Kids on the edge of a cliff

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On our recent visit up *north* (meaning, Virginia) my parents took us on an awesome hike along the Potomac River, a trail called the Billy Goat Trail.

I had psyched myself up for days before this trip, knowing it would be the first time my kids would be hiking on big rocks, at relatively dangerous elevations, and I knew it would be a big lesson in trust for me.

Of course the kids were amazing.  They just loved it, and they were strong hikers, climbing and exploring and using common sense, hydrating often, sensing which rocks they were comfortable climbing and how they were going to do it.

Thier Grampy taught them how to follow trail markers, and off they went, taking turns leading the rest of us through miles of woods, rocks, and riverside.

That’s no surprise, really.  I knew they would be amazing and take my breath away.

The surprise is how easy it was for me to watch them do it… take the lead, climb unfamiliar paths and steep rocky inclines and navigate narrow ledges.

I really half thought I’d make us turn back before we went.  But once we were there… I felt at peace, and an enormous pride swell up, and I was just grateful to be on the trail behind them.

Witnessing.  Watching.  There.  But out of the way.

I really feel like I grew a lot as a parent that day.  I learned to step back a little.  Worry less.  Smile more at it being “their turn” and not mine.  I guess that’s what parenting is all about, really.

On the way up the trail, my son saw a baby turtle and moved him safely off the path, no doubt saving his life.  I love Miles for noticing what I would have walked right by, and taking his own action to do what he felt was right.

On the way back, my daughter saw a rock that made a perfect heart.  Knowing that I love hearts, she pointed it out for me.  I love Clara for noticing what I would have missed in nature, and pointing out to me that love is everywhere.  No matter who is leading the way, and who is trailing behind.

In both cases, the fact that I was walking *behind* my kids is what lead me to see their acts of kindness and to be able to share in them.

Walking behind my kids, watching them shine, is ten thousand times better then me getting to walk the trail first.  I don’t even want to walk it first any more.  And they don’t even need me to walk it side by side any more.

It’s time for them to walk it first, even in the rocky places.  Even in the steep places.  Knowing and truly trusting that they will still turn to me.  Still feel that connection.  Still show me the baby turtle and the heart shaped rock.

Damn I love those kids.  Have I said that on this blog yet?  xoxo


A can of paint for the kids

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A new, huge, wall filled with chalkboard paint.

I’m saying it is for the kids, but it is totally for me.

I used to have about 15 different family pictures on the wall cluttering up our main hallway, and as much as I love them, they needed to find a bigger space then a narrow hallway.  Time to simplify.

I just finished reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne…  and it really had me thinking.  I don’t align with all of it, because I deeply feel that kids are a lot more able to self-regulate then he gives them credit for.  Top down parenting is absolutely not for me, and he does tend to veer in that direction.

But there were many many gems that even an unschooling, free learning homeschool family like mine could benefit from.  One was to reduce clutter.  Reduce the quantity of toys and clothes and foods that are out at any given time.  Start them in rotation.  I liked that idea for the toys, but I loved that idea for the food.  The old fashioned “roast on Sundays, pasta on Mondays, soup and salad on Tuesdays” mentality is rockin’ it at our house.

Not that we have to have the same pasta dish each Monday.  Some Mondays it will be roll up lasagna, sometimes pesto noodles, sometimes chicken alfredo over linguini, etc… but always some variation of a pasta meal.

This change isn’t so much for the kids (although once they notice the rhythm, I think they’ll appreciate knowing what is coming for dinner) but it is so much easier on ME.  And damn if that isn’t the bottom line once in a while 🙂

So back to the paint… mama needed a bit more open free space, and dreams of a wall with nothing but a chalkboard danced in my head.  A wall I could write the day’s menu on.  A wall I could write my to-do list on, and thrill as it gets checked off.  A wall that the kids could make comics on and decorate with drawings for special holidays.  A wall that would be free for any form of expression.  Two coats of paint later, the kids got first crack.

Clara wrote a comic strip immediately… and Miles?  He he used his freedom of expression to tell me flat out what he was thinking:  “Lego.  Need Now!  For Real,  or I’ll Die.”

Figures.  So much for Simplicity Parenting.  Right back into more Lego clutter.  But hey, he was practicing writing letters and words and sentences with a smile on his face.  And I got my dream chalkboard wall out of the process.  I’ll take it!  xoxo

Manacotti Hack

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I almost named this post Personal Lasagna.  With a title like that, how can you go wrong.  Your own personal lasagna.  Sounds so much classier then a personal pan pizza, and yet so much less expensive then a personal shopper.  A personal lasagna, ready to be slapped on a plate next to a salad and garlic bread, ready to be eaten.

