Homemade Pumpkins

10/12/2011

 
Autumn is in full swing;  Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone and Halloween is quickly approaching.  These holidays always make me hungry for pumpkin pie, and I have to shamefully admit, the faker the better.  None of that real, just-scooped-out-of-the-pumpkin kind of pie for me.  Nothing compares to one of those packaged, store-bought pies that are on sale dirt-cheap this time of year.  With real, heart-clogging whipped cream, of course.  Yum!  

I did just buy a real pumpkin though which I will carve and light a candle in, and save the seeds for a yummy roasted snack.  In previous years, I've grown my own pumpkins and had a small patch of these lovely orange orbs.  Since the seeds I planted in my garden this year declined to grow, I decided to make my own little pumpkin patch, using this tutorial from Crafster.org.  I found another in the Martha Stewart daily craft email as well; you can find the tutorial HERE.  They were quick and easy to make and look really cute in a little bunch.  Enjoy!
 

Happy Autumn!

09/24/2011

 
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Yesterday marked this year's autumn solstice, and the day before that we finished combining, making it one full month of harvest for us.  
 I've been enjoying the return of Light Jacket Season, as my sister calls it, though this week we are back to 30C+ temperatures.  I really love autumn -the smells and colours, the end of a long summer of hard work, the promise of walks in the fresh air and cozy evenings in the house.  Now that Julie is a bit older and beginning to understand things, I've been trying to create meaningful experiences for her.  One book I read, Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer, suggests celebrating seasonal festivals, allowing children to see how they are connected to something bigger than themselves, something continuous and meaningful.  So, with this solstice, we've started a little celebration for the changing seasons.  

Using a basic grapevine wreath as our starting point, Julie and I created a seasonal centrepiece for our kitchen table.  We went on a walk around our yard and collected things that would look nice around a lit candle: rose hips, yellow poplar leaves, and dried sunflowers.  We did a short dance outside (mainly because Julie likes to spin in circles) to welcome the new season, and decorated the house with an autumn wreath.  For supper that night, we used a cloth tablecloth, and lit the candle in the middle of our centrepiece.  It was a simple celebration, but a lot of fun, and definitely handmade.
 
 
This past weekend I got to be praised about my artwork, which is something I don't mind one little bit.  Every year, I enter five artworks in the open show at our local art gallery -I like to create and it's a good opportunity and all that.  They hang your artwork and bring in adjudicators to tell you what you did well and how you can improve.  The first couple years I entered some pencil crayon drawings and paintings, but starting up New Leaf has given me a new perspective on making art and I've wandered into the fabric scene.  For the open show over Christmas, I entered these wall hangings: 
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I've always been drawn to layers of texture.  I love building up layers with paint or paper and now I've discovered the beauty of working with fabric to create touchable texture.  During the summer of 2010 my eyes were drawn to the varying shades of greens on the side of the roads, along with the bright contrasting yellows.  So that's how these hangings came to be.  

I had about a month's notice for this past open show, so in May I was busily trying to create my five pieces.  Thankfully, inspiration was not lacking.  Spring brings out a vibrancy of different greens in the pastures around my farm.  I wanted to capture the repetition as well as the subtle changes in the hills, grasses and plants.  Summer is such a fleeting season in Saskatchewan and the bright greens of June and July are quickly forgotten under the snow.  I want to create a reminder of lush and rainy seasons and to expose understated beauty in unexpected places.  
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I wasn't expecting much from the adjudication on the weekend, because I had been to the art gallery about a month ago and hadn't seen my artworks.  I thought maybe they'd disliked them and decided not to hang them.  I showed up a little early to my appointment, surprised to see no one else there but the gallery's receptionist.  Apparently my artwork was hanging in a different gallery, and of course, this is where the adjudications were taking place.  I raced over just in time and was treated with a wonderfully positive talk with the artist-adjudicator.  He told me my work is unique and focused, consistent and well-designed, an excellent personal interpretation.  I left glowing with delight, which was a nice change from the somewhat cranky state I'd arrived in.  I feel like I've found a medium that I love to work with, and it's gratifying to have others appreciate it and encourage me along.  Thanks for the inspiration, New Leaf.

-Maria
 
 
Like I mentioned in my last post, I've been absent from New Leaf the past while, but not at all from the making scene.  Having the cutest daughter in the world makes me want to give her everything I possible can, and I figure if I make it, it doesn't really count as spoiling her, right?  

