Boozy Toasted Coconut ROOT Beer Float

_MG_8521Yeah, I know- that title is something else huh?  Boozy Toasted Coconut Root Beer Float.  Are you kidding me?  Just take a sec to let that sink in…  So it’s that time of year, when the first mild spring day has me itching to fire up the bbq and have our first outdoor dinner.  Of course I am getting a little ahead of myself, seeing as the nights are still chilly, but we are getting there.  The first thing I always plan on the menu is dessert.  I LOVE dessert, and since we aren’t quite into berry season yet, I can’t rely on my favorite crumbles and cobblers.  So in the meantime…and all the time forever more, there is this root beer float.  Perfect for the kids (obviously omit the booze, as if that needs stating!), and a decadent treat for the adults.

_MG_8529This concoction’s secret weapon? Art in the Ages ROOT, a spirit with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice…sweet, warm and perfect for spiking a float.  This is some seriously crafted stuff, and on top of the artisinal brewing, it’s also certified organic.  Of course homemade hot fudge sauce, warm toasted coconut and coconut ice cream don’t hurt either!

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Boozy Toasted Coconut Root Beer Float

Ingredients:

  1. 2 parts Art in the Ages ROOT
  2. 4 parts High Quality Root Beer
  3. 1 big scoop of Coconut Ice Cream
  4. Sprinkling of Toasted Shredded Coconut
  5. Generous dollop of Hot Fudge (I used this recipe to make my own- to die for!)

Directions:

Add ROOT to a chilled glass or mason jar, then fill it up almost to the top with root beer.  Place a large scoop of coconut ice cream right on top (a little trick, if you make the scoop larger than the mouth of the glass, it will stay on top instead of sinking).  Drizzle a generous helping of hot fudge over the ice cream and top with toasted coconut.  I toast my own unsweetened shredded coconut by simply giving it a few minutes on medium heat in my cast iron skillet, stirring it so it doesn’t burn.  Enjoy!

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Thoughts on the Journey

_MG_8487Last night I picked up a book I recently borrowed from the library, Magical Journey, An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison.  Who knows where I happened upon the book review- I’m always jotting notes when I see interesting books in magazines, in the bookshop, here and there- but I remember being intrigued enough to add it to my library queue.  Perhaps this particular note, which actually led to action was a bit of divine intervention.  This book feels like it was written for me personally, though its author is at the other end of the mothering journey, while I’m just beginning mine.  Katrina has two sons, now grown, and she writes about redefining her life once her sons leave home.  The pages are laced with such wisdom, such valuable reflection on how we give of ourselves as mothers, and how mothering shapes our identity so strongly.

She begins the book with a quote from M.C. Richards, which reads “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship.  The big art is our life.”  This quote rang so true for me, in where I’m at in my life.  I don’t have dreams of grandeur.  I want a life filled with mothering, gardening, faith, cooking, knitting, sewing, reading, and copious amounts of family time.  I want my life to be my art, so to speak.  When I am gone, I would be perfectly happy if I was remembered by only a handful of people, but to those people, I was their world.  Especially my boys.  If I go down in their memory as the best mother ever, my mission here on this earth is accomplished.  But there is life outside of mothering, and I love that Magical Journey reminds us of that…one day, God willing, our children will leave home, and then we will be left with ourselves and our marriage.  Neither of these can be neglected for the sake of the children, not oneself, or one’s marriage.

Katrina writes, “The little boys whose lives once seemed to consume mine are young men now, their bedrooms silent and empty as shrines.  The communal rhythms of eating and sleeping and being in our household were disrupted as my sons became adolescents and then vanished altogether when, one after the other, they left home.  There are no more muddy footprints to mop up, no piano recitals or big games to attend, no book report to proofread when I’d rather go to bed.”

This struck a chord with me.  I am not busy in the traditional sense- running to meetings, juggling a family and full-time job, working 80 hours a week.  I am busy wiping tears and building blocks, reading bedtime stories and changing diapers, making snacks and digging in the dirt.  The boys play so well together, but can’t be left alone for more than minutes at a time.  I do indulge in knitting while I watch them play, which feels like stolen ” me time,” but mostly, from the moment I open my eyes, I am “on.”  Sometimes the never ending cycle of laundry/ cooking/ dishes/ cleaning does threaten to overwhelm me, but I can’t imagine the opposite.  No little clothes to fold, no mouths to constantly feed.  Hearing Katrina write of a quiet house reminds me how lucky I am to have a house filled with laughter, muddy footprints and sticky little fingers.

