Friday, September 26, 2014

The Back To School Post

          This week has been a tricky one- so much has changed around here in the past few weeks- with the biggest change happening on Monday when our Littles headed back to school. The Boy of course was beyond excited to be back in the classroom- amongst his friends- even the girl who claims to be his girlfriend. He thrives in a structured environment like school- teachers shaping his days predictably in a way that is foreign to me- The Boy though loves knowing whats happening next and the moodiness that had been lurking has quickly disappeared.

      My girl- she started kindergarten- this has been though on us both- but if I'm being honest mostly just for me- I miss my girl so much. Miss Lo who is usually bursting with confidence and full of beans is a bit more subdued- particularly today when I dropped her off for her first day with the entire class- up until this point the class had been divided in two- today all twenty two children were together- my girl was a bit overwhelmed but went gamely ahead with no complaint up the stairs. She already has a friend who conveniently lives right downstairs.

         So with these littles safely squared away my days are about to change- the hours between 9:00am and 3:00pm are- for the most part- my own. Even today- which was a short day- I sat in a coffee shop- reading an actual magazine- the whole way through. One look around our apartment reveals a change is happening- most toys are away in their homes- the living room tidy- pillows on couch- no crumbs on the floor. Backpacks and shoes litter the front hall closet- our dining room table is covered in permission slips and library books- a change from the usual sea shells and sticks.

         When you are in the thick of raising babies- the tough days when you have had very little sleep or foul moods are catching- when you are sitting in the middle of a living room that looks like a tornado blew through- you think it will never end. We had our babies eighteen months apart- we had two babies under the age of two- it was intense- it was crazy- at times I have sat in the bathroom and cried- life is like that. I feel like we have come out the other end of that- I'm not saying that there won't be times when I want to scream- what I'm saying is I can catch a brief glimpse of a calmer and more tidy life.

       I am sad we are done with the baby stage and even with the trying toddler years- somewhere along the line I blinked and both my babies are kids- kids in full day school! So I guess what I am trying to say to all those Mommas who are in the thick of it- don't fret over the crumbs and finger prints- seriously before you know it your babies will be in school- your days will come back into focus again- stay present and as challenging as it may be- enjoy very little second.

        I'm not sure how my days are going to shape up yet- I'm hoping to take advantage of some dry weather next week to bike around Stanley Park- The Mr. and I have a standing coffee date and my friend and I are headed to a favourite cafe- kid free. As I struggle to find a sense of self without my children by my side every minute of the day I know they are learning- having fun- growing as little individuals- the important business of being a kid.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In The Studio: Dyeing With IDye

         Recently I have had a number of folks asking questions relating to dyeing fabric and wool- mostly friends who want to dye old clothes- either to cover up a stain or with an eye to a customized wardrobe. What ever the reason behind the dye questions a running theme keeps coming through- folks want to learn how to dye textiles but are intimidated by the process- so much so they often don't even try. I totally understand this intimidation- unsure about what dyes to chose, what pot to use and what the heck is a non- iodized salt! So in an effort to lesson the veil of mystery surrounding textile dyeing I thought I would introduce my readers (and friends who want to dye) to a few basic, commercially available dye options. Today we are talking about IDye- and easy to use, no mess dye- an excellent starter dye for someone dipping their toes into the dye pot!

           To start with- when dyeing any fabric- including pre existing garments it is necessary to wash textiles in a pH neutral detergent- I used Synthrapol. This removes any impurities from the textile- including grease and starches from the production process- allowing the dye to bond properly and evenly to the fabric. For wool I would suggest using the detergent as more of a pre-soak- do not put your skeins of wool into the washing machine- that would be a hot mess. Pre- wet all fabric before placing textiles in the dye pot- again this allows the dye to bond the the fibres more redly and evenly.

         Follow the directions on the Idye packet- they actually are very straight forward and easy- place the tablet of dye in a non- reactive pot along with enough hot water to cover textiles- add a cup of non- iodized salt and dissolve- before adding fabric- very straight forward.

          When it comes to the cooking time- this is where a bit of experimenting is needed- as you can see I managed a variety of shades of grey from the same dye pot- using both the boiling method and dip dyeing a range of finishes can be achieved. The darker colours were created following the packet instructions- I placed my textiles into the dye and simmered the pot for about a half an hour- stirring frequently. The lighter shades came about by twisting the fabric slightly(sort of tie dye but not really) and simply dipping both the wool and the t-shirt into the dye pot for less than five minutes- it was all about experimenting.