One of Julie's current interests includes having little people (an odd assortment of creatures from In The Night Garden, Duplo, Smurfs...) to put to bed, feed, make each other kiss, etc.  One evening, by the light of the TV, I used some fabric and two-by-four scraps to create a few pieces of furniture to inspire her play.  I didn't do any sewing at all (oh!  except for the little pillow which I stitched to the bed by hand), which is sometimes a nice switch.  The staple gun did all the work I needed -I folded fabric around corners (stuffed a little poly-fil in the bed for a mattress) and stapled it all in place, then attached felt to the bottoms to cover up the fabric edges.  I think it took me about an hour from start to finish and the furniture is one of her favourite things these days.  
Here are some felt creations I made.  The doll (Lola) is from my own brains, just felt pieces cut out, stuffed with poly-fill, and sewed up with the machine.  The frog I made from The Cuter Book by Aranzi Aronzo -a gift from my sister.  The book is full of (you guessed it) cute little toys to hand sew with felt: chains of monkeys, the alphabet with eyes, stacking turtles, flowered snakes...and ideas of what to do with them (attach them to bags, cards, etc).
The colourful fish shown below, I also made with inspiration from a book: Creative Play for your Toddler.  I haven't quite finished the project yet -there are little magnets sewn into the nose of each fish and I need to find a strong magnet to add to the end of a little fishing pole so Julie can go fishing with these little beauties.  I really enjoyed this book.  I made a felt ball from here a while ago, and more recently, the ribbon wands, the red felt crown and the cape (though I really adapted these last two quite a bit) (modelled below by a giant giraffe).  Not only does it give lots of theory and insight into toddler play, it has pages and pages of step-by-step instructions for making imaginative and play-inspiring toys yourself. 
Here's the little beauty herself!  I hang a lot of laundry outside in the summer -nothing beats that smell of wind and sunshine in your clothes and sheets.  A few years ago, my grandma gave me her old clothespin apron; basically it's a pocket that ties around your waist, making it easy to grab clothespins while you are busily hanging clothes.  I bought (yet another!) project book last summer -One Yard Wonders.  Flipping through it again recently, I noticed a pattern for a clothespin apron.  Since Julie loves doing whatever Mommy or Daddy do lately, I knew she'd enjoy having her own version of what I have.  I modified the pattern a bit to fit Julie's skinny waist -I love the colourful fabric scraps I used!  My own plain canvas apron is truly dowdy in comparison.
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Julie loves stealing clothespins from my apron to stuff into her own pocket so she can hand them to me as needed.
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That about covers the experiments I've been creating, though I'd like to make her a few more things yet.  A doll, maybe, and a sling to carry it around.  Oven mitts to wear while she "helps" me cook.  And this playtent from 2 little hooligans:
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Hopefully some of these projects inspire you to create something for your toddler!  I know Julie loves having things that I've spent time making for her ("Mommy made it!").
 

Summer Days

07/29/2011

 
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It's been a couple months since we've written anything on here -June and July have flown by so quickly (as time is prone to do).  Cecelia had a very cute healthy baby boy in the middle of June and I taught full-time for a few weeks and was reminded (strongly) of why I love to work at home.  July has zipped along as well -today I realized that August starts on Monday.  Yikes!  My July has passed in a haze of long hot afternoons on the front yard with my feet in the baby pool while Julie terrorizes our dog with buckets of water.  I've been pulling weeds, hanging laundry, splashing in puddles, discovering new and delicious thing to cook in my slow cooker and BBQ, bringing iced coffees out to my husband while he cuts and bales hay endlessly -all the lovely summery things I dream about throughout the winter.  
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It's been refreshing to take a bit of a break from New Leaf, but I'm ready to start making notebooks and other goodies once again.  My New Leaf hiatus has not been without making, however!  I've been making all sorts of fun things for my daughter, building up my maternity wardrobe (yep -I'm due on Christmas Eve!), and exploring the world of summer cooking.  I'm looking forward to sharing more about each of these things in the next few weeks.  
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Now that the weather is warmer, I'm finding it hard to strike a balance between work and play, especially since my daughter can actually walk this summer and would rather be outside than anywhere else.  As a matter of fact, I haven't actually been doing a whole lot of work at all in the past week or so, and I've decided to just accept it rather than letting it stress me out.  When I'm not outside exploring robin's nests and "houses" amidst the caragana bushes with my two-year old, I've been frantically trying to complete things on my bucket list before my life of leisure (if that's what you call being a stay-at-home mom with her own small business...) ends.  Yes folks, I've accepted a short-term full-time job as a replacement teacher for the rest of the school year.  It's only a three week gig, but giving up my freedom to do what I want when I want, even for that long, is a bit scary!  Not to mention that I will miss my being the one to put my daughter down for naps and getting those skinny-armed hugs... 
While I am busy keeping the kids learned and entertained for the last weeks of school, the other half of New Leaf, Cecelia, is going to be MIA from the business scene as well -her baby is due on June 15th, just over a week away!  So making things and blogging won't really be on the top of her list for a little while.  
Despite being busy with our various happy ventures, Cecelia and I will keep the Etsy shops in action and you can still order the items listed (though we probably won't be listing too many new things for a little bit) and I will package them up and send them out with as little wait as humanly possible.  And don't forget, New Leaf has items in three local shops now!  In Regina, Val Marie, and Eastend.  You can see the shops on our Shop Locally page for details.  
Thanks for your  understanding and patience while the New Leaf Handmaidens attend to jobs and babes, and try to get the most out of the summer weather at the same time.  Hope all is well with you and yours!
-Maria
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I got a note from a fellow maker the other day, sharing about a project he  and his wife are working on and the whole idea really struck me as interesting and innovative, and thought I'd share!
Harlan and his wife originally created their weebee blocks for their own son; after seeing how much he liked them and how they were awesome for his learning, they made them for other kids, who also loved them.  
I love the simple and attractive designs on these blocks -I know my own daughter would love them and would easily recognize the common pictures.  
What I love most about this project is that they are being funded by Kickstarter.  According to their website, Kickstarter is " the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world."  Regular people like you and me, who have a love of the handmade and want to support the creative process, can pledge money to all sorts of projects: music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and more.  I love how the project creators keep total control over their work, but also how they can only go ahead if they reach their funding goals.  It seems like an awesome way for  people without a lot of cash but with great ideas to have a chance to share their creations with the world.  
Have a look at Harlan's project, and if you like what you see, you can pledge some money towards the project and helping him and his wife start this exciting new project.  
Take a look at the project here.
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Once long ago, my young cousin dubbed a family (erroneously, I'm sure) 'The Scaries'.  Think ill-fitting sweatpants and t-shirts with lots of stains on them and poorly, if at all, combed hair. 
The other day, Maria was talking about making some yoga pants.  Well, being at the point (for quite some time to be honest) of supreme discomfort, very hot, and bigger than I EVER was with Ava so that many of my 'comfortable' clothes are not quite so comfortable ('specially since they weren't supposed to dry and I did it anyways to help them fit a little bit better - why DID I buy them so big?) - I decided to try making a pair of my own.  I can't tell you why, but sitting at my sewing machine for more than 5 minutes causes my back to ache in a way that I can't even describe but, for the sake of comfort, I forged ahead.  I was pumped to recall the surplus of jersey fabric left over from a wrap top I made and went ahead and cut my pieces.  Of course, the pants took slightly longer than 5 minutes to finish.  I had GRAND ideas of what these pants would be like - and, after finishing the hems up, I rushed to try them on. 
Let me just say, YIKES!  sometimes things work, and sometimes they DON'T.  Guess which this was?  Yep, with my poorly combed hair and these horrendously (yet supremely comfortable feeling) fitting pants...I wouldn't hold it against anyone who called me a 'Scary'.  You won't find me wearing the pants anytime soon, I was left with some poorly constructed pants and a backache that wouldn't subside.  Sigh, live and learn, right?

