Sunday, July 29, 2012

Forever Burden

Several years ago, my husband and I attended the wedding of a dear friend. It was an amazing party with lots of music and dancing. Even my husband, reluctant dancer that he is, was tearing up the dance floor. As the night wore on and the music slowed, we headed back to our table for a break and refreshments.

We were sitting at our table for a few minutes when my husband leaned in toward me and directed my attention to the other side of the room. We watched as a father gently helped his mentally and physically handicapped daughter, about 9 years old, out of her harness and wheel chair, and lifted her off her feet so that they could sway to the music. Tears came to my eyes as I beheld this image of brokenness and love. The fallen world and the heavenly world somehow coexisted, and the heavenly was all the more visible because of the brokenness. 

This afternoon we were listening to "music from Little House on the Prairie" by The Arkansas Traveler. The above memory came to mind as I held B and swayed to the music. I thought about how important it was that Pa had the skill of playing music. Pa's music carried the whole family through fires, failed crops, droughts, freezing cold long winters and unmentioned deaths.

It would be too simple to say that Pa's music was merely cheerful in otherwise hard times, because much of the music mentioned in the Little House books is not cheerful. It is beautiful, however, and I think it captures that feeling of the perfect and the imperfect living together. Early American music, in a unique way, brings together the sorrowful and the beautiful, the tragic and the defiance of tragedy.

It is inspiring in that way because, when facing difficulties, it is easy, for me at least, to say that all is bad and wrong, and nothing of the good exists because the bad exists. Sometimes it appears that the existence, and sometimes predominance, of the bad makes a mockery of the things I find good and delightful. The good is fragile in the face of evil. On a bad day it would be easy for me to say, about that father and daughter, "yeah, he loves her, but she's broken and that is an unbearable burden, a forever burden, for them both to carry, and no amount of love is going to fix that".

But Pa's music would say otherwise, as would that father at the wedding, and maybe I have some things to learn from those fathers.

Friday, July 27, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} inspired by soulemama - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stone Mat Tutorial

Welcome to my Stone Mat Tutorial! I was originally inspired by an article in the August 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living. When I was pulling together my grounding kit, I looked there to see how to make one of these stone "spa mats", as she calls them. Unfortunately, the supplies she suggested were no longer available from the vendor she mentioned, and after a quick trip to the orange version of the big box home improvement store, it became clear that I would have had to buy an entire case of stone floor tiles in order to complete my craft. So I struck out on my own and acquired these supplies:

Tacky glue,
Real river pebbles meant for decoration (I found them in the floral and section at Michael's),
Cotton cross stitch fabric (15in x18in),
2.25 inch wide ribbon (or you could use twill tape).

A note of caution: since this tutorial calls for real river pebbles, it may be the case that some of the pebbles are found to be broken or sharp. If, as you are working, you find a sharp piece, please discard it, and use a smoother piece in its place.

Also, please make sure you read the instructions all they way through before beginning, because there is a variation at the end, which you might like to incorporate.

First, measure around the perimeter of the piece of cotton cross stitch fabric. You will see in my pictures that I chose to make two 15x9 inch mats by cutting the 15x18 piece in half, but you can also just use it as-is for a larger mat.

Cut a piece of ribbon the length of the perimeter of the fabric, plus about two inches to overlap.

Iron the ribbon in half lengthwise so it has a nice crease down the center. Make sure you use the correct temperature setting for the type of ribbon you are using so nothing melts!

Then, inserting the cross stitch fabric into the crease in the ribbon, pin the ribbon in place around the edge of the fabric. I don't know of any professional ways to go around corners, I just fiddled with it until I liked it. If you are happy with the way it looks, and it lays flat enough to sew with a sewing machine, you've done a good job!

When it came time to overlap the two ends of ribbon, I snipped the corners off so they wouldn't poke out after the end was folded over.

Fold the end over once . . .

 . . . and overlap the start of the ribbon. Pin.

Then, sew the ribbon in place, starting where the ribbons overlap. I guided the sewing foot along the inner edge of the ribbon, as shown in the picture.

