"Let's have a merry journey, and shout about how light is good and dark is not. What we should do is not future ourselves so much. We should now ourselves. "NOW thyself" is more important than "Know thyself." Reason is what tells us to ignore the present and live in the future. So all we do is make plans. We think that somewhere there are going to be green pastures. It's crazy. Heaven is nothing but a grand, monumental instance of future. Listen, now is good. Now is wonderful." ~ Mel Brooks

Friday, March 30, 2012

{ this moment }

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by Amanda Blake Soule at SouleMama.com

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dye Week:: Pysanky and Silks

This week has been declared "Dye Week" as Easter is upon us and I just can't wait any longer to get our hands on our Pysanky egg and silk dyes! It's been a long time coming. Between researching the best (and most economical ) way to dye our silks as well as mustering up the courage (and patience) to attempt true Pasanky egg decorating with all the children (minus KiKi our 2 year old; she will experience egg dying another way!), our hands are stained but our home is so colorful. Our branches on our Seasonal Table have now become our Easter Tree and our living room/play room/ wall is now adorned with 12 colorfully dyed play silks (we're just waiting for Mama West Wind's Gnome Clothespins to officially tie our display together)! She does give a tutorial on how to make these, so I could have easily made them myself, but I just love supporting other artist's and crafting Mama's to add color and beauty to our home.

Pysanky egg dying is amazing. It takes a LOT of patience and more patience and time. It certainly isn't for someone looking for instant gratification. There are heart breaks with each egg that is cracked mid decorating and it's really a tense moment when you blow them out (we wait until after we're finished decorating to blow out our eggs to give them a bit more heft during decorating). All in all, the children loved to heat their own kistka and watch the beeswax melt into the cup and then apply the wax any way they choose. Each dye bath gives a new color and surprise to the finished egg. I loved hearing Charlotte "ooo" and "ahhh" each time her egg came out of the dye! And then to see them hanging from our tree! So pretty! We're feeling so blessed with the beauty of this time of year!

Here is Casen trying his hand at Pysanky

I love this shot of my son, Casen. I very rarely get him in photos and he turned just
as I took the picture. I love his eyes xoxo

Today it's awfully chilly and rainy outside, so I imagined our home warm with steam from dying our silks. As I stirred our pot with a wooden spoon, mixing our silks with the dye, I felt like the women of yore who used to wash their laundry using pots and wooden spoons. It brought on a nostalgia I'm not familiar with but long to understand. Anyway, I know there are many tutorials on how to dye play silks out there online, I read a bunch of them. Each one gave me more inspiration and courage to go ahead and take the plunge. Dying silks isn't exactly a difficult task, it just takes some time and a "no fear" attitude when mixing your colors. It was amazing to me how beautiful our silks came out and how vibrant the colors. I even adore the little specks of white or a paler version of the main color that shows on some of the silks. It gives them that hand-dyed feel. They aren't perfect, but their ours.

We used Kool-Aid (of all things) to dye our silks. At .20 cents a pack I couldn't resist. I did, sadly, have to go to the Wal-mart to find the color selection I was looking for. Our local grocery only carried certain ones,and only 3-4 single packets at that! It felt strange to be purchasing all that Kool-Aid, even though I knew we weren't going to drink it, I was still walking out of the store with 30 packets! I found it kinda funny!!! The colors I purchased were cherry, strawberry, and black cherry (red), mixed berry (blue), lemon lime (green), lemonade (yellow), pink lemonade (pink), grape (purple), orange (orange).