-Cecelia

 
 
Though it feels like I've lived on my yard for a long time, it's really only been just over 3 years.  We bought a dirt-cheap, falling-apart old house and got it moved onto our yard of rolling hills and pasture in 2007.  Thankfully (for me, since I have NO experience or knowledge about house renovations), my husband is quite the handy sort and has turned our once decrepit house into a cozy and lovely home.  Below is our house, before and now (take a guess which is which):
We lived in the basement for about six months while Charles worked on the upstairs.  The main floor was pretty much all finished when we moved up in the spring of 2008, but there is still a lot to do (including the entire basement) and we've have been slowly working away at the place.  Over the past few weeks (in between colds and the flu and other issues), Charles has been giving the porch a major do-over: gip-rock instead of wood panelling, new flooring, and my FAVOURITE part -custom built boot shelves and coat hooks! The small rickety wooden shelf that housed about 3 sets of shoes had me dreaming of massive amounts of shelves for baskets and shoes and boots... Charles designed the spaces, built them and installed them all to my utter and complete joy.  I still want to add a big mirror over the small dresser in the corner, and make padded seats for the benches, but that'll take a bit of time yet.  As it is right now though is fantastic -I'm really excited to not have a big messy tub of shoes in my closet anymore.
-Maria

Before

After

 
 
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Last week I decided that despite the snow still covering most of my yard and despite the forecast calling for more of the white stuff, I would believe the sunshine and welcome the spring and make a wreath for my door.   I had a horrendous time finding a wreath form in Swift.  I looked in both of the thrift shops, WalMart, and both of the Dollarstores and there wasn't a wreath form in one of them.  Luckily, I decided to check the Herbert thrift store - low and behold! - a wreath to dismantle and use for my own purposes!  The following day, I took my supplies and myself and, while Ava napped, I sat in the beautiful sunshine on my deck and wrapped yarn around my (seemingly gigantic) wreath form.  (I may never undertake a wreath of this type again - it was a little time consuming as well as a bit tedious).  I haven't worked with yarn too much and I don't know if it's the cheap stuff only or all yarn - but I had quite a time trying to keep it from forming ridiculous knots.  I found most of my time was spent unravelling the latest knot from my 'ball' of yarn.  Thankfully, the sun was lovely and I was even able to get a slight tan to REALLY welcome spring! and, I think, the wreath turned out lovely!  I love the bright colors of the flowers (which I made with felt) and I think it really brightens up the doorway.  Maybe you can tell from the picture - the day after I finished the wreath and hung it on the door, the sun stayed hidden and the snow flew once more: hence the gray-ness of the picture...though, don't you think the wreath still looks bright and cheerful?  I am thinking of adding a bird to it yet...we'll see. 
-Cecelia