             I think the key to successfully getting started with textile dyeing is to be open to experimentation- be open to the unknown. Some things to think about- not all fabric is created equally- some cottons will dye differently than others- natural fabrics by their "nature" often have imperfections which tend to show up more so when dyed. When choosing a dye make sure to chose the correct dye for your fabric type- for example IDye makes a dye for natural fabrics- which I used here- and synthetic fabrics- if you use the incorrect dye it will not attach properly to the fibres and come out blotchy or possibly ruin your garment.

      When dyeing a pre-made garment consider what the thread used to sew the garment was made of- for example a cotton t-shirt sewn with polyester thread is very common- the dye will bond the the cotton t-shirt fabric but not at all to the polyester thread- leaving behind stitching that is a different colour. If over dyeing a garment to cover a stain often the stain will still show through- make sure to try a dye that is darker than the stain- protein stains- like baby formula and blood- are incredibly difficult to cover.

   You may still be scratching your head over what non-iodized salt actually is and why it's needed in the dye process- non- iodized salt is simply salt with no iodine added. Pickling or canning salt are both pure salt with no iodine in it. The salt is used in the dyeing process to help drive the dye into the fibres creating a more vibrant colour- not all dyes call for salt- follow the manufacturers suggestions.

    One last health and safety tidbit- when choosing a pot and utensils for dyeing please excersise caution- these dyes are chemicals so please do not use any pots or utensils that will be used for cooking. I have a separate set of pots and wooden spoons just for dyeing- they are never left on the stove or in the kitchen once I am finished dyeing so there is no confusion. I would suggest hitting your local thrift store for a second hand pot- look for stainless steel or enamel.

    So friends now that you have the ins and out of a very basic dye I hope to hear of a few of you jumping into the dye pot! Commercially available acrylic dyes like IDye are great for beginners- really accessible with fairly good results. While I still prefer natural dyes as they are a bit gentler on our environment- as well as being straight up magic- this was a fun little experiment. I have a few more dye projects I'm working on that I will bring you soon- including what I am doing with all this fabric thats been dyed over the summer!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Favourite Cake Friday: Rustic Pear Tarte

Rustic Pear Tarte

The Goods:


1 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter- cold- cubed
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons ice water


3-4 medium sized pears
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 tablespoons brown sugar
a pinch of cinnamon

The Deal:

- making the crust: whisk together flour, salt and sugar. Add cold cubed butter and cut into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until the flour mixture is coarse and pebbly. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture- slowly add in ice water and milk- blending as you go. Once the dough has come together in a compact ball wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

- while waiting for the dough to chill preheat the over to 425 degrees and prepare the filling. Peel and slice pears in about 1/4 inch slices. Toss together with lemon juice, cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon- toss until pears are evenly coated.

- roll out dough on a lightly floured surface- roll out into a large circle roughly 10 inches across. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer dough to the middle of the prepared baking sheet. Arrange the pears in the centre of the dough- leaving roughy a 2 inch boarder. Fold the boarder over the filling- leaving the centre explodes. Remember this is a rustic tart and things do not need to be perfect!

- Bake the tart at 425 degrees for 15 minutes- reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 40 minutes- until the pears are tender and the crust is golden brown.

- Transfer to a serving plate and allow to slightly cool- we like this lightly dusted with powdered sugar but whipped cream or vanilla ice cream would also be fantastic!

        I will admit this is the second week that the Favourite Cake Friday isn't in fact a cake- personally I'm just fine with that as I don't hold grudges against desserts! I promise- though- to have a new cake for next week and more knitting- of course more knitting! Always with the knitting- because I have started on Holiday gifts- which is terrifying but true! Can you even believe it is now mid- September?!!

     Anyways it is Friday again- our last Friday of summer holidays - finally! We are looking forward to celebrating the end of the season with some good friends this weekend- there will be home made pizza and fine boxed wine. Happy Friday Friends- much peace and love!

PS- putting an "e" on the end of "tarte" makes it more french of course!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thrifted Thursday: Clogs

        This year and a bit I have become completely obsessed with clogs- I'm not sure if it's thanks to that 70's persona they exude or just the basic comfort factor- but I- am- obsessed. Until recently I have only bought new clogs- straight out of the box- and endured countless hours (and blisters) breaking them in. Then last week- in the face of returning to work- I was parsing a few of my favourite vintage Etsy sellers online- lets just say vintage shopping from the comfort of one's couch is a dangerous thing! At any rate I came across this super cute and well loved pair on Shudder Emporium- based out of Edmonton Alberta.

