Thursday, November 27, 2014

Some Knitting For A Small Being

          The requests for hand knits keep rolling in and I do the best that I can to follow through on my promises- of course when it comes to my own small girl requesting a new hat for the winter how could I resist! She is the bright spot in my winter- sporting head to toe pink this season it is unlikely I will misplace her. Now I myself am not a fan of pink- in fact I feel like far too much is marketed to girls by simply being pink. I have had to really duct tape my mouth shut when it comes to opposing the colour as my girl really- really likes it. This is about her not me- and for a five year old a colour like pink comes with zero connotations- no baggage with loving the colour pink for this kid!

        So I have started to refer to the shade as "watermelon" and when she decided she needed a hat to go with her new coat I knew I had just the wool in my stash- locally made in Chilliwack B.C. this is a yummy soft alpaca died with Logwood and Cochineal-  I bought it years ago at a farmer's market. I decided a little Keaton Hat was just the ticket for this magical wool- quick and easy to knit up- the shape is super simple- all topped off with a bit of fun!

         As much as I try to keep my Littles- well little- they just seem to keep growing- far too quickly for my taste! Looking back at this time last year my girl still napped and enjoyed being pushed around in the stroller- how it is that she walks to and from school each day with very little complaint I have no idea. While life moves pretty fast these days and children seem to be so savvy I feel it is my job to keep her little- to try and slow things down a bit- in the city especially I feel this slow life is a necessary foil.

       All this to say that my girl asked for a new pink hat and I made her one!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Makers Series: Plain Jane Designs

           I think I would be quiet remise if I neglected to share what I have been up to in the studio for this coming Holiday Season. This year looks quite a lot different from last- this time last year I was hustling on the craft market circuit- while it was quite rewarding it was also quiet stressful. What people possibly don't realize is that artists who are out trying to make a living are working in every spare moment they have- aside from the markets and shows there is the actual making of the work- which is where the love and the magic actually happens. You could say I was more than a little burnt out towards Christmas- this year I have stepped back- way back and it is great.

          This year I have been busy creating a handful of my favourite cards- getting back to what I truly love to do- the hands on making of one of a kind goods- each card is a small piece of art. These will be for sale over on my Plain Jane Facebook page and of course through email. Six large cards for $20.00. Six small cards for $12.00. Simple and easy- perfect to pair with a hostess gift- wonderful to send to someone you love who is far away.

         I think this past year people in Canada have slowed down on the act of mailing things- with increased postage fees the cost of sending a card is now around a dollar for a single piece of mail. I get that people find it difficult to invest in this kind of purchase. Which is such a shame- the act of choosing the perfect card- sitting down to think about what you want to convey and then popping all that love in the mail- it's becoming something of a lost art.

            I have this friend from university- when we both moved home- hello helicopter children- we sent each other mail- like actual physical mail- through the post. That connection with my friend was tangible evidence that somehow I was not alone- some where out there was a friend just as quirky as I was. Recently this friend- who again lives far away but in much warmer climes- has started sending me post cards again- this small act of friendship is so meaningful. It fills me with hope that people still know how to write a letter and not just emails or texts.

            So this is why I still make cards each year- there are people who would rather send a card though the mail- to say Merry Christmas- Happy Solstice- Happy Hanukkah- or even the mealy mouthed Happy Holidays. It makes my heart happy to know my art travels the world and makes people smile when they see a thick square shaped envelope- they know it's not a bill. This spirit still exists and so for at least one more year- in limited quantities I will offer up my cards. 

        So in closing- I would like to say that even if you don't buy Plain Jane cards- which are all hand made by me and sprinkled with unicorn dust in my magical studio- please think about reaching out to your friends and loved ones with a card- a post card- a warm Hello. There is something to be said for the nostalgia and security of an old fashioned Christmas card!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Nature Babes: Admiralty Point

          Recently our family headed out to  Admiralty Point in Belcarra Regional Park- we had never explored this part of the Lower Mainland and were excited to check out a new to us area. In addition to the weather knocking it out of the park that day our Littles were in a particularly good mood- we thought to take advantage of the situation and try for some family photos worthy of our annual Christmas card. The conditions could not have been better- getting these two hooligans to co-operate was another story though as they were obviously more interested in exploring that photo taking-  and understandably so!

