29.5.11

Blue Bird Blessings

Why, that's the blue bird we were looking for! ...We went so far and he was here all the time! ...Oh, but it's wonderful!

From The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck

When I was about 5 or 6 my mother took me to a screening of the 1940 movie The Bluebird starring Shirley Temple, based on the 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlinck. The story is about a brother & sister, Tyltyl and Mytyl, who are sent out by the fairy Berylune into various magical realms to search for the Bluebird of Happiness. Returning home empty-handed, the children see that the bird has been in a cage in their home the whole time. When Tyltyl gives the bird as a gift to a neighbor's sick child, the bird flies away. The moral is that, ultimately, happiness can only be found within oneself. With this beautiful story in mind, I dreamt up this little mobile project...

To start off, I used watercolors to paint a wash of blue on heavy-weight watercolor paper. I also flecked some brown paint onto one of my painted sheets so I could cut out speckled eggs,  To make the speckles, grab an old toothbrush, dip the bristles in brown paint and then run a toothpick over the bristles -- tiny flecks of paint will go everywhere, so be prepared! Once the paint was dry, I ironed the paper and then placed it beneath a pile of heavy books for a few hours to smooth and flatten it.

Next, I drew outlines of my birds (and eggs) on the back of the painted paper,

And carefully cut them out.

Added feathers & punched holes for hanging...

Then strung it all together with an egg in the middle & a feather on the end. To finish things up, I inscribed a message on the backs of my birds.

They say, "May you always find the blue bird of happiness in your home and in your heart..."

What messages will your blue birds bring?

28.5.11

Second Hand Saturday: Blue Birds

The plate was made in England and the cup is from France. They don't exactly match, but they do look pretty together.

25.5.11

Three Bears

Once upon a time there were three bears, a papa bear, a mama bear and wee little baby bear. One morning mama bear set out porridge and honey for breakfast. Papa bear tasted his bowl of porridge and said, "This porridge is too hot!" Mama bear tasted her porridge and said, "This porridge is too cold." Wee little baby bear tasted his porridge and said, "Mmmmm..." Mama bear said, "Never mind... Let's go for a walk in the woods to collect acorns and mushrooms." So off they went.

Meanwhile, a little girl named Goldilocks was roaming the woods collecting wild flowers. When she came across a cozy cottage, she knocked 3 times. No one answered so she just let herself right inside (did her mama not teach her any manners?) On the tidy kitchen table she found 3 bowls of porridge & honey. She tasted the first bowl and exclaimed, "Oh! This porridge is too hot!" She tasted the second bowl and announced to no one in particular, "This porridge is too cold." Then she tasted the third bowl and said, "Mmmmm..." Needless to say, she gobbled that third bowl of porridge right up.

She went into the sitting room and found three chairs. Sitting down in the first chair, she exclaimed, "Ouch! This chair is too hard." After sitting in the second chair, she announced to no one in particular, "This chair is too soft." There was, of course, a third chair, a wee little rocking chair, and when she tried that one, she found it was just right. She rocked and rocked. Just when she was thinking how grand this all was, the chair fell to pieces right beneath her.

Not one to respect the belongings of other people (or realize that she'd already caused quite enough damage for one day), she marched herself upstairs to see what she would see. What did she see? A lovely little bedroom with 3 fine beds. Up she hopped onto the first bed. Too hard. Up she hopped onto the second bed. Too soft. Up she hopped onto the third bed. Ahhh... Just right. And she promptly fell asleep.

A few minutes later, the three bears returned from their acorn & mushroom collecting expedition. Papa bear looked at his porridge bowl and grumbled, "Someone has been tasting my porridge!" Mama bear looked over at her porridge bowl and grumped, "Someone has been tasting my porridge!" When wee baby bear saw his empty bowl, he squealed, "Someone has been tasting my porridge and has eaten it all up!"

The three bears marched into the sitting room and papa bear grumbled, "Someone has been sitting in my chair!" Mama bear grouched, "Someone has been sitting in my chair!" Wee baby bear cried, "Someone has been sitting in my chair and broken it all to bits!"

They trooped upstairs and papa bear rumbled & grumbled, "Someone has been laying in my bed." Mama bear sighed with exasperation, "Someone has been laying in my bed." Wee baby bear looked over at his bed, and was so charmed by the sleeping girl that he gave Goldilocks a fuzzy little kiss. Goldilocks woke up in surprise and laughed with joy. Then baby bear frowned and asked why she had gobbled up all his porridge. Goldilocks answered that she had been hungry, of course. Mama bear, like the good mama she was, offered to make more porridge and then they all sat down to eat. When all the porridge was gone, the wee little baby bear and his new friend Goldilocks went out to the woods to pick berries for a pie.