I purchased our silks at Dharma Trading. This link will take you to the Habotai scarf page (we purchased 12 - 35x35 silks). This link will take you to the Habotai veil page. We purchased 3 - 55x108 veils for tent making. I'll be getting a few more to try water coloring for our dining table and to make curtains out of. I also purchased silk handkerchiefs to dye for our littlest bundle when she arrives. Peek a boo silks are so much fun and even though she won't be able to actually play with them at first, she'll have something soft and smooth to hang on to and chew on!
You will need::
* 35x35 is the standard play silk size or larger for tent making or smaller for peek a boo silks*
Kool-Aid packets
* you will need at least 2 per silk consider what colors you want to make
and make a list so you'll know what you need*
A pot and wooden spoon
White distilled vinegar
4 cups of hot water per dye bath
Something to dry your silks on
* outside would be ideal, on a laundry line if you have one, we have a wooden
rack for indoors but the backs of chairs work fine*
A towel to keep under your silks as they dry, if you're drying in your home

I made a few mistakes as I went along as I didn't follow the advice of any one person. It was definitely a trial and error process. I did my best to include answers to the questions I had while dying that weren't included in the tutorials I had read! If you have other questions, please post them in the comments or on our Facebook page and I will answer them as best I can!

First you will need to soak your silks in hot water with about 1/2 cup of vinegar. This will remove any residue that exists from the making of the silk. I soaked my in my washing machine and then used the spin cycle to wring them out!

To begin, fill a pot with 4 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of vinegar,
and 2  packets of your chosen color of Kool-Aid. Warm up the water and Kool-Aid on your
stove top to just below boiling. Put the silk in and stir, lift and move around the water to
evenly (as best as you can) distribute the color.
* I've included a list of what colors I used and how many packets below.
This recipe is for 1-35x35 scarf and 1 hankie mixed together.
This was where I made my first mistake! At first I only added 2 cups of water for one
35x35 scarf. As you can see it wasn't enough!
This is how it looked when I added the other 2 cups of water! Just right!
Once you've mixed your scarfs around the colored water you'll notice that the water will
begin to turn clear. This is when you can take your scarf out and run it under cold
water until the water runs clear from the scarf.

 And believe it or not.......that's it! So simple! Once your rinse your scarf, wring it out and hang it up to dry. I tossed ours in the dryer on the delicate cycle once they were just about dry. I did a few multi colored scarfs, too. The instructions change a bit in that I only add 1 packet of Kool-Aid to 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. I boil the water in a kettle and then used 3 mason jars to mix the silks in! I was able to use the mixture for two scarves at once and I did sneak in one hankie in each jar, too!

For a multi colored veil (55x108) I used the same jar method, one packet of dye, 2 1/2 cups of water, and 4 tablespoons of vinegar.

This was "supposed" to be more rainbow like, however I only had one packet of
lemonade (yellow) left so it came out pretty faint and I realize now that I
should have used a full quart of water. Remember to be mindful of how and
where your colors mingle, for example in between blue and red
will be purple if you mix them together a bit.
 I plan to re-dye the yellow part to give it a little more punch.

My Kool-Aid color chart::
(based on our color experience)
The amount of packets is for one scarf and hankie. Veils will be 3 of each
Red:: 2 packets of either cherry, fruit punch, black cherry or strawberry
Orange:: 2 packets of orange
Yellow:: 3 packets of lemonade
Green:: 2 packets of lemon lime
Blue:: 2 packets of mixed berry and 1 packet of grape (same for veil)
Pink:: 2 packets of pink lemonade
If you try your hand at this please let me know how it goes. Post your pics on our Facebook page for our "Share Inspiration" album! These would make a lovely gift for your wee ones for their Easter basket or just because! Their color and the feel of these silks are so wonderful. Enjoy! I know we are!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekly Gratitude

Even though the weather has turned to a more seasonable Spring (read rainy and cold!) I am waking up this morning and feeling so grateful. I try to be very mindful of the many blessings in my life, sometimes the hardships may overshadow but somewhere deep inside I know that saying "Don't sweat the small stuff" is so true. When we struggle sometimes it's hard to see the light at the end of a long week of meetings, arguments, dealing with angry, disconnected people, seeing others struggle, holding our children while they go through their own hardships, sickness. I'm not trying to depress things even further but it's true! There's no denying that life can be challenging.