        I have never bought vintage footwear online before- it was a bit risky but the measurements matched up and I took the leap of faith- hitting purchase with bated breath. These clogs were just too good to pass up- aside from the correct measurements they looked soft and totally worn in- avoiding the pain of breaking a new pair in- also they were made in Italy- which according to my friend is THE hallmark for a good product! When my vintage purchase arrived a speedy 3 business days laterI was not disappointed- my new -to me- clogs fit like a dream.

         Part of the appeal of vintage to me is the patina or worn look- I'm not a fan of things that look brand new- I like an object to have a story a past history. Obviously the romantic in me compels even my purchasing history! These clogs have seen a lot of miles but are as soft as can be- I'm happy they came into my life to make new stories and travel new paths- long may we wander!

P.S.- this staircase is my new favourite- it looks like a stoop that needs to be sat on- copious cups of coffee should be consumed here in the fading summer sunshine!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

End of Summer Visit to Deep Cove

      A collective sigh of relief was heard across British Columbia yesterday morning- upon waking parent's and students alike learned we will most likely be headed back to the classrooms early next week. The labour dispute between government and teachers has reached an agreement and our wonderful teachers will be at the front of the classroom and ready to teach. With that said I am so happy we took a final little day trip this week- with Momo and Poppa who are visiting- we headed out to one of our favourite spots- Deep Cove.

        The weather these past few weeks has been nothing short of spectacular- perfect for a dip in the ocean- water so clear the kids could spot crabs scurrying across the ocean floor from up on their perch. Of course many rocks were thrown and it took bribes of doughnuts to get the Littles to leave the beach- I'm sure they could sense the change in the air- see the trees tinged with orange. This summer has been idyllic- one adventure after the other- I am so grateful for all our wonderful hikes, beach days, forest exploring and park play. My heart is full. 

         Back to our Deep Cove visit- my parents had never been out to this spot and so we thought we would share it with them- a hidden gem on Indian Arm. Our day spent out in the Cove was the perfect way to wrap up summer- fall officially starts this weekend- this seemed an appropriate way to say goodbye! I am content with knowing our Littles are headed back to school full of wonderful memories and a few new skills- a little more well rounded than before. Thank you summer- see you next year!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rhythm of The Weekend

         This weekend looked a little different for our family- this was my first weekend back at work- our first weekend learning to adjust to a different pace- a different rhythm. I am pleased to be returning to a company that I've worked for in the past- it's like coming home- seeing old friends- revisiting old behaviours. The wonderful thing is this time I am working in our neighbourhood- further becoming part of this wonderful- eclectic- place our family calls home.

      My feelings on returning to work as a working mother are complicated- logically I know I have nothing to worry or even complain about- I work weekends and so our kiddos just hang out with the Mr.- we do not have to worry about day care. Of course as I stepped out the door I felt heavy with the knowledge I would be missing out on all sorts of family fun- simultaneously I felt light because I knew I was stepping in the direction of our dreams.

        My days were strangely singular- when not at work I found time to sit and quietly work on my next pair of socks- sipping a coffee and noticing changes in the neighbourhood- noticing the light moving across the cobbles- noting the fall colours popping up at shops. Quiet is a totally foreign concept for me these days- it was such a gift to walk freely and quietly through the streets.

         Of course upon returning to home at the end of my days I was greeted in the best possible manner- giant hugs and squeals of joy- so happy to have Momma home. Sometimes a little absence is just what we all need to make the heart grow fonder- I'm noting an increase in patience on my part this morning. Sitting here drinking my coffee this morning in the crisp morning air I can smell Fall- it's just around the corner. The time for wooly socks, boots and sweaters is coming- time for nesting into our family- seeking comfort in the simple things. I love this time of year- the changes in our life are bringing renewed creativity- a new rhythm.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Favourite Cake Friday

Cousin Laura's Blueberry Muffins

The Goods

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 large egg- slightly beaten
2/3 cup veg oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt
2 cups berries

The Deal

whisk together egg, buttermilk, oil, vanilla as well as orange zest and juice

combine dry goods in another bowl and fold in berries

with a light hand fold in wet ingredients- do not over mix
    - this is a very dry, cake like mix

fill each muffin cup to almost full

bake about 20 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven
     - if using frozen berries bake about 3-5 minutes longer

        We have a freezer full of blueberries- and we have all ready started indulging in some of our favourite recipes- like this one- shared with me years ago by dear cousin Laura! I make this recipe at least once a week and it never fails to disappoint! If you don't happen to have an orange on hand a lemon will do nicely in a pinch- slightly tweaking the flavour in a favourable way! I hope you enjoy this as much as we do- even though it is not a cake per say!