This is a gratuitous shot of my beautiful mint green, vintage sewing machine which I got at a tag sale for $35. I always get annoyed (read, jealous) when people say, "I found this awesome vintage thing for $2 at a tag sale!!!!", because I don't ever seem to find awesome things with ridiculously little price tags, but this just proves: Random inexpensive vintage finds can happen to you!!

When you have finished sewing the ribbon, lay the mat out on a piece of parchment or wax paper. This is to keep the glue from sticking to the table.

Now, slather on the glue.

Really slather!

Using a piece of cardboard, smooth out the glops of glue into one even layer. It should be pretty thick.

And then begin to sprinkle the pebbles all over the mat. Sprinkle them thickly. As you go, press down on the pebbles so that they are really stuck into the glue in one layer. You will notice that most of the pebbles have one broader side. As you press down on them, try to maneuvers them so that the broadest side is down in the glue. If they didn't happen to fall broad side down, at least maneuver them so that they are resting on a side and not an edge.

After your mat is covered in pebbles, if need be, you can add single stones to any spots that appear bare.

Let your mat dry for over 24 hours, to make sure that they glue is dry. You will probably find that, either right away, or as you use your mat, some of the less well secured stones will come off. You can just replace them with a dab of glue, and your mat should be as good as new!

Variation: before slathering glue on the whole mat, you can form a neater border by gluing a row of stones around the perimeter of the mat, about 3/4 to 1 inch inside the outer edge. Then you would proceed to sprinkle stones as indicated above.

Then you can enjoy the massage!!

Monday, July 23, 2012


A college friend of mine once said, "why do you walk so fast? I've heard that sometimes it can mean you aren't very comfortable being where you are". I brushed him off at the time, but his words obviously stuck with me. I've come to think that it is, in part, just my nature, I think of myself as very sanguine, but it is a part of my life to which it is useful and beneficial to bring balance. I have learned to "cycle back" as my (very sanguine) grandmother says, to complete a project, task or sentence that has been left adrift. Inspiration comes freely to me (most of the time) and I enjoy my flights of fancy. But there are times when a host of ideas whirl themselves through my mind and I am at their mercy. Well, actually, I suppose I am usually at their mercy, it's just that when the thoughts aren't so nice, when I unintentionally imagine the worst over and over again, it can be hard to bring that flight down to the reality of this moment,

                                                              I'm fine,

                                                                                    let's take it one step at a time.

I have come to call this process of coming down to earth "grounding". Often, when I find myself in need of grounding, my mind is not useful to me because it is that which needs to be grounded. Mantras and sayings don't help for long because they are merely air. So what is it that can help? Something I can hold in my hands, and feel with my body. I have started to assemble a little kit for myself, for those moments when I need to be reminded of the earth . . .  the stones . . .  the soil . . .  the slow pace of snails and growth.

I think the main idea in grounding is to bring one's attention to the actual moment that one is living in, now. And the one part of me that is always exactly now is my body. So, anything that presses on me, weighs me down, slows me down or otherwise alerts me to my body helps in grounding.  I like the thought that grounding is a process of forming, like a sculptor with clay, and the opposite of anything having to do with flight or wind.

I collected together a really beautiful, large and heavy crystal that had been given to me years ago, a flax seed pillow that I made, and the idea for a stone mat, like this one. The crystal and the flax pillow are just heavy and nice to hold. They each have their own non-body temperatures as well, the one being cool, the other able to be warmed in the microwave. I ended up making the stone mat differently than the given instructions, because of the materials available to me, but I can use it to massage my feet whenever I have a moment to sit.

I did actually think of one other "tool" that I have used. It is a Navajo healing song, spoken aloud while doing slow, three-part walking. (1. Lift the right heel.    2. Continue by lifting the right toe from the ground.    3. Swing right foot forward and step onto the right foot. Repeat alternating feet. Sounds like walking, right? It is, but slower, more deliberate, meditative.)

Here in beauty I walk.
With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty beside me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty above me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk.

I hear over and over again these days the ideas of slowing down, being mindful and in the present, living fully in the here and now. These, to me, seem like worthy goals. I am still mulling over why they seem worthy, but I can understand how they could be useful; for the simple act of being able to finish something, without flying off in a million directions; for being able to focus one's mind on the gratitude for what is and not what might be (good or bad!); for maintaining an emotional equilibrium. So, if any of these things seem true for you, or if you would just like to make a nice foot massager, please join me on Wednesday for a Stone Mat Tutorial. You can find the tutorial here.