I have no idea how to photograph food… so I hope this looks good and doesn’t make you nauseous…

But I switched it to Manicotti Hack, because that’s how I invented these.  After a few failed attempts at filling a manicotti… completely breaking the noodle and heating up the kitchen with a few choice words, I decided to try a new tactic.  And that is when inspiration hit.  Why use an over-sized spoon to try to fill (read: destroy) a pre-made tube of noodle when I can roll a flat one up instead!  Easy, peasy.

Try my recipe out, you’ll be so glad you did.  I tend to make my lasagna taste more like pizza to please my kids… feel free to *adult* it up with fancier ingredients at your discretion.
The best part about this recipe is that you no longer have to wait 10 minutes for your lasagna to set before you slice it, nor do you have to smash your spatula down in utter irritation when you serve the lasagna and it doesn’t stay perfectly stacked.  Yours slides off to the side too, doesn’t it?  I hope I’m not the only one who winds up serving my lasagna in a bowl with a spoon.

These are ready to plunk down individually the moment they come out of the oven.  Yum.

Personal Lasagna

(preheat oven to 350 degrees F)

Ingredients:

12 lasagna noodles

16 oz ricotta cheese

2 cups Italian cheese blend, shredded

1 egg

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

6 slices of mozzarella cheese

garlic powder , basil, and other dried Italian herbs, to taste.

1 jar of pizza sauce or marinara sauce or whatever spaghetti sauce your family will eat without endlessly examining each bite and picking out the invisible onion specks

1.  Cook the lasagna noodles until done.  Not falling apart, but done.  They do not continue to cook in the oven.

2.  While the noodles boil, mix the ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 C mozzarella, 1/2 C parm cheese, 2 eggs and any dried herbs you’d like in a bowl.

3. Once cooked, use tongs to take out one noodle at a time and pat it dry on a non-terrycloth dish towel.

4.  Put a half a slice of mozzarella cheese at one end, plunk a heaping dollop of cheese mixture on top of that, and roll up!

Here is the noodle with a half a slice of mozzarella cheese and the ricotta mix on top…

… then just roll it up!

5.  Place in a baking pan that has one spoonful of marinara sauce smeared all over the bottom (to prevent sticking.)  I had to use two loaf pans because I was too lazy to hand wash the 9 x 13 inch pan we have…

6.  Continue until all the noodles and all the filling are used up.

7.  Pour the jar of sauce over the noodles, sprinkle the last 1/2 C of Mozzarella on top, then slip it into the oven.

8.  Bake for 25 minutes, until hot and bubbling.

Meanwhile, make your salad and garlic bread.   If you have a garden, now’s your chance to head out and pick some veggies for your salad!  For some reason, the lettuce has really taken off in my garden, and it is so lovely!   I just have to share — isn’t this *almost* as pretty as a bouquet of flowers?

Do you this much butter on your garlic bread too?

Pop one or two personal lasagnas onto the center of each plate, and stand back and admire how low your blood pressure is and how perfectly rolled up the personal lasagnas remain.  It’s lovely.

I promise you this will be one meal that your whole family will eat.  Even your cat.  At least, if your cat is like ours and only eats human food.  xoxo

Visit from an old friend

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I just had my dearest childhood friend come in for a quick visit.  It was too short but then again, it was just right.  She’s the kind of gal that I can go for a year or two without seeing, and my connection to her never changes one speck.

I get really attached to people.  I will love my husband always and forever, and no other man.  I will love and adore my children beyond measure forever, and never can anyone ever compare to them in my eyes.  My family is now my *one thing*, the one thing I need in this world.  I can do without anything else on this earth but those three souls.

I’ve always been like that.  I had one best friend growing up, and that’s all I ever really needed or wanted.

I met this fabulous human being when I was only 5 years old… that’s 31 years ago now.  She was my best friend all through the rambunctious silly childhood years, all through the awkward pre-teen years, all through the tumultuous teenage years, all through my evolving college and med school years…. really, until my husband became my soul mate.

And even now, she is someone that I will always treasure.  Because I’ll never have that kind of one-on-one amazing friendship ever again as an adult.  My family is my one thing, and I like it that way.  The amount I have left over for friends has changed.

