Thursday, January 31, 2013

Searching for Signs...of Spring

       On our walk through the neighbourhood today the Littles and I chatted about the changing of seasons once again- fresh in their minds is Fall and how all the leaves turned colour and fell to the ground. This is the first year that they grasp the concept of the trees resting or hibernating all winter and then starting to grow again in warmer weather. They understand this happens as well with plants- planting the garden last summer at Momo and Poppa's house really gave them a solid representation of what was happening.

     These wee animals of mine- for that is what they are little creatures of the forest still- wild and unsullied (sort of) by the world of adults- they are still very much in tune with their physical surroundings and they are aware that the days are getting a tiny bit longer minute by minute and day by day. They sense the earth starting to warm again and if you look hard enough you will see some sure signs of Spring! Nothing conventionally pretty yet- just a lot of tiny branches turning red with sap starting to flow again, tiny Daffodils buds and Crocuses pushing through in warm areas right down by the ocean. It's hard to believe when you are under four feet of snow reading this but at the very edge of our country the thaw is starting- city block by city block!

    At any rate we were searching for signs of elusive Spring- still many weeks away officially- and surely these cheery Daffs were transplanted by some gardener's hand but we could certainly feel the change coming in the air! The thing about Spring on the coast is that unlike it's much more showy predecessor Fall- it is a much more mono chromatic season- really a season of grey to start. We felt we needed to inject a bit of colour into a day that while not at all Spring- felt like it aught to be- and please note we are still bundled in winter coats it's cold!

      A few bundles of smart orange tulips came home with us to brighten our kitchen table- a little instant colour to make us all smile- a very small luxury in exchange for some peace of mind. For the Littles we felt a stop at the candy shop was in order and the colour there surely did not disappoint- really when doesn't a little treat make everyone's day a little brighter?

      For this Momma a new magazine- oh Martha- you know how to do Valentine's Day up right! Lots of fresh ideas and as always great photography- plus I'm loving the cookies on the cover- we have a few birthdays coming up this month that these might be perfect for!

     So Fall, Winter, Spring- it doesn't really matter what the weather is like outside- it is whats inside that counts- the colour of the glasses that you are peering out at the world through- clearly today mine are rose or hot pink coloured!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Secret Crush

     I was recently on Pinterest- I pin and often- feel free to follow me- perhaps I pin too often- I have a lot of Pins! Anyways I pinned some sweet little decorative Valentine's Day medals and thought these would be a quick and easy gift to whip up for our dear little friends! Of course I needed to add my own spin on the project using vintage and recycled ribbons as well as doing a bit of decorative hand stitching around the edges- you know I had to make it mine!

    This project could not be easier and even if you do not sew but have a hot glue gun you could make this! All you need to do is get some lovely colours of felt- oh and there are just so many to chose from it can be tricky some times- we love everything about this 100% wool felt and working with it is a dream!
Cut out your shapes- you can do anything you like - these would be super cute with initials in the middle for a soon to be five year old boy- sorry I digress. Cut out your shapes and either hand sew or hot glue them together- add the ribbon tail on the back again either sew or hot glue and finish it off with a wee pin backing- found in the jewelry area at any craft store. Now how easy and cute is that?

   I admit I started off making them just for the Littles and our friends but as per usual I got carried away and spent the better portion of my evening making a whole bunch of these lovelies! I am offering them up on my  Plain Jane Facebook page for a modest $6 a piece- they come backed on a sturdy folding card with matching envelope- all they need is a stamp before they get mailed to your secret crush!

I think these little medals are just the injection of colour we need to see walking down the street at us these grey days of January- and Valentines is conveniently right around the corner! I love the vintage notions combined with the tactile wool felt and decorative stitches- do not be surprised if you catch me sporting several of these in the weeks leading up to the pinkest day in the year!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In My Kitchen- Groovy Granola

       I think every recipe has a story- weather it is an old family top secret recipe, one gleaned from a girlfriend years ago or a recent new favourite found in a magazine. So I am changing my recipe posts a bit to include more of the back story- to give credit where credit is due because it is certainly not me standing in a kitchen inventing these delicious concoctions! So I'm starting off with a pretty and girly breakfast favourite home made granola - P.S. it is only pretty and girly because I decided to make it this way today- but trust me boys like it too!

