Thursday, November 27, 2008

giving thanks

When I took this picture, my aim was to capture the light shining through the opening. I'll leave the metaphors to you...

I will be spending the long weekend surrounded by family... lots of cousins for the children to play with... good late-night conversations for the grown-ups... lovely organic food prepared with care and intention. I am thankful for this and so much more. I hope, wherever you are, you are surrounded by love. Even if that means giving yourself a deep and true hug.

This next photo deserves a little click... go ahead. The strand from the web is hard to see in some places, but still very connected. Just like all of us. Pin It

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

simple gifts #2

This is the second in my series of Simple Gifts for the holidays. It's a quickie but goody! Paper whites are a beautiful flower bulb that you can force to bloom for the holidays. Force sounds so harsh... it just means that you give them a gentle nudge to open early... by giving them the light of a window sill and the warmth of inside. You can do this in any climate, but it's particularly nice where the winters are frosty and you're aching for fresh flowers. I always start mine the week of Thanksgiving. They take 4-6 weeks to bloom. I give them as gifts around the holidays, and by that time they are either just blossoming or about to. Find all of the supplies at your local garden store. Each gift will cost about a $ 1, but be worth so much more!

stones or soil
paper white bulb
tin can or glass jar from your recycling bin
rectangle of fabric the same size as your container
jute twine or ribbon
gift tag

Plant and Make:
1. Fill your can half way with gravel or soil.
2. Nestle a bulb in the center, being sure to keep a bit exposed. Green tips to the sky, roots to the bottom.

3. Give it enough water to cover the roots.
4. Make a cozy out of a fabric scrap by measuring around your container and adding 1/2 an inch. The height is up to you... let the can peek out or hide it. Stitch the wrong sides together and turn. Fray the top or use pinking shears. I have so many burlap scraps that it seemed an obvious choice. There is no bottom, so just slip it over the can. Voila!

5. Tie a ribbon or twine around the center and attach a gift tag (I snipped mine out of a paper bag) with instructions for care on the back. Adorn with a sprig of evergreen or winter berries.

Care: Check here for tips.

We'll have our windowsills filled with growing paperwhites. My children love watering them and charting their growth. We keep a clipboard and ruler close by. They often grow over night at an amazing rate, so it's very exciting.

The gift in the first photo will be going to my Thanksgiving host... I think she's expecting it, so I won't be ruining the surprise by posting it early.

Here's what the paperwhites will look like next month!

photo by Christine Hamilton

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Monday, November 24, 2008

countdown calendar

So much build up for this little tutorial! I've had you saving your toilet paper tubes for an Advent calendar. Many of you already guessed. Counting down the days to Christmas, or the Winter Solstice, is such a fun way to build the excitement of the holiday season. For young children, whose concept of time is so different from ours, this is a very visual way for them to understand the passage of the days leading up to a celebration. For Chanukah, a garland of 8 tubes filled with gelt and little gifts is a wonderful extension to the magical Festival of Lights.

Saving up a lot of tubes on short notice might not have worked work out for all of you. If you'd like to make a calendar anyway, you can easily fabricate a t.p. tube from a brown paper bag or craft paper. Cut out a rectangle that measures 4 1/2 x 6 inches . Form a tube by overlapping the width ends and stapling them. It will not be as sturdy, but will work just the same.

Tutorial for an advent calendar

8-24 tubes, depending on your celebration
mod p0dge or white glue for fabric
glue stick for paper
1-2 yards of twine or ribbon
rubber stamps with numerals
decorative elements: fabric, scrapbook paper, ribbons, glitter, stickers, etc.
scissors: regular and fancy edged
hole puncher


1. Cut four one-inch slits around the bottom of a tube. Cut an equal distance from each one.
2. You will have four sides to fold over, one after the other. Tape down after final fold. Scotch tape works, but duct tape (in clear) is the strongest. I will be going over all of my Scotch tape with duct tape!

3. Prepare all of your tubes this way.

4. Decorate each tube to your heart's content. We opted for simple. Our choice was a combination of aesthetic and the reality of decorating 24 tubes. We glued our strips of vintage and modern fabric to the center of each tube.