The end.

21.5.11

Second Hand Saturday: Baby Sweaters

I love hand-me-downs, especially when they're hand made, and so I was very touched when my friend Caroline loaned me this baby surprise jacket.

She made it 8 years ago for her older son A. He wore it, her younger son L. wore it, and now my wee Bloom gets to wear it...

And this red sweater was made by my aunt Helene. She fashioned it after a pair of matching sweaters she knit for me & my brother many years ago when we were small...

My older son wore it and now my wee Bloom has his turn. Thank you Caroline and Aunt Helene for these cozy treasures...

19.5.11

A Recipe for Chilaquiles

Here we have the ugly step-sister of cuisine... a homely casserole. Why is it impossibly difficult to take an attractive photo of casserole-type dishes? Never mind. As unattractive as this photo might be, the recipe is delicious.

Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican dish served for breakfast or brunch. The ingredients are usually a combination of corn tortillas, eggs, cheese and/or sour cream with beans and salsa on the side. Chilaquiles are not usually made as a casserole, however this dish was brought to our door by a friend shortly after our family was joined by our wee Bloom. We were starving. This was warm, filling and it tasted good. After we licked our plates clean, I asked my friend for the recipe. It's so simple that it has now become a regular dish in our dinner roster.

Chilaquiles
From Still Life with Menu by Mollie Katzen

12 yellow corn tortillas (yellow corn has more flavor than white corn)
2 four-oz. cans diced green chilies
2-3 cups grated jack cheese (I used pepper jack for an extra kick)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk

optional additions: cooked pinto beans, cooked corn, cooked shredded chicken, 1 cup sauteed onion, minced garlic, spices such as cumin, basil or oregano, etc...

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 f. Butter or oil a 9"x 13" pan.
2) Tear 6 tortillas into 3"-4" pieces and lay over bottom of greased casserole pan.
3) Distribute half the chilies and half the grated cheese over the layer of tortillas (and add any additions such as beans, corn or chicken.)
4) Tear the remaining tortillas and lay on top. Follow with the remaining chillies and cheese.
5) Beat the eggs and buttermilk together with salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the casserole.
6) Bake uncovered for approx. 3 minutes at 375 f, until lightly browned on top. Serve with salsa & guacamole.

If you're lazy (like me) you might buy a jar of salsa (and sometimes I'm so lazy, I even buy pre-fab. guacamole.) However, in case you're interested, here are some good recipes...

Pico de Gallo Salsa
  • 1 pounds plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeƱo chilies (about 2 medium)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover & chill.

Guacamole
  • 2 large ripe avocados peeled, pitted, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion or sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped serrano chiles with seeds
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lime juice
  • Coarse kosher salt


13.5.11

Jumping Pixies

Here is yet another delightful project I discovered over at Kristin's blog Kleas. What could be more fun than a passel of pixies catapulting through the air to the sounds of children gleefully shouting, "Wheeeee!" (while kitty runs in terror from the room and mama covers her head protectively against the the onslaught of projectile sprites...)

To make this game, you'll need 16 wooden balls, 3/4" in diameter and 4 colors of felt. Cut out 4 half circles from each color of felt -- your half-circles will be approx. 2" across the bottom and approx. 1" high at the top of half-circle dome. Grab your cute pin cushion (is your pin cushion infested with little green worms? apparently mine is...), sew up the half-circles into wee pixie caps, glue the caps on the wooden balls and paint some funny faces...

To make the catapult, I used a wooden tongue depressor and small piece of dowel. I sanded a flat area on one side of the dowel and glued it to the tongue-depressor.

Then I cut 2 small, donut shapes out of felt and glued them, one on top of the other, to create a place for the pixies to sit on the end of the catapult in preparation for launching.

An egg carton makes a great target board for the pixies. You are free to make up your own scoring system (or simply launch your pixies pell-mell... that's fun, too!) However, in case you're interested, here are our rules for the game: Each person takes a turn launching their pixies, and continues to launch them until all 4 of their pixies have landed in cups on the target board. We score 10 points for each pixie landing in a cup of it's own color and one point for each pixie landing in the cup of another color.


To finish up my project, I sewed this little bag stamped with a loving message.

10.5.11

Lemon Pasta Salad

What's for lunch? Lemon pasta salad with feta cheese!