Who: My Mom- Shirley Becker

What: Authentic 1970's home made granola- totally groovy man!

When: My mom gave me this recipe when I was in university- a poor art student who was really struggling with a mono- diet of Mr. Noodles- this was a cheap and healthy way to help start my day. I have made it for years and have created my own favourite combinations of flavours- this makes a great gift and can be customized to any specific diet.

Where: Oven 350F

Why: because you love your body and want to start the day off right, you can load it up with all sorts of organic goodies and it will be way less expensive than anything that comes in a box labeled "Organic" and it is super easy to make!


1-2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cups large old fashioned flake oats
1 cup oat bran or wheat germ
1 cup sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds or walnuts
1 cup unsweetened coconut
dash of salt
1 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp almond extract
1 cup fruit- raisins, dried cranberries, apricots

- in a large bowl dump in all your dry ingredients- mix very well to make sure there is even distribution of spices- except the fruit- leave out the fruit until the end it does not get baked

- in a small sauce pan over low heat combine syrup and oil until warm- remove from heat and add in almond extract- pour over mixture and mix well- stirring to coat

- on a parchment lined baking sheet evenly distribute raw granola mixture- bake until golden brown- about 30 min- stirring at the 15 minute mark- remove from oven and stir in fruit.

- Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks- although we are lucky if it last a week in these parts!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sunday Stroll- Lynn Canyon

       Yesterday dawned cloudy, cold and yes raining again- now as promised I am not complaining just stating the facts- it was a bit damp out to say the least. Our weekend was deliberately and luxuriously slow and lazy- I spent every spare minute curled under a blanket reading a book while the Littles and the Mr made elaborate Lego structures- listening to the giggles and disputes erupting from the living room was music to my ears! Sunday was no different- we had a long morning that stretched into afternoon- cooking and kitchen dance parties, fresh espresso and eggs- all the good things about a lazy Sunday morning. We decided to do a hike that would inject a bit of excitement into the day and so we went in search of Fairy Doors in Lynn Canyon.

     We decided to hit one of the most popular spots in Lynn Canyon- the Suspension bridge and hike to Twin Falls- hoping that due to the weather it would be not so busy however even on this grey day it seemed that a lot of people had the same idea as we did! The scenery in Lynn Canyon is spectacular with the remains of old growth forest combining with breathtaking water falls. Opening in 1912 as a tourist attraction the cost to cross the suspension bridge was .10- now it is free- apparently the only thing in Vancouver to go down in cost.

     The Littles loved all the exploring and while this is not a trail to let them run too far ahead they did have their share of freedom- I would be remiss if I didn't say that in spite of the safety fences this Momma is more than a bit nervous of heights and hands were held through most of the hike! This is most definitely not a hike to do with strollers as a great deal of the trail is stairs- however  a carrier would be perfect for non walkers. 

     As part of the Baden- Powell trail which runs from Lynn Valley up to Grouse Mountain- there are some fairly rugged spots of terrain to this trail and LOTS of mud but anyone who can do stairs can do this hike- although a bit of bribery in the form of chocolate was added as incentive to get up the last set of stairs!

      With the exception of the stairs this was a very leisurely hike- lots to look at and identify- currently the Littles are interested in moss and bark- well trees in general- they will tell you all the different parts a tree has if you have five minutes to listen! Post hike we all snuggled up in the van with hot chocolate and made our way back downtown- the echo of the waterfalls still roaring in our ears and the silence of the forest surrounding our hearts.