5. Flare out the top with little snips. Make up your own teqhniques and see what you like. My children love this part.

6. Arrange your decorated tubes in the order that you will hang them. We like to create a pattern.
7. Stamp your numbers on the front (the seam of the paper or fabric is the back side). You can also print out your numbers from the computer, use stickers, or write them on with a sharpie... you choose.
8. Punch holes on the top right and left side of each tube.
9. String your countdown calendar into a lovely garland. We used this luxurious baker's string. So far it's the only thing we've bought for our holidays!

Start with the last number first. Hang in a place of honor.

We will fill ours with treats and a new tradition. This year we will slip a "Time Ticket" into each tube, with some awareness of whose turn it will be to open on each night. I'm making a little chart that I will keep handy for everyone. What is a Time Ticket? A little coupon for special one-0n 0ne time with a parent, a sibling, or partner. Our time and love is our greatest gift. By giving in "present" form, we are showing how much we value it. I'm even going to have the children surprise one another with a few tickets to eachother. Haven't photographed those yet, but they should be sweet.
Each coundtdown calendar has the potential to be as unique as the family that creates it. I'd love to see yours if you make one! Pin It

technical difficulties...

Hi friends,
I haven't had any internet action ( DSL is down in my area) for 24 hours. I'm writing to you from the library... and hoping that it's being fixed as I type. Mystery Toilet Paper Tube Tutorial is on the way... see you soon! Pin It

Thursday, November 20, 2008

chilequiles de lita

My version of chilequiles is a combination of a frittata and a tortilla casserole. It's quick, delicious, and you might even have all of the ingredients in your kitchen already. You know how smells can deeply evoke a memory? Whenever this in my oven, the aroma sends me right back to childhood. I am half Puerto Rican, but was raised by my step-father who is Mexican and Peruvian. His mother lived upstairs. She was my Abuela (Spanish for grandmother), we called her Lita. This recipe is inspired by all of the cooking she did for us when my brother and sister were little. I was the big sister, so it was my job to run upstairs. Lita would call over the back porch down to me, "Mayita... ven" I remember how the delicious smells would envelope me as I ran up her flight of green carpeted stairs to the flat above.

Chilequiles de Lita
6 eggs
1 jar of mild salsa
8 0z. Neufatchel cheese (cream cheese is heavier, but works well also)
1 cup black beans
12 corn tortillas
1/2 cup corn (frozen is fine)
6 0z of grated jack or cheddar cheese

you can also add:
1 cup of chopped vegetables that you have on hand... zucchini is especially good

-Puree in a blender or food processor the Neufatchel cheese and 3/4 jar of salsa. Next, add all of your eggs. Blend until smooth and pink.
-Spread the last 1/4 of the salsa on the bottom of your baking dish... I used my heavy Le Creuset, but any cast iron pan or Pyrex will work.
-Tear 8 tortillas into strips directly on top of the salsa. Any way that you choose to do this is the right way.
-layer half of your grated cheese with the beans and corn. If you have chosen a vegetable, slip it in now.
-Tear the remaining tortillas directly on top and pour your pink egg mixture over the entire dish.
-Top with remaining grated cheese and a little sprinkle of oregano.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until golden and the center has set. About 45 minutes. My children enjoy it as is, but we grown-ups love to top it off with a hot salsa verde. Serve it with simple green salad and, whether you've added a vegetable or not, you have a complete meal everyone will be happy about.

Now, I'm the type who loves to cook beans from scratch and spend time creating a special and complicated meal. As the busy holidays approach, what I really need is fast and healthy. I choose all organic ingredients so, even when there are frozen or canned short-cuts, I can feel good about what my family is eating. The beauty of this recipe is that is takes no more than ten minutes of prep, I'm not kidding! If you double the recipe and put it in a large "lasagna" tray, you can have left-overs to make the next evening easy also!

Hey, doubling the recipe means that you will need a dozen eggs! That's just how many eggs you will use if you blow eggs for your Cascarones from yesterday's post. Imagine that!

Thank you so much for your enthusiasm about my Small contribution. Your comments make it all worth-while. I get so genuinely happy and inspired by your enthusiasm. Yesterday was a busy blog day for me, I was also featured on design*sponge with my chair re-do. Thanks Grace, for putting it up! I'm thrilled to have made some new friends, and so very grateful to all of you that have been by my side all along. Hope you have a beautiful weekend... we're expecting more snow! Pin It

BIG news: Small!