Once I became a Mommy, everything past my kids became secondary.  And not only that, but friendships became much more communal, which is a good thing.  Playdates expanded to include entire families, social circles evolved, neighbors, artist gatherings, patients and customers — they all have special spots in my heart and I’m a richer, more balanced person for having this wider social network.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.  It’s just what I need as a mother and an artist and a woman.

But.  There is just no denying that, for me, I really did love having one, lifelong friendship.  If any of you have ever had one amazing best friend, you know just what I mean.

I didn’t have to wonder who I was going to go trick or treating with every year, who I’d sit with at lunch every day, who I wanted to hang out with after school.  Who I’d give a ride to my very first time driving a car.  Who I’d have spend the night on my birthday.  Who I wanted to see most on the first day of school.  Who I wanted to figure out growing up with… hairstyles, make up, bras, periods, boyfriends.

My friend of over 3 decades… I love knowing that when I’m 80 years old, I will have known you for 75 years.  94% of my life.  If that’s not special, I don’t know what is.

Thank you so much for visiting, Kristin!  xoxo

My daughter, the artist

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I’ve known for quite a long time that my daughter is extremely skilled at drawing.  She could draw animals and people with details like facial features and horns and beaks and tails when she was just one and a half years old.

I had an acquaintance tell me right to my face that this was impossible at age one, the brain couldn’t handle it.  My daughter’s brain can.  Simple as that.

She is really amazing at art.  At 8 years old, she is by several decades the youngest person in a clay class we take together.  Her stuff is always (in my eyes, of course) the best in the class.  I show you Exhibit A, this amazing pitcher that she painted, using nothing but paint, string, and more paint:

I tell you, I could sell this on my Etsy shop for hundreds of dollars!  But it would take millions to get me to actually agree to the sale…. and even then… I’m not sure I could actually send it off.  No, I know I couldn’t.  I love this pitcher so damn much.  How unique is she!

This is the one of the many blessings of free learning, unschooling with kids.  They are unlimited in their creativity.  A wonderful unschooling friend of mine shared this quote:  “A child in school studies art so that one day they can be an artist.  An unschooled child says, “I am an artist,” and so they create.”  Simple as that.

So take that, acquaintance who doesn’t think a 1 year old can draw details…  In. Your. Face.  My daughter can and did!  And continues to amaze… xoxo

Songbird tutorial

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My goal each day is to find my heartsong… something that makes my heart sing out loud.  So it’s not surprising that I’ve been a bit obsessed with birds lately.  We have 8 as pets.  And they pop up all the time in my paintings.  And my sewing.  Chirpy little songbirds… I can’t get enough.  So I am here today to share them with you.

I love softie birds… there are lots of patterns for them out there, I know.  Your best buddy Google will hook you up if you want to take a look at all of the hundreds of tutorials out there.  This one is my baby… I tweaked and played around with dimensions until I got the perfect plump little bird, and I also (as far as I know!) invented using felt inside the wings to make them bend outwards like they are lifting off in flight, and I also attach them with buttons so that they can swivel any way that you find jaunty 🙂
Heartsong Fine Art’s Songbird Tutorial:

1. This is the hardest part of the tutorial, because I don’t really use a pattern.  I’ve drawn for you roughly what the pieces look like… they really don’t need to be perfect, because you trim anything that is uneven or doesn’t match up… and you really can’t get the proportions wrong.  You just use this as your guide… you can make a huge bird or a tiny one… go for it and have fun.  Cut out 1 tummy piece, two body pieces, four wing pieces (I like to mix and match fabrics… this is a great scraps buster) and two *more* wing shapes out of felt.

2.  This is what you will end up with:

3.  Now go ahead and cut a bunch more while you are at it, because these birds don’t take long to whip up and I bet you can make these faster then you think you can!

5.  Here is the best part.  Do you have an old stash of buttons?  Make a cup of tea, spill them out on the floor, and have fun daydreaming and sorting through them.  Pick out two buttons for each bird.  This will be the longest part of the tutorial, I promise.  You’ll sew the rest of this bird more quickly then you will have picked out it’s button color.

6.  Line up one edge of the tummy piece on top of one of the body pieces… right sides together.  Stitch along the bottom curve, just the the length of the tummy piece, as shown.

7.  Place the second body piece, right sides together, on top of the original body piece.  Fold the tummy piece open so that the open end of the tummy piece lines up with the new body piece… as shown.