P.S. if any of our friends are interested Lynn Canyon is FULL of Fairy Doors!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cozy Tea

       This afternoon found me with embroiled in a bit of problem solving- there was a break in the incessant rain and the Littles wanted to hit the park- which was fine and well except that it was my 1:30 Latte Break. Every day between the hours of 1:00 and 2:00 I make it a point to stop what I am doing and enjoy the ritual of pulling myself a fresh espresso or steeping a pot of tea- I like to kick back with what ever book I am into and let the rest of my problems ( the dishes) fall away. OK so the timing was not really an issue- I can take my break any where- including the park- where the problem solving comes into play is that I realised my favourite mug has a giant crack in it- I did not want to risk taking this downstairs where it might end up broken on the ground. So I grabbed an empty jar- which is not that weird around these parts for cold drinks- but turns out hot drinks in a jar are very hot!

      Sitting in the park watching the Littles whiz around on their scooters I started the problem solving- remembering a similar conundrum faced by fellow blogger Maya from Maya*Made- and I searched my memory for her solution to this too hot on the hands problem. One very quick search through the Maya*Made archives and I had a quick solution to my "problem"! Quick as quick can be I had this little jar cozy sewed up in under ten minutes- it took me a few minutes to figure out my colour way!

     All I did for this lovely little bit of spring business -that will keep my hands warm (not hot) and my beverage warm (not cool)- was line up a variety of strips of felt- mine is 100% lovely wool and I accented it with a bit of dotted salvaged fabric. Directions are as follows:

- measure the circumference of chosen drinking vessel and cut felt accordingly to length- as well figure out how tall you want this cozy to be- mine is about 3" tall but it will vary depending on the jar used.

- line up all the pieces and sew all together using a straight stitch- I sewed a few extra lines of stitching that are purely decorative.

- using a snap set from the fabric store- or buttons- measure and attach closure

- fill with delicious hot beverage of choice and enjoy!

     I put this little dandy to use right away and even though I had just had my Latte Break I decided I needed a Tea Break just to test things out- plus the Littles were engrossed in some very serious Lego play and were not to be distracted!

     Sipping hot tea I sit and dream of warmer days ahead- camping and maybe even surfing this year- it is on my "To Do" list for my 37th year on this planet! Thank you Maya*Made for the inspiration I think I might make a few more of these pretty little Tea Cozies!

Friends I am not sure how this slipped my mind but it is Friday again! We are up for one more weekend adventure on our last Sunday Stroll of January- hard to believe an entire week has flown by let alone a month- but there you have it February is just around the corner! My wish for you this weekend is that you are warm, snugly and slightly tipsy in your little piece of this universe! Happy Friday Friends!

P.S.- if you haven't followed any of the links to check out Maya's blog do it- now- you will not be disappointed! You will notice she has an awesome invention on her jar called the Cuppow- I am ordering mine as we speak!

P.S.S.- next week I will try really hard not to complain about the rain- I promise!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rainy Day Crafts

     Oi! What a day! I know things could be MUCH worse for us weather wise- at plus 6 with rain we are far better off than any of our fellow countrymen to the East- and still I complain. I was not designed for weeks of grey sky or what is commonly known as winter here on the coast- I think I was born in the wrong continent- I possibly belong in Australia. I admit this is the toughest part of the year for me- the aforementioned rain makes me just want to hibernate and eat large amounts of bread smothered with melted cheese- sounds good right? 

    The only problem with this plan is these children of mine will not allow this to happen- stay inside? Yeah right I have a better chance of bumping into Jason Priestley- which actually just happened to my friend Kim Manky who lives in L.A. You can also forget about the large amounts of bread smothered in melted cheese- any indication that I am about to eat anything they are at my heals claiming to be starved- apparently I don't feed them enough! At any rate the option of me reclining on the sofa for the rest of January is non existent and so into my studio I go- on the hunt for something- anything that will engage them for longer than 4 minutes( the amount of time it takes them to eat a purloined cheese melty).