         With so many great spots to check out Belcarra Park is a real hidden gem- popular with crab fishers and boaters as well as picnickers- even on a freezing cold day in November the picnic shelters were booked and the park was abundant with families enjoying the non- rain weather. We first explored the pier as well as the adjacent tidal pools and beach- the water was crystal clear and we could see crabs scuttling across the floor of the ocean.

          It was soon established that the photo taking on the beach was not going to happen- it was windy and very cold so we headed for one of the many trails- we chose the Jug Island trail- which turned out to be much longer than anticipated! The Littles did it though- with plenty of flora and fauna to keep their attention we hiked the 6 kms out to the beach at Jug Island. After a short rest and some snacks we headed back towards the car- another 6 kms but the kiddos managed it under their own steam.

           Miss Lo has decided she might like to be a blogger like Momma and is now obsessed with taking pictures- I think her and I stopped every five feet to photograph the abundant mushrooms growing near the side of the trail. Side note- on my wish list is a book on mushroom identification- I had no idea what any of these were called and my answers to her questions were severely lacking!

         By the time we got back to the truck we were all totally done- the hike combined with the fresh, cold air was just what we all needed. Somewhere along the trail we all let go of our worries and just soaked in our surroundings- the quiet- the colours- each other. As our little family gets busier we need days like this desperately- like the air that we breath -we need the forest.

PS- a big thank you to Anna from Kids Unplugged for blogging about this gem of a park!

     Friends it is Friday again- if you aren't too busy Elving it up then I encourage you all to get outside and explore- adventure is out there! Much love- Happy Friday Friends!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thrifted Thursday

          These crisp days are probably my favourite fall weather- cold and crisp and sunny- no rain- which means bring on the layers of wool! Wearing wool on the west or wet coast has it's merits but it also has it's draw backs- usually my wool is worn in layers- topped off with waterproof rain gear. These days it's the wool thats the star of the show- so many good outfits to be seen- layers of sweaters and scarves- not to mention all the great boots that have been spotted lately! Not a speck of rain wear to be spotted!

          On a recent trip to good old Value Village I happened across this vintage Alia wool plain topper- now I realize the risk associated with such a brand- it is easy to venture into crazy cat lady territory when sporting Alia! To keep this cute topper youthful I'm pairing it with my ever present dramatically cuffed boyfriend jeans and some basic desert boots. This light weight yet warm jacket is the perfect thing to throw on for school pick up or to run out for milk. Functional for my Mom duties yet still cool enough for me to channel my inner beatnik!

P.S. yes I am growing out my hair- again- and yes it is a bird's nest these days so thank heavens for hat season!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Maker's Series: Mary Kim Ceramics and Paintings

        With my mind wondering more and more to gift giving I thought today's local maker should be Mum of two and maker of all things imaginative Mary Kim. Mary's work is very illustrative and she has over the years created everything from one off zines, super cool patches, colouring sets to her colourful and fun ceramics. This year Mary has come out with mini mugs- perfect for little hands on a chilly days- my own Littles are each getting one in their stockings- sure to be used for many an after school hot chocolate!

       Mary's work has always interested me- I wondered where she got her inspiration from not to mention the illustrative nature that encompasses all of her work. Fortunatly for me Mary was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions as well share a few of her new designs! Born and raised in Calgary she attended the Alberta Collage of Art and Design followed by studies at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design in Halifax. Mary's ceramics and paintings clearly show her love of the off beat and quirky- from her monster shot glasses to special unicorn mugs!

In Mary's own words:

I started becoming interested in monsters when Tim Burton came out with Nightmare Before Christmas.
I like the friendly, smiley types, not so much the dark and scary ones. There's lots of darkness out there.

I also like the cute and fluffy things; having a three-year-old awakened a new found interest in little forest animals, things with hearts and stars, and pastel colours…..I'm okay with it. Maybe it's cheesy or corny, but I'm okay with that too.