I’ve often thought, as I know my friends do too, that once the kids are in school there will be some breathing room to my day.  “I can’t wait,” we say to each other as we pass the afternoon hours at the playground for the umpteenth time.  But I can wait, I’ve realized recently.  Vijay is turning into a young boy before our very eyes, sprouting up and thinning out, the baby chub gone seemingly overnight.  He speaks with insight and humor that leave me astounded at times.  “Vik is feeling crabby and out-of-sorts, mama,” he told me yesterday.  “He just needs a nap.  Don’t you worry.”  We have chosen a preschool for him next year, but him and I are both hesitant to let go.  We travel as a merry band of three during the day, and I can’t imagine how much Vik and I will miss him next year when he begins school (even though it is only two mornings a week).

I was at the library with the kids a few days ago, talking with another mom, and I said something along the lines of “Now that I am out of the baby years…”  A man standing near us started laughing.  “It looks like you are still in those baby years, if you ask me,” he said with a grin.  But I feel like we’re moving out of them already.  Everyone in our house sleeps through the night, eats solid food and 3 out of 4 of us use the toilet (there is a statistic I never thought I would be so damn proud of!).  In a way I can’t imagine starting over again- the nursing and sleepless nights, the 9 months of pregnancy followed by mind-numbing exhaustion.  Then again, I can’t imagine that those years are behind me already.

All this to say…the Magical Journey is such a gift.  It is the first book I’ve read in a while, but it is so full of wisdom, especially for us young mothers, that I simply had to share.  Have a beautiful spring weekend.

Fabric Baby Book Tutorial

_MG_8479This weekend I finished Vik’s fabric baby book.  He LOVES it, which is just the sweetest thing to see.  This is the kind of crafting I love- easy, creative and anything but fussy.  Here is a quick tutorial I put together in case you want to whip one of these up for your own little own.  It is not a super quick project- there are a lot of steps involved- but it is fun, and it comes together pretty easily.

_MG_8450Step 1: Pick four coordinating fabrics, as well as batting and notions including felt, ribbon, rick-rack, etc.  Cut your fabrics into eight rectangles measuring approximately 16 inches x 8 inches, two from each fabric.  Cut four rectangles of batting, as well.  This will give you 16 pages to work with, so you will need at least 16 pictures, or more if you choose to do two on a page.  I use these Colorfast Fabric Printer Pages.  Follow the directions completely to ensure your color adheres.

_MG_8455Step 2: Layout all of your pages, and pin the pictures and felt pieces in place.  Using a zig-zag stitch for the pictures, sew into place.  Use a straight stitch for the felt.  Press each page well after sewing.

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_MG_8474Step 3: Place your matching fabric pages right sides together (take care that all your photographs are facing the same way), with the batting in the back, and sew together, making sure to leave an opening so you can turn the page right-side out.  Clip any excess batting and clip your corners.

_MG_8477Step 4: Turn right side out, making sure to pull out the corners, using a pin to help, and press.  Turn in the raw edge of the opening, creating a finish edge, and pin into place. Top stitch 1/4 inch from the edge, around the entire page.  Give the page a good press.

_MG_8458Step 5: Repeat for the other three pages.

_MG_8460Step 6: Once all four of your pages are complete, place one inside the other in the desired order.  If your machine can handle sewing through such thickness, sew down the middle of the book, creating a binding.  If your machine can’t handle the thickness, you can hand sew the binding.

_MG_8481Note: This project was made possible by the fact that Vijay discovered scissors, and a die hard love for cutting paper, felt, fabric, ribbon and even a few electrical cords (!) was born.  We spent TWO HOURS together in my studio this weekend (while Vik napped)- him cutting away, me sewing away.  It was a dream, I tell you, a true dream!

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Finding Sanity

_MG_8440This past week was a doozy.  Burst water pipes, a health scare and a few other traumatic events made for a stress filled week.  It seems that hard things often come in pairs, or triplets, and I have to believe that is to test our resolve and help us appreciate the good times.  I know spring is around the corner, with all of its fresh air and hopeful energy.  The cherry blossoms and magnolias are so close to blooming, and I can only imagine how the burst of natural beauty will help to lift our spirits. At least that is what I’m counting on!  Until then, I find that knitting helps to relieve my stress, and so each night, when the boys are finally tucked in and sound asleep, I head up to my studio to work on my projects.