I wanted to say, that while I don't think my blog is really a commentary on current events, I didn't want this event to go by without saying that I am heartbroken for all those who were involved in the Aurora shooting. I am praying for and thinking about them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} inspired by soulemama - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Growing up, we never went camping. I know my dad did, out of practical necessity, when he was young. With six brothers and sisters, I am sure his parents noticed that hotels get very expensive! But my mom just said, "no, I don't do that", and that was that.

I went on a backpacking trip when I was 17, and it was one of the best experience of my life. I remember coming home and feeling like the house was too small for me. I was so used to having unlimited space around me, and I think I had grown too, in some ways. I have always remembered that trip fondly, but other than one or two times since then, I have not gotten over the ingrained non-camping habit.

Now, my husband grew up camping. He was a boy scout and with scouting goes camping. I was excited when we imagined the prospects of having children that his experience and familiarity with camping would break down my ingrained hesitancy, and that we would be a camping family! I love the idea of being unafraid of the outdoors. I want to be in tune with the seasons, and I want myself and my children to feel like capable and familiar stewards to the earth.

Perhaps, someday, my husband will have the time to fearlessly lead us into the wilderness, but the time demanded by his current job and position do not allow for leisurely weeks of outdoor time. And so I took it upon myself this week to face my fears(?), hesitancy, and habit, and to take B camping.

I did notice, as we started out for the campground (a nice, easy to get to, close by campground) that the weather report said that it would be cooling down later in the week, but that "today we will be in the hundreds, hot, humid and sunny". I had a moment of doubt. I thought "shouldn't I just wait until it's cooler?" But I had already packed our 24 hour meal plan (we were only going to stay one night. This was a trial run after all.) And I just didn't want to be a wimp.

We finished off the watermelon the minute we got to our campsite. It was going to get warm anyway, and boy were we thirsty already!

We had a lovely little camp! I brought the baby "corral", which I thought, at first, to put around the fire, whether it be a bbq or fire ring, but then just ended up putting around the baby, for the duration of the cooking.

I was super proud of my cooking! I am pretty sure I had never built a fire before. But I had seen my husband do it. And I wasn't ashamed to use six or eight matches! My dish had three steps to it; cooking bacon, cooking potatoes, putting it all together with an egg batter. So, that afforded me a lot of time to figure out how best to keep the fire going, and how to regulate the heat. I was able to get all the food thoroughly cooked, and it tasted great in that way that things inexpertly cooked over an open fire can only taste.

We had a very bold visitor. And, no, I didn't catch him. He could get in and out easily between the bars. He watched us from maybe seven feet away as we ate, and moved in quickly when we weren't there to protect our things.

After we finished dinner, I really didn't know what to do. We went for a little walk, enjoying every little tickle of a breeze, but we were both drooping. We were both really hot, and dirty. The campground is an old campground, and the dirt at the sites has almost completely become soot after the countless campfires over the years. I was able to get B cleaned up for bedtime, in his jammies, and in the tent, but it was still light out, and we were hot hot hot in the tent, and there was no sleep in sight, so, we made a dash for home.

I am actually quite glad that we did come home. I had inexpertly and inefficiently cooled our groceries and many things went bad in those few hours, so there would have been no breakfast. I also just cannot imagine that we would have been able to sleep in that tent, and it was too dirty to sleep outside. And when we got home, and I guzzled down a pint of hot, salty soup, I realized just how dehydrated we had become even though we had been drinking bottle after bottle of water the whole time out.

I am so glad that I made the effort! I am so glad that I faced my fears! I am so happy with my outdoor cooking! I am so glad that there was a back up plan!

Now I know a bit more, and I definitely look forward to doing it again, with a bit more preparation and a bit more knowledge.

Monday, July 16, 2012


As promised! More on those funny looking, really adorable little dolls from {this moment}. I love these dolls! I think they are so cute! They were designed by Yasmine Surovec editor, designer and illustrator of Parasol Craft Magazine, and the A Print A Day blog (which is now invitation only). I was unable to find a direct link to the magazine, so I am not sure if it is still in (digital) print. The first issue, in 2009, featured many projects with a fairy tale theme. This pair of dollies . . .