        As for inspiration? Mary cites a number of influences- nature- flowers, leaves, bugs- artist Charley Harper, monsters- hairy, toothy, many eyed. Bears, cats, cartoons, comic books, children's books, wall paper design. It seems that Mary takes in the word around her and translates it into fantastical creatures that may or may not be lurking!

         Be sure to check out Mary's work in person at Ainsworth Design on Granville Island- found at 1243 Cartwright Street this little gallery may be tucked away off the beaten path but is chock full of handmade, local treasures- all things we love! You can also check in online with Ainsworth Design to see what other goodies might grab your eye- as well get all the deets on things like the upcoming ornament show- their Facebook page can be found here- Ainsworth Design.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some Early Elving

             These days I am in full on Elving mode- for those of you unfamiliar with the term "Elving" it refers to the act of secretive Holiday making- as in "I am being like an elf and making gifts". So the yarn and needles are flying- much to my children's dismay I have taken up the prime spot on the couch next to our only lamp- gifts are being made- people are getting checked off my list! This year I am dedicated to either making gifts, buying from local makers or - and this is the only exception- buying art supplies to give as gifts- because gifts that foster creativity and anarchy are worth giving.

          I am working my way through my yarn stash- all these lovely hand dyed goodies that I have been hoarding away for the past few years- these glorious fibres are making their way onto my needles and soon onto the hands, feet, heads and necks of folks I love. Every time I sit and knit it becomes a meditation of the intended recipient of the item- each item becoming infused with love- something that you could never buy in a store. Shopping local is a passion of mine- supporting local makers and by extension supporting their passion is the right and good thing to do in my opinion. I think about all the wonderful folks who have supported me over the years and I want to pay that forward- I want to exist in a society that can support a slow, local, handmade market place.

        The early Elving I am sure has been entirely influenced by the frosty weather we have been experiencing on the West Coast these past weeks- with temperatures hovering around zero families have been scrambling to properly outfit their wee ones in as many insulating layers as possible. Buying winter wear is always a bit of a gamble when you live in Vancouver- our family usually begs and borrows enough winter gear for our annual trip to the ski hill and Christmas visit home- there usually is no point in buying winter coats. This year thats not the case and so after a quick trip to the local thrift shop both my babes are outfitted in practically brand new gear- add in some hand knit goodness and they are set to go! The frosty temperatures, darkening days, the snow capped mountains all make it feel like winter might actually be coming this year. Add in the set up of the annual German Christmas Market and all I want to do is hum carols and knit in front of the warm glow of the television. Christmas is coming people- be ready!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Makers Series: Vic & Vie

            Have you met Kiki? This magical dolly came to live with us last summer for my Girl's fifth birthday- Kiki has not left Miss Lo's side ever since. Kiki has travelled all over our beautiful province with us- having just as many adventures as we do- and a few that only Miss Lo knows about. In a land of plastic dolls- Kiki stands out as a bit old fashioned- well made- simple with plenty of room for a child's imagination to fill the spaces.

           Last fall Dear Cousin Laura was visiting her in-laws on Salt Spring Island and happened across the Vic & Vie stall at the amazing Farmers Market- she of course  picked a rag doll for her own sweet gal. Lucky for me Laura shared her find with me and I immediately fell in love with everything Vic & Vie had to offer. I knew this was the doll for my girl!

        Vic & Vie is owned and operated by graphic designer and mum of three Randee Brinks- influenced by vintage textiles and fashion she has created the most beautiful of dolls. Each doll is handmade on Salt Spring Island with natural fabrics, vintage trims and repurposed fabrics from other designers. As Randee clearly states on her website "With their captivating charm,Vic and Vie dolls are more than a toy. For ages young and old they remind us to Imagine. Dream. Play."