       Dear Friends it is Friday again- September is just flying by- to which I am sure many of my stay at home Mum friends here in BC are rolling their eyes! The children will go back to school- eventually- all will return to normal- until then I am trying my best to enjoy this extra time with my Littles! Keep calm everyone- grab that extra cask of wine and have a super wonderful weekend! Happy Friday Friends!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thrifted Thursday

           Today's Thrifted Thursday is a little bit thrifted and a little bit crafty- truly the best of both worlds- made all the better because it came in the guise as a gift from a dear friend. I have been meaning to write about this for quite some time but honestly so much has happened this summer that I just haven't had the time to write about yet! At the end of July we were paid a visit from my dear friend Sarah- who incidentally wrote a guest post for me last summer which can be read here- she and her family were visiting from Wisconsin. Sarah truly is one of my kindred souls- we bonded in University over beer and thrifting- some things really never change!

          So anyways Sarah and her sweet family stayed with us for a few days and of course she and I both had a few gifties for each other- I almost died laughing when we essentially exchanged wool! Into my yarn stash went this dreamy, soft neutral skien- from a local Wisconsin mill- Blackberry Ridge- the perfect base for one of my natural dyes. Along with this yummy little treat was this wee maroon satchel- purse to you non fashion types! I used this diminutive little bag only a handful of times before my little Miss declared it perfect to tote around her treasures- so I feel I may never get to use this bag again- shades of things to come!

         In other news as much as I am desperately trying to hang onto these final gentle days of summer I can see and feel fall creeping in. The mornings now hold a crispness that simply wasn't there last week- soon it will be boot and sweater weather. The nights come quickly now and the beach toys have all been packed away- I'm reassessing our rain gear- patching jeans- starting to think about soups and baking bread again. The Littles are still out of school- which feels a bit strange and yet totally right- their nature collection is growing daily as we wander and explore our way through our city- easing out of our summer skin and on into fall.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Studio Update

           This summer has been a bit crazy- I've found it really difficult to carve out time to work in the studio- and to be perfectly honest I haven't wanted to- I so enjoyed spending my hours adventuring with my Littles- I have no regrets! In spite of all the fun times a few things have managed to come out of the studio and made their way into the Plain Jane Etsy Shop- lots of custom orders which was fantastic! It's tricky this whole work/ live balance and as I have said before I tend to look at it as less of balance and more of a dance- finding my rhythm and moving to Mother Nature's tune.

           These little swing tops have been super popular this summer- easy to wear for any little gal on the go- in fun colours and fabrics- each top is unique. Initially I designed this pattern in celebration for back to school- the days of September are still warm but the Littles need something on their shoulders- perfect for the playground. School or no school my gal has been wearing hers a tonne- I have a few more going up into the Plain Jane Etsy shop today.

          This fall Plain Jane is looking a little different- I have really narrowed down what I enjoy making and have fun with- great fabrics- natural dyes- little things for some of my favourite small beings. I'm so happy with how things are unfolding in the studio these days- feeling refreshed by the changing season- feeling like nesting in our home. Although school is still not back in I feel like fall is the start of the new year- fresh and crisp- new beginnings!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day Dreaming on Bowen Island

         Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask is it really possible that we live in such a beautiful place? My love affair with our beautiful province knows no bounds and so chances are if the weather is fine our family can be found adventuring outside- after twelve years life on the coast still amazes me. It's only natural that with our extended summer break the Littles and I are adventuring- further afield on our own than ever before- including but not limited to day trips to some of our favourite spots. Last week we hopped a bus downtown Vancouver and were quickly deposited at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal- we were Bowen Island Bound.

          For my kids education does not need to be complicated- we find learning in even the most mundane of exercises and adventures- a ride of the ferry for example quickly turns into a conversation about tides, weather and whales. The boy is fascinated with how the ferry works and what all the ship hands are doing- where the captain is sitting and why all the ropes! Miss Lo gets excited being on whale duty- they know if we spot one on this short trip it would be nothing short of extra special. It's little things that I may take for granted like a short ferry ride that get the kids excited and learning- get them thinking and asking questions.

           Once we land at our favourite little town Snug Cove we quickly hustle over to the candy store- Bowen Island boasts the worlds smallest candy shop- a tiny little nook which unfortunately was closed mid week. Up to the Co-op we go for lunch supplies as well as to check out the candy situation- which P.S. does not disappoint! Supplies in hand we headed to one of our favourite short trails in Crippen Park- I feel so comfortable hiking on my own with the kids here as there are no bears or cougars on the island.

