Energy Efficiency

Juuuust when I thought I was getting the hang of this 4-child thing and was even squeaking in a little creative time, the baby decided to have a massive sleep regression. She won’t nap in her crib during the day, or sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time at night- aye yi yi! Of course this is what I’ve signed up for being a parent of 4, and I know from experience that nothing lasts forever, even though sleep deprivation feels like it is here to stay. I miss the quiet-house down time to create more than I miss the sleep at this point(but talk to me in a week).

With that gripe out of the way, I’ll share that if I’ve learned nothing else from parenting, I’ve learned to be flexible and work with the time and energy I’m given. So, baby won’t nap in bed? We take a nice long walk in the spring sunshine-I get some exercise, and she gets a little rest. I even bring my knitting in case there’s time to stop and sit for a bit 

 

We stop by the local market for some produce and come home for a diaper change, milk, and a wiggle on the baby gym before picking up the big kids. And I keep crossing my fingers for her to find her sleep groove again so I have time for all of the creative ideas whirling around in my head!

Hard Working Bunny

The Easter bunny works hard at our house! Marking Easter eggs with everyone’s initials, filling them with treats, hiding them all over the garden. Not to mention putting together exciting Easter baskets for 4 children.  

    
 This year the, ahem, Easter bunny stayed up way past her bedtime to sew a stuffed patchwork bunny for the baby, because she can’t hunt for eggs and her Easter basket was so sad and bare without the candy and chokey toys the big kids got . 

   
The good news is, she really liked it, and the happy smiles of little children make the Easter bunny’s late nights worth it(as long as someone leaves the bunny some coffee in the kitchen) 

    
 

Nanobug Party!

Though my oldest daughter’s birthday was a few weeks ago, I didn’t manage to pull together a school friend birthday party until this weekend. Thankfully my daughter is happy with having just her 3 closest friends as guests, and those friends were all free! She requested a hexbug party, so I gathered a 5-pack of bugs and materials for DIY bug  mazes.  

 It was an excuse to go to my favorite art store Artist and Craftsman, and buy one of my favorite open-ended craft supplies- a Casey’s Wood Products bag of odds and ends.  

 These things are THE BEST for just chucking in the middle of the table with some glue, string, wire, pipe cleaners, etc. and seeing what the kids come up with. I also got a six-pack of wood frames to act as the base for the mazes, and poster tack for sticking the wood pieces down 

 As all the bugs were different colors, I made a blind grab box to avoid fighting over who got what.  

  

 They all ended up trading but at least it was fair!

Everyone had fun sticking different pieces in the frames and seeing how the bugs interacted with their environments 

  

  
 I had fun buildings a little maze too! 

I also made mini cheesecake bites that were so much easier than a big cheesecake and totally delicious. More on that tomorrow…

Natural Dye on the Fly

Sometimes I do lots of research and gather all the appropriate materials before starting a project. Sometimes I just wing it. This is the latter in action. While the little fellows were dyeing eggs with Paas, I boiled up a pot of red cabbage, and another of dried hibiscus flowers. The cabbage was pretty much a bust for dye, though fun for doing acid/alkaline color-changing magic(more on that in a moment). But the hibiscus was totally unexpected!

 It was a gorgeous bright pink in the pot.  
 

An egg soaked briefly(on the right) turned grey-green, and the one soaked over night turned marbled black!! 
   I decided to try it on a piece of silk pre-mordanted with vinegar. I accordion folded the scarf lengthwise, then width wise, then bound the corners with rubber bands and submerged it in a jar of hibiscus overnight.
 
  
The result was much more what I expected with the eggs! A lovely muted pinky-purple. It is dry, but I’m not sure if it will be color-fast, or oxidize over time, but that’s part of the fun!

 

And in case you want to try magical cabbage concoction: for dye, I think my concentration of cabbage to water was off, plus I think actually boiling the eggs with the cabbage makes for the best color. But we had fun with the cabbage water! Did you know that red cabbage changes color depending on whether it is exposed to acid or alkaline solutions? So cabbage water+vinegar+baking soda= fun. 