Small's winter issue is now online. "Small is a magazine of creative work on a small scale and for the small sized" and highlights independent artists and designers. Of course, I fell in love with it instantly. I've looked forward to each new season of this online magazine. This issue is quite special to me. I was asked to be their contributor for a Small DIY holiday project for children. Gulp. Yes, it's very exciting and I'm still taking it all in. If you don't already subscribe to Small, I can't recommend it more highly... and I felt this way before this issue, really. It's filled with gorgeous photographs and loads of inspiration... it's free... and no trees were cut down for it's publication! You can subscribe here. You'll find me, under small projects, page 101 making these...

Blown eggs filled with confetti have been around since the Renaissance in Italy. Today, they are a part of many Mexican celebrations and were popular in the neighborhood where I grew up in San Francisco. We had so much fun making up this year's batch to share with you.

This project lends itself perfectly to younger and older children working happily side by side. You know how much I love that! We will be giving them as holiday gifts for ringing in 2009. I quickly realized that a dozen eggs spells out the twelve letters in Happy New Year! How fun to make a display of them for a party or even your own private celebration.

If you'd like to make egg "thrones", cut a toilet paper tube in half. Make decorative slits about an inch down all around the top circle. Fold these back to flare out. I painted ours white. Add text by printing letters from your computer. Use a nickel as a circle template. Cut and paste to front of holder.

At midnight, or whenever you and your children celebrate the New Year, crack open an egg over each other's heads and get ready for some fun!

My DIY assistant enjoyed the clean-up almost as much as the party...

I will be following this post with one of our favorite recipes for using up some of those eggs.
If you make any Cascarones, please remember that you can share your photos in the maya*made designs flickr pool, so that we can all enjoy your efforts.

p.s. Friends, this project is not the reason I have you saving toilet paper tubes... that tutorial will be up on Monday. Pin It

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

waste not, want not

Thanks for all of your snow enthusiasm yesterday! I grew up in San Francisco, without the seasons. Although I don't always enjoy feeling cold, I've learned to embrace winter. I especially love how magical it makes the holiday season feel. There's something special about crafting with a cozy wood stove nearby, and a snowy scene out your window. The little acorn sachet/ornament was a test for an idea I have for family gifts, as well as some for you in my shop. I'll be using the scraps from the coffee sack buckets combined with my nature prints. I am surrounded by evergreens, so I'll fill them up with lovely pine needles, too. Mmmm... such a wintery smell, I love it! Expect to see some at designsmayamade in the next couple of days. Do you have scraps in your sewing room? How could you turn them into something special for the holidays? Don't sew? So many things in your home can be repurposed... try looking with fresh eyes. You may surprise yourself!

I've just listed three more large coffee sack buckets in the shop. A couple more smalls and a medium are on the way...

If you want to try making some cloth containers of your own, whip up has a great round-up of tutorials right here. Pin It

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

it came!

The first snow arrived yesterday. We awoke to squeals of excitement from our littlest, who had seen the thin white blanket across the yard before anyone else had even opened their eyes. Flurries continued all day. By dusk the snow began to fall steadily. It was the soft, silent kind that seems to hush the world around you.

The dark comes swiftly these days. By the time the kids had gotten on their millions of layers, found lost mittens, and been stuffed into snow gear, the day had turned to night. How magical to have your first romp in the snow be at twilight.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

did you know...?

Charley Harper's beautiful wildlife illustrations are now being featured in a children's holiday collection at... Old Navy. Huh? One of Old Navy's designers, Todd Oldham, worked with Harper on a book before he passed away in 2007. He encouraged Old Navy to create a children's line of t-shirts, board books, and more for all of their stores. I feel like I have to excuse/defend myself for being at the mall... my cell phone battery died... but I'm so glad I was! Look at this fantastic coloring book I got:

I steer away from coloring books( and opt for more open-ended art projects), but I'm hoping my daughter will share this with ME! This is a present I 'll tuck away in the growing stockpile of fourth birthday gifts I'm making and collecting for her. I'd like to add this next one to the list, but I think we have enough memory games. It looks beautiful, doesn't it?

If you'd like to see the entire collection, click here.

I know you come here for ideas on making...not buying, so I have a suggestion. Please, start saving all of your empty toilet paper rolls. Paper towel rolls will work, also. I have a holiday tutorial coming up, and I want you to be ready with supplies. Here's a clue, some of you may want to have it ready by the first day of December. That's all I'll say for now. I hope you have a great start to your week.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

the results are in...