        Turning our feet back towards the water we head to our favourite sandy little beach- complete with hidden tire swing- we meet up with another little friend for lunch and play time. Plenty to entertain and engage the kids on this short strip of beach- everything from catching crabs in the shallows to collecting shells for our shell chart. Our day could not be more bucolic as we sit there- the Littles playing and the Mommas chatting- commiserating on the lack of public school and learning more about the fantastic home school network on the island- looking into options and laying plans for the future.

        Once our play time winds down we head back towards town and over to the infamous pie shop down on the wharf- chocolate banana cream pie is obviously called for- the perfect way to wrap up such an excellent day! Down on the wharf a few changes have taken place- most noticeably Shika Provisions- a yummy little sushi and gift shop- it's the obvious spot to play a game of hopscotch while we wait for our boat- lingering as long as we can.

         Bowen Island is officially my happy place- I feel relaxed- it feels like home- small town B.C.- just the way Peachland used to be. Given the chance I would move here in a heart beat- open my studio and call it a life. Until the day comes that my pay check matches up with my dreams lots of visits are called for- island living is for me and I can't wait to head back!

P.S. if we ever move to Bowen we could have chickens!!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back to The Basics

          This summer I will admit there has not been a tonne of making things from scratch being written about here in this space- I've written a bunch about all of our hiking adventures- a few cake recipes- and some discussion of knitting! Going forward into the fall I want to jump back into making things again and of course writing about them. A few changes are coming to this space- a new look- a new direction- more of a studio journal- with lots of family fun thrown in for good measure.

        As my babes grow and their interests change I have relays struggled in my role as art facilitator- they are so confident in their art making that they rarely need me these days- helping themselves to supplies and going about their business. I miss our days of crafting around the table together but I love watching their drawings and sculptures come to life- their imaginations are wild and fantastic.

       So going forward into fall I'm starting to think about myself again- my own art practices and all that I love. I'm looking forward to starting some paintings again- with my kiddos at their own easels by my side- I'm thinking of working on a series with them- excited to jump into that. More screen printing and textile work is in the plans- excited to start some experiments with hand painting gauze fabric. Wednesday studio updates will most definitely be back- new things being posted soon in the Etsy shop!

     Friends it is Friday again- this week has been so strange for us- we should have been celebrating the end of our first week of Grade 1 and Kindergarten respectively but instead we are still on "summer vacation". The labour dispute in our Province has divided loyalties- friends and families butting heads- the education strike has extended well beyond the boardroom and nerves are beginning to fray. My hope is that things get settled but in my heart I know we are in for a long fall- our kids out of school- missing what is a fundamental right- an education. While we have been dipping our toes into the homeschool pool my heart is still sad- my children had the choice to go to school or home school- they chose to experience school and now that has been ripped away. My wish for the weekend is peace for all those heavy hearts out there- much love Friends and Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Keep Calm and Knit On

          Folks who follow me on Instagram know of my current obsession- knitting socks! I feel like it was a slow learning process but once I got the hang of it my needles flew- the end result is this snuggly pair of wool socks- perfect for these cooler late summer days! Now I'm not referring to this current time as fall- it certainly doesn't feel like it- with our kiddos still on "summer break" thanks to the labour dispute between our Provincial Government and our teachers. We are hanging onto these final days of summer for all they are worth- beach trips for impromptu picnics in between rain storms- lots of hiking- and a tiny toe dip into the homeschool pool.

          Not to get side tracked by the lack of school- the disappointment of my youngest who was ever so excited to head off to Kindergarten- the bummed out expression of a six year old who just wants to play unsupervised by Mum with his friends! Our family has spent a tonne of time together these past three months and while nerves are starting to fray we just need to roll with it- make a conscious effort to take time apart when we need it- keep things fun and interesting for all of us. Personally I will be diving back into my knitting basket again this week- starting yet another pair of socks- a small and portable project that can travel with us to park, beach or sit in- while the kiddos roam I can relax and let me fingers fly.

       This was my first pair of socks ever- aside from a pair of mitts and a lot of hats and scarves I have always been a bit intimidated of knitting actual garments- with the easy to follow instructions from one of my favourite books of the summer- Made By Hand by Lena Corwin- these socks were actually a snap. Now they may not be the most evenly knit of socks they do fit my feet and they do over all look like socks so I am incredibly happy with them!

         So my motto for the coming weeks will obviously have to be Keep Calm and Knit On!