The bright taste of lemons, savory green onions,salty feta cheese... This is a favorite in my house, and now it can be a favorite in your house, too!

INGREDIENTS
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)

12 ounces penne pasta
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped green onions

Whisk oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and lemon peel in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Cook penne in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse pasta with cold water to cool quickly and drain again. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, feta cheese, and green onions. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

8.5.11

St. Clare

Every so often I hear a song which makes my heart beat faster and gives me butterflies in the pit of my stomach. The other day I found a CD by Suzanne Vega at the library and was listening to it in the car. The moment this song started playing I felt a fluttering of wings...

St. Clare
by Jack Hardy

call on that saint
and the candle that burns
keeping her safe
until her return

plaster and paint
holding the fire
a poor woman's saint
holding all man's desire

bold little bird
fly away home
could I but ride herd
on the wind and the foam

all of the souls
that curl by the fire
they never know
all man's desire

watercress clings
to the banks of the stream
in the first grip of spring
when the snow melts to green

barefoot and cold
and holding a lyre
by the side of the road
holding all man's desire

call on the saint
when the white candle burns
keeping her safe
until her return
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Happy Mother's Day

This little illustration is from a book called I Saw Esau. It's a collection of traditional rhymes for children collected by the British folklorists Iona & Peter Opie and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I framed the illustration and hung it tucked into a corner in the hallway near our bedrooms. Every so often I catch my little Mr. looking at it curiously. To me it's a magical illustration depicting the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children from distress. I want my children to know this: that although I cannot protect them from every harm they will encounter in life, I will always do my best to care and comfort...

Happy Mother's Day to every Tree-Mama.

6.5.11

Don't Look a Gift Pincushion (?) in the Mouth

A parcel arrived at my house. It was so well wrapped, I could not figure out how to open it. I attacked it with a large pair of scissors.

Inside, I found a lot of packing material and a pretty postcard with a drawing of a puppet show. What was wrapped inside the red paper?

A perfect pincushion! The fattest, reddest, ripest tomato I have ever seen (complete with it's own little green worm!) I hope the tomatoes I harvest from my garden this year will be as red & ripe. I could, however, do without the little green worms in my salad.

A pincushion so perfect, I could dance upon it... Thank you, Shannon, for the wonderful surprise!

2.5.11

On the Wings of Spring: Some Inspriational Tutorials & Ideas

The Emperor's palace was the most beautiful thing in the world. It was made entirely of the finest porcelain, very costly, but at the same time so fragile that it could be touched only with the very greatest of care. The most extraordinary flowers were to be seen in the garden. The most beautiful ones had little silver bells tied to them which tinkled perpetually, so that one could not pass the flowers without looking at them. Every little detail in the garden had been most carefully thought out, and it was so big that even the gardener himself did not know where it ended.

If one went on walking, one came to beautiful woods with lofty trees and deep lakes. The woods extended to the sea, which was deep and blue, deep enough for large ships to sail up right under the branches of the trees. Among these trees lived a nightingale, which sang so deliciously that even the poor fisherman, who had plenty of other things to do, lay still to listen to it when he was out at night drawing in his nets from the sea. "Heavens, how beautiful it is," he said...

Travelers came to the Emperor's capital from every country in the world. They admired everything very much, especially the palace and the gardens, but when they heard the nightingale they all said, "This is better than anything." When they got home they described it, and learned men wrote many books about the town, the palace, and the garden. But nobody forgot the nightingale -- it was always put above everything else. Those among them who were poets wrote the most beautiful poems, all about the nightingale in the woods by the deep blue sea.

-- From The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen


Following yesterday's announcement of a bird-themed needle-craft swap, I thought I'd point you to some inspirational tutorials I've found. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the wonderfulness available out there... It is a place from which to launch your own wings of inspiration!

To start off, there are these lovelies created by Laura Singewald of Spool. It's worth visiting Spool to see more photos of this beautiful bird-mobile, and you can download a pdf pattern here.

These beauties were created in a workshop given by Nikki & Mia of Time 4 Craft at Toadstool House.

I love how each bird, although cut from the same pattern, is so very unique...

The embroidery on this bird, made by Wendy of Sunshine Creations, is charming...

And there is a message on the other side for you to admire.

The graceful design of this bird made by Toya (shown on her blog The Creationist) is so appealing...

And what could be more festive than this tutorial for a garland of birds designed by Lisa Jordan, author of Fa la la la Felt?

These little dancers make me giggle... you can find a tutorial for them here at Myrtle & Eunice...

And here is a tutorial for a retro-inspired bird on the blog Nellie's Needles...