And the winner of the little bucket is... # 27: Leslie of Whimsy! Thank you all for participating and showering me with kindness. I'll definitely do another give-away in early winter. Leslie, please e-mail me your address, so that I can send off your bucket with a little something tucked inside for the holidays.

I've had numerous requests for more buckets of varied sizes and with graphics. Thanks for waiting, there are four new buckets about to be listed in the shop. I'm adding two more large buckets lined with my favorite unbleached cotton. I'm temporarily out of linen and am looking for a new source. I'm trying out a circular design in medium and large: both are lined with recycled cotton twill.

For dimensions and more photos check out my shop... all four should be there by this afternoon. Have a great weekend! Pin It

Friday, November 14, 2008

a little more gratitude...

A little more gratitude...
It's been a long week. My daughter wasn't really up and about until today.
-I'm so grateful for this gorgeous day to recover on... 60 degrees and sunny!! This picture was taken today as my children ran outside... without jackets! My son loves to race his little sister to the swings. Each time he mysteriously trips and she wins. Trying to compete with someone six years older than you can be stressful.
-I'm so grateful my son lets her feel powerful... some of the time.
I've spent most of my week playing Animal Bingo and Snail's Pace Race.
-I'm so grateful that I can. My husband works hard (at a job he loves, thankfully) so that I can be home doing what I love. Next week, I'm hoping for a tiny bit less Bingo, and a little more sewing... but I still feel so fortunate.

What are you feeling grateful for today?

Just a little reminder, I will be getting out the random number generator tonight( after midnight EST) to choose the bucket winner. I'll announce sometime tomorrow... see all you then. Pin It

Thursday, November 13, 2008

simple gifts

As the cold months set in, I'm readying myself for the holidays. It's so easy to get caught up in the energy to spend a lot of money, but this year feels like it might be different for many of us. Simplicity has been on my mind. The holidays provide us with a wonderful opportunity to find deeper meaning in gifts... meaning that money can't buy. We all know it can't buy happiness. A handmade and personal gift doesn't have to be complicated, nor take a lot of time to create. What it does take is thought and care... a wonderful thing to share and teach others. I'm planning on posting some suggestions for a handmade holiday throughout the next month, starting with gift ideas for the youngest. There is a world of possibility over at Etsy if you would like to support the giving of handmade gifts, but I'm encouraging you to make something yourself, as well. These projects will be based on many things you already have on hand. No complicated instructions.

What do the stack of well loved baby blankets above have to do with this post? I'd love you to consider making one for a baby or toddler you'd like to gift with warmth this season. These simple receiving blankets (that my mother and I whipped up quickly for my early second child) still wind up in bed with my daughter every night. The double layer of flannel makes them the perfect weight in winter for swaddling an infant, and a cozy little lap blanket for an older child curling up with books. We've washed each one a hundred times in the last four years, and they just get softer. Whether you are a new sewer or a skilled quilter, this basic blanket is satisfying in its speed, utility, and appreciation by the recipient.

Simple Gift #1: Easy Flannel Blanket

-two complimenting yards of flannel (thrifted flannel sheets are wonderful)

1. Pre-wash fabric.

2. Pin fabric right side to right side

3. Sew around all four sides using a 1/2 seam allowance, but leave a 12 inch opening somewhere for turning.

4. Turn your blanket to the right side. Tuck in and pin opening, so that it's even with the rest of the blanket.

5. You now have two finishing options:

a. handstitch the opening closed with tiny even stitches or
b. topstitch the entire blanket with a 1/4 seam allowance or less.

6. Wrap it up and present it to a new mom or little person you love.

More simple gift ideas next week.

New Note:
I just visited Amanda's blog and see that we were thinking similar blanket thoughts! If you haven't been to her new site, Mama to Mama, please head over for inspiration on how to channel your creative energy into a wonderful cause. You've probably already heard of her caps to cap project... well she's just added a call for receiving blankets. So while you're stitching up one for a friend (above), you can also stitch up one for a newborn in Haiti. Simple gifts for the world...
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I've never done anything like this before... shared my ideas publicly, sold my handmade wares, talked to lovely people all over the world. I'm quite overwhelmed by your beautiful comments on the give-away and humbled beyond belief. I stumbled all over my thankful words in a post earlier and finally gave up. I am grateful for this experience, THIS I know. You are a very special bunch, and I am so lucky to have you all in my life!