. . . is Snow White and Rose Red from the Grimm's fairy tale of the same name. The second pair . . .

. . . was directly from the A Print A Day blog, and they are a kind of compliment to the fairy tale girls above. I don't actually remember which ones were available for download first. I printed the dollies onto iron on transfer paper, which is why they are so shiny. I really like the contrast between the dry hand of the fabric, and leathery feel of the transfer paper. I tried several times to sew these up as simple little dolls, but I could never get them to look like the picture in the magazine (like here). I think I cut them too close to the dolly outline, so when I sewed them there was a weird pucker at the neck.

So, I put them away. For years apparently. I found them again last week and thought they are way to cute not to be displayed. I decided I would just make a simple pillow with piping to act like a picture frame. They are very small; 12" x 9", just perfect for a child's bed or craft room couch. I used the same doll outline to cut a "shadow" out of the complimentary patterned download that accompanied each doll. I put each shadow on the back of the pillows. You can see their shadows are misbehaving.

I have been struggling with what to do about stuffing (for this and for other projects). I don't really like using polyester fiberfill because I just can't stand the idea of all those minuscule fibers of plastic ending up all over the environment. I love wool, but it seems odd to me to use something so wonderful as stuffing for pillows, and it is hard to care for because it shrinks when washed (not really a problem for this project, I guess). There is cotton, very nice, but very dense. And I have heard of a corn based stuffing, that acts like fiberfill, but I have never used it. So, I'll just have to look around.

And one last thought; I would really like to incorporate some of this lace. This project has been a great stash user-uper, and I think the lace adds a third texture that balances everything nicely.

Thank you all so much for your interest! I am so flattered! I am sorry that I can't tell you more about where to find these downloads; I sincerely hope they will pop up on the inter-web again.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pow wow

I have been waiting a while for this! I took it into my head a few months ago that we should attend a local pow wow whenever it happens. We found one that looked interesting, and put it on the calendar. It wasn't until this week that I noticed that today also happens to be the memorial for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American woman to be venerated by the Catholic Church. She is slated to be canonized later this year. This was a perfect way to remember her.

Entry Dance.

Grass Dance. This was my favorite. The MC explained that this dance has different meanings depending on the regions where it is found. In one case the Grass Dance actually has the purpose of mashing down the grass. So that the tribe could build their home, I suppose. In other places, this dance is a representation of warriors taking spoil from their enemies. And in other areas it is a representation of a person with a handicap lurching about.

Men's Fancy (Dance).  They were so fast! They had these amazing "bustles" on. One at the waist and one around their necks. The MC said they each weighed about 4 pounds.

Men's Traditional (Dance).

B and I even got to dance! The MC invited all the children into the arena to perform a snake dance. We got to be at the head of the snake.

Friday, July 13, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} inspired by soulemama- A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

(doll design by Yasmine Surovec)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Project Flow

I used to think that I had to finish a project before I was allowed to start another one. It never actually happened that way, but I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about letting my inspiration lead me away from the work I had already set out for myself. I am not sure what happened, but I don't really feel guilty about it any more. At any given time I have maybe 8-10 projects sitting and gestating. At any given moment I may have 3 or 4 of them out. I will go from one to the other in the course of a day. It's actually really nice. But it does sometimes mean that projects get finished more slowly.

This yarn has been calling to me. My dad bought it for me when I was 17. We were on a road trip through the South West, and we stopped at a little outpost in the middle of the desert.  The yarn was in a glass case, its Navajo colors a beautiful backdrop for the silver and turquoise jewelry displayed. At the time I wanted to build, and weave on, an authentic Navajo loom, complete with earth beam, sky beam and lightening healds. But I have never lived in a place that had room enough to build that loom. And I didn't really have enough yarn to make that blanket. So, as time goes by, and new needs arise, the materials that were once unalterably marked for a certain project get thrown together with other hand spun and gifted yarns to begin something new.

And so I am continually amazed at how my once fixed ideas of how one ought to work, and how supplies ought to be used shifts over time.