     This project could not be easier- it is a project that even my sister might attempt to do with her wee ones- that easy! Today we are channelling warmer days and creating a wall full of spring butterflies- a pop of bright colour and a spot of hope on an otherwise grey day! Our jumping off point was these awesome bug bodies that we found at Collage Collage a few weeks ago- I only bought three and immediately wished I had grabbed a few more- enter in the clothes peg bodies.

      As you can see the pre-made bug bodies have slits into which you slide your wing selection, all one does is accordion fold a few pieces of tissue and slide them through the slot- finish it off by fluffing up the wings and adding pipe cleaner antenna. The clothes peg is even easier- all you do is gather a few pieces of tissue in the middle, along with the pipe cleaner for antenna and clip with the clothes peg! How easy is that? Of course from here you can decorate the wings with watercolour paints or markers- we also painted the clothes peg bodies to make fancy butterflies!

      Once we had enough butterflies we had to decide where they would live- we have this dull grey column in our living room- it is supposed to keep the building up or something but man is it ever ugly! It was decided that the ugly grey column needed a face lift and so up went our beautiful spring butterflies! We are very pleased with the result- not only did this project manage to engage us all for an hour or so but we have the added bonus of a new art installation to brighten up a dull corner of our living room. A promise of spring and with it an end to the rain!

P.S. I am not sure what this guy is- The Boy made him at school today- but dang if this isn't super awesome!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seam Allowance- the Tote

    Every January I seem to get really bored with what is in my closet- in the past that would have meant hitting the mall or thrift stores and getting frustrated because there is nothing new yet- we are between seasons after all! However with my Seam Allowance pledge ( to sew 1/4 items that we wear) still very fresh in my mind I turned towards my scrap bin to see what I could come up with.

    It does help that I had this lovely length of saddle leather from Merchant and Mills to use as a strap- I think it really ups the anti on a simple bag like this! Plus it was fun to get out the hammer to put the grommets in- unusual for a sewing project. The bulk of this grown up tote is made of sturdy painter's linen- reinforced on the bottom with a length of denim ( remnant of last years jeans which were turned into shorts) and accented with a piece of gingham salvage.

     I was looking for something very simple- not too heavy yet must be sturdy enough to carry a multitude of Legos and Fairies, paper and crayons as well as snacks. I guess you could say this is the evolution of a diaper bag for me! Bonus points for looking great- super fresh for Spring- nice and simple- not to mention free because I used what I had on hand!

    There really is no pattern for this- I just sort of made it up as I went along- I sewed a basic lined tote but omitted the fabric handles- I added the loops for the D-rings and the leather handle once the bag was complete.  I think I might make another one- I am contemplating experimenting with waxing my own linen- making it waterproof. I also was thinking it would be very interesting to dip dye a bag like this- so once warmer weather gets here I am going to start experimenting with some natural dyes- which I am very excited about!
    The Seam Allowance project which I started participating in a few months ago is really tough- I thought it would be easy considering the amount of clothing I already make for this family. To physically sew one in four items though if a lot more difficult than I imagined. What it has done though if anything is completely curbed our impulse purchasing because I always think "oh I can make that" and I consider where it was made and by who- which is really the entire point of the project- to get people thinking!

    Going into Spring I am feeling quite a bit more organized- I know we will all need shorts soon and so I am starting on it now! Miss Lo has more than enough sundresses, cute tops and skirts so this time it is The Boy's turn- he needs a new hoody, shorts and a few more pairs of shorts for warmer weather- sewing for boys can be so much trickier than sewing for girls!

    Thank you to my friend Andrea for snapping these pics yesterday after we went for our tea date! Nothing like a good chat about babies!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creative Little Creatures

    When the Littles get new art supplies it doesn't need to be said that they get very excited- what bares mentioning is how excited I get! When I came across Creative Creatures from Chronicle Books at Opus Framing and Art Supplies a few months ago I knew at some point in time we would have need for some attention holding new supplies and so I bought them and tucked them away for a few months.  Today- with it's continuation of yesterday's fog- was the day to bust it out along with a fresh pack of markers and boy were we not disappointed!