I've been meaning to find a way to honor the Sabbath, our one day of "rest". I know some folks still work on Sundays or have other chores and errands that need to be kept up with. Sundays aren't what they used to be........lives would slow down, a family might attend church, come home and have a family meal, the kids would play, the adults would sit and chat. Life went much more slowly! This is my attempt to slow it down at the beginning of a new week and honor this last weekend day to be together as a family, listen, breathe, play, laugh, and be grateful.

Today I am grateful for listening to my love sing silly songs with the littles, spending time with friends whom we haven't seen in a while, learning new crafting techniques, welcoming the big kids home, feeling our new baby roll around inside my belly, all the amazing souls and kindred spirits who have inspired me this past week, and laughter.

Welcome to Gratitude! If you feel called to join along please link up below with any post that expresses your gratitude and reverance for the "little things" in your life. Share on your blog, spread the word on Facebook or any other social outlet. Let's slow it down and enjoy our moments and remember to be thankful for the little things........maybe someone who's feeling low might be inspired to realize the little things in their life that make it all worth while!

Smile, be kind to others, and love like there's no tomorrow xoxo

Friday, March 23, 2012

{ this moment }

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

*inspired by SouleMama

Felted Wands

I've been dreaming of making these wands for my littles for a while now. I've envisioned the style, the materials, and how they would play together with them. The beautiful weather we've been having has been a major source of inspiration in deciding what crafts we do with and for the children. Seeing as we've been spending so much time our of doors, these ribbon dressed wands seemed so perfect.......the way the ribbons floated in the wind when they little ran with them, the colors of the felt gleaming in the sunshine. We've been dreaming up and making plans for our summer yard play scape and these wands felt like the perfect accompaniment to what we plan to create!

To make a Felted Wand you will need::
felt in various colors and shapes
embroidery floss in different colors
a tapestry needle (or whatever you prefer to work with)
wool batting
ribbon in different shades and cut lengths
glue gun
a stick

First, cut our your front and back piece in which ever shape suits you.

I decided on 3 different shapes for our wands, in various color felts.

Then attach your pieces together with whatever embroidery technique you like. 
Once you've layered and sewed your little pieces on to the front piece, attach the back
piece to the front, making sure to leave an opening wide enough at the bottom to gently stuff with your wool batting
and then to fit the stick in. The stick will have a knot at the top from the ribbon,
so make sure to account for that, too! Don't fill too full with the wool,
just enough to give it a little form and softness!
Next, gather your ribbon and cut pieces at various lengths. Tie the ribbon together
at the top of one end of your stick. We used a  stick from outside, the littles went on a
stick hunt to find just the right one for their wand. Push the ribbon knot end of your stick into
the opening of your felt piece, finish sewing as needed then secure with your hot glue gun.

The best part about finishing these was putting them in the hands of the littles and watching them run off and admire the ribbons flowing next to them. I'm excited to see how they use these in their imaginary play! It was also sweet to watch them place them on our Seasonal Table to snuggle in with the various decorations we have out to honor the Springtime.

In designing your wands, remember that you can create them to fit the needs and likes of either a boy or a girl! They invoke a feeling of magic and a sense of mirth in any child, it's beautiful to watch a child smile and giggle as they look at  a new toy that has been made just for them!

We've joined Donni today over at The Magic Onions for her Friday Nature Table. Why not pop on over and check out all the other amazing activities and projects for some inspiration and eye candy! Thank you, Donni, for offering up your space to us every Friday! It's such a joy to be a part of such a creative community xoxo

We've added a new photo album to our Facebook page for those who feel inspired to share their work. Hop on over, like our page, and add your photo to our timeline with a link to your blog or website or whatever is your source of inspiration. I will then add your photo to our album for anyone to peek through a find inspiration for activities or crafts to make for and/or with their children!

Other sites offering tutorials on wand making ::

Little Birdie Secrets

Natural Kids:: This one is just about identical to ours however is not the source of inspiration for our particular wands! I wanted to include this link in particular to show how easy it is to have an idea come to you and then in searching discover others who have had similar if not the same ideas. I feel it's important to give credit to any posts or links I come across as an homage to the inspiration we can all bring to each other in our creative endeavors!

