30.9.11

Birdie-Love

 For my birdie-loving-babe I stitched this little bird...



29.9.11

Tashlich

 Today we celebrated Rosh Hashannah -- the Jewish New Year.  Our favorite ritual associated with this holiday is called "Tashlich," which means "casting off" in Hebrew. Tashlich is thought to have originated during the Middle Ages inspired by a verse attributed to the prophet Micah:
God will take us back in love;
God will cover up our iniquites,
You [God] will hurl all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.
 
(Micah 7:19)

To perform the ritual of Tashlich, a person throws bread crumbs into a moving body of water. As the bread crumbs are carried away by the water, any regrets or wrong-doings (committed knowingly or unknowingly) from the previous year are symbolically cast off, giving the opportunity for a fresh start in the New Year.

But of course, the best thing about Tashlich is that it's an opportunity to head off to the beach... Today was a beautiful day and there was much digging to be done!

I wish you Shannah Tova -- a Good Year, a Sweet Year...

27.9.11

Fig Jam with Cognac

My parents have the most amazing fig tree in their garden.  A couple of years ago while I was visiting them in Los Angeles for the weekend, I harvested over 12 pounds of ripe figs from that one tree.

I gave away nine pounds of figs to joyful friends, and from the remaining three pounds I made jam.  Not just any old kind of jam... I made fig jam with cognac from this recipe.

I'm not a great lover of jam.  I have a fondness for cherry preserves or a good pot of blueberry jam, but as for all the rest -- I can take it or leave it.  This fig jam, however...  I can eat it by the spoonful straight out of the jar.

Last year, with a new baby, I skipped jam making, however, when my parents showed up last Thursday for a visit, they brought 5 pounds of figs. I bought a set of bright, new canning jars and got busy...

And I made jam!  
 Would you care to join me for some tea and toast and... fig jam?

26.9.11

Fuzzy Bunnies

What do you get when you pull a ball of grey worsted, some Rowan Kid-Silk Haze and a fluff of white angora from the bottom of your stash ?

 
Fuzzy bunnies!

If you would like one of these cuties (Flopsy, Mopsy & Cotton-Tail, I call them) to join you for a bit of carrot-cake & tea, then just hippity-hoppity on over to This Cosy Life to say 'hi' to Julie and toss your name into the proverbial hat for a Meltdown Monday give-away!

 Hop!  Hop!  Hop!

P.S.  If you'd like to knit up one of these bunnies for yourself (or a beloved wee person), the pattern can be found in the book Knitted Animals by Anne-Dorthe Grigraff (but do try your luck in the give-away over at This Cosy Life, too!)

24.9.11

Shoe Shopping

 My wee Bloom has been walking for about eight weeks.  Because my parents are visiting this weekend, we decided to make the purchase of my wee Bloom's first pair of shoes a family event!

 First he tried on some sandals...

 And then this pair of handsome shoes which were better designed and easier to slip on his plump little feet!

 Wee Bloom did a little dance as if to say, "I like these shoes!"

This shoe-shopping event brought back memories of the day we first bought shoes for his big brother.  We put the shoes on Little Mr.'s feet and stood him up.  He refused to walk, and instead sat down and cried.  The loss of his barefoot status felt, somehow, like a loss of innocence -- he'd been cast from the Garden of Eden.  What did my wee Bloom do when we first put shoes on his feet?  He crawled for a bit.  He danced for a bit.  And then he stuck his foot in his mouth and tried to eat the shoes (so sorry I didn't get a photo of that!)

23.9.11

Monsters in the Bookshelf

Yesterday we had the most wonderful adventure.  After school we scurried over to USF to see an exhibit called Monsters in the Bookshelves.  This exhibit displays work by eight illustrators who have banded together under the name Studio 5.  You can read more about each of the illustrators on the Studio 5 website here or, if you happen to be in San Francisco between now and December 16th you can see a bounty of their original work displayed beautifully in the Thacher Gallery (and much of the artwork is hung low so that children can view it easily!)  You may have missed the opening event yesterday but there will be exhibit-related activities on October 15th!

The highlight of our visit was, of course, getting to say hello to Marilyn Scott-Waters.  Her work is so imaginative and playful -- it was lovely for me to finally meet, face-to-face, the exuberant, joy-inspiring person behind the toys.  If you are not familiar with Marilyn's books you can find out more on her website here. And just a quick FYI -- Marilyn's website is a wonderful place to get lost for hours reading stories and printing out free toys.  This website is a place to revel in some serious whimsy and magic!

And thank you so very much to the artists of Studio 5 for sharing your marvelous & inspirational work at the Thacher Gallery!