8.  Making sure to leave a gap along the bird’s back (for turning and stuffing) begin to sew the edge starting at the back of the bird, around the tail, across the tummy side that hasn’t been attached yet, then up the head and stopping one inch before reaching your starting point.  I will show you in the next several pictures how I get the *sewn* portion of the tummy out of the way to sew the new side:

Starting to sew, beginning on the back of the bird:

Stopping just as the needle passes into the tummy piece… I keep the needle paused in the fabric and flip the tummy out of the way:

…flipping…

…now lay it back down and sew the tummy, continuing on up around the head.  Leave a gap for flipping the bird… wait!  Did I really just say that?  Well, at this point, I bet you feel like flipping *me* the bird, but wait.  You’ll like me again by the end, when your bird is staring back at you, demanding that you be nice.

9.  Your bird should now look like this:

10.  I cut off the extra fabric at the beak and tail points, but that’s about the only contour work I do.  If you want to snip the curves… have at it!

11.  Now turn the bird right-side-out, stuff as you please with filling, and hand stitch the small opening in the back closed.

You are almost there!  I usually leave the thread attached and come out about where I want one of the wings to attach.

I let the bird rest like that (well, as much as the poor thing can rest with a metal spear slicing through his little body) while I whip out the two wings…

12.  Line up the three layers of wing pieces with the two good sides out and the felt piece in between, like this:

13.  Sew around the outer edge, then trim the excess off, leaving a cute raw edge, with a peek of the contrasting felt visible.  Notice how the wing curls slightly, I like to enhance that curl by rolling it up for a moment, and then when I sew the wings on, I like them to be curling away from the body on each side… so cute!

14.  So here is whatcha got:

15.  All that is left is for you to sew the wings on!  Yippee!  Just sew one wing on (along with it’s button) and go through the bird to sew on the other wing.  Tie a knot and bury the end of the thread in the body of the bird.

16.  Yea!  You made it!  Your bird is so proud of you! And I am too.  As long as you didn’t actually flip me the bird while making it.

You can perch this bird on anything you can think of.  These particular birds were used in my shop on birdhouses and a wall organizer.  If you didn’t make it through, and you would rather have me make you one, just visit my shop!

I am happy to share my secrets with you… but please only make these birds for your own personal use, and do not use them in items that you sell.  Also, if you like this tute, I’d love if you spread the word… I’m trying to get my blog to grow!  I’ve added water and soil and plenty of sun, but I’d love your word of mouth too, just to be sure 🙂  xoxo

I guess I am officially a house wife.

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Why does this annoy me as much as it thrills me?  It really does.  I hate that I love the sight of laundry hanging on the line.

It seems like it should be oppressive… degrading… at the very least, unfair that I’m doing laundry while my hubby finds fulfillment at work… changing patient’s lives, chatting with his lovely office staff, getting to be the boss of something larger then the chores.

And most chores are like that.  My husband comes home in the afternoon and we talk about our day… his seems so fulfilling, helping patients towards health, while I’ve scrubbed a toilet.

But laundry that actually makes it out to the line is different.  Not the sopping wet stuff I cram into the dryer and forget.  But the loads that I take the time to carry out onto the back porch and hang… those just make my day.

And today I finally figured out why.  It’s not about the laundry.  It’s about the sunshine out there, smiling on all my favorite memories.  It’s like the sun agrees with me that my family is awesome… and is lending me her warmth to help out… giving a big thumbs up to all that I cherish.

Why do I love laundry in the sun?  I have as many reasons as I have articles of clothes hanging on the line.

For this set, there are five good reasons:

1.  My red-headed, freckle faced husband that wears a rash guard in the sun, reminding me of our recent trip to the beach.

2.  Me enjoying my girly side… it used to be short mini skirts that made me feel like a girl… now in my 30’s it a fluffy petticoat handmade from England that I got off of Etsy.

3.  A crisp white work shirt that hubby wears to work… rolled up at the sleeves and with his tie thrown off at the end of the day, he makes our house a home.

4.  My son’s white pj t-shirt, which (even though he is only 6) is almost as big as my shirts… makes me giggle out loud.

5.  A dish towel, that I’m hoping the sun can bleach white again… stained up by countless pets and meals and art projects.

I hope you smile today as you do your laundry too.  Intense scowling and eye-rolling while doing the toilet is still completely expected.  Encouraged, actually.  Because heck, I *could* be out there at our medical practice seeing patients… but instead I’m scrubbing a toilet.  Grrr…… xoxo