days but lots of our neighbors are still without power and it’s getting cold.  damage is widespread, of course, but here is a funny thing about being in the eye of the storm…without access to the tv and internet we were pretty disconnected from what was going on outside our immediate vicinity.  our world got small really fast consisting of visits and text updates from friends and simple passing-time activities at home.

small bits of information filtered through when we could get reception on our phones but we mostly focused on plying our cold friends with food, coffee and hot showers.  now, of course, we’ve seen the images of destruction and fought away the lumps in our throats.  there is so much work to do to recover and there are still cold friends to feed and warm.


if you live in the upper midwest of the United States, near the great lakes, you know that lake superior is shaped like the head of a wolf.  and if you travel to the very tip of that wolf’s nose, you would be in duluth, minnesota.  but standing on the shore of the lake in duluth you hardly feel like you are anywhere so small as a nose.  you can’t help but be aware that you are on the edge of something vast and great and powerful. the beach is soft sand and the lake looks as endless as an ocean.  the difference is that more often than not you are alone or nearly alone.

as a teenager, I threw more than my fair share of emotions into its deep, dark, cold waters (yay..accepted into college!! boo…first big break-up.).  it’s breathtaking and mysterious and has inspired whole communities of artists, architects and musicians to set up camp.

but sometimes I think there can be something menacing about the lake and its powerful but stoic response to everything. or maybe it is just that the lake itself isn’t always enough.  either way, the towns that dot up and along the lake’s shore are the home to lots of kids with mental health and chemical dependency troubles.  it seems like everyone, including me, has been touched by this problem…sometimes in tragic ways and sometimes in triumphant ones.

and that is why I’m so excited to be involved in a new development in my hometown.  the powerful force that is my mother has been working tirelessly to raise $6 million and build a children’s mental health center called Amberwing in a beautiful wooded area of Duluth that will serve the surrounding area.  the facility is thoughtfully designed to provide mental health resources with innovative programs including art, drama, music, yoga and animal-assisted therapies.  there is a great new report about it here, (it is worth watching to see just how beautiful and thoughtful the facility will be).   part of the fundraising for services at Amberwing is a black tie event coming up at the end of the month called Artcetera with music, wine, and an auction.

and, right there on page 331 is my donation of a memory quilt.   I’m so honored to have thrown my lot in with so many other area artists and craftsmen and I can’t wait to get sewing for such a good cause!

the whole thing got me thinking about craft-ivism (you know craft-activism) and the many ways that crafters can play a unique and heartfelt role in philanthropy.  then a friend wrote about her craft-ivism efforts and I decided to start a pinterest board to keep track of any opportunities I came across.  so, if you can make a pillowcase or a quilt, go check that out!




the tonic of wildness

ah.  there is so much to share sewing-wise but first I have to fill you in our long absence.  we’ve been away in the wild, wild woods of pennsylvania (we go every year to a different PA state park and rent a cabin–it’s a beautifully maintained network of outdoor opportunities).

we have returned saturated with Thoreau’s ‘tonic of wildness’ a drink we all began soaking up the minute we arrived and smelled the clean air, dipped into creek water, and ran in the open spaces.   we love taking this trip more than any other vacation.  this year was the best yet because the boys are independent enough to play outside without needing too much care (enough that I was able to read two entire books “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and very appropriately re-reading “A Secret Garden”).

we hiked and swam every day, ate outside, played music and sang around a campfire, checked the log pile endlessly for the resident snake, and made friends with snails, bats, chipmunks, butterflies, daddy long legs, toads, slugs, and carnivorous pitcher plants.  mostly though, we slowed down together and took in the mystery of nature.

school starts up soon, really soon. tomorrow preschool starts and on thursday….kindergarten (gulp).  so, we are soon back in the swing of schedules and little bits of school anxiety are popping up in the form of brotherly bickering and motherly muscle tension.  but, we’ve got a little tonic left in us and that should carry us through.

a garden story

{an afternoons harvest}

we are new to having a vegetable garden. we put in a small raised bed this spring mainly to introduce the boys to the idea that food comes from somewhere.  we really did not have big expectations.  we did not expect, for example, that the boys would find a ripe red tomato so thrilling they would eat it like an apple just after it had been plucked from the vine.  never mind that they would reject it out of hand if it dared to grace their dinner plate! and, speaking of tomatoes…that is basically the only thing that we are growing.  we had a few snow peas; some bits of lettuce; the carrots were stolen by groundhogs who ate their tops; as were the sunflowers.  but, with the intense heat the 2 small tomato plants just took over the place.