20.9.11

The Most Amazing Thing You Can Do for Your Children


A couple of months ago I was happily browsing around blog-land, reading a few blogs suggested by friends.  While visiting one of these blogs, I clicked "About Me." Included in the authors blurb was the statement, "I think [breast feeding] is the most amazing thing you can do for your children!!!"  I have been on friendly terms with this blog-author and she is delightful in every way.  I am fully aware, she was in no way intending to challenge or offend, however, when I read this my blood began to boil.  THE most amazing thing?  Really?  How about loving your children?  How about playing with your children?  Reading to your children?  Setting good limits?  There are so many "amazing" things we do for our children, so many experiences to share with them and so many ways to express our love.   I will not argue with the fact that breast feeding is very good for children and also a very special, unique experience, but the statement that breastfeeding is "THE most amazing thing" pushes my buttons. It brings up for me problematic attitudes within some mothering and breastfeeding communities from which similar pronouncements have sprung.

The part about it that most upsets me is this... What if a woman cannot, for any reason breast feed her babies?  Should any mother be made to feel that she is not providing her children with the best care and nourishment because her baby cannot latch, because she does not have enough milk, because she is ill, because her baby is adopted?  No mother should be made to feel she is harming her children or that she is less of a mother in this way, EVER.  This attitude, common within some mothering and breastfeeding communities, is simply not OK.  It is harmful.

The morning I was leaving the hospital after the birth of my first son, I was brought to tears by a horrible nurse who wielded this attitude.  I will never forget how I was made to feel by this woman on the joyous day I brought my baby home.  My first son would not  latch on, no matter what we tried.  It seemed like I had every lactation consultant in San Francisco marching through my room giving me suggestions and support, but in the end, I was issued a breast pump.  I pumped for 5 months, and had a double mastectomy when my son was 9 months old.  During the time I was shamed and pressured into pumping prior to the double mastectomy, I was putting myself at risk...  And the day I first went to the store to buy formula, I stood in the grocery aisle, held my baby and sobbed for 20 minutes. I had enough to worry about that day.  I did not need to be crying over buying formula.

I stand publicly and say I agree 100% -- breast feeding is beautiful, wonderful, important and healthy.  I agree that every mother should try to offer this to her children, but no mother should feel ashamed, EVER, for bearing (and baring) her bottles.  I will also stand forward and say that my children are strong, healthy and smart.  The bond I share with them is undeniable.  For anyone to put forth that my children have been compromised or harmed in any way because I fed them formula is just plain deplorable.

To read more on the topic of breastfeeding you can visit Stephanie at Knitty Gritty Homestead where she has written a wonderful, heart-felt post. Danielle at Most Days I Win  also offers humor, wisdom and insight on this topic.

19.9.11

Sun Bread

You've heard of the author/illustrator Elisa Kleven, right?  Well, if you haven't, today is your lucky day!  Your picture book reading repertoire will be all the better for having heard of her.  Pick up any book by Elisa Kleven and you can't go wrong -- our particular favorites are The Puddle Pail, Hooray, a Pinata, The Lion and the Little Red Bird.  Oh, and Sun Bread.

It's been 3 weeks since the beginning of the school year and finally, last week, the "back-to-school-blues" hit my little Mr. B., and they hit him hard.  I thought to myself, "It's time for some Sun Bread..."

A baker missed the sun so much,
She took some flour from her hutch.

Some butter, sugar, eggs, and yeast;
She said, "I'll bake a sunny feast."
-- Elisa Kleven (Sun Bread)

She kneaded bread dough, rich and gold,
Glossy, springy, smooth to hold.
-- Elisa Kleven (Sun Bread)

She shaped a sun so round and grand...

It seemed the sun shone in her hands!
-- Elisa Kleven (Sun Bread)

There is a recipe at the back of the book, however, this is the one that we use:

Dissolve 1 package active dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and let stand 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup unbleached white flour (all-purpose), 2 large eggs, 2 egg yolks, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons sugar or honey, 1 tsp. salt and a pinch or two of turmeric. Mix until blended.

Stir in 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour and knead for 5 minutes adding bits of flour as necessary until the dough is elastic but does not stick to your hands.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turn dough to coat with oil, cover with a clean towel and allow to rise until double in size, approx. 1-2 hours.

Punch down, knead briefly, return dough to bowl, cover with towel and allow to rise again until nearly double in size.

Preheat oven to 375, shape dough as desired, transfer to an oiled baking-sheet, brush the top of the shaped dough with a beaten egg and allow to rise again until not quite doubled (30-45 minutes.)  Brush again with remainder of beaten egg and put into pre-heated oven.  Bake approx. 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  Allow bread to cool on a wire rack (or just slather with butter and gobble it up while it's still warm!)

Bread so brilliant, bright, and sunny,
Summer seemed to fill their tummies.
Bread so fluffy and so fine,
They felt themselves begin to shine...
-- Elisa Kleven (Sun Bread)

P.S.  In case you were wondering... Yes, indeed, pirate-themed-garb is, in fact, mandatory in my house when my little Mr.  pursues activities such as bread-baking (and all other activities, for that matter.)