I stitched up this bird (and felted up a nest) as a birthday gift for my own Little Mr. from a pattern in the Winter 2008/2009 edition of Living Crafts Magazine. If you visit the magazine's site, you can see this pattern sewn as a dove, a robin and a cardinal!

Also in Living Crafts Magazine is a pattern for this little bird created by Rae of Morning Sun Rae.

You can find a pattern for these funny knit birds over here at Knitty... And if you'd like to see more ideas for birds to knit or crochet, try a search on Ravelry for "bird toy." The results of my search made me laugh... Fancy pulling a dodo-bird off the end of your crochet hook?

Finally, if you're looking for a few more inspiring ideas there is this book...

And this one, too...

Please join me as our imaginations take flight!
xo
MB

I will sing to cheer you and to make you thoughtful too. I will sing to you of the happy ones and of those that suffer. I will sing about the good and the evil, which are kept hidden from you. The little singing bird flies far and wide, to the poor fisherman and to the peasant's home, to numbers who are far from you and your court. I love your heart more than your crown... I will come, and I will sing to you.
-- From The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen

1.5.11

On the Wings of Spring: A Little Birdie Swap

Oh, the cuckoo she's a pretty bird,
She sings as she flies.
She brings us good tidings,
She tells us no lies.

She drinks from white blossoms
For to keep her voice clear,
And the more she sings cuckoo
The summer draws near.
-- Traditional Folk Song

In our garden we have two nesting boxes. Every year from mid-April through mid-May a family of chickadees takes up residence in the box hanging among the oaks, while a family of titmice nests in the box hanging from a pine tree up on the hill. I love birds. I've always loved birds...

With birds nesting in my garden and choruses of goldfinches warbling in the trees, spring is an especially good time to love birds... And so I've decided to host a little birdie swap. What a perfect time of year to create some new feathered friends to join spring and summer nature tables! If you are in the southern hemisphere, please don't feel left out... birds need food and shelter all through the winter; and even in the dark of winter, you might look to the return of birds as harbingers of spring.

(White Doves created by Marie of Softearth's World)

Won't you join me in celebrating the beauty of birds?

(Created by Laura Singewald of Spool)

I have envisioned this swap to be mainly needle and fiber-craft birds, however, if you have a special talent for woodworking or ceramics those could be options as well. Paper crafts are *not* an option for this swap. (Note: You will find separate information for a children's swap at the end of this post, so please continue reading if you think your children might be interested in participating, too...)

(Created by Rae of the blog Morning Sun Rae)

For this swap each participant will be in a swap-group of 3 (so each participant will send and receive 2 birds.) Once swap-groups are allocated, you may mail the birds you create directly to your swap partners and they will be sending birds directly to you. This swap is open to all who are interested. The main requirement is that the birds you send should be handmade by you with love and care. Feel free to put other bird or spring related items in the packages you send, however, please keep in mind, the requirement for this swap is to create a hand-made bird for your swap-mates. Also, don't forget to include a note about the inspiration, story or symbolic meaning behind the creation of your birds!

The swap opens today, May 1st, 2011. Sign-ups will close in one week (May 8th) and ideally birds will be put in the post by May 23rd. Partners will be allocated as soon as sign-ups close, however if you are concerned about having enough time to create your birds, you may start creating right away!

If you would like to participate, please send an email to me: margaret(at)flyingteapot(dot) com. In your email please be sure to include your name, your home mailing address, email address & blog URL (if you have one.) Even if I already have your information from a previous swap, I will need all of this info. in one email so I can easily cut-&-paste it into a database for the new swap.

*I am honored that you might want to re-post this invitation on your own blog, but please ask before you do so.

(Created by Shannon of Rhythm & Rhyme)

Now for the children's swap! The children's swap will be exclusively paper crafts (note: again, paper crafts are *not* an option for the adult-swap.) If your child would like to participate in a paper-craft bird-swap, please email me your child's name and age (along with your address, email & blog information, of course.)

Tomorrow: Inspirational photos and links to little birdy tutorials!

* ADDENDUM: May 9th, 2011, Sign-ups for this swap are now closed. *

Early each day, to the steps of St. Pauls
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way, to the people she calls:
"Come buy my bags full of crumbs...

Come feed the little birds, show them you care,
And you'll be glad if you do.
The young ones are hungry, their nests are so bare,
All it takes is a tuppence from you."

"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."
"Feed the birds," that's what she cries,
While overhead her birds fill the skies.

All around the cathedral, the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can't see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares.

Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she's calling to you.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."