         Be sure to check out Vic & Vie's beautiful website- you might recognize a little face here and there- in addition to viewing all the lovely dolls and accessories- choosing just one is not aways easy! This take on the classic french rag doll is destined to be passed down to future generations- when an item- a friend- is this well made it is sure to linger long after a child grows tired of other toys. For my girl- who I like to think of as a modern kid- interested in being feminine while not at all interested in princess fads- Vic & Vie dolls allow for easy imaginative play- the perfect gift for every gal!

be sure to check out Vic & Vie's website here- Vic & Vie

and the Facebook page here- Vic & Vie

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Selfish Sewing

         Recently I treated myself to a couple of meters of dreamy Cotton & Steel fabric- remember last week when I shlepped through the rain and wind to my favourite sewing lounge Spool Of Thread? I simply could not resist this yummy criss crossed navy cotton- it fit in nicely with the handmade wardrobe I already have and although I had no idea what I would make with it I knew it would be good.

      Entre in my sewing time last Friday- I took one of my favourite loose tunics and drafted a pattern off of that- I like how it turned out but would definitely change the arms a bit- I'm not in love with how these tapered arms finished but they will do for now. I have been trying to make more sewing time for myself of late- which is tough when sewing for my Littles is just so much cuter! My new rule of thumb though is that I'm not making any spontaneous purchases- if I really want something I need to figure out if I can make it first- with the exception of jeans and shoes- always shoes!

       I'm loving how easy and breezy this tunic is- it really fits with almost everything from hiking boots and boyfriend jeans to ballet flats and skinny jeans- from the woods to the art shoppe this top is about to become one of my go- to staples. My wardrobe is slightly lacking these days- I am working hard to build myself an interesting and non- Mom uniform- easy basics that still reflect my creativity. I think it is easy to fall into boring basics- instead of reaching for my trusty grey t-shirt in the morning I can reach for this tunic instead!

PS- I had to take a picture of the frost- sure sign that winter is on the way!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering and Adventuring

         Today is Remembrance Day and our family has so much to be thankful for- our family may or may not have a unique Canadian story- but it is ours and ours alone. These faces above-laughing- running- breathing joy are the result of two very different families coming together- one German and one Canadian- our babies are a result of wars fought- won and lost- of differences put behind and lives moving forward. We are so grateful and recognize what they all went through- either as Pilots like my Grandfather or children like my In laws. We recognize that we are free to do as we please and enjoy a very comfortable life because of all they sacrificed.

 What better way to celebrate all that we are grateful for than to spend our time together as a family- which is just what we did yesterday. With a pro development day for the Littles and the Mr. with the day off we headed out to one of our favourite spots- Terra Nova Rural Park- a 63 acre nature and adventure park perched on the edge of Richmond. This is not your average park- the multi million dollar adventure park is devoid of traditional cookie cutter play equipment- instead unique custom designed "natural" play equipment can be found. Rustic Log Booms and a three story tall tree house slide are popular features as are the 35 meter zip line which is of course a favourite with my own feral children.

          Set amongst some of Richmond's most spectacular scenery the Terra Nova Rural Park sits adjacent to a beautifully laid out community garden- walking amongst the trails- spotting Snow Geese and other migrating birds we could have easily stepped into a painting. It's hard to remember we are still in the heart of a major city- with exception of the occasional plane- all that fills the air are the happy screams of playing children.

           With every age group taken into account there really is something for everyone to do here- the meadow and sandbox for the toddlers- the more complicated activities for the big kids- plenty of picnic tables for me to sit at and knit! Watching my kids move their bodies through the obstacle course I can appreciate the thought and planning that went into this park- obviously park planners are taking note that children are not playing the way they used to. This is about to become our go- to spot to bring all out of towners with children- take note Birken and Raible families- our Littles have plans for your Littles!

        These days with so much work and school going on it is rare for our little family to get an entire day off together- when it does happen it's oh so good! Combined with the after effects of a round of nasty colds as well as the incessant rain of last week these cold days of sunshine are a blessing- a much needed break for us all. Yesterday was one of those rare perfect fall days- one that will be held close to our hearts when the rains returns! So today as we watch all the hype and propaganda of Remembrance Day on the news I will be thankful of the quiet truth that the peace I feel as I walk in the sunshine- the safety and surety that being Canadian brings me is all thanks to people like my Grandfather and hundreds of thousands of other grandfathers and grandmothers across the country.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Embracing Fall

            This week has been full of emotions for all of us- the colds are all petering out- the time change threw us all for a bit of a loop- we are all looking forward to an extra long weekend. I found it really difficult to get outside and embrace any form of exercise or really even the fresh air this week- between my cold and the pounding rains that hammered the coast- I was perfectly content to just hang out inside! That said the clouds parted briefly yesterday and the rain held off for the majority of the day- only to be replaced by gusting winds- but none the less it was nice to stretch my legs!