18.9.11

Gus

Do you remember these books from your childhood?  Thanks to Chris over at Mamaroots I have been sent to my distant past and re-introduced to these long-forgotten, dusty ghosty-tales (perfect for a ghosty-tale... long-forgotten and dusty, don't you think?)

 
 In celebration of Gus (and the upcoming Halloween season) Chris has made some darling wooden Gus-figures and she is giving one away.  Quick, quick -- visit Chris at Mamaroots before midnight tonight.  Her give-away closes then!

16.9.11

Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb


Hand
Hand
Fingers
Thumb

One thumb
One thumb
Drumming on a drum.

One hand
Two hands
Drumming on a drum.

Dum ditty
Dum ditty
Dum dum dum.

The words in this book are so very addictive. Our wee Bloom requests it by patting a rhythm on his round little tummy,  reciting, "DA-da-da..." and I hate to tell you how many times I read it to him every day. I'm not tired of it (yet),  but it does stick in my head and won't go away.  How about you?

Dum ditty
Dum ditty
Dum dum dum.

13.9.11

A Lucky Pincushion Swap


Back in May a mysterious parcel arrived on my doorstep.  I opened it up... Lo & behold!  The fattest, reddest, most photogenic pincushion a girl could ever imagine!


Since that lovely day in May, this pincushion has been well used, well loved & oft photographed...

Now you, too, can join in on some pincushion fun...  Shannon of Rhythm & Rhyme is hosting a pincushion swap -- it's not too late to sign up and engage in some pincushion flights-of-fancy! 

The basic details are as follows:  Swap sign-ups will close Sunday evening September 25th 2011 (Eastern Australian time) all pincushions need to be complete and ready for postage by the first week of October.  Please send an email that details your name, mailing address, email address and blog URL (if you have one.) to:  Shannon AT my midwives DOT com DOT au

For more information about the swap (and links to some lovely and inspirational tutorials) you can visit Shannon here.
Happy pincushion to you!

11.9.11

Penpals (and The Magic Golden Acorns)

Once upon a time, there was an eight-year-old boy who lived in a house near the wild, grey Pacific Ocean.  One day he was given a tiny package wrapped in bright red paper.

Inside the little package was a magic golden acorn.  Before he went to bed at night, the eight-year-old boy held the golden acorn in his hand and then gently placed it on the windowsill beside his bed.

That night he dreamed of another boy who lived far away, all the way on the other side of the country near the warm, blue Atlantic Ocean.  In his dream, he drew words and pictures for this other boy, telling the story of a miscreant bowman and armies of knights clad in silver & gold.  The next day, he gathered pencil & paper and wrote down his story for this boy who lived so far away.

While, on the other side of the country, a nine-year-old boy received a tiny package wrapped in bright red paper. Inside this little package was also a magic golden acorn.  Before he went to bed at night, the nine-year-old boy held the magic golden acorn in his hand and then gently placed it beside his bed.  That night he dreamed of a boy who lived far away, all the way on the other side of the country near the wild, grey Pacific Ocean.  In his dream, he drew words and pictures for this other boy to tell the story of a horse, a princess, and an elf. And doughnuts.  The next day, he gathered pencil & paper and wrote down his story for this boy who lived so far away.

And the next week, each boy received an envelope in the mail with the story and pictures that his new friend had created for him.  From this day forth, any time each boy wanted to dream of his new friend (and perhaps create a new story for him) all he had to do was hold his magic golden acorn and dream, dream, dream...

Note: This little story was written for my very own little Mr. Bloom and also our friend the Elf who lives over at Wild Faerie Caps...

7.9.11

Bunny Love

When I find a few minutes of free time in my day, I inevitably have to make a choice: shall I read? Catch up on email? Type out a blog post? Stitch up a gift for a friend? Or knit?  The last knitting project I completed was this and since then, knitting has fallen to the bottom of my list. I very much miss the peaceful rhythm of knitting (and I miss binding off beautiful projects...) Lately, I've also been inspired by my friend Melissa (look at these darling creatures she has knit up!) And so out came the knitting needles and a ball of yarn...

A few hours later this little fellow hopped right off the tips of my needles! 

 
The pattern is from a book called Creative Play for your Toddler by Christopher Clouder and Janni Nicol.  Getting this little rabbit all stitched up was rather a fiddly process, and I have a new-found respect for the knitting skills of dear Melissa!  She aptly described the pattern I had used, saying it was "another of those knit-a-rectangle and it magically turns into animal" type of things...

 The rabbit turned out a bit wonky, but my wee Bloom seems to like his new friend...

And with two boys in my house, I thought it might be a nice idea to knit up a bunny for each.  Out came the needles once again to try another "knit a square and it magically turns into an animal" pattern -- this time from the book Knitted Animals by Anne-Dorthe Grigaff.

 Again, the reception was enthusiastic...

And some sweet playtime ensued...

Now, I'm on to bigger, better and more colorful projects i.e. the Lanesplitter Skirt from Knitty!  I would like to finish this project in time to wear it this winter.  Hmmm... I'll have keep you posted on that.