Ribbon Wands

The Train to Crazy

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Spirit of Love :: Welcome Spring

"And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant"

It's Spring! It's Spring! The birds are celebrating! The flowers are bursting from their Winter beds! Father Sun is showering us with his warm embrace and Mother Earth is nourishing us with her abundant glory! Ahhhhh, to feel alive in the Springtime is Divine!

Our Springtime Seasonal Table

The littles upon waking and eager to see what the Springtime fairies have left them!

Joyous smiles and satisfaction in introducing Daffodil and Crocus to Mama and Papa Gnome!
We've joined Nicole at Frontier Dreams for her Keep Calm, Craft On series this week!
Thank you, Nicole, for offering your space to us!

We've been preparing for this day.......it's been easy as the days have been getting longer and the weather is just unbelievable! We've been planting seeds, prepping our vegetable gardens, cleaning out and making new flower beds, bestowing our Seasonal Table with new and wonderful gifts from the Earth. The littles have been outside almost all the daylight hours and the rhythm of life is as sweet as warm strawberries.

Speaking of rhythm (and changing topics for a moment), Rebecca at Bending Birches has recently reminded me of something I have been overlooking within her latest blog post and in an older article for Rhythm of the Home here. I find it profound and timely with the Spring Equinox upon us that I be called to reevaluate our home spaces. I find it a subtle message from the Universe that at this moment, at the beginning of a new season where balance is at the heartbeat of our next 24 hours, that I should seize this opportunity (with the bit of Spring fever) to accomplish a deeply meaningful goal......this is where it lead me::

I tend to cull out the children's toys frequently but never have I thought to keep them seasonal. So last evening as the family had wandered out to catch the last little bit of warmth and sunlight I began yet another digging in and purging of toys and books! I was amazed at how many books we had out and more than half of them were not ideal for this time of year. I left what I knew were favorites and took away what I knew hadn't been played with or looked at for quite some time! It feels so wonderful! You forget these little pieces when you try so hard to balance all the other areas in your life........how nice it feels to know that the children have toys that are appropriate on so many different levels; they're simple, quiet, they naturally stimulate their imagination, and even their books reflect the season (how silly would it be to read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' on the first day of Spring?)! My goal is continue through the Springtime and go through, again, our personal spaces and gathering spaces and take out that which is not beautiful or needed any longer. My hope is to continue to create spaces that are inviting and relaxing, spaces that allow the Spirit to refresh itself in peace and harmony among the serenity of a humble room. We are minimalists to begin with (our home is only 1000 sq. ft.) so we truly can't have too much to begin with, however, there is always the need to let things go OR just revisit the notion to only invite those items which marry the mind, body, and soul.

~ Thank you, Rebecca for your continued inspiration!

Here is Miles resting with our basket of shells
It will be a lovely, warm Spring evening where we are. We'll dine alfresco with candles and flowers. We'll share our deepest thanks for all the blessings on the day and for being together.........it is in the Spirit of Love that I wish for you a warm, abundant, fulfilling, renewing, and blossoming Springtime!

"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. "~Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's beginning to look alot like Springtime

What gorgeous days we've been blessed with as of late.......70 degrees or warmer, sunshine, the return of our friendly songbirds and peepers, our grass is greening, and best of all......all our windows are OPEN!!!!