           When I set out I had a destination in mind- I wanted to hit our local sewing lounge Spool Of Thread for a bit of a browse- searching for a bit of inspiration and maybe some new patterns. Walking through one of my favourite neighbourhoods made me a bit sad- everything is looking so lonely- the swings normally full of Littles hung motionless over deep puddles of storm water. The field empty of all souls with the exception of a single dog who's owner stood huddled on the sidelines. It feels like just yesterday that my own Littles were enjoying the last rays of summer- barefoot and sweaty as they raced through the sand box. How are we possibly in November all ready?

         The days are growing shorter and although it is a struggle for me to wrap my head around the grey- dark days- I know that before the light must come the darkness and so with this in mind I know longer days will return. Patience is not one of my virtues- in any regard including the changing seasons. It is no wonder that these are the nights that were once full of bonfires and celebration- of harvest and death- bringing lightness into the dark.

          With new fabric on my cutting table and new wool begging to get onto my needles I am finding plenty to distract me from my maudlin tendencies. There is nothing more for me to do at this time of year than create- sew- knit- print- the creating of things to give away to my loved ones. No distractions like a magical trail to follow or beach to bask on- just snug inside days spent flexing my creative muscles- which is never a bad thing- in my opinion!

        Friends it is Friday- the days seem to be flying by at an impossible speed- I guess that is what happens when school days mark your calendar. I hope this weekend finds you all warm and dry- surrounded by love- and coffee- plenty of coffee! Happy Friday Friends!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Makers Series: Kids Unplugged

          The next local in my Makers Series is a new line of "active wear" for Little's on the go- Kids Unplugged- many local fibre folks will recognize it's creator Anna from her popular yarn shop Baaad Anna's on East Hastings. With in the past few months Anna has branched out with her latest venture Kids Unplugged- "Practical yet playful clothing for kids who like to explore". This statement in a nutshell is what attracted me to Kids Unplugged- an adventurous and wholesome view of a childhood spent outdoors- in nature- learning and exploring.

In Anna's own words:

Kids Unplugged is a locally made line of outdoor wear and accessories. Inspired by my two young sons and our adventures in the forests, parks and beaches of British Columbia. The practical was inspired by the type of clothing I wanted for my kids during adventures in the forest. The playful was inspired by my boys who always want to 'choose' the fabric, be it mushrooms, astronauts or superheroes. All items are handmade in Vancouver, BC. Every order is custom made, you can choose your canvas colour, your interior fabric and zippers or snaps! 

        Over on the Kids Unplugged blog you will not only find links to all the wonderful products in the online store but you can also follow along on fantastical forest adventures- learn about local mushrooms and witness Littles doing what Littles are naturally inclined to do- explore and learn as they go. seeing the Littles in Kids Unplugged using and wearing their gear is the greatest testimony possible- all set against the best possible backdrop ever- our beautiful BC countryside!

          I know a couple of Littles on my Holiday shopping list that would love the Nature Tracker Bag- perfect for all those rocks and treasures that kids are constantly collecting! My Boy has already clearly let me know he would love an Adventure Vest- it's on his wish list- buying well made, locally sourced gifts makes shopping easy for me. Even better is when those gifts aid in my children's active- outdoor life- simple and easy- just the way childhood should be!

-Be sure to check out the Kids Unplugged Instagram feed as well- so much goodness there! @kids_unplugged

-Also be sure to check out the Kids Unplugged blog- follow along on their adventures and see all the great gear in action!