Blue/purple cabbage water 

Add a spoonful of vinegar 

Pink cabbage water! Add a spoonful of baking soda for some fizz and another color change back to purple. 

I love science.
  

Leprechaun Day

 We celebrate as often as possible. And while our heritage is mostly mutt, a good chunk of mine is Irish, so St Patrick’s Day is a personal favorite. The kids build traps to catch those tricky leprechauns, and get so close! 

   This year the children caught a shoe in one trap and a belt in the other.

   

 But they are good natured little fellows, who leave golden coins for the kids in the garden despite our attempts to trap them.     

I also attempt Irish brown bread or soda bread every year, and usually it is gross and no one wants to eat it(including me). This year’s recipe was a total winner, though!  I was going to bring a loaf to my son’s preschool, but my older daughters objected because they want it for breakfast tomorrow. I didn’t have wheat bran so I substituted rolled oats which worked just fine.

 Hope the leprechauns are good to you today!

  

Rocket Man!

My little fella is fascinated by space- astronauts and rocket ships in particular. He made a space ship out of cardboard boxes and wanted the baby and me to come in, but it was a little small. So I added a baby pod to his rocket

 But he still wanted me to come in, so I asked him if I could break down the boxes and try putting them together another way to make a biiiig space ship. He agreed, provided he could make himself a rocket man space costume. One roll of duct tape and every cardboard box in the house later and we have a deep space pod that fits the whole gang 

    
   

While I was breaking down and taping boxes together, he was making and testing his rocket man outfit. 

    
 When the big girls got home from school, they got in on the space fun too! 

  

  
 

Hello, Dolly: Part 2

The baby obliged with another good nap in her crib when the others were at school, so I had a chunk of time to work on my rag doll. I stuffed her legs firmly  with small pieces of wool stuffing(I’ve learned my lesson before, rushing and ending up with a lumpy or floppy doll). Then I sewed the legs to the unstuffed body per the book’s instructions 

 Then I continued to patiently stuff the doll body with small tufts of stuffing, packing them into the corners with my chopstick until the doll felt nice and sturdy. I whip stitched up the stuffing hole in the back and marked the placement of eyes and mouth with pins, then stitched away! 

 I must say I’m pretty happy with her face. Those star stitches are just dreamy as eyes. I decided to give her soft pink hair cut from a cashmere maternity sweater that was hole-y and felted from the wash. The hair is one area where the book could give more guidance in the way of pictures of the back of the dolls’ heads. I went with vertical strips around the back of the doll’s head, and one horizontal one along the top to cover the overlapping strips. 

    
 The baby woke up at this point, so here I am 

 All ready to stitch down the rest of her hair and start working on clothes and accessories.

Hello, Dolly: Part 1

  
I love rag dolls. I’ve taken several workshops and made numerous Waldorf-style dolls since I had children. Of course none of my children has shown the slightest bit of interest in them, and I’m constantly rescuing them from the floor and lovingly re-dressing and tucking them into a basket or on a shelf. Here’s hoping my 5 month-old turns out to be a doll-lover. 

I became an admirer of Jess Brown’s whimsical handmade dolls in their gorgeous Liberty and Erica Tanov-print clothes, with their starry eyes and heart-shaped lips, the moment I first encountered one in my favorite San Francisco shop, Nest, at least 10 years ago. Over the years, I was always happy to run into one in other lovely, quirky shops in the Bay Area. If a Jess Brown doll held court in a store, chances are it was my kind of place. Imagine my delight to find that she has published a book with Chronicle, complete with a pattern for a pint-sized version of her iconic doll! I had the book in hand and got started as soon as I could. 

I traced the pieces for the doll from the pattern sheet included with the book

 Pinned them to pressed, undyed muslin

 
And started sewing  
It is a pattern without too many pieces or fiddly bits, but it does require paying attention to the directions and being “careful and patient” especially when turning those long, slim arms right side out!

I was able to get this far before the baby woke up from her nap: 

 I’ll pop in with another installment as soon as I sneak some time in the sewing room!