_MG_8442This week, given the stress, I found myself tuning into my favorite shows and knitting like a maniac.  I finished this Clara dress for my friend Sarah’s little one, Emily.  I was saving it for her first birthday this summer, but she is a healthy baby (!) so I think I better hand it over before she outgrows it.  There is such joy in making handknit gifts, especially for those friends that appreciate what goes into such gifts!

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_MG_8426I also spent some time freshening up my inspiration boards with some of the vintage textiles that I brought back from India.  I am endlessly inspired by textiles.  Fabric and yarn are my true weaknesses, and although these are mere scraps, I find them to be beyond beautiful.  Speaking of fabric…I also began Vik’s fabric picture book.  Vijay’s book remains one of his favorites, and it is one of the projects that I love the most out of everything I’ve made for him.  For my sweet little Vik I decided on Heather Ross’s Far Far Away line, which features the Owl and the Pussy Cat.  It is the sweetest print, and color palette.  And that is life these days- knitting, garden planning, dreaming and feeling so thankful that this is a new week!

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Antler

_MG_8010It’s finished, and just in time to wear for the next month or so while the weather remains near freezing.  You guys….my first real sweater, with short rows and shaping, and all that good stuff.  I think I might be a “real” knitter now!  I fiercely love this sweater.  It’s slouchy yet fitted, stylish and sexy- which is not easy to achieve with hand knits!  The fit is darn near perfect, and considering I am a disaster when it comes to gauging, this is a true miracle.  I stayed up way too late for a few nights in a row finishing this beauty, and I payed the price each morning.  Funny story- one morning, after getting up at around 6:30 with the boys, I fell fast asleep inside the couch fort we had built in the basement playroom.  While I was sleeping (for all of five minutes), Vijay and Vik moved several couch pillows over to the stairs in order to “trap” me in the basement (Vijay’s words, not mine).  They then proceeded to find a chocolate bar in the pantry and make their way up to my studio, where I found them eating chocolate and hanging out amidst my yarn and fabric stashes.  I couldn’t stop laughing at the irony- I thought I was supposed to be the one eating chocolate and hiding away in my studio.  So much for that….!

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Seaside Tinkered Treasures

p082-CB777_Luminaries_01Writing a book can be both exciting and incredibly isolating, especially in the final stages when your head is buried in your manuscript and all you can think about is what’s left to be done.  I’m grateful to have a few writing friends who help keep me sane, and who can relate to the craziness of it all.  Elyse Major is one of those friends, and she just finished her second (!) craft book.  She is so full of creativity and drive, and I am so proud to share her book here.

p0120-CB777_Ice Cream Spoons_01Seaside Tinkered Treasures is like a breath of spring air, full of beach inspired crafts and projects.  As I was browsing through the pages, my first thought was…”These projects would make for adorable party decor.”  Of course our party themes tend towards construction and fire trucks, but in the event I had a few girlfriends over, or perhaps one day have the pleasure of planning a little girl’s birthday party, I would absolutely whip up a few of these.

p072-CB777_Pinwheels_01I could see pastel colored tin lanterns dotting the yard, a table full of doily covered pop bottles and colorful pinwheels, as well as an ice cream station complete with little decorated spoons and bowls.  What I love about Elyse’s crafting is that all the materials are easily sourced, and many make use of things that would otherwise be discarded, like tin cans and pop bottles.

p089-CB777_Bottles _01Congratulation Elyse, on another amazing craft book.  I don’t know how you come up with all of your ideas, but I am greatly inspired by your creativity.  Please check out Seaside Tinkered Treasures, as well as her first book, Tinkered Treasures, and her delightful blog.  Maybe if we all craft with an eye to spring, we can make the warm weather approach with greater speed!  There’s a happy thought!

IW CB777_SEASIDE_TRSRS_BLAD_DSJ_xSeaside Tinkered Treasured by Elyse Major is published by CICO Books and is available from Ryland Peters.