Sunday was an amazing day. A few days prior we had a cruise missle come through our home and leave 5 out of 6 of us with yet another stomach bug. We've been prone to these this winter for some reason and ironically I had just mentioned days before how I'd hoped we'd reached that time in the season where those types of illnesses are behind us! Nonetheless, Sunday was our big day out. Mostly everyone had energy but all were happy to be outside. We went on a excursion to pick up some organic seeds and a local potting soil mix that we enjoy using along with some winter hardy bulbs that I'll plant within the next few weeks once we've designed our newest flower bed. We were mindful to notice on our outing all the little bits and blossoms that have peeked their heads these past few day like coltsfoot, forsythia, daffodils, tree buds near bursting, crocus, and snowdrops. My husband joyfully aireated our vegetable beds while all the children began putting seeds into the soil in their own piece of the garden. The littles helped me start some seedlings that are now warming up in a corner of our neighbors hoop house. It was an oh so productive, Spring feverish kinda day!
Our Seasonal Table got a makeover as well. We added a fresh bunch of cuttings from our lilac bushes that are begin to leaf out and some branches of pussy-willow (their branches will soon hold a lovely ensemble of flower fairies, birds, and springtime flowers), our bowl of earth is awaiting seeds (which should be going in anyday so they sprout in time for Easter), our lone candle sits unlit in honor of the queit and solitude of the Lenten season, and 4 miniture empty terra cotta pots have arrived with the hope of being blessed to hold and nurture a seed or two. This time of year is so exciting and even though the warmth and newness of fresh blossoms and buds have arrived early we're diving in head first, understanding that March and April could still produce a frost or two or even a snowfall. But for now, our homes are warm and full of sunshine, our windows are open, and we are out of doors basking in the glory of this most amazing gift of Spring.

Since 'green' is still a newish word around here we decided to bring a little more of the outside inside by creating a terrarium. It's so much fun for the kids to watch as the little ecosystem inside the jar creates moisture and mist. I've hidden a few small bulbs inside (along with some succulent jade) in hopes that they will begin to sprout within the weeks ahead, maybe in time for Easter.

To Make a Terrarium
you will need::

A good sized jar (a lid isn't necessary)
activated charcoal
plants and/or seeds that will live in your terrarium
decorations like pretty stones, dragon tears, shells etc.

Wash and dry your containor

Fill the bottom with a good layer of stones

Add a layer of activated charcoal (this helps purify the water and keeps it from getting all slimy!)

Next, place your piece of moss over the charcoal and stones

Place your soil on top of the moss. Add a good amount so your plants have something to hold on to.

Add your plants and decorations as they fit and give your terrarium and nice healthy spray of water.
And there you have it! A mini ecosystem that can live on your table or in a window for all to watch blossom and grow!
from Around the Year by Elsa Beskow

March is an old man,
old and cold,
grey beard and weary.
He sits there
 melting the snow,
tempting the catkins,
the pussy-willow twigs,
watched by the coltsfoot,
the first signs of Spring.

Soon he'll be going,
the grass will turn green.
Soon warm sun
will melt him,
and he will be gone.

If it's beginning to look like Springtime where you are, how are you welcoming
the beauty of it all into your home?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sparkle Plenty

These past few weeks have been filled with glorious weather and wonderful moments spent out of doors with each other getting our hands dirty and just feeling the warmth of the early spring embracing our bodies. The littles have been spending so much time outside that they are now just coming and going as they please. I find myself needing to remind them to let me know first before they head out so I can either a.) keep my eye on them from inside or b.) join them!

Posts here on It's a Simple Life have been few, mostly due to the beautiful weather that has been bestowed upon the Northeast of the United States but also because I've bringing the littles over to my parents house to spend some good time with my Mother who has been recently diagnosed with cancer.  She is no stranger to cancer, this will be her 3rd time fighting this uphill battle. 5 weeks ago my Mother had a significant surgery to remove the masses from her ailing body, she is 74 and surgeries are becoming more and more difficult for her to recover from. Being the youngest in our family of 5 (I have two older sisters) I'm usually the last one to be asked to help out but I am now the only stay at home Mother out of us who can be available during the day when my Dad needs to be away. I'm so grateful for this time with her. It's not an easy time, if I could be honest. For the first time I'm really coming to grips with the reality that life is so fragile. My Mother's failing health has brought me to look at what my life would look like if my Mother weren't here. I know this isn't the most uplifting blog post, but, this is what's on my heart and mind today.........life and how each precious moment is a gift and how even though times and moments might be a struggle, they each need to be honored for what it is we learn from them, who they bring us closer to, and how we can flip it to be something better in the end.