they grew and grew and buried the handmade tomato stands we set up (so cute and yet so useless) and we have to dig around to find our basil plants which are thriving, somehow.  I’ve been making tomato pasta sauce like mad and so far we have been managing to eat all of it but soon we might have to stew tomatoes and freeze them or even learn how to can them (!!).

the funniest part is that we belong to a community farm share from which we also get loads of tomatoes!  we are up to our ears in tomato goodness.

inspiration :: wednesday

~it’s wednesday, day three in this week-long highlight of bits and pieces of inspiration~

today it’s a photo of the simply perfect symmetry of forget-me-nots from a summer hike last year in minnesota.


got inspiration to share? link to it in the comments and spread the inspiration buzz.


va-va-vacation and vroom-vroom

we returned and despite a minor (or not so minor) ‘separated on the metro’ incident we are filled with that great post-vacation feeling.

there was, of course, a bit of mama-made in the whole adventure.  as the trip involved lots of driving I knew we would need a little car-ride entertainment and one of the amazing sewers in my classes recommended a great tutorial for a car caddy.  it was perfect! I made one for both boys (obviously…I mean, as if I had a choice!).

they both loved it. and, one of the best parts is that it folds up, which satisfies my tidiness instinct…that also makes it easy for travel purposes. a win-win if I have ever heard of one.


the outside quilt

I was searching for something the other day and came across some scraps of vintage fabric that long ago I had cut up in hopes of making an all-vintage quilt.  the scraps were mostly from old sheets and the white squares were old curtains with beautiful embroidery on it.  it was a bit smelly, I won’t lie, but when I originally got the fabric I washed it and set it in the sun to dry and then washed it again.  it still managed to stink, stink, stink while I was ironing but the quilt itself smells fine.  it was fortuitous timing because maya from maya made has just released a fantastic book called reinvention about using fabric destined for the landfill.  and, sew mama sew is holding a reinvention contest.  the book looks wonderful, by the way.

for some unknown reason, I am crazy about this quilt and so are the boys.  there isn’t exactly anything super special about it but I do think that white space on a quilt just makes it nice and summery and inviting.  I think I’m going to be incorporating more white into my quilts.

I made this the “easy way” meaning that it doesn’t have a binding.  I completed the patchwork top and then sewed the whole thing right-side together leaving a little bit open.  flipped it right side out and put in a few “tacked down” spots around the quilt (I used my buttonhole stitch on the first step for anyone wondering about specifics) before sewing a topstitch around the edge of the quilt.  yay, no binding!!

even though there is white in it, I’m planning on making this quilt an outdoors quilt…built for impromptu park visits and last-minute picnics.  there are two main reasons for this. the first is that I’m really hoping to spend a lot of time outside this summer and the second is that basically we don’t need anymore quilts INSIDE the house, I’ve pretty much quilted that up already. but, I don’t want to stop quilting.  hence the invention of the outside quilt. genius, right?

speaking of stubbornness, this little guy…J, our 3 year old is working hard on that autonomy game and perfecting the art of pushing limits.  it must be said that he is adorable about it but some of the grown-ups around here are a little tired at the end of the day.

spring break

in my previous life as a researcher with a clock to punch I would have spent the week of spring break juggling sitter schedules with the occasional time off work all balanced with a sprinkling of help from papa.  but the new me…the one running ‘a happy stitch’ and taking on most of the family responsibilities…well, that me was looking spring break straight in the eye and it was all mine.

I am not too proud to admit that I was a little scared. what if the kids got the better of me? what if I just ran of steam like a train stranded on the tracks with the passengers gone wild? it was 11 straight days of no school, people!

but you know what!? it didn’t happen like that! me and my two amazing boys screamed, yelled, fought over toys and noise, and had a great time.  somewhere in the midst of everything we found a great rhythm and the screaming, at least on my part, was minimized.  we hit the beach, the arboretum, hiked and even snuck papa off with us to the brooklyn bridge. we essentially spent a week loving up our little part of the world.



I know I’m lucky I got the opportunity to be adventure-planner and full-time mama.  it was a little taste of what it must be like for stay at home mothers.  and, wow. my hats off to those parents that do stay home full time. I’m not saying that it is the thing for me…I’m definitely ready for preschool to start up again.  but, I am heading back into ‘a happy stitch’ time with renewed confidence in my parenting as well as enthusiasm for all I do when I’m not with my kids.

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