-Finally shop locally at the Kids Unplugged Big Cartel shop!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

In The Studio

        This past weekend found me busily setting up for not one demo but two at the downtown location of Opus Framing and Art Supplies! Both block printing and screen printing- I turned what is generally one demo into two demos for the very first time- and I am so glad I did! With the advent of two demos I was able to dig a little deeper into sharing my enthusiasm on block printing- something that in the past has generally become relegated to being a time filler while screens for screen printing dried. Expanding on the block printing class allowed me to talk more about mounting blocks for longevity, creating pattern on textiles with freshly cut blocks and best of all- I got to talk textiles- something that often gets relegated on one or two lines in the entire class. The class on Saturday was full of enthusiastic textile folks- with a tonne of questions relating to ink and fabric- I really enjoyed the conversation that ensued!

         Sunday found me once again setting up in the new classroom space at the downtown Opus- this time for the screen printing demo. Screen printing is kinda my thing- it's really quite magical to create an image over and over again. It's also the meat and bones of my business- most Plain Jane items are screen printed- like I said it's what I love to do! This class is always a favourite of mine- again lots of great conversation from enthusiastic folks who were truly interested in learning the basics to screen printing.

        I love the time immediately following a class- I always am inspired by what others are doing and the creative conversation that obviously crops up at times like this. I like to harness that inspiration- the excitement to get back in the studio and keep the creative tide going. So of course this week- I have been sick with a gross head cold and had zero energy to do much more than sketch out some ideas- after a full 12 hours of sleep last night- thanks to my Mr and kiddos for giving me the space to heal- I am feeling on the mend again. This morning is finding me at the table with my sketches in hand- excited to try out some new block printing ideas!

      Life for me right now is really a balancing act- I haven't mentioned it here in this space but I have four jobs- yeah four! Two that I love that pay the bills and two that are just really wonderful opportunities.  So needless to say I am incredibly busy these days- balancing work and being a Momma- plus trying my best to keep up with my art practice to keep my soul satisfied- a maker's gotta make!

     I gotta give a few massive shout outs this week for all the folks in my life that make this possible- my Mr. has really stepped up to the plate lately- the kids are happy and we are all fed so thats really what matters right now. My fantastic co- workers over at Opus who got people in the seats for both my demos as well as supported me by setting up- you guys really are the best! So thanks to these great people I was able to succeed this past weekend- grateful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Post Halloween Pumpkin Soup

            Welcome November! With the start of a new month brings the start of cold and flu season at our house- two out of four of us are sick this week- Momma being one of them. So what better way to make us all feel comfort and joy - as well as get rid of left over pumpkins- than to make up a big batch of creamy pumpkin soup! Throw in some cloud biscuits and everything is almost better- at least our stomachs are happy!

        This pumpkin soup recipe could not be easier- I roasted a whole pumpkin but canned pumpkin can also be used- just make sure to get the plain pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling! Make a double batch and freeze half for later- soup is so perfect this time of year- a great meal when combined with a side salad and a loaf of crusty bread- or biscuits!

 You will need:

2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 small onion diced
2-3 cloves garlic
2 stalks of celery- sliced
1 large or 2 small carrots- sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Rosemary
1-2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
bacon drippings- or olive oil

To Do:

- finely chop onion, garlic, celery and carrot- saute until onions are translucent in bacon drippings- alternatively olive oil can be used as well.

- add in spices and cook for a few minutes

- add in pumpkin

- add in soup stock- mix well and simmer for about 20 minutes

-   once soup has simmered for a while - pull out Bay leaf- blend with an immersion blender until all large chunks are gone- the soup should be a creamy consistency. Add coconut milk and keep on low heat until ready to serve!

- additionally we like to top our soup with a variety of yummy goodies- bacon or diced ham add a smokey element to the soup- cooked pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top are also tasty!

           As I said this is a very easy soup to make- mot soups are- its all about layering the flavours in- when starting with the bacon drippings you start with a subtle bacon undertone and build on that with the curry and, Bay and Rosemary. If you don't have coconut milk on hand a cup of regular milk will work as well- but it won't be quiet so thick- alternatively cream tastes wonderful in this as well! It's all about paying around with the flavours- reaching into your cupboard and using whats on hand to come up with unique combinations. November is definitely soup month around here- tuck in and stay warm Friends!