Dreaming of a New Kitchen

291fffe22541e45583f8acd9dfe49cd8I am feeling pretty darn uninspired to pull out my camera these days.  I have some fun knitting and sewing projects in the works, but nothing that is begging to be photographed quite yet.  Ho hum…winter.  Last week, we dreamed of a new spring wardrobe…what fun!  This week, how about we dream about a light and airy spring kitchen?  We have been contemplating a new kitchen for the past couple months and I have a feeling a renovation might be in our future, but we’re talking years out at this point.  We are constantly working on our home, slowly renovating, fixing and touching up the never ending list of things that we want/ need done.  I’m guessing most homeowners do the same, but having a house that is over 100 years old certainly keep us on our toes.

d9f6ed72a583f8624755f2861553700bOur kitchen as it stand is functional, but it is not well suited for serious cooking.  It’s the room where I spend the most time (two hungry boys + writing a cookbook = serious kitchen time).  It is a dark space, with poor lighting.  If I had known I would have painted the walls white, but I got a bit too excited when we moved in and I painted them turquoise to match the china we keep in the glass fronted display cabinet.  Now I’m dying for white, white and more white.  I am craving a light and airy space, with a big island, counter space galore and lots of clever storage.  I would love to be able to cook while my boys color and play at the island.  We’re always in the kitchen together, but as of now, they just play on the floor at my feet.  Fine for little guys, but I dream of having my lanky boys perched at the island, working on their homework, talking about their day, and snacking away while I prepare dinner.  *sigh*

f6a6e5d6e2b82230f913b5e7c15c21f2We have a small space to work with, but I’m sure with some creativity (and a wall or two blown out) we could achieve a light and airy space with a large island.  Oh who knows…as of now, it is a pipe dream, but one I am happy to indulge.  Pinterest is a virtual rabbit hole for kitchen renovations…and I’ve been pinning my favorite here.  I’m thinking next week I’ll be dreaming of outdoor spaces, with an eye to sprucing up our front and back yard, as well as going to town in my community garden plot.  What are dreaming about these days?

Sources: 1/ 2/ 3/ 4

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Dreaming of Spring

2014-02-17_0003I suppose I could show you pictures of snow and ice…but really, aren’t we all over it?  So instead, let’s daydream of warmer days, bare shoulders and cute handmade clothes!  My goal over the past year has been to drastically decrease the number of clothes that I own.  I’ve whittled down my wardrobe to include only pieces that fit well and that I truly love.  I was still rocking some jeans from high school and my body shape has totally changed since then (yep, having two kids will do that to you!).  Most everything went to Salvation Army, while a few of the nicer pieces were sold at the local Second Time Around.  I used that money to buy a well-fitting pair of jeans from Madewell.  That was it.  I don’t want to fill my closet again just because I have the room.  Nope- instead I want to carefully make a few pieces that will carry me through each season.  I want them to fit my body perfectly and fit my lifestyle (which means easy to clean, and not too fussy).  Actually what I’d love is a uniform- getting dresses is such a tough task when you have all of 2 minutes to yourself in the morning.  Anyway, my winter wardrobe is looking good (see here and here), and with my almost finished Antler sweater, I will be styling.  Now onto spring!  The above Liv cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge is perfection- the color, the drape.  This is going to be next on my needles, and I’m thinking of copying her yarn choice, or trying it in the pictured Anzula For Better or Worsted in Grace.  Is that a gorgeous blue green, or what?

2014-02-17_0002Next up, sewing!  I adore these two dresses, as stitched by Cut Cut Sew.  The dress on the left is the Ruby Dress by Made by Rae.  I love the lace and denim.  Perfectly chic, and with a hand-knit cardigan thrown over top it would be ideal for spring.   Can you even handle how cute it would look with a pair of Hunter rain boots- I sense an impending photo shoot as soon as the snow melts and I get stitching!  The dress on the left is a hodge podge of patterns as put together by Cut Cut Sew.  I’m not sure how I’ll copy it- but I am going to try.  I even bought the same fabric- chambray with tiny with dots.

_MG_7367Finally, I’m trying to decide what to make with these gorgeous hand blocked fabrics I brought back from India.  They are so perfect for spring, but I’m stumped.  While in India I had my favorite shirt copied and made in a variety of similar hand-blocked prints (I’ll show them to you as soon as I’m inspired to wear them- meaning spring).  So I don’t need any shirts….perhaps dresses.  Any cute dress patterns you’ve seen lately that would lend themselves well to these fabrics?  I’d love some inspiration.

Somerset Life; A Giveaway

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 12.17.23 PMMy blog has been a constant in my life for over five years now, and I have never appreciated it more than I do now, as a busy mother.  The boys’ baby books, which I started with the best of intentions, sit in the attic collecting dust.  Our family photo albums are woefully in need of an update.  But my blog serves as a memory keeper, a journal capturing the moments of beauty that come along with all the hard work and exhaustion of mothering small children.”