      Kids ( or adults like me) are invited to create their own colourful menagerie from the easy to punch out animal sculptures- it is a bit like a cardboard circus in a box! Illustrated by artist Junzo Terado this petite box contains hours of fun- ten creatures intended to be personalized with pencil crayons or markers and then slotted together for some 3-D interest. I have to admit I loved this project as much as the Littles did- getting lost in the pattern play, shapes and the meditative colouring- the dishes were forgotten while we created our colourful circus!

      What appealed to me as an artist is the modernist sensibility- these characters are sleek and yet playful in their design with each one patterned differently.  What appealed to me as a parent is the ease of this project- all that is required is markers or pencil crayons- no scissors, no glue and very little clean up. I will mention that these cardboard animals are a little delicate- a friend who is a tad younger than our Littles shredded her monkey and quickly moved onto a new activity- I would recommend this is a great project for the over three crowd although the product recommends four and up.

       Another interesting aspect of this art kit is it includes over sized envelopes so a person can mail a fully intact project to a friend. I love the idea that the artist included the idea of sharing in this project! Even better that sharing is encouraged via  good old fashioned envelope and stamp mail- something many children do not get to experience these days. The publisher- Chronicle Books- always puts out fantastic products and I was not surprised to see that they were behind this little box of goodies!

      I give Creative Creatures two enthusiastic thumbs up as do our Littles who are still playing with their cardboard creatures as I sit typing this- even when the colouring is finished there are hours of imaginative fun to be had!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sunday Stroll

       This weekend our Sunday Stroll almost did not happen- a combination between people feeling under the weather and the actual weather. We had planned on re-visiting the Reifel bird sanctuary however the fog- which came and went and then came back again with no warning- made any bird viewing almost impossible. It was decided we could save our visit to the bird sanctuary for another- much nicer day- and so we scrambled about trying to figure out a very casual and close hike- which turned out to be more of a walk.

       We were already out in the city of Richmond- which is relatively close to Vancouver- and decided instead of a complicated hike we would hit one of the many and very accessible trails that run through out the city. We settled on the Middle Arm Trail which is located just behind the Olympic Speed Skating Oval( River Road) and runs along the middle arm of the Fraser River- the length of the entire trail runs 38 km but we just tackled a portion of it.

     I will admit that I was a tad hesitant about this hike- the whole idea of our Sunday Strolls are to get us out of the city and here we were settling for an urban hike in the middle of a busy city. Yet peace and nature and community surrounded us on our hike- wildlife was plentiful and viewed from various viewing platforms along our walk. I think the best part of our afternoon was the amount of people we met who stopped and said hello or just smiled and waved at the kids who ran willy nilly down the trail.

      It was thanks to this willy nilly running that we stopped at a place we had never explored before- The Boy bailed and had full on road rash all over his wee hands- some water and band aids were in need. Luckily the Richmond Speed Skating Oval from the 2012 Winter Olympics was our closest venue- now a bustling community centre they had the appropriate first aide supplies we needed and we got to experience a beautiful building.

      In our exploration of the facility we stumbled upon some beautiful public art- Water Sky Garden by Janet Echelman 2009- is a beautiful addition to the Richmond Olympic Oval. Massive netting suspended over tranquil water gardens interlaced with bright red bridges- water circulating in the ponds- it is a beautiful piece- especially in the fog with a light breeze blowing gently making the netting sway. Peace and tranquillity existing along side the hustle and bustle of the busy city streets- tucked around the corner from the front of the building you would never know there is a busy road right there- it was so quiet.

      This is a hike I would do again- it is easy and accessible- the Littles had a great time running down the safe path and exploring all the points of interest as well as spotting birds and airplanes. Richmond has an extensive network of these trails running through out the city and we most definitely want to check out more. The fresh air was exactly what we needed to clear our own fog surrounding our heads, the ocean air in our lungs making us feel freshened and ready to tackle a new week!