A few thoughts about this little give-away bucket... it's just that: little. It's quite sweet, but I hope the lucky winner will not be disappointed that they can't haul a ton of stuff in it. Here is the description of something similar in my shop:

Corral your small stuff with this beautiful cloth container. It's the perfect size for keeping the little things in your life organized. From bits on your dressing table to special items at your desk, this bucket holds it together in simple ECO style. It holds much more than you'd expect and is even wonderful for sorting toys. What a fantastic substitute for plastic containers in your playroom! This bucket is constructed of sturdy food-grade jute from a recycled (fair trade) coffee sack. It's lined with oatmeal colored linen. Careful attention has been paid to every detail and all seams have been reinforced.
height: 4 inches
width: 4 inches
length 4 inches

That being said, thank you for your enthusiasm! I will ship all over the world to you! More buckets are almost done. My daughter is finally on the mend... it was a doozy, and I appreciated all of your well wishes more than you can know. I've been 95% mom this week and 5% sewist (do you like that word? just trying it on for size), but I'll try to have a new line of organic cotton items, as well as holiday gifts coming up in the next few weeks. I have plenty of ideas, but not a ton of time. Thanks for your patience. Pin It

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

bucket give-away!!

Hope you're not tired of hearing about the burlap buckets...
You've all been so GOOD to me! I thought it was about time to send you a little appreciation, beyond just words. It's time for a GIVE-AWAY! Please leave a comment on this post if you'd like to receive this small burlap bucket made from mixed materials. It's lined with my favorite unbleached cotton... which has a rustic weave and linen characteristics. The handles are linen and the outer shell is a recycled coffee sack. You have until Friday at midnight EST. I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner, and will announce this weekend. A little surprise will be tucked inside.

I can't thank you enough for your great feedback and support as I figure out this new world of Etsy... wish I could send each of you a bucket filled with hugs! That may sound a little sappier than my usual style, but I really mean it!

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Monday, November 10, 2008

tea & toast

tea & toast

I didn't expect this to be my Monday photo, but my daughter came down with a whopping virus yesterday. All of my plans for this week will remain up in the air, until I can nurse this wee one back to her usual healthy self. It's the beginning of cold and flu season in our neck of the woods, so I'm stocking up on our favorite comforts and immune supporting supplies. I thought I'd share my favorite "go to" books for children's health and natural home remedies for common illnesses. You can easily go google symptoms, but I'm a bit old school and I like turning to my well-worn references for help.

Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child
Kids, Herbs, and Health
Natural Healing for Babies & Children

Shop News!
I'm thrilled with the response my burlap buckets have gotten... what wonderful reception!
They sold out over the weekend, and I'm getting tons of requests for more. I just added one more large and three small (in linen) to the shop. I'll continue to update you as I try to keep up with the demand, while maintaining a healthy balance in the other important areas of my life.

I also have a list of wonderful items to make for the holidays... some for the shop and some for you to try at home. Stay tuned... we're in for some fun!

And here comes the snow... we got our first dusting today! Wishing you good health. Pin It

Friday, November 7, 2008

containing your stuff

I'm always on the look out for new ways to keep my home organized. I'm a container junkie. If you've been hanging out with me for a while, you know how much I love buckets (galvanized steel, to be exact). Even more than a good ol' bucket, I love repurposing rescued materials. With my new found love for recycling coffee sacks, this was the inevitable next step. Burlap buckets ! I'm thrilled to introduce you to the beginning of my line of cloth containers...

The large ones can hold 4 rolled bath towels, for a nice addition to your bathroom...

books and magazine by your bedside...

a bushel of blocks in the playroom.

I'm sure you can come up with 100 other uses, they're just the right size and very sturdy. Each one is lined with linen or a natural cotton twill (recycled!).

The small size is perfect for sorting little toys...

or holding something special on your crafting table...

This medium bucket is being coveted by my husband for keys, phone, etc.

I love the thought of bringing it into the kitchen.

These four new buckets will be available in my shop by this afternoon... with more to come next week. I'll be spending a portion of this weekend making some for myself, too! I really need to sort out some toys . What will you be up to this weekend? Pin It