-Somerset Life, Winter 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 12.17.42 PMI started blogging the year I married my husband.  We’ve since bought our home, and welcomed two babies.  I’ve launched a new career, published a book and am busy working on the second.  We’ve traveled the world, made amazing friends, and fully explored our beloved city of Providence.  I’ve rediscovered my love of knitting and sewing.  I learned to grow vegetables and keep chickens.  I’ve painted and redecorated almost every square inch of our home.  Through it all, I’ve blogged.  When Somerset Life reached out to me to ask if I wanted to write about what blogging means to me, my initial response was to decline.  Our trip to India was looming, I was busy working on the book, and filming my e-course.  Yet the topic pulled me in and forced me to think.  Why do I blog?  What does it all mean to me?  I decided to take the time to put my feelings into words, and the article appears in the current issue of Somerset Life.  I’d love to give away a copy to one reader.  For a chance to enter, simply leave a comment, and make sure I have a way of getting in touch with you should you be the winner!

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Studio Tour

_MG_7396Thank you so much for all of your enthusiasm over my India Pop-Up Shop- I’m almost sold out, but there are a few goodies left.  The shop will stay up until the end of the week- so if you have your eye on anything, jump over and grab it!  And now, for a studio tour!  This has been a long time coming, but it was hard deciding when things were finished enough to share.  There are still a few odds and ends to pull together, but for the most part, I’m thrilled with how my space turned out.

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_MG_7312_2If you can remember, I gave up my old studio space when Vik was born and it was then that I decided to redo the attic.  It took a few years, but this past summer, while we were visiting my parents in Northern Michigan, we had the attic painted and the skylights added.  It made a huge difference, as you can tell by the before picture.  I decided on a bright white, clean look which I love.  It acts as a blank canvas which allows me to create and brainstorm without distraction.  Above is my Ikea desk, which has room for both my computer/ writing area, and my sewing machine (shown with its cover on- make your own here!).

_MG_7342_2We replaced this window, which really helps to keep in the heat, and makes the space so much brighter!  I love keeping some live plants on the window sill- adds a bit of color and cheer.  Above is one of my two vintage Paul McCobb chairs, which I have recovered multiple times.  I often keep my quilts and handmade stuffed animals piled here for inspiration!  Lots of pink going on!

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_MG_7359Next is the sitting area, with my new Ikea chair.  It has a nice high back (which is great for tall gals like myself) and is very comfy for knitting and writing!  I just need to find an ottoman.  I want a cool tufted number that I can reupholster with a vintage quilt.

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_MG_7321_2I love bringing fresh flowers into my space…it makes me so happy to make this one place in the house a total girly getaway.  I could never get away with white walls and delicate accessories anywhere else in the house.

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_MG_7295_2If you can image walking up the stairs to an attic space with slanted ceilings and skylights- you turn to the right and there is my desk, window and chair, while right in front of you is my Ikea work table which allows me to work standing, and to the left, a few inspiration boards, my ironing board, and an amazing old chest that my mom gave me which now houses all of my treasured handmade possessions, including sweaters the boys have outgrown, old quilts and pillows, the very first quilt I ever made, and various other odds and ends.

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_MG_7377I am totally in love with the Ikea rolling drawer unit that I just purchased.  It holds all of my sewing supplies.  Seeing that I am organized (some would say to a fault)- this kind of thing just makes me ridiculously happy.  Everything in its rightful place!

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_MG_7372You can see the beautiful patina of my old chest- on top of which I keep a large, shallow basket.  I love to set out beautiful, inspirational vignetes all around my studio- like these block-print, hand-stitched notebooks that I brought back from India, along with a pom-pom scarf and knobs.  I’m planning of having a booth at the Squam Art Fair this June where I will be selling an incredible selection of notebooks, blocks and other fun things from India!

_MG_7367I’ve also been ridiculously inspired by this fabric that I brought back from India by the yard.  I don’t know yet what it will become, but I am brimming with ideas.  I would also be totally happy just wrapping myself in this fabric head-to-toe and taking a nap.  I am that in love with it!

_MG_7392You may be wondering where I keep all my STUFF.  Fabric, books, supplies, baskets of yarn.  I have a little nook behind this curtain where I keep my shelving unit.  It holds all of my crafting supplies.  I would show you more, but this little nook also houses all our baby clothes, luggage, infant car-seats, bassinet…it is kind of a mess!  But it is our only real storage space in the house- and once the curtain drops, you’d never know it was there!  And that’s about it- I can’t tell you what it means to have a space of my own again in which to craft, daydream, write and create.  I don’t get up here as often as I’d like, but knowing it’s there, just waiting for me, brings me such happiness!

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