My Mother and I haven't always had a great relationship. There are 42 years between us so our view points and the times in which we each grew up were and are so dramatically different from each other, understanding and tolerance were not easily doled out! It's been a long 12 years since I first became a Mother myself, asking my Mother for help even when I didn't want to, allowing her to Mother me and offer advice even if I didn't ask or if I didn't agree. I've learned to extend myself to her, even though she hasn't always been willing to accept what I have to offer. The best I could do was just love her and hope that one day we'd be equals, or at least find a common ground. That common ground, I believe, was this past week. My Mother had no choice but to allow me to come into her home and 'mother' her back. I was able to cook for her, get her medicine, talk with her, laugh with her, suffer with her, dote on her, and just allow the love I have for her to guide my abilities to care for her.......even though it's excruciatingly hard to see that her vitality is gone. Her face is pale, her smile is forced, her pain is great. These are very sad times. It is my goal to get her out and in the warmth of the sun........next week should be much warmer than this week so I will try again.....and again, and again! If only to let her see the world waking up from it's winter slumber and maybe seeing the new life will allow for a resurgence of life within her. Hope!

Thank you, friends, for reading this. I know it's not easy to hear of sadness and difficulty. I find it's extremely important to allow the forces that are real to have a place to flourish and shift and change as they may. If you're wondering about the title of this post, let me explain. When I was younger one of my favorite ways to spend some time was to go through the attics at my parents and look at old pictures, try on my Mother's old clothes and shoes (dating from the 50's - the 70's!), and find things like: my Dad's old saxophone, our old dance recital costumes, baby clothes from each decade beginning in the 70's! It was so much fun and one time I found a caricature of my Mother from when she was an airplane stewardess. She would travel all over the world and this picture was drawn on a boardwalk while she was laid over in California, I believe. She had a big beautiful smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye, much like the photo above. Sparkle Plenty........the artist drawing it came up with the name and I can only imagine it was the twinkle and vivid exuberance she had for life that inspired the name. I love it........

There is hope that she will overcome, that she will be given the strength to push on and continue to be here with us. Right now it's a little muddled, but as long as we continue to love and fight with her, no moment is wasted, no matter how difficult or painful. If we can find the strength within ourselves to just keep showing up and walking through the fire with her........well, that's what you do, right?

Anyway, hope is a wonderful virtue. I'm thankful I have some in my heart to share.......

"Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live."

Friday, March 2, 2012

March Madness

You may be wondering about the title, but.......within this post lies pictures of our experience in baking madness! Thursday was our baking day and March 1st. It was also our first snow day from school (for the whole year!!!!) AND we had more than a dusting of snow on the ground! It was pure madness! Kids coming and going tracking wet, dripping snow all over, dogs running about also coming and going with their wet, drippy snow, warm fires, sledding, shoveling, attempting snowmen, all the glories of having an actual snow day! For me, it was wonderful watching everyone smiling and pitching in to shovel each others driveways and playing outside. We live in an intentional Quaker community and all the kids had a snow day from school (we have 11 kids on the land and each are schooled differently) so they were all home, shovels in hand, decked out to be in the snow........ahhhh. Life is good!
To celebrate all the good things about yesterday I tried my hand at homemade doughnuts! They aren't the most nutritious baked treat, in fact, there might not be anything good about them except of course how they taste and feel and smell and......well, you get the idea! The recipe I followed I probably won't follow again. While it produced a really tasty doughnut (as long as it was eaten almost immediately after being cooked) the taste and warmth slipped away as they cooled and they became a little lackluster. I'll have to work on the recipe before I'm comfortable giving it out but I will share a few pictures of our journey in the madness! Ironically enough, I don't have any photos of the children enjoying them as they came and went just as fast as the doughnuts came out of the dutch oven! At the very least, I look forward to making them again.......there really is nothing like homemade!

Our cut out doughnuts rising. I didn't have an actual doughnut cutter so I used a glass and a
small heart shaped cookie cutter for the center!
Our heart centers resting and rising.
Frying up our doughnuts!

Our finished doughnuts, rolled in cinnamon sugar! YUM
Here are our heart shaped centers just hanging out in a plate of cinnamon sugar!
This is definitely a once in a great while treat!

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